As a concept, ‘ethnicity’ has been informing the notions of the ‘self’ as well as the ‘other’ since antiquity. While in ancient Greek it referred to the ‘other’ in a derogatory sense, in the Romantic literature of the nineteenth century, ethnicity came to depict the self-image of the nation. Although, in contrast, the liberal self-image refers to ethnicity only in the instrumental sense (as a tool for regulation without attributing any real value to the notion), ethnicity remains salient in both the liberal and conservative versions of nationalism to identify the backward ‘other’ – the minority – within the nation. Against the backdrop of the nineteenth-century discourse on ethnicity, this paper explores how the notion of ethnicity having the image of ‘otherness’ as well as ‘backwardness’ shapes the liberal perception of ‘minority’ and ‘minority protection’ in the post-Cold War context in three different ways. First, I argue that ethnicity informs the perception of the minority as the ethnic ‘other’. Second, the individualist response to minority protection paradoxically endeavours to remove ‘ethnicity’ from the concept of ‘minority’. And finally, in the post-Cold War European scenario, it is again the ethnic ‘otherness’ that rationalizes a differentiated minority protection mechanism for the West and the East within Europe.