Nationalism In Europe Essay, Research Paper
Nationalism: A General SurveyIn order to understand the present we must know its past such is the task of history. The crisis in the republics of former Yugoslavia, for example, is a bloody proof for the validity of this statement: a region infested with century old tensions that periodically re-erupts in civil wars. Only with a detailed knowledge of the country s tumultuous past can we fully understand the causes and intensity of the crisis. Symmetrically, when we look at a political map of Europe today, we inevitably look into its past and we must ask ourselves: how did this patchwork of irregular shapes and sizes come into being and, perhaps more importantly, why? What were the driving forces that lead people to form nations?The answer is quite simple: nationalism. Nationalism is the underlying essence of every European society since the French Revolution and invariably has contributed to excesses of militarism and imperialism, as in Europe under Napoleon I or under German Nazism, thus making it an underlying cause for conflicts. Nevertheless, it would not be correct to say that the nationalism at work in the different parts of Europe was one and the same. It too, like so many other ideologies, found diverse realisations in the different countries and consequently had different effects. Growing out of the French Revolution and being brutally suppressed around Europe during the Napoleonic Age and following reaction, it returned with a vengeance and culminated diversely all over Europe in the period from 1848-1870.Nationalism is the political philosophy holding that the welfare of the nation-state is the most important aspect of social life, an attitude often strengthened when people share a common history, religion, language, or ethnic background. When it is applied to the people they enter a state of mind in which patriotism, or loyalty to one’s country, is regarded as an individual’s principal duty. The crude ideas for nationalism were first mentioned by the French Revolutionaries during the French Revolution. Their enlightened vision of liberty, equality and fraternity became the basic principle for people to see their significance in a unit, or nation. However, not being able to organise themselves well and actually bringing about more disunity than unity in the country, the French Revolutionaries were forced to hand over power to Napoleon and the military in a desperate attempt to prevent France from being invaded by counter-revolutionary foreign powers. Thus, Napoleon proceeded immediately to what he did best; namely fighting wars, conquering countries, and creating his Grand Empire , comprising practically all of Europe for 10 uninterrupted years. His success did not last very long however, losing a crucial battle in Russia in 1812 and finally having to surrender to the combined international armies in 1814.Despite the brevity of Napoleon s conquests, they and the consequent peace agreements in Vienna were very important factors for the future of nationalism. Under Napoleon, territorial units, such as the ca.300 German states, were reorganized into a mere twenty and the numerous Italian city-states were merged into the Kingdom of Italy. Legal codes and administrative apparatus in the fashion of the enlightened Napoleon, such as civil equality, uniform measures and weights and national armies (allied to Napoleon, naturally) were introduced and spread all over the Grand Empire . Ironically, it was exactly this spread of revolutionary ideas that was one of the causes for the fall of Napoleon: people started interpreting nation not merely in a revolutionary sense, but also saw national identity as meaning a sense of difference from other nations, stressing the importance for historic differences such as culture, language, folkways and local customs which the Napoleonic system attempted to override. The ensuing Congress of Vienna, in striving to reach an agreement to ensure the freedom of European states from domination by a single power, made crucial decisions against which the liberal and nationalist movements of the nineteenth century were soon to rebel. This is due to the conservative nature of the agreements reached the peacemakers were hostile both to nationalism and democracy, the potent forces of the coming age; they regarded them, with reason, as leading to revolution and war and subsequently created the Holy Alliance (Russia, Austria and Prussia) specifically in order to combat the forces of nationalism. The representative ministers in Vienna wanted to restore the political situation as it had been before 1792, and to create a balance of power between the five Great Powers , (Prussia, Russia, Great Britain, Austria and France) Thus, southern Germany remained loosely organized, Prussia obtained the land on both sides of the Rhine, Austria remained a large mix of nationalities and Italy was internally separated once more.In the following years, nationalism started ripening and found public support. From cultural nationalism, in the form as mentioned above, the belief in political nationalism followed almost immediately. This meant that in order to preserve this national culture and propagate the individual liberty of its members, each nation should create for itself a sovereign state. Consequently nationalism had a revolutionary implication in the context of the newly established order, which had completely disregarded nationalistic characteristics. Especially in Germany, frustrated by its continued division and its weakness with respect to Napoleon, nationalism found very fruitful ground on which to flourish. Hegel, one of the most outstanding 19th century thinkers, revealed this German preoccupation with nationhood. It was evident to Hegel that for a people to enjoy freedom, order and dignity it must possess a potent and independent state. The state, for him, became the institutional embodiment of reason and liberty the march of God through the world , as he put it, meaning not an expansion in space through vulgar conquest, but a march through time and through the process of history. An important factor not to be forgotten when speaking of the development of nationalism is the role of industrialization in Europe. Quite generally, the increase in industrial production processes and the consequent growth of economy, creating new, powerful and rich social classes as well as an industrial proletariat, was essentially threatening to the politically conservative establishment. The processes of industrialization, starting in Britain and eventually spreading to the Continent, enlarged both the business and wage-earning classes, and so made it harder for monarchs and landed aristocrats to maintain their control over public power. Thus, the Industrial Revolution, in favoring a liberal and modernizing principle, quite directly contributed to the rise of nation-states, in which a people could unite for an economic cause and define their land in the increasing international trade scene. A prime example of the effects of the Industrial Revolution on a previously unorganized region of Europe is Germany. Prussia, in an effort to generate efficiency between the individual tiny states and so challenge Britain s economic dominance, created a tariff union (Zollverein) later comprising basically all of Germany. Furthermore, with the increasing railway network that enabled an increasing urbanization, countries felt that it was necessary to set boundaries between cultures and create a sense of national identity.After Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna we jump to the next important landmark in the rise of nationalism – 1848. In that year France disposed of the ever more dictatorial Louis Philippe, who had risen to power in the revolution of 1830, and proclaimed itself a Republic. Universal male suffrage was introduced to elect the new Constituent Assembly, which immediately replaced the Provisional Government. However, still not content with the new situation, France, in the following days and weeks experienced a brutal, full-blown class war, but peace was finally restored and power continued to remain in the hands of the Constituent Assembly.Out of this chaos rose Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, nephew of the great Napoleon mentioned earlier. He was elected President of the republic and immediately dissolved the Constituent Assembly, replacing it by a Legislative Assembly. Universal male suffrage was reduced by one third and then fully reinstated a year later in a clever tactical move to win the support of the radicals. In a quick and decisive move in 1851, Louis Napoleon dissolved the Assembly completely and proclaimed himself Emperor of the French, just as his uncle had done ca. 50 years earlier.Meanwhile, in the Austrian Empire, things were stirring as well. The Austrian Empire, which consisted of about a dozen different nationalities (Germans, Czechs, Magyars, Poles, Slovaks, Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, Dalmatians, Romanians and Italians), was beginning to feel the strains of nationalism on the old monarchical order until 1848. In March 1848, following the February Revolution in France, the situation exploded. Revolution swept through the empire, Venice, Tuscany and Sardinia proclaimed themselves independent and joined forces in an attempt to drive out the occupying Austrian Garrisons, most of the German states collapsed, and Hungary and Bohemia proclaimed constitutional separatism within the empire. Nevertheless, just as in France, the counter-revolution won and the insurrections were suppressed. The Austrian Army marched into Italy, brutally ending Mazzini s dreams of a unified Italy; elsewhere, however, in 1867, instead of re-inforcing Austrian superiority, due to repeated protests by the Magyars and Austria s recent humiliation in the war against Prussia of 1866, a compromise was reached that would secure partial autonomy for them. A Dual Monarchy was created, in which two separate parliaments, each with its own constitution, were formed, although retaining the Hapsburg ruler as Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary. It must be said though, that neither Austria nor Hungary was democratic and it would take a long time (1904 in Austria) for universal male suffrage to be introduced.
Further south, in Italy, things were in fact far from over. There had always been a widespread disgust in Italy with the existing authorities and a growing sentiment for the unification of all the Italian states. Being defeated earlier, as mentioned above, the Italian states continued their struggle for national identity. A prominent figure in the ensuing Italian unification process was Cavour, prime minister of Piedmont after 1852. Cavour sought to modernize Piedmont and give the other Italian states the needed model of progress of efficiency and progress. It was clear to him that Italy alone could never win independence from Austria and consequently forged close ties with Napoleon III, who was rather willing to enter into good terms with the Italians. Napoleon, apart from always having considered Italy as his ancestral country, saw that an alliance with Italy and thus a fight against reactionary Austria, gave him an opportunity to pacify liberal opinion in France, which he was engaged in suppressing. Hence, the Piedmontese, with the support of the French, defeated the Austrian in two crucial battles in 1859. However, the French suddenly withdrew their support for the Piedmontese and made a separate peace with the Austrians. Napoleon III disliked popular revolutions, like the ones occurring all over the peninsula following the defeat of the Austrians, and also feared that the new wave of Italian nationalism would undermine the Pope, which as a result would have devastating effects on his position since he would lose crucial nation-wide Catholic support for his regime. The unification of Italy was, as a result, not finished yet and it would take one more surge, this time initiated by Garibaldi, to completely unify the peninsula. Garibaldi, a Piedmontese republican, and a small group of followers headed for Sicily and then northwards. Everywhere they went they were met with overwhelming popular support and it did not take long to unite the newly initiated southern army with the official Piedmontese army arriving from the north. Finally, in 1861, although initially excluding Rome and Venice, the kingdom of Italy was proclaimed and Victor Emmanuel II of Piedmont was crowned king. Finally, and perhaps most importantly for the future of Europe, came the unification of Germany. The Germans had grown more and more to believe that Germany was intrinsically different from other countries and thus needed a peculiarly German way of life and political system of its own. The first attempt at achieving these ideals was the Frankfurt Assembly. However lacking executive force (there had never been an all-German Army for them to take over), the Frankfurt became dependent on the power of the very sovereign states it was trying to supersede. In addition, it remained unclear what exactly the area of land should be to become Germany, if it should include Austria and Poland as well. Consequently the Frankfurt Assembly, although very liberal and high-minded yet recognizing its failure and dissolving itself in shame, bluntly failed to realise the ideals of the Germans, and thus the route was paved for the only great power in the German Confederation, Prussia, to lead the way in unifying Germany. In particular, Otto von Bismarck, chief minister of Prussia, proved to be the crucial figure in this process of unification. Bismarck, classic example of a Realpolitiker, was not so much interested in the unification of Germany, but rather in the power of Prussia. He had no intention, as Cavour had, to provide Germany with a liberal model of political freedom but instead with a state with power, that all Germans would look up to. Bismarck got his first opportunity to consolidate power when the Danes in 1863, engaged in a process of national unification of their own, wished to make Schleswig an integral part of Denmark. Bismarck, under the pretext of protecting German interests, allied with Austria and conquered back Schleswig, as well as Holstein, which was subsequently put under Austrian control. Bismarck cleverly used this Austrian occupation as the spark to start another war, this time against Austria and most German states. Prussia won the war with amazing speed and agility and annexed large parts of Germany, thereby creating the North-German Federation in 1866. The new Federation of states needed a constitution and Bismarck was quick to produce a constitution in which the king of Prussia was its head, with all ministers responsible to him. In order to get people to accept this imposed constitution, sly as he was, Bismarck introduced universal male suffrage for the lower house of parliament.It was clear that the situation was not yet stable, for the small south German states were still floating in empty space; they would sooner or later have to gravitate into some orbit or other, whether Austrian, Prussian or French. France, for its part, was having deep internal troubles; letting Italy grow at its border and having oversea crisis s in Mexico. Bismarck knew this and waited for the right chance to declare war on France and so pull the south German states into a fight of Germans against French, thereby expanding his influence to the last outcasts of the German Empire. The revolution in Spain unexpectedly supplied Bismarck with exactly such a chance in 1870. The Spanish, having disposed of their monarch, invited Prince Leopold of Hohenzollern (king of Prussia s cousin) to assume their empty throne. France immediately protested a Hohenzollern acceptance, since it would then be in a dangerous Prussian-sandwich situation. It even demanded that Prussia assure France that never again would Prussia allow a Hohenzollern prince to be a candidate for the Spanish throne. Prussia politely turned down France s demand, yet Bismarck, recognizing an unique opportunity to wave a red flag at the Gallic bull , escalated the banal situation (by means of twisting France s demand into an insult against Germany) in such a way that finally both France and Prussia declared war on each other. Of course, Bismarck had taken precautions to isolate France from the other powers such as Britain, Italy, and Russia, thereby clearing the way for an easy Prussian victory and final conquest of Paris in 1870. Bismarck, having achieved his goal, went on to proclaim the German Empire and annexed Alsace, something that the French would painfully remember up until WWI. Furthermore, he got the liberal Prussian parliament to legalize ex post facto all his dubious tax collections which he had performed years ago and in doing so, emphasized the victory of nationalism over liberalism. The new enlarged German empire received the constitution of the North German Federation, and the Reichstag, quite modernly so, was elected by universal male suffrage. Bismarck had accomplished the impossible paradox: a federation of monarchies, based on hereditary rights, a democratically elected parliament, and yet, a system in which the ministers were only responsible to the emperor, the Prussian King.Europe, after nearly a hundred years of struggle, had thus finally developed into a constellation of large nation states. A large realm of causes can be given for these developments, one, however, stands out: nationalism. Nationalism had the effect of widespread unification and separation at the same time. The small German states, along with the larger Prussia unified themselves as did the various Italian states. Hungary, on the other hand found its national identity by means of separation from the Austrian empire. Nationalism, however, is, interestingly enough, not finished yet and it remains to be seen how Europe will deal with the increasing Balkan nationalistic tensions and how the European map will look in 50 years.