Anna M. Cienciala (
History 557 Lecture Notes
Spring 2002 (Revised Jan. 2004)
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Lecture 5 a.The Development of European Nationalism.

I. Introduction.

According to Webster's New World Dictionary of American English (WNWD), the word Nationalism has several meanings: 1. (a) devotion to one's nation, patriotism; (b) excessive, narrow, or jingoistic patriotism; chauvinism; 2. the doctrine that national interest, security etc. are more important than international considerations; 3. the desire for, or advocacy of national independence.(WNWD of Am.Eng. Third College Edition, New York, 1987, p. 903). To this we should add: 4. strong emotional attachment to the historical territory/frontiers of the nation.

It was not so long ago that nationalism was considered a thing of the past. Marxist - Communist theory taught that it was bound to disappear with worldwide socialist, then communist revolution, and pointed to the alleged solution of the problem of nationalism in the USSR and in communist Eastern Europe. At the same time, British and American political scientists believed that nationalism would disappear with worldwide, economic, capitalist integration, and pointed to the successful growth of the European Common Market. Today, there is much talk of "globalism," or looking at history and contemporary events in a global framework.

However, developments over the last  decade support those historians who disagreed with the views cited above. The year 1989  witnessed the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe followed by the revival of independent national states, plus the dissolution of Yugoslavia into separate states in 1990-91. The dissolution of the USSR into national units took place in late 1991- early 1992. The war between Croatia and Yugoslavia (Serbia) raged in 1990-95, as did the Serb-Moslem-Croat struggle over Bosnia. An armed Serb- Kosovar-Albanian struggle over Kosovo broke out in 1998; in 1999 the Serbs killed thousands of Albanian Kosovars and drove nearly a million others into neighboring Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro. NATO bombing of Yugoslavia (Serbia)  finally forced its President, Slobodan Milosevic (pron. Meelohseveech), to make peace. Most Kosovars returned to their devastated land and homes, but U.N. peace keepers are still there, including American soldiers. (On these wars, see Lec. Notes 20B).

There are other trouble spots in the world as well: the difficulties of keeping peace between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland; the ongoing Basque struggle for independence from Spain; the long Greek-Turkish division of Cyprus; the endemic Arab-Israeli conflict, and the ethnic-religious hatreds in India and Indonesia. However, it was above all the changes in Russia and E. Europe that led to the publication of a large number of books on Nationalism since 1989.

There are different theories on the nature and dating of European nationalism. The basic difference is between (a) those who believe that nationalism is a gradual development over long periods of time, based on ethnicity, common language, history and culture, and (b) those who believe it emerged suddenly on this basis in Europe in the late 18th or early 19th centuries. In this author's view, there is pre-modern and modern nationalism, with the second type developing in the late 18th - early 19th centuries. At that time, loyalty to Kings or provinces was transformed into loyalty to the ethnic nation. The most striking example is the era of the French Revolution in France. However, the concept of loyalty to France as a nation did not reach down to the peasants until around 1900, that is, after several decades of  compulsory, national education  and military conscription. The same can be said of most W. European states. Of course, national consciousness - and at times even jingoism - also developed in the 19th century in Germany, Britain and  the United States, as well as in the emerging national states of Central and South America, and in the 20th century it also developed in Asia and Africa.

Some theorists of nationalism tie it to industrialization, though in fact intellectuals everywhere, including those in East Central and Eastern Europe, began formulating their ideas of the nation before industrialization. Others claim that 19th century nationalist historians and journalists consciously "invented" history to justify their peoples' claims to national independence. Such politicization of history was certainly quite common, but it was built on a foundation of national memory and answered a widespread need, otherwise it would not have found popular acceptance. Popular acceptance of national slogans spread  everywhere from the top of society downwards.

Unlike Western Europe, in 19th century Central and Eastern Europe most peoples developed national consciousness under foreign rule, for they had lost their national states, some in the distant past, others more recently. Thus, the development of modern nationalism in this part of Europe was fueled above all by resentment against oppression by foreign rulers. Therefore, of the definitions in Webster's Dictionary cited in par 1 above, those that apply are no. 3, followed by 1a and 2.

II. Overview of the Development of National Consciousness in W. Europe.

Such an overview is necessary to show the similarities and differences between the development of national consciousness in Western and Eastern Europe.

1. Modern French national consciousness emerged during the Revolutionary Wars, 1792-94, when France was threatened by hostile powers. A French marching song, which later became the French national anthem, was written at this time and begins with the words: "Allons enfants de la Patrie" (Forward, children of the fatherland). Later, of course, much of Europe was conquered by Napoleon, but he was defeated in 1814, and finally in 1815.
    Until about the end of the 19th century, French national consciousness was confined to educated Frenchmen, most of whom belonged to the bourgeoisie or middle class. It was not until after about 1860 that the development of the railway network allowed the imposition of a centrally controlled program of national education for all the people of France. This was seconded by military conscription which was also a school for nationalism. By 1900, most Frenchmen were conscious of being French. (See: Eugen Weber, Peasants into Frenchmen, London, 1976, 1979). We should note that the national education system led to the disappearance of various non-French languages and dialects, notably Breton and Provenšal. (An effort to revive and preserve them began in the 1970s.)

2. Germany: The movement for a united Germany, and thus German nationalism, began as a reaction to French military occupation by Napoleon and his restructuring of the German lands into a smaller number of states (from 300 to 38) under French domination. The father of German unification under the leadership of Prussia was Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898). He provoked the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, defeating Austria, which led to the establishment of the North German Confederation. He then provoked the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, which led to the establishment of the German Empire in the Hall of Mirrors, Versailles, in January1871. In the period 1871-1914, much of German history was written in a highly nationalistic vein, particularly in seeking to justify German rule over the mixed Franco-German population of Alsace-Lorraine and over the Poles of Prussian Poland.

3. Italy: The movement for a united Italy also began with opposition to French domination under Napoleon. After 1815, the Italians went on to oppose Austrian rule. Italian unification was carried out in three stages: 1860, 1866, and 1870. Italy was united under the House of Savoy.

4. Holland: the pre-modern roots of Dutch national consciousness go back to the War of Independence of the Netherlands against Spain in the 16th century. The Dutch national anthem begins with a declaration by William of Orange that he had always been loyal to the King of Spain - which was his claim when he began fighting the Spanish armies led by the Duke of Alba in 1568. The Netherlands proclaimed their independence from Spain in 1581, but the wars went on until 1648.

5. Belgium: the Belgians wanted independence from the Netherlands, to which they had been joined by the Great Powers in 1815 to form a buffer against France. They succeeded in gaining independence in 1830 due to British diplomatic support, and Britain guaranteed Belgian independence in 1839 to ensure her own security against a possible future invasion of the British Isles launched from the Belgian coast. Belgium, however, was made up of two different peoples: The Flemings, who spoke a language close to Dutch, and the French-speaking Walloons who dominated the country. This was a problem until the Flemings obtained recognition for their own language and culture.

6. Gt.Britain: the pre-modern roots of English nationalism are sometimes traced to William Shakespeare, who glorified England and some English kings in his plays. (For example, John of Gaunt's speech beginning with the words: "This royal throne of kings, this sceptered isle," in Richard II, Act I, scene 1.) However, modern English nationalism developed in opposition to Napoleon. Here we should note that the English had conquered the Welsh, the Scots, and the Irish. They gave up most of Ireland to independent Eire, or the Irish Republic in 1920..

7. Spain: At first Spain consisted of two medieval kingdoms in the North: Aragon and Castile, while the rest of Spain was conquered by the Moors (Arabs). It was united under Ferdinand and Izabella in the late 1400s. They drove out the Moors by 1492 - and also expelled most of the Jews. (They are known as Sephardic Jews who settled mainly in Holland, where they became famous as jewellers). Although the Spanish noble class developed a great culture and built an Empire in the Americas, modern, mass Spanish national consciousness began to develop in the resistance against Napoleonic armies in the Peninsular War, 1808-1814. (For example, see Goya's paintings of the war).

8. Portugal: became an independent state in 1139, after separating from Spain. It built an empire in Brazil and acquired possession in the Far East. Its noble class developed a national consciousness in the 19th century.

Nations without States in Western Europe and Scandinavia:

The Irish fought against British domination; the Basques fought for independence from Spain - and an extreme faction is still doing so; the Norwegians fought against Swedish domination; the Finns fought against Swedish and then Russian domination. All except the Basques have independent states today.

Leadership Elites: Aristocrats dominated national independence movements in Germany and Italy until the late 19th century. Likewise in established states such as Spain and Portugal, also Gt. Britain, aristocrats dominated government well into the 20th century, though in Britain they held power in parliament. The Belgian movement for independence was led by some aristocrats along with middle class leaders, but Belgium, which soon became one of the most highly industrialized states of Europe, developed a strong middle class. The Norwegian leaders who fought against Sweden and the Finnish leaders who fought against Sweden, then Russia, came mostly from the educated middle class, which had evolved from the peasant class. The same was true of the peoples of the future BalticStates, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

Development of national consciousness in existing E.European states in the 19th century.

(A) The multinational Russian Empire was dominated by ethnic Russians, who formed 49- 51% of the population by 1900 (about the same percentage as in the later USSR). In Russia, pre-modern nationalism was based on loyalty to the Tsars and the Orthodox Church, as well as hatred of foreign invaders, especially Catholics - mostly Poles. Modern nationalism developed on this basis in the 19th century, beginning with Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812. The Russian leadership elite was first the nobility, and then the Intelligentsia, that is, educated people of both noble and non-noble origin. Vladimir I. Ulianov, known as Lenin, (1870-1924), who led the Bolsheviks to power in late 1917, then to victory in the Civil War of 1918-21, was descended from serfs and Tatars through his parents, but was a member of the Russian nobility because his father was an ennobled Inspector of Schools. So was also the father of Alexander F. Kerensky (1881-1970), a democratic socialist who headed the Russian Provisional Government until it was overthrown by Lenin (July - November 1917). In the Russian Empire, as in other empires, people of non-noble descent were ennobled either when they reached a high position in their profession, or as a reward for their accomplishments - as is the case in England today.

(B) Greece was the first state in South-Eastern Europe to gain independence. The Greek national movement against the Turks was led by the "Phanariots," the descendants of Greek aristocrats who ruled before the Turkish conquest, then rose to positions of power under the Turks. Most of them were killed in the War of Independence, 1821-1829. The Greeks fought hard, but it is very doubtful whether they would have succeeded without the support of Russia and Gt. Britain. (For the Balkan Peoples' struggle for independence see Lecture Notes no. 9).

III. Key Characteristics of 19th century East European Nationalism outside of Russia and Greece.

1. Modern national movements generally began as movements for autonomy (self-rule under foreign sovereignty), and then for independence.

2. In lands with a native nobility, that is, Polish, Hungarian, Romanian lands and Croatia, the nobles (mostly educated poor gentry) formed the leadership of autonomy and independence movements.

3. Among some peoples who had lost their native nobility, such as the Slovaks, Czechs, Slovenes, and Bulgarians, the first national leadership was made up of priests and scholars, while among the Serbs the leaders were at first priests and scholars, later officers and lawyers who had risen from the peasant class. Most of the Romanian leaders were intellectuals.

(4) Where industry developed, so did the middle class. Industry developed first in the Czech lands: Bohemia, Moravia, also in the mixed Polish, Czech and German region of Teschen [Polish: Cieszyn; Czech: Tesin] Silesia, and in Russian Poland. A Czech middle class developed earlier and was larger than elsewhere in Eastern Europe, though it also developed to a lesser extent in Prussian, Russian and Austrian Poland. In Hungary, a middle class became visible in the late 19th century, though a large part of it consisted of assimilated Jews. There was no middle class to speak of in the Balkans [South-Eastern Europe] except for Greece, which is pre-eminently a Mediterranean country and depends on trade. Thus, the theory that national consciousness came with industrialization is only partly applicable to E.Europe.

IV. Theories of East European Nationalism: Hans Kohn and Peter F. Sugar.

Hans Kohn (approx. dates 1890-1970) was a native of Prague. He was of Jewish descent and emigrated to the U.S. Kohn was a pioneer in developing a theory of nationalism. Most of his work was written for the general reader.
Peter F. Sugar was (born approx. 1920, died 2000) was raised in Hungary. He was also of Jewish descent and also emigrated to the U.S. He was an eminent American historian of Eastern Europe, and taught for many years at the University of Washington, Seattle, Wash.
    The summary of their theories (Sugar builds on Kohn) given below is simplified for reasons of space, with apologies for any distortion resulting from this simplification.

1. Kohn characterized W. European nationalism as liberal and democratic, therefore a positive force. He characterized Central and East European nationalism as intolerant and undemocratic, therefore a negative force.

2. Peter Sugar divided nationalism into three types: aristocratic, bourgeois (middle class) and popular. He classified Polish and Hungarian nationalism as "aristocratic" until World War II, Czech nationalism as middle class, and the nationalism of other E.European peoples as popular.

[Peter F. Sugar, "The Nature of the Non-Germanic Societies under Habsburg Rule," Slavic Review, vol. 22, no. 1, March 1968, same "External and Domestic Roots of East European Nationalism," in Peter F.Sugar and Ivo J. Lederer, Nationalism in Eastern Europe, University of Washington Press, Seattle, Wash., 1968, third printing 1994].

3. Kohn claimed that Central and E. European nationalism was built on the "myth" of the "volk" (people), and on invented or manufactured history. This was also true of modern German nationalism.
[Hans Kohn, The Idea of Nationalism: A Study in its Origins and Background, 2nd edition, Macmillan, New York, 1961.]

A criticism of the Kohn-Sugar theory of E.European Nationalism:

1. W. European nationalism was not always liberal and democratic; for example, 19th - early 20th  century British oppression of the Irish and British treatment of French Canadians as second class citizens in Quebec until 1867. Also, there was Dutch oppression of the Belgians, 1815-30.

Hungarian nationalism is criticised for its intolerance, that is, refusal to grant equal rights to non-Mayars in the Kingdom of Hungary in the period 1848-1918. However, we should note that it stemmed from the fear that equal rights for all the peoples in Hungary would lead to the disintegration of the multinational kingdom. The same was true of Russian nationalism and its attitude toward non-Russian ethnic groups. Both governments aimed at assimilation through school education, as did the Germans in Prussian Poland. This does not justify intolerance of other nationalisms, but makes it more understandable.

2. Polish and Hungarian national movements were aristocratic in the sense that for most of the 19th century the leadership was noble, but it is strange that Sugar sees the nationalism of these two peoples as aristocratic until World War II. Polish peasants fought for their country against the Bolsheviks in 1920 not on the basis of some noble ideal, but because they viewed reborn Poland as their country and opposed communism. The same was true of Hungarian (Maygar) peasants' view of independent Hungary in 1918-19. Finally, the national education system in both countries, as well as in the other E. European countries, strengthened popular nationalism in the inter-war period - though quite often in the chauvinist, jingoistic sense. This characteristic was, in turn, largely due to conflicting claims to territory by two or more nations..

Sugar also condemned 19th century Polish and Hungarian nobles as mostly working for their own interests. However, this was not always so. Thus, Hungarian nobles and gentry led the movement for an extension of democratic rights and independence in 1848-49, while thePolish nobles/gentry did the same in 1830-31 and 1863-64. It is true that many nobles of both nationalities did look after their own interests  after 1868. This was after Hungary gained equal status with Austria in the Habsburg Empire, which became the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1867, while Austrian Poland [Galicia] gained de facto autonomy within that Empire in 1868. However, many nobles and gentry also worked for the social, economic, educational and cultural development of their peoples. Indeed, such work was expected of them.

3. Was Central and E. European nationalism based on the myth of the "people" and invented or manufactured history? Yes, to some extent it was, but this was also true of 19th century West European history. Thus the Polish historian Joachim Lelewel (1786-1861, pron. Lehlehvehl) traced Polish democracy back to allegedly democratic Slavic tribes. This idealization of ancient tribal life was  fashionable  in other countries, too. Thus, German historians also traced German democracy to Germanic tribes, and English historians traced English democracy back to Anglo-Saxon tribes, though neither was democratic in the modern sense of the word. The Czech historian and later statesman, Frantisek Palacky (1798-1876, pron. Pahlahstkyh) idealized the Hussite Period of Czech history as democratic, though later Czech historians showed that it was not. Some E. European politicians were even iconoclasts. Thus, Thomas G. Masaryk (1850-1935, pron. Mahsahryk) dared to question the antiquity of an alleged 9th century Czech manuscript, which was finally proven a fake. However, he also consciously idealized the Hussites for political ends, that is, to inspire the Czech people with pride in their past and to work for a better future. The Polish historian Michal Bobrzynski (1849-1935, pron. Bohbzhynsky), published An Outline History of Poland in 1879, condemning old, pre-partition Poland for its lack of strong rulers, and the Polish national uprisings against Russia of 1830-31 and 1863-64 as romantic and thus unrealistic. This was a very black picture of the Polish past. In fact, Bobrzynski was politicizing Polish history in a negative sense because he wanted to teach Poles that an independent Poland -  which he thought was likely to exist only in the far off future - must have a strong, central government to survive. In the meanwhile, Austrian Poles were to work quietly under Austrian rule and aim at a future Polish Crownland, made up of Austrian and Russian Poland, under the Habsburg crown.

Sugar saw Czech 19th century nationalism as liberal and democratic, and thus an exception to general E.European nationalism. However, there were democratic trends in Polish nationalism, e. g. the Polish Democratic Society (PDS - see Lecture Notes 5b), and the Polish Socialist Party (PPS - see Lec.Notes 6), as well as in Hungarian nationalism (see Lec.Notes 7).

4. Finally, we should note that nationalism became a mass phenomenon in both East Central Europe and the Balkans in the 19th century, in reaction to oppression by foreign rulers. This oppression stimulated and mobilized the masses of the people to follow leaders who called for autonomy or independence.