Regents Prep: Global History: Nationalism
Nationalism as a Destructive Force
In the late 1800's, nationalistic movements were creating  tremendous changes in Europe.  Boundaries were being redrawn as areas were unifying into autonomous nation-states.  However, nationalism was also a divisive force that literally tore apart nations with long histories.  How can nationalism actually destroy nations?  The Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire shared similar fates when the flames of nationalism were fanned.  

The Austro-Hungarian Empire Dissolves
Following the advice of Metternich, the Austrian Empire led by the Hapsburgs was trying to stop the spread of nationalism.  There were no efforts at industrialization and any actions made towards autonomy were put down.  The real issue in the Empire was the diverse population of people located in the area known as the Balkans.  Austria was in control of Hungary, the German state of Bohemia, and parts of Romania, Italy, Poland, and the Ukraine.  Power was in the control of the German-speaking inhabitants of the Austrian Empire but that group only made up about a quarter of  the population.  Slavic peoples including Czechs, Slovaks, Poles, Ukrainians, Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes made up about half the population.  The map above is modern but still shows the ethnic diversity of the area (and still of source of tension).  The remainder of the population comprised of Hungarians and Italians.  Each group began making nationalist demands on the ruler Francis I and his successor Franz Josef.  Unification may not have been possible as was the case in Germany and Italy.  While language, culture and historical backgrounds were similar they were different enough to have each separate group demanding different things.  Coupled with the fact that the leadership was unwilling to offer real reform, the Austrian Empire was not long for the world.  

Some reforms were attempted by Franz Josef, but it only seemed to add to the problem.  He drafted a new constitution but it gave political power to German-speaking people and ignored the majority of people.  Also, after the defeat by Bismarck's Germany, the Austrian Empire was redesigned as the Dual Monarchy, also known as the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  Austria and Hungary had separate governments and constitutions but Josef remained as leader of both.  This satisfied some but not all.  The various Slavic groups remained unrepresented in the government.  The turmoil caused by nationalism would weaken Austro-Hungary to the point of utter collapse by the end of the First World War.  Trouble still exists in the Balkans today.  Ethnic Cleansing, or genocide, was resorted to in the 1990's.

The Ottoman Empire also had a situation where a multitude of ethnicities were calling for nationalistic change.  The Ottoman Empire stretched from the Balkans into the Middle East.  The Ottoman Empire existed from 1453 until 1918.  It sheer age heavily contributed to its eventual downfall after World War I.  Referred to as the "Sick Man of Europe," the Ottoman rulers resisted nationalistic change, weakly trying to maintain a traditional way of life.  As was the case with the Austro-Hungarian Empire, it would prove its undoing.