Development of Principle of Nationalism

Development of the principle of nationalism :

Origin of the principle- The political principle, and in large measure, even the sentiment, of nationality, hardly existed during the Middle Ages. They are, in the main, a development of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, although the idea may be traced back to the fourteenth century.

As Lord Acton remarked, the rights of nationalities in the old European system were neither recognized by governments nor asserted by the people? It was dynastic interests or ambitions rather than those of nationalities that determined the boundaries of states and the policies of rulers, and the feeling of nationality was so imperfectly developed and so lacking insensitiveness that measures which today would be regarded as grave infringements upon-the rights of nationalities, and which would provoke resistance, were acquiesced in without protest.

In the sixteenth century when Machiavelli, who is sometimes called the first great modern nationalist, endeavored to kindle the Hame of nationalism among the Italian people, Italy was, in the later language of Metternich, a mere geographical expression and the people thought of themselves not as Italians but as Florentines, Tuscans, Venetians, Genoese, Pisans, etc.

What is now Germany was a patchwork of some 300 petty states, each of which endeavored to keep up the appearance of national states and as late as 1845 Bismarck declared that the German people thought of themselves as Prussians, Bavarians, Hanoverians, etc rather than as Germans.

Factors Contributing to the Development of Nationalism:-

The Partition of Poland:-

In the meantime, however, the sense of nationality or nationalism was develoPing in certain countries and everywhere forces were gathering which were to create it ultimately in other countries. England was the first country in which the feeling of nationalism was strongly developed and it was the first to attain the full stature of organized and conscious nationhood.

The English attempt to dominate France roused a passionate spirit of nationalism in that country in the early fifteenth century, which found its embodiment in the sanctification of Joan of Arc. Likewise in Spain and Portugal, the national spirit was kindled by various causes and at the opening of the modern age, these two countries emerged as fully consolidated national states.

The sixteenth-century also saw the Danish and Swedish peoples organized as national states. But throughout central and southeastern Europe, a region which was inhabited by many races and peoples, and in which the problem of national consolidation was far more difficult, the nationalistic movement had hardly made its appearance.

As has been said, however, causes were at work which was soon to bring it into existence and to give it vitality. The influence of education and general enlightenment, together with the development of political consciousness and love of liberty, was not the least of these.

In the latter part of the eighteenth century came the partition of Poland-an an act by which the territory and people of a whole nation were brutally divided among the rulers of Austria, Prussia, and Russia. Poland happened to be an elective monarchy and was therefore a sort of outcast among the absolute monarchies of that age, she was a menace to the sacrosanct principle of hereditary right and had to be removed.

A monarchy without royal blood, a crown bestowed by the nation,

as Lord Acton characterized it, were an anomaly and an outrage in that age of dynastic absolutism. The country was excluded from the European system by the nature of its institutions. It excited cupidity which Could not be satisfied. It gave the reigning families of Europe no hope of permanently strengthening themselves by intermarriage with its rulers, or of obtaining by bequest or by inheritance.

The partition of Poland. was a wanton act of violence committed in open defiance not only of the rights of an unoffending people but also of one of the oldest principles of international law. As Lord Acton justly remarked, this most revolutionary act of the old absolutism awakened the theory of nationality in Europe.

The Poles were divided among the aggressors, but they remained a nation, if not a state, and the flame which the partition had kindled was destined never to be extinguished. Thenceforwarcf they were a nation demanding that their political existence should be restored they were as a soul wandering in search of a body in which to begin life over again, and their demand for justice found defenders the world over, for, as Burke remarked, no wise or honest man could approve of that partition.

Effect of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Conquests:-

Shortly after the first partition of Poland came to the French Revolution, followed by the subjection of a large part of Europe to the domination of Napoleon, the effect of which was to cause a vigorous revival of the national spirit in the countries brought under his control.

The Revolutionists did not, strictly speaking, show much respect for the historical forces and factors which had brought about the national consolidation of France. Nor was anything regarding the rights of nationalities expressly proclaimed in their Declaration of the Rights of Man. Nevertheless, it may be argued that the rights of man include the right of self-determination of peoples and it follows as a natural corollary that the affirmation of the former carried with it the latter.

But the imperialism of the Revolutionists in forcibly annexing foreign peoples to France disregarded the rights of nations and nationalities as completely as the old absolute monarchs had done. Napoleon recognized the power of national sentiment and relied upon it, not without success, in the political readjustments which he made in some of the countries brought under his domination but in others, notably Russia, Germany, Italy, and Spain, his policy soon provoked popular and spontaneous resistance.

In all these countries the spirit of nationalism was aroused and it was fanned into aHametby political leaders, orators, and poets. Kant, Hegel, Schiller, and Goethe provided the ideals, while the successful statesman-airship of Stein, following the period of subjection, stirred the spirit of the people.

Speaking of this awakening of the feeling of nationality, Professor J. Holland Roses remarks that in this new and intense life she nationality exerted a singular fascination with all peoples. Thinkers felt her magnetic potency. Goethe, irresponsive to German politics bowed before the manifestations of her uncanny strength at Valmy.

Schiller and Fichte hailed her as the source of light and warmth to a dead world. Wordsworth and Coleridge first felt the full thrill of poetic ecstasy as they gazed on her civic raptures, and foretold defeat to all who withstood her new-found might. That was nationality in its purest form. It corresponds to the time in life when the youth finds himself.

The Results of the Vienna Congress:

Ultimately Napoleon was: defeated by the uprising which was caused by the awakening of the national spirit. Unfortunately, the Vienna Congress largely ignored it in its reconstruction of Europe. New states were formed existing states were yoked together, and others were divided in flagrant disregard of the rights of nationalities. Italy became once more a geographical expression and Germany was erected into a confederation of states.

The Holy Alliance, which now came into existence, endeavored to repress manifestations of the national spirit as they occurred and to suppress revolutionary movements, which the rising tide of nationalism now excited.

Nationalism now took the form of a political principle or doctrine, that is, it became the basis of a theory that every people who Constitute a nationality has a right to be independent and to organize themselves as a separate state of their own creation. Exiles from Italy, Poland, Hungary, Germany, and other lands who had found asylum in England, Belgium, France, and Switzer land, organized and conducted propaganda for the national freedom of the peoples for Whom they spoke.

The Italian Mazzini, the eloquent and fiery prophet of nationalism, was the most noted of them. Revolutionary uprisings soon occurred in Italy, Poland, and Greece. The Greek revolt against the Turks attracted the sympathy of men everywhere in Christian Europe and even in far-away America, and eventually, the powers were moved to intervene on behalf of the Greeks, who obtained their independence in 1827.

The Belgians rose against the Dutch, with whom they had been unwillingly united by the Vienna Congress, and in 1831 they also became independent.

The year 1848 saw revolutions which in the main were nationalistic in character, in Italy, Germany, and Hungary, but While the revolutionists were temporarily successful, no permanent results were achieved. The spirit of nationalism, however, could not be permanently suppressed, and the generation which participated in the movement of 1848 saw the unification of Italy and Germany.

Not many years later the Balkan peoples who remained under the Turkish yoke revolted and by the treaty of Berlin (1878) the independence of Serbia, Montenegro, and Rumania was recognized. While Bulgaria was then left under the suzerainty of the Ottoman Empire, her complete emancipation soon followed.


The Results of the World War:-

During the years which elapsed between 1878 and the treaties of peace at the end of the World War, nationalistic aspirations were kept alive and in some cases, I took the form of organized movements in many parts of Europe and elsewhere, notably among the Irish, the Finns, the Magyars, the Czechs, the Slovaks, the Croats, the Albanians, the Poles, the Ruthenians, various Baltic races, the Egyptians, the Indians, and others.

Some of them the World War, which was often asserted to be a war in defense of the rights of oppressed nationalities, brought a realization of their dreams and aspirations. Alsace Lorraine was restored to France, Poland was recognized as an independent state with boundaries corresponding in the main to her ethnic boundaries, and northern Schleswig was returned to Denmark.

The Czechs and Slovaks were emancipated from. Austrian rule and united in a state of their own creation. The Southern Slavs-Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes-were likewise freed from Austrian and Hungarian rule and organized in the Yugoslav state.

The Finns, Estonians, Letts, and Lithuanians became independent of Russia, each forming-a separate state. The Albanians also made good their claim to independence and were organized in a separate state. Finally, since the war, the independence of Ireland and Egypt has been recognized by Great Britain, subject to certain reservations by which British control over there is maintained in respect chieiiy to their foreign relations. So Syria, Mesopotamia, Palestine and Hejaz were emancipated from Turkish rule and recognized as partly independent states.

Departures from the Principle of Nationality:-

The reorganization and adjustments made by the treaties of peace, however, in spite of President Wilson’s declaration that all well-defined national aspirations should be accorded the utmost possible satisfaction, did not wholly respect the rights of nationalities. Large numbers of Germans were left under Polish, Czecho-Slovak, and Italian rule, and Hungarian peoples were detached from Hungary and annexed to other states. Large numbers of Lithuanians and Ruthenians were assigned to Poland and Czechoslovakia numerous Austrians, Albanians, and Bulgarians were given to Yugoslavia, and important groups of Hungarians, Bulgarians, and Ruthenians were given to Rumania.

So, in the territory added to Greece, the Turks, Bulgarians, and Albanians out-numbered the Greeks. Bessarabia was detached from Russia and Transylvania from Hungary and annexed to Rumania. Austria, reduced to about Melone sixth of her former area, was forbidden to unite with Germany although the Austrian population is mainly German, ethnically speaking.

This situation is not entirely satisfactory, since it laid the foundation for further “irredentist” movements which may Yet give rise to serious troubles. The dissatisfaction is especially strong among the Germans and Hungarians, who demand a revision of the boundary provisions by which large numbers of their people were detached and handed over to foreign states.

In drawing the boundary lines of the new states, the Peace Conference found it impossible to draw them in such a way as to include in each state only those of the same nationality because of the hopeless intermixture in some cases of the peoples of different nationalities in the same territories.

There were also economic, political, and strategic factors that sometimes made respect for the principle of nationality difficult or impossible. In these circumstances, the victors did what had often been done before, they favored themselves and their proteges.

Thus, Italy was given South Tyrol, although the population was almost entirely German, Czechoslovakia was given the mines of Teschen, although the population was predominantly German, Yugoslavia. was given a large part of Macedonia, inhabited in large part by Bulgarians, etc.

 Unsolved Problems of Nationality:-

The treaties of peace provided for plebiscites in some of the territories transferred from one state to another-there were nine all together but none were allowed in the case, of the Germans who were annexed to France and Czechoslovakia, of the German-Austrians who were annexed to Italy, and of the peoples of Hungary who were annexed to other states.

The German delegation at the Peace Conference protested against the denials of a plebiscite in the transferred territories inhabited mainly by Germans, and they invoked the doctrine of self-determination as proclaimed by President Wilson, notably in his address to Congress of February 11, 1918, when he said:

Peoples and provinces are not to be bartered about from sovereignty to sovereignty as if they were chattels and pawns in a game-peoples may now be dominated and governed only by their own consent.

But they were told that Germany had denied the same right to the French of Alsace-Lorraine in 1871, that the German populations concerned had not asked for a plebiscite and that plebiscites had in fact been provided for in all territories where there was doubt as to the wishes of the inhabitants, a statement which was hardly in accord With the facts.

In other respects, the problem of nationalism remains unsolved. The Slovaks waived their claim to a separate national existence and consented to merge their destiny with that of the Czechs, but they are not entirely satisfied with the situation and are complaining to-day that they are dominated and controlled by their more numerous and powerful partners, the Czechs.

Similarly, the Croats, Serbs, and Slovenes consented, not altogether willingly in the case of the Slovenes, to unite their destinies in a single state, but the Croats, like the Slovaks, are dissatisfied and are demanding a wide autonomy.

Their situation in the new state today is somewhat analogous to that of the Catholic Irish formerly in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The Flemish population in Belgium, while not demanding independence, has carried on an organized movement for recognition of their language rights, which recently assumed the paramount place in the internal politics of the country.

The Ruthenians in Czechoslovakia are complaining that their promised autonomy has not been fully granted and in due course, it may be expected that the Saxons of Transylvania, the inhabitants of the Aland Islands, and the Germans of Memel (in Lithuania) will make similar complaints. Finally, the fire of nationalism continues to burn with Increasmg Hame in India. If the principle of nationalism means seIf-determination, various parts of the world are destined still to be disturbed by nationalistic movements.

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