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Contribution of Nationalism to The Great War

Insight of the long and short term causes of nationalism to the great war Credit: V.M. Hill

Victor Le

on 26 April 2010

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Transcript of Contribution of Nationalism to The Great War

Contribution of Nationalism to The Great War Nationalism What is it?
Nationalism is the feeling of extreme patriotism and pride for one’s nation. Nationalism is used as a means of promoting a sense of unity to gain popular domestic support by governments; to rile up citizens to defend their country in light of presumable threats. Nationalism surpasses patriotism in potency – it is more so the hate for other countries than the love for one’s own that provokes violence. It was also a major motive of European monarchs in the quest for dominance that motivated them to supersede the power and territory of other states. In 19th century Europe, two types of nationalism pervaded in an amalgamation that catalyzed the coming of the First World War. I. The Desire of Subject Peoples for Independence Nationalistic Movements in Austria-Hungary
Establishing a dual-monarchy in 1867, Austria-Hungary was comprised of a diverse demographic of cultural ethnicities. However, only the Austrians (Who were ethnically German) and the Hungarians were the dominant ruling powers. Other nationalities such as the Croats, Czechs, Slovaks, and Serbs pined for political independence within Austria-Hungary. Power over the Balkan Peninsula (Which will only be mentioned briefly) was a major ambition of the dual-monarchy, as nationalist movements there inflicted heavy influence on discontented nationalities within Austria-Hungary. Thus a major aim of the monarchy was to suppress any nationalistic movements, which only fuelled the fire and made the struggle for independence even more fervent. The ideology of Pan-Slavism, which called for the unity of all Slavic peoples, put the indignant nations into frenzy for independence from their presumed oppressors. What came out of Austro-Hungarian nationalism that led to the First World War? Austria-Hungary gained two powerful enemies in the process of suppressing calls for independence. Serbia, being the centre of nationalistic movements in the Balkans, called for the convening of all Serbs into one nation state and opposed any Serbs being held within Austria-Hungary. The second enemy gained was Russia. Being a Slavic country, Russia was known for siding with Serbia during Austro-Serbian disputes and further supported Serbia in its quest for a complete entity. Austrian ally Germany would later provoke Austria-Hungary’s war preparations should Russia mobilize its army. While the Balkan peoples still sought their own political voice under Austro-Hungarian rule, they still identified themselves as Pan-Slavs, with Russia as their superior Slavic father country. Despite the made peace from the First and Second Balkan wars, tension was still high in both Austria-Hungary and in nations under Turkish rule. Being protector of all Slavs, Russia saw this as a means of regaining prestige from an embarrassing defeat against Japan. This ultimately leads into the second type of Nationalism found in Europe preceding the First World War. II. The Desire of Independent Nations for Dominance and Prestige The obscure but nonetheless contributing Russian War with Japan At the time of the conflict in 1904, Russia had put forth an expansionist policy in the East. With conflict over occupation in Manchuria and Korea, the Japanese interest in the area and their desire to deter Russia’s occupation culminated in to a full-fledged war. The conflict ended in 1905 with an ignominious defeat for Russia – it was the first time a European power had been defeated by an Asian power. The Japanese had succeeded in destroying the whole Russian fleet in the Battle of Tsushima in 1905. Immensely humiliated, Russia had gained a demeaning reputation amongst European powers. The defeat in part contributed to the Russian Revolution of 1905. With discontented peasants demanding political change and a constitutional monarchy, the October Manifesto was declared. Allowing universal suffrage and the formation of political parties, Nicholas II was shaken from the internal conflicts that arose from his military failures. The idea of siding with the Slavs during a tense period of nationalism was all too enticing for Nicholas II – it served as a means of regaining dignity through military warfare. The Case of Germany The epitome of the desire for power was best manifested in the fairly young state of Germany. Newly-found in 1871, a major goal of the German state was to gain greater power and international influence. Bismarck, having achieved one of his life’s aims to bring the state together, now sought to maintain the stability of Germany. Being aware of French discontentedness over their lost territories of Alsace and Lorraine, Bismarck set forth to create alliances to prevent any resurgence. The most notable professor to fuel German Nationalism was one by the name of Heinrich von Treitschke. As a self-proclaimed protector of German heritage, Treitschke called for the destruction of British Naval dominance and slandered neighbouring countries for over 25 years. He fed his students the idea that war was Germany`s destiny; that it was even a right bestowed by God that would allow the state to fulfill complete cultural superiority. His lectures undoubtedly left their mark on young German leaders, notably Heinrich Class, the founder of the Pan-German League. What is Pan-Germanism? Something of a political movement, Pan-Germanism was a 19th Century movement that was especially active during the events leading up to German Unification. The actual Pan-German League established itself in the 1890s. Holding huge membership numbers, advocates were just as aggressive in spreading nationalism as university professors of the time. Seeing that nationalism was the best way for masses to deviate away from political fragmentation, the Pan-German League was known before the First World War as the “Intellectual Bodyguard of the Hohenzollerns.” The Pan-German League’s principles and the provocation of Treitschke fed the unprecedented wave of nationalism that engulfed the nation in 1914. The Dismissal f Bismarck With the death of Kaiser Wilhelm, 29 year-old Wilhelm II succeeded him as the Emperor of Germany and the King of Prussia on June 15, 1888. Far more ambitious in establishing Germany as a prominent world power, Wilhelm II dismissed Bismarck in light of his careful foreign policy. He preferred more rapid, assertive action to earn Germany a “Place under the sun.”
To contest British dominance of the seas, Wilhelm declared an attempt to build up the German naval forces. The ambitious plan was noted in the British House of Commons, with one British foreign secretary stating that “… Germany, a great country close to our own shore, will have a fleet of thirty-three Dreadnoughts. It is true that there is not one of them in commission yet; but it is equally true that the whole program … when completed … will be the most powerful fleet that the world has yet seen. “ The British responded in what could be called a naval arms race. They succeeded in building the dreadnought battleship in 1906. Although considerably successful in keeping up with Britain, Wilhelm failed to see the consequences of building up his army. He was not necessarily intent in causing a large-scale war, but provoked so anyway in trying to match his land and naval forces to that of France and Britain’s. The German people believed it was the state’s right to have such dominance, being especially advocated for by German universities. The 1848 painting, “Germania,” made during the revolutions of the same year, symbolized the united state and remained a national icon until the end of 1918.
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