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Nation And State In Europe After 1800

The opposed elements combined in many ways. In the first half of the nineteenth century, nationality as citizenship was linked to "high" culture. Basques and Catalans, Welsh and Scots, Bretons and Provencals must become Spanish, British, and French, respectively, to belong to the nation. Educational and other policies were pursued to this end. Such policies were explicitly assimilationist.

The situation was more difficult when one could not link the state to a dominant culture. Habsburg, Romanov, and Ottoman rulers were reluctant to do this. In some regions they confronted subjects with their own elites and high culture, such as the Poles and Magyars. There were also large and culturally subordinate groups, especially Slav speakers. These ranged from peoples with indigenous elites, a literary language, autonomous institutions, and national consciousness to peasant communities with distinct ethnic qualities but without national consciousness. Other areas were splintered into small states with one dominant nationality, above all the German lands and Italian peninsula.

As the nation as the bearer of popular sovereignty became a central political concept, these nonnational states were confronted with difficult questions. The "answer" in the German lands and the Italian peninsula was "unification," although these unifications included people who did not share in the national culture and excluded people who did.

In multinational empires no single national culture could assimilate others. The Russification project in the Russian Empire failed. The Habsburgs in the western half of the Austro–Hungarian Empire recognized distinct German and Czech nationalities. The Magyars practiced harsh assimilationist policies that alienated subordinate groups. The Ottomans conceded autonomy to Christian subjects but by the late nineteenth century had been expelled from areas claimed for "nations" using names such as Serbian, Greek, Bulgarian, Rumanian. Apologists for these "nations" legitimized political claims in cultural terms: creating a national literature, constructing a confessional identity, elaborating national customs, ceremonies, and histories. Ethnic-cultural ideas figured more centrally than they had in the national movements of dominant cultural groups in western European territorial monarchies.

Linking ethnicity and nationality was one response to problems in multinational empires. Ethnic censuses asked people whether they were Germans or Czech (one could not answer "both" or "neither"). The Austrian socialists Otto Bauer (1882–1938) and Karl Renner (1870–1950) elaborated arguments separating political citizenship from national identity, anticipating contemporary debates on multiculturalism. However, with the collapse of multinational empires at the end of World War I, the stage was set for the ethnic nation-state.

National cultures did not neatly distribute themselves as territorial blocks. Nationalities were brought together, as in Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia (meaning "south Slav," a name designed to bridge differences between Croatians, Serbs, and Slovenes). National minorities were created. One attempt to address resultant problems was by entrenching minority rights, to be monitored and enforced by the new League of Nations. This failed. Without strong and united support from the major Western powers, the League could not enforce rules. The doctrine of national sovereignty was understood to mean majority rule in a state that recognized no higher authority. The notion of citizenship as a property of individuals made it difficult to frame limitations on state power with respect to groups.

The Soviet Union had a national policy. Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (1870–1924) recognized the need to gain support from non-Russians. The state was a union of republics named by their dominant or "titular" nationality. The state recognized "personal" nationality, embodying this in passports and educational claims. The destruction of all political autonomy under Joseph Stalin (1879–1953) included the autonomy conceded to nationality. Nevertheless, cultivation of national identity and a system of national republics shaped the way the Soviet Union collapsed.

The breakdown of political order in central Europe saw ethnonationalism taken to extremes. Nationalist and racist movements aimed to destroy "inferior" nations or races by expulsion, exploitation, and murder. Arguably, racist justifications for race empire and genocide go beyond the idea of the nation that, if only implicitly, recognizes plurality and difference. However, fascism and Nazism drew upon arguments about the nation.

These extreme forms of ethnonationalism were defeated by 1945, but not before they had altered the map and mentality of Europe. The national states created after 1945 were ethnically more homogenous than those formed in 1919. Ethnic cleansing continued with the expulsion of Germans from other states. Yet the doctrine of national sovereignty was qualified by the formation of supranational blocs centered on the Soviet Union and the United States, as well as the formation of the United Nations. The title of this organization, as that of its predecessor the League of Nations, equates nation with state.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Mysticism to Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotideNation - Prepolitical Usages, The Nation And Political Authority, 1000–1500, Making Politics National, 1500–1800, New Ways Of Thinking About The Nation