To what extent did WWI change (or not change) European ideas about statehood and nationalism?
Sources suggest that Europe’s ideas towards statehood and nationalism changed throughout and after WW1, I personally agree with this statement. Nationalism is defined as loyalty or devotion to ones country followed by the belief that nations will benefit from acting independently rather than collectively, emphasizing national rather than international goals. There was a large impact on Europe post WW1 and this term “nationalism” had a lot to do with the situation. It was also often, the belief that an ethnic group has a right to statehood, or that citizenship in a state should be limited to one ethnic group, this belief was also greatly impacted by the enlightenment of WW1.
After a Period that saw great rise to the idea of nationalism throughout Europe, the time that came after the war brought vast change and meaning to how nations were described. May 7th 1919, German foreign minister Ulrich von Brockdorff-Rantzua arrived at meeting know as the delegation of diplomats. It was held in one of the grand rooms within Versailles palace, which is located just outside of Paris. The aim of this meeting was to negotiate between all of the allied powers ( France, Japan, Italy, Britain and United States). Because the allied powers felt strongly that they had won , they now believed that Germany and Austria hungry were to blame to for the original outbreak of the war. Although the Germans believed that this armistice to stop the war was really only a truce… there concerns were ignored.
The explanation of what caused the war is truly more complex than just putting sole blame on Austria hungry and Germany. The foundations that eventually lead to the out break of WW1 which also became know as the Great War, had started 5 years in the past. National competition was fast becoming the key characteristic of the age , because of the development in powerful and industrialized armed states a there grew a strong sense of the need to defend, due to imperial interests. Previously in the 19th Century the states had cooperated together aiming to keep the peace, rulers of the time strongly disagreed with conflict. But as the time came to merge into the 20th century modern political movements were coming forward, many of which were based around a nationalist outlook. People began to move away from the old regimes. Many people were now eager for autonomy, throughout the southern and eastern sides of Europe there existed a mix of nationalities under the rule of imperial Prussian, Austrian or Russian rule, these political ways then led to a push for national self-determination.
The drive for revolution and change is shown in Lenin’s work particularly in quote 5) “The greater will be the number of people of the woking class and of the other classes of society who will be able to join the movement and perform active work in it.” Another major event that triggered Austria into declaring war was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand along with his wife. The assassination was carried out by a young terrorist, Gavrilo Princip. The austrian authorities were infuriated over the attack and demanded that Serbia accept Austrian interference in the murder investigation, as they blamed Serbia as the felt they had encouraged the black hand society. Due to the fact that the Serbs only accepted segments of the ultimatum they triggered Austria’s declaration of war. War was not the original intention for the other European Powers in 1914 but Fear can lead people to do a lot of things, there was also an idea that Armaments caused war but this was not the case, they did contribute to a sense of fast growing instability though and lessened the capacity of states so that they were able to restrain the military if/when crisis signaled.
During 1914 Austria was prepared to go to war against Serbia, for the reason described above but before they were able to do this they needed the complete support of Germany, Their Ally and the cease of any possible threat from Russia. Austria achieved support from Berlin although Russia feared that Austria would use this crisis to take control of Slavic Balkans and therefore stall russian imperial ambitions, due to this Russia chose to back Serbia and began to mobilize, this then triggered a domino effect. In Berlin it was felt that Russia’s mobilization was encouraged by the British and French, the German military then prepared to attack France, whom Britain sided with. All the major powers of Europe were at war by the 4th of August 1914. Both sides suffered losses unimaginable before 1914 this was due to the introduction of new Weaponry such as machine guns. The cost of WW1 in terms of human losses were enormous more than 9 million soldiers were killed and millions of others were permanently injured.
The “war guilt clause” was signed by German Delegation under protest on June the 28 of 1919. The Germans believed that the conditions that were imposed upon them were harsh. The end of the war also transformed the political geography of Europe and the middle east. After the rise and fall of the Russian empire the German Austrian and ottoman turkish empires also ceased to exist. These were all replaced by new smaller states. The former turkish provinces in Iraq, Syria Lebanon and Palestine were handed over as mandates to Britain and France. This is further explained int he treaty of Versailles article 22 “ certain communities formally belonging to the turkish empire have reached a stage of development where their existence as independent nations can be provisionally recognized subject to the rendering of administrative advice and assistance by a mandatory ie: western power” The Former Imperial Territories in Europe which were held by Russia, Austria and Germany all became independent national states.
This further pushed the idea that people of Europe should be allowed national “self determination”. This is also stated in Article 22 of the covenant of the league of nations “ the best method of giving practical effect to this principle is that the tutelage of such peoples should be entrusted to advanced nations who by reason of their resource s their experience or their geographical position can best undertake this responsibility”. Different aspects of the war strengthened nationalism, such as some of the ideas that have been explored above whereas others weakened nationalism.
Examples of ideas that weakened nationalism can been seen throughout the novel all quiet on the western front, in the quote “ on the body of the little recruit with the wound that is so much too big for his hip; it falls on kemmerichs grave, it falls in our hearts” the somber tone used in this quotes reflects the emotion and pointlessness felt towards fighting in WW1, for the soldiers it was a time of great despair, all quiet on the western front is a honest and open writing about the emotion and mentality of the soldiers during WW1. Another example of a piece that gives a somewhat derogatory effect towards nationalism is Dulce et decorum Est. “the old lie, Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori” this further expresses the terrors of war, and how through propaganda nationalism was reinforced as a glorious battle rather than a treacherous war.
Overall It can be decided that European ideas about statehood and nationalism were changed after WW1, on a large and extensive scale. By looking at the numerous example and sources shown above we can conclude that events throughout WW1 lead to changes both in the economy and social structure of Europe.
Courtney from Study Moose
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