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How Nationalism Lead To World War I History Essay

Here were two kinds of nationalism in 19th Century Europe. First one was the “desire of subject peoples for independence. It led to a series of national struggles for independence among the Balkan peoples” (Chung, 2000). Besides, other powers got involved and caused much instability. Second one was the “desire of independent nations for dominance and prestige” (Chung, 2000). In 1871, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia, France and Britain were the great powers in Europe and they had different nationalism. Each power had national interests which conflicted with those of other powers. In this essay, I will first talk about nationalism in each power and I will use some incidents to explain how nationalism led to the First World War (WWI).

Russian nationalism mainly aimed at getting warm water port in the Balkans, such as Constantinople as she is a ‘land-locked’ state and carrying out Pan Slavism as two-thirds of her people were Slavs. Russia was the largest country which had the most population in Europe. However, her territorial ambitions clashed with the interest of Austria-Hungary and Britain as Austria-Hungary was afraid of Pan-Slavism leading by Russia would spread to her empire and caused instability while British interest in the Mediterranean Sea would be threatened. Moreover, “Russia could claim to be the protector of her brother races in her expansion as most of the Balkan people were of the Slav race” (Chung, 2000).

Austria-Hungary’s nationalism aimed at suppressing the nationalist movement both inside and outside as she was a multinational country which included a lot of nationalities, such as, Czechs, Slovaks, Serbs, Croats, Rumanians and Poles. All these nationalities resented their loss of political freedom as they were ruled by the Austrians who were German racially and the Hungarians. “The centre of the nationalist movements in the Balkans was Serbia” (Chung, 2000) as Serbia wanted to unite with the Serbs in Austria-Hungary through Greater Serbia Movement. As a result, “Serbia became the first enemy of Austria-Hungary from 1871 to 1914” (Chung, 2000). Moreover, “Austria-Hungary was hostile towards Russia as she always backed up Serbia in any Austro-Serbian conflicts” (Chung, 2000).

German nationalism aimed at carrying out Pan Germanism. “Germany was united in 1871 as a result of the Franco-Prussian War. She became the strongest economic and military power in Europe” (Chung, 2000). German foreign policy from 1871 to 1890 wanted to maintain status quo and persevered peace for internal consolidation by “forming a series of peaceful alliances with other powers” (Chung, 2000). However, after 1890, German foreign policy was unfriendly and provocative when William II became the emperor as he carried out “Welt-politik” which meant World Politics by building up German influence in every part of the world. Thus, Germany came into serious conflicts with all other European powers from 1890 to 1914.

French nationalism aimed at recovering Alsace and Lorraine and compensating her glory as she was defeated by Germany in 1871 and signed the Treaty of Frankfurt. Besides, she had to pay a huge indemnity. Thus, France wanted to take revenge on Germany so as to recover Alsace and Lorraine. “In order to recover her national prestige, France acquired oversea colonies, such as Morocco and Tunis, however, she clashed interests of other great powers” (Chung, 2000). For example, France argued with Germany in Moroccan Crises in 1905 and 1911.

British nationalism aimed at preserving her overseas empire and her overseas trade by maintaining a large navy as “Britain possessed the largest overseas empire and the largest navy in the world” (Chung, 2000). Before 1890, “her chief enemies were France and Russia” (Chung, 2000) since the colonial interests of France often clashed with those of Britain, such as in Africa. “Russia's interest in the Balkan area also alarmed Britain, as British naval interests in the Mediterranean Sea would be threatened” (Chung, 2000). “After 1890, as Germany went on increasing her naval strength and threatened British naval supremacy and the British overseas interests, she became Britain's chief enemy” (Chung, 2000).

As different countries had different nationalism which were usually opposing each other as mentioned above, it is easy for them came into conflicts which finally led to WWI. The 1877 Russo-Turkish War shows Russia’s nationalism. Turkey was defeated and signed the Treaty of San Stefano. However, “both Britain and Austria-Hungary objected to the terms especially the creation of a Russian-controlled Bulgaria” (Chung, 2000) as this clashed the nationalism of Britain and Austria-Hungary. “Britain feared that Bulgaria would be a stepping stone for Russia to expand in the Balkans. Austria feared the end of the Turkish Empire and the revolts of the Slavs in the Balkans as an example for the Slavs in the Austrian Empire to follow” (Chung, 2000). Thus, the Congress of Berlin in 1878 was carried out to revise the treaty’s terms. “Russia had received a humiliating diplomatic defeat. The much reduced Bulgaria was a slap in the face for Pan-Slav sentiment” (Chung, 2000). The Congress preserved peace in Europe, but “the peace achieved was not a lasting one. Serbia had long been interested in taking Bosnia and Herzegovina so as to acquire an outlet to the sea” (Chung, 2000). However, Austria was given the administration of Bosnia-Herzegovina. “It was over Bosnia that crises were provoked in 1908 and 1914” (Chung, 2000), precipitating the First World War. In the Bosnian Crisis, the relationship between Serbia and Austria-Hungary became worse as Austria-Hungary was supported by Germany and annexed into Bosnia and Herzegovina. Furthermore, the relationship between Russia and Germany also worsen as Russia could not help Serbia. Besides, “the Congress disappointed the hopes of the Balkan states for they were eager to dismember the Ottoman Empire” (Chung, 2000). For example, the Rumanians had lost southern Bessarabia to Russia and the Bulgars had expected a larger state. In short, “the Congress sowed the seeds of future Balkan wars which occurred in 1912 and 1913”(Chung, 2000). Balkan wars happened as the nationalism of the Balkan states, such as Bulgaria, Greece, Montenegro and Serbia, reached a high point and wanted to overthrow Turkey. “The most important result of the wars was the intensifying of bad relations between Austria and Serbia” (Chung, 2000). “Serbia’s plan for an outlet to the sea was blocked by Albania which was created on the insistence of Austria” (Chung, 2000). However, Serbia became strong after the wars as she gained Macedonia. “This made Austria and Germany worried and Austria was determined to crush Serbia before she became too powerful” (Chung, 2000). Thus, when the Sarajevo Assassination happened, Austria declared war on Serbia. As a result, Russia supported Serbia by mobilizing her army. Other great powers, like Germany, France and Britain also joined the war. Finally, WWI happened. Moreover, we can see French nationalism clashed with German nationalism in the first and second Moroccan crises in 1905 and 1911 respectively. From this, we can see how different countries’ nationalism clashed with each other and led to WWI.

To conclude, nationalism of different countries led to the WWI as it breeds mutual distrust and fosters aggressive foreign policy.

(1080 words)

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