The idea that each language group should have its own nation, to express its own volksgeist, especially frightened the Austrian Empire, of which Metternich was foreign minister. Since Austria contained dozens of subjugated language groups (including the Magyars, Czechs, Slovaks, Slavs, Rumanians, Serbs, Croatians, etc.), the upsurge in nationalism threatened to tear Austria to pieces. The Austrian government's position as prime reactionary was certainly due in lart part to its fear of dissolution were nationalism to win out.

Today, we often think of nationalism and patriotism as something that "just makes sense". "Of course everyone loves their country," we think, "it's always been that way." Not true. Modern nationalism on the wide scale it is seen today is actually a fairly new phenomenon, especially in Eastern Europe. The numerous ethnic groups there had been more or less happy to live under Austrian Hapsburg rule for hundreds of years, and their languages and histories were being forgotten. Only the advent of the ideology of nationalism led to the creation of "national identities" and a "desire for self-government." Today, it is easy to think that people everywhere have always wanted their own countries for their own ethnic groups. In fact, this modern conception of nationalism developed in large part between 1815 and 1848.

Popular pages: Europe (1815-1848)