Nationalism and Imperialism
Nationalism is often accused of being the cause of many wars. It has been accused of aggressive war making. It has been accused of causing one nationality to impose its will on another nationality. Nationalism has been falsely maligned. Much of what is blamed on nationalism should be place on imperialism.
Before proceeding, a distinction needs to be made between a “nation” and a “country.” A “nation” is a community of people of the same race having a common origin and language and with common traditions, culture, economy, etc. that is capable of forming a nation-state, i.e., a politically organized relatively homogenous people inhabiting a sovereign state. A country is the territory that a political state governs. A nation is the people, and a country is the land.
Much confusion exists between nationalism and imperialism. Nationalism seeks to preserve a nationality. It seeks to preserve a nation (not to be confused with a country, most of which today are empires) and its culture, language, race, laws, economy, etc. On the other hand, imperialism seeks to impose the culture, laws, economy, etc. of one nationality on another nationality. Nationalism is essentially the opposite of imperialism.
Nationalism acquired its belligerent reputation in the nineteenth century when various nations attempted to secede from various European and American Empires. The Irish attempted to secede from the British Empire. Several nations of the Austrian Empire attempted to secede. They were unsuccessful. However, Hungry did manage to obtain parity with Austria; hence, Austria-Hungry was born. Secession from the Turkish Empire was more successful as Greeks, Serbians, Rumanians, Bulgarians, and Albanians won their independence. In North America the Southern States failed in their attempt to secede from the American Empire.
Many historians agree that the fundamental cause of World War I was imperialistic in nature. Few blame nationalism for the war. As destructive as that war was, it did advance the cause of nationalism — at least in Europe.
The Irish gained independence although the status of Ulster has yet to be satisfactorily resolved.
The Austro-Hungarian Empire collapsed into several nations. Although they lost part of their nation (part of Tirol) to Italy and were not united with Bavarians provinces of Bavaria, the Bayuvar (or Austro-Bavarians) formed a new Austria. Although they lost part of their nation (Voyvodina) to Serbia, the Hungarians formed a new Hungary. The Czechs gained their independence although they held the Slovaks in subjection until 1992 when the Slovaks gained their independence and the Ruthenians until the end of World War II when they were transferred to the Soviet Union. In the south the Croats, Dalmatians, Slovenes, Bosnians, and Herzegovinians were not so fortunate. They were merged into the Serbian Empire (commonly called Yugoslavia) along with the Montenegrins and Macedonians until the collapse of the Soviet Empire precipitated the collapse of the Serbian Empire. (However, the Montenegrins remained under Serbian rule, and the Dalmatians remained under Croat rule.)
Out of the fall of the Russian Empire came homelands for nations of the Finns, Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians, Kashubians in Gdansk, and Poles. The Byelorussians were divided between Poland and Russia.
Germany’s African and Asian colonies were transferred to England, France, and Japan. The Alemanni of Alsace and French of Lorraine were placed under French rule. Much of the German Empire that was Polish became part of Poland.
The French replaced the Turks as the rulers of the Syrians, Druzes, and Christian Lebanese. The English replaced the Turks as the rulers of the Palestinians, the Arabs of Amman, and the Shiite Arabs of Baghdad and Basra.
World War II is what really caused the undeserving reputation of nationalism as the cause of aggressive belligerence. The fascist movements in Italy and Germany claimed to be nationalistic, and the gullible, who include just about everyone in academia in the West, believed the fascists and still do. Hitler went so far in this deception that he named his movement National Socialism. Both Germany and Italy were imperialistic, not nationalistic. They sought to conquer other nations and to impose their values, ideology, economy, laws, etc. on these conquered nations.
Germany and Italy could not have been acting in a nationalistic spirit because both were, and still are, an empire of nations. Germany consisted of at least eight nations: the Bayuvars, Alemanni (who were, and still are, divided among Germany, Switzerland, and France), Franconians (or Upper Germans), Germans (or Middle Germans), Brandenburgians, Plattdeutsch, Wends (a Slavonic people), and Prussians (who lost their homeland to the Poles as a result of World War II). Italy consisted of at least thirteen nations: the Piedmontese, Gallo-Italians, Venetians, Tuscans, Latins, Neapolitans, Sicilians, Sardinians, Friulians, Ladins, Bayuvars in Tirol, Savoyards in the northwest (the remainder of whom live under French rule) and Slovenes in Istria (who were reunited with their kindred after World War II in the Serbian Empire).
Following World War II the map of Europe again changed. The Soviet Union absorbed the Lithuanians, Latvians, and Estonians. The eastern boundary of Poland was redrawn, and all of the Byelorussians and Volhynians (whom the Ukrainians now rule) were placed under Russian rule. The Ruthenians (whom the Ukrainians now rule) traded their Czech rulers for Russian rulers, and the Lemks and Boyks (whom the Ukrainians now rule) traded their Polish rulers for Russian rulers. The Rumanians of Bessarabia were also absorbed into the Soviet Union.
The Prussian states (Prussian, Pomerelia, and Pomerania) were absorbed into Poland, and the Prussians for the most part were driven from their homeland. The eastern portion of Brandenburg also became part of Poland as did Gdansk (Danzig) with the resulting lost of autonomy for the Kashubians.
At least in Europe, World War II was not nationalistic in nature, but was imperialistic. Because of the war, several nations lost their countries, and no nation gained independence. However, in Asia and Africa things were different. The European colonial empires collapsed. Many new countries were born. Unfortunately, for the most part, these new countries were not nations in the true sense, but where a conglomeration of nations.
One new country that was a nation born following World War II was the Jewish nation of Israel. However, this nation soon shifted from nationalism to imperialism as it conquered and imposed its rule on the Palestinians.
Between the end of World War II and the collapse of the Soviet Empire, several nations have cried out for independence — some even to the point of armed insurrection. Some of these nations are the Punjabi in India, the Kurds in Iran, Iraq, and Turkey, the Palestinians in Israel, the Boers in South Africa, the Corsicans and Bretons in France, the Basque in France and Spain, the Welsh and Scotts in Great Britain, the Quebeckers in Canada, and the Southern Americans in the United States.
The collapse of the Soviet Empire brought nationalism to the forefront and has caused imperialism to retreat. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the puppet governments in Eastern Europe, many new countries, most of which are true nations, came into being. Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia are again independent. Byelorussians now have an independent homeland for the first time in history. Ukraine is an independent country although it continues to contain several nations along with the Ukrainians. The Rumanians of Moldavia (Bessarabia) have gained independence. In the Caucasian region, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaidzhan are independent. Georgia still consists of four different nations. Armenia’s union with the Armenians of Erzenrum in Turkey remains. Also, remaining is the union of the Azeris of Azerbaidzhan with the Azeris of Iran. In Central Asia the Tajik now have an independent homeland in Tajikistan. The Turanian countries of Kazakh, Turkmen, Uzbek, and Kirghiz have also gained independence.
In Eastern Europe outside the old Soviet Union, several new countries, which for the most part consist predominately of one nation, have been born. Czechoslovakia has divided. The Czechs (Bohemians) have their homeland, and the Slovaks, theirs. Yugoslavia has divided. The Slovenes, Croats, and Macedonians have their independent homelands.
Although the growth of modern day nationalism began long before World War I, it really began to bear fruit with the collapse of Turkey’s European empire that began several decades before that war with the creation of several new countries that were true nations. Then nationalism was driven back as imperialism reared its ugly head as the Italian, German, Russian, and Japanese empires began expansion. Imperialism peaked with World War II. Since the conquests of the Soviet Union at the conclusion of World War II, imperialism has been retreating, and nationalism has been advancing. Empires have collapsed, and none have risen to take their place although the United States have been striving to establish an empire of puppet states throughout the world.
Copyright © 1994, 2010 by Thomas Coley Allen.
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