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Europe Divided 1825 -1881


IN EUROPE and North America, nationalism generally led to the creation of larger states and the centralization of power. In the Austrian Empire, however, nationalism had the opposite effect; it led to the break-up of the empire and the creation of a large number of small states. The reason was that the Austrian Empire was made up of people of different nationalities, each with its own language and customs. Although the German-speaking Austrians were only about one-fifth of the total population, the ruling family, the Hapsburgs, was Austrian and Austrians held most of the important government positions. The German-speaking people lived mainly in Austria and parts of Bohemia. The Czechs lived in Bohemia and Moravia. The majority of the people in Hungary were Magyars. The empire also included many Italians, Rumanians and Slavs. The Slavs, all of whom spoke Slavic languages, were in turn divided into Czechs, Slovaks, Poles and Yugoslavs. The revolutions that took place in the empire in 1848 failed as the different national groups quarreled among themselves. When Vienna was retaken from the rebels, the old leaders — the army officers, the nobles, the wealthy landowners, the churchmen — knew they would regain their power, but Emperor Ferdinand had promised the people too much. He was forced to step down so that his son Francis Joseph could take the throne and Francis Joseph would not be bound by the promises made by his father. The government then became more oppressive than ever. It did away with constitutions and took a firm stand against any form of liberalism or democracy. It called out soldiers to strike down any demonstrations of nationalism. Although the government did make some effort to improve business conditions, it was unpopular with the people. AUSTRIA-HUNGARY In 1867, the two leading national groups, the German …

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