Nationalism: The Preservation and Progression of National Identities Essay

Submitted By hla13
Words: 862
Pages: 4

Nationalism: The Preservation and Progression of National Identities The idea of nationalism in Eastern Europe is a relatively modern one. Interestingly enough, it is not an idea that can be delineated definitively, but rather an idea subject to interpretation. Over the years, many men have speculated over this concept and construed their own meaning through the scope of their encounters with governmental and cultural influences. Two highly revered and self-proclaimed nationalists, Frantisek Palacky of the Czech Republic and Thomas Masaryk of Czechoslovakia, offer their perspectives on the complexities of national identity during two separate timeframes respectively through letters and tenets. Taking a closer look at Palacky’s 19th and Masaryk’s early 20th century writings, one can identify both similar and differing interpretations of what exactly nationalism entails for each of the Slavic men. Although nationalist ideals had begun to take root during the French Revolution in the late 1700’s, it was not until the 19th century that nationalism began to grow in popularity. Palacky was born in 1798, like one of the other leading intellectual elites to propagate the Romantic Nationalism movement, Adam Mickiewicz of Poland. These men could be considered proto-nationalists; they are amongst the first to express greater loyalty to their national background “in origin, in language, in history and morals” rather than the “mere dynastic ties” of their political rulers (Palacky 303-308). Palacky was openly connected to the historical rights of Bohemia, insisting rather strongly in his letter to the Frankfurt Assembly that the German Empire had “possessed neither legislative, nor judicial, nor executive power either in Bohemia or over the Czechs” (Palacky 303-308). This is where Palacky and Masaryk seem divided.
To put things in context, Masaryk, born in 1850, caught the tail end of the progression of nationalism. Growing up in a time of Mass Nationalism, where the idea was gaining popular support amongst all classes of people, Masaryk had his eyes trained on the future rather than adopting Palacky’s flair for harping on the past. Rather than idealizing the historically secularly and politically splintered principality that was Bohemia, he chose to introduce the idea of self-determination, citing that a small but “an enlightened and culturally progressing nation” should be treated the same as any previous kingdom (Masaryk 27). He goes on even to highlight the importance of the extremely progressive idea of globalization on page 28, recognizing that “Europe and humanity are becoming more unified” and that “between nationality and internationality there is no antagonism, but on the contrary, agreement”. Instead of idealizing a fallen kingdom like Palacky was keen on, Masaryk embodied the characteristics of a mass nationalist.
Although they did differ on their vantage points, Palacky and Masaryk did agree on many facets of Czech nationalism. They did so especially in regards to the Austrian Empire and protecting they agreed to be an important power. In Palacky’s 1848 letter, his second reason for turning down the invitation to meet with a Diet of German elites was that he recognized that it was Germany’s “irrevocable desire and purpose to undermine Austria as an independent empire and indeed make her impossible for all time to come”. He goes on to explain the importance of Austria’s unified presence as one of the only things preventing the “Power”, or the Russian Empire, from expanding