The title of my lecture “Why did they begin?” demonstrates that - preferring causal explanation - I do not intend to present to you a description of events and activities. What is to be explained, concerns central problems in analyzing the phenomenon “national movement”, as one of two basic types of the European nation formation process. The other basic type started under conditions of a state-nation with an uninterrupted cultural and political tradition (like f. ex. France, Netherlands). National movement means a specific kind of organized social movements which – analogically with other social movements – found its origins, its point of departure in intellectual reflections and discussions. Trying to start any movement, first you have to deliberate and propose its goals and projects. Some activist – usually educated people – analyzed the social and cultural situation, defining themselves, formulating their priorities, reconsidering their aims and chances. In this sense, all social movements have their “Phase A”.
Unfortunately, too many researchers of the phenomenon “nationalism” regard just this very beginning as unimportant, uninteresting or may be non existent. And I must admit that also to me, this phase seemed earlier as too heterogeneous and too intellectual, to become an object of social history. May be, this lecture is intended as some kind of atonement for my disregard.
To make my reflections on “the beginnings” better understandable, I prefer to distinguish two levels of this question and – corresponding to this – I divide my lecture into two parts.
First part, is about, why scholars and intellectuals became interested in ethnic, or national specificity, and why they started studying it. And second: why did they (or may be their pupils) accept and develop the vision of nation-to-be and consequently, why did they decide to start national agitation. In both cases, we must be aware of the fact that – distinguishing different periods in national movements (you may call them Phase A B C or not) we observe and analyze processes which proceeded in various parts of Europe with different timing, i.e. asynchronous. Some examples for basic orientation for those, who are not familiar with this topic:
In Norway, the first patriotic scientific society was founded 1760, in Bohemia, first steps towards scientific research were published in 1770s, in Hungary, new scientific interest in Magyar language and ethnicity started with the “1765 Generation”, first volume of Historia critica Hungariae was published 1779, Greeks reflected the character of their history and language during the last decades of the 18th century. The search for the proper national language of Southern Slavs started during the first decades of the 19th century, at the same time with similar activities in Finland and Slovakia. During 1840s, we meet learned activities in the starting Catalan, Ruthen (Ukrainian), Estonian and Latvian movements. Even later than in Lithuania, Belarus, Macedonia and Basque lands.
1. Why did the research and interest in ethnicities start?
The answer seems to be not very complicated, but it becomes difficult, if we take into account both the particular (individual) and general aspects. On one side, it was a personal decision of a very few number of scholars and this decision could be influenced by incidental events and experiences, which could become an object of interesting research. On the other side, the common denominator of these individual decisions seems to be obvious: it was the enlightened fervour for new knowledge about all components of the social, cultural, economic life in the state, where enlightened scholars lived. Nevertheless, just the choice of this topic is somehow surprising, since we know that ethnic groups were in the 18th century society regarded as a marginal phenomenon, they were without or with a very small political relevance, they did not belong to the important issues, to central parts of social or cultural life, sometimes they belonged to rarities. Consequently, it was not self evident to study these marginalities. Nevertheless, some among these intellectuals did study regional specificities, marginal ethnic groups. Was it, because themselves, or their parents originated in these ethnic groups? This sounds convincing, but we know that – on one side - many actors of Phase A did not belong to the ethnic group, which they were studying, and – on the other side – that we know about scholars, who did not concern the region of their origin and preferred studies about general topics or about other regions or other marginal groups, then those they originated in.
An important, may be banal, but often forgotten set of preconditions has to be mentioned in this context. It was the enlightened system of values. Among these values we find some principles, which could be decisive in answering this question (why die they decide to study marginal ethnicities):
Firstly, it was the abstract principle that the basic virtue to act in favour of common people, its welfare, to support the progress and humanity, and that this virtue was to be demonstrated by concrete activities in favour of the people in your concrete country, region, simply “patria” – homeland. And it was possible to help your patria, your homeland, not only through supporting economic growth and education, but also studying the common origins and mutual communications of this country and its inhabitants.
Second, the principle of justice implied sympathies or even need for help to the weaker, underprivileged ones. The sense of justice included also the idea of equality of human beings without regard to their origins and of their numbers. Consequently, small ethnic group, still regarded as negligible, must not be neglected or even denied in their existence.
Third, the principle of tolerance provoked also respect, or even sympathy to the “other”, i.e. towards those, who differed from the “normality” of ruling classes or majorities. For this reason, they were often underprivileged, marginalized. And to study this difference, this still neglected specificity – in this case the specific language, history and habits of ethnic groups - belonged to basic challenges to an enlightened scholar. The scientific research in humanities was in the time of enlightenment mostly a “nonprofit” activity. To pursue such a “l’art pour l’art” was without difficulties possible only under conditions of a guaranteed minimum of necessaries. In some cases, this need was fulfilled from the property of their own: nevertheless, the researching landlord or merchant was rather rare among the protagonists of Phase A – they were significant only in Hungary and Greece. More frequented is another category, those, who could profit from the benefits of a catholic monastery or lived under protection of a rich sponsor. Nevertheless, such carefree ways at the level of material life did not ensure them a spiritual independence, because they had always to take into account the sponsors interests and positions. The third category included scholars, who had to earn money in state or other service, like university teachers, librarians, officials, surgeons etc. and did their research as a free time activity. Trying to understand the differentiated Phase A, we must not forget this “materialist” criterion of differentiation among enlightened scholars: on one side those, who were full time researchers “in service” of an institution or of an individual, and on the other side those, who did their research during their free time, more or less as a “hobby”. Naturally, there existed also transitional situations between both categories.
This is not the only categorization of the patriots, we need in order to understand their activities and decisions. We have also – as I already mentioned - to distinguish them according to their ethnic background, i.e. regarding the ties between the ethnic group and the scholar. From this point of view, two basic situation again can be distinguished. The first one: the scholars belonged by their origin or by their choice to the ethnic group and identified with it. This belonging was not necessarily expressed through an active acceptance of its language: many, or in some cases even most of the early Phase A prints were written in Latin or in the higher developed ruling state language (German, Russian, French).
The second situation: scholars, who published and researched on this topic did not originate from and did not identify with the ethnic group they were engaged for. The most famous cases are the German speaking “estophiles” or “lettophiles” in the Baltics, who constructed the first (later criticized) version of written language. The learned studies of Phase A in Lithuania were partially done at the German university in neighbouring Królewiec (Konigsberg), many studies on Southern Slavs (and the Balkan in general) were done in Vienna, great part of the knowledge about the Greek past was the common place in European classic philology.
Naturally, trying to reconstruct the motivation of academic engagement, we could imagine that among the scholars in the first of these two situations, i.e. those, who identified themselves with the ethnic group, emotional ties toward the object of studies played a more or less important motivating role. And indeed, we find many convincing demonstrations of patriotic feelings in texts – to choose the most extreme positions as examples - by Adalbert Voigt in Bohemia, Paisij Chilandarskij in Bulgaria, Henrik Gabriel Porthan in Finland. All of them were written at the end of the 18th century and they can be classified neither as a product of romanticism, nor as “nationalist”. The best fitting label – if we need something like labels – would be the term patriotism. This patriotic engagement is not surprising, since the position, which we call “enlightened” cannot be reduced – as we often do - to strong scholarship and cold rationality: it included often also a more or less distinct emotional component.
Trying to better understand this decision to be engaged in studies of ethnic groups, we have to enlarge our chronological horizon deeper into the past – at least to the 16th-17th century. I am telling you no news, if I mention that already in the times of late humanism and baroque, we meet expressions of a strong emotional ties between an intellectual (or how we would like to call educated people?) and his “protonational” group. May be, the different timing of Phase A and B in Europe could be partially – not fully - explained by a presence or absence of the previous tradition of baroque patriotism in this or that country. On one side, let me remind f. ex. the case of baroque patriotism in Hungary and Bohemia – which both belong to the early starting national movements – on the other side lands, where baroque patriotism was suppressed by centralist state, like in Catalonia, or simply focused on different, larger political units, like in the situation of Slovaks (with dominating Hungarian baroque patriotism) or Slovenes (Landespatriotismus in Krain, Steiermark, Veneto). And naturally, the situation is different again at the territory of Ottoman Empire almost without any tradition of humanist or baroque patriotism. The relationship between baroque and enlightened patriotism – so far they met - includes a mixture of both rejecting and continuity and could become, by the way, an inspiring field for further comparative research with interesting explanatory results.
But let us continue the reflections on motifs of Phase A engagements. I suppose that beside of the neutral enlightened scholarship, engaged humanist interest and patriotic feelings, we have to include in our model two further elements. It was firstly the interest of rationalized state administration to get some more exact information about peoples, who live at its state territory, and about the possibilities of effective education of and communication with ethnic groups, which do not understand the state language. In the 18th century Finland, the situation was not complicated: in order to be understood the state administration translated all documents into Finnish, which was the only non- Swedish language. The Habsburg monarchy had a more complicated situation with many languages and dialects, spoken by its population. Since the language of education in elementary schools had to be the “landesübliche Sprache”, the state needed the support of experts. It was not evident in all parts of the monarchy, which language had to be chosen. Another example could be found in Russia, where the minister Uvarov ordered to describe the linguistic situation in the monarchy. This task was imposed to the Swedish-Finnish scholar Sjögren, who presented an excellent description of many until that time unknown peoples and languages in tsarist Russia. So he is still regarded as a man, who constructed the norms of Osetian written language.
This kind of linguistic research has its analogy on the opposite site of Europe and under totally different political conditions: the famous research of vernaculars in different French provinces, which was done by Abbé Gregoire as an administrator of the revolutionary French government. The aim of this research was, nevertheless significantly different: to prepare the conditions to do away with “patois” in the name of the written language, as one of the elementary bonds of the newly formed nation. At least, another political motivation of Phase A activities has to be mentioned. It is the interest of aristocratic provincial opposition, which needed arguments in favour of its anti-centralist defence, arguments demonstrating the specificity of their provincial land. This was not the case everywhere, only in lands with surviving tradition of political autonomy, where the specific past and different ethnicity could be used as such kind of arguments. In most convincing way this was demonstrated in Hungary, where the Diat opposed reforms introduced by enlightened absolutist Josef II. : the nobility refused both social emancipation of peasants, and the introduction of German language into administration. The endeavour for constructing national history and national language was strongly supported by an important part of nobility and consequently, scholars had a solid financial and political background for their work.
Josephinist reforms provoked a resistance also in Bohemian Diat, but this resistance was by far not as radical as in Hungary, it did not include linguistic demands and was formulated only by a minority of the so called historical nobility. Also in Bohemia, some scholars could use the benefit of aristocratic sponsors and their results could serve – not very successfully – as an argument in favour of their lands autonomy. To explain this difference between Bohemia and Hungary, it is may be necessary to mention, that namely almost all members of nobility in Hungary used Magyar as their mother language, while only very few Czech aristocrats, most of them German speakers, knew Czech, at least as language of communication with the servants.
Norwegian merchants and high bureaucrats, although Danish speakers, opposed the Danish absolutist centralism, asking for more autonomy, and this motivated their interest in and support of studies on Norwegian history, nature and peasant´s habits. They also demanded foundation of a national university and achieved this goal in 1811.
Last not least, an important spiritual influence has to be introduced in our reflections: it is the influence of romanticism. Here, I have some difficulties with chronology. Could the enlightened patriotism, a phenomenon dated to the 2.half of the 18th century, be influenced by romanticism, the starting point of which is usually dated to the threshold of the 19th century? Of course, the term romanticism may be understood in a more floppy way and in such a case, we could label all signs of emotionality in the age of enlightenment as signs of romanticism, or proto-romanticism. Nevertheless, I have my doubts about workability of such a radical switch in terms.
The influence of romanticism cannot be denied as factor of national activities during the 1st half of the 19th century. As I mentioned already in the introduction, national movements proceeded asynchronously and consequently, the Phase A activities which continued from the enlightened period became more or less influenced by romanticism. This concerns above all those activists, who belonged to the later born generations of enlightened patriots. At this moment, I would like only in margine remind the old, in my eyes senseless discussion, how far Czech patriots like Jungmann or Palacký were influenced by romanticism and how strong the enlightened heritage in their minds was. I am calling it a senseless discussion, because the answer is not either-or: they were influenced by both. I suppose that this kind of discussions is by far not an exclusively Czech case.
It is more important that those learned activities which started under belated conditions, i.e. after 1800, could indeed be motivated by romanticism, especially by some of its components (the idealization of the simple peasant and countryside, of Middle Ages etc.). This was without doubts the motivation in the case of German estophiles and lettophiles, also in the case of patriotic Lithuanians, Rusyns, and also Catalonians. We know also romanticist Phase A activities in Bretagne or in Provence, in movements which did not succeed. On the other hand, I am not sure, if the linguistic and cultural efforts in the case of Bulgarians or Serbs of that time could also be regarded as motivated by romanticism.
This relationship between national movements and romanticism became more important during the Phase B and I prefer to talk about this relationship more explicitly in connection with the second question, which concerns the transition to national agitation.
Concluding the first part of my contribution, a have to be more accurate concerning the Phase A activities. They included not only the learned engagement of scholars, even though this was the most important component, but also translations of “trivial literature” and educational prints. This kind of writing was in line with the enlightened principle of educating people, but it did not aim towards constructing modern national identity. Analogically, writing poetry in the newly codified language was far from intending mass mobilization: it was an entertainment of a tiny strata of intellectuals and its more serious goal was to check or demonstrate the ability of this new or “reborn” language to express sublime feelings and pronounce complicated ideas. Similar aims followed also the translation of foreign high literature. If we try to “discover” the emotional side of Phase A, then it was expressed namely in this kind of use of national language. On the other side, organizing folk theatre performances for simple people and publishing journals could also be regarded as transitional activity oriented towards the spread of national identity.
2. Why did they decide to start national agitation?
When asking this question, first and above all, we have to take into account that national movements proceeded in transitional processes of social change. This included new perspectives and challenges, brought by a new system of terms and thought. What did mean the decision to start national agitation (enter Phase B)? It was a decision to a switch of collective identity in favour of a new one, being focused on the NATION which became not only a new kind of social group (or community), but also a symbol of new system of values. Consequently, not only the object of research (the nation) “as such” had strong emotional background, but also the research on nation forming processes itself became influenced by emotional connotations. Since studies on nation and nationalism were for many decades an instrument of national and nationalist selfestimation, many contemporary researchers try to forget their national colours and prefer to go on distance of the term nation and use the term “nationalism” as all embracing and all explaining tool of analysis. Nevertheless, it is only a self-delusion, since the need for explanation is only postponed to another floor. To give one example: trying to explain the nation formation, E.Gellner was well aware that his bon-mot saying that nationalism created nations is unsatisfying. Consequently, he tried to explain, why “nationalism” (as a product of industrialization etc.) emerged and fulfilled such an important change. In other words, I do not mean that it is sufficient to answer my second question by a simple assertion that enlightened patriots switched into romantic nationalists. We cannot explain the change of paradigm by changing labels.
To be better understood, I would like to distinguish for a moment the perspective of words and terms on one side and the perspective of social and cultural reality on the other. I know that it is artificial, but let us regard it as an intellectual game. The word nation – originating from Latin “natio” – has its premodern roots and entered, becoming a political term, the dictionary of European languages during the Early Modern time with different connotations: English nation being joined more with statehood and German (and Czech) “die Nation” joined more with community of culture and language. In both cases, the term achieved an increasingly emotional component. To be a nation among other nations – if you understand it in the coordinates of statehood – was naturally a matter of power, but to belong to a nation as some kind of community seemed was accompanied by positive feelings. We could observe this emotional potential already during the Early Modern time, but it achieved its great up-grading during the French revolution, when “la nation” was positioned on the top of civic values and, consequently, to act in the name of the nation was a civic duty.
Since to be called “nation” became a matter of prestige, the family of nations started to be an exclusive one: to receive this label nation was something like a privilege. During the 19th century, than, most activists, who spoke in the name of national movements without statehood had difficulties to achieve an acknowledgement of the status “NATION” for their ethnic group. This fascination by being accepted has its roots already in the Phase A, but its decisive results could be observed only in the success of national agitation, i.e. in the transition to a mass movement. This phase of nation formation exceeds, nevertheless, the time horizon of this contribution.
So far about the term. Let us turn to the reality. The European society and its culture developed during the 18th and 19th century independent on terms and concepts. New processes, like industrialization, urbanization emerged, together with social emancipation (and abolishing feudalism) and political participation, secularization, introducing constitutions, civil rights and also rationalized administration. All this was accompanied by the intensifying system of social communication. To be short, I summarize these changes under the general term “modernization”, even though I know that I am running the risk of entering the field of a critically discussed nebulous concept. Sooner or later, through the processes of modernization the social, cultural and political reality was insofar changed, that old system of values, old ties, based on premodern privileges and religious legitimacy were put in question. This provoked, similarly as other great social changes, a crisis of identities, which was internalized first among educated people, who tried to find new ties, new “centrum securitatis”, new system of values, new types of society. The only alternative they could conceptualize in opposite against dissolving ties of inequality under the late feudal society was a new type of community. The idea of this new community was based on principles of equal rights and emancipation from oppression. It needed to be organized under principles of social participation and solidarity, but this solidarity was not demanded primarily in the name of religious principles, as earlier, but in the name of the secularized community of human beings. In most cases, this new community was understood as a community of equal human beings, but without pretensions at the field of politics and political power, but – as it will be demonstrated on concrete cases later - we know also some emancipating developments, where the new project included also an idea of statehood.
We still imagined that this all proceeded originally without being conceptualized, without calling the goals in pre-fabricated terms. Some intellectuals understood, however, the increasing degree of social and cultural change, which resulted in the decline of old régime, they felt the need for belonging to an emerging new type of community, to identify with it. AND: they needed a label – a new term to call this new community. The only term, which seemed to correspond to the new reality, was the already existing term NATION. It was a term, which was used before and generally understood as a positive denomination.
As I already mentioned, for members of a non-dominant ethnic group, to be called a nation was an advancement, a privilege. We know very well that in many cases, these ethnic groups, or educated people among them, used the term “nation” already earlier. Nevertheless, under new conditions, the ties between members of the ethnic group were intermediated by their vernacular and strengthened. The linguistic ties could work both as integrating – if understandable - and as disintegrating factors – in the case that the language of communication was not understandable.
Enlightened scholars – using the word “nation” - described ethnic groups as communities of people, who had many things in common: the territory, the language (or dialects), habits and shared destiny, (re)constructed as “national” history. Members of these communities, however, lived originally under conditions of seigneurial system, they depended on their Lords, were closely joined to their parish or municipality. Their vernaculars were not understandable (or not compatible) to the standard state language of administration and became a symbol of their social inferiority, after having originally been above all its consequence.
In some cases, there had been a weak tradition of printed language since the time of Reformation, but generally observed, these communities were far from having printed languages comparable with those of fully formed nations. Under conditions of premodern society and administration, the deficit in languages between the ruling state elites and did not mean any psychological problem to the members of ethnic communities. They were born as unequal human beings and it seemed to be natural that also their vernacular was regarded as an inferior one. This situation of “diglossia” (in the sense of J.Fishman) disappeared slowly during the process of modernization, when the social communication strangthened and an increasing number of individuals from lower strata of ethnic groups needed to become bilingual in order to achieve equal chances in social advancement. Under these new conditions, the linguistic difference between high and low language was felt both as unjust, and as an obstacle to social advancement. This turn from diglossia to bilingualism included a latent possibility of assimilation of ethnic communities and this alternative was also conceptualized among enlightened scholars. In this situation, three alternatives seemed to be open. Allow me to illustrate them first in a short story.
Some years after the abolishing of serfdom in Baltic provinces, German “literati” of these provinces met in 1819 to discuss the future of the “Non-Germans” (which was the term for Estonian and Latvian speakers), who became personally free, i.e. were allowed migrate and achieve access to higher schools, which was until that time forbidden. Liberals among the “literaten” proposed a systematic Germanization of all the “Non-Germans”, in order to give them better opportunities for access into schools and crafts. Conservative majority in the contrary proposed another alternative: they argued that the local vernaculars had to be kept, firstly, because they are useful as a natural class barrier, secondly, because it was so nice to keep folk habits and songs from old times. During following decades both of these alternatives failed and the third one won: the alternative of national movements, trying to achieve a fully formed Estonian and Latvian nation with its own printed language and specific culture.
This Baltic experience could be constructed as a model which could be used to almost all national movements at the territory of multiethnic Empires. Members of ethnic communities and categories (in terms of Ant. Smith) had under conditions of modernization three options:
First alternative: to accept the state language and assimilate: we know many individuals, who preferred this option, but only exceptionally, the assimilation concerned all members or majority of the group (as it was the case with Sorbs in Lusatia, Kaschubs, Frisians or Brittons). By the way, assimilation was more successful among very small ethnic groups (“relicts of peoples”) at the level of ethnic categories: the extremely scanty group of Islanders was not assimilated thanks to its strong group identity.
Second alternative: to become some kind of cultural open-air-museum, keeping old habits and vernaculars as a matter of adoration and as symbols or “lieux de mémoire”, but using the ruling state language as a language of everyday communication in the public space. This alternative was never implemented permanently. The Celtic linguistic project in Ireland was not an alternative, but an additional argument in the Irish national movement.
The third alternative was undoubtedly dominating: to develop and modernize the language, or to construct a new printed language based on dialects as a tool of in forming a fully-fledged nation. This means in other words the option in favour of transformation from ethnic group into a fully-fledged nation and the decision to start efforts for achieving all attributes of a fully formed nation, i.e. to choose the alternative of national movements. It was only in this third situation, where the question “why did they begin?” gives sense.
Although transitional positions and changing or hesitating in options were rather often, I suppose that the “open-air-museum” was the most frequented option in the case of a small minority among enlightened scholars in the Habsburg monarchy (except Magyars) and in Baltics. This was nevertheless a position, which did not motivate any activities in favour of starting national movement.
To start it, some changes in expectations had to proceed, in favour of the third option: to built up a fully fledged nation. Under conditions of the earlier – 18th century Phase A, this was the case with the coming second generation of enlightened patriots. Under conditions of the later (i. e. after 1820) starting Phase A, it seems to me that the third, national alternative was rather strong, may be predominant already under scholars of the first generation. In this case, both the cultural transfer rising from already starting national movements and the influence of Romanticism played an important role. Consequently, the scientific research seems to be rather often done “a la these”, i.e., the scientific description of basic features of the future nation was already influenced by the conviction or dream of the scholar. The quality of scholar results was lower, the impact of Phase A weaker, above all concerning the key question of codifying national language. We know such situation above all in the case of national movements under Ottoman rule. For example, defining the Southern Slav nation with the failed construct of Illyrian nation, national movements got controversial direction with tragic consequences. Both the Serbian and the Croatian nations were defined in their mutually overlapping form not on the basis of previous scientific research, but already on the basis of academic debates during the emerging national agitation. Analogically, the overlapping Bulgarian, Macedonian and even Greek identity belonged to this category. This could be, nevertheless, rather a Balkan specificity than European rule.
The Balkans is the only macro-region in Europe, where my former reflections about three options of Phase A do not correspond to reality: the Balkans. Under conditions of the oppressive Ottoman Empire, many Phase A activities differed from all other European countries. No historical lands with historical frontiers survived. The danger of assimilation was lower than elsewhere in Europe – except for religious conversion…
The activists had a very little possibility to argue in terms of historical rights or contracts. And above all: there was no authentic tradition of enlightenment and rationalism. The term “nation” seems to be somehow imported from Europe. It seems to me, that under conditions of Ottoman Empire, the decision to study ethnicity, history etc included already some kind of a vision of national liberation. If the term “secessionist” national movement corresponds to reality, than it was in the Balkans – in other cases, I dislike to use the term secessionism. For this reason, it would make a little sense to ask, why Serbian Greek or Bulgarian patriots started agitation in the name of the new national identity: they simply had no other choice.
This reflection on Balkan specificity brings could may be become a basis for a further differentiation of the explanatory model of developments towards the decision to start national agitation (Phase B). The criterion of distinguishing singular subtypes would be the structure of national demands at the threshold of national agitation, i.e. the above mentioned differences in understanding the new vision of a nation-to-be.
1. National movements with full or almost full social structure and a very early dominating political program of statehood, which again differ according to the “starting position”:
1.1. National movements with already pre-existing tradition of struggles for emancipation and rich results of Phase A (Magyar, Irish, partially Norvegian movements),
1.2. National movements with a weak Phase A and floppy, overlapping historical heritage (Balkans).
2. National movement with dominating linguistic and cultural program and under conditions of an uncompleted social structure, i.e. (more or less) without ruling classes and educated elites, again differentiated according to their starting point:
2.1. In a situation of ethnic community (in terms of Anthony Smith), usually with some relicts of former statehood or autonomy and a weak tradition of written language (Czechs, Croats, Finns, Flemish, Welsh, Catalans),
2.2. In a situation of ethnic category, usually without former statehood and almost without written language (Estonians, Latvians, Ruthenes, Slovaks, Slovenes).
In the first type of this model, the struggle for political power seems to be implicitly present already in the decision to start national agitation. This is naturally only a hypothetical observation, which has to be proved. On the other hand, the correlation between the political program and the full social structure: the presence of economic and academic elites was precondition for the state-oriented national movement.
In order to prevent the impression of omitting important part of European national movements, I would like to shortly mention the “unification nationalism” (in terms of John Breuilly), i.e. three national movements whose demands were focused only on one goal: the political unification (statehood) of numerous populations, which had a full social structure and old tradition of national culture: Germans, Italians and for some decades also Poles.
Concluding, I would like to add some more reflections on enlightened patriots. Many authors, especially those, who are using the term “nationalism” as all explaining model, regard the historical research of Phase A activities critically as an expression of a naive teleology: as if we would interpret the learned efforts as a conscious starting point for a long line of inevitable events, which ended as an emergence of the nation state in the 20th century. In other words, as if we would believe that the enlightened patriots would already have planned the construct of modern nation and its path towards the statehood. May be that some among these enlightened scholars developed a vision of a future national glory of their own ethnic community, but this was an unrealistic vision of restoring the old medieval state, interpreted as “their” national state (most frequented among Magyars and Greeks). As a rule, the majority among enlightened patriots aimed merely at better living conditions – both material, and spiritual - of their land and its inhabitants. And if they called their ethnic community a “nation”, then they had no consensual understanding about the meaning of this term. It is not my aim to analyze their different concepts, but I suppose that they usually did not understand this term in the sense of modern civic nation.
Their decision to start the search for new identity, their vision of a nation-to-be was not a product of any “Idea of Nationalism”, but has to be understood in the context of great social, economic and cultural changes, usually called “modernization”. Observed in the context of these complex processes, the enlightened studies (and also first attempts to write in new national languages) seem to be originally a very marginal operation, which concerned merely a very limited social strata. But the consequence…
The original enlightened concept of homeland in Central and Eastern Europe did not recognize the priority of linguistic differences as a basis of identification. The scholars were convinced that being useful for their country was their moral duty, and even if they called this country, this land by the same name, as the later modern nation was called, the cultural reality of their times was different. Swedish speaking Finnish patriots originally did not expect or predict the later differentiation between svekomans and fennomans, the Bohemian patriots did not expect the later 1848 division of identities according to the Czech and German language.
The later the enlightened studies proceeded, the more important they found the study of spoken vernaculars (dialects) and eventually also printed language and the necessity of codifying it. It would be a fascinating research to compare, in what meaning they used the terms language and dialect. Sooner or later, they usually became persuaded that a common written language would be the basic criterion of a nation, or may be even en expression of its soul. Consequently, their search for codified “national language” became essential as a basis for the new identity during the Phase B. It was also only with the national agitation that the term “nation” became central value and its “interests” the main driving force of social and cultural engagement. In this sense, the “nationalism” was an instrument and a product, but not a primal force of national agitation.
If we regard the switch from the traditional old régime towards modern civic, capitalist society as an irreversible process, and if we observe the strong ties between nation formation and modernization, than we may put the question of alternatives to this nation formation. Could we imagine communities organized according to different coordinates than those national ones? Naturally, we could imagine an alternative construct, a counter-factic model of development of some “quasi-national” communities, which would grow up in Europe without using the concept of nation with its historical experiences and connotations. I am not sure, if such a community, without having any background in enlightenment and romanticism, would become based on humanist traditions and principles of solidarity and responsibility.
National agitation originated namely from the decision that the need for new solidarity and value system in a modernizing society had to be conceptualized. The identification with a new community not only included patriotic humanistic values from the enlightened times, it was based on them. In the name of these values, the national activists developed at the same time a self-conscious vision of a future of a modern nation. This nation-to-be had to achieve all attributes of those already existing nations. This vision did not exist as a project before they started, i.e. it was not developed earlier in order to fulfil the aims of an abstract “nationalism”. In the contrary, the pre-existing word “nation” was used as a term for this new concept of modern community.
All these efforts from scholarly research up to decision to build up a new identity were developed and exercised in order to fulfil prestigious dreams and projects of patriotic activists. These protagonists of national agitation were not motivated by a chance of financial profit or important positions in politics or administration. Their motivation also was in most cases not based on terms of power, but on terms of prestige. Sooner or later, this unselfish devotedness to national cause changed nevertheless with first successes of national agitation and with its entrance to the field of power politics. This would be, however, another chapter of our story.
The later increasing and strengthening struggle for political power, accompanied by selfish and increasingly aggressive nationalism in the Phase of massmovement, overshadowed these humanist principles of civic equality, national solidarity and responsibility originating both from the enlightenment and romanticism. Nevertheless, these principles survived, at least as a heritage, as a memento, as “lieux de mémoire” until our days.