USM Open Source History Text: The World at War: World History 1914-1945

The Creation of National Minorities

Educational systems, military culture, and countless other variables, like professional and civic organizations, created a nationalism that had two main consequences. The first was to create a common identity and then to tie people with this similar identity together into a national "people." All those people who had been subjects of one German prince or another became Germans. All people who had identified with one Italian state like Naples, Sicily, Tuscany, or the Piedmont, became Italians. The second consequence was that for all the diversity that the category of a "nation" could accommodate, inevitably people were left out, some by choice, some by active exclusion. The increased presence of the national government in the daily lives of the people through school, state bureaucracy, and military service stoked the fires of minority groups within larger states for independence. As Austrian German schooling spread, for example, so too did Czech nationalism. As English nationalism spread, so too did Irish nationalism and the Irish independence movement. As Austria attempted to control its newly acquired parts of the Balkans, so did Croatian and Serbian nationalism grew. As German nationalism grew, so too did the German’s animosity towards Slavs, Jews, and the French. As nationalism in the United States grew, so too did discrimination against immigrant groups like Jews, Italians, Chinese, Russians, and to the historical minority groups, African Americans and Native Americans. Nationalism, which had started as a political expression mainly with liberal aspirations, had by 1900 been co-opted by those with conservative political agendas, namely the political, economic, and cultural elite. Nationalist political parties started to emerge in every European countries. Most often, they were conservative, militarily aggressive, xenophobic, racist, and anti-Semitic. Minorities within nations felt the burdens of this rising nationalism. Colonial peoples, administered from abroad, felt it even more acutely. This was especially in the case in South Africa, which refused to recognize the equality of its African and Indian residents. However integrated people of colonial descent were into the structures of the ruling nations, they could not be truly included. An Indian, in this era of nationalism, could not become an Englishman. An Indonesian could never become Dutch. The creation of nations created national minorities.

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