Through the 18th and the mid-19th century, Europe was marked by a lot of chaos and turmoil. After 1871, there was a significant change in the concept of nationalism in Europe.
Nationalist groups in Europe had become increasingly incompatible with each other and were constantly in conflict. The major European powers, namely Russia, Germany, England and Austro-Hungary began taking advantage of nationalism in Europe, to materialise their aims for imperialism.
Imperialism refers to the policy of extending the rule and the authority of an empire or nation over foreign countries, or of acquiring and holding colonies and dependencies.
The European powers sighted the much-disturbed Balkan region to fulfil their imperialist goals. The Balkans region consisted of the following countries of our times - Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Greece, Macedonia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovenia, Serbia and Montenegro.
People of different ethnicities and culture lived in the Balkans and were collectively known as Slavs. The spread of romantic nationalism and the downfall of the Ottoman Empire had made the Balkans peninsula very tense and volatile. The Ottoman Empire had not been able to strengthen itself even after having adopted reforms and modern methods.
The European subjects had begun to break away from the Ottoman Empire and had started declaring themselves independent. The Balkans claimed independence and a separate political identity based on nationality.
The Balkans argued that they had been dominated by foreign countries earlier so now they wanted to break away from the foreign rule and gain independence. The Balkans were jealous of each other and wanted to expand control over each other’s territories.
Intensifying the tension further was the rivalry between the European powers over trade, colonies, and naval and military strength. To fulfil these aims, Russia, Germany, England and Austro-Hungary wanted to extend their control over the already disturbed Balkan region. The rivalry caused many wars and culminated in the First World War.
Nationalism, aligned with imperialism, led Europe to disaster in 1914. Later, the countries colonised by the European powers in the 19th century began to overthrow their imperial rule. Many countries struggled for the formation of nation states, and each country was inspired by a sense of collective national unity.
Every country developed its own specific nationalism; there was one thing in common - the idea of organising societies as nation states.