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Why Was Europe on the Brink of Change at the Turn of the 20th Century?

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Why Was Europe on the Brink of Change at the Turn of the 20th Century?

By the turn of the 20th century Europe had undergone massive changes which had eventually pushed it into war. The main forces behind these changes were

1. Nationalism

2. Militarism

3. Imperialism

4. Socialism

5. Alliances

6. Unification

These ideas and systems threatened the balance of power which caused a major war to break out.

Nationalism is the feeling of loyalty shared by a group of people united by same language, race and culture; to express their loyalty to their nation, they attempt to unite themselves into a larger nation state with aspiration for independence. The Ottoman Empire was the first to feel the effects of nationalism when in 1828 Greece gained independence from the Ottoman Empire. Metternich, the Austrian Ambassador commented on what he thought would happen after Greece became independent,

"The day the Sultan's throne collapses, the empire itself will break up into several parts."

During the 1800's nationalism took hold among people who shared a common language, history, or culture. Such people began to view themselves as members a national group or nation. By 1848 nationalist feelings had erupted throughout Europe and people began to demand their political freedom. Nationalism led to the creation of two new powers - Italy and Germany - through the uniting of many small states.

On the other hand, nationalism weakened the eastern European empires of Austria-Hungary, Russia, and Ottoman Turkey. Those empires ruled many national groups that wanted independence. The leaders of the Austrian empire lost power as a result of rejecting their people's demands. The Hungarian nobility and the Habsburg monarchy of Austria established Austria-Hungary in an attempt to maintain the old Austrian Empire. The problem for the government of Austria-Hungary was that they did not want to lose their power and control. The Slavs in the southern part of the empire were their main concern since they wanted to join up to Serbia.

Socialism is the general term for the political and economic theory that advocates a system of collective or government ownership and management of the means of production and distribution of goods. In Russia socialism was creating many problems such as bad harvests, industrial strikes and the war with Japan in 1904, leading to economic difficulties and confidence in the Tsar faltering. In 1905 Father Gapon led a peaceful demonstration to see the Tsar hoping to alleviate the pressures on the working class. However,

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