National Liberations and Nationalist Nightmares: The Consequences of the End of Empires in the Twentieth Century
Political and economic changes in post-communist societies cannot be analyzed without first looking at the legacies left by the past. In this chapter, I argue that those who claim that the end of the Soviet Empire will produce liberal societies make too many assumptions about the shared cultural legacies between Eastern and Western Europe. Nationalism, which has been a force of liberalization in the West will not necessarily be such a force in the East. A careful look at the comparative historical development of nationalism between Eastern and Western Europe reveals that in an illiberal context, nationalism, like many other apparantly familiar institutions, actually does nothing to advance the cause of liberalization.
Most--by some definitions, all--of the great empires that dominated the majority of the world in the early twentieth century have now broken apart. Some of those were obviously marked for decay at the start of the twentieth century. The Ottoman and Habsburg Austro-Hungarian Empires were thought to be fragile entities in 1900, and indeed they were. But others were vigorous and in many cases still growing. After the Japanese Empire defeated Russia in 1905, it seemed destined for greater glories. The British Empire was secure and had greatly expanded its size in the last two decades of the nineteenth century. The lesser European empires, most notably the French but also the Belgian, Dutch, Portuguese, and Spanish, were rounding out their territories in Africa and Asia. Germany was expanding overseas. Russia, despite its weaknesses, also was still growing and it