With the deaths of Joseph and Leopold and the exile of Stanislas Augustus, the first phase of modernization had come to an end. But events originating in revolutionary France were soon to show that the check was only temporary. In 1792 the French declared war on Austria and Prussia; where Enlightenment had penetrated fitfully through books, liberty, equality and fraternity were to be spread by force of arms. Even if it wished, Eastern Europe could no longer remain aloof from the ideological tussles of the West.
The years of almost continuous war from 1792 to 1815 mark a watershed in modern European history, despite the fact that the Vienna Congress of 1815 very much restored the pre-revolutionary status quo after France’s final defeat. The princes of Italy and to a lesser extent Germany (only thirty-nine, instead of 300, loosely linked in a German confederation) were returned to their thrones; Austria gave up Belgium and received compensation in the form of Lombardy-Venetia in north Italy, including the Venetian province of Dalmatia; Poland was again partioned between Austria, Prussia and Russia, on somewhat different terms from 1795, with Russia now taking the lion’s share, including Warsaw, and Austria the province of Galicia. Nonetheless, this defiant rejection of the principles of 1789 could not erase the memory of the hopes it had extinguished, or the victor’s fears of doctrines which had helped France to humiliating dominance for so long. In 1805 and 1809 French armies had entered Vienna in triumph, in 1806 Berlin and in 1812 Moscow. Whether summoning into existence the Polish duchy of Warsaw (1806-13), conjuring up the kingdom of Italy (1805-14) and the Yugoslav Illyrian provinces (1809-13), dangling before the tsar visions of a Turkish partition, or appealing dramatically to the Hungarians to regain their national independence in his cause, Napoleon had brilliantly set the national question