The 1848 Revolution gripped the whole of Central Europe. The events of that time signified a change of course not only in German national awareness, but 1848 was also a historic milestone for the young Czech national movement in articulating national demands.
The Czech national evolution was shaped by the cultural pioneer achievements of the so-called “arousers” (Czech: buditelé). In the early nineteenth century a number of academics and scholars prepared the foundations of the modern Czech national consciousness from which the “rebirth” (národní obrození) of the Czech linguistic nation sprang.
The course of their evolution into the Czech nation can be seen as absolutely prototypical for the development of modern national awareness among the smaller ethnic groups in Central Europe. Here, the Czechs were pioneers in many ways.
The Czechs were numerically the third strongest ethnic group in the Habsburg Monarchy. The Bohemian lands – Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia – were their main historical settlement areas. In many spheres they were caught up in bitter rivalry with their German-speaking compatriots.
This quotes the militant first words of the Slovakian national anthem, expression of the Slovaks’ endeavours to attain emancipation from the oppressive Hungarian-Magyar dominance in cultural and political affairs.
For the Slovaks the evolutionary process in becoming a nation was shaped by the many difficulties facing this small ethnic group to assert themselves as “newcomers” among the nationalities of Central Europe.
The Slovaks comprised one of the smaller nationalities in the multi-ethnic Habsburg Empire. In 1910 around 2.1 million people professed their adherence to the Slovakian linguistic group, 3.8 % of the population of the total Monarchy.
The Austrian Ruthenians played a certain ground-breaking role in the formation of a Ukrainian national consciousness, because under the rule of the Tsars the existence of an autonomous Ukrainian nation was discussed, if at all, only by their co-nationals.
The Ruthenians, as the West Ukrainians were called in Habsburg Austria, stepped into the epoch of nationalism with the worst possible cards in their hand. As “faceless people” they had no more than a very weak awareness of their own national autonomy. The status of knowledge about their ethnicity was minimal, also in the corridors of power in Vienna.
The Poles were directly affected by the events of the war; the Polish territories both inside the Habsburg Monarchy and those under German and Russian rule became theatres of war for many years. From the Polish perspective, the First World War was a conflict between the three Partition powers, which now started to negotiate offers for Poland’s future status.