In the Habsburg Monarchy, the process of becoming a nation occurred later than in Western Europe, and coincided with the process of democratisation, in which the mass of the people gained a share in political power for the first time. This overlap resulted in a significant increase in the potential for conflict. Populism aimed at the masses undermined any fact-focused politics, and unrestrained demagogy manoeuvred political leaders of the individual nationalities into unrealistic extremist positions that they were subsequently unable to abandon.
The following presents a number of examples to illustrate key points of the "cultural struggle" (to use contemporary language) that was drifting ever more rapidly into nationalist extremism within the Monarchy. A significant role was played by the emerging metropolises, which as ethnic melting pots were developing a dynamism of their own.
Alongside cases where the situation escalated dramatically, there were also promising approaches to the solution of ethnic conflicts within the Habsburg Monarchy, an impressive testimony to the great integrative power of the old Austrian multiethnic state.