Choose three examples to show the contribution of culture to the growth of nationalism in Europe.

Contribution of Culture – Growth of Nationalism in Europe

  • The notion of one culture – one state began to gain acceptability in the 19th century.
  • While reordering state boundaries after World War I, the idea employed was one culture, one state.
  • Mass migration of population across state boundaries occurred due to re-organisation of state boundaries to satisfy the demands of one culture – one state.

Culture played an important role in creating the idea of the nation: music, stories, art and poetry helped shape and express nationalist feelings. Three examples of Greece, Poland and Germany are given below to understand the contributions of culture to the growth of nationalism in Europe.

Romanticism Cultural Movement – Development of Nationalist Sentiments

Romanticism was a cultural movement which sought to develop a particular form of nationalist sentiment.

  • Their effort was to create a common cultural past, a sense of a shared collective heritage, as the basis of a nation.
  • Romantic poets and artists focused on mystical feelings, intuition, and emotions, and generally criticised the glorification of science and reason.

Greece – Role of Culture

  • Poets and artists mobilised public opinion to support its struggle against a Muslim empire and Greece was lauded as the cradle of European civilisation.
  • Many West Europeans and other Greeks living in exile who had sympathies for ancient Greek culture provided support to the nationalists in Greece. 

Poland – Role of Culture

National feelings were kept alive in Poland, through language and music even though Poland no longer existed as an independent territory. 

  • For example, Karol Kurpinski, the national struggle was celebrated through his music and operas. Nationalist symbols were created out of folk dances like the mazurka and polonaise.
  • In developing nationalist sentiments in Poland, language too played an important role.
  • Poland, had been partitioned at the end of the eighteenth century by the Great Powers – Prussia, Austria and Russia.
  • The Polish language was forced out of schools and the Russian language was imposed everywhere after Russian occupation.
  • The use of Polish came to be seen as a symbol of the struggle against Russian dominance.
  • In Poland language was used as a weapon of national resistance, by many members of the clergy. 
  • Polish was used for all religious instruction and Church gatherings.

Germany – Contribution of Culture for Rise of Nationalism

  • The true spirit of the nation (volksgeist) was popularised through folk dances, folk poetry and folk songs.
  • The essential part of the project of nation-building was recording and collecting these forms of folk culture.
  • Other Romantics such as the German philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803) claimed that true German culture was to be discovered among the common people – das volk.
  • The emphasis on vernacular language and on collection of local folklore was to carry the modern nationalist message to large audiences who were mostly illiterate and not just to recover an ancient national spirit.


  • A new ‘British nation’ was forged through the propagation of a dominant English culture.

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