In Eastern and Central Europe, the Austrian Hapsburgs and the Ottoman Turks ruled lands that included diverse ethnic groups. During the 1800s, nationalist feelings spread among these subjected people, which contributed to tensions in Europe. Nationalism, which had brought unity to countries like Germany and Italy, would undermine multi-ethnic empires like that of the Austrian Hapsburgs and the Ottoman Turks. Why did nationalism bring new strength to some countries and weaken others?
Nationalist revolts broke out in 1848 across the multinational Austrian Hapsburg empire. Vienna burns during the fighting in October of that year.
The Hapsburgs were the oldest ruling house in Europe. In addition to their homeland of Austria, over the centuries they had acquired the territories of Bohemia and Hungary, as well as parts of Romania, Poland, Ukraine, and northern Italy. By the 1800s, ruling such a vast empire made up of many nationalities posed a challenge for the Hapsburg monarchs, especially as the tide of nationalism rose.
Since the Congress of Vienna, the Austrian emperor Francis I and his foreign minister Metternich had upheld conservative goals against liberal forces. “Rule and change nothing,” the emperor told his son. Under Francis and Metternich, newspapers could not even use the word constitution, much less discuss this key demand of liberals. The government also tried to limit industrial development, which would threaten traditional ways of life.