Chapter VIII: The Dawn of a New Empire: New Mindsets and Cultural Conflicts.
- Oct 30, 2009
The Dawn of a New Empire: New Mindsets and Cultural Conflicts.
With the defeat of the Burgundians in 1849, the Empire would finally see some respite from the constant warfare that had plagued the nation the past decade. As the guns fell silent along the Rhine a new and arduous task would begin for the government: How would they now forge together the different peoples of the empire? While Bohemia and the Bohemians undoubtedly had made this nation possible, the Germans of the Empire were still very much its citizens and just as important to the government. Nearly ¾ of the people were Germans (often defined along dialectical lines of the Elbian, Rhenish and Danubian kind) and neglecting them in favor of the (now minority) Bohemians would just fan the flames for future discontent.
Thus it became a main focus of the imperial government to promote as much unity between the German and the Czech people as possible, where a focal point would be to appeal to its German citizens that this was truly an empire for and of the Germans and not only Bohemian in nature. So to make words into action the emperor decided to move the imperial capital from Prague to Frankfurt in a symbolic gesture to the old Reichstag and to show the Germans of the empire the new government were serious in having the Germans becoming an integral part of the empire. A complete overhaul of all imperial governance, laws and institutions were started with the aim to create a common imperial identity instead of the old German-Czech split.
However good their intentions were, their actions seemed to speak another language to some of the people, especially the Czechs who increasingly began to view the new reforms of the government as actions disenfranchising the proud people of the imperial heartland. When the emperor's attention were shifted towards the Germans in an attempt to reconcile and reintegrate them, the Czechs who had brought him the empire, and some even boldly claimed, the world, were at first bewildered but when the new capital was proclaimed as Frankfurt this shifted into outright anger. They saw their privilege and, most importantly, their sacrifices for the Jagiellon dynasty being squandered and forgotten. It did not take long for firebrands to spread across Bohemia trying to agitate the people into rejecting the emperor and some even dared to speak the word ‘traitor’.
These were at first only some radicals that proposed these ideas but as the years passed, more and more people would join the cause and demonstrations across Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia would become a common thing for the imperial authorities to deal with. Even their attempts to salvage the situation by promising to let the Czechs keep their old right, laws and institutions, as well as direct large funds from the treasury to finance all sorts of economic development in the region to appease the angered people. It would later be proven that their efforts were in vain as the anti-imperial societies in Bohemia became ever bigger and made ever bolder demands.
They brought the emperor his empire but ultimately felt betrayed by his actions. Traitor was the word of the day.
For all the conflict this new course chartered, other positive developments occurred throughout the empire. Having defeated its archenemies in the past decade and the collapse of the great power of the Dual Monarchy now left the Empire standing as the apex predator of the world. The euphoria of a united empire would over time develop, alongside imperial expansion across the world, into a belief of imperial exceptionalism as the power of the empire continued to grow in the following decades. Philosophers would eventually float the idea of an imperial “manifest destiny” to expand across the world, bringing peace and civilization to all corners and people of the world and eventually for the empire to dominate the world just as the Roman empire did all those centuries ago. Abroad these opinions came across as arrogance bordering on hubris because the belief that one nation could control the world to such an extent when even the late Dual Monarchy could not.
Inside the Empire there would grow an ideological divide between those that propagated for the Empire's destiny across the globe, the ‘globalists’, and those that would rather see the empire use its overwhelming might to dominate its neighbourhood in Europe, the ‘continentalists’. Both camps could unite on one point though; If the empire strove to dominate the continent as well as the globe it’s resources would eventually stretch too thin and it was almost a certainty that it would generate too many enemies for the empire to handle alone. But in the early 1850s these principles were only just emerging and the people were still mesmerized by the unparalleled glory of the empire as it started to stretch its wings across the world.