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How did nationalism cause World War I?

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The most direct way nationalism caused World War I was through the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, who was the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Many oppressed Slavic groups in the Austro-Hungarian Empire wanted to form independent nation states. They were tired of having to speak German, having to bow to the supposed superiority of the German culture, and having their own needs subordinated to the needs of the empire. Thus, nationalist movements broke out across the Slavic territories. Among the most militant nationalists were the Serbs. A militant nationalist Serbian group, the Black Hand, assassinated the archduke—when he was on Serbian soil—in protest of their country's continued participation in the Austro-Hungarian empire.

This led, on July 23, 1914, to a series of unconditional demands sent to Serbia by the Austro-Hungarian empire in the form of an ultimatum. Serbia refused to honor the demanding ultimatum.

As a series of alliances between different European countries were already in place, different countries backed either the Austro-Hungarian Empire or Serbia, depending on their allegiances. Russia, France, and England were prepared to use military means in order to support Serbia, while Germany was ready to go war with its ally, the Austro-Hungarian empire. Soon enough, World War I broke out.

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Nationalism is evident in a country exercising an extreme form of patriotism that is characterized by strong emphasis on advancing the nation’s interests. In this case, the country focuses its efforts on self-preservation and determination by protecting its values, political ideals, and religion, among other key aspects of the country.

Nationalism was a popular system in Europe prior the First World War. Most European countries believed in advancing their interests without considering regional interests that had an impact on internal affairs. Each country was focused on getting ahead and staying ahead. Nationalist rhetoric and military displays fueled the onset of World War I. Inflammatory stories were published and distributed widely by countries against their rivals. Most nations believed they were superior to their neighbors and rivals. Sustained confidence in military capabilities and inflammatory messages led to the growing sense of dangerous nationalism.

Slavic groups in the Balkans pushed for Pan-Slavism, a form of nationalism that hoped to achieve a greater Serbia for the Slavic people in the Balkans. The situation led to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, sparking the onset of the First World War.

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