Origins of the term ethnic come from the French
, which means “community or group”. Myth and history provide the foundation for
, and history has shown us that for the most part people feel closer to their
than to a political body (the nation). There are at least five common elements to an
. They are: identification, culture (language, religion values), idea of a homeland, sense of solidarity, and history. This establishes one’s ethnic identity. Their solidarity with others they identify as the same as themselves establishes the ethnic group (also, how they are identified by outsiders equally defines the ethnic group).
National identity is a more specific form of identity, with more specific common elements such as territory, common law, and a civic culture (men, ideas, and traditions that unite.) Nationalism is the political manifestation of “a consciousness, on the part of the individual or groups, of membership in a nation or a desire to forward the strength, liberty, or prosperity of a nation”. Nationalism has also be defined as “a condition of mind…of a group of people living in a well defined geographic area, speaking a common language, possessing a literature in which the aspirations of the nation have been expressed, attached to common customs, venerating it’s own heroes, and, in some cases, a common religion”2. Students will come to class having read pages 3-23 in Boyd Shaffer’s
Faces of Nationalism
, here the author discusses the many definitions of nationalism and why establishing a definition is both tricky and important. The student will know and appreciate the task before them when they arrive to class and are asked to define the other terms listed above and below.
Other terms important to the unit are: ethnicity, ethnic group, nation, nationalism, patriotism, empire, autonomy, self-determination, ethnic cleansing, genocide, population removal, democracy, and totalitarian.
The last definition of nationalism is one that also contains elements of ethnic mobilization. Ethnic mobilization and nationalism will be one of the points of view from which the class will examine the events of the 20th century. Both national and ethnic identities fall under the umbrella of civilization identity.
The idea of one’s civilization identity transcends a common homeland, language, or history3. At its core seems to be, first, a system of values and, second, religion. According to Huntington, there are eight major civilizations: Western, Confucian, Japanese, Islamic, Hindu, Slavic-Orthodox, Latin American and possibly African. Does the class agree? Are there more/less? Can these even be described a separate civilizations? Confucian?!?
Establishing and debating the definitions of these terms will be the nature of the first lesson. Dependant upon a student’s point of view, religious or ethnic background, political stance, and personal history, each student will have a slightly different definition for the above terms. This will also give the students a chance to examine their own identity. How do they see themselves (a Puerto Rican, a Laker fan, a good student, an older sister), what do they think defines them? How do outsiders identify them? Is there a difference? What contributes to that difference?
Throughout the course, the following should be considered when studying exactly what does contribute to those differences: What is the culture of the group? What is the location of the group? What is the source of tension or grievance? Unique circumstances? What are the goals of the group?
Cultural & Political Geography
The teacher should, at this point, describe the ethnic geography of the early 20th century, along with the boundaries of the Great Powers and their Empires. Many regional maps, charts and statistics will be used to identify regions, nations, the ethnic groups with in multi-ethnic empires, migratory trends, population changes, etc. Most of this information can be found in any textbook or historical atlas. Excellent historical maps can be found, however, at the beginning of both Glenny’s and Fromkin’s books.
Age of Empire
“I contend that we Britons are the finest race in the world, and the more of the world we inhabit, the better it is for the human race…”
Confessions of Faith
During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries political, social, and economic forces drove the great powers of Europe to pursue an aggressive policy of expansionism, extending influence around the globe. The conquering of a territory or country by a stronger country with the intent of dominating its social, political and economic lives of the people is called imperialism5.
By this point in a Western Civilizations or World History course, the history and geography of the Russian, Ottoman, Austrian and British empires will have been covered. Extra attention, or an enrichment activity, would help here as reminder of the dynamics of the Imperial system and the political geography of the different empires.
The Balkan Wars
The mountainous corner of southeast Europe known as the Balkans has always had a long history of ethnic conflicts and nationalist uprisings .Two events led to an escalation in these conflicts again in the early 1900’s. First, the decline of the Ottoman Empire led to many ethnic groups in the Balkan portion of the Empire to declare their independence (Greeks, Bulgarians, Serbs, Romanians, Montenegrins) and they each hoped to extend their borders to include their historic homelands. The Serbs pursued the dream of a Greater Serbia, and encouraged their coreligionists in neighboring Bosnia and Herzegovina (at this under the control of the Austro-Hungarian Empire) to fight for their freedom.
Encouraged by Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Austria annexed the territory in 1908. This was the second catalyst to war. This push into Balkan (and Orthodox) lands not only angered the Serb nationalists but also Tsarist Russia.
The Serbs were also looking to extend their borders in the opposite direction, into lands currently held by the Ottomans but were historically Serb (Kosovo, Macedonia, Albania). While their desire for war against the Austrians was cooled by the Great Powers (Germany via Russia), the Albanian lunge for independence in August of 1912 signaled Serbia to attack the ‘sick old man of Europe’, the Ottoman Empire.
The First Balkan War (Bulgaria, Greece and Serbia vs. The Turks) ended in November of 1912 after six weeks. Bulgarian distrust of their Orthodox brothers, the Serbs, over the spoils of war led to the Second Balkan War. It lasted less then a month. Bulgaria suddenly attacked Serbia in January of 1913 while the leaders of Europe were drafting a peace treaty for the first war. The war was a catastrophe for Bulgaria (and Turkey), and Serbia did ended up becoming greater territorially as it hoped. A possible guided reading assignment for class could be Glenny, p.243 - 248 which details the Bulgarian catastrophe that the Second Balkan War was.
The war is important to this unit for the following reasons: it holds contains some of the horrors of the Great War to come (Class will read passages from Misha Glenny’s The Balkans to illustrate the brutal nature of this conflict), and it illustrates some of the causes of the Great War (political entanglements, involvement of the Great Powers, strong nationalist and ethnic movements). It also explains why Turkey and Bulgaria choose the side they did when WWI broke out6.
, 1914(see Glenny, pg 293-306)
Serbian resentment of the Austro-Hungarian rule was at it zenith. The archduke Franz Ferdinand, who was planning to visit the city of Sarajevo, was warned to stay out of the region. Even though there already had been many attempts on his life prior, and even though June 28
was the date of an important Serbian patriotic holiday, he chose to go to Bosnia anyway. As he left the town hall, a bomb was thrown in his car. Many were wounded, the archduke wasn’t. He continued his planned tour of the city, and was then shot at point blank range by a Serb nationalist named Gavrillo Princip. Class can read p. 304 from Glenny’s
which discusses the most astonishing part of the assassination: its success. Princip was arrested immediately, and Europe was beginning a maddening decent into war.
If Gavrillo Princip had gotten cold feet, would the world have disintegrated into massacre as it did? Most likely. One major underlying problem that caused the war was the Balkans. The Habsburg and Turkish empires’ decreasing ability to govern their south Slav subjects, coupled with the growing nationalism and Yugoslavism of the region (and, of course the defensive alliances of the European rulers) provided a powder keg ready for a spark. Ironically, Franz Ferdinand, killed for his militaristic view, was the only conservative minister who might have halted war.7. The Austrians had underestimated the Serbs, and thought they could once and for all crush them.
Vienna responded with harsh demands that were certain would not be met. When the Serbs rejected the demands placed upon them, the Austrians declared war on Serbia. As a result, the Russians mobilized to protect the orthodox Slav brothers. In accordance with
The Dual Alliance Between Austria-Hungary and German of October 7, 1879,
Should, contrary to their hope, and against the loyal desire of the two High Contracting Parties, one of the two Empires be attacked by Russia the High Contracting Parties are bound to come to the assistance one of the other with the whole war strength of their Empires, and accordingly only to conclude peace together and upon mutual agreement.8
Germany then declared war on Russia and her ally France. Britain declared war on Germany. The First World War had begun.
One possible writing assignment would be for the students will to write a newspaper article covering the Archduke’s infamous trip to Bosnia. The article will give the necessary background on the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, Bosnia, the Archduke, the Sarajevo trip, and the Black Hand. It will also provide an account of the events of June 28, 1914. Another possible writing assignment would be for the student to defend or denounce the actions of the Black Hand. The connections to modern terrorists (The IRA, al Qaeda, Hamas, ETA, etc) are obvious.
At this point in the unit, the teacher may take a break from the plan provided and spend more time focusing on various aspects of the First World War. Within the context of the First World War, the unit will address two events: The Armenian Genocide and Arab Nationalism.
Although the act of mass removal and killings of peoples dates back to the ancient world, most historians agree that the first modern genocide was the Armenian genocide at the hands of the Turks within the Ottoman Empire. The years 1909-1918 witnessed emigration under pressure of the government, transfers and exchanges, and eventually the mass killings of the Armenian population in the Ottoman Empire. The war years saw a great increase in the killings. In some regions (Anatolia), the Armenian population was completely annihilated. A brief explanation of Ottoman motives and rational can be found in Fromkin, pg. 211-213.
This event is important for many reasons, but one worth mentioning here is that the Armenian Genocide (and how the Turks got ‘away with it’) served as a model and impetus for Hitler’s Final Solution twenty years later. “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians”9, Hitler told his military cabinet days before the invasion of Poland. This is important to note here because it so clearly emphasized the importance of historical recollection, or of never forgetting.
The focus of this lesson will be a human one, one of the human soul. Poetry is the song of the human soul. What affects the soul of humanity, affects the poetry of humanity. As the German poet Bertolt Brecht wrote:
In the dark times, will there also be singing?
Yes, there will be singing.
About the dark times.
The students will learn about the victims of genocide through their song, their poetry. , poems such as “The Dance” by Siamanto, or “Dream” by Vahan Tekeyan10. Analyzing the imagery, language and point of view of these poems can provide an insight into these events that a standard historical account may not. These poems personalize the horrors of man against man. (This lesson provides an excellent opportunity for interdisciplinary teaching also)
As the lesson can be opened with the above Brecht poem, it can be closed with another poem from the German poet.
This, then, is all. It’s not enough. I know.
At least I’m alive, as you may see.
I am like the man who took a brick to show
How beautiful his house once used to be.11
Certainly the Armenians were killed en masse, but can the term genocide apply? After a discussion on the definition of genocide (using
The History and Sociology of Genocide & Ethnic Cleansing
as a source
the class will verify that it qualifies as an actual genocide. According to Andrew Bell-Fialkoff in
, being forcibly removed or killed en masse can be called a population removal.12 How is this any different from Genocide? The students will analyze Bell-Fialkoff’s definition, and Frank Chalk and Kurt Jonassohn’s definition of genocide (“ a form of one-sided mass killing in which a state or other authority intends to destroy a group, as that group and membership in it are defined by the perpetrator”13) and contrast the two. After reading the background of this event from their textbook, the student will return to class to apply either of these definitions to the Armenian case. They will also analyze: the motives and methods of the perpetrators, the culture of the victims, and resistance to genocide from either side. This will set a framework to better analyze later events such as the Ukrainian genocide, the Holocaust, Apartheid, and the Balkans of the 1990s.
Arab Nationalism and T.E. Lawrence
Before the Great War, the Ottomans governed most of the Arab world. As war approached, the Empire was experiencing the same troubling nationalist movements as the other multiethnic empires. One of the most important and powerful nationalist movements was that of the modernist and militarist Turks.
Turkish national identity had been repressed by the Ottomans and was beginning to assert itself with a vengeance after the 1913
of the Young Turks. They were turning the backward Ottoman system upside-down.
The Ottoman Empire (Turkey) sided with Germany during the War, still reeling from it losses in the Balkan Wars and looking for revenge against Russia and Serbia. After signing the Turco-German Alliance in August of 1914, the Turks formally entered the War on October 28 of that year. Russia, then France and Britain, declared war on Turkey immediately.
The British, who had always competed with the Ottomans for control of the middle east, saw the rise in Turkish nationalism as an opportunity to court Arab nationalism. They hoped to play one off the other, promising the Arabs who lived in the Ottoman Empire independence after the war, and the British and French governments encouraged the Arabs to revolt. A British man name T.E. Lawrence was part of this effort. He and the Arabs carried out a successful guerilla campaign against Turkish rail supply lines and the Arabs conquered the city of Damascus in 1918.
Lawrence assured the Arabs that if they revolted against the Turks they would be rewarded with their independence after the war (as they, and he, were told). The British and French governments never intended to keep this promise, but Lawrence didn’t know this. (see Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916, and corresponding maps). After the War, Lawrence lobbied British politicians and attended the Versailles peace conference in an unsuccessful effort to get the Allies to grant the Arab peoples independence. After WW I the Middle East was divided between the French and the British empires. This portions of the European colonial system would slowly die out aver the course of the first half of the century, but would remain a thorn in the side of it’s colonial master for a long while.
See lesson below for lesson accompanying the viewing of Lawrence of Arabia. Also, see Eyewitness to History for an account by Lawrence of the assault on a Turkish column en route to Damascus14
The Old Order Dies
By the end of the war, the three multi-national empires were drifting towards collapse. The Russian, Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman empires would not live to see the next decade. In their wake, many new nations in would be born.15
The Tsarist empire experienced its collapse through an internationalist socialist revolution, very different than the catalyst behind the demise of the other two. Lenin, Bolshevism, and The Russian Revolution should be addresses within the context of the social upheavals of the First World War, and are not a part of this unit.
Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Aftermath
As the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires approached their end, it appeared as if new states of the south Slavs would emerge. This is what the nationalist movements within the Empire wanted, but the governments of Europe saw this a step closer to chaos in the region16 Once the Empire collapsed, the people of the Balkans began wrangling (and fighting) over the territories of the former Empire. The new nation that was born, however, was a multi-ethnic federation called Yugoslavia. Was it really a unique multiethnic state representing and protecting the rights of it’s many ethnic groups? Or was it, as many inside and outside saw it, simply a greater Serbia?
The battle to balance, counter, and conquer Serb dominance of the new federation would be a “bitter struggle which eventually consigned Yugoslavia to ashes”17 For further understanding of this dilemma, the student can read “Zagreb IV” (p. 83-88) in Rebecca West’s
Black Lamb and Grey Falcon