Friends, Romans, Countrymen

by Andrea Elizabeth

I don’t remember what triggered my wikipedia searches the other day, I think maybe it was wondering about the history of the country of Germany, but I ended up finding out that the confederation of German states were the last vestige of the (western) Holy Roman Empire until Napoleon’s Wars ended it in 1806! Then I learned about the 30 years war, Prussia, and the Habsburgs, who were frequently Holy Roman Emperors as well as Kings and Queens of most of the other countries. Then that lead to finding out that Friday was the 100th anniversary of the assassination of the Habsburg’s Archduke Ferdinand that triggered World War I. And it was for the freedom of Bosnia that the Serbian guy did it.

Then I found through Facebook this interactive map comparing 1914 Europe to 2014 Europe. The first thing that struck me, was my, there were a lot fewer nations then. Then I read about the very complicated history of Austria since the Protestant Reformation where their Catholic monarchs instigated the very devastating to Germany, 30 years war with many and various aftermaths across Europe for centuries. I think that was why Germany didn’t include them in their unification of all their states after Prussia beat them. Back to the fewness, it seems to me that on the upper levels, all the related monarchs vied for land and feudal power, but on the lower levels, there remained much smaller cultural identities with very long memories. The maps don’t reflect that at all. To me to understand geography, you need to know the traditional names of the towns, so I think it is more about language and names than ruling uppities. I don’t know what an alternative to these political dynastic monarchies would be, as Democracy and Socialism obviously have their drawbacks as well. Eastern European communities just hunkered down and lived simply no matter which country claimed them until that educated Serbian, Gavrilo Princip, made a much louder, ultimately devastating statement.