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The Minor Nations and States During the European Revolutions

By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Feb 3, 2012

The Minor Nations and States

Events played out in the minor nations and states of Europe in much the same way as in the Great Powers.

Belgium

Belgium had been made a part of the Netherlands in 1815 at the Congress of Vienna and was clearly discontented with this situation. As a nation that was becoming wealthy due to its participation in the Industrial Revolution, Belgium did not want to be a part of a larger empire. In 1830, Belgium rebelled against the Netherlands; with French and British support, it regained its independence in 1831.

Greece

Greece had been under the rule of the Ottoman Empire since 1453. In 1821, the Greeks rebelled against the occupying Turkish forces. With aid from Russia, France, and Britain, the Greeks were able to drive the Turks out and declare independence in 1827. In this one case, the Holy Alliance aided the rebels because the occupying force was Turkish rather than European; European nations had always been willing to unite against invasions from the Ottoman Empire. Although Turkey had one foot in Europe, the Ottoman Empire was Muslim and Europeans had regarded it as a heathen, enemy culture since the days of the Crusades.

There were so many conflicting political factions in Greece that the Greeks agreed they were not ready for self-government; they accepted the proposal of the Great Powers to establish a monarchy. Seventeen-year-old Prince Otto of Bavaria agreed to accept the Greek throne, ruling as Otto I.

Otto I proved an unpopular ruler. First, he was a foreigner, and nationalism was strong in Greece; the people did not welcome a non-Greek ruler. Second, he was politically conservative, unwilling to accept the Greeks’ insistence on a written constitution. In 1843, the feelings against Otto finally boiled over in a coup d’etat. At this point the king conceded many of his subjects’ demands, and government in Greece became more liberal, including parliamentary elections.

Italy

Most of the Italian states had been divided among the Great Powers at the Congress of Vienna. In 1821, there were popular uprisings in Naples and Piedmont; however, troops of the Holy Alliance nations eventually crushed these attempts to establish constitutional government. Further rebellions took place in Parma and Modena in 1831. These also were unsuccessful, as was a rebel- lion in the Papal States, which was put down by French troops. Austrian troops occupied much of Italy until 1838. Italian unification would take place during the 1860s.

Poland

In 1830, it was not possible to find a nation called “Poland” on the European political map. Poland had been carved up and divided among Austria, Russia, and Prussia in the late 1700s. However, nationalism was strong among the ethnic Poles, and it was only a matter of time before they rose up against their foreign rulers.

Polish rebellion against Czar Nicholas I broke out in the Kingdom of Poland—a region centered around Warsaw—in 1830. The Poles won the first skirmishes and achieved a short-lived independence, which was crushed by the Russian troops in 1831. This was followed by a campaign of “Russification” under the czar, who revoked many Polish rights and privileges in an attempt to replace Polish language and customs with Russian ones. Despite further sporadic uprisings in Krakow, Warsaw, and elsewhere, Poland would not regain its independence until 1918.

Spain

Because Spain had always been the most conservative of all European nations, liberals and socialists had far less support there than elsewhere. The Spanish middle class, far less extensive and powerful than in other nations, did urge reform to the best of its limited ability. In 1820, the army led a rebellion against Ferdinand VII, forcing him to agree to Spain’s first written constitution. How- ever, French troops eventually came to the king’s aid, suppressing the rebellion and murdering most of the rebels.

Between 1869 and 1874, the Cortés (legislative assembly) attempted to establish a constitutional monarchy and gain acceptance of a liberal constitution. This was achieved in 1875. However, the Spanish idea of a constitutional monarchy was far more conservative than the ideas prevailing in Britain or France. The real power in Spain would long remain where it had always rested—in the hands of the great landowners, the Church, and the army.

Practice questions for these concepts can be found at:

European Revolutions Practice Test

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