Symbolic Representations of the Nation: Baden, Bavaria, and Saxony

TitleSymbolic Representations of the Nation: Baden, Bavaria, and Saxony
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsFink, Erwin
EditorCole, Laurence
Book TitleDifferent Paths to the Nation: Regional and National Identities in Central Europe and Italy, 1830–70
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
CityBasingstoke, UK

Imperial Germany (the Kaiserreich) was founded by the proclamation of 18 January 1871 in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, after a series of conflicts conventionally known as the ‘wars of unification’. The new state was created largely by Prussian military success and the ingenuity of Otto von Bismarck — or so the story has usually gone. By the late 1870s, the symbolic meaning of the Kaiserreich – as a new and unfamiliar political framework – still faced challenges. Politically, the German Empire had to function out of sheer necessity, but any collective consensus about the essence of the new nation-state remained elusive. Accordingly, the practice of representing the empire evoked intense debate and confrontation, as this article will show by comparing the contested symbolic space that ‘unified Germany’ occupied in three German states – Baden, Bavaria and Saxony. In an attempt to capture the dynamics of nation building and identity formation, the analysis will focus mainly on the 1870s and on three interrelated themes: 1. the controversial symbolic representation of unification and of the nationstate in the Sedan Day celebrations; 2. a Saxon model of accommodating parallel manifestations of regional and national symbolism; 3. the potentially integrative effect of the imperial cult.

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