At the core of nationalism stands the Nation. The problem is that this core concept is notoriously difficult to define. What is more, nationalism itself, as an ideology, nominalistically loads the dice: one can “defining the nation into existence” and by using the word categorically postulate its objective and permanent existence a priori.
As a result, it is difficult for a historical meta-discourse to find a neutral term with which to categorize the population aggregates which in the course of the Romantic century came to think of themselves as nations.
A good start is to follow Walker Connor and to see nations as self-defining, self-distinguishing groups, and to trace the process of self-definition or self-articulation historically. Even so, to call those groups “nations” over a long historical period is anachronistic and finalistic, lends verbal fixity to what in reality was debatable and changeable, tends to block from our view the fluidity of the self-definitions that were competing at any given the time.
ERNiE has therefore decided to avoid the words “nation” and “nationality” as categories and to use the more neutral term “Cultural Community” instead. This serves to emphasize the fact that culture was the binding factor for the communities involved (as opposed to class, religion or otherwise), but that a self-articulating “cultivation of culture” and ensuing national consciousness-raising was as yet open-ended, flexibly silhouetted against variable Others, and that the cultural familiarities and unfamiliarities might be aligned in different possible national, sub-national or regional aggregations (Macedonian/Bulgarian, South Slavic; Belgian, Flemish, Netherlandic; Baltic German, German, Estonian/Latvian).
What, then, are the Cultural Communities of Europe, and how many of them are there?
Given the fluid demarcations of the self-distinctions debated in the course of the century, the number is not neatly quantifiable. ERNiE has opted for a phenomenological approach and has taken note of any groups which in the course of the century articulated a cultural self-awareness as being distinct from others, and drew demands for a degree of autonomy from that self-awareness.
This was foregroundedly the case in Europe’s “old states” (institutionally predating the French Revolution), and
In addition ERNiE has taken note of macronationalistic movements aiming to unite kindred Communities. While the political aspirations of such macronational movements were never actually realized (except, briefly and anomalously, for the legacy of pan-Germanism during the Third Reich), their effect was to offer a larger, transnational sounding-board for each of the participating communities.
The macronational movements that are represented in ERNiE are: