VIEWSrnBirth of a Non-NationrnItalian History as Not Told in the Textbooksrnby Maurizio BlondetrnIn the United States, liberation from foreign domination andrnliberation from the past (the republican and democratic featuresrnof government) were largely the result of the AmericanrnRevolution, which was spontaneous in origin, successful, moderaternin its outcome, and —above all—supported by a considerablernpart of the population. This fortunate historical experiencernmay lead many Americans to view the unification of Italy as if itrnwere a replica of their own revolution. They see in the Risorgimentornthe spontaneous uprising of the people for their own independence.rnThey mistake Giuseppe Mazzini for a GeorgernWashington in miniature; they imagine Giuseppe Garibaldi asrna cross between Davy Crockett and Simon Bolivar.rnThe mistaken parallel is an act of generosity, hi Europe, connectionrnwith the past—and with ancient political orders (bothrnpre-democratic and pre-republican) — is much more complexrnand nuanced. For many Europeans, liberahon from the pastrnwas not something to be desired. They had to be violently detachedrnfrom their kings, their nobles, and their popes throughrnthe achons of extremist minorities.rn1 he revoluhons in Europe from 1789 to 1917 were a single,rncontinuous phenomenon: a unitar}’ process of overturning ancientrnnorms, hierarchies, and loyalties. In one particular stage,rnthe revolution used nationalism as part of its program to destroyrnthe old social order. This was the context for the national unificahonrnof Italy and of other smaller countries.rnAt the Congress of Vienna (1815), the heads of the three imperialrnstates that had defeated Napoleon restored an order basedrnon the alliance between throne and altar. The Catholic empirernwas Habsburg Austria; the Orthodox empire was czarist Russia;rnand the Lutheran empire was the Kaiser’s Prussia. At the mar-rnMaurizio Blondet is a correspondent /or Awenire. This articlernis adapted from his speech at The Rockford Institute’s conferencernon the rise (and fall) of Italy and the United States.rngin of Europe was the Muslim empire, with its capital in Istanbulrn—the Ottoman Empire. The four empires maintainedrngood relations with each other for almost a century (down torn1914) and consolidated a European unity of a conservative, anti-rnrevolutionar}- stamp.rnAmericans may have been taught that the three Europeanrnempires were equally obscurantist and repressive. In reality,rnsome of them were more liberal than others. The Kaiser’s empirernwas a “system of command and obedience” on the modelrnof the Prussian military, but the Prussian government correspondedrnto the Germanic psyche, with its deep aspiration to organicrnand communitarian societ}’. The czar’s empire was arnmystical autocracy because “civil society” and a system of rightsrnwere unknown in Russia. There were, however, efforts to createrna legal order in Russia, although they were continually interruptedrnby attempted coups and terrorist acts which forced therngovernment into repressive measures, arbitrary arrests, and thernuse of the secret police.rnThe Habsburg Empire was the most open and liberal. It includedrndiverse languages and nationalities—from the Hungariansrnto the Northern Italians, from the Slovenes to the Croats tornthe Czechs. All chose their own representatives at the parliamentrnin Vienna. The constituent nations enjoyed considerablernautonomy and were often bound together by nothing morernthan the crown of Austria. There was free speech and a freernpress. There was religious liberty. (Vienna, for example, had arnflourishing and cultivated Jewish communit)’.) The various nationalihesrnhad the freedom to use their national language e’enrnin parliament. The Habsburg administration was honest andrneffective, and the people of the Veneto, the Italians closest tornthe Austrian Empire, are still nostalgic for it.rnThe Habsburg Empire was, in sum, a government of laws,rnwithout the limitations that existed in Prussia or under the czar.rnBut the Habsburg regime’s openness and pluralism—and thernAUGUST 2000/13rnrnrn