The Austrian Empire was extremely powerful in Europe competing politically and economically with the 39 German states.
German nationalism had the potential to unify the German states making them stronger and more of a threat to Austria.
20 per cent of the people in the Austrian empire were German. Fearing nationalism, the Austrian Emperor thought nationalism might make them want to join Germany leaving Austria weaker, resulting in other national groups within the Empire demanding their independence.
Many princes feared that if the German states were unified they would lose power and influence over their own territories. With unification, only one could be in charge. Prussia, as the dominant state, would be the prime candidate. The other princes would have to forfeit their power.
These countries feared that a strong, united Germany would be a political, economic and military rival to them.
Russia feared the growing liberal and reformist mood in Germany could lead to revolution that would spread. It supported the status quo of rule by monarchy.
Despite growth in industry and urbanisation, the German states remained largely rural economies based on agriculture. Aristrocrats owned most of the land and peasants represented the largest group in society.
In some German states, peasants were serfs, under the complete control of landowners. They had to work for the landowner whose land they occupied. In return they looked to the landowner for protection and some form of justice and rule. They would also be allowed to farm some areas of land to support themselves and their families.
Peasants were uneducated. If they were aware of ideas of nationalism, these were unimportant compared to the struggle for daily existence. Largely they felt loyal to their landlords and their location