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Was Austria–Hungary condemned to fail?

Arnold Suppan ; Austrijska akademija znanosti, Beč, Austrija

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str. 65-81

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Essential features of the Habsburg Monarchy, which held the name of Austrian Empire as of 1804 and Austro–Hungarian Monarchy as of 1867, were multi-ethnicity, multi-lingualism and multi-culturalism. Its internal borders did however not correspond with the cultural and national ones. The basic weakness of the Habsburg Monarchy was the following: only fi ve out of its twelve major nations lived within its borders, whilst the rest mostly lived out of the state borders. Following the new reorganisation of Europe defi ned at the Congress of Vienna 1814–15, Austrian Empire remained the central power of the continental balance system, yet Austria and its state chancellor, Prince of Mett ernich, were too weak to eff ectively assume this role. Though Austria was in 1848 exposed to the att ack of a combination of liberalism and nationalism, its existence was not endangered, as it was the case in 1618 or 1740. Austrian Empire adopted liberal institutions and was transformed into a centralised state, thus embracing the integration of all Germans as its goal. In 1866, aft er the defeat in the war with Prussia, German and Austrian intellectuals continued to be preoccupied with the problem of German national identity, whilst Vienna as the centre accepted Austro–Hungarian dualism established in 1867, and acknowledged German and Hungarian hegemony over Slavic peoples as guarantee that the Habsburg Monarchy would continue to be a great power. Aft er dualism had been introduced in the Austrian part of the Habsburg Monarchy, an administrative system based on the principles of moderate liberalism was established. Major threat to the stability of the Empire arose not from social confl icts, but from a potential confl ict among the ruling elites; the prospects of reforming the constitutionally inadequately balanced dual monarchy into a real parliamentary system were however too poor. The introduction of universal vote right in Hungary and vote right for women at state level in the Monarchy would possibly have reinforced the strength of peasant, Christian-social, social-democratic and liberal parties of all nationalities, and tempered the confl icts among nationalist intellectuals.
Modernisation rose in Austro–Hungary, yet not uniformly in all parts of the territory – Austrian and Czech lands experienced the strongest development. Aft er 1848, the number of secondary-school students increased signifi cantly, and even members of the lower middle class were allowed to acquire academic education. Languages used at universities were German and Hungarian; while at the one in Zagreb, it was Croatian. As a result of stimulating eff ects of religious and ethnic pluralism, Vienna became the leading European cultural metropolis, the cradle of the arts, philosophy and psychology, as well as the centre of medicine. The same applied to music, fi ne arts, literature and architecture. The army and the bureaucracy represented the unity of the Habsburg Monarchy in the sense of Austria. The mission of the bureaucracy was – it seemed – the expansion of uniformity across the Empire, whereby western infl uence was conveyed to non-German peoples, as was discipline regarding obeying the emperor’s edicts. In 1848, Croats and Serbs fought in the Habsburg Monarchy together against Hungarians; however, aft er in the 1850s the centre of Serbian politics was moved to Serbia, Serbian politicians initiated the policy of restoration of Serbian Empire. Croatian and Serbian policies came into confl ict occasionally, in particularly following the Austro–Hungarian occupation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1878. Aft er in 1903 Serbia had left the union with Austro–Hungary, the Croatian–Serbian coalition was established in 1906 in Zagreb. Austro–Hungarian authorities saw in this – especially aft er the Balkan Wars 1912–1913, in which Serbia expe rienced territorial expansion – the danger of Serbia assuming the role of Piedmont in the Balkans. Aft er Archduke Francis Ferdinand had been assassinated in Sarajevo in 1914, the diplomatic system left suffi cient space for political manoeuvres to the governments. However, the leadership of the Monarchy reacted by presenting an ultimatum to Serbia. Aft er the Monarchy had proclaimed war with Serbia, alliances were built on both sides. In all the centres of the Monarchy, pro-war demonstrations arose, so that the feeling that the Monarchy was experiencing rebirth prevailed. As the Monarchy was suff ering losses, German emperor assumed the commandership over all the Central Powers. Following the outburst of the October Revolution, Russia signed the peace agreement with the Central Powers in 1918; consequently, Germany became the dominant power in Eastern Europe. Aft er the German and Austrian emperors had signed the long-term agreement on close military and economic collaboration, the Entente Powers reached the conclusion that the Habsburg Monarchy had become a German satellite and ought therefore to disappear. Long-lasting war, human losses and economic breakdown led to political and military collapse, so that aft er the capitulation, the Habsburg Monarchy fell apart.

Ključne riječi

Austria–Hungary; Austrian Empire; nation–nationality–nationalism

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