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Austro-Hungarian Monarchy

Austro-Hungarian Monarchy or Dual Monarchy, the Hapsburg empire from 1867 until its fall in 1918.

The Nature of Austria-Hungary

The reorganization of Austria and Hungary was made possible by the Ausgleich [compromise] of 1867, a constitutional compromise between Hungarian aspirations for independence and Emperor Francis Joseph's desire for a strong, centralized empire as a source of power after Austria's defeat in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866. The Hungarians gained control of their internal affairs in return for agreeing to a centralized foreign policy and continued union of the Austrian and Hungarian crowns in the Hapsburg ruler.

The agreement to establish the Dual Monarchy, which was worked out primarily by the Austrian foreign minister, Count Beust, and two Hungarians, the elder Count Andrássy and Francis Deak, divided the Hapsburg empire into two states. Cisleithania [Lat.,=the land on this side of the Leitha River] comprised Austria proper, Bohemia, Moravia, Austrian Silesia, Slovenia, and Austrian Poland; it was to be ruled by the Hapsburg monarchs in their capacity as emperors of Austria. Transleithania [Lat.,=the land on the other side of the Leitha River] included Hungary, Transylvania, Croatia, and part of the Dalmatian coast; it was to be ruled by the Hapsburg monarchs in their capacity as kings of Hungary. Croatia was given a special status and allowed some autonomy but was subordinated to Transleithania, which also nominated the Croatian governor.

Austria-Hungary was the greatest recent example of a multinational state in Europe; however, of the four chief ethnic groups (Germans, Hungarians, Slavs, and Italians) only the first two received full partnership. The Hapsburg-held crown of Bohemia was conspicuously omitted in the reorganization. Both Cisleithania and Transleithania elected independent parliaments to deliberate on internal affairs and had independent ministries. A common cabinet, composed of three ministers, dealt with foreign relations, common defense, and common finances. It was responsible to the emperor-king and to the delegations of 60 members each (chosen by the two parliaments), which met to discuss common affairs. The regular armed forces were under unified command and currency was uniform throughout the empire, but there were separate customs regimes.

Domestic Policy: Divide and Rule

The strength of the Dual Monarchy lay in its vastness, its virtual economic self-sufficiency, and its opportunities for commercial intercourse from the Swiss border to the Carpathians. Its weakness was less in its ethnic diversity than in the unequal treatment accorded to its minorities in the spirit of the maxim "Divide and rule." Of the Slavic elements the Czechs and Serbs were the most disaffected. The efforts of the Taaffe ministry to satisfy Czech demands failed. The Italian minority was won to the Italian nationalist cause (see irredentism). The Romanians of Transylvania had bitter grievances against their Hungarian masters.

As nationalist movements gained within the empire, they enlarged their demands from cultural autonomy to full independence and ultimately broke up the monarchy. These movements existed not only in the oppressed provinces, but also among Hungarian extremists, who desired total independence, and among Austrian Pan-Germans, who advocated the union of German-speaking Austria with Germany.

The greatest danger to the monarchy probably was Pan-Slavism, spreading from Serbia and encouraged by Russia among the South Slavs. Archduke Francis Ferdinand, heir to the throne, apparently had a project by which Croatia was to become the nucleus of a third, South Slavic, partner in the monarchy; his assassination (1914) at Sarajevo cut short this hope and precipitated World War I.

Foreign Policy

Austria-Hungary early became reconciled with Germany and joined the Three Emperors' League. At the Congress of Berlin (1878; see Berlin, Congress of) Count Andrássy, the foreign minister, secured a mandate over Bosnia and Herzegovina. In 1879 he entered an alliance with Germany, joined also by Italy in 1882 (see Triple Alliance and Triple Entente). The formation of the Triple Entente (France, England, Russia) to oppose this alliance led to the tense diplomatic situation that preceded World War I. The foreign policy of Graf von Aehrenthal led to the Bosnian crisis of 1908–9, and the reckless demands that his successor, Graf von Berchtold, made on Serbia after the assassination of Francis Ferdinand helped to precipitate the cataclysm.

Destruction of the Monarchy

The internal weakness of the empire became immediately obvious. Czech regiments deserted wholesale from the beginning; Italy and Romania, eying their respective minorities in Austria and Hungary, joined the Allies; Croats and Slovenes, won by Serbian propaganda, joined (1917) in agreement with the Serbs to found a South Slavic state (see Yugoslavia). Abroad, the Czechs under Thomas Masaryk were the best known of several legions fighting on the Allied side, and in Oct., 1918, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary proclaimed their independence.

The Austrian defeat at Vittorio Veneto was followed by unconditional surrender; on Nov. 11, Emperor Charles I abdicated; on Nov. 12, German Austria was proclaimed a republic. The treaties of Versailles, Trianon, and Saint-Germain fixed the boundaries of the successor states. The breakup of the Dual Monarchy fulfilled the 19th-century liberal ideal of national self-determination. At the same time, the creation of small, strongly nationalist states, cut off from each other by tariff walls, has been criticized as representing a "Balkanization of Europe."

Bibliography

See H. Kohn, The Hapsburg Empire: 1804–1918 (1961); A. J. May, The Passing of the Hapsburg Monarchy, 1914–1918 (2 vol., 1966) and The Hapsburg Monarchy, 1867–1914 (1951, repr. 1968); Z. A. B. Zeman, The Twilight of the Hapsburgs (1970); E. Crankshaw, The Fall of the House of Hapsburg (1971, repr. 1983); L. Valiani, The End of Austria-Hungary (1973); R. J. Evans, The Making of the Hapsburg Monarchy: 1550–1700 (1979).

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Austro-Hungarian Empire

Austro-Hungarian Empire (1867–1918) Organization of the old Austrian Empire into the Kingdom of Hungary and the Empire of Austria, also known as the “Dual Empire”. The Emperor of Austria and the King of Hungary were the same person, but each nation had its own parliament and controlled its internal affairs. This arrangement ignored other nationalist minorities and pleased neither the Hungarians, who wanted greater autonomy, nor the Austrians, many of whom wanted a realignment with other German states. After World War I Hungary and Czechoslovakia declared their independence, the Emperor Charles abdicated and Austria became a republic.

http://byu.edu/~rdh/eurodocs/austria.html

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Austro-

Austro-1 • comb. form Austrian; Austrian and …: Austro-Hungarian. Austro-2 • comb. form Australian; Australian and …: Austro-Malayan. ∎  southern: Austro-Asiatic.

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Austro-Hungarian Empire

Austro-Hungarian Empire

Type of Government

The Austro-Hungarian Empire was a dual monarchy, in which two previously independent monarchic systems were unified under a single emperor who served as head of state, head of government, and leader of the military. The emperor was chosen according to a hereditary system of succession. The empire was divided into two semi-autonomous states, each maintaining a separate parliament of popularly elected leaders. The empire had a single, three-member cabinet with responsibility over joint finance, foreign affairs, and military policy. Each parliament selected a delegation of representatives to meet with the central government to determine domestic policy. The judicial system was divided between the two states, while the monarchy maintained a separate set of laws governing all subjects of the empire and enforceable through a system of imperial courts.

Background

By the middle of the nineteenth century, monarchs of the Habsburg dynasty had governed many parts of Europe as Holy Roman emperors since the 1200s. The end of the Holy Roman Empire came in 1806 at the hands of Napoléon Bonaparte (1769–1821). Thereafter Francis II (1768–1835), the last of the Holy Roman emperors, proclaimed himself Francis I, the ruler of the Austrian Empire. After Napoléon’s defeat in 1815, Austria became one of the leading states in central Europe’s German Confederation.

The Austrian Empire included in its territories the Kingdom of Hungary, as well as present-day Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic in their entirety, and parts of Poland, Romania, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Serbia, and Montenegro. Many of the empire’s non-Austrian subjects were dissatisfied with the empire’s centralized power structure and demanded more autonomy. Francis Joseph I (Emperor Franz Josef; 1830–1916) became the Austrian emperor in 1848, after the failure of his predecessor, Ferdinand I, to deal with rebellions throughout the empire’s major cities. The most vocal rebellions included those among the Magyars, Hungary’s ruling class of aristocrats. Franz Josef skillfully pushed their demands for autonomy aside, using the Austrian army and bureaucracy as deterrents. He succeeded until Austria was lured into the Seven Weeks’ War against the German state of Prussia in 1866. After a humiliating defeat and expulsion from the German Confederation, Austria became eager to consolidate its remaining power and shore up its international image. Franz Josef began to consider the Hungarian demands for autonomy from a new perspective.

Emperor Franz Josef acquiesced to Hungarian demands for autonomy by surrendering his control over Hungary’s internal affairs. In return, he and the Magyar leadership of the Hungarian parliament drafted the Compromise of 1867, which named Franz Josef king of Hungary and the emperor of Austria and created the new Austro-Hungarian Empire. The compromise called for one army and navy, as well as common ministries of foreign affairs, war, and finance. This structure gave the new empire a united front internationally and monetarily, but each half of the empire would be in charge of its own internal affairs. The compromise also established a large and powerful nation of some sixty million people in the heart of Europe. Franz Josef sacrificed internal control over his Hungarian subjects, but gained international prestige and power with his new empire.

In exchange for their cooperation in establishing the new empire, Austrian German liberals in the Reichsrat (Imperial Council) were allowed amendments to existing law that they had been seeking. These changes granted increased freedom of speech, press, and assembly and officially recognized the equality of all nationalities and languages active in the empire. In 1879 the liberals succeeded in establishing an independent judiciary for the empire, culminating in the Reichsgericht (High Court of the German Empire).

Government Structure

The 1867 compromise recognized the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s two national parliaments: the Reichsrat in Austria and the Diet in Hungary. Both parliaments were bicameral—meaning they consisted of two separate chambers. Members of the upper houses were appointed and those of the lower houses were elected. Issues affecting both halves of the empire were settled through the Delegations, a smaller, separate legislative body made up of members from each parliament.

A monarch ruled the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but both halves of the empire maintained their own prime ministers and additional cabinet ministers. One important component of the empire’s governance was never formally recognized. Just as joint parliamentary affairs were dealt with through the Delegations, the executive branch of government, the monarchy, used the Crown Council, the composition of which varied, but usually consisted of both prime ministers, the joint secretaries of war, finance, and foreign affairs, as well as a council chief of staff. The monarch could also choose additional advisers if he chose. Foreign policy and the conduct of war were determined by the monarch.

A joint customs union, a common currency and postal system, and a sharing of accounts facilitated economic and financial cooperation in the empire. These arrangements were reexamined and renegotiated every ten years.

Before the Compromise of 1867 Austria’s constitutional monarchy had established the February Patent of 1861. Intended to respond to calls for a more democratic government, it transferred power from disparate local legislatures that were controlled by the nobility to a more centralized national government. It remained in force in the Austrian part of the new empire.

Political Parties and Factions

In 1879 Francis appointed his childhood friend Count Eduard von Taaffe (1833–1985) prime minister. A shrewd politician, Taaffe appointed a coalition of Slavic, conservative, clerical, and aristocratic representatives to the government. This coalition set one nationalistic and political group against another so that none of the groups could became too powerful. Taaffe thus managed to neutralize contentious and competing nationalities within the empire and reduce the influence of troublesome Austrian German liberals. His small group of political insiders became known as the Iron Ring and remained active until 1893.

Major Events

Austria’s 1873 Vienna International Exhibition was intended to showcase the material progress of the Habsburg dynasty during the rapid expansion of industry and enterprise in the late 1860s and early 1870s. These solid economic achievements were accompanied by financial speculation and reckless investment. Just after the exhibition’s opening the stock market crashed. Even though the economy eventually recovered, scores of businesses were ruined in the aftermath of what came to be called the Krach.

Progressive laws enacted in 1884 addressed important social reforms. The workday was limited to eleven hours, children younger than twelve were not allowed to work, Sunday was declared a day of rest, and compulsory insurance against sickness or accident was enacted.

In June 1914 Archduke Francis Ferdinand (1863–1914), the presumed heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, was assassinated in Sarajevo, Bosnia, by a Serbian patriot. The Austro-Hungarian leadership, certain that Serbia, and ultimately its ally Russia, were behind the assassination, declared war on Serbia the same day, setting into motion World War I (1914–1918).

Aftermath

The 1867 compromise was primarily an agreement between the Habsburg dynasty and the Magyar rulers of Hungary. Slavic peoples living in the Austrian Empire, such as the Czechs, Croats, Serbs, and others, were not consulted and remained discontented regarding the compromise and its aftermath. This lack of support from the large number of Slavic populations in the empire became one of the factors precipitating war in 1914.

In 1917 representatives of many of the nationalist groups within the nearly defeated Austro-Hungarian Empire, such as the Czechs, Poles, Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, were seeking support and recognition from the nearly victorious Allied countries. By the end of the war, these nationalists had made the continuance of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy nearly impossible. The separatist groups established national councils that served as separate governments, and in the fall of 1918 several declared themselves independent republics. Austria and Hungary each signed an armistice with the Allies on November 3, 1918, and Charles I (1887–1922), the last Austro-Hungarian emperor, relinquished his throne on November 11. His action ended the empire and the rule of the Habsburg dynasty. Within days both Austria and Hungary declared themselves separate republics.

Beller, Steven. A Concise History of Austria . New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Schierbrand, Wolf von. Austria-Hungary: The Polyglot Empire . New York: Frederick A. Stokes, 1917.

Sugar, Peter F., ed. A History of Hungary . Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990.

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