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What did the Habsburgs do for us? Well, rather a lot actually, as two recent books show

Emperor Franz Joseph I, on the wedding of archduke Carl Franz Joseph (later Emperor) Karl. Photo by Oesterreichsches Volkshochschularchiv/Imagno/Getty Images)

Emperor Franz Joseph I, on the wedding of archduke Carl Franz Joseph (later Emperor) Karl. Photo by Oesterreichsches Volkshochschularchiv/Imagno/Getty Images)


January 4, 2021   8 mins

At Christmas Hungarians pause, briefly, from consuming venison and bean soup to enjoy a visual feast on TV instead: the sumptuous technicolour Sissi trilogy. This set of 1950s Austrian films about 19th-century monarch, Elizabeth (“Sissi”) of Bavaria, consort of the magnificently whiskered Emperor-King Franz Joseph, is a seasonal staple to rival even Carols from Kings.

Romy Schneider bewitches in the title role and there is enough gold braid and white plumage on display to dazzle and tickle even die-hard republicans into momentary monarchism. Tears prick the viewers’ eyes as great flocks of pigeons swirl around black and gold banners in St Mark’s Square, Venice — Austrian sovereign territory until 1866. They do so in perfect sync with the rhythm of Die Kaiserhymne — the Empire’s official anthem, whose tune was somewhat vulgarly pinched by Germany in 1922.

Oddly, paying virtual homage to a deceased Austro-German Royal couple helps citizens of a small central European republic feel comfortable in their own skins today.

Elizabeth (Erzsébet in Hungarian) was one of the most striking personalities of 19th century Europe: famed for her ankle length hair, 18-and-a-half-inch waist and ability to converse with searing intellectual precision in seven languages.

She was happiest mingling unchaperoned in the company of gypsies and circus entertainers — whose acrobatics she could cheerfully rival — but her flexibility was mental and diplomatic as much as physical. She championed the “Dualist” compromise of 1867, granting Hungary, though “inseparable and indivisible” from Austria, complete internal self-government and parity in common imperial affairs.

The enduring “Cult of Sissi” is distinctively ErzsĂ©bet’s own, yet also reveals something deeper, a glimpse of the so-called “Habsburg shadow”: the lasting effect of the Austrian, and latterly Austro-Hungarian, Empire on the now splintered territories it once comprised.

Last year was the 100th anniversary of the Empire’s final dissolution via the Treaty of Trianon, which fixed the lasting borders of the successor states. The coincidence spurred a minor flurry of books on the dynasty’s dĂ©nouement, of which Martin Rady’s huge — but gripping — The Habsburgs: The Rise and Fall of a World Power (Penguin) stands out.

As the title suggests, the volume is equally about the early as late phases of the Habsburg story. Yet, probing the Dual Monarchy’s pre-history alerts us to enduring traits which enabled the later Habsburgs to hold together their “rag bag” of heterogenous territories, in defiance of powerful romantic and liberal nationalist movements.

In 1848, in the face of a radical uprising in Vienna, and a nationalist one in Hungary, it looked to many observers as if the Habsburg Empire was finished. Yet, after restoring order with Russian help, in cultural and intellectual terms it thrived for another seven decades.

For Rady the unquestionable key to the dynasty’s might was its mystique. It was imbued with an aura of sacral legitimacy which not only held the loyalty of subjects but imbued the family’s members with a driving sense of vocation: “they conceived of their power as both something they had been predestined for and part of the divine order in which the world was arranged.” The self-concept was manifested through intense Eucharistic and Marian piety — well beyond that of other royal households.

Domestic super-piety put something numinous at the heart of the “Holy Roman Empire”, over which the family presided almost continuously between 1438 and its dissolution in 1806. It also meant that, whatever the personal moral failings of its leaders, the “odour of sanctity” clung persistently to the Austrian polity, and even more to the imperial personage.

Franz Joseph’s long reign (he ruled from 1848 to 1916) and the literature through which perception of its later decades is refracted, including the retrospective novels of Joseph Roth and Jaroslav Haơek, tend to anchor it in our minds as something tragic — an age of elegant uniforms and doomed politics.

For contemporaries, their own lived experience was different. Presentations of the royal house in popular literature had a sense of “sacred drama” about them. The personal sorrows of Franz Joseph, who lost both wife and son before their time, together with the burdens of ruling “were likened to Christ’s Crown of Thorns, confirming the emperor as not only the ruler of peoples but also their redeemer.”

Ethnic fragmentation was contained because the emperor “became the almost exclusive focus of loyalty and symbol of an idea that transcended nation.” Unlike in today’s culture war and Brexit battles, national-separatist ambitions were more pronounced among the intelligentsia than urban-worker and rural-labourer population bases.

In 1908, honouring the 60th anniversary of the Emperor’s accession, “hundreds of thousands of Galician Poles and Ruthenes bought cheap transparencies of the emperor, putting them in their windows so that at night the streets 
 shone with identical portraits of Franz Joseph.” Translucence and transcendence momentarily coalesced.

As Rady points out, Franz Joseph’s recovery of the older Habsburg genius for “revolution from above” also served to forestall political radicalism, with timely social reform staving off dislocating socialist revolution after 1848.

The later Habsburgs, though devoutly Catholic, were, for the period, surprisingly unsectarian. As John Van der Kiste notes in The End of the Habsburgs: The Decline and Fall of the Austrian Monarchy (Fonthill) when the emperor travelled within his dominions, “he not only visited Protestant and Orthodox churches but attended services in them”. His interfaith encounters extended to synagogues and, after the occupation (later annexation) of Bosnia, mosques as well.

Franz Joseph occasionally made off-colour remarks about Jews in private but was a zealous defender of their civil rights — a reminder that the policing of language is not an invariable guarantee of social progress. Full emancipation of Jews in both halves of the empire came as an integral part of the emperor’s constitutional reform programme of 1867. Later he blocked the entry into office of vicious anti-Semite Karl Luger as elected Mayor of Vienna for two whole years from 1895.

Maybe Franz Joseph was influenced by the late medieval chroniclers who constructed elaborate lineages linking the Habsburgs back to the Kings of the Old Testament and even to Noah. Certainly, the very real affection the Empire’s Jews felt towards him is attested to in surviving silver Torah scroll holders, capped with the Habsburg double-eagle, produced in significant numbers during his reign.

The self-confidence which derived from the givenness of public Catholicism, tempered by enlightened toleration, gave the monarchy an expansive, even benignly protective attitude to religious minorities — albeit that many Austro-German clerics harboured unpleasant anti-Semitic views.

Paradoxically, Habsburg governance managed to be formally confessional but practically pluralist. Public offices and Catholic churches in the Empire might alike be painted deep yellow on royal orders, but there was no expectation that the occupants of the former should be attendees of the latter. In 1914 Hungary was led to war by its staunchly Calvinist Prime Minister Count IstvĂĄn Tisza.

This construct was fragile and known to be so. Continuity depended on the public’s personal identification with a beloved, long-reigning monarch, and freedom from external, especially military, shock. It also required other states esteeming Austria-Hungary’s role in ensuring the “balance of power” in Europe.

During the 1890s and 1900s foreign policy pressures and strains on the state’s internal constitutional geometry came together in concerning ways. Nationalist movements demanded concessions from the centres of power; neighbouring countries (especially Romania and Serbia) encouraged dissident irredentist sentiment amongst their kin communities. Threats to internal stability and territorial integrity thus intersected and reinforced each other. The pressure was considerable and the fabric decidedly frayed.

The problems were made worse because Budapest consistently blocked Vienna’s contemplated concessions to non-Magyars. Meeting Czech aspirations for internal self-government might have released tension and so strengthened the empire as a whole — but at the cost of weakening the Magyar’s special place as the privileged partner of the Austro-Germans within the constitutional order. The situation was precarious.

Yet the dissolution of Austro-Hungary at the end of the Great War was a far more contingent process than often realised. It was not inevitable, even after Franz Joseph’s death in 1916 and his succession by great-nephew Karl. As late as 1917, the Western Allies talked of Austria-Hungary’s political restructuring and of limited border revision, not of outright destruction. Even Woodrow Wilson, later a champion of “national self-determination”, at first regarded a reformed and reconstituted Habsburg state as an attractive idea. Both Wilson and Lloyd George feared that a “Balkanised” cluster of smaller states would be vulnerable to being picked off individually by an expansionist Berlin — as in fact happened.

Austria-Hungary’s failure to survive in any recognisable form, in contrast to its co-belligerents Germany and Turkey, is intellectual territory over which historians are yet to sign a comprehensive peace treaty. Explanations are nearly as various as the persons offering them.

Claims that tension between imperial structure and national self-conciousness made Austria-Hungary’s continuance axiomatically impossible, not just unlikely, need to be handled with care. The persistent cohesive stability of the Monarchy’s multi-national battlegroups at the end of the war is, as Rady points out, an overlooked index suggesting ethnic differences may not have been as insurmountable as historians have often supposed.

“When in early November 1918 the Italian army took the surrender of around four hundred thousand Habsburg troops, it discovered that they included more than eighty thousand Czechs and Slovaks, sixty thousand South Slavs (mostly Croats), twenty-five thousand Transylvanian Romanians, and even seven thousand Italians from Istria and the Tyrol. It was the final irony that as the Habsburg Empire dissolved into national states, its army retained its multinational character.”

And so a demoralised Emperor Karl “relinquished his involvement in public affairs” on 11 November 1918 — although he never formally abdicated. Shortly afterwards, Austrian socialist leader Karl Renner visited him in the Schönbrunn Palace to bid him farewell, famously closing their conversation with the words “Herr Habsburg, the taxi is waiting.”

The Habsburg Empire’s afterlife is more than a matter of cinema and sentiment. The “Habsburg shadow” is oft invoked by historical geographers to explain the greater economic and educational development of those regions in Romania, Ukraine and Serbia which once formed part of Austria-Hungary relative to those which did not. It’s a stubbornly enduring, though utterly benign, imperial legacy still evident after a century of turbulence and totalitarianism.

The shadow has other forms. Karl, beatified by Pope John-Paul II in 2004, was unsuccessful in attempts to regain either the Austrian or Hungarian thrones prior to his untimely death from lung failure in Madeira in 1922. Yet during the Second World War, Churchill seems seriously to have considered installing his son Crown Prince Otto (1912-2011) as constitutional monarch of a truncated post-war Germany — or so Van der Kiste asserts.

Churchill even despatched Admiral Mountbatten to Canada in 1943 to sound out Otto’s mother — the formidable dowager Empress Zita — at her home in Ontario. Presumably Churchill held that historic sacral monarchy was a serviceable bulwark against demagoguery, and constitutional monarchy is effective, not because of the (negligible) explicit power the monarch wields but because of the great metaphysical legitimacy his/her presence implicitly withholds from others.

Otto himself was sentenced to death in absentia by the Nazis in 1938 for opposing the Anschluss. He spent most of the war in America encouraging pro-Habsburg partisans from afar — but not till after he had helped 15,000 anti-Nazi compatriots, many Jewish, flee to safety in allied and neutral countries.

Helping refugees became a signature trait. On 19 August 1989 he organised a cross border “pan-European picnic” on the Austro-Hungarian frontier. Ostensibly an exercise in cultural diplomacy it was actually a crafty ruse to allow 600 East German refugees (trapped in Hungary for months) to stampede through the border gate specially opened for the event.

Dumbstruck officials looked on helpless. So began the mass movement of people between the two Germanys by multiple routes which precipitated the fall of the Berlin Wall that November.

During Hungary’s own democratic transition of 1989-90 it was, strangely, the Left-Liberal Alliance of Free Democrats — SZDSZ — who advocated Otto becoming Hungary’s new head of state by parliamentary vote. “We could do a lot worse,” eminent Hungarian political historian Domokos Kosáry observed at the time.

Ironically, the future MDF (Conservative) PM József Antall worked to dissuade Otto from accepting the invitation — something Otto later regretted. It is tempting to speculate that, in line with Churchill’s thinking, Otto’s presence might have forestalled the populist currents which dominate Hungary today.

The EU accession of the “Visegrad” states in 2004 had more than a passing whiff of separated children returning to the Holy Roman Empire. That was not least because Otto, President of the Pan-European Movement and a long serving Christian Democrat MEP representing Bavaria, was quietly influential in the process. His impressive personal contacts in the German government and Brussels bureaucracy smoothed the way. Yet, as Rady notes, for all his enthusiasm for the European Project, “Otto never satisfactorily explained how to build a single political community out of different national communities.”

It is very hard to hold a geographically extensive, trans-national polity together even when it is blessed with time-honoured “legitimating structures of meaning” — faith, monarchy, civic ritual — as Austria-Hungary’s demise indicates.

Without such things on hand to provide unifying symbolic nuclei the task looks impossible. Just ask residents of the former Yugoslavia. Perhaps, if they are serious about the project, European leaders could do worse than give some attention to Rady and Van der Kiste. Failing that, they should at least watch the Sissi trilogy.


Alexander Faludy is a law student and freelance journalist.

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Judy Englander
Judy Englander
3 years ago

“… a reminder that the policing of language is not a guarantor of social progress”. If I understand this comment correctly, I think the Emperor’s actions demonstrate the opposite: that manifest behaviour is more important than lurking attitudes in the psyche. In other words, instituting equality before the law makes the positive difference, not building windows into the soul through language policing, with the awful repressive atmosphere that results. The first is civil emancipation, the second is soft totalitarianism.

Vivek Rajkhowa
Vivek Rajkhowa
3 years ago

The abolition of the Habsburg monarchy remains one of the greatest sins of the 20th century

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Vivek Rajkhowa

What more could they expect having been comprehensively defeated on the battlefield?
Vae victis! As “you know who” would have said.

Nick Whitehouse
Nick Whitehouse
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

Yes, winning wars is important for a country and it’s politicians and heads of state – as Mrs Thatcher demonstrated.
But not always fatal for a country as Germany has demonstrated.

However, to win wars, a country needs to be economically strong and the Hapsburg’s were running a country that was falling behind the others in the economic sphere.
They failed to embrace the industrial revolution, as had other countries.
Perhaps a lesson for Britain and Europe here, are we willing the embrace the new industrial revolution of computers, robots, and AI?
The signs are not encouraging.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
3 years ago

Britain maybe. Europe probably not.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

Industrie 4.0 is a German invention. When it comes to advanced manufacturing system (robotics, machine tooling, industrial automation, sensors, PLC) Germany is a world champion, UK is not a player.

valleydawnltd
valleydawnltd
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Manufacturing systems, no. High end design and development, most definitely yes.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  valleydawnltd

What does “high end design” means when ti comes to industrial manufacturing?
What do you mean by development?
How can Germany/Japan be so dominant if they don’t do development?

Vivek Rajkhowa
Vivek Rajkhowa
3 years ago

Had Franz Ferdinand not been assassinated there’s a chance that would’ve changed, or if Franz Josef had died earlier as it were.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

You are wrong on the economic growth (industrialization) of AH. The country simply spent very little money on its defense. Military incompetence also contributed to the defeat. UK and France (certainly more industrialized) relied heavily on American industrial output (through American loans) to keep their war effort going.

“… are we willing the embrace the new industrial revolution of computers, robots, and AI?”
If you are talking about Industrie 4.0 (assuming it comes to pass) it is a German invention. Only 2 countries in the world dominate the world of advanced manufacturing Japan and Europe (mostly Germany).
You can bet your house that UK will not lead in the next step of industrial manufacturing.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

‘We’ would have lost but for US loans.
Paul Warburg ( CoE-Fed) spotted this in early 1916, hence Balfour’s visit with the begging soon afterwards.

Astonishing that the greatest creditor nation on earth in 1914 could have been reduced to such abject penury a mere two years later!

Did we learn our lesson? Hell no, we were back again with the begging bowl in late 1940, this time in the trembling hands of WSC.

God bless the USA.

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

None of the largest companies in the world are manufacturing companies as you describe. Apple is larger than the entire net worth of the FTSE100, Amazone..and Tesla has come from nowhere to equal largest company in the world with Toyota.

Google and Apple, who have the maps and software, may well also become large car manufacturers as autonomous and semi autonomous vehicles start to play a larger and larger part in the evolution of *public* transport.

Vivek Rajkhowa
Vivek Rajkhowa
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

Perhaps, though as the author himself admits the winners weren’t really willing to consider letting the monarchy go until their hands themselves were forced. Horthy himself was an opportunistic douchebag.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Vivek Rajkhowa

Had Ludendorff cancelled his 1918 Spring Offensive, and instead gone on to the defensive, an old fashioned 18th century compromise Peace was quite possible.

In such a case the Dual Monarchy would almost certainly have survived.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Vivek Rajkhowa

Had Ludendorff cancelled his 1918 Spring Offensive, and instead gone on to the defensive, an old fashioned 18th century compromise Peace was quite possible.
In such a case the Dual Monarchy would almost certainly have survived.

William Murphy
William Murphy
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

The Japanese Emperor survived the 1945 debacle. The Norwegian, Danish, Belgian and Dutch monarchies all survived defeat.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  William Murphy

The first was most peculiar and should have been hanged!

The others ultimately ended up on the winning side thanks to the munificence of the USA.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  William Murphy

The first was most peculiar and should have been hanged!
The others ultimately ended up on the winning side thanks to the munificence of the USA.

valleydawnltd
valleydawnltd
3 years ago
Reply to  William Murphy

And the Windsors have survived the post-conflict defeat and humiliation of Britain. So, no reason for them to have gone, but I suspect there is something in the Central European mindset that doesn’t do Constitutional figurehead monarchies.

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago
Reply to  Vivek Rajkhowa

Although the Poles may well feel it was poetic justice for what was done to their kingdom in the partitions under Austrian connivance.

Jane Jones
Jane Jones
3 years ago

“Franz Joseph occasionally made off-colour remarks about Jews in private”

I expect that Jews also made off-color jokes about Franz Josef, and many others, in private. Such as Hungarians, Czechs, Slovaks, . . .

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Jane Jones

How true!

robert scheetz
robert scheetz
3 years ago

Now the false god of “Nation State ” has crumbled (in all but fact), the metaphysical rises. In Anglo culture countries “The Crown” stands in for “Sissi” and Roman Catholics return to the Pope. A Franz Josef is infinitely preferable to a Karl Luger, as Queen or Prince Charles to Boris or Donald. There is clearly a great nostalgia for the pre-bourgeois nation state; and it is not necessarily reactionary.

Wonderful, provocative essay.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
3 years ago
Reply to  robert scheetz

That is a bizarre over-statement. The Central European nationalists created facts on the ground even before the end of the Great War and created their successor states.

Nation states are by far the most important geopolitical actors today. The EU is weak, essentially because very few people actually offer their primary loyalty to it. Other supranational organisations such as the UN are even weaker. None acts even as a modest impediment to determined state action. Despite all the negative comments about Brexit, I don’t see Canada, India, Japan, Thailand or Brazil, in fact any other country, eager to form a political union with its neighbours.

Notwithstanding that, the Hapsburg Monarchy did indeed have many virtues. However its peoples had a long common history of half a millennium, and you can’t simply create artificial multinational entities with little common feeling in other cases. At least with competition between nations we can make comparisons; I never quite see why idealists rather blithely consider that a World government would necessarily be benign…..

robert scheetz
robert scheetz
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

“…you can’t simply create artificial multinational entities with little common feeling.”

My point was precisely that nation states are “artificial entities”, corporations created by bourgeois capitalism as the optimal socio-economic infrastructure for the practice of their specialty.

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
3 years ago
Reply to  robert scheetz

I agree..well put. The pervasive desire to constantly look back at the reality of historical cahoes to impose explanations and order, and then extrapolate these into the future is a mistake.

In 1990 while you can find futurologists predicting *many of the things we have now*..and indeed if you look hard enough find Leonardo and Nostradamus doing it, or many small children in all ages when they *what if we could…?*.

The fact is nobody really predicted the internet driven reality in which we live today…Facebook started in 2008, Uber, AirBnB etc even more recently..Google in the mid 1990s…. the disruption wehave seen in many industries and professions will continue, I expect Accountancy and Legal services to face enormous waves next…. the dominance in much Japanese and German advanced machine tools and robotics is real but fragile…these days every *edge* is real but fragile.

istpog
istpog
3 years ago

There’s little evidence that, by the end of the 19th Century, loyalty to the Habsburg Monarchy transcended nationalist sentiment amongst ethnic Romanians, Slovaks etc. who bridled at Hungarian efforts to assimilate them. The Hungarians were alarmed at the prospect of becoming a minority within Hungary, but their assimilationist policies were a failure.

Charles Kovacs
Charles Kovacs
3 years ago
Reply to  istpog

What the article stated was that nationalist sentiments among the ethnic minorities were more common among the politicians and intellectuals than among the masses.

This is borne out by the performance of the Austro-Hungarian Army in WWI. While some Czech regiments did defect to Russia, the rest of the minority dominant regiments continued to serve loyally. Had this been otherwise, the Army could not have fought for more than four years.

One of course, wonders how the nationalists would have fared, say in 1910, in the political environment of Romania and Serbia. After WWI, the Slovaks exchanged Hungarian domination for Czech and they disliked that almost, or as much as, their former condition. Presumably that is why we now have a Czech and a Slovak republic.

Hungarian assimilationist policies before WWI were indeed a failure, and worse, a mistake.

Alexander Faludy
Alexander Faludy
3 years ago
Reply to  Charles Kovacs

Thanks to you both for these points. You are in fact *both* right. Please see me separate comment above.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Charles Kovacs

Correct sir. It took a world war that destroyed Russia, Germany to destroy AH. And it broke France too.

valleydawnltd
valleydawnltd
3 years ago
Reply to  istpog

They were all “Romans”, inasmuch as the AH Empire was the political descendant of Byzantium.

Michael Whittock
Michael Whittock
3 years ago

“It is very hard to hold a geographically extensive, transnational polity together even when it is blessed with time-honoured “legitimating structures of meaning”- faith, monarchy, civic ritual – as Austria-Hungary’s demise indicates”.
The Great Man Theory of History doesn’t have much traction amongst historians which I think is unfortunate because it seems to deny the contribution that the character, gifts and strengths of the individual makes in the course of events. First mooted by Thomas Carlyle in his lectures “On Heroes”1848, it was taken up by the 19th. century sociologist Max Weber. He adopted the word “charismatic” to encapsulate the strength of character, intensity of conviction, breadth of vision, personal attraction and rhetorical skills needed in leadership. The word charismatic comes from the Greek meaning gift, grace.
I’ve always been impressed how Frank-Joseph maintained his rule over a vast multinational empire often restless with nationalist aspiration and frequent failure militarily and politically. Not an obvious candidate for a Great Man of History prize and yet he remained in power for 68 years respected and loved by many of his subjects.I think he was charismatic in the sense that he manifested a strength of character and strong sense of duty which were important in his culture, and an ability to attract affection and loyalty.These qualities in addition to the “aura of sacral legitimacy”gave him great political advantage – truly gifted.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

Great post let’s call FJ a Good Man.

Alexander Faludy
Alexander Faludy
3 years ago

Many thanks to commentators for their points. In response to Alex Baldwin and Stephen Pogany -you are quite right Hungary’s internal minority policies *were* a very, very, serious problem in the 1890s and 1900s.

This was actually something I included in an early draft . However it did not fit structurally / length wise. It is though something I hope to address in a later piece. It can be difficult to do full justice to all aspects of complex truth in one (word limited) article!

Thank you for continuing the historical debate in a constructive and courteous fashion.

Andrew Baldwin
Andrew Baldwin
3 years ago

Some of the statements in Alexander’s post are contentious, and paint too rosy a picture of the Hapsburg Empire. However, to stick to the positive, extraterritorial national autonomy as a concept really developed under the Austro-Hungarian Empire, as is well described in Richard Pipes’s book “The Formation of the Soviet Union”. Developed by Austrian Socialists Karl Renner and Otto Bauer in the first decade of the 20th century, and commonly called the Austrian project, it allowed institutions to be defined by groups based on their nationality or identity rather than their country or region. The Jewish Bund in the Russian Empire was the first political party to recognize the usefulness of the concept, and began to give Yiddish a bigger role in its deliberations. Arguably extraterritorial national autonomy still offers scattered minority peoples all over the world their best hope of flourishing and avoiding assimilation.

Alexander Faludy
Alexander Faludy
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Baldwin

Thank you for this Andrew. I appreciate the care and insight you have brought to this comment. Please see my seperate comment above for a mitigating explanation!

dtrazivuk
dtrazivuk
3 years ago

Jako interesantan i zanimljiv tekst.A sama priča bi mogla početi opet.

Peter Scott
Peter Scott
3 years ago

Another good argument against the supposed viability of the European Union.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

We have heard that argument for the last 70 years. And yet here we are.
EU is not AH nor is Holy Roman Empire. It is just EU

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

Sissy had a fantastic villa in Corfu. It is open to visitors.

Jonathan Weil
Jonathan Weil
3 years ago

Faluda, are you sort-of advocating a Single European Constitutional Hapsburg Monarchy at the end there? (If so, I’m loving it.)

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
3 years ago

Well here’s an American chiming in.
Several years ago, I and my wife visited our daughter and her hubby in Papa, Hungary. He was serving as a pilot in the NATO airbase there. I like to tell people that the airbase at Papa, with nearby Esterhazy palace, was a NATO airbase that had formerly been . . . guess what. . . a Soviet airbase.
Nowadays over here in the US, I like to say . . . “Now that is progress!”
In our sojourns during that Hungarian visit, we traveled between Budapest, Prague and Vienna.
What a trip that was!
Between Nagy commemorations in Budapest and Jan Hus sculptures in Prague, we had the trip of a lifetime.
But the most memorable event of all happened near Vienna.
While visiting the Schonnbrun Palace, mentioned above, we signed up for a tour which included the room in which the ersatz would-have-been emperor Karl signed off on the demise of the Austro-Hungarian empire.
We were standing in the very room where the end of the Hapsburg legacy had happened!
I know not why. . . but that moment stands out in my memory as the most significant of all in our central European travels during that sojourn. . .
although there was another moment . . .
in a wine cellar in Vienna, when our tour guide spoke of a young musician from the German outback coming to the Hapsburg court in Vienna, a young composer from Bonn whose musicianship strived to emulate the Haydn and Mozart perfection of the Hapsburg Court . . . until an untamed French marauder named Napolean captured the imagination of Republican Europe and our tour guide in the Esterhazy wine cellar in Vienna asked if we had any questions and I said ‘What about Strauss?”
And she said, that waltzy stuff was considered the Dirty Dancing of that time!

Terence Fitch
Terence Fitch
3 years ago

Shame that Conrad wanted a war so he could prove himself and then marry his already married paramour. Millions had to die for it. Alongside Wilhem’s withered arm and mother hatred and Nicky’s submissive relationship with his dominant wife it makes an interesting psychological study. No wonder Freud was Austrian. What an odd bunch. By contrast George was a dull but straightforward commonsense type. Anyone interested in this period must read Joseph Roth’s ‘The Radetsky March’. Again, a study in repressed odd behaviour. The Jewish Roth predicted what would happen to the Jews but managed to drink himself to death in Paris in 1939, thus escaping the concentration camps.

simonpweil
simonpweil
3 years ago

I am most impressed by this analysis. If the author would provide me with his email address, I would like to email him a copy of my essay, “notes on Danubia”. Simon Weil