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18: From the Crimean War to the Congress of Berlin

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In addition to various revolutions and localized wars between individual countries, there was in the comparatively peaceful century from 1815 to 1914 at least one war which might be called European. Although it started in 1853 as one more armed conflict between Turkey and Russia, the next year France and Britain joined the Turkish side; so, too, did Sardinia in 1855, thus preparing the great power role of the future kingdom of Italy. Austria’s position could hardly be called neutral, and even the policy of Prussia was at least indirectly affected. Under such conditions it could be expected that during the war or at the peace table the unsolved problems of East Central Europe would also be raised.

    These problems had little to do with the outbreak of the war. The real issue was indeed whether or not Russia would be permitted to take exclusive advantage of the decline and gradual disintegration of the Ottoman Empire. And the main reason why the Western powers entered the war was the desire to protect their interests in the Mediterranean region. But the French-Russian rivalry in the matter of protecting the Christians in the Ottoman Empire, particularly in the Holy Land, was connected with the problem of the liberation of the Balkan peoples. And to prevent another Russian penetration into the Danubian principalities, Austria, in spite of her debt of gratitude for Russia’s help in 1849, decided to occupy these vassal states of Turkey herself. However, the real fighting took place in territories far away from East Central Europe, in the Crimea and in the Caucasus. Naval activities remained limited to the Black Sea, while plans of extending them to the Baltic did not materialize. Therefore the war, in which Russia was not attacked in any place where she was really vulnerable, never reached or even approached Polish territories. Yet, at least the Poles, who tried to organize voluntary forces for fighting on the side of Turkey and who intensified the anti-Russian diplomatic activities directed by Prince Czartoryski from Paris, considered Russia’s defeat an opportunity for reopening their own problem. And in general, Napoleon III was regarded as a champion of all nationalities which were deprived of their freedom. His prestige was indeed considerably increased. It seemed possible that the peace conference of 1856, this time held in Paris, would attempt, like that of Vienna in 1815, a reconstruction of Europe or at least with the support of Napoleon III restore to the Poles what had been granted to them even after the fall of Napoleon I.

    As a matter of fact, France approached Britain with a view to claiming from Russia a restoration of the Kingdom of Poland which was created by the Congress of Vienna. But the British answer was negative. At the Congress of Paris neither the Polish question nor any problem of nationalities was mentioned at all, the only exception being the case of the Rumanians. It so happened, however, that after the Crimean War, defeated Russia proved less weakened than the Ottoman Empire. Therefore not all of Bessarabia, which Czar Alexander I had annexed in 1812, but only a little more than the small district at the mouth of the Danube which had been gained by Russia in 1829, was now restored to Moldavia, while the sultan had to enlarge the autonomy of both Rumanian principalities. As a whole, although the Crimean War was one of the rare setbacks of Russia’s advance, it changed so little in the European situation that this bloody and costly conflict was practically fought in vain. At any rate, the domination of the peoples of East Central Europe by a few big powers seemed to be merely confirmed, with Russia and Prussia in traditionally friendly relations, the Russian-Austrian tension without deeper consequences, and the liberation of the Balkans from Turkish control rather delayed.

    Delayed was even the unification of the two autonomous Danubian principalities, which was the first aim of Rumanian nationalism and seemed a prerequisite condition for the creation of a fully independent Rumanian state. Even when in 1858 both Moldavia and Wallachia received the right to choose their own princes, it was expressly provided that they should not be united, and only the choice of the same prince, Alexander Cuza, by both of them practically ended their separation the next year. It was not before an intervention of Napoleon III, however, that the other powers in 1862 at last recognized not only that personal union but also the fusion of both parliaments. But even then the new Rumania the result of the agelong aspirations of Moldavian and Wallachian leaders was far from including all Rumanian populations which partly remained under Austrian and Russian rule, while the united principality remained under Ottoman suzerainty, just as did Serbia.

    As to the latter, which had been neutral during the Crimean War, the Congress of Paris merely replaced the Russian guaranty of Serbia’s autonomous status by a joint protection of all great powers. It was in vain that the chief adviser of Prince Alexander Karageorgevich, Ilya Garashanin, was planning a union of all Yugoslavs. Serbia herself was going through a dangerous crisis because of the old feud of the two dynasties, of which the Obrenovich returned to power after Alexander’s abdication in 1858. Even so, marked progress in administration and cultural development was being made, particularly under Michael Obrenovich who succeeded his father Milosh in 1860 and resumed the idea of cooperation with the other Balkan peoples in order to achieve full independence for all of them. In spite of his assassination in 1868 by partisans of the Karageorgevich, this policy was continued by his nephew Milan. But it had to wait for another foreign intervention in the Balkan problems, and so too did the independence movement in Bulgaria, whose modest beginnings can also be traced back to the time of the Crimean War.

    After that war the policy of Napoleon III, in spite of his friendly interest in the fate of the Rumanians—the Latins of the Balkans—turned chiefly to Western problems and his effective patronage of national unification movements was limited to the case of Italy. Even so the successes of Italian nationalism in the war of 1859 and in the events of the following year were an encouragement to similar trends in East Central Europe. There was, however, an important difference. In the case of the Italians, the issue was mainly the unification of their various states, and only the cession of Lombardy by Austria in the Treaty of 1859 was at the same time a liberation from foreign rule. On the contrary, Austria’s rule seemed to remain well established not only in her remaining Italian possessions, including Venetia, but also in all the other non-German parts of the Habsburg Empire. And that Austrian rule was resented as foreign because it continued to be exercised not only by a German dynasty but also by a predominantly German bureaucracy which, together with German language and culture, was the strongest centralizing force in the monarchy.

    Such a situation could prove particularly dangerous for the non-German nationalities at a time when German nationalism was rapidly growing in the non-Austrian parts of the German Confederation, especially in Prussia. That second German power, Austria’s old rival, was becoming, like Sardinia in Italy, a center of unification in one national state, a unification which for the Germans, even more than for the Italians, was the main goal of their specific nationalism. That German nationalism, under the leadership and inspiration of Bismarck’s Prussia, can be called specific because, under the spell of the imperial tradition of the Middle Ages, it included a program of domination over those non-Germans who were supposed to be in the German sphere of influence, political, economic, or cultural, and among whom German minorities were scattered.

    The first of the cases where the programs of national unification and imperial expansion were intimately connected was the question of Schleswig-Holstein, where German nationalism had already tried not only to liberate a small number of Germans from Danish rule in 1848 but also to conquer the Danish population of the northern part of Schleswig. By means of the war of 1864 that twofold aim was achieved by Prussia, allied on that occasion with Austria, which was to share in the administration of the annexed duchies although she had no interest whatever in that region. But the troubles which arose from that joint administration were not the only reason for the growing tension between the two leading German powers which in 1866 made Prussia fight against Austria in alliance with Italy. In the new German Empire which Prussia was trying to create there was no place for even part of the Habsburg Empire which in the years following the defeat of 1859 was going through a far-reaching constitutional transformation that altered its whole character.

    That basic reform of the Danubian monarchy was caused by an awareness that the absolute centralistic regime could not be continued without endangering the very existence of a power which was in a very difficult international situation. Even more important than the long overdue establishment of some kind of parliamentary government was the solution of the problem of nationalities. Nowhere was that problem more intricate than in a rather artificially unified empire which extended over a large section of East Central Europe where the medieval tradition of various national states was well alive, and where even those peoples which never had achieved full independence were rapidly developing their national consciousness. These divergent claims could not receive any lasting satisfaction so long as the idea of German predominance prevailed in the government, nor was the indispensable federalization of the monarchy compatible with the participation of some of the Habsburg lands in a German federation which under Prussia s pressure was turning into a more and more unified power of a purely German nationalistic character.

    The German character of Prussia herself was stressed at the same time by more and more systematic efforts to Germanize her Polish provinces. With the exception of the part of Silesia which had remained ethnically Polish, these provinces, whether acquired through the partitions of Poland or even before, as was the case of East Prussia, had never been included in the German Confederation. Now, however, they were supposed to be a part of the planned German Empire, so that not only Prussia but the new unified Germany would be the immediate neighbor of the equally unified Russian Empire.

    While, therefore, in the southern part of East Central Europe, both in the Balkans and in the Danubian region, the cause of the submerged nationalities was in progress, that same cause was threatened more than ever before in the northern part and seemed to receive a final blow through the failure of another Polish insurrection against a Russia supported by Prussia’s sympathy and cooperation. That insurrection and the following repressions were clear evidence that as far as the fate of the non-Russian nationalities was concerned, the apparent liberalization of the czarist regime under Alexander II, who succeeded his father Nicholas I in the last year of the Crimean War, did not justify any “dreams” as the new czar had warned the Poles at the very beginning of his reign.


The second of the two great Polish insurrections against Russia, which were the most striking manifestations of the struggle for national freedom in East Central Europe during the nineteenth century, broke out in Warsaw on January 22, 1863, and is therefore called the January Insurrection. From the military point of view there is an obvious contrast between that hopeless uprising and the November Insurrection of 1830. This time it was no longer a regular Polish-Russian war, conducted by the army of the autonomous kingdom of Poland against the czarist empire, not without some chance of success. The guerilla warfare which dragged on for many months, in some regions even into 1864, was little more than a humiliating and irritating nuisance for Russia and was even by many Poles regarded as a heroic but tragic act of despair. The details of the fighting are therefore of limited importance for general history. Nevertheless there are also instructive analogies between the two revolutions which illustrate the real significance of the events of 1863.

    This time the armed struggle was again preceded by a serious attempt at appeasement in Polish-Russian relations. Without returning to the conception of 1815, Alexander II began by removing at least the most shocking abuses of the Russian administration in the former kingdom of Poland. There Paskevich, who died in 1856, was replaced as governor general by the more conciliatory Prince Nicholas Gorchakov, a brother of Alexander the chancellor. In the following year the foundation of the Polish Agricultural Society was permitted, which under the presidency of the conservative leader, Count Andrew Zamoyski, contributed to economic progress and studied the vital agrarian problem. Those who hoped for real concessions in the political or at least in the cultural field were, however, so completely disappointed that as early as 1860 patriotic demonstrations, followed by military repressions, created such a tense situation in Warsaw that in March, 1861, the czar decided upon a basic reform, using the services of Marquis Alexander Wielopolski, the only Polish leader who favored full cooperation with Russia.

    That highly talented but unpopular statesman at once received important positions in the newly created Council of State which was to consider the Polish claims and reform the educational system. In June, 1862, after another series of violent demonstrations which temporarily forced him to resign, Wielopolski was made head of the civil government of Russian Poland, with a brother of the czar as viceroy. Real concessions remained limited to education, however, including the development of the so-called “principal school” into a Polish university, while even the rightists of the Agricultural Society requested a truly autonomous national government not only for the “Kingdom,” but also for the Lithuanian and Ruthenian lands. The “Reds,” as the radical left of the independence movement were called, at once created a Central National Committee in addition to the Revolutionary Committee of General Mieroslawski, the veteran of 1846 1848, who decided to arm the peasants in view of the planned uprising.

    Wielopolski considered the revolutionary youth of the cities even more dangerous, and in the night of January 14, 1863, he reacted by ordering a levy of recruits that was limited to the towns. That provocation merely hastened the outbreak of the insurrection on the twenty-second of the same month, along with the proclamation of complete emancipation of the peasants and revolts of the Polish soldiers within the Russian army. In spite of the radical character of the movement, the “Whites” joined it, just as the conservative elements had done in 1830, and made it a general truly national insurrection. There was even less unity of leadership, however, than in the previous one. Mieroslawski was replaced as “dictator,” first by Marian Langiewicz and later by Romuald Traugutt, a native of the former grand duchy of Lithuania, where, again as in 1831, the insurrection found strong support while it proved impossible to win the peasantry of the Ukraine for the common cause.

    The analogy with the situation of 1831 is even more striking with regard to the problem of foreign assistance, this time particularly indispensable. It was again the Right which realized the necessity for at least diplomatic intervention of the powers in favor of the Poles, and since Prince Adam Czartoryski had died two years before it was now his son Wladyslaw who directed the diplomatic efforts which the National Government (formally proclaimed on May 10, 1863) was making chiefly in Paris and London. While Prussia immediately took Russia’s side and in the Alvensleben Convention of the eighth of February promised full cooperation in checking the revolutionary movement, even Austria, the third partitioning power, was rather sympathetic toward the Poles. Already in February and March both the French and the British governments, recognizing the international character of the Polish question, urged the czar to restore the rights guaranteed to the Poles at the Congress of Vienna, and on the tenth of April Austria, along with another protest of the two Western powers, sent a similar note to St. Petersburg. Russia knew, however, that not even Napoleon III, who personally addressed the czar in that matter, would militarily back up such diplomatic interventions, which were once more repeated in June. Chancellor Gorchakov’s replies were therefore purely negative, referring first to an amnesty promised by the czar and finally declaring that before there could be any discussions with the Poles, their insurrection would have to be crushed.

    That was done indeed with the utmost ruthlessness, not only by Russia’s military might but also by the new administration in both the Congress Kingdom, where a German Balt, Theodore Berg, was made governor general, and in the former grand duchy of Lithuania, where General M. N. Muravyew distinguished himself by acts of special cruelty. Cooperating with them, Nicholas Miliutin tried to win the Polish peasantry for the czar, making them believe that the Polish gentry was their real enemy, although nobody had been more eager to achieve a progressive land reform than the leaders of the insurrection.

    These leaders and all their followers were now severely punished, with the public hanging of Romuald Traugutt and four of his collaborators as a final climax. When that happened in Warsaw, on August 5, 1864, the mass repressions in all parts of the former commonwealth were already in full swing. The “Vistula Land,” as the kingdom of Poland was now called, lost the last traces of its autonomy and was turned into just another Russian province, with Russian as the official language in the administration, courts, and schools. Even more complete was the elimination of everything Polish in historic Lithuania, where even the use of the Polish language in public places was forbidden, and the landed property of most of the Poles confiscated, as in the White Ruthenian and Ukrainian lands.

    Once more, however, the systematic Russification process in the eastern provinces of the former commonwealth was not exclusively directed against the Poles. Even the Ukrainians, who had taken no part in the January Insurrection, were considered a dangerous element which had to be completely absorbed by the Great Russians. It was precisely in 1863 that the Russian minister of the interior, Count Valuyev, made the famous statement that there never was, there is not, and there never will be a separate “Little Russian” language since it was only a peasant dialect of Great Russian. And when, nevertheless, some scientific and literary activities of Ukrainian societies continued in Kiev, the decree of May 18, 1876, prohibited the importation of books printed abroad in that Little Russian dialect and also the printing and publishing of original works and translations in the empire, except historical documents and specially authorized works in belles-lettres in the generally accepted Russian orthography.

    But ethnographic Lithuania also was now considered a purely Russian land, and since the Lithuanians, who were active in the struggle for the restoration of the old Polish-Lithuanian federation, had also started to use the Lithuanian language in some of their proclamations and underground manifestos, the Russians decided to stop the national renaissance movement among the Lithuanians by forcing them to use the Russian alphabet instead of the Latin. Already orally announced by Muravyev, this order was published by his successor, Governor General Kaufmann on September 6, 1865, and in the following year Valuyev made it valid within the limits of the whole Russian Empire.

    Lithuanian publications in the Latin alphabet, the only one suitable and appropriate to the cultural tradition of the country, therefore had to be printed abroad henceforth. Most of them appeared in the Lithuanian-speaking part of East Prussia, a small border region called Lithuania minor, from which they had to be smuggled into the Russian controlled territory. Thus it happened that Lithuanian nationalism developed to a certain extent under the rule of Prussia, which did not consider her insignificant Lithuanian minority sufficiently important and dangerous to apply strict methods of Germanization or to cooperate with Russia in measures of repression.

    The Poles, on the contrary, had no similar opportunities under Bismarck’s regime, which was as hostile to them as was the Russian, but instead they found possibilities for free cultural progress and even for self-government in Austria, thanks to the constitutional reform of the Habsburg Empire which coincided with the worst years of Russian persecution after the abortive insurrection. And in spite of the Polish predominance in Galicia, the Ruthenian population of that Austrian province, close kin of the Ukrainians in Russia whose name most of them finally adopted, also found in the reorganized Danubian monarchy conditions that were favorable to national development—a compensation for the refusal of any rights to their much more numerous brethren on the other side of the border.

    That new role of Galicia as something like a Piedmont, that is, a basis for the national movement of both Poles and Ukrainians, had a special significance in the religious sphere. In the Orthodox Russian empire, Catholicism, which was considered inseparable from Polish and Lithuanian nationalism, also had to suffer seriously. Catholicism of the Eastern rite, the so-called Uniate Church, which was to a large extent associated with Ukrainian nationalism, was not even tolerated. On the contrary, it was also liquidated (1876) in the Cheim region of the former kingdom of Poland. Under the Habsburg dynasty, Catholicism of both rites was officially promoted. This was another advantage for the Austrian Poles in contradistinction to the fate of those in either Russia or Protestant Prussia, and it was a unique chance for the Ruthenian Uniate Church which could survive only in Galicia. But the situation in that province, in sharp contrast with the situation in Russia after 1863, can be understood only as part of the general problem of Austria’s internal reconstruction.


The reorganization of the Austrian Empire is usually connected with the year 1867, the date of the “Compromise” with Hungary and of the basic laws which determined the constitution of the Austrian part of what was now a dual monarchy. These events were indeed the decisive climax of a development which, however, started immediately after the defeat of 1859, was accelerated by another defeat in the war of 1866, and was not completed before the occupation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1878. Since such a large part of East Central Europe and so many of its peoples—fragments, at least, of almost all of them—were included in the Habsburg monarchy, the evolution of its structure and character was one of the most important events in the nineteenth-century history of that whole region.

    It was, at the same time, one of the most promising changes. Accomplished without another revolution, it was a return to the constructive ideas of 1848, which this time to a large extent materialized. For the Danubian monarchy it was a chance of survival in spite of all difficulties which that heterogeneous body politic had to face, and for its various peoples it opened possibilities of free national development which could even affect the fate of their kinsmen outside the borders of the Habsburg domains. From a German-controlled, centralized, and absolutistic empire, that realm, one of the largest in Europe, seemed to evolve into a federation with equal rights for all nationalities. Why all these hopes did not come true, this is one of the most vital questions of East Central European history and even of general European history.

    It is to the credit of Emperor Francis Joseph I, born in the Metternich era and confirmed on his throne by the victory of the forces of reaction over the revolution of 1848—1849, that he realized the necessity for a twofold change in his methods of government. Though deeply attached to the imperial tradition of the past, he gradually made voluntary concessions to the modern claims for constitutional rights and social progress. And though he always considered himself a German prince, he admitted the consequences of the fact that he had to rule over a multinational state in which non-Germans constituted about three-quarters of the population and all had conserved or reached a high degree of national consciousness. That he did not always succeed in satisfying all of them, and that he did not completely liberate his internal and external policy from the influence of the German minority, which was anxious to retain its privileged position and unifying role, this is, of course, another question.

    The emperor’s hesitation between these two different trends is clearly apparent from the beginning of his reform program. It was a Pole, Count Agenor Goluchowski, the former viceroy of Galicia, who was made imperial minister of the interior in 1859 and minister of state—practically premier—in 1860, whom Francis Joseph first entrusted with the task of reorganizing the monarchy and whose ideas he approved in the “October Diploma” dated October 20, 1860. Goluchowski was a decided federalist who wanted equal rights for all nationalities, their languages, and cultures. He also wanted to extend the self-government of the historic provinces, but he was prepared to leave a limited number of common questions to the competence of the Reichsrat (Council of the Realm), which in spite of its hardly democratic composition could develop into a real parliament. He antagonized the Magyars, however, since Hungary was not considered a separate state but a group of autonomous lands like Austria. Even stronger was the opposition of almost all Germans, because precisely the liberals among them, who were favorable to constitutional government, wanted it to remain strictly centralized.

    Under their influence, on February 26, 1861, the emperor replaced the “October Diploma” of the preceding year by the “February Patent” drafted by a new minister of state, Anton von Schmerling, a representative of the German bureaucracy. There remained the conception of a parliament composed of delegates from the local diets, but the competence of the latter was greatly reduced in favor of the central organ, and the viceroys or governors of the individual lands were made completely independent of the diets and subordinate to the ministry in Vienna. No more than Goluchowski’s could Schmerling’s system satisfy the Magyars. Hungary proper, Croatia, and Transylvania were supposed to send a determined number of representatives to the central parliament, while the Hungarian Diet, with Francis Deák as leader of the opposition against Vienna, continued to claim a return to the constitution of 1848, recognizing only a personal union of the historic kingdom with Austria. The Poles were now equally dissatisfied, since two successive Germans were appointed viceroys of Galicia. Even more dissatisfied were the Czechs, who wanted for the lands of “the crown of St. Václav” a position similar to that claimed by Hungary. Even now, however, their leader Palacky defended “the idea of the Austrian state” on the condition that it would be a truly federal state with equal justice for all.

    Once more that idea seemed to have chances of realization when in 1865 Schmerling was replaced by Count Belcredi. After the disastrous war of 1866 against Prussia and Italy, when one more Italian province, Venetia, was lost and Austria was excluded from the German Confederation, he seriously tried to federalize the Habsburg monarchy. He appeased the Poles by again making Goluchowski viceroy of Galicia, where the Diet voted an address to the emperor which attributed to Austria the mission of defending Western civilization and the rights of nationalities. But already Belcredi, who was opposed by the German centralists, and even more his successor, the Saxon Baron (later Count) F. Beust, were inclined to an intermediary solution, fully satisfactory only to the Magyars. That solution, also promoted by Empress Elizabeth, was embodied in the “Compromise” of 1867 which was ratified by the Hungarian Diet on the eighth of June.

    In her historic boundaries Hungary was formally recognized as an independent kingdom with its own constitution, parliament, and government, whose first prime minister was Count Julius Andrássy, prominent in the long negotiations before the signing of the Compromise. In addition to the person of the common ruler who was to be crowned as king of Hungary, the ties with Austria, where that same ruler would continue to be an emperor, were reduced to the creation of three “joint ministries” for foreign affairs, for war, and for common financial affairs. The budget of common affairs was to be fixed by the “Delegations” of the two parliaments, sitting once a year alternatively in Vienna and Budapest but meeting only for a vote when three exchanges of correspondence proved to be inadequate. The shares of both partners in these common expenses were to be determined for periods of ten years.

    That elaborate system restored Hungary’s freedom under very favorable conditions so that among the Magyars only the faithful adherents of Kossuth, later organized as an “independence party” under a son of the famous exile, continued to be in opposition. But much less satisfactory was the situation of the other nationalities of Hungary. Only the Croats received guaranties of autonomy in an additional “compromise” between Croatia and Hungary, concluded in 1868. The Kingdom of Croatia and Slavonia was to be governed by a ban, responsible to the Hungarian government, and a provincial diet at Zagreb would be competent in matters of internal administration, justice, and education, while twenty-nine Croat members would sit in the Hungarian Parliament to discuss common problems of finance and defense. There remained in Croatia, however, an opposition to that agreement, inspired by Bishop J. Strossmayer, the leader of the movement in favor of Yugoslav unity. Furthermore, some Yugoslavs, mostly Serbs, were left within the boundaries of Hungary proper. There they were in a situation similar to that of the Rumanians in completely incorporated Transylvania, and of the Slovaks and Ruthenians in the northern counties of the kingdom. Neither of these groups had any autonomous rights or even guaranties of free cultural development, in spite of an apparently liberal law of 1868 which regulated the use of the various languages.

    A much larger number of Yugoslavs, viz., part of the Croats (particularly those in Dalmatia) and all the Slovenes, together with some Italians, all the Czechs, the Poles and the Ukrainians of Galicia, and some Rumanians in the Bukovina, remained in the Austrian part of the monarchy which was officially called “the kingdoms and lands represented in the Council of the Realm.” In that parliament, meeting in Vienna, all these “Crownlands” were at first represented by delegates of their local diets and later, from 1873, by directly elected deputies. That last change was again a step toward greater centralization and it was therefore resented by the non-German nationalities which were already disappointed by the fact that in 1867—1868, in contradistinction to Hungary, the other parts of the monarchy only received new guaranties of provincial autonomy, with equal rights for all languages in local administration, the courts, and the schools. Even the Poles, who at once accepted the solution of 1873, had to give up the so-called “Galician Resolution” of 1868, repeated several times, which requested a real “national self-government.” They could only gradually develop the autonomy of Galicia and not without continuous disputes with the Ukrainians who were favored by the central government.

    Particularly opposed to the settlement of 1867 were, of course, the Czechs, who had reason to hope that the state rights of Bohemia would receive recognition similar to that granted to Hungary. Such recognition, at least by a coronation oath of the emperor as king of Bohemia, was promised to them by Francis Joseph I in 1871. At the same time the Bohemian Diet was encouraged by the pro-Slav Hohenwarth ministry to formulate the national demands of the Czechs in the so-called “Fundamental Articles.” All these hopes were frustrated under German and Hungarian influence, and the Czechs, who for several years boycotted the parliament in Vienna, had to face the opposition of a powerful German minority even in the local diets of Bohemia and Moravia. Under these conditions the leadership of the Czech national movement passed from the moderate Old Czechs, directed by Palacky’s son-in-law, F. L. Rieger, to the radical Young Czechs, and Palacky gave up his belief in a revitalized Austria.

    The main reason for Palacky’s disappointment was the fact that in her foreign policy the Habsburg monarchy was gradually coming under Prussian “protection,” forgetful of the humiliation suffered in 1866 and contrary to the interests and desires of all her peoples except part of the Germans and Magyars. In spite of the incomplete character of the federalization of the empire, the shortcomings inherent in its dualism, and the limitations of parliamentary government, the reforms of the sixties would have marked notable progress and an important step in the right direction if internal conditions had not suffered from a basically wrong foreign policy, already evidenced in 1873 when Francis Joseph I went to Berlin to meet the emperors of Germany and Russia.


The Danubian monarchy, a great power as far as its tradition, area, and population were concerned, was of such a composition and had such a structure that in view of the conflicting national interests and aspirations of the federated peoples, a peaceful cautious policy of neutrality was the only possible method of conducting Austria-Hungary’s foreign affairs. Instead of this, the agreements of 1873, leading to the so-called “League of the Three Emperors,” tied up the foreign policy of the Habsburg monarchy with that of two imperialistic powers which represented German and Russian aggressive nationalism. After the triumph of 1871, which was facilitated by Austria-Hungary’s attitude, Bismarck’s new German Empire had of course no hostile intentions against the latter but wanted the Danubian monarchy to remain under German control and to convert it into a subservient ally of the Reich. The Russian Empire, now the official supporter of a Pan-Slav movement under Russian inspiration, considered the reorganized Habsburg monarchy a rival in the struggle for influence among the Slavs and more particularly in the Balkan Peninsula. Francis Joseph I, therefore, had little if any common interests with the other two emperors and the rapprochement with them could only involve his realm in dangerous political crises.

    In the Balkans such a crisis was once more approaching in connection with the independence movement which at last also set in among the Bulgarians and gave Russia an opportunity to resume her policy of interference, interrupted after the disastrous Crimean War. In the same year of 1870 in which, taking advantage of the Franco-Prussian War, Russia unilaterally repudiated her obligation of 1856 not to keep a navy in the Black Sea, her ambassador in Constantinople, General N. P. Ignatiev, a supporter of Pan-Slavism, helped the Bulgarians to establish a national church organization—a first step in the direction of political liberation. When, a few years later, in 1876, the Turks cruelly repressed a revolt in Bulgaria which broke out soon after similar troubles in Herzegovina, not only did Serbia and Montenegro declare war upon the Ottoman Empire but Russia also decided to enter the conflict. Before doing so, however, she made a secret agreement with Austria-Hungary which was negotiated by Chancellor Gorchakov and Count Andrássy, the foreign minister of the dual monarchy. In case of a Russian victory over Turkey, the whole Balkan Peninsula was to be divided into autonomous states, without, however, creating one large Slavic power, and Austria-Hungary was to receive compensation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Early in 1877 a secret military convention with Russia specified the right of the Habsburg monarchy to occupy these two provinces.

    Russia’s war against Turkey, already imminent at that moment, broke out three months later. After almost a year of hard fighting both in the Balkans and on the Caucasian front, the conflict ended in a complete victory for Russia and brought the czarist forces, allied with all Balkan nations including Rumania, to the gates of Constantinople. In the Peace Treaty of San Stefano, signed on March 3, 1878, Russia satisfied herself with small though not unimportant gains in Transcaucasia and at the mouth of the Danube where she recovered most of her loss of 1856. Yet not only were Rumania, Serbia, and Montenegro declared fully independent, but contrary to the promises made to Austria-Hungary, a large Bulgarian state was created. Besides Bulgaria proper, this state also comprised Thrace as far as the Aegean Sea and the whole of Macedonia. It was obvious that such a Greater Bulgaria, though nominally a vassal principality under the sultan, would be a Russian protectorate and would extend Russia’s sphere of influence to the Mediterranean region as far as Greece and Albania.

    The frontiers of San Stefano were to remain the goal of Bulgarian nationalism, conflicting with the aspirations of other Balkan peoples, and the prospect of indirect Russian control over practically the whole peninsula was hardly favorable to the free development of any of these peoples, including the Bulgarians themselves. It is true that the alarm of the other European powers almost immediately changed the situation, reducing Russia’s predominant position, but at the same time making the Balkan countries, barely liberated from Ottoman rule, mere pawns in a game of power politics and extremely dangerous to a real pacification of the whole region.

    That game took place at an international congress held in Berlin, where the Peace of San Stefano was completely revised and replaced by the Treaty of July 13, 1878. The place of the meeting and Bismarck’s role as mediator were evidence of the rising prestige of the German Empire and of its desire to exercise a decisive influence even in those parts of East Central Europe in which Germany, according to her chancellor himself, had no direct interest. But on the other hand, it seems doubtful whether the decisions of the congress were really such a blow to Russia’s prestige as the Pan-Slavist leaders pretended them to be. In spite of all protests, including that of Rumania, nothing was changed with regard to the extensions of Russia’s own frontiers, and the disappointment inflicted upon the Bulgarians made them even more convinced that Russia was their only friend and protector. Furthermore, the occupation of Bosnia and Herzegovina by Austria-Hungary, authorized by the Congress of Berlin, was nothing but a confirmation of the promise already made secretly by Russia and was to have the worst consequences for the Habsburg monarchy. Both problems were to affect conditions in the Balkans until World War I and to endanger at once the barely established peace settlement.

    The boundaries of the autonomous principality of Bulgaria, as fixed in Berlin, excluded not only Thrace and Macedonia, which simply remained Turkish provinces, but also the Bulgarian territory south of the Balkans. This region, known as Eastern Rumelia, was granted administrative autonomy under a Turkish governor. In the principality whose constitution was drafted in 1879 in the historic center of Tirnovo, replaced as the capital by Sofia, Alexander of Battenberg, of German origin but a nephew of Czar Alexander II, was chosen as first prince. He had to face the difficult task of satisfying both his Russian protectors, who even wanted to direct the administration of the country, and the liberal opposition which worked for real independence and for the union of Eastern Rumelia with Bulgaria.

    When that union was achieved in 1885, with the support of the other European powers and Prince Alexander’s consent, Russia resented his independent action and after a kidnaping incident forced him to abdicate. His replacement by Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg in 1887, which was not recognized by Russia before 1896, strengthened German and Austro-Hungarian influence in Bulgaria and was part of a persistent action of these empires in the Balkans which contributed to making the whole peninsula a field of dangerous big-power rivalry.

    For the Habsburg monarchy, the basis for that action was Bosnia-Herzegovina which was occupied after crushing the unexpected resistance of a large part of the population and organized as a joint possession of both Austria and Hungary under the administration of their common minister of finance. That costly and unnecessary acquisition of a backward territory which formally remained part of the Ottoman Empire made the involved structure of the monarchy even more complicated, introduced almost two million Orthodox and Muslims into a body politic in which Catholicism was one of the most important elements of unity, and created very serious problems of foreign policy.

    Independent Serbia, which hoped to gain these provinces with their predominantly Serbian population for herself, was permanently antagonized. The introduction of Austro-Hungarian garrisons into strategically important places of another Turkish province, the Sanjak of Novibazar which separated Serbia from Montenegro, seemed to be another obstacle to any unity of all Serbian populations in the future and a threat of expansion in the direction of highly controversial Macedonia. Nevertheless, in the years immediately following the crisis of 1878, Serbia pursued a pro-Austrian policy under Prince Milan Obrenovich who, with Austrian support, proclaimed himself king in 1882. When he declared an unnecessary war upon Bulgaria three years later in order to get some compensation for her union with Rumelia, Serbia was defeated and thanks only to Austria’s intervention could she make peace upon the basis of the status quo. But like the other Balkan nations, Serbia remained hesitant to make a choice between following the policies of either Austria-Hungary or Russia, policies which could at any time clash in that crucial and troublesome region.

    Under such conditions it may seem astonishing that both empires participated in the League of the Three Emperors, now consolidated in a treaty of alliance among Austria-Hungary, Russia, and Germany, signed in Berlin on June 18, 1881, for three years and renewed in 1884 for three years more. That agreement was a result of Bismarck’s shrewd diplomacy. Afraid of a Russian-French rapprochement after the Congress of Berlin, in 1879 the German chancellor succeeded in making an alliance with Austria-Hungary and at the same time he arranged a meeting between Wilhelm I and Alexander II for the purpose of restoring the traditional Prussian-Russian friendship. That friendship did not even suffer from the change on the Russian throne when Alexander II, assassinated in 1881, was succeeded by his son, Alexander III, who was strongly influenced by anti-German Pan-Slavism. nor from the conclusion in the following year of the Triple Alliance in which Italy joined the two Central European empires. And even in 1887 the “Reinsurance Treaty” which Bismarck concluded with Russia, secretly guaranteeing her freedom of action with regard to the Straits, confirmed the old idea of German-Russian cooperation, while the relations between Russia and the Habsburg monarchy were so obviously deteriorating in connection with the Balkan situation that the League of the Three Emperors could no longer be continued.

    These well-known facts of general European politics lead to an obvious conclusion concerning East Central Europe. After her internal reorganization Austria-Hungary missed the opportunity of becoming a real support for the various peoples of that region, now largely living within her boundaries, by following a foreign policy strongly influenced by the Prussian-controlled German Empire, a policy which made her enter into artificial agreements with powers opposed to her interests and which did not even favor her dangerous ambitions in the Balkans. Without gaining anything from her stronger German partner, the Habsburg monarchy not only remained exposed to Italian claims to a revision of its southwestern frontier, but also—and this was a much greater threat—to Russia’s persistent hostility.

    Like Germany, Russia too was much stronger than Austria-Hungary but she had a serious inner weakness in her own nationalities problems which she proved entirely unable to solve, while the Habsburg monarchy continued to make some progress in that respect. This progress could have saved her, if it had not been for the useless entanglements in power politics which led to a conflict in connection with the only superficially settled Balkan situation.

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