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11-08-2015, 17:12

NATIONALISM IN THE HABSBURG EMPIRE

Revolution came to Austria-Hungary only in the closing days of the war. The country was a multinational empire with numerous restless groups within it, but it survived more than four years of costly fighting. The empire suffered shortages of food, fuel, and clothing, but even without using armed force to maintain stability at home, the country's basic framework remained solid until the fall of 1918. The major source of tension within the empire of Franz Joseph was the nationahties question. Constructed in the late seventeenth century, the empire Hnked the historic German and Czech possessions of the Habsburg family with newly acquired regions—inhabited by Hungarians and south Slavic peoples—taken from a fading Ottoman Empire. Over the centuries, Habsburg diplomacy and military efforts brought Italians and more south Slavs like the Bosnians under the flag of the double eagle. In 1867, in the last of the empire's configurations, the system was split in two. In the western, or Austrian, half, the dominant role was occupied by the German minority presiding over such restless groups as the Czechs and Bosnians. In the eastern half, Hungarians ruled, implementing frequently harsh policies of cultural assimilation directed at peoples like the Slovaks. Up to 1914, even the most vocal representatives of the nonruling groups spoke, at most, of shifting the system into federal form. Autonomy rather than independence was the maximum program, with the Hungarians, jealous of their status as co-rulers of the empire, the most immovable obstacle to such a shift. As C. A. Macartney describes the situation before the war, "It was still true that only a relatively small fraction of the peoples of the Monarchy wanted to leave. In the great majority of cases they were still manoeuvering for position within the existing Monarchy." 'O Moreover, Austria-Hungary lacked the massive, alienated masses of peasants recently removed from serfdom who made up the bulk of the Russian population. Similarly, the country had made a slow, and not disastrously disruptive, transition toward becoming an industrial power. Macartney says of the first years of the twentieth century, "Materially, these were the most prosperous years that the Monarchy had ever known." Industrial production was increasing rapidly, emigration was draining off the excess population of rural areas, and "the general material condition of most of the Monarchy could be regarded as at least one of dawning well-being."

 

 

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