Materializing Imperial Rule? Nature, Environment, and the Middle Class in Habsburg Central Europe

Wolfgang Göderle
University of Graz
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Hungarian Historical Review Volume 11 Issue 2  (2022):445-476 DOI 10.38145/2022.2.445

New imperial history has fundamentally transformed our understanding of empires and questioned established certainties with regard to paths of state building and state formation. This challenge has proved fruitful for historians of Austria-Hungary, as it has led to a new perception of the Dual Monarchy as a sometimes innovative and in certain regards even progressive polity.
The observation that nature and environment became more closely entangled with imperial rule and politics in the nineteenth century and had an impact on common notions of what modern empire actually was serves as a starting point for this study. Along three representative repositories of imperial knowledge—Czoernig’s Ethnographische Karte (1857), the Hungarian Czigányösszeirás eredményei (1893), and the catalogue accompanying one part (the Austrian) of the Habsburg contribution to the 1900 exposition universelle—it shows how new spheres of the non-human became entangled with imperial polities and were transformed into resources with which to further the imperial project. These three examples, I argue, are just three minor elements against a larger discursive backdrop that slowly furthered the embodiment of a notion of modern empire, which featured the improvement of the natural environment as a constitutive aspect of its exercise of power.
Consequentially, this raises the question of a cui bono, placing the focus on a considerably large body of imperial civil service, not only in charge of this operation but also functioning as the driving force behind it. I understand the middle-class officials who made up the administration as the imperial intermediaries identified by new imperial history, and I shed light on the diversity of this increasingly important social class, a diversity which resulted from the ongoing engagement and subtle participation of middle-class civil-servants in the imperial project. I also keep a close eye on the resources they could mobilize, particularly expert knowledge.
I seek to further a more nuanced understanding of the social transformation that Austria-Hungary’s imperial project underwent in the long nineteenth century as this distinctive polity (Austria-Hungary) relied on the middle classes as central imperial intermediaries who furthered the modernization of the Dual Monarchy by fostering specific sets of values and furthering the use of resources the appropriation and exploitation of which have left lasting marks in Central European mentalities.

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From Empire to Oblivion: Situating the Transformation of the Habsburg Empire in a Eurasian Context from the Eighteenth Century to the First World War

Jonathan Richard Parker
The University of Texas at Austin
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Hungarian Historical Review Volume 11 Issue 2  (2022):422-444 DOI 10.38145/2022.2.422

In this essay, I situate the Habsburg Monarchy in the Eurasian imperial context by bringing together a variety of recent secondary literature dealing with the Habsburgs and examples of empires in world history. In doing so, I show how the Habsburgs paralleled and diverged from other polities that have been more consistently identified as empires. I also offer a schema for thinking about polities in terms of both how uniformly they are organized internally (i.e., how unitary they are) and the extent to which they can enforce the will of the center (how much like a state they are). This schema draws inspiration from a number of works, chiefly Karen Barkey’s Empire of Difference and Valerie Kivelson’s and Ronald Suny’s Russia’s Empires.

By applying this schema, I argue that the Habsburg Monarchy certainly embodied some characteristics of empire, even as its agents sought to transform it into something more similar to but still distinct from emerging nation states elsewhere. I argue that the Habsburg Empire underwent dramatic state consolidation in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and that many of the transformations and challenges it experienced in this period were broadly similar to those which other empires underwent or faced. I begin by defining “empire” and showing how the Habsburgs fit into that definition in the eighteenth century. I then discuss attempts to reform the Habsburg Empire into a more unitary, less structurally imperial polity, though I also keep in mind the ways in which it retained imperial characteristics. Specifically, I examine the role of nationalism in supporting and challenging imperial rule. Finally, I examine the destabilizing challenges the Habsburg Empire faced, in particular elite consensus and international legitimacy (or lack thereof).

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Borderline Syndrome in Fiume: The Clash of Local and Imperial Interests

Ágnes Ordasi
National Archives of Hungary
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Hungarian Historical Review Volume 11 Issue 2  (2022):387-421 DOI 10.38145/2022.2.387

As the only seaport city of the Hungarian Kingdom, Fiume (present day Rijeka, Croatia) was a key area for policies implemented by the central government in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. It was a multi-ethnic hub, an economic, social, political and cultural center, and a highly intensive contact zone where people from various parts of world with different interests and aims met. Fiume was a border, a filter, and a frontier. Moreover, it was an important area in the Hungarian state-defense system. Three important factors deserve particular attention. First, that Fiume was physically enclosed within the Croatian Kingdom, and very much as if it had been an enclave, it did not have common borders with Hungary. Second, due to the way the Hungarian government exercised power and devised its strategies to create a support base (and also because of a fear of efforts towards expansion by Slavs), the government created an Italian-speaking political elite that ruled over Fiume. Third, Fiume enjoyed extraordinarily wide municipal autonomy which included the right to maintain public order and security in the city. The local elites wanted to preserve these rights from the encroaching state.
My study has two purposes. First, I discuss the main reasons for the establishment of the border police. Why was it such a vital question for the Hungarian state at the national and the local level, and why did Fiume became the most problematic element in this issue? I highlight how and why the problem of the border police emerged as one of the most crucial conflicts in relations between the state and its port city.

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“Let These be our Colonies: Dalmatia, Bosnia, Herzegovina!” Rezső Havass and the Outlook of Hungarian Imperialism at the Turn of the Century

Mátyás Erdélyi
Research Centre for the Humanities
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Hungarian Historical Review Volume 11 Issue 2  (2022): 359-386 DOI 10.38145/2022.2.359

Hungarian imperial thought after the fall of the Habsburg Monarchy became a fantasy of past times, and thus the imperial propaganda of Rezső Havass was long irrelevant by the time of his death in 1927. In spite of this, Havass was called the “wholehearted devotee of Hungarian imperialism” in his obituary, a man who believed in further Hungarian expansion with the faith of prophets and whose goal was to resurrect the imperium of Louis I of Hungary. The present study analyzes the career trajectory of Rezső Havass and his multiple and overlapping identities in order to uncover the different faces of Hungarian imperialism before the Great War. Havass was a “bourgeois citizen,” a “Hungarian fanatic,” “a scholar,” and a “clerk and chairman of business companies,” or in other words, he had an array of identities which made him capable of using historic, legal, political, and economic arguments to aid the advancement of Hungarian imperialism. For Havass, the Hungarian Kingdom was undoubtedly a would-be-colonial empire with well-defined political goals (the colonization of Dalmatia), and his texts mixed and vulgarized elements of the sciences subordinated to political goals. For instance, it is relevant that the empire was a facilitating factor for geographical scholarship in the case of Havass, besides the obvious political leanings. My main research question concerns the modalities of imperial thought in Hungary through the case study of Rezső Havass. What did it consist of? How did it compare to other notions of imperialism and economic expansionism? And how widespread was it in the public sphere in Hungary?

Hungarian Freemasons as “Builders of the Habsburg Empire” in Southeastern Europe

Zsófia Turóczy
Leipzig University
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Hungarian Historical Review Volume 11 Issue 2  (2022):329-358 DOI 10.38145/2022.2.329

In the 1890s, Hungarian Freemasonry began to expand its sphere of influence in southeastern Europe. The establishment of lodges in the southeastern border areas and even outside the Kingdom of Hungary exemplifies this expansion. When devising explanations for this policy, the Hungarian Freemasons made use of colonial and imperial discourses to justify expansion into the “Orient” with reference to the alleged civilizing role they attributed to Freemasonry. They divided the world into two parts from a cultural-civilizational point of view: one where Freemasonry was already established and flourishing and another where this form of community and social practice was not yet known or established. This discourse was entangled with political, economic, and academic practices that were prevalent among the Hungarian Freemasons. Masonic activities and discourses therefore merit consideration in the cultural and social context of their time and analysis from the perspective of new imperial histories, especially since the importance of the discourses and political symbolisms used in the expansion and maintenance of imperial structures has already been pointed out by many historians and scholars of cultural studies within the framework of New Imperial History and postcolonial studies
With a view to the undertakings of Hungarian Freemasons in the Balkans, this paper asks whether Hungarian Freemasons can also be considered “Builders of the Habsburg Empire.” This question is particularly relevant given that Freemasonry was only permitted in the Hungarian half of the Dual Monarchy. Thus, Hungarian Freemasons acted as both national and imperial actors, and they did so independently of Vienna. As the framework for my discussion here, I focus in this article on the discourses and activities of the Symbolic Grand Lodge of Hungary and the contributions of the most relevant actors, such as the Turkologist Ignácz Kúnos and the journalist and deputy director of the Hungarian Museum of Commerce, Armin Sasváris.

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The Prochaska Affair Revisited: Towards a Revaluation of Austria-Hungary’s Balkan Consuls

Sven Mörsdorf
European University Institute, Florence
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Hungarian Historical Review Volume 11 Issue 2  (2022):305-328 DOI 10.38145/2022.2.305

Consuls and consular diplomacy in the long nineteenth century are enjoying a growing interest across various historiographies. This article explores the prominent case of the Austro-Hungarian consul Oskar Prochaska in an effort to offer insight into consular officials as actors of diplomacy and empire in a Habsburg setting. Prochaska, who famously got caught up in a major diplomatic crisis during the First Balkan War in 1912, has never been studied as a protagonist in the events that came to be known as the Prochaska Affair. This calls for an analysis of Prochaska’s diplomatic activity as consul, understood here as his social interaction with his counterparts and adversaries on the ground in Prizren, Kosovo. Adopting a local perspective on a crisis of European and global importance, the article argues for a revaluation of consuls and their bureaucracy as a promising subject for cultural and social histories of the Habsburg Empire and its foreign policy, both in the Balkans and around the world.

Austro-Hungarian Colonial Ventures: The Case of Albania

Krisztián Csaplár-Degovics
Research Centre for the Humanities
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Hungarian Historical Review Volume 11 Issue 2  (2022):267-304 DOI 10.38145/2022.2.267

In his unpublished 1955 doctoral dissertation, Johann Wagner persuasively argued that certain members of the leading political, economic, and military circles in Austria-Hungary were very interested in the possibility of global colonization.1 Furthermore, as the data gathered by Evelyn Kolm clearly shows, in the last decades of the nineteenth century, joint Ministers of Foreign Affairs Gusztáv Kálnoky and Agenor Gołuchowski and joint Minister of Finance Benjámin Kállay promoted the idea of creating a competitive military fleet, and they were ready to offer political support for the economic interest groups that insisted on the necessity of colonialism.2 Two out of these three people initiated and played a crucial role in the 1896 Vienna Conference, where they decided to adopt and implement a new Albanian policy.
This Austro-Hungarian Albanian policy was shaped in part by new colonial ambitions and was not merely the result of a one-time decision made in response to singular circumstances. The new Albanian policy harmonized with the general aspirations of the 1890s: Gustav Kálnoky and Agenor Gołuchowski, as heads of Ballhausplatz, made political and institutional attempts to include, in some form or another, the practice of global colonization as part of the foreign policy profile of Austria-Hungary. One of their allies in these efforts was Benjámin Kállay, who, as the governor of Bosnia-Herzegovina, was well-versed in both the theoretical and the practical issues of colonization.
This study presents the context and consequences of the 1896 conference from a transnational perspective. It also draws attention to two things. First, historical research on the question of colonization should be extended to the Balkan peninsula in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Second, Austria-Hungary’s new Albanian policy was based not only on international models but also on its own experiences in Africa.

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