Austro-Hungarian Colonial Ventures: The Case of Albania
Research Centre for the Humanities
In his unpublished 1955 doctoral dissertation, Johann Wagner persuasively argued that certain members of the leading political, economic, and military circles in Austria-Hungary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.