*** Austro-Hungarian Empire nationalities

Austrian-Hungarian Empire: Nationalities

Austro-Hungarian Empire ethnicity
Figure 1.--The Austrians were a small miniority in their graet multi-ethnic Austro-Hungarian Empire. This photograph was taken at Orșova, a Danube River port in the Transylvanian Alps, the eastern border of the Empire. Transylvania is a historical region claimed by both Hungary and Romania and which today is central Romania. It is bound on the east and south by its natural borders, the Carpathian mountain range. The mountains in the background are in Serbia. The mother and children are Romanians. Notice that what we now call folk styles were still commonly worn in rural areas before World War I.

Austria-Hungary was a multi-ethnic empire, a patch work creation of a large number of nationalities. The Empire was dominated by the Austrians and the Austrian Hapsburg monarchy. Policies varied significantly toward the diffierent ethnic and national groups. Hungary was given its own parliament and primeminister. The Empire itself was a patch work creation of a large number of nationalities. Some like the Hungarians and later the Czechs were able to gain language rights. Other areas like Bosnia were essentially under military occupation. Vienna itself because of the nature of the Empire was a very cosmopolitan city where people of many nationalities, including Jews, lived together producing an intelectual ferment that produced men like Freud. It also was a reason that so few Vienese Jews turned to Zionism. While one of the major European powers, Austra-Hungary was built on a shaky foundation. At a time of rising nationalism, the Austrhungarian-Empire was rent with internal divisions. This eventually culminated in World war I. After the War the various national groups demanded imdependence, a process supported by the United States at the peace confrences because of the support of immigrants for national self-determination. The Italian and German unification movements shifted the balance of power in Europe and inspired the various nation groups within Austria-Hungary, especially the less navored national groups.


The Austrians regarded themselves as Germans and their language and culture very similar to Bavaria, butheir etnicity was not. This was something that the NAZIs duid dare briung up because theuir beloved Führer was Austrian, not German. Modern Austria during the Roman period consisted of Raetia, Noricum, and Pannonia. Noricum was a Celtic kingdom. The population od Pannonii were of Illyrian stock. The Raetians were an Alpine people probably related to the Etruscans further south in Italy. During the Migratory period folloing the Fall of Rome (6th cenhtury AD), Austria was settled by the Bavarians and other Germanic groups in the west (Alemanni in Vorarlberg, Lombards in Tyrol), and by Slavic groups (principality Carantania). In the east it was even more complicated. In esence the Germans, were only on part of the Austrian population, and not the largest part. The Hapsburgswere a German rukling familt, but much of the populatiin was of different ethnic origins.


Other areas like Bosnia were essentially under military occupation.


Hungarian (Magyar) officials tended to be more resistant than the Austrians to share power with minority natiinalities. They granted a degree of autonomy to the kingdom of Croatia (1868). The Hungarian aristocracy aggressively pursued a policy of Magyarization. The goal was to force minority national groups such as the Croats to assimilate and adopt Hungarian culture, especially the Hungarian language. The effort varied from province to province. It was not very succesful in Croatia where it was deeply resented. If anything it made the Croats more conscious of their own national identity and increased support for greater autonomy. This resulted in an increasingly represive rule and actions ending press freedom as well as trial by jury.


Czech leaders from Bohemia declared independence from Austria during the 1848 revolutions. The Austrian Army, however, crushed the Czech revolts and restablished Austrian authority in Bohemia. The Austrians needed Rissian help to do the same in Hungary. The Prussians with their victory in the Austro-Prussian War ended Austria's hopes of unifying Germany under the Hapsburgs (1866). After the Austro Hungarian Empire was created (1867), the Czech areas of Bohemia and Moravia were administered by the Austrians. The Czechs were the third largest national group in the Austro-Hungarian Empire (after the Germans and HUngarians). The Czechs were about 13 percent of the Empire's population. Czechs were te dominant ethnic group in Bohemia and Moravia as well as areas of Silesia. Emigration began in the 1870s, primarily to the United States. Language was by far the single most contentious issue in Austro-Hungarian politics. Sucessive governments faced this difficult issue in various ways and prncipsalities. Minorities wanted to use their language in the schools as well as in government. Austrian Prime Minister Kasimir Felix Graf Badeni attempting to address the issue gave the Czech language equal standing with German in the internal government of Bohemia under the "Ordinance of April 5, 1897". Austrians were outraged at this. The Emperor ultimately dismissed Badeni. The Czechs under another prime minister lost the right to use their language in newspapers and in the workplace.


The Ottomans defeated and killed Hungarian King Ludwig/Louis at the Battle of Mohács, ending the Jagellon line (1526). As a result, the Austrian Hapsburgs inherited Bohemia and theother Czech Lands along with Hungary. Hungarian nationalists during the revolutions of 1848 declared independence from Austria. Led by Lajos Kossuth, the Hungarians set up a parliamentary democracy on the basis of the March Laws (1848). The Austrian Army crushed the Czech revolt, but were unable to defeat Kossuth's Home Defense Army. The Hungarians then elected Kossuth president of the new Hungarian Republic. The Republic proved short lived. The Russians who had played a central role in the defeat of Napoleon, saw themselves as responsible for preserving the monarchial system in Europe. The Austrians supported by 100,000 Russian troops were able to defeat the Hungarian forces and restablish control. President Kossuth escaped to exile in Turkey. Kossuth went on to America where he was received as a hero. We see Hungarian fshions influenced by Austrian fashions, at least the middle and upper classess. A good example of two well-to-do boys playing with a hoop about 1850. Although the Hungarian Revolution was crushed, after Austria's defeat by the Prussians (1866), it was clear that Austria would have trouble maintaining control in Hungary. Because of its weakened position, Austrian officials concluded that they needed an imperial partner to hold together a large multi-ethnic empire. Thus the Austrian-Hungarian Empire was created with the offer of substantial political rights to the Hungarians. Hungary was given its own parliament and primeminister. The Hungarians were this given major political rights including a parliament, rights denied to other nationlities.


Austria was defeated by the combined French and Piedmont forces (1859). This resulted in the loss of some of Austria's Italian possessions. At the end of World War I, Austria lost the Tyrol in the Alps . This would b one group of ethnic Germans Hitler would nitb try to regain.


Austria during the medieval era became an important center of Jewish learning (13th century). The Emperor expelled the Jews (1669). They were not allowed to return until liberal reforms wee adopted (1848). A sizeable Jewish community began to develop, primarily in Vienna. The Jewish population in Austria was in large measure refugees from the anti-Semetic policies of the Russian Tsarist government. Vienna was one of the mot cosmopolitan cities in Europe and Jews made a major contributin to that culture. Austria was the center of a large multi-ethnic empire. There were also Jews in the various provinces of the Empire, many of which became independent or parts of independent countries after World War I. At the peak in the early 1930s, about 300,000 Jews lived in Austrria. Jews in the 19th century had been emancipated and accorded legal rights in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Vienna itself because of the nature of the Empire was a very cosmopolitan city where people of many nationalities, including Jews, lived together producing an intelectual ferment that produced men like Freud. It also was a reason that so few Vienese Jews turned to Zionism. Many Jews wre concerned after the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, unsure as to how they would be treated in the various ethnically based successor states. Few anticipated waht would happen in Austria itself with the NAZI Anschluss (1938). Grrman Jews had time to adjust and flee the Holocaust. Austrian Jews would not. Very few survived.


Moravia is a central European provinced wedged between Bohemia and Slovakia. The area has been populated by various ethnic groups. The Celtic Boii were pushed out by the push west of the germanic tribes. They were followed by the Slavic tribes (6th century). A Moravian principlity first came into existence and covered areas od Slovalia, the Czech Republic, and Austria (late-8th century). Great Moravia struggled for existence bewen the Holy Roman Empire and Hungary. Moravia was conquiered by Hungary (906-07). Emperor Otto's defeat of the Hungarians brought Moravia within the Empire (955). A perid of competition with Polad and Bohemia. Eventually Moravia became associated with Bohemia. The Hapsburgs inherited Bohemia-Moavia (1437). Since that time Moravia has been ruled by the Austrian Hapsburgs as a part of Bohemia. The Austro-Hungarian Empire broke up with the defear of the Central Powers in World war I (1918). Moravia along with Slovakia became part of Czechoslovakia (1918-39). The NAZIs invased Czechoslovakia (March 1939). Slovakia was allowed to separate from Czechoslvakia as a slavisly pro-NAZI ally. The NAZIs created the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (1939-45). The NAZIs desired to completely expunge Czechoslovakia from the map of Europe and ethnic Czechs wee targeted during the occupation. (We dont't think the Germans dfferentiated Moravians and Czechs, but this needs to confirmed.) Czechoslvakia was reformed (Slovakia, Moravia, and Bohemia) after the Allied victory of World War II. The German minority was ex[elled, including the small German minority in Moravia. When Slovakia seceeded from Czechoslovakia (1993), Moravia stayed with Bohemia to form the Czech Republic. The people of Moravia are a Slavic ethnic group. They speak various dialects of Czech. Many Moravians consider themselves Czechs, a minority see themselves as a separate ethnic group, but this prportion according the Census held identifcation seems to be declining.


Poland was a major European power as the Hapsbugs with their Austrian base began to expand their empire. The Poles and Austrians competed over lands in Eastern Europe, but at times cooperated. A Polish army helped save Vienna from the Turks (1683). Large numbers of Poles were brought within the Austrian Empire through the 18th century Polish partitions. Most of Poland was absorbed by Prussia and Russia, but some also went to Austria.


Romanians lived in various provinces of the Austrian/Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Austrians added Romanians to the Epire as a result of wars with the Ottoman Empire whixh nearly conquered the Aistians (17th century). There were large numbers of Romanians in both Bukovina and Transylvania. Both provinces, however, had mixed populations with many Hungarians in Transylvania and Ukranins (Ruthenians) in Bukovina. There were also Germans and Jews. Evetually a Romanian state was established with a German monarch. Like other countries in the region it encountered problems with the scattered ethnic populations. A major issue was the large number of Hungarians in Translyvania. Once indepedent, Romanians had a desire to unite both Bukovina and Translyvania into the new country. This occured after World War I, but Hungary and the Soiviets wanted the land back.


Ruthenians and Ruthenia itself have a complicated history. This is the case of many provinces that did not sucessfuly establish themselves as nation states. It is a geographic and culturo-ethnic term created by the Austrians to describe an area Eastern Europe populated by Eastern Slavic peoples. The geopgraphic area has varied overtime, but has centered on the Carpethian mountains between Russia, the Ukraine, Hungary, and Poland. And these and other states have overtime controlled Ruthenia. Ruthenia is a Latin-based term describing the ancient Rus. The new states of Slovakia and Belarus now have entered into the geographic equation. Ruthenians ethbically and culturally seem to have most in common with Uktanians and the Austrians prepered the term in part because it separated the Ruthenians from the Russian controlled Ukranians. Ruthenia was the northeastern areaa of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and controlled by the Hungarians who pursued a policy of Hungarianization.



Slovaks constituted about 4 percent of the popultion of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, or about 3 million people. Slovakia was administered by Hungary. Most of the population was rural. The Hungarians made little effort to ptomote education, cncerned that it might promote a still poorly developed sence of natinal identity. As resukt the population was largely iliterate. A sizeable emigration to the United States began in the 1870s. The Hungarians as part of their Magarzation effort ordered that Hungarian be the laguage of instruction in public schools (January 1907). The Hungarians also began banning destroying Slovak books and banning Slovak newspapers. Slovak leaders like Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson became increasingly critical.


The Slovenians as an ethnic minority in Austria, especially Carinthia, have been oppressed and discriminated against, especially since 1848. They have lived in the region for centuries, most of them poor farmers, who retained their own Slovenian language. The Austrian government tried to assimilate them as much as possible by forcing the children to attend schools with German-language instruction. About 100,000 persons in 1880 identified themselves as Slovenians. This had declined to only 50,000 by 40 years in 1920 with formation of the Austrian Republic. At this time, the Slovenia minority in Austria was separated from the majority of Slovenia in the Slovenia province of Yugoslavia. After the Anchluss (1937) the NAZIs escalted actions against the Austrian Slovenes. Within Austria-Hungary the Slovenian issue had been a cukltural and language issue and the desire to Germize the population. The NAZIs introduced the racial issue and the slavic origins of the Slovenes. The remaining Slovenes in Austria were deported by the NAZIs (1942). Today in all of Carinthia there are only 12,500 Slowenians. That means that most of them became German-speaking Austrians, or at least bilingual ones, who kept speaking the old language at home on the farm.


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Created: 7:08 PM 4/25/2020
Last updated: 3:52 PM 4/15/2023