Empire of Austria

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Empire of Austria
Flag of the Habsburgs and national flag at the same time Coat of arms of the Austrian Empire
flag coat of arms
Constitution Pillersdorf Constitution
(April 25 - May 16, 1848)
October constitution (
1851–1860 no constitution
( neo-absolutism )
October diploma
February patent
1865–1867 Constitutional suspension
Official language German and other "customary" languages ​​( Hungarian , Polish , Czech , Croatian , Slovak , Serbian , Slovenian , Romanian , Ukrainian , Italian )
Capital Vienna
Form of government absolute monarchy
Head of state Emperor of Austria
Head of government Prime Minister
Surface (1804) 698,700 km²
Population (1804) approx. 21,200,000 PE
Population density (1804) 30 inhabitants per km²
Founding of the state August 11, 1804
resolution June 8, 1867 (conversion to Realunion)
National anthem see Austrian Imperial Hymns
currency Thaler ( Convention Thaler ) = 2 (Austrian) Gulden = 100  Kreuzer = 400  Pfennig = 800  Heller ;
from 1857 ( Vienna Coin Agreement ): 1 thaler ( Vereinstaler ) = 1½ gulden = 150  Neukreuzer
Austrian Empire (1815) .svg

The Austrian Empire (in the then official spelling Kaiserthum Oesterreich ) forms a section in the history of the Habsburg Monarchy . It was founded on August 11, 1804 as a hereditary monarchy by Archduke Franz of Austria , who as Franz II was the last Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire . From then on he held his second imperial title, Emperor of Austria , as Franz I of Austria.

As an undivided rulership and monarchical unitary state (on a differentiated federal basis until 1848 ) of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine , the Empire of Austria existed until June 8, 1867, when the Empire was converted into the Real Union of Austria-Hungary with the Austro-Hungarian Compromise .

Since its foundation, the Austrian Empire has been the second largest political entity in terms of area (after the Russian Empire ) with an area of ​​698,700 km² and with 21.2 million people (in 1804) in third place among the states of Europe (after Russia and France ).


Foundation of the Austrian Empire

By accepting the imperial title on August 11, 1804, Franz wanted to maintain equality of rank with Napoleon I , who had made himself Hereditary Emperor of France on May 18 and was crowned Emperor of the French on December 2, 1804 .

As Franz II, the "double emperor" was the head of a loosely divided confederation of states - namely the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation - and as Franz I was the ruler of the Habsburg Empire - a multi-ethnic state in Central and Southeastern Europe , which is the territory of today's states Austria , Hungary , Czech Republic ( Bohemia and Moravia ), Slovakia as well as parts of Poland and Ukraine in the north and in the east and south-east over parts of Italy , Slovenia and Croatia to today's Romania and Serbia - an area of ​​698,700 km² with over 21 million inhabitants. In addition, Austria had a large army with more than 400,000 soldiers until the Third Coalition War .

After two years of dual empire, Franz declared the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation to be extinguished on August 6, 1806 and laid down its crown, since after the establishment of the Rhine Confederation in July there was a risk of it being taken over by Napoleon.

From Napoleon to the Congress of Vienna

The other wars against Napoleon were changeable. Through the Peace of Pressburg of 1805, the Habsburg Empire of Tyrol , Upper Austria as well as Freiburg , Günzburg , Rottenburg am Neckar and Horb am Neckar , lost the Italian territories, such as Veneto , which it had acquired in 1797. Things got even worse in the Peace of Schönbrunn in 1809 , when, in addition to the newly acquired Salzburg, it also had to give up the areas on the Adriatic coast (from which the French Illyrian provinces were formed) and became a landlocked state . Nevertheless, Emperor Franz was able to marry off his daughter Marie-Louise to Napoleon. The resulting son Napoleon II lived most of his short life with the title Duke of Reichstadt in Vienna.

It was not until the Congress of Vienna in 1814/15 that the wars against Napoleon, which had placed a heavy economic burden on the country, ended. On February 20, 1811, Emperor Franz I declared bankruptcy , which he had postponed several times in the previous years. At the beginning of the year, banknotes in circulation had grown to over a billion guilders , ten times the amount of money in 1800. According to the imperial finance patent, the circulating banknotes were replaced by new redemption tickets at 20 percent of the old face value by January 31, 1812 , after which they were worthless.

After the Congress of Vienna, the territorial scope was largely restored, as before the wars. The remote Austrian Netherlands and Upper Austria were renounced, and Salzburg and the Innviertel were acquired permanently. Until almost the end of the congress, however, the plan was to leave both areas with Bavaria and to create a new Upper Austria on the Rhine , which according to today's terms would have included Rheinhessen , the Palatinate and the Saarland . This was then waived in favor of state unity. In Italy the area up to the Po was ruled directly. From the areas of the Duchy of Milan and the Republic of Venice , the Kingdom of Lombardy-Veneto was created, which became a permanent trouble spot. In the Duchy of Parma , the Duchy of Modena and the Grand Duchy of Tuscany , Habsburg secundogenitures ruled .

Austria became a member of the newly founded German Confederation at the Congress of Vienna until its dissolution in 1866 . It took over the chairmanship of the Bundestag in Frankfurt and had a significant influence on politics and the development of the federal government. As in the case of Prussia , membership only included those parts of the Empire that were previously part of the Holy Roman Empire. In 1816, however, it made up the largest part of the total population in the federal government with 9.29 million (30.5%).

March and revolution of 1848

The following era until 1848 was shaped by the government of Prince Metternich , who tried to preserve the old feudal order in domestic and foreign policy, especially as the call for civil liberties increased. In art and literature it was the time of Biedermeier and Vormärz ; the latter is also a political term for the years before March 1848.

In 1839 Emperor Ferdinand I re-summarized the dynastic rules of the House of Habsburg-Lothringen ; see Imperial Austrian Family Statute .

In March 1848 the Habsburg Monarchy , as in other areas of Europe, started a revolution in which political, social and national problems were almost inextricably linked. In addition to Vienna and Prague, the centers of the uprising were Milan and especially Hungary . In Italy, Field Marshal Radetzky suppressed the uprisings and won the First War of Independence against King Karl Albert of Sardinia . The revolution in Hungary was even more dangerous for the empire , where the Reichstag had already deposed the Habsburgs in October and Lajos Kossuth acted as de facto president .

Ultimately, the Habsburgs were only able to hold out against Hungary thanks to massive Russian military aid and the use of the Croats under Banus Jellačić . The latter rejected an oppression of Croatia by the Hungarians more strongly than the rule of the Habsburgs. The struggle of the nationalities against one another, which almost destroyed the empire, now saved the dynasty . In Vienna, too, the revolution was suppressed by Jellačić and Windischgrätz in 1849.

Emperor Franz Joseph I.

The constitution of 1848, which had been drawn up by Franz von Pillersdorf ( Pillersdorf constitution ), never came into force. The new Emperor Franz Joseph I forced the Empire to have its own constitution ( imposed constitution ), which was repealed in 1851. During the reaction era until 1859, the emperor ruled alone ( neo-absolutism ).

Prussia tried with the Erfurt Union in 1849/50 to unite the German states with the exception of Austria. Austria countered this with the Greater Austria Plan, but also responded to the wishes of Bavaria and other states in the Four Kings Alliance of February 1850 to give the German Confederation more rights. Because of the various interests, however, neither Austria succeeded in allowing all of its territories to join the Federation, nor Bavaria and the other states in strengthening the Federation. Therefore, after the autumn crisis of 1850 , in which it almost came to an Austro-Prussian war, the German Confederation was more or less restored in its old form in the summer of 1851. During the period of neo-absolutism, the Habsburg Empire first experienced internal consolidation and - by creating an effective state bureaucracy that promoted industrialization and railway construction - an economic boom.

Solferino and Magenta

Lombardy was lost in 1859 after the battle of Solferino and Magenta . Napoleon III supported the Italian national movement and the inexperienced young emperor allowed himself to be drawn into a war against France , in which he also took command himself. Milan and the secondary schools were lost to Sardinia-Piedmont , only Veneto remained under the Empire for a few years. The Battle of Solferino and Magenta was the occasion for the founding of the Red Cross by Henri Dunant and for the Geneva Conventions (1864), which Austria joined in 1866.

The defeat of Solferino severely damaged the imperial prestige and made it impossible to maintain the neo-absolutist regiment. There were two draft constitution ( October diploma 1860 and February patent 1861, both issued by order of the emperor). These two drafts already show a strong vacillation between centralism and federalism , the former being supported by the liberals and the latter by the conservatives . Both proved impractical. The model of the October diploma of letting parliament be elected by the state parliaments was opposed by the liberal bourgeoisie, and the attempt by the liberal Prime Minister Anton von Schmerling to have a general parliament elected directly failed, not least because of the boycott by Hungary.

"German question"

In the mid-1860s, these constitutional experiments were overshadowed by the German question . The conflict over the succession to the throne in the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein had escalated the Austro- Prussian dispute over supremacy in the German Confederation ( German dualism ). Prussia and its Prime Minister Otto von Bismarck pursued a reform strategy that resulted in a small German federal state or a division into northern and southern Germany, while Austria advocated a limited reform of the federal government. However, both great powers also worked together during this period, for example in the German-Danish War of 1864. Austria ruled a condominium in Schleswig-Holstein together with Prussia (1864–1866).

The situation escalated because of the reform question and the dispute over Schleswig-Holstein . On June 14, 1866, Austria applied to the Bundestag to mobilize the army against Prussia. This started the German war . In the Battle of Königgrätz in Bohemia in 1866, Austria was decisively defeated by Prussia. In the Peace of Prague , Austria accepted the dissolution of the German Confederation and that Prussia could reorganize the situation in Germany.

Prussia annexed some of Austria's allies ( Kingdom of Hanover , Electorate Hesse , Nassau , Free City of Frankfurt ). Others, like the Kingdom of Saxony , became dependent on Prussia. Austria's only loss of territory was Veneto , which was lost despite Austrian victories over Italy (e.g. the victory over the Italian fleet in the naval battle of Lissa under Wilhelm von Tegetthoff ); this had already been contractually agreed between the allies Prussia and Italy.

Conversion into the Austro-Hungarian monarchy (1867–1918)

Internally, too, the empire had to be placed on a new basis, because the imperial prestige was once again on the ground. It seemed to Franz Joseph I that the most viable option was to come to an agreement with the moderate Hungarian liberals under Count Andrássy and Ferenc Deák and offer the Kingdom of Hungary a special status. In 1867, with the settlement granting the Hungarian part of the country ( Transleithanien ) and the King of Hungary equivalence with Cisleithanien and the Emperor of Austria , the Austrian Empire was transformed into the Austro-Hungarian dual monarchy . At the same time, the part still dominated by the imperial authorities, with the basic state laws of the December constitution of 1867, received a constitution that was valid until 1918, which was partially incorporated into the federal constitution of the Republic of Austria that had been in force since 1920 .

The term Austrian Empire was no longer used. Officially, the Austrian part of the country was now mostly referred to as the kingdoms and states represented in the Imperial Council , called Cisleithania for short by politicians and lawyers . The name Austria was still used in certain designations, such as Oesterreichisch-Hungarian Bank ; Czech politicians who demanded a government in Prague refused to be subsumed under Austria. In 1915, when the Reichsrat was adjourned, “Austria” again became the official name for Cisleithanien.


Ethnographic map of the Austrian Empire (by Karl von Czoernig-Czernhausen ), 1855

The Austrian Empire was a multi-ethnic empire in which several nationalities settled (especially Germans , Magyars , Czechs , Slovaks , Poles , Ruthenians , Romanians , Serbs , Croats , Slovenes , Italians ). These influenced each other, which resulted in peculiarities in culture, cuisine, language or architecture. Even long after the fall of the Danube Monarchy, this influence is still noticeable in their successor states, for example in Austrian German , which has numerous loanwords from Czech , Slovak , Hungarian , Slovenian , Italian and also from Yiddish , which German standard German does not knows.

Countries in the Austrian Empire

Austrian Empire, 1816 to 1867

Administrative structure of the Austrian Empire, mainly from the Congress of Vienna in 1815, with the territorial reforms in 1848 to the October diploma in 1860 - when it was founded in 1804 it was partly organized differently (see title of Emperor Franz I )

Archduchy of Austria and neighboring countries
Bohemia and neighboring countries
Hungary and neighboring countries
Other countries and areas

See also


Web links

Commons : Austrian Empire  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Franz Zeilner, constitution, constitutional law and theory of public law in Austria to 1848: A presentation of the material and formal constitutional situation and the teaching of public law , Lang, Frankfurt am Main [u. a.] 2008, ISBN 978-3-631-57765-3 , pp. 25 , 45 .
  2. ^ Supreme Pragmatic Ordinance of August 11, 1804 . In: Otto Posse: The seals of the German emperors and kings. Volume 5, Appendix 2, p. 249 f. (on Wikisource , Franz 'Proclamation of the Austrian Empire)
  3. ^ At the resignation of the imperial government. Decree of August 6, 1806. In: Otto Posse: Die Siegel Volume 5, Enclosure 3, p. 256 ff. (On Wikisource, announcement of the new title as Emperor of Austria )
  4. Figures from Angelow, Deutscher Bund , p. 117.
  5. Serbian Voivodeship a. Temeser Banat (Voivodeship S. u. Temeser Banat) . In: Pierer's Universal Lexicon. Volume 15. Altenburg 1862, p. 883.