The intellectual-political culture of the Monarchy to some extent mirrored the general European trends and adapted to them but it also showed considerable individuality.  The individuality was not limited to the particular individual talents of those who were responsible for the intellectual life of the country.  It had structural characteristics which defined the intellectual and day-to-day milieu and atmosphere.

The era of the Monarchy was the period of becoming bourgeois, of becoming civilized, and of renewal.  This means that the life of the people changed and what we call modernity in daily living became for increasing numbers of people a determinant factor of life.  There was a system of education and there were laws regulating public schools.  Hospitals were built and a communicable disease control structure was established.  There was a central water supply and homes had bathrooms.  There was a blooming theatrical culture and a vibrant, strong modern art.  There was a new metropolitan form of life, freedom of the press, an extensive system of railroads, and continuing education for women.

What ever evolved did so in relation to something else.  What came to be became the principal trend of the era.  The trend was that, with internal variations and not at the same rate, the entire area should increasingly resembled that Europe which was viewed by the thinkers of the time as the pace-setter.  The era of the Monarchy was the time of a civilizing break-through.

The framework and content of the civilizing advances were provided by what we might call the formation and societal fixation of a bourgeois way of life that then became the norm.  Because the bourgeois way of life encompassed essentially all areas of life, its daily existence became manifest for everybody.  The skilled worker walked to work wearing a bowler hat and frequently a watch chain just like the bank official.  The Wiener Schnitzel had been called the Sunday meat because it came to the table only on Sundays but now it came on most Sundays.  Everybody knew that holidays were a part of bourgeois existence but not everybody could participate.  Yet they were considered a norm and efforts were made to make them available.  Increasing numbers of people believed that all those who lived with a bourgeois consciousness should properly go for walks, eat pastries and visit the coffee houses.

The civilizing breakthrough and the establishment of the bourgeois way of life evolved during a lengthy period of peace.  We could state briefly that means for the great changes were provided by consolidation and by the endeavors to consolidate.  What might have been a natural event in Great Britain could be classified as a miracle in Central Europe.  The memory of the joint existence of changes and of peace brings up nostalgic memories.  In this framework Francis Joseph and Queen Victoria became of practically identical value.

Yet, along with all civilizing changes, all moves toward a bourgeois existence, and all consolidation at this time in the Habsburg Empire practically everybody detested everybody else.  Whatever happened, there were those who “did not like it”.  The various national movements all complained that the other such movements were oppressing them.  They created historical heroes who were heroic in their opposition to their neighbors.  Naturally the neighbor felt and did the same.  The world looked at through the eyes of the heroes, our heroes and their heroes, was very divisive, precisely in a way and to the degree necessary for the national consciousness to become an identity prepared to make enemies.

The Empire wished to embody supranational intentions.  Yet, it was confronted with what we might call a national statehood aspiration.  Ever since the beginning of the 19th Century, the people living here all endeavored, with varying force and rate, to create their own national territory or, if possible, national state.  For lack of a better term I call this national state aspiration because we are dealing here with an endeavor which took it for granted that under the domination of a given nation and nationality there would be significant national minorities.

The two trends, the supranational one and the national one, created a strong field of conflict and by the second half of the 19th Century caused major structural tensions.  Many believed, and believe today, that this is what caused the downfall of the Habsburg Empire.

In spite of the fact that the Habsburg Monarchy made the free flow of people and ideas possible, there was no internal colonization, in the 20th Century meaning of the term, and no national group or religion could impose its language or norms on any other.  This was more of a result than a cause since the Reformation – Counter Reformation struggles of the previous centuries and the attempts at Germanization had come to a halt.  A liberal breakthrough in the separation of Church and State had occurred and there were numerous examples that forceful national assimilation simply did not work.

There was considerable intermingling in the framework of urbanization and the development of the metropolis.  By the turn of the century Vienna and Budapest became true melting pots.  The various groups streaming towards the cities from all the various areas of the Monarchy adapted to each other and, on occasion, changed their cultural identity.  Germans became Hungarians, deeply religious people became secularized freethinkers, and Czechs became Germans.

None of this could eliminate the fact that the different national religions and cultural identities defined themselves as oppositional forces and thus considered the other group as strangers, detesting them and feeling superior to them.  The Monarchy was an ideal arena for national and cultural prejudices.  Metternich, the Chancellor and Minister of State of the Habsburg Empire during the first halt of the 19th Century, said, “The Balkans begin at the Karlsplatz”.  In his view of the world everything that was located to the east of Vienna was defined as culturally inferior.  This feeling of superiority, going from the West toward the East permeated the national cultures as well.  The Czech looked down on the Slovak, the Hungarian on the Romanian, the Croatian on the Serb and the assimilated Jew on the Galician ones.

Defining cultural identities as opposing entities was also one of the peculiarities of existence within the Monarchy.  The coexistence of symbiosis, intermingling, and detestation built on prejudicial disdain became a component of Central European culture.  The mixture of harmony and disharmony led to very strange perceptions and outlooks.

People lived in a state which provided a stable institutional framework, more or less predictable conditions, and a steady currency, yet nobody really felt that these conditions were their own.  When a so-called Austrian was scratched, you found a German.  When considered to be a German, it turned out that he was not really and fully a German, but an Austrian.  The empire was large and bureaucratic but everybody knew that order and “Schlamperei” went hand in hand.  Behind order there was disorder but the disorder was kept in line by the order.  It is not an accident that Max Weber’s bureaucracy theory was born in Germany and not in the Monarchy.  In the Hungarian part of the Empire the Hungarians were in a ruling position due to the dualistic system, but were always discontent.  They served Francis Joseph but paid homage to the leader of the1848 Fight for Freedom, Lajos Kossuth, and created a Kossuth cult.  The Czechs and the Germans fought each other but knew that their economic advances were due largely to their working together.

It became a fundamental cultural norm of the Monarchy that nothing was what it appeared to be.  Karl Kraus, the Austrian-German author who disliked everybody, mentioned in his work:  Az emberiség végnapjai (The Last days of Humanity) that those who wished to emigrate had to fill out a questionnaire which asked why they wanted to emigrate.  According to Kraus a more appropriate question would have been, why would anybody want to stay here?  Robert Musil’s work, A tulajdonságok nélküli ember (The Man without Features) reflects the same attitudes as the much more somber works of Franz Kafka who wrote in Prague but in German.[1]

It can be said that the world of the Monarchy was a favorable environment for its people to experience all of the tensions of modernity by the turn of the century.  The peculiarities of the Empire’s intellectual-structural system were hidden in a large heap of problems which were covered by a relatively well functioning state but one with which very few could identify themselves emotionally.  While in a large number of areas social integration processes were advancing apace, in the intellectual and political sphere the expressions increasingly indicated the impossibility of a peaceful solution.

Looking at German-Austria we find that it could not be separated from the entirety of the Monarchy because it was a major factor in determining its intellectual atmosphere.  In doing this we also find further peculiarities.

The situation of the German-Austrians was greatly influenced after the last third of the 19th Century by the unified Germany.

Following the Prussian-French war of 1871 the Second German Empire, a unified German National State, came into being.  Many felt that this was not a completed process.  Within the state there were 22 principalities and 3 cities which had a limited amount of power.  The administrative power structure reflected this situation and that while the Germans were united there were strong regional German identities, such as the Prussians, Saxons, Bavarians, etc.. Yet, after a lengthy labor, a Germany was born which had at the time of its creation 41 million inhabitants.  By the beginning of World War I this number had risen to 67 million.[2]

The Habsburg and the German speaking territories under their rule were not included in the German unit. For us it is not the process but the fact that is important.  In addition, the Habsburg Monarchy, defeated by the Prussians in 1866, was a very important ally for the second German Empire and for Bismarck who was its chancellor until 1890.  It was not at all in the interests of Germany to weaken the Habsburg state or to strengthen the German nature of the Monarchy.  Bismarck knew that any extension of the German unit would cause a major international reaction. He needed a Central European power that consisted of a number of nationalities and was friendly toward Germany.

The Habsburg obviously could not do anything but accept their exclusion from the German process of unification and after the defeat of 1866 were thinking in terms of consolidating their empire.  This was one of the reasons why they made a compromise in 1867 with the second largest nationality group in the empire, the Hungarians.  They wanted to make arrangements to operate a country in a stable condition which in 1919 consisted of Germans with 23.9%, Hungarians 20.1%, Czechs 12.6%, Croatians 5.3% Serbs and Slovaks each 3.8%, Romanians 6.4%, Poles 10%, Ruthenians 7.9%, Slovenes 2.6% and Italians 2%.  Ignoring the Hungarian part of the Empire, such a country could not be entirely German in nature because to the East of the Lajta the Germans represented only 35.6%, the Czechs 23%, the Poles 17.8%, the Ruthenians 12.6% and the Serbs and Croatians 2.7%.[3]

The position of the Habsburg Empire changed after the unification of Germany.  So long as the Hapsburgs were active participants in the German unification process they, from time to time, markedly emphasized their being German well in excess of what was justified on the basis of the German segment of the population.  After the unification of Germany these endeavors were abandoned for very good reasons of self interest.

Thus, after 1871, the German speaking inhabitants of Austria were confronted with a peculiar identity-policy crossroad.  One option was to become German speaking Austrians.

What does it mean, however, from an identity-policy perspective, to be Austrian?

For a German it meant only one thing, the acceptance of the existence of the Habsburg Empire, acceptance of the Dynasty and viewing himself as being identified with the Habsburg.  In addition, the German had to define himself as German and fight against all fellow subjects of different nationalities who, according to him, wanted to suppress both the German language and the Germans as well.

It was also an identity-policy option to place oneself on an international basis.  In the German speaking part of Austria, perhaps precisely because of the problems of being a German-Austrian, there was after 1880 a very strong trend toward a social democratic policy culture and intellectual perspective which coincided with the general European trends of the time.

Lastly, somebody could be a German nationalist as well.  In this case, being consistent, he had to deny the given form of the Habsburg Empire, had to condemn everything and everybody who did not serve German interests, had to reject the Dynasty and everything related to it.

The identity problem of the German-Austrians is well shown by the case and fate of the Austrian National Anthem, the ”Kaiserlied”.[4]  The music was composed by Joseph Haydn in 1797.  At the end of the 18th Century national identity did not yet have an overpowering force in Central Europe; Haydn had taken the tune of the so-called Kaiser Quartette from a Croatian folk song.  The text written in honor of Emperor and King Francis I was changed in 1854 to the text which then became famous as the Austrian National Anthem until 1918.  The poem was written by Johann Gabriel Seidl.  The poem has several verses but the first two lines summarize the official identity of Imperial Austria, the real meaning of being “Austrian”: “Gott erhalte, Gott beschütze unseren Kaiser, unser Land!”  The text was translated into the various languages spoken in the Empire. The concept and wording of God and Emperor are the same in all but Land became “Közháza” in Hungarian, “Kraj” (territory) in Polish, “Dom” (house) in Croatian and simply “Austria” in Slovene.

The Kaiserlied gradually developed after 1871 into Germany’s unofficial national anthem but here a different text was sung.  The 1841 text by August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben began with the words, “Deutschland, Deutschland über alles, über alles in der Welt”.  The work was composed on Heligoland Island which at the time was under British control.  The first stanza expressed a yearning for a unified Germany. The same stanza uses a variety of topographical references to suggest the unity of the German land.  The second stanza speaks of loyalty, wine, song and German women as commonplace expressions of romanticism.  In the liberal spirit of the time, the last stanza linked the concept of a German country to law and to liberty.

After the unification of 1871 the Prussian National Anthem was preferred and it was sung to the tune of the British National Anthem.  The Deutschlandlied also prospered and began to become a national song being sung as an alternative to the Imperial Anthem.  It became to official National Anthem of Germany in 1922, after the fall of the emperor.

The Deutschlandlied became very popular in Austria because it was sung to the same tune as the Austrian National Anthem.  The German-Austrians sang one or the other, depending on their political orientation and whether it was the Land, meaning Austria that was important to them or Deutschland, i.e. Germany.

The situation of the Germans was largely similar to the situation of the other nationalities in Austria, because by nature of the Habsburg Empire they could not have their own country.  There were also some differences.  One of the differences was that immediately adjacent to them a German Empire emerged which did not want them and they also found that after the second half of the 1860s other nationalities gained prominence in the Habsburg Empire.  All of this was compounded by the problems which were characteristic of a large part of Europe and the evolving modernity resulted in tensions and crises.

It is not surprising that this apparently permanent situation became very frustrating.  After the 1880s three political mass movements and political parties emerged which by the turn of the century dominated German-Austria’s political life, the Social Democrats, The Christian Socialists and the German Nationalists.[5]  It was from this latter group that Georg von Schönerer became the leader of the German radical nationalist movement.  Viktor Adler, the supporter of international Socialism became the leader of the Social Democratic party and Viktor Pattai continued his career a Christian Socialist politician. The separation of these identities can be seen in an event that can be considered as being symbolic.  Heinrich Friedjung, who became the most prominent Austrian historian of the time, belonged to the latter circle and remained a German nationalist.  He was of Jewish extraction, however, and the increasing and marked anti-Semitism associated with this movement made it eventually impossible for him to continue.[6]

From this general area Social Democracy and its spiritual aura are not particularly important for us because its self-articulation did not contain ethnic, religious, racial, or gender stigmata.  Its followers were not concerned about the country but about the classes and they expressed themselves about the class struggle in non-Bolshevik logic.

The other two large movements used ethnic, religious, racial and gender expressions.  They actually built their mode of expression, language, influence and identity on these factors.

They differed from each other in that the Christian Socialists supported the Habsburg Empire while the Pan-Germans did not.

They equally detested the Czechs, the Hungarians and, naturally, the Jews.

This loathing became a part of their self-definition and became interchangeable. Karl Lueger, one of the leaders of the Christian Socialists was Lord Mayor of Vienna between 1897 and 1910. He referred to Budapest as “Judapest” and to the Magyar as “Judeomagyars”.  He wanted to denigrate the Hungarians and the Jews simultaneously.  There were also marked differences between the two intellectually and politically powerful movements and these became the basis for political antagonisms.  The Christian Socialists were close to the Catholic Church while the Pan-Germans were not.  In fact the most radical group of the latter used the slogan “Los from Rom” mainly because the Habsburg were Catholic.  The biggest difference between the two groups, however, was that one supported the Empire in its present format and the other did not.

In spite of the hostility toward the Czechs they could work well together.  This, for instance, happened in one of the greatest storms at the end of the century caused by a proposal by Count Kasimir Badeni, the Austrian Prime Minister, according to which all Czech officials would have had to speak both Czech and German within a few years.  Opposition by the Germans led to Badeni’s fall.  I must note that the culture of national dislikes occasionally appeared in areas which clearly show that all of the nationalities were part of the Monarchy.  The Czechs considered it to be unacceptable that in beer-drinking the German-Austrians had a leading position.  Consequently the Czech national activists established a brewery in České-Budějovice.  The Czech Brewery Company was opened in 1895 and the Budvar Budweiser of today is still the enjoyable product of hostile competition.[7]

Another joint identity area between the German national camp and the Christian Socialists was their anti-Semitism, or more accurately a linguistic culture in which the term Jew appeared only in a negative quality and a negative context.  The precision is advisable because the term “Jew” was a metaphoric term applied to a number of things.  It could be a description of or a slogan for religion, racial extraction, exploitation of capitalism, and the workers’ movement.  It could be a stigmatic term for modernity and for any perspective other than the speaker’s.  It was a single word denoting all the things that the speaker condemned and viewed as worthless.

The term “Jew” functioned as an expression with multiple meanings.  It was a construction and a “manufactured” term that could be used very effectively because it referred to an enormous prejudice deeply embedded in the European Christian culture for many centuries.  It stood for a worldly “Satanic” function. Yet, because the world of the turn of the century differed from the European Middle Ages the term did not mean precisely the same thing.  I call the anti-Semitism of the German-Austrians at the turn of the century anti-Semitism only for the lack of a better term.  It did not refer exclusively to the Jews but included a number of other items, as indicated above.  It was not an accident that Karl Lueger declared, “I will decide who is a Jew!”  This expression was not just a cynical political vanity but indicated that “Jew” was a term with multiple meanings.  If Lueger would have wanted to say something not just of himself but in a broader context, he could have said, “Who or what is a Jew is a matter of decision.”[8]

The meaning of the term is indicated even more clearly by a statement, designed as a slogan, by Schönerer the radical nationalist Pan-German, “Ohne Juda, ohne Rom, bauen wir den deutschen Dom.”  This expression is more accurate because here Juda means more than just Jew and is equated with everything that can be viewed as “Jewish”.  This is somewhat like Rome which is much more than the totality of Catholic beliefs.

The political and intellectual publications used the term “Jew” in a way that makes the term anti-Semitic misleading, but unfortunately inevitable.  The power hidden in the word or in the designation is shown by the fact that when the expression is used by the analytical authors of works on the social sciences they always mention the statistical data referring to the Jews even though the term “Jew” used in anti-Semitic discourses went far beyond the actual Jews.  The data referring to the Jews had very little to do with the anti-Semitic language use, its force or distribution.  Nothing proves this more effectively than the fact that the Nazis developed their powerful and effective anti-Semitic propaganda in a country where only 1% of the population was Jewish and even in Berlin the ratio of Jews was only 4-5%.[9]

Anti-Semite language became such a major element of discourse that it, for many reasons, saturated the daily speech and the political articulation of the German-Austrians.  It could also be said that anti-Semitism became a very elastic way of thinking that was characteristic of the two great political movements of the German-Austrians at the turn of the century.

For us it is of decisively important interest to know what it was that allowed the acceptance of the idea of racial superiority.  More accurately, of greatest interest is the condition which accepted and incorporated these ideas and thus stimulated those who promoted them.  In this regard the principal role was played by the German nationalist groups and within them the radicalism of Schönerer.  It was essential for the German nationals and for the Pan-Germans to make certain that the Germans appeared to be more and of a higher order than any of the other nationalities of the Empire.  There were a number of intellectual endeavors which made proving this their principal goal.

[1] I discuss this matter in detail in: The heritage of the Empire. In: The Austro-Hungarian Dual Monarchy. London- Cape Town-Sidney-Auckland, 2008.  pp. 208-236.

[2] For data on Germany see: Gerhard A. Ritter (Hrsg): Das Deutsche Kaiserreich 1871-1914. Ein historisches Lesebuch.Göttingen, 1981.; Joachim Rohlfes: Das 19. Jahrhundert. I. Monarchie-Demokratie-Nationalstaat. Bonn, 1998.; Mária Ormos: Németország története a XX. Században (History of Germany in the 20th Century), Budapest: 2008. pp.8-88.

[3] The statistical data are taken from Robert A. Kann: A History of the Habsburg Empire 1526-1918, (Berkeley-Los Angeles-London [second printing with corrections], 1977, pp.606-608).

[4] András Gerő: Imagined History. Chapters from Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Hungarian Symbolic Politics. Boulder, 2006, pp. 24-27.

[5] For these movements see: Karl Vocelka: Österreichische Geschichte, München, 2005.

[6] For the personal effects of the Linz program see: A.J.P.Taylor: A Habsburg Monarchia 1889-1918.  Az Osztrák Birodalom és a az Osztrák-Magyar Monarchia története. (The Habsburg Monarchy 1889-1918. History of the Austrian Empire and of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy), Budapest, 1998, pp. 190-191.

[7] Jeremy King: Budweiser into Czechs and Germans. A local History of Bohemian Politics 1848-1918. Princeton, 2002.


[8] Lueger and the Christian Socialist direction are very important for us to understand the social and political perspective that accompanied the Germans claiming an Austrian identity. See: John W. Boyer: Political Radicalism in Late Imperial Vienna. Origins of the Christian Socialist Movement, 1848-1897. Chicago-London, 1981.; Culture and Political Crisis in Vienna. Christian Socialism in Power, 1897-1918. Chicago-London, 1995.

[9] In order to inform the readers, here are the data: In 1910 8.7% of the population of Vienna were Jewish and in the Austrian Hereditary Provinces the ratio was 4.7%.  These Jews were almost entirely assimilated to the German language and culture. See: William O. Craig, Jr.: A History of Habsburg Jews 1670-1938. Bloomington, 1898.; Steven Beller: Vienna and the Jews 1867-1938. A Cultural History. Cambridge 1990.