1922 Encyclopædia Britannica/Burian von Rajecz, Stephen, Baron

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1922 Encyclopædia Britannica
Burian von Rajecz, Stephen, Baron
See also Stephan Burián von Rajecz on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

BURIAN VON RAJECZ, STEPHEN [Istvan], Baron (1851- ), Austro-Hungarian statesman, a scion of an ancient Hungarian noble family, was born Jan. 16 1851, and early in life entered the consular service, being stationed successively at Alexandria, Bucharest and Belgrade. Then his rapid diplomatic career began. From 1882-6 he was consul-general at Moscow, and his reports describing the then little understood danger of Panslavism attracted attention in influential circles in Vienna. He was sent as envoy extraordinary to Sofia, where he remained for several years, and successfully represented the interests of the Vienna Government during the disturbed period following the election of Ferdinand of Coburg as Prince of Bulgaria. In the second half of the 'nineties he was minister at Stuttgart and at Athens, and in March 1903 he succeeded Benjamin Kallay (1839-1903) as common Finance Minister and supreme head of the administration of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In this latter capacity he rendered important services. Burian strongly advocated annexation of the provinces, which he regarded as the essential condition precedent to the introduction of constitutional arrangements. After the annexation he did in fact set to work with the greatest zeal on the elaboration of the provincial constitution, which was proclaimed in Feb. 1910. The extremely important Kmet question (Kmet, Slav for peasant) was settled under his ministry on general lines in the sense of the optional emancipation of the Kmets. In Feb. 1912 he was relieved of his office as common Finance Minister, and in June 1913 he was appointed Hungarian minister attached to the court of Vienna. On Jan. 13 1915 he succeeded Count Berchtold at the Foreign Office. His friendly relations with Count Stephen Tisza, whose influence may well have determined Burian's selection as Foreign Minister, facilitated his intercourse with those Hungarian politicians whose opinion carried weight.

The monarchy was at that time in the midst of negotiations with Italy. Burian took part in them, but at first with reserve, since he would not hear of any cession of territory long forming part of Austria. It was not till March 1915 that, under pressure of the military situation and the influence of the German Government, he expressed his willingness in principle to negotiate on this basis. The negotiations, however, in spite of further concessions made by Burian in April and May, had no success, and served only to postpone, but not to prevent, the secession of Italy into the ranks of the Entente. Burian did great service to Austria-Hungary in the matter of the alliance with Bulgaria, and also in arranging the Austro-Turkish alliance. To the Rumanian demands he opposed a negative attitude, especially to those which involved a cession of Hungarian territory and a fundamental change in the political and social position of the Rumanians in Hungary. In this question, as in others, Burian represented the particular interests of Austria-Hungary, as opposed to Germany, and for this reason became involved in severe conflicts with the leading statesmen and army commanders of the German Empire.

In the Polish question he aimed at the Austro-Polish solution, though he realized the difficulties in its way. For he thought that the elastic structure of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, and the proved stability, in the case of Galicia, of a Polish province provided with wide powers of national self-government, made this appear relatively the best solution. He absolutely refused to consent to the far-reaching demands made by Germany in return for her acquiescence in this solution. In general, he maintained the view that in military, political and economic matters Austria-Hungary must be treated as an equal partner, and opposed a determined refusal to every German demand in which he saw danger to the independence, or a limitation of the territorial power, of Austria-Hungary. He thought, incidentally, that German policy was permeated with realism, and that Germany had a very high estimate of her own achievements, and of the rewards due to them, without feeling any obligation to measure the achievements of their ally by the same standard and give full satisfaction to her partner.

On the question of peace, too, there was a sharp antithesis between the views of Burian and those of German statesmen. With Burian, regard for the special interests of Austria-Hungary stood in the foreground. He refused to contemplate the loss of Austro-Hungarian territory in the south. On the other hand, he proposed as early as Nov. 1915 that Germany should smooth the way to peace by a public declaration of her willingness to guarantee the national independence of Belgium, and in the course of the year 1916 repeatedly urged that the way should be paved for negotiation with the enemy on the basis of the renouncing of conquests in the west. The decisive refusal of German statesmen to declare such a renunciation and to define precisely the demands and concessions to be made by the Quadruple Alliance in the peace proposals, as proposed by Burian, led to severe conflict between the two Cabinets. The peace note of Dec. 12 1916, which put an end to this quarrel, was the last important official act of Burian as Foreign Minister.

A few days later he laid down his office, but was recalled by the Emperor Charles after the resignation of his successor, Count Czernin, on April 14 1918. Burian now worked energetically for the conclusion of an agreed peace, and on that account came into conflict, as he had done two years before, with the German higher command. It was only in Aug. 1918, after the breakdown of the German offensive, that the German Government declared itself ready in principle to prepare the way for an agreed peace. But in the course of the negotiations insuperable differences appeared as to the time and the form of the peace offer. Bitter exasperation was aroused in the most influential German circles when Burian, holding to his design, ignored the German veto, and on Sept. 14 1918 addressed to all the belligerent nations an invitation to end the war by diplomatic negotiations. Burian's invitation had no success; it merely heightened the confidence in victory of the enemy Powers, who, by an offensive, definitely broke the resistance of their enfeebled opponents, compelled them to accept a humiliating armistice, and forced them to prepare the way for negotiations which were intended to lead to the conclusion of separate treaties of peace. When the Vienna Government decided to follow this path Burian was no longer Foreign Minister. He had resigned in the midst of a confusion which gave reason to fear the approaching end of the state and the dynasty. (A. F. Pr.)