1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Austria-Hungary/History Ie
During this period of internal crisis the international position of the Dual Monarchy was threatened by two external dangers. The unrest in Macedonia threatened to reopen the Eastern Question in an acute form; with Italy the irredentist attitude of the Zanardelli cabinet led in 1902-1903 to such strained relations that war seemed imminent. The southern Tirol, the chief passes into Italy, strategic points on the Istrian and Dalmatian coasts, were strongly fortified, while in the interior the Tauern, Karawanken and Wochein railways were constructed, partly in order to facilitate the movement of troops towards the Italian border. The tension was relaxed with the fall of the Zanardelli government, and comparatively cordial relations were gradually re-established.
In the affairs of the Balkan Peninsula a temporary agreement Balkan crisis. with Russia was reached in 1903 by the so-called "February Programme," supplemented in the following October by the "Mürzsteg Programme" (see Macedonia; Turkey; Europe: History). The terms of the Mürzsteg programme were observed by Count Goluchowski, in spite of the ruin of Russian prestige in the war with Japan, so long as he remained in office. In October 1906, however, he retired, and it was soon clear that his successor, Baron von Aerenthal, was determined to take advantage of the changed European situation to take up once more the traditional policy of the Habsburg monarchy in the Balkan Peninsula. He gradually departed from the Mürzsteg basis, and in January 1908 deliberately undermined the Austro-Russian agreement by obtaining from the sultan a concession for a railway from the Bosnian frontier through the sanjak of Novibazar to the Turkish terminus at Mitrovitza. This was done in the teeth of the expressed wish of Russia; it roused the helpless resentment of Servia, whose economic dependence upon the Dual Monarchy was emphasized by the outcome of the war of tariffs into which she had plunged in 1906, and who saw in this scheme another link in the chain forged for her by the Habsburg empire; it offended several of the great powers, who seemed to see in this railway concession the price of the abandonment by Austria-Hungary of her interest in Macedonian reforms. That Baron von Aerenthal was able to pursue a policy apparently so rash, was due to the fact that he could reckon on the support of Germany. The intimate relations between the two powers had been revealed during the dispute between France and Germany about Morocco; in the critical division of the 3rd of March 1906 at the Algeciras Conference Austria-Hungary, alone of all the powers, had sided with Germany, and it was a proposal of the Austro-Hungarian plenipotentiary that formed the basis of the ultimate settlement between Germany and France (see Morocco: History). The cordial relations thus emphasized encouraged Baron Aerenthal, in the autumn of 1908, to pursue a still bolder policy. The revolution in Turkey had entirely changed the face of the Eastern Question; the problem of Macedonian reform was swallowed up in that of the reform of the Ottoman empire generally, there was even a danger that a rejuvenated Turkey might in time lay claim to the provinces occupied by Austria-Hungary under the treaty of Berlin; in any case, the position of these provinces, governed autocratically from Vienna, between a constitutional Turkey and a constitutional Austria-Hungary, would have been highly anomalous. In the circumstances Baron Aerenthal determined on a bold policy. Without consulting the co-signatory powers of the treaty of Berlin, and in deliberate violation of its provisions, the king-emperor issued, on the 13th of October, a decree annexing Bosnia and Herzegovina to the Habsburg Monarchy, and at the same time announcing the withdrawal of the Austro-Hungarian troops from the sanjak of Novibazar. (See Europe: History.)
Meanwhile the relations between the two halves of the Dual Internal difficulties. Monarchy had again become critical. The agreement of 1907 had been but a truce in the battle between two irreconcilable principles: between Magyar nationalism, determined to maintain its ascendancy in an independent Hungary, and Habsburg imperialism, equally determined to preserve the economic and military unity of the Dual Monarchy. In this conflict the tactical advantage lay with the monarchy; for the Magyars were in a minority in Hungary, their ascendancy was based on a narrow and artificial franchise, and it was open to the king-emperor to hold in terrorem over them an appeal to the disfranchised majority. It was the introduction of a Universal Suffrage Bill by Mr Joseph Kristóffy, minister of the interior in the "unconstitutional" cabinet of Baron Fejérváry, which brought the Opposition leaders in the Hungarian parliament to terms and made possible the agreement of 1907. But the Wekerle ministry which succeeded that of Fejérváry on the 9th of April 1906 contained elements which made any lasting compromise impossible. The burning question of the "Magyar word of command" remained unsettled, save in so far as the fixed determination of the king-emperor had settled it; the equally important question of the renewal of the charter of the Austro-Hungarian State Bank had also formed no part of the agreement of 1907. On the other hand, the Wekerle ministry was pledged to a measure of franchise reform, a pledge which they showed no eagerness to redeem, though the granting of universal suffrage in the Austrian half of the Monarchy had made such a change inevitable. In March 1908 Mr Hallo laid before the Hungarian parliament a formal proposal that the charter of the Austro-Hungarian Bank, which was to expire at the end of 1910, should not be renewed; and that, in the event of failure to negotiate a convention between the banks of Austria and Hungary, a separate Hungarian Bank should be established. This question, obscured during the winter by the Balkan crisis, once more became acute in the spring of 1909. In the Coalition cabinet itself opinion was sharply divided, but in the end the views of the Independence party prevailed, and Dr Wekerle laid the proposal for a separate Hungarian Bank before the king-emperor and the Austrian government. Its reception was significant. The emperor Francis Joseph pointed out that the question of a separate Bank for Hungary did not figure in the act of 1867, and could not be introduced into it, especially since the capital article of the ministerial programme, i.e. electoral reform, was not realized, nor near being realized. This was tantamount to an appeal from the Magyar populus to the Hungarian plebs, the disfranchised non-Magyar majority; an appeal all the more significant from the fact that it ignored the suffrage bill brought in on behalf of the Hungarian government by Count Julius Andrássy in November 1908, a bill which, under the guise of granting the principle of universal suffrage, was ingeniously framed so as to safeguard and even to extend Magyar ascendancy (see Hungary: History). In consequence of this rebuff Dr Wekerle tendered his resignation on the 27th of April. Months passed without it being possible to form a new cabinet, and a fresh period of crisis and agitation was begun.
- (W. A. P.)
1 ^ Alois, Count Lexa von Aerenthal, was born on the 27th of September 1854 at Gross-Skal in Bohemia, studied at Bonn and Prague, was attaché at Paris (1877) and afterwards at St Petersburg, envoy extraordinary at Bucharest (1895) and ambassador at St Petersburg (1896). He was created a count on the emperor's 79th birthday in 1909.