Of the year 1848 the British historian Trevelyan remarked that it was the great turning point at which history failed to turn. Given the accumulation of tensions and conflicts since the Congress of Vienna, nationalistic passions, the miserable condition of the peasantry, entrepreneurs chafing under restrictions placed on them, intellectuals stifled by censorship and other restrictions on freedom of expression, it was nearly a miracle that a dynasty that was known for its mediocrity more than for anything else was able to survive the upheavals of 1848–49 and reestablish itself with its powers undiminished. The lack of creative leadership among revolutionary forces, except in Hungary, was no doubt a factor in the failure but there was also the almost mystical staying power of the Habsburgs in face of all adversity, it gave them reason to trust divine providence to which, more than to their subjects, they felt responsible.
The first reaction to the news from Paris erupted in Hungary, where Lajos Kossuth early in March demanded a democratic constitution providing for popular representation. Vienna liberals quickly took their cue; ad hoc assemblies composed mainly of staid bourgeois began drafting petitions to the throne almost identical to the one issued by Kossuth. On March 13, demonstrations, heretofore peaceful, erupted into armed clashes in the Austrian capital when a crowd of students surrounded the parliament building in the Herrengasse and police fired on them; a number of demonstrators died. Soon violence spread to other parts of the city. The two ranking archdukes on the state conference decided to offer up to the crowd the aged Metternich, the most resented figure in the empire. That evening Metternich, after a feeble attempt to display his steadfastness, resigned and took the long road into exile. As had happened in France, the disorders were largely confined to the capital; apart from some minor outbreaks in Graz, the countryside remained quiet. But outside the German lands, in Hungary, Italy, Bohemia, Galicia, even in Croatia, the ferment was unmistakable. The Vienna court hesitated between making concessions and applying force. The latter was the customary course of action but tempers were too explosive to employ it without grave risk. Mere personnel changes in the government after the flight of Metternich were not likely to satisfy the demonstrators. The mention of a constitution, on the other hand, even if insincerely meant, still carried magic. Accordingly, on April 25 the new interior minister, Baron Pillersdorf, proclaimed one, though only for the hereditary lands. It provided for a bicameral legislature, the lower house elected by adult male taxpayers, the upper named by the emperor from among landed magnates and trusted aristocrats. The emperor, according to this forlorn document, had an absolute veto over measures passed by either house.
The draft did not calm revolutionary passions; crowds invaded the royal palace, demanding the withdrawal of Pillersdorf’s proposed constitution. Ferdinand and his court, insofar as they had any policy at all, geared their reaction to the disorders to the degree of danger they represented. By May passions seemed to have cooled and the emperor attempted to dissolve the national guard, which had made itself responsible for maintaining order in the capital. This occasioned another uprising and, reluctantly, the royal court decided that Vienna was no longer a safe city in which to reside. Ferdinand fled to the town of Innsbruck in the loyal Tyrol, where he was received with thunderous enthusiasm. However, Vienna was still the functional nerve center of a sprawling empire, and the streets there were ruled by a bourgeois national guard, well-to-do men of progressive views, whose aspirations did not go further than royal assurances for the protection of, first and foremost, private property. They were joined by “academic legions,” composed largely of university youth. In June the government at last convoked the parliament provided for in Pillersdorf’s draft, the Reichstag as it was called, but that body, made up of a majority of Slavs, rejected the very constitution on which its authority rested. Discussions of proposed reforms continued but the only one of import that emerged, on September 5, was one calling for the emancipation of the serfs.
In August the emperor and his entourage, satisfied that responsible elements were once again in charge in Vienna, returned to the capital from Innsbruck. By now, however, events in Hungary rather than developments in Austria determined the course of events. Kossuth asked the help of first the court and then the newly elected Reichstag in curbing Croatian ambitions, but he met with refusal. There was no single political will left in Vienna. The court, stubbornly conservative, granted only such concessions as it could not avoid if it wanted to maintain itself, always in the hope that once order was reestablished it could withdraw them. The popular mood in Vienna, however, was still revolutionary and favored any action that defied the Habsburgs; in the matter of Jelačić’s defiance, it sided with the brave Hungarians. When an Austrian artillery company under orders to march against Hungary crossed the city, crowds prevented its passage and bloody street battles erupted. Vienna once again became unsafe for the royal house, and Ferdinand and his court moved, this time to the Moravian city of Olmütz. A few days later the Reichstag too left Vienna and reconvened in another Moravian town, Kremsier. Obviously though, these were temporary expedients. The displaced court made preparations to reconquer Vienna by military means. On October 31 Marshal Windischgrätz, having reduced to rubble the Bohemian capital of Prague, where a disorderly pan-Slavic conference was meeting, took his artillery to the walls of Vienna and inflicted a similar fate on the capital. Royal authority was finally reestablished, and even though the price was high, the court was willing to pay it. The time for concessions had passed. They had led to nothing but demands for further reforms, and terror became the order of the day. Active and suspected revolutionaries in the Austrian capital, among them lawmakers and respectable citizens, including a number of journalists, were rounded up, summarily tried, and often shot. Military force and military justice accomplished what months of political maneuvering could not; Vienna was secure as the Habsburg capital and reform was off the agenda.
(1768–1853) commander of Austrian forces against Hungarians in 1849
Illegitimate son of the elector of the German state of Hesse, Baron von Haynau entered Austrian military service in 1801 and fought in the wars against Napoleon. He remained in service after the war and saw action during the Italian uprising against Austrian rule in 1848. In April 1849, under orders as military governor to suppress the revolt in the Lombard city of Brescia, he acted with such severity that he earned the nickname “Hyena of Brescia.” In short order his services were required on another front: the Hungarian uprising against Austria was still in full force. In April 1849 FRANCIS JOSEPH, emperor for only four months, was compelled to seek military help against the Hungarians from the Russian czar, Nicholas I. Pending the arrival of Russian forces, at the recommendation of Marshal Radetzky, who had conquered the Italian revolt, he appointed Haynau commander in chief of the Austrian forces engaged against the Hungarian rebel army. True, Haynau’s personnel file contained items that might have given the emperor pause, but then, the chief job of the general was to liquidate a stubborn revolt. A previous commander of his had this to say: “Haynau is 61 years old, but he looks in his seventies, is of ill health. He thoroughly knows the rules of military service but seeks glory in sharpening those rules so that he could proceed against men he doesn’t like. These men he torments with calculating hatred. He is well versed in strategic studies but is possessed of an avarice that offends his military honor. Because of his moral failings everybody in contact with him wishes to see him go, for no one likes to be in his company in military service. It would be best to pension him off.” Possibly though these were just the qualities the young emperor deemed useful in dealing with rebels.
On August 16, 1849, when the Hungarian forces had already surrendered to the Russians, though the news had not yet reached the capital, a council of ministers in Vienna instructed Haynau to deal with the rebels leniently, to allow political and military officers to go abroad within a fixed time period, and enlisted men to return home. But four days later, with Hungarian surrender an accomplished fact, the emperor, under the influence of his mother Sophie and his premier FELIX SCHWARZENBERG, who declared that “We must not shrink from a little blood bath,” decided to deal with the former insurgents harshly and gave Haynau full powers to carry out the retributions. Haynau prepared to have some hangings as early as August 24, days after the Hungarian army had laid down its arms, but the Russians intervened. They did not want to be witness to the retributions they themselves had helped to bring about. Also, there still were pockets of Hungarian resistance, and they might become more determined if the rebels knew what fate awaited them. But once all military action ceased and the Russians had retreated, nothing stood in the way of reprisals. The first victims were 13 military officers hanged in ARAD, and the former Hungarian minister president BATTHYÁNY, executed in Budapest. Under Haynau’s dispositions, the summary trials and condemnations continued. Just how many fell victim to them has never been established. According to Austrian statistics, during the fall and winter of 1849, 120 persons were executed following court procedures. Many more were shot “trying to escape.” About 1,200 were sentenced to prison. Thousands emigrated while 40,000 to 50,000 men were conscripted into the imperial army.
These actions occasioned vocal protests from abroad. British foreign secretary Palmerston was quoted as saying, “The Austrians are the worst beasts among those who ever called themselves cultured people; their atrocities in Galicia, Italy, Hungary and Transylvania can only be compared to the outrages of African and Haitian negroes.” Under the influence of foreign protests, and because most of the political criminals had already been dealt with, the Austrian Council of Ministers on October 26 banned further executions. But Haynau remained unimpressed and ordered further condemnations and hangings. It placed the emperor in an embarrassing position. If he dismissed Haynau he in effect impeached his own judgment. After a decent interval he bestowed on the general the dignity of baron (Freiherr) and then, largely at the instance of his new minister of the interior ALEXANDER BACH, he dismissed him in July 1850. Haynau then made several trips abroad, but his reception was so hostile, at times, as in London in 1850 and Brussels in 1852, leading to mob violence, that he had to return home. In 1853, with troubles again brewing in Italy, the emperor recalled him to active service; only his death on March 14, 1853, prevented another grimly memorable tenure as military governor.
|Emperor of Austria |
King of Hungary, Lombardy and Venetia, and Bohemia
|Reign||2 March, 1835 - 2 December, 1848|
|Successor||Francis Joseph I|
|Spouse||Maria Anna of Sardinia|
|Ferdinand Charles Leopold Joseph Francis Marcelin|
|Father||Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor|
|Mother||Maria Theresa of the Two Sicilies|
|Born||April 19, 1793 |
|Died||June 29, 1875 (aged 82)|
Ferdinand (April 19, 1793 - June 29, 1875) was Emperor of Austria, King of Hungary, King of Lombardy-Venetia, King of Bohemia. He chose to abdicate, after a series of revolts in 1848.
Ferdinand has been depicted as feeble-minded and incapable of ruling, but although he was epileptic and certainly not intelligent, he kept a coherent and legible diary and has even been said to have a sharp wit. The up to twenty seizures he had per day, though, severely restricted his ability to rule with any effectiveness.
Though he was not declared incapacitated, a regent's council (Archduke Luis, Count Kolowrat and Prince Metternich) steered the government. His marriage to Princess Maria Anna of Sardinia (1803-1884) was probably never consummated, nor is he believed to have had any other liaisons. He is famous for his one coherent command: when his cook told him he could not have apricot dumplings because they were out of season, he said “I'm the Emperor, and I want dumplings!” (German: Ich bin der Kaiser und ich will Knödel.)
As the revolutionaries of 1848 were marching on the palace, he is supposed to have asked Metternich for an explanation. When Metternich answered that they were making a revolution, Ferdinand is supposed to have said “But are they allowed to do that?” (Viennese German: Ja, dürfen's denn des?) He was convinced by Felix zu Schwarzenberg to abdicate in favour of his nephew, Franz Joseph (the next in line was Ferdinand's younger brother Franz Karl, but he was persuaded to waive his succession rights in favour of his son) who would occupy the Austrian throne for the next sixty-eight years.
Ferdinand recorded the events in his diary : "The affair ended with the new Emperor kneeling before his old Emperor and Lord, that is to say, me, and asking for a blessing, which I gave him, laying both hands on his head and making the sign of the Holy Cross ... then I embraced him and kissed our new master, and then we went to our room. Afterward I and my dear wife heard Holy Mass ... After that I and my dear wife packed our bags"
Ferdinand was the last King of Bohemia to be crowned as such. Due to his sympathy with Bohemia (where he spent the rest of his life in Prague Castle) he was given the Czech nickname “Ferdinand V, the Good” (Ferdinand Dobrotivý). In Austria, Ferdinand was similarly nicknamed “Ferdinand der Gütige” (Ferdinand the Benign), but also ridiculed as "Gütinand der Fertige" (Goodinand the Finished).
He is interred in tomb number 62 in the Imperial Crypt in Vienna.
The repression was particularly tough in Russia, the second of Europe’s pre-eminent absolutist regimes. If Metternich cast Austria in the role of Central Europe’s policeman, then Tsar Nicholas I saw himself as gendarme for the entire continent. The Russian empire had been in his iron, autocratic grip since the death of Alexander I in 1825. He had founded the notorious Third Section, the secret police, an organisation which had a tiny number of officials, but which worked through the gendarmerie and a larger number of informants, who made as many as five thousand denunciations a year. The very existence of police spies created an atmosphere in which it took a brave soul to express dissent openly. One widely believed myth held that in one office of the Third Section headquarters in Saint Petersburg there was a trap door: during a seemingly innocuous conversation, a perfectly innocent individual summoned before the police officials could be lured into saying a minor indiscretion, whereupon a lever would be pulled and the victim would fall into a dungeon below to be subjected to all sorts of unspeakable horrors.
The real oppression was bad enough for those who dared to voice their thoughts too loudly. In 1836, when the liberal intellectual Petr Chaadaev lambasted Russia for its backwardness, he met the fate that would be shared by some twentieth-century Soviet dissidents: the government declared him insane and confined him to an asylum. Even (or perhaps, given his quick temper, especially) the great poet Pushkin had to tread carefully: he was tolerated because the Tsar liked his work, but even he was subjected to the occasional rap on the knuckles. Intellectuals and writers cautiously circulated their writings in manuscript among friends first, and only later approached publishers – if they approached them at all. The Tsarist regime did not only fear dissent from among Russia’s intellectuals, it was anxious – perhaps more justifiably – of the possibility of a mass uprising by the peasantry, twenty million of whom were serfs and who had risen up with startling vengeance in the past, most recently under the renegade Cossack Emilian Pugachev in the early 1770s. It also worried about opposition from the downtrodden subject nationalities of the Empire, especially the Poles, who bore their subjugation only between fits of rebelliousness.
Since 1795 the old Polish kingdom (except for the Napoleonic interlude of the Grand Duchy of Warsaw, established in 1807), had been wiped off the map, partitioned between Russia, Prussia and Austria – and this was confirmed at the peace congress. The three ‘eastern monarchies’ therefore tried (in vain) to asphyxiate Polish nationalism under their combined weight.
The Habsburg regime, in fact, was not especially oppressive – at least not by the standards of modern dictatorships. Its bureaucracy was generally honest and efficient. Moreover, Metternich used his considerable diplomatic influence to press mild reforms on the more benighted absolute rulers whose intransigence threatened to provoke violent opposition: in 1821 he promised military aid to King Ferdinand I of Naples against the monarch’s rebellious subjects, on the condition that Ferdinand made some minor concessions. Despite all the talk of the rule of law and of the benevolence of the monarchy, Metternich and other conservatives feared that, should constitutional or revolutionary movements have arisen among the diverse peoples of the Habsburg monarchy, then the very integrity of the empire would be endangered. In theory, it was held together by the subjects’ loyalty to the dynasty, the common institutions of the monarchy (including the administration and the imperial army) and, although there were religious minorities such as Jews and Protestants, the Catholicism of most Austrian subjects. In 1815 perhaps only the Germans, the Magyars, the Poles and the Italians had a deep sense of their own national identity. The first three, in particular, also dominated the other subject-nationalities of the empire, politically and socially. In Hungary the Magyar gentry lorded over the peasants who in the north were Slovaks, in the east were Transylvanian Romanians and in the south were Serbs or Croats. In Galicia the Poles tended to be the landlords holding the Ukrainian peasantry in such a state of servitude that they were practically beasts of burden. The Czechs, at least, with their high standards of education and (by 1848) the most advanced manufacturing base in the Habsburg monarchy, were beginning to challenge German hegemony in Bohemia, but one of the seething resentments among the non-Germans was that since the machinery of the state was centred in Vienna, it was dominated by German officials, whose language was usually the official medium in the law, education and administration. Even so, a developed sense of national identity was primarily shared by the aristocratic elites and the urban, middle classes, who were of course precisely the people most frustrated that opportunities in the bureaucracy, the law and in higher education were closed off unless one spoke German. This had not yet trickled down to the mass of peasants, many of whom saw the Emperor as their guardian against the depredations of their landlords, but the very fact that social difference coincided with ethnic divisions would aggravate the frequently bloody conflicts among the nationalities of Central Europe.
The resentment of the Magyars against what they saw as German dominance and overbearing Habsburg authority was potentially very dangerous to the empire. Unlike most of the other nationalities, the Magyars had a constitutional voice: the Hungarians had a diet, or parliament, which was dominated by the Magyar nobility, the clergy and the burghers of the free royal towns. Thus the ‘Hungarian nation’ – meaning in contemporary parlance those who were represented in the diet – made up a small proportion of the total population. The rest were legally defined, with graphic aptness, as the misera plebs contribuens – the poor tax-paying plebians (Latin was still, to the chagrin of patriotic Magyars, the official language of Hungarian politics and administration). The Magyar nobility none the less consisted of a fairly sizeable proportion of the Hungarian population – some 5 per cent compared to an estimated 1 per cent in pre-revolutionary France – and some of them were poor enough to be dubbed the ‘sandalled nobles’, since, it was said, they were so penniless that they could not afford boots. Yet, since these men only had their privileges and titles to distinguish them from the rest of the toiling masses, they were often the most resistant to any reform that endangered their status. Although the Habsburg Emperor, who also held the title of King of Hungary, could summon and dismiss the diet at will (and Emperor Francis sulkily refused to call the troublesome parliament between 1812 and 1825), it was difficult to raise taxation without consulting it, so it met in 1825, 1832–6, 1839–40, 1843–4 and, most dramatically, in 1847–8. Moreover, even when the parliament was not in session, the Hungarian gentry entrenched their opposition to the Habsburg monarchy in the fifty-five counties, where they elected and salaried the local officials, and where their assemblies (or ‘congregations’), which often met annually, were sometimes so bold as to claim the right to reject royal legislation.
In 1815 the Italians of Lombardy and Venetia fell under Habsburg rule. They, too, had an institutional outlet because they both had congregations, chosen from among local landowners and the towns, as well as the united ‘Congregations General’, which drew together delegates from the two provinces. These assemblies had the right to decide how to implement laws handed down by the government, represented by a viceroy living in Milan, but not to make legislation of their own. The Habsburgs had to tread carefully, for northern Italy was one of the jewels in their crown: Lombardy’s fertile, irrigated plains were a bright patchwork of wheat, of well-kept vines and of mulberry bushes, upon which silk worms produced their precious fibres. The duchy’s capital and, to the irritation of the proud Venetians, of the two provinces together, was Milan, which was culturally one of the most vibrant cities in Europe, thanks in part to the lighter touch of the censor, as compared with elsewhere in the Habsburg Empire. Lombardy-Venetia accounted for a sixth of the monarchy’s population, but contributed close to a third of its tax revenue – a fact that was not lost on Italian patriots. The Austrians worked hard to ensure that northern Italy was well and fairly governed, but the inevitable tensions arose. Educated Lombards and Venetians grumbled that Austrians occupied some 36,000 government posts, preventing Italians from enjoying their fair share of state patronage.
Outside Hungary and Lombardy-Venetia, there were no representative institutions worthy of the name in the Habsburg Empire. Since 1835 the Emperor had been the mentally disabled Ferdinand (in one famous outburst, he yelled at his courtiers, ‘I am the Emperor and I want dumplings!’). He was loved by his subjects, who affectionately referred to him as ‘Ferdy the Loony’, but of necessity the task of government was left to a council (or Staatskonferenz), dominated by Metternich. The rejection of constitutional government made repression almost unavoidable, since Metternich’s political vision would not admit the legitimacy of any opposition. There was a secret police, which operated out of offices on the Herrengasse in Vienna, but the number of officers was small – some twenty-five, including thirteen censors – so in the imperial capital they relied upon the regular police (which also handled a plethora of other tasks), while in the provinces local bureaux had to deal with both regular and secret policing. This was not a particularly intense system of surveillance, but it is also true that the activities of printers, publishers and writers were hemmed in with a range of petty, irritating regulations.10 Since only one of four categories of books was fully permitted, this fostered a climate that assumed a publication would be forbidden unless it was explicitly allowed.
After decades of harsh limits on Polish autonomy, many Poles were hopeful that the situation would improve after the 1855 coronation of Alexander II. There were indeed concessions: Martial law was lifted, an amnesty was declared for all political prisoners, a new Archbishop of Warsaw was named (the position had been vacant since 1830), and censorship was made somewhat less restrictive. In 1862 a Pole named Aleksander Wielopolski was made governor of the Polish Kingdom, in an attempt to cooperate with the aristocratic elite and marginalize more radical national separatists and democratic revolutionaries. All these attempts at conciliation failed, as patriotic demonstrations broke out in late 1861 and intensified throughout 1862. The Russians tried to suppress these protests with deadly force, but that only generated more anger among the Poles, and the unrest spread.
Wielopolski tried to quash the disturbances on the night of January 23 by organizing an emergency draft into the army targeted at the young men who had been leading the demonstrations. This, too, failed, as it prompted the national movement leaders to proclaim an uprising (which was being planned in any case). The rebels proclaimed the existence of the “Temporary National Government,” which would lead the revolt and (they hoped) pave the way for a true independent Polish government afterwards.
The “January Uprising” (as it is known in Poland) was fought primarily as a guerrilla war, with small-scale assaults against individual Russian units rather than large pitched battles (which the Poles lacked the forces to win). Over the next one and one-half years, 200,000 Poles took part in the fighting, with about 30,000 in the field at any one moment. After the revolt was crushed, thousands of Poles were sent to Siberia, hundreds were executed, and towns and villages throughout Poland were devastated by the violence. All traces of Polish autonomy were lost, and the most oppressive period of Russification began.
Leslie, R. F. (1963). Reform and Insurrection in Russian Poland, 1856–1865. London: University of London, Athlone Press.
Wandycz, Piotr. (1974). The Lands of Partitioned Poland, 1795–1918. Seattle: University of Washington Press.
Louis (Lajos) Kossuth . August Prinzhofer (1817–1885)
In spite of the failure of the various revolutionary movements in Austria in the spring of 1848, the Metternich regime could not be maintained. A constituent assembly or preliminary parliament had to be convoked by Emperor Ferdinand I even before he abdicated, on December 2, in favor of his nephew, Francis Joseph I. That assembly, meeting first in Vienna and later in Kromeriz (Kremsier) in Moravia, had to prepare a constitution for the Habsburg monarchy which would not only establish a parliamentary government and introduce social reforms but also give satisfaction to the claims of the various nationalities. Under a Polish speaker, Francis Smolka, both German and Slav deputies made a serious effort to solve these two problems. The latter, particularly the Czechs, wanted a real federalization of the empire which Palacky, in his plan of January 13, 1849, proposed to divide into eight entirely new provinces corresponding to the main ethnic groups. In order to avoid too drastic changes of the existing boundaries and the breaking up of the various historic units, the final draft of the new constitution, of March 1, attempted a compromise. Self-government was provided for each of the historic lands of the monarchy, but those which had a mixed population were to be subdivided into autonomous districts (Kreise) for each nationality. This constructive idea was never to materialize, however, and the whole “Kremsier Constitution” was abandoned when the new prime minister, Prince Felix Schwarzenberg, dissolved the assembly and returned to an absolute and centralistic form of government under German leadership.
One of the reasons for that final defeat of the Austrian revolution, even in its moderate expression, was indeed the military strength of the imperial regime. The Austrian army under Field Marshal Radetzky twice defeated the only foreign power which interfered with the internal troubles of the monarchy. This was the kingdom of Sardinia which, aiming at the unification of Italy, tried in vain to liberate the Italian populations still under Habsburg rule. But for the history of East Central Europe the second reason for the temporary victory of imperialism and absolutism is even more significant. It was not only difficult in general to reconcile the frequently conflicting claims of the various nationalities for instance, the claims of Italians and “Illyrians” (Slovenes and Croats in the maritime provinces or the claims of Poles and Ruthenians in Galicia) but any federal transformation of the empire, following ethnic lines, found an almost insurmountable obstacle in the basic opposition between the historic conception of the kingdom of Hungary and the aspirations of the non-Magyar nationalities of that kingdom which Vienna was able to play off against Budapest.
In that respect failure to arrive at an agreement was the more regrettable because the Magyars represented by far the strongest force of opposition against the central regime. Realizing this, Ferdinand I, the fourth as king of Hungary, accepted the demands of the bloodless revolution which also broke out in Hungary’s capital in the middle of March, 1848. Count Louis Batthyány became the first Hungarian prime minister and the liberal bills voted by the Hungarian Diet were approved. But the delicate issue of the relations between the new democratic kingdom and Austria, which was left in suspense, alarmed both the reactionaries in Vienna and the non-Magyar peoples of Hungary. The latter were afraid of the nationalism of the most influential Magyar leader, Louis Kossuth, a man who was favorable to social reforms but who was unprepared to recognize the equal rights of all nationalities.
Most of these were Slavs, including the Slovaks of northern Hungary—close kin of the Czechs in the Austrian part of the empire—and the Serb minority in southern Hungary looking toward the autonomous principality of Serbia on the other side of the border. But more than any other Slavs and more than the Rumanians of Transylvania, who at once protested against the incorporation of that province with Hungary and who were influenced by the rising Rumanian nationalism in the Danubian principalities, the Croats were to prove the most dangerous opponents of the Hungarian revolution. Fearing for the traditional autonomy of their kingdom if the ties with a free Hungary were to be made closer, they hoped to best serve their own national interests by siding with the imperial government in Vienna. It was therefore the Croat army, under Baron Joseph Jellachich, appointed ban of Croatia by the emperor and also ready to cooperate with the Orthodox Serbs, which was used by Austria to crush the Magyars.
Jellachich’s army was defeated when it entered Hungary in September, 1848. Even the occupation of Pest, early in 1849, by the same Prince Windisch-Graetz who had stopped the Slavic movement in Prague, and in October, 1848, another uprising in Vienna which was favorable to the Hungarians, did not put an end to the fierce resistance of the Magyars. On the contrary, equally opposed to the projects of the Kromeriz Assembly and to the centralized empire which was supposed to replace them, the Magyars, fearing that their kingdom would be made a mere province of Austria, with Transylvania and even the Serb territory (Voivodina) being separated, decided to dethrone the Habsburg dynasty, and on April 14,1849, at Debrecen, they approved a declaration of independence which was partly drafted on the American model. At the same time the parliament named Kossuth “Governing President.”
He also had to conduct the war in defense of the new republic whose establishment seemed to be a turning point in the history of East Central Europe, a first step in the direction of the complete liberation of all nations placed under foreign rule. As such it was particularly welcomed by the Poles whose friendship with the Hungarians was traditional. But in spite of that friendship the Polish leaders were fully aware of the fateful mistake which the defenders of Hungarian nationalism were making by disregarding the nationalism of the non-Magyar peoples. A reconciliation between Magyars on the one hand and Slavs and Rumanians on the other, was strongly encouraged both by Prince Czartoryski, who continued to conduct Polish diplomacy from Paris and who established relations even with Sardinia and Serbia, and by the Polish generals who participated in the Hungarian independence war.
One of them, Henryk Dembinski, was for a certain time even commander in chief of the Hungarian forces. Another, Josef Bem, a better strategist and more popular in Hungary, particularly distinguished himself in the defense of Transylvania where he tried in vain to better the relations between Magyars and Rumanians. He had to fight not only against the Austrians but also against the Russians, because after the defeat of Windisch-Graetz the emperor had asked for aid from Czar Nicholas I who had been able to prevent any revolutionary outbreak in his own realm and had stopped a liberal revolt in Rumania. The czar now was ready to offer his assistance in crushing the last and most alarming insurrection in East Central Europe.
The Polish participation in that revolution was for him a special reason for interfering since he was afraid that a Hungarian victory would also encourage the Poles to resume their struggle for independence, possibly under the same generals, and with the revolutionary movement eventually spreading from Austrian to Russian Poland. On his way to Hungary the Russian field marshal Paskevich, the same who had crushed the Polish insurrection in 1831 and now governed the former “kingdom,” took his auxiliary army through Galicia which was still restless after the troubles of 1848. The first Hungarian territory which he entered was the Ruthenian region south of the Carpathians, where among close kin of the czar’s “Little Russians” or Ukrainians—another national minority rather neglected by the Magyars—a feeling of solidarity with Russia was created on that occasion.
Attacked from two sides by superior forces, the exhausted Hungarian army, in spite of the courageous efforts of its last commander, General Arthur Görgey, had to capitulate. This took place at Világos near Arad on August 13, 1849, and all fighting ended in October when General George Klapka had to surrender the fortress of Komárom. This was at the same time the end of the whole revolutionary movement in the Habsburg Empire, and although even the Russians suggested an amnesty, the long resistance of the Hungarians was now ruthlessly punished. The victorious Austrian commander, General Julius Haynau, instituted a regime of terror which culminated in the execution of the former prime minister, Batthyány, and thirteen high officers. Kossuth had to go into exile and it was in America that he was received with special enthusiasm in 1851. But in general the Hungarian emigration was no more successful than the Polish in getting Western support for the oppressed peoples of East Central Europe.
Moreover, it was not only the Magyars who had to suffer from the new era of reaction. This was similar to the Metternich regime in its twofold trend of centralization and Germanization, which after the end of the military operations lasted for about ten years in the whole Habsburg monarchy under prime minister Alexander von Bach. After fighting on the Austrian side, even Croatia lost her former autonomy and separate diet, and the non-Magyar nationalities of Hungary proper, including the Saxons of Transylvania, were equally disappointed, the new Serb voivodina being placed under military administration.
In the Austrian part of the monarchy, all administrative and judicial reforms which had to be undertaken under pressure of the barely suppressed revolution were also aimed at a complete unification of the empire through a German bureaucracy. Contrary to the promises which had been made in March, 1849, the Bach administration, instead of a parliament, merely created a “council of state” which was composed of officials and which proved hostile to any kind of provincial self-government and particularly to the claims of all non-German nationalities. Only in Galicia was some progress made by the Poles, when after General Hammerstein’s military regime, one of them, Count Agenor Goluchowski, was made governor or viceroy of the undivided province. But even that prominent statesman was to find greater possibilities of action only in the reform period ten years later.
Immediately after the revolutionary crisis of 1848, which in East Central Europe began two years earlier and lasted one year longer than in the West, that whole region returned to a condition similar to that which prevailed after the Congress of Vienna. In the case of the Poles, that situation was even worse as far as Russian Poland and Cracow were concerned, and all stateless nationalities resented their oppression much more than ever before because of the continuous progress of their national consciousness and the high hopes which the various revolutions had raised. These revolutions having failed, it seemed that only a European war could improve their lot, especially if Western Europe would show a real interest in the freedom of all nations in opposition to the autocratic empires in the eastern part of the Continent. Nobody expressed that idea better than the Polish poet, Adam Mickiewicz, who, turning from literature to political action, had tried in 1848 to create a Polish legion in Italy, as in the days of Bonaparte. He was now ready to welcome another Napoleon as a liberator and the Crimean War as an occasion for reorganizing Europe on a basis of national rights.