Outbreak of the war
End of the war

Martin Mutschlechner


To join or not to join? Austria and the process of German unification

In response to the question of national unification, many Germans considered that the logical path was for the German Confederation to be made into a federal state and then into a German nation-state. Nevertheless, the question of the role to be played by the Habsburg Monarchy was a major problem.


German Austrians or Austrian Germans?

The ‘Austrian identity’ of the German-speaking subjects of the Habsburg Monarchy was an intractably problematic phenomenon that is best described in terms of a ‘double identity’.


The German-Austrians in the Habsburg Monarchy

The German-speakers were the Habsburg Monarchy’s largest ethnic group. In addition they were the only group with a presence in all the lands of Austria-Hungary – though to varying extents.


The role of schools in the growth of national identity

The introduction of mandatory primary schooling from the middle of the eighteenth century resulted in broad masses of the population becoming literate. However, the schools not only provided elementary education but also imbued the young with images of national history and developed their awareness of language.


The drive for unification

As well as differing in their language and sense of national identity, the nationalities of the Habsburg multi-ethnic state also differed with respect to their areas of settlement. While some groups lived entirely within the Habsburg Monarchy, others were spread across the borders. In some cases this factor had considerable influence on historical developments.


The role of history: Concerning ‘historic’ and ‘history-less’ peoples

The source material related to the problem of the nationalities in the Habsburg Monarchy often distinguishes between ‘historic’ peoples and ‘history-less’ peoples – peoples that possessed a history and peoples that supposedly did not. This is a somewhat confusing distinction to us today: after all, if an ethnic group has existed for centuries, how can it not have a history?