Towards the end of the century the term ‘Fortwursteln’ (‘muddling through’) was coined to describe Emperor Franz Joseph’s policies. The political decision-makers saw no possibility of finding solutions for the pressing problems that beset the Monarchy on all sides.
The definition of the Czechoslav nation usual in the Habsburg empire covered the speakers of Slavic dialects in Bohemia, Moravia and Upper Hungary. These were regarded as a single entity, as was also apparent in the official lists of linguistic circumstances, where Czech and Slovak were mostly recorded together.
Austro-Slavism as an ideological programme of the Slavs under Habsburg rule regarded the Austrian empire as the optimum political framework for the existence of the Slav peoples of central Europe. They demanded the restructuring of the empire into a federalist state and the equality of the Austrian Slavs in order to ensure their unrestricted development.
The utopia of the unification of all Slavs, which from the pan-Slav point of view were interpreted as being one single nation, served the smaller Slav peoples of central Europe as an initial basis for their efforts towards national emancipation, while the Germans and the Hungarians saw it as the nightmare of "extinction in a sea of Slavs".
Anti-Semitism was not only a phenomenon in the German-speaking political scene within the Habsburg Monarchy. It also had an inauspicious tradition among other nationalities in central Europe.
The irredentist tendencies of the Romanians in the Dual Monarchy ran parallel to the emancipation of Romania from Ottoman rule. The chequered relations between Romania and Austria-Hungary offer a textbook example of the connections between domestic and foreign policy in dealing with the complex ethnic situation in south-eastern Europe.
Despite the ethnic background, the Transylvanian Romanians identified initially with the Hungarian crown. Their enthusiasm for Hungarianism waned in 1867, however, as a reaction to the Magyarization of the Hungarian half of the empire.
In view of the absence of social elites – the nobility in the Romanian settlement areas of the Habsburg Monarchy were Magyar, and the urban bourgeoisie Magyar and German with considerable Jewish, Greek and Armenian elements – the Romanian intelligentsia was recruited mainly from the clergy.
In spite of the numbers – according to the 1910 census, 6.4 per cent of the population of Austria-Hungary belonged to the Romanian language group – the Romanians were an underprivileged nation.
With his national feudal views, Count István Tisza was a typical representative of the Hungarian gentry, who dominated Hungary’s political landscape around 1900. As Hungarian minister president, he cultivated an authoritarian style with distant loyalty to Vienna and an uncompromising attitude to the demands of ethnic minorities.