Outbreak of the war
End of the war

The crisis of dualism

The two halves of the Dual Monarchy evolved in different directions after 1867. Opinions about the rights and obligations of the two parts of the empire with regard to the state as a whole diverged increasingly.

For Vienna, the Austro-Hungarian Compromise linked two autonomous parts of a supranational state. For the Hungarians, the Monarchy merely formed an external framework for two sovereign states.

The agreement made as part of the Compromise that the economic and customs alliance and the quotas for contributions to the joint budget should be renegotiated every ten years was used by the Hungarians to obtain further concessions. This was demonstrated with particular clarity in 1897, when negotiations on the quotas stalled and the deep schism between the two halves of the empire became evident. Both Vienna and Budapest were in the hands of more radical forces. In the absence of an agreement, the 1887 quota status was maintained.

In Hungary the liberal feudal government under Minister President István Tisza was threatened by the nationalist opposition and particularly the radical independence party led by Ferenc Kossuth, son of the revolutionary leader. The opposition demolished the assembly room and stormed out of the parliament in Budapest, provoking a government crisis and Tisza’s resignation.

At the subsequent elections in 1905 the radicals won a landslide victory, but Franz Joseph nevertheless appointed a minority government loyal to the supranational state. In the heated climate the radicals called for national resistance through the refusal to pay taxes and perform military service. There were demonstrations against the state authority and symbols of the supranational state. The radicals formed an alternative ruling committee, bringing Hungary to the brink of civil war, so that the Ministry of War even devised contingency plans for the military occupation of Hungary. A compromise was ultimately reached in 1906 and a government formed under Sándor Wekerle with the participation of the radicals.

In this precarious situation, quota negotiations were reopened in 1907. Fearing renewed escalation, there was a growing call in Cisleithania for the Hungary to be granted complete independence, since the Hungarian question was increasingly shackling the supranational state. Once again, finance and greater autonomy, particularly for the army, were the contentious issues. The army was in the throes of reorganization and Hungary demanded that Hungarian be introduced as the language of command alongside German for the Hungarian units, a demand that Franz Joseph firmly rejected.

The Emperor threatened the Hungarian nationalists with the introduction of universal suffrage as in the Austrian half of the empire. This would have meant that previously excluded sections of the population would be allowed to vote and that non-Magyar language groups would have equal rights and would be sufficiently numerous to overcome the Magyar primacy. This issue produced a strange constellation: the conservative Franz Joseph – otherwise highly sceptical of democratic reforms – became an advocate of democratization in Hungary as a means of countering the Magyar extremists. The threat was effective and the Compromise was renewed in 1907.

Translation: Nick Somers


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Gogolák, Ludwig: Ungarns Nationalitätengesetze und das Problem des magyarischen National- und Zentralstaates, in: Wandruszka, Adam/Urbanitsch, Peter (Hrsg.): Die Habsburgermonarchie 1848–1918, Band III: Die Völker des Reiches, Wien 1980, Teilband 2, 1207–1303

Hoensch, Jörg K.: Geschichte Ungarns 1867–1983, Stuttgart 1984

Markus, Adam: Die Geschichte des ungarischen Nationalismus, Frankfurt/Main u. a. 2013

Rumpler, Helmut: Eine Chance für Mitteleuropa. Bürgerliche Emanzipation und Staatsverfall in der Habsburgermonarchie [Österreichische Geschichte 1804–1914, hrsg. von Herwig Wolfram], Wien 2005

Stourzh, Gerald: Die dualistische Reichsstruktur, Österreichbegriff und Österreichbewusstsein 1867–1918, in: Stourzh, Gerald: Der Umfang österreichischer Geschichte. Ausgewählte Studien 1990–2010 (=Studien zu Politik und Verwaltung 99), Wien u. a. 2011, 105–124

Tóth, István György (Hrsg.): Geschichte Ungarns, Budapest 2005

Contents related to this chapter


  • Aspect

    On the eve of war

    The last decade of the nineteenth century and the first of the twentieth were a time of modernisation, mechanisation and speed. In 1910, Vienna, capital of the Habsburg empire, had 2.1 million inhabitants and had grown to become an international metropolis. New technologies changed working life and leisure. Railways increased mobility, as did the bicycle, motor vehicle and aeroplane. How did this development manifest itself and what other trends emerged in the last years before the outbreak of the First World War?

Persons, Objects & Events

  • Development

    The Dual Monarchy – Cisleithania and Transleithania

    The Austro-Hungarian Dual Monarchy was created through the Compromise of 1867. The Habsburg Monarchy now had two capitals, Vienna and Budapest. The two halves of the empire were united by their common army and foreign policy. The strongest linking factor was the monarch, who personified the unity of the empire.


  • Development

    Nation-building – national programmes and positions

    Nation-building was part of the emancipation by large sections of the population from feudal dependence. In line with the ideals of the Enlightenment and French Revolution, the nation – understood as a community of free citizens – was to become the sovereign in place of feudal potentates.