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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- The Magyars and the Habsburg Monarchy
- From ‘Natio Hungarica’ to Magyar nation
- Pride of the nation: the Hungarian nobility
- The Hungarian war of independence 1848/49
- From neo-absolutism to Compromise
- Élyen a Magyar – long live the Magyars! Hungarian Magyarization policy
- The crisis of dualism
- István Graf Tisza: Hungary’s ‘strong man’