Outbreak of the war
End of the war

‘Indivisible and inseparable’ – the supranational state

The Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary was a union of two states based constitutionally on the 1867 Compromise. It was reflected in shared institutions and a joint ruler, Franz Joseph, who as a person was much more than just a symbolic connecting link.

The difficulties in finding common ground were also reflected in the naming of the new Dual Monarchy. The former name, ‘Empire of Austria’, was roundly rejected by the Hungarians as they saw it as fostering the ‘greater Austria’ aspirations of the centralist government in Vienna. The name ‘Austro-Hungarian Empire’ was also rejected because the term ‘empire’ would have suggested territorial unity, which in the eyes of Budapest did not exist. A compromise was ultimately reached with the name ‘Austro-Hungarian Monarchy’ or simply ‘Austria-Hungary’.

Within the supranational state, the House of Habsburg-Lorraine was responsible for foreign policy, the army, monetary and customs policy, and foreign trade. The authorities responsible for administering these concerns were called ‘k u. k.’, standing for ‘kaiserlich und königlich’ (imperial and royal). The ‘common interests’ were financed by a quota system. Initially, 70 per cent was borne by the economically stronger and more populous Cisleithania, where 54 per cent of the total population lived in 1870, and just 30 per cent by Hungary. The quota was meant to be renegotiated every ten years, but this soon turned out to be a difficult and politically volatile problem.

Bosnia and Herzegovina was administered by the joint Austro-Hungarian Ministry of Finance as a colony and an ‘imperial land’ or ‘condominium of both halves of the empire’. If this region, populated by southern Slav ethnic groups, had been administered solely by either the Austrians or the Hungarians it would have dangerously tested the complex ethnic balance.

The Dual Monarchy was a complicated system with three government entities: the ‘Joint Ministry’, which decided on supranational affairs, and the governments in Vienna and Budapest. Coordination was made more difficult by the fact that the competencies were often not defined in detail. This meant that Franz Joseph, who reigned in Hungary not as Emperor of Austria but exclusively as Apostolic King of Hungary, had the last word on many issues, thereby maintaining the strong role of the monarch – which was quite in his interests.

During the Compromise negotiations, Franz Joseph had been very keen to ensure that dynastic privileges and the unity of the monarchy were preserved. A strong unified army was a fundamental instrument of rule, as he had recognized in the 1848 revolution at the beginning of his reign. He therefore nipped in the bud all attempts by the Hungarian government to attain autonomous rights in this area.

Translation: Nick Somers


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

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

Wandruszka, Adam (Hrsg.): Die Habsburgermonarchie 1848–1918, Band VII: Verfassung und Parlamentarismus. Teil 1: Verfassungsrecht, Verfassungswirklichkeit und zentrale Repräsentativkörperschaften, Wien 2000

Contents related to this chapter


  • Aspect

    The Habsburg empire

    Austria-Hungary had an extremely diverse state structure. At the start of the First World War it was a major power in decline. Social and political problems and the dominant nationality conflicts shook the empire to its foundations. At the same time, the Monarchy represented an enormous cultural region in which the Habsburg empire flourished in spite of the political stagnation.

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.