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
- ‘God preserve Him, God protect Him’ – The Emperor
- The Army: Austria-Hungary in its entirety
- The bureaucracy as the long arm of the state
- The Dual Monarchy: two states in a single empire
- ‘Indivisible and inseparable’ – the supranational state
- The Habsburg Monarchy in the process of democratization
- The absence of political culture
- A strong monarch and autocratic tendencies