Outbreak of the war
End of the war

The metropolis as melting pot I: Vienna – migration under the Emperor

As the Emperor's residence and the capital of the Austrian half of the Empire, Vienna was the cultural and economic centre of the Habsburg Monarchy and thus a major centre of attraction for migrants. In the 19th century, the city underwent huge growth.

With a population of 1.7 million, Vienna around 1900 was one of the largest urban centres in Europe. In comparison, London had a population of 4.5 million, Paris 2.7 million and Berlin 1.9 million.

Around 1900, the largest city of the Habsburg Monarchy experienced a phase of considerable growth. A few decades saw the population triple thanks to huge migration. Thus at that time, only 46% of those living in Vienna were actually born there, while the majority had arrived from elsewhere.

Based on origin, the largest group of migrants, roughly 400,000 people or one quarter of the total population, came from the Bohemian Lands. However, migrants were recorded not according to their ethnic background, but instead only according to their place of birth. On this basis, 44.1% of the migrants from Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia came from exclusively Czech-speaking districts, 28.6% from mainly Czech-speaking districts and only 11.4% from districts where the majority spoke German. The distribution according to official figures was slightly different. In 1910, roughly 100,000 Viennese (5.4% of the resident population) claimed to use Czech as their language of conversation. The actual percentage, however, was assumed to be much higher, since the Czech migrants were exposed to considerable pressure to assimilate.

The second group of new Viennese, roughly 250,000 people, were migrants from the Austrian hereditary lands, i.e. the Crown Lands that today are mostly part of Austria. This group, however, also included people from non-German-speaking areas such as Kranj, the Austrian Littoral and Trentino. A further 100,000 people originated from Galicia, the Bukovina and Dalmatia.

The 140,000 people from the Hungarian half of the Empire had a status of their own. These Hungarian citizens – including both ethnic Hungarians and Slovaks, Croats, Germans etc. – were regarded as foreigners following the 1867 Compromise.

The "actual" percentage of foreigners, i.e. nationals of other countries with the exception of the other half of the Empire, was small, accounting in 1910 for 2.1% of the population in the Austrian half of the Empire and only 1.3% in Hungary. In Vienna, there were roughly 23,000 German nationals ("Reich Germans"), 4,000 citizens of the Russian Empire and 2,500 Italian nationals.

Viennese municipal policy attempted to react to the huge movement of migrants with generally restrictive measures. An important obstacle was what was known as the home right. Not all Viennese were fully entitled citizens of the city. In order to acquired this status, it was necessary to acquire the home right, since it was this that brought with it the right to undisturbed residence and the claim to municipal benefits (e.g. benefits in old age or during unemployment provided by the municipal welfare institutions).

It was awarded very restrictively, since it was only after residing in Vienna for 10 years and paying a corresponding amount of tax that a person was entitled to apply for the home right. As a result, around 1900 only 30% of the residents of Vienna also were entitled to a home in Vienna.

The grant of the home right was also used as a means to advance assimilation. Under Mayor Karl Lueger, the citizen's oath was extended with the addition of the words "to maintain the German character of the city as far as possible". The background to this was the rejection of the demands of the largest group of immigrants, the Czechs resident in Vienna, for state schools where Czech would be the teaching language. This would have required recognition of Czech as a customary language, which was only achieved after 1918. Since Lueger's time, the award of home right had involved a prohibition on membership of Czech associations and a binding option for German education. Holders of the Viennese home right were consequently automatically registered as German-speaking in censuses.

Translation: David Wright


Brousek, Karl M.: Wien und seine Tschechen. Integration und Assimilation einer Minderheit im 20. Jahrhundert [Schriftenreihe des österreichischen Ost- und Südosteuropa-Instituts 7] , Wien 1980

Csáky, Moritz: Das Gedächtnis der Städte. Kulturelle Verflechtungen – Wien und die urbanen Milieus in Zentraleuropa, Wien/Köln/Weimar 2010

Csendes, Peter/ Opll, Ferdinand (Hg.): Wien. Geschichte einer Stadt. Band 3: Von 1790 bis zur Gegenwart, Wien/Köln/Weimar 2006

Glettler, Monika: Die Wiener Tschechen um 1900. Strukturanalyse einer nationalen Minderheit in der Großstadt (Veröffentlichungen des Collegium Carolinum 28), München 1972

John, Michael/Lichtblau, Albert: Schmelztiegel Wien – einst und jetzt: Zur Geschichte und Gegenwart von Zuwanderung und Minderheiten; Aufsätze, Quellen, Kommentare, (2. Aufl.), Wien/Köln/Weimar 1993

Traum und Wirklichkeit. Wien 1870–1930. Katalog der 93. Sonderausstellung des Historischen Museums der Stadt Wien 1985, Wien 1985

Contents related to this chapter


  • Aspect

    “Viribus unitis” or prison of nations?

    The multi-ethnic Austria-Hungary formed a relatively stable environment for the co-existence of the many ethnic communities. The much-vaunted “unity in diversity” was in fact overshadowed by numerous inequalities. This was illustrated above all in the differing weight of the various language groups involved in political and economic rule. These inequalities were increasingly challenged by the disadvantaged nationalities. As a result, the nationality issue dominated political affairs, leading to destabilisation of the Monarchy.


  • Development

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