The Habsburg empire had a large number of ethnic groups, languages and mentalities. Ethnic discord, German chauvinism, the Polish question, Italian irredentism, and Serbian, Romanian and Ukrainian interests strained domestic and foreign relations and questioned the limits of the Danube Monarchy.
A compromise was reached with Hungary in 1867. The Austrian Empire was transformed into the Dual Monarchy. Franz Joseph was now King of Hungary and Emperor of the ‘Cisleithanian lands and kingdoms’, two independent halves of the empire. Hungarian efforts to create a completely independent state put a strain on the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, as did the dominance of German Austrians and Magyars in the multinational Habsburg empire.
The Poles sought their own independent state; the Czechs wanted a solution similar to the Hungarian model. In the Hungarian half of the empire Slovaks, Romanians and even the autonomous Croats suffered from the repressive Magyarization policy. The government in Belgrade was seen by Serbs, Croats and Romanians as a hope and centre for southern Slav concerns. The nationality question remained unresolved, however.
The monarchical propaganda made no mention of this conflict potential. The pictures of the ceremonies marking the 60th jubilee of the coronation of Emperor Franz Joseph I show only what was officially desired (Procession in Honour of the 60th Jubilee of Emperor Franz Joseph, A 1908). The pictures of the march past of nations are deceptive. Hungarians, Czechs, Croats and Italians refused to march past the Emperor. Anything that did not fit in with the official version remained undocumented.
Pictures at the time of the collapse of the Danube Monarchy give a first hint in film of the open conflicts. The film Proclamation of the Czechoslovak Republic (ČSR 1918) shows the enthusiasm with which the population removed all German signs and indications of monarchical sovereignty – an indication of the long conflict between the German Austrians, who vehemently defended their privileges, and the Czechs. In Bohemia in particular there were repeated clashes between the two national groups. In Moravia it was possible to balance the interests of the two nationalities only by separating them.
Translation: Nick Somers
Hanisch, Ernst: Der lange Schatten des Staates. Österreichische Gesellschaftspolitik im 20. Jahrhundert, Wien 1994
Leidinger, Hannes/Moritz, Verena/Moser, Karin: Österreich Box 1: 1896-1918. Das Ende der Donaumonarchie, Wien 2010
Reutner, Richard (Hrsg.): Die Nationalitäten- und Sprachkonflikte in der Habsburgermonarchie, Münster 2011
- Imperial and Royal myth in film
- Presentation of the imperial household: pictorial icons
- What the films didn’t show 1: Social contrasts
- What the films didn’t show 2: Religious diversity
- What the films didn’t show 3: nationalist conflicts
- Lack of resources and wartime financial difficulties on film
- Film documents: after the disaster