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OpenEdition Books

Modernism: Representations of National Culture

Ahmet Ersoy
Maciej Górny
Vangelis Kechriotis

Chapter I. Cultural modernization: Institutionalization of “national sciences”

The Austro-Hungarian Monarchy in word and picture

Traduction de Agnieszka Wierzcholska

Texte intégral

1Title: Die österreichisch-ungarische Monarchie in Wort und Bild. Auf Anregung und unter Mitwirkung Seiner kaiserlichen und königlichen Hoheit des durchlauchtigsten Kronprinzen Erzherzog Rudolf (The Austro-Hungarian Monarchy in word and picture. At the suggestion of and assisted by his imperial and royal Highness, the Crown Prince Archduke Rudolf)

2Originally published: Vienna, Druck und Verlag der Kaiserlich-königlichen Hof- und Staatsdruckerei, 1886–1902, 24 vols.

3Language: German

4The excerpts used are from the original, vol. I, pp. 5–17.

About the author

5Archduke Rudolf, Crown Prince of Austria, Hungary and Bohemia [1858, Schloss Laxenburg (Lower Austria) – 1889, Mayerling (Lower Austria)]: he was the son of Emperor Francis Joseph I (1830–1916) and heir to the Habsburg throne. Rudolf was tutored by prominent Austrian scholars, including the geologist and historian Ferdinand von Hochstetter (1829–1884), professor at the Polytechnical Institute in Vienna, and from 1876 onwards, the director of the Museum of Natural History. It was Hochstetter who cultivated Rudolf’s interests in natural sciences and anthropology. In 1881, Rudolf married Stephanie, daughter of the Belgian king, Leopold II (1835–1909). In contrast to his conservative father, Rudolf held distinctively liberal views, as illustrated by his articles and friendship with various journalists in Vienna, including Moritz Szeps (1835–1902), the editor of the liberal Neues Wiener Tagblatt. In 1889 he and his mistress, Baroness Mary Vetsera, were found dead in Mayerling, apparently having committed suicide. Various theories circualted about a political murder due to his extravagant political convictions and tense relationship with his father. Despite Rudolf’s death, the publication of the collective work ’Austria- Hungary in word and picture,’ which he initiated in 1884, continued until 1902. Although the volumes were also translated into Hungarian and some into Croatian, their scholarly impact was modest; moreover, some of the Empire’s nationalities, like the Czechs and the Romanians even opposed it. After 1989, various volumes and abridged versions of ’Austria-Hungary in word and picture’ were re-edited, generating new interest in this work from scholars of Central Europe and the general public alike.

6Main works: Die österreichisch-ungarische Monarchie in Wort und Bild. Auf Anregung und unter Mitwirkung Seiner kaiserlichen und königlichen Hoheit des durchlauchtigsten Kronprinzen Erzherzog Rudolf 24 vols. [The Austro-Hungarian Monarchy in word and picture. At the suggestion of and assisted by his imperial and royal Highness, the Crown Prince Archduke Rudolf] (1886–1889); Politische Briefe an einen Freund [Political letters to a friend], ed. by J. Szeps (1922).


7Ethnography became an established academic discipline during the nineteenth century, with chairs and departments being established in Germany, France, Britain and the Netherlands. The ’Viennese Association for Anthropology, Ethnology and Archaeology’ was formed in 1870 by Freiherr Ferdinand von Andrian-Werburg (1835–1914), Josef Szombathy (1853–1943) and three professors of anatomy, Karl Langer (1819–1903), Emil Zuckerkandl (1849–1910) and Carl Toldt (1840–1920). The ’Hungarian National and Anthropological Society’ was established in 1878, followed shortly thereafter by the creation of the Department of Anthropology at Pázmány Péter University in Budapest in 1881 with the leading Hungarian craniologist Aurél Török (1842–1912) as its first chair. The ’Hungarian Ethnographic Society’ was established in 1889. Yet while Western European ethnographers were mostly concerned with various colonial settings in Africa, Asia and Australia, their counterparts in Central Europe focused on the heterogeneous representation of peoples offered by the region’s diverse ethnic arrangement. Such an interest in the history of “individual ethnic groups” paralleled an already existing tradition, originating in the Enlightenment, which reflected the Austrian imperial ambition to inventory the “land and people” under its administration. One such work was produced between 1855 and 1857 by the Austrian statistician Karl Freiherr von Czoernig-Czernhausen (1804–1855) under the title Ethnographie der Oesterreichischen Monarchie, an eloquent example of how imperial administrators viewed the ethnic heterogeneity of their state. This was an ambitious program, and one which became an integral part of certain trends of political thinking within the Austrian Empire centered on the idea of “collective patriotism” and the role of the House of Habsburg in fostering a trans-national loyalty of its subjects.

8Karl Freiherr von Rokitansky (1804–1878), the head of the ’Institute of Pathological Anatomy’ in Vienna, for instance, equated anthropology with the natural history of man. To achieve this task, anthropology should not only investigate the past but also engage in collaborative work with other disciplines, like history and sociology. It was, in other words, a very broad definition of anthropology, but one which in practice clearly resembled Czoernig- Czernhausen’s idea of Imperial Austria as a special place composed of different ethnic groups (Völkerbestand). Both Czoernig-Czernhausen and Rokitansky believed that only the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy could accommodate politically the different ethnic groups and historical traditions of Central and Eastern Europe, which shared a common geographical framework and common historical past. Such an idea was widely popularized by imperial propaganda until 1918, most spectacularly in ’The Austro- Hungarian Monarchy in word and picture.’

9Presumably, Rudolf had already composed the draft of an ethnographic compendium of the Habsburg Monarchy in 1883, presenting his idea to the Emperor in 1884. Following Francis Joseph’s approval, the Archduke asked two prominent writers, Mór Jókai (1825–1904) and Josef Ritter von Weilen (1874–1899), to preside over of the Hungarian and the Austrian editorial committees respectively. Each committee was composed of eight members. Various scholars and artists were invited to contribute, including the economist Karl Menger (1857–1985) and the music critic Eduard Hanslick (1825– 1904), but also successful businessmen like Nikolaus Dumba (1830–1900). Although there was a constant dialogue between editors and authors, and the contents of the volumes were frequently changed, the Viennese editorial committee maintained intellectual and artistic control. In many ways, there was not much conceptual maneuvering, especially when it came to sensitive issues like linguistic or cultural autonomy. Nevertheless, when finalized, the volumes seemed to have followed a unitary framework, and those ideas of separateness and differences were seen as expressions of intellectual creativity rather than opposing the holistic patriotic platform suggested by Rudolf.

10The first installment was completed in 1885, and it was duly presented to the Emperor by Rudolf, Jókai and von Weilen. In total, 397 bi-monthly installments were published between 1885 and 1902; 77 of them being published in Rudolf’s lifetime. After Rudolf’s death, the Emperor continued to support the publication of the remaining volumes, with Princess Stephanie acting as the successor to her late husband. The secretary of the Austrian committee, Joseph Böck, carried on the monumental task of coordinating authors and artists, and supervising the printing, subscription and distribution process.

11The treatment of each region of the Empire was based on a similar structure, focusing on ancient history, country history and geography, ethnography, music, literature, theatre, architecture, art, constitutional history, and political economy. Detailed information about the country and a description of the regions composing it were also provided, accompanied by the appropriate illustrations. The chapters were written by a person who was considered to be an expert in the field, and in most cases the authors originated from the ethnic group or region they were asked to write about. The general aim was, therefore, to offer the reader a panoramic perspective on and a first hand experience of the Empire’s convoluted history.

12Even though most of the descriptions of regional and local rituals, music, traditions and practices produced a static, almost ahistorical, version of ethnographic reality, most authors succeeded in presenting a credible narrative about a particular history which had developed within the unique geographical and cultural environment provided by the Empire. It was, in fact, what Rudolf had wanted. He outlined his conceptual vision in the introduction. Its first and foremost goal was to present the cultural, geo-political and ethnic diversity of the Habsburg Monarchy as interdependent. The multi-ethnic character of the Monarchy was moreover interpreted as a positive development, enhancing Rudolf’s conviction that the cultural and political mission of the Monarchy was not only to show to the world the achievement of German culture in Austria, but also to channel the intellectual achievements of the myriad of ethnic groups inhabiting its territories. True to his origin and status, Rudolf could not but imagine that there was unfailing loyalty amongst these ethnic groups for the Empire; he was, however, aware that this ceremonial dynastic loyalty needed to be gradually complemented by a modern form of dynastic patriotism. In this respect, Rudolf believed that ethnic rivalry notwithstanding, the Empire’s family of nations was not unhappy, and the encyclopedic work was meant to provide a synopsis of this peaceful coexistence of different historical traditions. However, it is symptomatic of the competing identity narratives co-existing in the Monarchy that the German and Hungarian versions of the book contained different formulations of some of the most ideologically loaded issues.

13Since the 1990s, with the increased interest in the Habsburg Monarchy, ’Austria-Hungary in word and picture’ has been re-discussed and introduced to the general public. Contrary to its outdated methodology and political intentions, the volumes are now viewed not only as a remarkable example of collaborative scholarly work in the multinational regions of Central and Eastern Europe, but also as an indication that attempts to work towards the creation of a general patriotic ethos in the Habsburg Monarchy were not as trivial as once assumed.


The Austro-Hungarian Monarchy in word and picture

15The Austro-Hungarian Monarchy still lacks an extensive ethnographic study despite some good preliminary works that have already been accomplished. Yet, there is a need for a thorough work up-to-date to present scientific research and using the very refined artistic methods of reproduction. This work should be inspiring and instructive and at the same time shall offer a complete picture of our Fatherland and its various peoples.

16The study of the peoples living within the borders of the Monarchy is not only an important field of research for scholars but is also of practical value in order to raise general patriotism and the love for one’s country.

17The insight into the merits and peculiarities of each of the ethnographic groups and their mutual and material dependencies on one another that will be portrayed in such a study as this shall substantially fortify the feeling of solidarity, which shall further unite all the peoples of our Fatherland.

18All ethnic groups who until now have felt isolated from other national elements, due to their language, custom and partially diverging historical development, will now be beneficently affected by scientific literature. Each will adequately acknowledge and thus appreciate their individuality. These ethnic groups are in turn invited to seek their mental and spiritual center in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

19It is thus of great importance, in our Fatherland especially, to cultivate ethnography and ancillary sciences. They allow for the assembling of the material needed to compare and to evaluate objectively the various nations. Such an examination allows an analysis free of all poorly conceived theories and of the political passions of the parties. […]

20We cannot conceal that ethnography has been less promoted in Austria- Hungary than it was in Germany, England or France, and recently even in Russia, although the Monarchy possesses the same facilities as other states in order to undertake such studies.

21Nevertheless, some precious studies on particular peoples have been published. Yet, they either remained unutilized in scholarly journals and scientific periodicals or they have been unfortunately too often summarized by foreign publications.

22Therefore, the idea emerged to collect the rich material that until now has been not utilized properly in Austria-Hungary. This way, we can create a work that will accommodate the artistic and scientific self-conception of each nation living within the borders of the Monarchy and that will honor the whole Monarchy with all its elements.

23Where shall we find another state that would furnish equally interesting images to such an ethnographic study if not Austria-Hungary? The Monarchy is rich in the manifold shapes of its landscape. It is wonderfully diverse as to its natural history, its agriculture, and its climate. Moreover, various ethnic groups live within the borders of the Monarchy.

24These considerations inspired us to undertake this work. A group of Austrian and Hungarian writers and artists will give an account in word and picture of the whole beloved Fatherland. They will invite the readership to a walking-tour through the wide, wide land, amidst the various nations with their many languages, amidst ever changing images.

25This is the goal of our work. Austria-Hungary in word and picture shall have an earnest patriotic impact due to its scientific and artistic values but also due to its truly popular character.

26The literary and artistic circles of all the peoples of the Monarchy have united in order to create this joint study. This work shall reveal here and abroad the rich sum of the mental and intellectual vigor of all of the Monarchy’s peoples in the territories they inhabit. They have united to work on this beautiful creation that shall fortify the self-conception of our Fatherland and the powerful feeling of love for our country.

27In the course of this project one territory after another will be illustrated in word and picture. New writers and artists will therefore consecutively join this project and portray the countries they originated from. They will rejoin their precursors with as much devotion and zeal. The study, completed after years of work, will be a monument for the intellectual creativity and vigor of our present times and a monument for all times: Austria-Hungary in word and picture.

© Central European University Press, 2010

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