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National Romanticism: The Formation of National Movements

Balazs Trencsenyi
Michal Kopecek

Chapter IV. The Nation and Its Neighbors in Europe: Problems of Coexistence

Austria and her future

Viktor Von Andrian-Werburg
Traduction de Robert Russell

Texte intégral

1Title: Österreich und dessen Zukunft (Austria and Her future)

2Originally published: Hamburg: Hoffmann und Campe, 1843

3Language: German

4The excerpts used are from Madeleine Rietra, ed., Wirkungsgeschichte als Kulturgeschichte. Viktor von Andrian-Werburgs Rezeption im Vormärz (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2001), pp. 215–216, 217, 288–289.

About the author

5Viktor Franz von Andrian-Werburg [1813, Görz, (today Gorizia, Italy) – 1858, Vienna]: politician and writer. He belonged to an old aristocratic family from Görz. After completing his basic education, he studied law in Vienna. In 1834 he began his career in the civil service working for the Austrian ‘Gubernium’ in Venice. In the early 1840s, Andrian-Werburg published two works important for the evolution of his political career, Österreich im Jahre 1843 and Österreich und dessen Zukunft. Both of them criticized the political system in Austria. In 1844 Andrian-Werburg became a secretary at the Imperial Chancellery, a position he abandoned in 1846. During the Revolution of 1848 he became an active politician, supporting the reformist movements and the interests of ethnic minorities such as the Czechs. He was a member of the ‘Frankfurt Parliament’ (May 1848–May 1849), where he advocated the ‘Großdeutsch’ idea (Greater Germany with Austria as the leader) instead of a ‘Kleindeutsch’ one (Germany with Prussia as the leader). After the defeat of the revolutions of 1848 in Germany and Austria, Andrian-Werburg worked as a political commentator. He was a fervent critic of the neo-absolutist regime of Alexander von Bach (1813–1893), instituted after 1849. In his Centralisation und Decentralisation in Österreich (1850), he discussed the centralization policies of the post-1848 period and their effect on Austrian political and national life, and insisted that the state should respect the autonomy of the individual regions and their rights to internal legislation. Many of his ideas were reflected in the ‘October Diploma’ introduced by Francis Joseph (r. 1848–1916) in 1860. In addition to his impact on constitutional history in Austria, Andrian-Werburg’s theory of federal nationalism was constantly invoked in the discussions about the future of Austria and its relationship with other ethnic groups which characterized the last decades of the Habsburg Empire.

6Main works: Österreich im Jahre 1843 [Austria in 1843] (1843); Österreich und dessen Zukunft [Austria and Her future] (1843); Centralisation und Decentralisation in Österreich [Centralization and decentralization in Austria] (1850); Denkschrift über die Verfassungs- und Verwaltungsfrage in Österreich im Jahre 1851 [Memorial on constitutional and administrative questions in Austria in 1851] (1851, published in 1859).


7Two clusters of ideas characterized political thinking in Austria in the period preceding the revolution of 1848. The first dealt with the rise of nationalism amongst the ethnic groups of the Empire; the second discussed the future of Austria in Central Europe and its relationship with Prussia. Metternich’s political system had an impact on the evolution of both of these themes. However, to many critics of Metternich’s policies, his combination of diplomatic strategies designed to enhance Austria’s international credentials through the suppression of internal national movements jeopardized the existence of the Austrian Empire. According to these authors, one could not imagine the future of Austria without a feasible solution for the domestic rise of conflicting nationalisms. Moreover, the political fragmentation of the German states of the former Holy Roman Empire, and Prussia’s intention to dominate the future of these states fueled additional debates in Austria.

8In the 1840s–1850s, various writers in the Austrian Empire, such as József Eötvös (1813–1871), František Palacký (1798–1876) and Viktor von Andrian-Werburg, argued that the domestic problems of Austria could not be dissociated from external developments, such as the creation of a German state under the leadership of Prussia. The Austrian Empire, according to these authors, was facing a critical moment in its modern history. On a general level they combined ideas of public reform, such as a new constitutional arrangement for Austria, with concepts of national equality and liberty for the ethnic groups of the Empire. On a particular level, however, their theoretical and political interests tended to illustrate their national affiliation. Eötvös and Palacký perceived the Austrian Empire as a protector of the ethnic diversity in Central Europe and the only force capable of blocking Russia’s expansion. However, they had connected the stability and consolidation of the Austrian Empire with the national recognition of their ethnic groups. If Hungarian and Czech national leaders resorted to well-established traditions of national identification, German writers in Austria faced serious conceptual problems when they attempted to identify and define ‘Austrian nationality.’

9Andrian-Werburg addressed these problematic issues in Österreich und dessen Zukunft. The book represents a good example of the political dilemmas the Austro-Germans experienced before the revolution of 1848. Several themes are present in Andrian-Werburg’s analysis: the repudiation of the assumption that ‘Austria’ and ‘Austrian nationality’ have any real meaning; ‘Austrian patriotism’, if it existed, was confined at best to regional allegiances; the policies of the Austrian government (although Metternich was not named, the criticism was directed at him) succeeded in compromising the idea of patriotism in Austria; the definition of patriotism as “a sense of community or public spirit” and the importance of individuals’ involvement in the public life; Austria’s loss of power in Germany and the ascendancy of Prussia; and the detrimental policy of the Holy Alliance towards the movements of national liberation in Europe. The text also documents the ambiguities of collective identification characterizing the Austrian ‘Vormärz.’ On the one hand, it was influenced by a discourse of supra-ethnic patriotism, continuing the Enlightenment tradition (see Joseph von Sonnenfels, On the love of Fatherland); on the other hand, it defined the nation in a romantic key, on the basis of a common past, common language and organic ties.

10With the outbreak of the Revolution in 1848 Andrian-Werburg was presented with the opportunity to test the ideas he developed in Österreich und dessen Zukunft. The first elected Imperial Diet moved from Vienna to Kremsier (Cz. Kroměříž), where it compiled a draft constitution which replaced the crown-lands by ‘Bundesländer’ (federated countries), one for each of the national groups in the monarchy. It seemed that the idea of subdividing the Austrian Empire into homogeneous districts according to nationalities had finally become possible. As a participant in these constitutional debates, Andrian-Werburg reiterated his ideas about the principle of autonomous self-administration of crown-lands and municipal communities he had refined in Österreich und dessen Zukunft. His suggestions were largely based on the system of the Austrian Estates, although Alexis de Tocqueville’s influence, especially concerning the problem of administrative autonomy and municipal freedom, is also discernible. There should be a strong central government, Andrian-Werburg insisted; yet the crown-lands should be represented equally in the Reichstag. Furthermore, the crown-lands should be able to enjoy administrative and legislative powers that could contribute to their development. However, the new Emperor, Francis Joseph, did not accept this draft of the constitution, which was perceived, quite rightly, as an attempt to change the Habsburg Monarchy into a federation. Eventually, Francis Joseph’s Prime Minister, Prince Felix Schwarzenberg (1800–1852), dissolved the Imperial Diet before it could enact the draft of the constitution.

11Andrian-Werburg’s main revolutionary episode occurred as vice president and chairman of the constitutional committee of the Frankfurt Parliament. Two main issues characterized his activity in the Parliament, and both were discussed in Österreich und dessen Zukunft. The first referred to the public rights of national minorities; the second issue dealt with a constitutional arrangement between Austria and Prussia. First, Andrian-Werburg endorsed the rights of minority groups to use their own languages within the areas where they predominated, but he did not accept notions of linguistic equality. As an advocate of German cultural superiority, his interpretation of the nationality question reflected his endorsement of gradual and peaceful ‘Germanization’ of the Austrian Empire. Together with some of his close collaborators, such as Franz Schuselka (1811–1886), the spokesman of the liberals in the Frankfurt Parliament and the Kremsier Imperial Diet, and Ignaz Kuranda (1811–1886), the founder of a very influential newspaper in the 1840s, Die Grenzboten, Andrian-Werburg hoped that the national demands of Austria’s ethnic groups (especially the Czechs) would be addressed in a ‘Greater German state.’ Andrian-Werburg’s ideas were met with disapproval, notably among prominent Germans from Bohemia who supported the idea of a centralized German nation-state.

12Andrian-Werburg’s view of Austria was ‘German’ (deutschnational), in the sense of incorporating ‘Austrian’ identity into a German nation. There was no need, as he explicitly put it in Österreich und dessen Zukunft, to create a separate ‘Austrian’ identity. ‘Austria’ was an “imaginary name” not because it did not exist; it was an “imaginary name” because there were no historical traditions and patriotic feelings to endorse its claim to existence. Andrian-Werburgs’s promotion of ‘Greater Germany’ was thus a critique of the Austrian state’s failure to achieve a sense of national community amongst the peoples of Austria. The political dilemmas experienced by Andrian-Werburg before and during the Revolution of 1848 were not his alone, but became part of the debate over the future of Austria that came to preoccupy generations of political thinkers in Austria during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries.


Austria and Her future

14Austria is a purely imaginary name, denoting neither a distinct people, nor a country, nor a nation. It is a conventional appellation for a disparate group of quite distinct nationalities. Italians, Germans, Slavs and Hungarians together make up the Austrian Empire, but there is no such thing, nor has there ever been, as Austria, or the Austrians, or Austrian nationality, except in the immediate area of Vienna. There is no sense of sympathy between them, nor any memory of centuries-old concord or greatness. No historical bonds (the history of Austria is short of facts) join its various peoples together into a single state, and none of them is sufficiently superior—in numbers, intelligence, influence or wealth—to be able to absorb the others.

15An Austrian, therefore, has no sense of nationhood or national pride, no uplifting awareness of his own strength—of necessity, since he sees and feels himself as isolated, excluded from any community of intellect or sympathy with his fellow-citizens of different races, whom he will not and cannot accept as compatriots, and his narrow-minded patriotism embraces no more than his village, or at best his province.

  • 1 Brennus, king of the Celts, who in 387 BC attached Rome, capturing all the city except for the Cap (...)

16This must be a very painful and oppressive feeling for an Austrian, and often have we pitied him on this account, as he stands alone among proud, confident peoples, the Cinderella of the great family of nations. A Frenchman, however mediocre and unprepossessing he may be, gains in stature every time he sings the praises of France, of his grande nation—and words lead to deeds, say what you will. Witness the Englishman in his proud isolation, who deems himself a king compared with men of other nations; witness how the lowliest citizen of Rome looked down on a king of the barbarians; or how the Russian, confident in his own strength and destiny, exalts himself above the rest and, like Brennus,1 he tosses his sword into the scale. How small then must the Austrian feel, who knows no such sentiments, not a single one, and who can pride himself at most on attaining the office of chamberlain or privy councillor!

17What has happened to patriotism is what always happens to the sacred when it is misused as a partisan weapon, and dragged down into the mire of everyday, ephemeral dispute. It has been pressed into service under all sorts of banners, invoked on the most contradictory of pretexts, and called upon to further all manner of different causes. Only once in our own times have our leaders and peoples joined in a unanimous, mighty appeal to patriotism, seeing therein their only hope of salvation; and on that one occasion it proved a wonderful and powerful talisman. Yet hardly was the goal achieved than this unanimity fell asunder, and what governments had so recently praised and admired they now eschewed, persecuted or, where this had no effect, deflected into byways and backwaters where it was sure to make no headway. Most recently, an attempt has been made to turn to advantage that which could not be altered by force, whereby national pride was perverted into national hate—as if a negation could exist without its positive premise.

18What these attempts did prove—if any proof were necessary—was how much importance governments (as well as the governed) have always attached, quite rightly, to the existence of national sentiment or, as we should properly call it, a sense of community or public spirit. In times of normality, governments, misguided by wrong policies and narrow petit bourgeois exclusivity, have sought to hinder and weaken the citizen’s involvement in public affairs, his awareness of the state and nation as complete entities, and the sense of solidarity that binds him to the whole and to his fellow-citizens. And in times of danger it was always governments who saw the need to fall back on that spurned and suppressed ally: patriotism. It is now time that this experience bore fruit; it is time that governments, having learned from history, finally understood that their most trustworthy ally is a strong and constantly active public spirit, engaging every citizen in the state and uniting the interests, opinions and efforts of each individual in a bond of common cause; and that the machinery of governments alone, without the active participation and absolute conviction of those individuals, can never achieve more than a negative, passive civic life held together by mere inertia, which of necessity will fall to pieces at the first slight shock. […]

19Thus, while every government has profited from a long peace and favorable circumstances, Austria, the Lord’s unfaithful servant, has buried its talent in the hope of maintaining its status, while forgetting that he who stands still amid the general advance soon falls behind. Despite its leading position and glorious past, Austria has been superseded as the dominant force in Germany by Prussia, which has acquired, and is now using and expanding, its former influence. In Germany, Austria is unacknowledged, forgotten and resented as the bearer of outmoded and retrograde principles, while Prussia has shrewdly established itself at the forefront of progressive free-thinking. Now the Orient has risen up and a numerous and vigorous Christian population, under the protection of the great powers of Europe, has entered the great alliance of civilized nations and laid claim to a great and glorious future; and those peoples of like creed or race, who have till now been able to follow its example, are even now numbering the days of their hated oppressors, and turning their trusting gaze towards the same great powers who helped their brothers take their decisive step to liberty and civilization. But among those great powers, among the general cries for help throughout Europe, among the anxious, frantic involvement of every Christian land in the struggle to liberate their Greek fellow-believers, one power has remained detached and isolated, watching the outcome of the conflict with sullen discontent. Against the tide of European sentiment it has not dared to side openly with the barbarian oppressors; yet its sympathies, wishes and secret endeavors have surely been in their favor. This power was Austria—a nation whose highest interests should have urged, in every respect, a close alliance with the Christian Orient. This incomprehensible policy has borne bitter fruit: Austrian influence in the region is in tatters, and anti-Austrian sentiment grows by the day—a hostility that is causing irreparable damage to Austrian commerce (which is almost entirely with those countries) and can be seen even in the most trivial of matters.


1 Brennus, king of the Celts, who in 387 BC attached Rome, capturing all the city except for the Capitolium. The Romans had to pay a ransom and, according to the legend, during a dispute over the accuracy of the weights, Brennus threw his sword upon the scales with the exclamation, ’Vae Victis!’ (woe to the defeated).


Robert Russell (Traducteur)

© Central European University Press, 2007

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