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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

The future of Austria

Stefan Buszczyński
Traduction de Zuzanna Ładyga

Texte intégral

1Title: Przyszłość Austrji: Rozwiązanie kwestii słowiańskiej przez B. (The future of Austria: A solution to the Slavic question, by B.)

2Originally published: Cracow (at the cost of the author), 1869. An enlarged and revised version appeared in 1892 in Vienna, under the title: Krieg oder Frieden? Versuch einer Entscheidung dieser Frage von S. B. Kriegfeind, Vertheidiger der Menschenrechte.

3Language: Polish

4Excerpts used are from the original edition, pp. 3–25.

About the author

5Stefan Buszczyński [1821, Młodkowce (Ukr. Mlodkovci, present-day Ukraine) – 1892, Cracow]: journalist and literary critic. Buszczyński graduated from Kiev University. For a period he lived the calm life of a member of the country gentry. However, in 1863–1864 he participated in the January uprising, and after its defeat he was forced to emigrate to France. For some time he worked there as a publicist, but later he moved to Galicia. Buszczyński advocated the Polish cause and the principles of democracy and produced several, more or less unrealistic, projects of European federation. Later on, he turned his attention to problems related not only to the Habsburg dynasty and the Slavic nations but the entire world, developing the so-called Noarchy project, where all nations and individuals would find happiness and peace. On the ‘home front’ his critical writings on Polish developments targeted the liberal conservative ‘Cracow-school’ and positivist philosophy. He was also active as a literary critic, dealing mostly with Polish romantic poetry. His oeuvre, even in its exaggerations, is quite representative of the cultural atmosphere of late Romanticism; nevertheless, Buszczyński is virtually unknown even to Polish readers.

6Main works: Podole, Wołyń, Ukraina [Podolia, Wolhynia, Ukraine] (1862); La décadence de l’Europe (1867); Pol i jego pisma [Pol and his writings] (1873); Le catéchisme social (1876); Rachunek polskiego sumienia: Rozmyślanie w niewoli [Polish self-examination: Meditations in slavery], (1883); Posłannictwo Słowian i odrębność Rusi: Rzut oka na Słowiańszczyznę [The Slavic destiny and the separation of Ukrai-ne: A glance at Slavic lands] (1885); Krieg oder Frieden? Versuch einer Entscheidung dieser Frage von S. B. Kriegfeind, Vertheidiger der Menschenrechte [War or Peace? An attempt at solving this question by S. B., the Enemy of War, Defender of Human Rights] (1892); Obrona spotwarzonego narodu [Defense of the offended nation] (1888–1894); Nad brzegiem Lemanu [On the banks of the Leman] (1895); Czy rewolucja w Europie potrzebna jest i możliwa? [Is the revolution in Europe needed and possible?] (1895).


7From 1861 onwards, with the fall of neo-absolutism and the beginning of the constitutional period in Austria, the situation of Poles under Austrian rule considerably improved, and autonomy was granted to Galicia. It was given an elective legislature (Sejm Krajowy) and a provincial executive body (Wydział Krajowy). It is probably due precisely to their privileged position that, in the second half of the 1860s, Polish politicians did not support the Czech pro-federalist conception in the debate on the Austro-Hungarian Ausgleich. Instead, further political interventions of the Galician political elite, supported by public manifestations, led to the acceptance of the Polish language in schools, courts and in the Jagiellonian University of Cracow. A ‘Ministry of Galician Affairs’ was created in Vienna, and the Academy of Sciences was launched in Cracow under the patronage of the Habsburg family.

8These achievements were all the more spectacular in comparison to the markedly less favorable situation of the Poles in Russia and Prussia. The refractory reaction to the Czech ‘politics of absence’ was caused by the hopes attached to the future of the Habsburg Empire as a possible counter-balance to Russia. There was no doubt that Galicia was the only part of the former Commonwealth where Poles were allowed, to a certain extent, to exert self-government. Comparison with the politics of ruthless Russification after the defeat of the January uprising (1863–1864) led to clear conclusions: it was only Galicia that could play the role of a Polish Piedmont.

9Stefan Buszczyński’s ideas, although very far from being realistic political calculations, bear traces of a common conviction of mid-nineteenth century Polish politicians about the character of Austria and its destiny. According to the Cracow conservatives, the Habsburgs might be capable of fulfilling the role, once played by Poland, of the ‘Bulwark of (Western) Christendom’— this time against tyrannical Russia. Therefore, a close Polish-Austrian cooperation was considered unavoidable. Buszczyński’s originality was to combine this program with the romantic belief in Slavic unity. Hence, he advocated a hypertrophic version of Austro-Slavism (as formulated by František Palacký), namely, a purely Slavic Habsburg Empire, without German, Romanian and Hungarian areas. He ignored the fact that the Habsburgs themselves belonged to the non-Slav part of the Empire. Buszczyński also omitted to describe ways to prevent territorial conflicts between the prospective members of the federation, nor did he foresee inclusion of any other new territories except for those of former Poland.

10These logical gaps in Buszczyński’s treatise revealed the main underlying idea of the thinker. His federalist ideology was in many respects rather an anti-Russian manifesto than the result of a pan-European conviction. Along these lines, he asserted the Finno-Ugrian origin of the Russians. From that point of view they were naturally excluded from any plans for Slav cooperation. That also—as Buszczyński believed—deprived pan-Slav ideology of any logic. His ‘Habsburg Slavic’ empire was therefore an answer to the pan-Slavists—one not less absurd than pan-Slavism itself.

11Buszczyński’s project did not have a practical impact on Polish federalist ideology. On the contrary, the vast stream of plans created during the 1905– 1907 revolution concentrated on the federalization of the Russian Empire, based on the idea of Slavic brotherhood. Nevertheless, the majority of Polish formulations of federalist ideology in the nineteenth century shared the main feature of his project: they all understood federalism as a way to the eventual restoration of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (see: Józef Piłsudski, Address in Vilnius).


The Future of Austria: A Solution to the Slavic Question, by B.

13[...] There is no Austrian nation. Austria is a name without substance, a form without content, and an empty title. [...] Austria is surrounded by enemies on both sides. The Emperor of Austria is not concerned with Austria itself, but with the crown, with keeping his family on the throne. If he is not, he should be, considering his position.

14Dynasty as an idea is in decline; the nineteenth century will witness it buried altogether. Does it then follow that dynasties will soon fall? No.

15There are no sudden leaps in the history of the world. I cannot be certain about the future. Today, though, dynasties have an all the more splendid— since it is more dignified—possibility. Today, monarchs should choose between their own and their nations’ interests. [...] If rulers understand the spirit of the times and the needs of nations, they will try to stay on the throne for the sake of their subjects; and vice versa, when nations see their monarchs respecting their rights, it will be in their own interest to preserve the reigning dynasties.

16There can be no stronger base for a dynasty than a close relationship with its nation. While one dynasty will not help another unless it can gain something from it, every nation will sacrifice anything for the royal family to which it feels strongly bonded owing to its just rule.

17The most splendid future (among all the monarchic families in Europe) awaits the Habsburg dynasty, if it can only assess its current situation properly and is willing to make use of it. [...]

18Let us consider the groups comprising the so-called Austro-Hungarian state. According to official statistics, there are:

197.50 million Germans } 12.75 million

205.25 million Hungarians

2115.00 million Slavs

223.50 million Romanians

231.25 other nationalities

2432.50 million in total

25[...] Naturally, it is in the interest of the ruling dynasty to seek the support of the majority. But there is another factor to be considered here, namely, the moral attitude. It is beyond doubt that the Austrian-German spirit drifts towards the German motherland with which it wants to unite. By separating from Austria, the Germans would lose nothing, whereas the subjects of Habsburgs of other nationalities have their own interest in preserving that dynasty as protection from the Russian Tsar’s greed.

26Here is the essence of the common interest of the Habsburgs and their subjects of non-Germanic origin. [...]

27However, in order to ensure that the relationship between the two sides is honest and lasting, their mutual rights need to be specified. [...] They can be formulated in the following manner: the rights to the crown on the one hand, and national rights on the other.

28[...] All national rights can be reduced to the following two basic rights: self-government and national property. Therefore, each country that has its history, traditions, habits, language, attire, etc. has the right to be governed by the representatives of the nation to which it belongs.

29All self-governments form the government of the highest instance, which can be represented by the head of the dynasty. [...]

30A union, i.e. a federation of countries and provinces that constitute a State, can be the result of the autonomy of its constituents. [...] Only a federation of nations can save Europe from wars and despotism; a federation of countries that make up the Austrian monarchy can only save those countries and the Habsburg dynasty from Russian or other invasion. The fundamental condition for every international union is not only autonomy; it is essential that this union not be forced, but is the result of the nations’ free will and is based on mutual agreement, otherwise it would not be international. [...]

31No one can deny that the Russian invaders are a threat both to the nations of Austria and to the monarchy. The threat to the monarchy could become even more serious should Prussia adopt a hostile attitude towards Austria. [...] Let us not delude ourselves. Austria could share the fate of Poland. Hodie mihi, cras tibi.

32How can this be prevented?

33[...] The Habsburg dynasty should once and for all renounce the German traditions with which it is related today only through its seven million German subjects. Its great and—I would add—practical mission is to unite and liberate all Slavic nations. It should renounce its rule over the 3.5 million Romanians, whose destiny is to form a union with Moldavia, Wallachia, and Bessarabia to create a southern stronghold against the Russian invasion. It should even renounce Vienna, since the natural residence for the representative of the Union of Slavic Nations is Cracow, situated in the center. [...]

34This way all Slavic nations would defend the Habsburgs, they would protect Europe from Asian invaders; this way the Habsburgs, who would guarantee the freedom and national rights of the peoples living by the Dvina, Dnieper, Danube, Elbe, Odra, and Vistula could save Europe.


Zuzanna Ładyga (Traducteur)

© Central European University Press, 2007

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