The Hapsburgs and the Ottomans

April 28 2008

The Battle of Mohács, 1526; a Turkish miniature (Wikipedia)

Toynbee’s “Danubian Hapsburg Monarchy” does not, of course, refer to the Holy Roman Empire, which the Hapsburgs controlled from 1452 until its extinction in 1806 (there was a Wittelsbach interlude between 1742 and 1745), but to Austria as joined with Hungary and Bohemia.

The Hapsburgs were Dukes of Austria (1282-1453), Archdukes of Austria (1453-1804) and Austrian Emperors (1804-1918). The Kingdoms of Hungary and Bohemia became constituent states of the Hapsburg monarchy in 1526. Moravia belonged to Bohemia. Franz I adopted the title Emperor of Austria two years before the Holy Roman Empire was dissolved. The Empire was called Austria-Hungary after a constitutional settlement with Hungary in 1867, the Ausgleich.

Poland and Sweden had their raisons d’être in serving as marches of the Western Society against an Orthodox Christian universal state which had been established in Russia by the Muscovites. Similarly, the Danubian Hapsburg Monarchy existed in order to serve as a march of the Western Society against another universal state into which the main body of Orthodox Christendom, in the Balkan Peninsula, had been welded by the ‘Osmanlis. It was called into existence at a moment when the Ottoman pressure upon the Western World had suddenly become really formidable; it remained in the first rank of the Great Powers of Europe as long as the Ottoman pressure remained at its height; it began to decline as soon as the Ottoman pressure began to relax; and it finally fell to pieces in the same general war – the War of 1914-18 – in which the Ottoman Empire received its coup de grâce.

The impact of the Ottoman Power upon the Western World began with the hundred years’ war between the ‘Osmanlis and Hungary which culminated in the Battle of Mohacz (A.D. 1526). Before the opening of this long duel in A.D. 1433/4, the ‘Osmanlis and the Westerners had only crossed one another’s paths occasionally – and these occasions had arisen through the desultory interference of this or that Western Power in the distracted affairs of the Orthodox Christian Society with a half-hearted intention of preventing the ‘Osmanlis from accomplishing their work of welding the main body of [non-Russian] Orthodox Christendom together under Ottoman rule. This work, however, was substantially complete before the end of the fourteenth century of the Christian Era; it was not undone by the blow which Timur dealt the ‘Osmanlis at Angora [Ankara] in A.D. 1402; and, after a momentary pause, it was easily rounded off by Mehmed the Conqueror (imperabat A.D. 1452-81). It was not the annexation of Constantinople and the Morea and Trebizond and Qaraman [Karaman is in southern Turkey], but the offensive against Hungary, that made the greatest demands upon Ottoman military energies in the fifteenth century.

Hungary, standing at bay under the leadership of John Hunyadi and his son Matthias Corvinus (regnabat A.D. 1458-90), was the most stubborn opponent whom the ‘Osmanlis had yet encountered; and she was stimulated culturally as well as militarily by the tremendous effort involved in withstanding the Ottoman pressure almost single-handed. The disparity, however, between the respective forces of the two combatants was so great that the maintenance of the effort eventually proved to be beyond Hungary’s strength; and the ultimate break-down of Hungary and formation of the Danubian Hapsburg Monarchy – in order to carry on Hungary’s work with greater resources – were both portended in a number of preliminary and abortive attempts at political union between Hungary and several of her Western neighbours while the hundred years’ war between Hungary and the ‘Osmanlis was in progress. For instance, the Hungarian crown was fitfully united with the Bohemian during the years 1436-9 and 1453-7 and 1490-1526; both crowns were united with part of the Austrian patrimony of the Hapsburgs in 1438-9 and again in 1453-7; and Hungary alone was united with Austria from 1485 to 1490. Moreover, the crowns of Hungary and Poland were temporarily united for a second time from 1440 to 1444 – this time in the person of a Polish and not a Hungarian sovereign, and with the object, not of bringing Hungarian reinforcements to Poland in her struggle with the Teutonic Order (the purpose of the previous Hungarian-Polish union in A.D. 1370-82), but of bringing Polish reinforcements to Hungary in her struggle with the ‘Osmanlis. These loose and ephemeral unions were not enough to give Hungary the strong permanent reinforcement which she needed. They perhaps postponed but did not ultimately avert the crushing blow which the ‘Osmanlis finally dealt Hungary at Mohacz; and it was only a disaster of this magnitude that could produce a sufficient psychological effect to bring the remnant of Hungary together with Bohemia and Austria into a close and enduring union under the Hapsburg Dynasty. This result was immediate. The triple union was accomplished before the end of the calendar year (A.D. 1526) in which the Battle of Mohacz had been fought; and it endured for nearly four hundred years – only to dissolve in the same calendar year (A.D. 1918) that saw the final break-up of the Ottoman Power which had delivered the dynamic blow at Mohacz four centuries back.

Indeed, from the moment of the Danubian Hapsburg Monarchy’s foundation, its fortunes followed those of the hostile Power, whose pressure had called it into existence, in each successive phase. The heroic age of the Danubian Monarchy coincided chronologically with the period during which the Ottoman pressure was felt by the Western World most severely. This heroic age may be taken as beginning with the first abortive Ottoman siege of Vienna in A.D. 1529 and as ending with the second in A.D. 1682-3. In these two supreme ordeals, the Austrian capital played the same role – psychological as well as strategic – in the desperate resistance of the Western World to the Ottoman assault that Verdun played in the French resistance to the German assault in the War of 1914-18. The two sieges were both turning-points in Ottoman military history. The failure of the first brought to a standstill the tide of Ottoman conquest which had been flooding up the Danube Valley for a century past. The failure of the second siege was followed by an ebb which continued thereafter – in a secular movement that persisted through all pauses and fluctuations – until the European frontiers of Turkey, which stood at the outskirts of Vienna from 1529 to 1683 [there was a narrow Hungarian buffer], have fallen back in our time to the outskirts of Adrianople. The Ottoman Empire’s loss, however, has not been the Danubian Hapsburg Monarchy’s gain [the anomalous tense reminding one how recent its collapse was when Toynbee was writing]; for the heroic age of the Danubian Monarchy did not survive the beginning of the Ottoman decline. The collapse of the Ottoman Power, which threw open a field in South-Eastern Europe for other forces to occupy, simultaneously released the Danubian Monarchy from the pressure which had been stimulating it into heroic activity hitherto; and the withdrawal of the former stimulus inhibited the Danubian Monarchy from taking advantage of the new opportunity. So far from entering into the heritage of the Ottoman Empire in South-Eastern Europe, the Danubian Monarchy now followed into decline the Power that had originally called it into existence, and eventually shared the Ottoman Empire’s fate.

In the counter-offensive which drove the ‘Osmanlis back from the walls of Vienna in 1683, the Hapsburgs found themselves at the head of an anti-Ottoman coalition which included Venice, Poland, and Russia; yet they never avenged the sieges of Vienna by laying siege to Constantinople. The peace-treaty of Carlowitz in 1699 restored to the Hungarian Crown the greater part of the Hungarian territory which had been lost to the ‘Osmanlis in 1526; the peace-treaty of Passarowitz in 1718 actually carried the frontier considerably beyond the line along which it had stood on the eve of the campaign of Mohacz, two centuries earlier. The peace-treaty of Belgrade in 1739, however, revised the frontier of 1718 in the ‘Osmanlis’ favour and to the Hapsburgs’ disadvantage. The fortress of Belgrade itself, which Hungary had always held against the ‘Osmanlis during the fifteenth century and which Prince Eugene had wrested from Ottoman hands in 1717, was retroceded in 1739 by the Hapsburg Monarchy to the Ottoman Empire; and though Austrian armies momentarily re-occupied Belgrade in the Austro-Turkish War of 1788-91 and again in the General War of 1914-18, Belgrade had another destiny. It finally passed out of Ottoman hands in 1866 to become the capital of the Serbian “successor-state” of the Ottoman Empire; and it was recovered by the Serbs from the Austrians in 1918 in order to become the capital of Jugoslavia, which is a “successor-state” of the Hapsburg Power as well as of the Ottoman. As for the south-eastern frontier of the Danubian Monarchy, it remained virtually stationary, at the line fixed in 1739, for the remainder of the Monarchy’s existence. During the hundred and eighty years which elapsed between the conclusion of the Peace of Belgrade and the moment when the Hapsburg Monarchy signed its own death-warrant in the Armistice of 1918, the Monarchy made only two further acquisitions of Ottoman or ex-Ottoman territory, and these were of trivial dimensions. [Footnote: The first of the two was the acquisition of the Bukovina [which is now split between Romania and Ukraine] in 1774-7; the second was the acquisition of Bosnia-Herzegovina, which was occupied by Austria-Hungary in 1878 and annexed in 1908.] Between 1683 and 1739, however, the Hapsburg frontier in this quarter had been advanced sufficiently far to relegate Vienna from the situation of a frontier-fortress to that of an imperial capital in the interior; and this change made itself felt in the city’s fortunes and character. The glory which Vienna had gained by keeping the Turks at bay in 1529 and 1682-3 was tarnished by the humiliation of French occupations in 1805 and 1809; and the Viennese, who had first made their name as the heroic defenders of Western Christendom, eventually became a by-word for an attractive but decidedly unheroic combination of fecklessness with amiability and softness with elegance. [Footnote: In the long run, this relaxing effect of an abnormal exemption from the pressure of the human environment has counted for more, in the evolution of the Austrian êthos, than the stimulating effect of the physical environment in the shape of an abnormally rough country. […] For Vienna, as the capital of the entire Danubian Hapsburg Monarchy over a span of four centuries, has outweighed the rural and highland remainder of Austria. It is the Viennese and not the Tyrolese who has set the tone of Austria in these latter days.]

Viennese culture reached its climax long after the heroic age. Vienna’s great age of music began with Mozart’s arrival in the city in 1781 (or after the death of Maria Theresa in 1780; Haydn was still at Eszterháza) and lasted until Mahler’s death in 1911; there was a prelude and postlude. Much of its culture, not only its musical culture, had an extraordinary intensity in the twenty years up to 1914.

If we look more closely, we shall see that the fate of Austria-Hungary was analogous to that of Poland-Lithuania. Just as the Polish counter-offensive against Russia at the end of the first decade of the seventeenth century precipitated the “Westernization” of Russian Orthodox Christendom and thereby rendered Poland’s previous raison d’être, as an anti-Russian march of the Western Society, superfluous, so the Austrian counter-offensive against the ‘Osmanlis in the last two decades of the seventeenth century precipitated the “Westernization” of the main body of Orthodox Christendom in the Balkan Peninsula and thereby deprived the Danubian Hapsburg Monarchy of its raison d’être likewise.

The parallel extends to details. For example, when the “Westernization” of Russia was taken in hand by Peter the Great, the Russian imperial revolutionary did not obtain his Western inspiration through the medium of his backward and hostile Western neighbour Poland. He addressed himself, by preference, to Germany and Holland and England: countries which were then leading the van in the progress of the Western Civilization and which were not alienated from Russia by any unneighbourly tradition of hostility. Similarly, in the main body of Orthodox Christendom, when the process of “Westernization” was initiated – in a less deliberate and systematic way than Peter’s – by the ‘Osmanlis and their subjects under the stimulus of the Austrian counter-offensive, the “Westernizers” did not address themselves to the Hapsburgs. The ‘Osmanlis turned to France, who was their natural Western ally inasmuch as she was the House of Austria’s principal Western rival. [Footnote: Francis I of France actually co-operated with Suleymān the Magnificent in naval operations against the Hapsburg Power in the Mediterranean in 1543. France had been rewarded for her friendship already in 1535 by receiving “capitulations” (i.e. a charter of trading rights) from the Ottoman Government in advance of any other Western Power apart from the Italian republics. These “capitulations” were confirmed and improved in 1740 as a reward for diplomatic services which the French Government had rendered to the Ottoman Government during the negotiation of the Belgrade peace-treaty between Turkey and Austria in 1739.] As for the Orthodox Christian peoples of the Ottoman Empire, they welcomed the Austrians at first as Christian liberators, only to find that the status of barely tolerated “heretics” under a Roman Catholic régime was less to their liking than that of explicitly licenced “unbelievers” under the Islamic dispensation. Tantalized, and at the same time disillusioned, by their brief spell of Austrian and Venetian rule in the early years of the eighteenth century, the Serbs and Greeks turned eagerly towards their Russian co-religionists when these demonstrated the advantages of “Westernization” by their decisive victory over the ‘Osmanlis in the Russo-Turkish War of 1768-74. [Footnote: See Khrysanthópoulos, Ph.: , (Athens 1899, Sakellarios, 2 vols.), vol. i, pp. 16-18.] Yet the Orthodox Christians of the Balkan Peninsula were not long content to derive their Western inspiration through this circuitous and stagnant Russian channel. They soon learnt to draw the living waters from the fountain-head. They eagerly imbibed the ideas of the American and the French Revolution; and they profited by a personal intercourse with the leading nations of the West when Napoleon burst into the Levant, with his British adversaries in his wake, in the course of the General War of 1792-1815. Before the close of the Napoleonic Wars, the main body of Orthodox Christendom was in ferment with the leaven of Romantic Nationalism which was the Western spirit of the age; [footnote: See Kolokotrónis, Th.:, 1770-1836 (Athens 1889, Estía, 2 vols.), vol i, pp. 48-9.] and this was the beginning of the end of the Hapsburg Monarchy.

It was in vain that the Monarchy, under the stimulus of Napoleon’s repeated blows, played a decisive part in the overthrow of Napoleon by its military intervention in 1813 and thereafter dominated the Congress of Vienna. While, to outward appearance, Metternich had skilfully taken advantage of the “restoration” of the pre-revolutionary régime in Western Europe in order to secure for the Danubian Monarchy a European hegemony which it had never quite succeeded in exercising at any previous stage of its history, the underlying reality was something altogether different. In reality, the Danubian Monarchy, in the “post-war” period which began in 1815, found itself encircled, for the first time in its history, by a single ubiquitous adversary in front and rear – in Western Europe on the one side and in South-Eastern Europe on the other [footnote] – and this adversary was the Zeitgeist of that very Western Society in which the Monarchy itself inextricably lived and moved and had its being.

[Footnote: The Janus-like physiognomy of the Danubian Hapsburg Monarchy is aptly symbolized in the double-headed eagle (a heraldic perversion of the Roman eagle, which the Hapsburg Monarchy shared, as its official emblem, with Prussia and Russia). While one head of the Austrian eagle was keeping watch eastward towards the Ottoman Empire, the other head was ever craning back westward into the interior of the Western World; and the Ottoman pressure had no sooner begun to slacken than the Danubian Monarchy began to divert its attention and energy disastrously from Near Eastern to Western affairs. This tendency […] first declared itself in the Thirty Years’ War […].]

Thus the situation of the Monarchy had really changed, in the course of a century, most profoundly to the Monarchy’s disadvantage. A hundred years earlier, on the morrow of the Western General War of 1672-1713, the Danubian Monarchy had still been secure in front and rear alike. On its front, vis-à-vis the Orthodox Christian World, it was then already more than holding its own against the slackening pressure of the ‘Osmanlis, while in its rear, vis-à-vis its fellow-members in the Western Society to which the Monarchy itself belonged, it was still performing the service and fulfilling the function which was its raison d’être, in its original capacity as the carapace which the Western body social had evolved from its own living substance in order to protect it against Ottoman sabre-strokes. On the other hand, in 1815, though the Danubian Monarchy had once again emerged from a general war even more triumphantly, to outward appearance, than in 1714, its raison d’être, and therewith its security, existed no longer. The sabre against whose strokes the West had sought protection under the Austrian carapace had fallen, by this time, out of the ‘Osmanli’s decrepit hands; and the osseous growth of the Danubian Monarchy, which could not be re-absorbed into the living tissues of the Western body social now that its function had become obsolete, was simply cramping the internal growth of the society whose life it had once preserved against a deadly attack from an external enemy. Since the foundation of the Danubian Hapsburg Monarchy in A.D. 1526, the cumulative effect of the Dutch, English, American, and French revolutions had called into existence in the Western World a new political order – a comity of nations – in which a dynastic state like the Hapsburg Monarchy was an anachronism and an anomaly. In attempting to restore the pre-revolutionary régime in Europe on the basis of the principle of Dynastic Legitimacy and in defiance of the principle of Nationality, Metternich provocatively transformed the Monarchy from “King Log” into “King Stork” [Aesop], from a passive incubus upon the life of the Western Society into an active internal enemy of Western progress – an enemy more harmful, in its own fashion, than the now decrepit external Ottoman enemy which the Hapsburg Monarchy had formerly kept at bay.

The Monarchy spent the last century of its existence in attempts – all doomed to failure before they were made – at hindering the inevitable revision of the political map of Europe on national lines; and in this futile endeavour there are two points of interest for our present purpose. The first point is that, from 1815 onwards, the new Western leaven of Nationalism was fermenting just as vigorously among the Orthodox Christian peoples within and beyond the south-eastern frontiers of the Danubian Monarchy as it was among the Western peoples within and beyond the frontiers of the Monarchy on the western side. The second point is that when the Monarchy reconciled itself at last, under the discipline of hard experience, to the necessity of making some concessions to the spirit of the age, it duly succeeded in arriving at an accommodation with the national aspirations of the Western peoples. By renouncing the hegemony over Germany and the possession of territory in Italy in 1866, the Hapsburg Monarchy rendered possible its own coexistence with the new German Empire and with the new Italian Kingdom; and by accepting the Austro-Hungarian Ausgleich of 1867 and its Austrian corollary in Galicia [which had been Austrian since 1772; it is now split between Poland and Ukraine], the Hapsburg Dynasty succeeded in identifying its own interests with the national interests of the Polish and the Magyar as well as the German element in its dominions. The problem which the Hapsburg Monarchy never succeeded in solving was the problem of Nationalism in the Balkans; and it was its inability to arrive at an accommodation in this quarter that eventually brought the Monarchy to destruction. The Western weapons of Nationalism, which had not dealt the Hapsburg Monarchy any mortal blow when they were wielded by the Italian and German and Magyar hands that had forged them, proved deadly in the alien hands of the Serbs. The discarded Danubian carapace of the Western body social, which had withstood so many blows from the Ottoman sabre, was eventually pierced and shattered by Serbian bayonets.

Since 1918, the south-eastern frontier of the Danubian Hapsburg Monarchy – a frontier which for a hundred and eighty years was one of the abiding landmarks in the political landscape of Europe – has been effaced by the establishment of two new national states – Jugoslavia and Greater Rumania – which are symbolic of the triumph of the new order. Each of these new states is a “successor-state” both of the ci-devant Hapsburg Monarchy and of the ci-devant Ottoman Empire; and each of them unites within its newly drawn frontiers not only territories acquired from two different dynastic states, but also – under the sign of the Western principle of nationality – populations that have been nurtured, hitherto, by two different civilizations. This audacious experiment in political chemistry may succeed or fail; these synthetically produced nations may become organic unions or may disintegrate into their constituent elements; but the mere fact that the experiment is being made is conclusive evidence that the Hapsburg Monarchy and the Ottoman Empire are both defunct and that they have been destroyed simultaneously by an identic (sic) hostile force.

It is curious in the present “post-war” age, as one’s train crosses the railway-bridge over the Save, between Orsova [which is now on the border of Serbia and Romania] and Belgrade, to reread the opening passage of Kinglake’s Eothen. When, less than a century ago, the English traveller was ferried across the frontier-river from the Hapsburg to the Ottoman bank, he felt as though he were passing out of one world into another; and the Austrian hussar who escorted him to the ferry-boat took leave of him as solemnly as though he were Hermes Psychopompus committing a soul to Charon’s barque on the River of Hades. To the uninitiated English observer and to the unsophisticated Austrian soldier alike, the gulf there fixed between “West” and “East” seemed as great in the post-Napoleonic age as it had ever been; but this was not the view of the anxious-minded Rhenish statesman who at that moment, from his cabinet in Vienna, was pulling the strings of European diplomacy like a human spider spinning a political web. Metternich knew well enough, by that time, that the ancient gulf had been bridged and the ancient barriers thrown down; he knew that the spiritual leaven of Nationalism had already been carried from the “West” into the “East” across the obsolete dividing line; and he knew that the political miasma which was arising from the fermentation of this Western leaven in Orthodox Christian souls was more difficult to exclude from the sacrosanct dominions of his Imperial Master than the Plague itself.

Already, Metternich had taken alarm at the outbreak of the Greek insurrection against Ottoman rule in 1821. Clear-sighted as he was according to his own lights, he had divined at once that this repudiation of the Ottoman Pādishāh’s authority by a handful of his Orthodox Christian subjects in the remote Morea was a menace to the authority of the Austrian Kaiser because the Greeks were claiming Western sympathy and assistance for their cause in the name of the Western principle of Nationality. Metternich represented to the Holy Alliance [the reactionary post-Napoleonic alliance whose original members were Russia, Austria and Prussia] insistently, though without success, that if their own principle of Legitimacy was to be maintained intact, the Greek insurgents must be boycotted as outlaws and Sultan Mahmūd be supported, in maintaining his dynastic rights, as one of the Lord’s Anointed. From the Legitimist standpoint, Metternich’s attitude on this occasion was entirely justified by the event. For the triumphant success of the Greek insurgents – a success which they owed to the friendly intervention of France, Great Britain, and Russia as much as to their own exertions – was an event of far more than local importance. The erection of a sovereign independent national Greek State in 1829-31 made it inevitable that every people in South-Eastern Europe should insist upon attaining its own national independence and national unity sooner or later; and thus the Greek insurrection of 1821 incidentally preordained the erection of Jugoslavia and Greater Rumania in 1918-20. Truly, Metternich’s senses had not deceived him when he heard the death-knell of the Danubian Hapsburg Monarchy in those reverberations from the clash of arms in the Morea which fell upon his ears in Vienna.


Out of the destruction which overtook the Hapsburg and the Ottoman Empire simultaneously in the General War of 1914-18, there have emerged an Austrian and a Turkish Republic; and these two republics bear a superficial resemblance to one another inasmuch as they both conform outwardly to the conventional type of modern parliamentary national state with which the Hapsburg and Ottoman empires remained fundamentally incompatible to the end of their histories. This formal resemblance, however, between the new Austria and the new Turkey is of little significance in the light of their profound present difference in êthos. The Austrians are at once the hardest hit and the least recalcitrant of the five peoples [presumably meaning Germans, Austrians, Hungarians, Bulgarians, Turks] that have emerged from the War of 1914-18 on the losing side. They have accepted the new order passively, with supreme resignation as well as with supreme regret. By contrast, the Turks are the only people among the five who have taken up arms again, after the Armistice, against the victorious Powers and have successfully insisted upon negotiating their own peace-treaty freely and on a footing of equality with their late opponents, instead of having the victors’ peace-terms imposed upon them. More than that, the Turks have seized upon the catastrophe of the Ottoman Empire as an opportunity for renewing their youth and changing their destiny. So far from accepting the new order passively, they have welcomed it with open arms, and have plunged into the path of Westernization, at the heels of their former subjects the Greeks and Serbs and Rumans and Bulgars, with the zeal of eleventh-hour converts who are taking the Kingdom of Heaven by storm.

How are we to explain these strangely diverse psychological phenomena? Examination shows that this êthos in Turkish souls is something quite new. For more than five centuries – from the close of their dynamic age at the beginning of the fifteenth century of the Christian Era down to A.D. 1919 – the Turks, in all the vicissitudes of their history, invariably displayed the psychological reactions of Conservatism. In the days of their prosperity, they waxed fat and kicked, like Jeshurun; [footnote: Deuteronomy xxxii. 15.] and in the days of their adversity they either stood stock still or behaved like sullen, thick-skinned mules who will not move until they are belaboured, and then not more than one step at a time.

The former ruling minority of Turkish landlords, who found themselves left stranded among alien minorities and under alien rule by the ebb of the Ottoman tide in Europe between 1683 and 1913, used to accept their sudden and extreme reversal of fortune as passively as the Austrians have accepted theirs since 1918. They
would either abandon their ancestral lands and migrate en masse to squat and flit and squat again within the ever contracting Ottoman frontiers; or if they were too phlegmatic to make even this negative response to the new human challenge confronting them, and were restrained from migrating by sheer inertia, then they would resign themselves to sinking from the top to the bottom of the social ladder in their old homes under the new conditions. As for their fellows who continued to rule the Ottoman Empire, they could only be induced to “Westernize” their institutions under force majeure, and then always piecemeal and to the minimum degree that seemed necessary at the moment in order to keep the Empire just alive. This stricture fairly applies to all the Ottoman “Westernizers” from Sultan Selīm III and Sultan Mahmūd II down to the Committee of Union and Progress inclusive, with one notable exception to prove the rule in the person of Midhat Pasha. How, then, are we to explain the revolutionary change in the Turkish state of mind, from an ultra-Austrian passivity to an ultra-Jacobin activity, which has come to pass since 1919? And how, for that matter, are we to explain the converse change in the Austrian state of mind from the heroism of the defence of Vienna in 1682-3 to the “defeatism” of the present day?

The explanation of both changes is to be found in the normal operation of Challenge-and-Response. The Viennese are showing, now, the cumulative psychological effects of having lived for more than two centuries as an “imperial people” in the interior of the Hapsburg Dominions instead of sustaining their historic role as wardens of the marches of Western Christendom against the ‘Osmanlis. In their unstimulating latter-day environment, they learnt to feed out of the Dynasty’s hand; and when the Imperial Government’s ultimatum to Serbia had precipitated the General War of 1914-18, they obeyed the mobilization order, like sheep who follow their shepherd to the slaughter-house, with a blind faith in their Emperor Francis Joseph’s assurance that, in doing what he had done, he had foreseen, and made provision for, all the eventualities that might befall his trusty and well-beloved subjects. On the other hand, the Turks have responded, at this eleventh hour, to the challenge from the West – a challenge first presented by the triumphant defenders of Vienna in A.D. 1683 – because, in 1919, they were simply unable to evade the issue any longer.

On the morrow of the Armistice of 1918, the Turks found themselves standing with their backs to the wall, in a situation in which they must either conquer or die. In this supreme hour, they were betrayed by the Ottoman Dynasty – a dynasty which had created not only the Ottoman Empire but the ‘Osmanli Turks themselves, who were stamped, in the very name which they bore, with their creator’s own image and superscription. The Turks were forced by this betrayal to rely upon themselves – and this in a struggle for their existence. For in 1919-22 the Turks were no longer fighting in order to preserve an Ottoman province for their Pādishāh or a fragment of Dār-al-Islām for their Caliph. They were fighting to preserve their own homelands. The battle-field of In Önü, on which the decisive action in the Graeco-Turkish War of 1919-22 was fought, lies in that original patrimony on the north-western edge of the Anatolian Plateau which had been assigned to the fathers of the ‘Osmanlis by the last of the Saljūqs more than six centuries back. On the day of this decisive battle, the tide of Ottoman history, whose mighty flood had once spread from the neighbourhood of In Önü to the neighbourhood of Vienna, at length completed its mighty ebb by returning to its source. In this situation, the Ottoman Turkish people was faced with the momentous choice between two, and only two, alternatives: annihilation or metamorphosis. It will be seen that the final urgency of the challenge to which the Turks have responded has been fully sufficient to account for the potency of their eleventh-hour response. It will also be seen that the reversal in the direction of the pressure between the Western World and the main body of Orthodox Christendom – a reversal which first manifested itself under the walls of Vienna in A.D. 1683 – has been followed in due course by a corresponding transfer of stimulus, which has manifested itself, in turn, in the situation and in the êthos of the two communities by whom the brunt of the pressure has been given and taken.

November 12 1918 Republic of German Austria (Deutschösterreich)

October 21 1919 Republic of Austria

July 1 1934 Federal State of Austria

March 13 1938 annexed by Germany; the state is dissolved into Reichsgaue on May 1 1939

April 27 1945 Republic of Austria

A Study of History, Vol II, OUP, 1934

5 Responses to “The Hapsburgs and the Ottomans”

  1. davidderrick Says:

    The Kingdom of Croatia had entered into personal union with Hungary in 1102.

    Slovakia was part of Hungary from its conquest by the Magyars early in the tenth century until 1918. After the Ottoman Turkish victory at Mohács in 1526 over Louis II of Hungary and Bohemia, Slovakia, along with western Hungary, fell under Hapsburg rule. It thus escaped Turkish domination, but became a stronghold of the great Hungarian nobles, who owned most of the land and treated the Slovaks with contempt. Slovakia, however, played an important political role, with Bratislava (Pressburg) serving as the capital, until all of Hungary was finally freed from the Turks in the late seventeenth century.

    Like Slovakia, the Slovenian lands were never unified into a powerful kingdom; for a long time they were controlled by the Dukes of Bavaria. They were absorbed into the Hapsburg lands in the fourteenth century.

  2. […] popular novel in Hungary. For the big picture on Hungary and the Ottomans, see the post here called The Hapsburgs and the Ottomans. Eger was a major Hungarian-Austrian victory after a series of defeats at the hands of the Ottomans […]

  3. […] popular novel in Hungary. For the big picture on Hungary and the Ottomans, see the post here called The Hapsburgs and the Ottomans. Eger was a major Hungarian-Austrian victory after a series of defeats at the hands of the Ottomans […]

  4. […] Post here: The Hapsburgs and the Ottomans […]

  5. […] The Hapsburgs and the Ottomans (old post). […]

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