The Austrian eagle

March 17 2009

The Hapsburg Monarchy, a Western Power which had vital interests in the Eastern borderlands of our world […] might have made its fortune, between A.D. 1699 [Treaty of Karlowitz, between Austria, Venice and Poland and the Ottoman Empire] and 1768 [outbreak of the Russo-Turkish War], as heir to all the provinces of the Ottoman Empire on this side of Constantinople. Yet though, during this favourable period, the Austrian Government had at its disposal some of the best political talent in Europe, the Drang nach Osten was perpetually arrested and reversed by the attraction of the West. Even to the most sharp-sighted statesmen at Vienna, a province in Germany or Italy looked as large and as desirable as a kingdom in the Balkans. They expended their strength in the three great Western wars of the eighteenth century; Russia got ahead of them on the road to Constantinople; and then the spread of Western political ideas among the local nationalities closed the thoroughfare altogether. When Bismarck at last cut off the Austrian Eagle’s Western head, and advised the bird to use the other, it was too late. The optical illusion which minimised Eastern and magnified Western objectives in the eyes of eighteenth-century Austrian statesmen, is possibly the principal cause of the break-up of that ancient Western Monarchy in our own generation, and it is certainly characteristic of the permanent attitude of the Western public.

The Western Question in Greece and Turkey, A Study in the Contact of Civilizations, Constable, 1922

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