IDENTITY CRISES AND ASSIMILATION

The Austro-Hungarian Empire in those days was characterised by ambivalence: on the one hand the multi-lingual international aspect, on the other hand increasing nationalism. This atmosphere formed the basis for the famous cultural climate that produced outstanding artistic, philosophic and scientific results. These cultural and political clashes, multiple identities and this special way of life created lots of contradictions that triggered innovative solutions. This atmosphere also produced the founders of national mass movements of the Jews and the Czechs: Theodor Herzl founded Zionism, Heinrich Füger and Miroslav Tyrs the sports club Sokol, the centre of the Czech national movement.…

MINORITIES IN THE AUSTRO-HUNGARIAN EMPIRE

Not only the Jewish population but all national minorities had to cope with the pressure from the majority population, mostly the German- or Hungarian-speaking majority. Since the 1880s politics and everyday life were dominated by nationalism and nationalistic conflicts in Central Europe. Yet the multinational dynastic Habsburg Empire continued to exist and to make administrative efforts to protect all peoples and religions. All the bigger minority groups in the cities had developed an infra-structural network. In Vienna there were dozens of Jewish and Czech associations, Jewish newspapers, a Hungarian and a Croatian newspaper and several Czech newspapers. Furthermore there were several national mutual loan societies (Kreditgenossenschaften), a Czech private school system, a Polish school, Jewish Thora schools, many charities to support even small communities of emigrants from small rural regions and villages. These societies, associations, clubs and charities compensated for the dispersed living conditions as the minorities in the crammed 2-million capital could not crowd together in special areas. …

THE DANUBE REGION UNTIL 1918: MOSAIC OR MELTING POT OF CENTRAL EUROPE

Budapest, market hall

The Canadian historian William Hubbard showed how tightly social, economic and demographic developments in the second half of the 19th century in Cisleithania, the western Austrian part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire were linked to the migrational processes and the minorities issue. In the seven biggest cities in this area, namely Vienna, Graz, Trieste, Prague, Brno, Lemberg/Lvov/Lviv and Krakow, the share of the population born in these cities was rather small. As in other European and American cities urbanisation was fed by migration from the countryside, not by higher birth rates in the cities. In Vienna you had in 1880 a share of immigrants of 65 %. Especially in Vienna immigration was a hot issue of social and political debate. The dynamisms of migrational processes and the political, economic and social status of minorities in the 19th and 20th century were undoubtedly due to urbanisation and industrialisation processes. Immigration followed the allocation of capital, but also traditional migrational processes continued that added to the numbers of already existing minority groups dispersed across the Danube region. One should not forget that migration was already a central phenomenon of the pre-industrial society here.…

THE MULTICULTURAL EMPIRE: “KRONPRINZENWERK” published 1885-1902 by the Habsburg Crown Prince Rudolf

Before the dramatic rise of nationalism, the monarchy officially still celebrated its ethnic and cultural diversity. One important and interesting scientific project had as its patron the crown prince Rudolf. In 1884 he asked the permission of the Emperor to carry out a comprehensive survey of the ethnic diversity of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In 17 years (until 1902) all crown lands, peoples and regions of the monarchy were researched and the results were published in 24 German and 21 Hungarian volumes. Subscribers could buy the individual issues at a subsidised price of only 30 Kreuzer per issue very cheaply. The political character of the scientific project was to propagate the pride of the Empire in its ethnic and cultural diversity. Despite this propaganda attempt, the knowledge about the lands of the Habsburg monarchy in the West was marginal. Still in 1938 Neville Chamberlain spoke out against a declaration of war against Hitler by saying British solders should not be sacrificed for a conflict “in a far-away country between people of whom we know nothing.” – meaning Czechoslovakia.…

“RED VIENNA” 1923-1933: EDUCATIONAL REFORMS

Vienna Urania, built in 1910 by the architect Max Fabiani as a “Workers’ University”

 

The cultural and educational policy was dedicated to pedagogical experiments. The city of Vienna carried out six model experiments for a general school for all 10- to 14-year olds in order to break up the educational privileges of the well-to-do. The educational policy for primary schools heavily relied on the principle of the then new and revolutionary Montessori concepts: free provision of schoolbooks and equipment, creative and practice-oriented learning. The Pedagogical Institute was founded to train teachers and link teacher training to scientific research. The competing schools of experimental psychology, individual psychology and psychoanalysis were represented there. Vienna developed into the centre for developmental psychology and developmental therapy with the foundation of the Viennese Psychological Institute, where Charlotte and Karl Bühler worked.

 

In the 1920s and early 1930s a gigantic educational and pedagogical movement characterised Vienna which could not be found in any other city in those days. Ellen Kay called Vienna “the capital city of the child”. In this place a variety of educational and pedagogical concepts were developed, public and private initiatives and institutions abounded. All this would not have been possible without the development of Freud’s psychoanalysis and Alfred Adler’s “psychology of the individual” Education was seen as a complex concept and had the highest priority, not only in the family, schools and day care centres, but also in cultural, sports and leisure clubs and party organisations.…

“RED VIENNA” 1923-1933: HOUSING REFORMS

Vienna council house complex “Sandleiten” in the 16th district

For the Christian Socialists Catholicism remained the central value, whereas the focus of the Social Democrats was on a welfare system that cared for the individual from the “cradle to the grave”. By establishing numerous clubs, societies and associations they tried to build a “counter-culture” to the traditional conservative Catholic Austrian culture. The centre of this huge reform project was “Red Vienna”, which was an independent federal state since 1921 and ruled by Social Democrats. There they could realise all their ideas for a new society. The new council houses were not only symbols of a new and better life style for the working classes but also architectural landmarks. They represented the centres of this counter-culture and harboured also offices of the various clubs and party organisations. By the conservatives they were viewed as the fortresses of the left.…

“RED VIENNA” 1923-1933: SOCIAL WELFARE

Städtisches Jörgerbad, Vienna, public bath opened in 1914, built by Friedrich Jäckel, Heinrich Goldemund and Franz Wejmola

 

Three areas of social reform dominate the impressive and internationally renowned social policy of “Red Vienna”: communal social welfare, social housing and the Viennese cultural and educational policy. Mayor Karl Seitz together with the city councillors Hugo Breitner for Finance, Julius Tandler for Social Welfare and Otto Glöckel for Education started a huge reform project from 1923 to 1933 that was admired elsewhere. Breitner introduced a new tax system for Vienna that taxed people progressively according to their expenditure. A high tax was levied on “consumption of luxury and pleasure”, such as champagne, night clubs, dancing halls, horse-race betting or theatres.  The proceeds from this new tax were used for building a new welfare and healthcare system and for constructing affordable and comfortable housing and schools. Several big community housing estates built during this time still exist, nowadays inhabited by tenants with a migration background as well as by indigenous Viennese. Many people, however, opposed this “housing construction tax” and Hugo Breitner was subject to very aggressive political attacks, partly with an anti-Semitic tendency.…

VIENNA: SOCIAL LEGISLATION 1918-1920

Already in the last years of World War I it had become necessary to make concessions to workers in order to keep the war economy running. The most important legislation included Tenant Protection in January 1917 and Grievance Commission in March 1917. Immediately after taking power on 30 October 1918 the provisional cabinet of Karl Renner began with an extensive programme of social reform under the Secretary for Social Affairs Ferdinand Hanusch. By applying clever tactics Hanusch succeeded in carrying out revolutionary reforms that would not have seemed possible earlier. He negotiated with employers and achieved material and institutional reforms for workers, always pointing to the Communist revolutionary attempt in Hungary as a threat to Austrian democracy. …

FIN-DE-SIECLE VIENNA: LIVING CONDITIONS OF THE WORKING CLASS

Statistical data of the time just before the outbreak of the First World War still show a considerable amount of children below the age of 14 at work in Vienna. This seems proof of a very slow retreat of child labour in Vienna. The phasing out of child labour was more due to a change in work technology than social protest. Another important impetus for the end of child labour in Vienna was the introduction of the “Reichsvolksschulgesetz” of 1869. This law extended compulsory schooling from six to eight years. Although it has to be noted that the law stipulated several exceptions because especially working class families depended on the income of the children and a loss of this income would have jeopardised their existence. Many working class parents considered obligatory school attendance a nuisance and refused to have the state prescribe what they were supposed to do with their children. Most considered three years of schooling as sufficient. In the late 19th century compliance with obligatory school attendance was the exception rather than the rule in Vienna. Before the turn of the century the authorities executed more rigid supervision, so that by 1900 the start of work for Viennese working class children had been postponed to 12 – 14 years of age.…

VIENNA: MUNICIPAL REFORMS IN THE LAST DECADES OF THE EMPIRE

In 1849 governmental autonomy was granted to all municipalities in the Habsburg Empire. Although thereafter Vienna enjoyed self-government, repeatedly the emperor intervened in its affairs. From 1850 onward, Vienna underwent rapid growth, expanding in 1890 to incorporate suburbs across the Danube and along the Vienna Woods. A municipal constitution of 1850 established a city council to be elected by tax-paying citizens divided into three classes. In 1885 the minimum taxation for suffrage was lowered to 5 gulden, excluding the poor until universal suffrage came in 1907. After 1890 the unwieldy city council of 138 members was directed by 25 of its members, the Stadtrat, who together with the mayor ran the city. As mayor of Vienna from 1897 to 1910 Karl Lueger (1844-1910) so dominated public life that next to Franz Josef he was the city’s best known citizen. Although Lueger had entered the city council as a Liberal in 1875, over the next decade he broke with liberalism and denounced international capitalism as a ”Jewish monopoly”. After being briefly an ally of Schönerer, he became a friend of Vogelsang whose doctrines he incorporated into the Christian Social Party, founded in 1893.…