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.…

AUSTRIAN FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS IN CEE DURING THE INTERWAR YEARS

Österreichische Postsparkasse, Vienna, founded 1883 “k.k. Österreichisches Postsparkassenamt”, architect: Otto Wagner (built 1904-1912)

As a result of the First World War the persistent shortage of domestic and foreign capital for investment in the economies of Central and Eastern Europe, as mentioned above, worsened. At the same time, due to the devastation of the war the demand for capital rose dramatically. After the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918 new stock exchanges were established in the successor states of the former empire. The scene had been dominated by the Vienna Stock Exchange and to a much lesser degree the Prague Stock Exchange, founded in 1871. In the 1920s new stock exchanges opened up in Belgrade, Bratislava, Brno, Ljubljana, Warsaw and Zagreb, which competed with Vienna. Their main business was in dealing in securities, bills and foreign currencies and not shares. The same was true for the Vienna Stock Exchange during the interwar years. Only in the years 1926/27 did the currency situation stabilise after the hyper-inflation in the successor states of the Habsburg Empire after the First World War and central banks had been established in all new states. The finances of Austria, Hungary, Poland and Bulgaria were under international supervision and the new central banks had to be independent from the state, but they had to act as lenders of last resort together with the respective governments. Especially in Austria the “Franc Speculation” further destabilised the financial scene.…

INDUSTRIALISATION IN THE HABSBURG EMPIRE

Budapest, one of the iron bridges

 

The Austro-Hungarian Empire was one of the latecomers in industrialisation together with Switzerland, the Netherlands and Scandinavia. Its reputation of economic backwardness in the 19th century is largely unjustified as only some portions of the empire were really backward, as can be seen above. To an even greater extent than France or Germany the empire was characterised by regional diversity and disparity. The western provinces – “Cisleithania” -, especially Bohemia, Moravia and Austria proper, were economically far more advanced than the eastern part – “Transleithania”. In the west the first stirrings of modern economic growth could be observed as early as the second half of the 18th century, but the topography made internal and international transport and communication difficult and expensive and the poverty of natural resources, most of all coal hindered economic development.…