Galicia & the Reign of Franz Joseph I of Austria:
1848 to 1914: From Revolution to the GOlden Age
The period between the revolution and the outbreak of the First World War falls entirely into the reign of Emperor Franz Joseph I (1830 to 1916). Once it became obvious that Emperor Ferdinand I (1793 to 1873) was not capable of handling the revolts of 1848, he fled to Innsbruck and later resigned. His nephew Franz Joseph I seized nominal power in December 1848 and actual power by using the military (his own and the Russian one) as well as clever politics. Franz Joseph was a conservative with strong ties to the army, throughout his life reluctant to accept any form of national self-determination or democratic representation within the Habsburg Empire.
With respect to Galicia, the period between 1848 and 1914 can be divided into two parts: The boring age between 1848 and 1867, when Franz Joseph gradually cut back on almost all citizen rights and liberal moves he had been forced to by the revolution, in which he successfully suppressed the rising nationalism through the extensive Imperial Army - with only short periods of reforms, such as the one following Austria′s defeat at Solferino in 1859. And the fun age between 1867 and 1914, when the Battle of Königsgrätz had revealed the great weakness of this very Imperial Army, which led directly to the Austrian-Hungarian Ausgleich and subsequently the Austrian-Polish Ausgleich which became crucial for Galicia.
The fun age is characterised by a rocketing economy, followed by a severe economic crisis in 1873, a decade of slow recovery and finally the booming "Fin de Siecle" years until 1914 - altogether a time of innovation, progress, social changes, rise of ideologies, new schools in art and literature and ever growing nationalism. Domestically, it was an age in which Franz Joseph I gradually lost ground and made bigger and bigger concessions towards national and democratic self-determination. Some of these concessions had an enormous impact on Galicia and its educational system.
Systemically, turbulent times came with the Crimean War (1856 to 1859), resulting in a lasting alienation between the Habsburg Empire and the Russian one (strengthening the nationalist movements in Austria and forcing Franz Joseph to allow liberal reforms in 1859). The progressing Risorgimento gave the Habsburg a hard time in Northern Italy; by 1861, only Venetia was still under indirect Habsburg Rule. After the defeat in Königsgrätz against Bismarckian Prussia, the Ausgleich created the Austrian-Hungarian "Doppelmonarchie" in which the Eastern half of the Empire fell under Hungarian rule. Only defence, foreign politics and those financial elements dealing with defence and foreign policy remained centralised in Vienna. Galicia was part of the Austrian "Reichshälfte" ("Half of the Empire"). In 1871, Prussia defeated France and unified Germany, excluding Austria in a "kleindeutsche" solution. Germany entered a period of rapid development (Gründerzeit) and leapt into the age of Imperialism, in which Bismarck found his place as negotiator who followed his own interests on the continent.
Between 1850 and 1900, the population of Galicia grew from approximately 5.3 million people (300 cities and towns, 6,300 villages) to more than 8 million people. This resulted in agricultural land becoming sparse in some areas, but also in urbanisation and emigration. Especially the five years following 1867 and then again after approximately 1880 saw the rise of industrialisation: A railway network was developed and when oil fields were discovered in Galicia, there were hopes for a new era of wealth after 1900. This period coincided with the rise of mass-media, particularly daily papers became important stages for a developing Polish nationalism.
The situation becomes increasingly complex in the years after the Ausgleich. After the defeat in the Crimean War (1853 to 1856), and the European vote against Russian expansion into the Balkans at the Berlin Conference in 1878, Russia considered Manchuria increasingly attractive for expansionist ambitions. Only with the Russian-Japanese War (1904 to 1905 - leading straight to the Russian Revolution of 1905), it was contained by the rising power of Japan after 1905. Now the disintegrating Ottoman Empire became the most attractive goal for expansions once again - particularly the Balkans and the region of today′s Bulgaria. Here a major fault line between Russia and the Habsburg Empire alongside with its German ally opened. After the Bosnia Annexation crisis (1909) and two Balkan Wars (1912 to 1913), the two blocks of the Entente and the Middle Powers had sufficiently solidified to open the stage for a major war.
All these events, despite of being rather important ones, affected Galicia only marginally. Habsburg generals saw Galicia - lacking natural boundaries along its Eastern border - at best as a buffer to Russia. During the reign of Franz Joseph I, conflict areas were manifold, but concentrated in Northern Italy and the Balkans. Galicia was a slowly developing, agrarian Kronland rather concerned with domestic issues: The growing self-confidence of the Polish population (fuelled by Pan-Slavist ideas); conflicts between Poles and Ruthenians; and the urge for independence.
back to "background"