Learning from History: The Fall of the Hapsburgs

While not as historically glamorous as its sequel, the First World War marks an important time in world history. Five great European empires entered the war, each one believing that the war would leave them stronger. When the dust settled, four were wiped off the map. We can draw many lessons about the decline and fall of great civilizations from this period, but today I would like to look specifically at the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Austria-Hungary was the final evolution of a political structure that had existed for nearly a thousand years. In 962, German King Otto was crowned Holy Roman Emperor by the Pope, creating a new empire that drew upon the ancient authority and majesty of Rome. Unlike most empires, however, the Holy Roman Empire was more of a loose confederation of German kingdoms than a single united government, hence Voltaire’s quip that it was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire. In the early 1400s the imperial crown was in the hands of the Hapsburg family of Austria, who would continue to hold it with a few short breaks until the dissolution of the Empire by Napoleon in 1806. By that time, the Hapsburgs had added the kingdoms of Bohemia, Hungary, Serbia, and Croatia to their holdings, as well as other non-German territory in eastern Europe. When the Holy Roman Empire was dissolved, a new Austrian Empire took its place, with its center of gravity closer to the Balkans than to Germany. The Kingdom of Hungary achieved equal status in 1867, hence the dual title.

The Hapsburg family now ruled a large multi-ethnic empire from their court in Vienna. Of the empires that took part in World War I, Austria-Hungary shares the most similarities with the current United States. The German Empire, for example, was created by Otto van Bismarck in the late 1800s to be a unified German state that represented all the German-speaking peoples of Europe (Austria excepted). On the other hand, Austria-Hungary was a union of several different ethnic groups, each with their own cultures, traditions, faiths, languages, and laws. 18-year-old Franz Joseph came to power in the wake of the revolutions of 1848 ruling over Germans, Italians, Slavs, Hungarians, Czechs, Slovaks, and more. The autocratic emperor had his hands full balancing the conflicting demands of off these distinct nationalities.

Ruling a multi-ethnic empire is difficult. Despite what modern globalists like to say, people are different. Different ethnic groups have different histories, traditions, languages, beliefs, and desires. This is the basis of self-determination: that different people who wish to live in different ways should rule themselves. That is the entire point of having separate countries. Modern globalists, however, see people not as individuals that are part of unique cultures, but as interchangeable cogs in a great machine. They seek to erase borders and countries, ruling the world from an ivory tower. The fate of the Hapsburg Empire is a lesson in why this simply does not work. The increasing diversity of the United States today is an order of magnitude greater than that of the Hapsburg Empire. If there are differences between Slavs, Germans, Hungarians, and Czechs, then what of Americans who are descended from Britain, Africa, and China? It was the 20th century conceit that immigrants assimilate into a single American culture, but the existence of identity politics today belies that assertion. Each minority ethnic group seeks to direct the government in order to benefit their own people. When the desires of different ethnic groups conflict, then resentment grows.

Austria-Hungary was the primary instigator of World War I. The heir to the imperial throne had been assassinated by a Serbian terrorist and Austria decided to use the incident as an opportunity to gain concessions from Serbia. Franz Joseph was still emperor, but now he was an old man, and was perhaps unaware of how much the world had changed since his accession in 1848. His court seemed to believe that a quick war was possible in which Serbia would be forced to give up territory and rights, and perhaps even be annexed into the Empire. Yet this was not to be. The entangling alliances of Europe caused a chain reaction which led to the world war, while the new technology of the 20th century ensured that the war would kill many millions of people. The Austro-Hungarian army found itself overmatched in technology, tactics, and leadership. As subjects of the Empire, many ethnic Slavs were forced to fight their Serbian cousins, as well as various Slavic peoples in service of the Russian army. Desertion and defection were problems on this front. Patriotism has more to do with blood and heritage than we might like to think.

What was once the Empire has been divided numerous times over the last century. In the aftermath of World War I, the victorious powers preached self-determination as a guiding factor in how they drew the new maps of Europe. This was partially a way of ensuring that the defeated empires would never again grow powerful enough to challenge the world order. Many of the different ethnic groups of the Austro-Hungarian Empire were allowed to have their own nation-states. (This is not to say that the British and French were entirely altruistic in their support of self-determination, as the way they drew new maps of the Middle East demonstrates.) Adolf Hitler tried to reverse this partition, at least with regards to the German-speaking peoples now split between various countries, but the redrawing of maps continued after World War II. The process of self-determination gained even more steam when the Soviet Union (itself a large multi-ethnic empire) fell in 1991.

The early 1990s saw a flurry of new countries being created in the land of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire. Czechoslovakia, which had been ruled by the Hapsburgs as part of the Kingdom of Bohemia, split into Czechia and Slovakia, giving self-rule to both of those nations. Yugoslavia broke apart into Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia, Slovenia, and the autonomous region of Kosovo. The Balkan region has always been a flashpoint for ethnic tension, having been ruled over the last thousand years by the Greek-speaking Byzantines, the Muslim Turks, and the German-speaking Hapsburgs, not to mention the Nazis and Soviets in the 20th century. The story of the last two decades has been the realization of these various ethnic groups that are better off ruling themselves than being subject to a single government. Even as borders are redrawn, ethnic tension continues to erupt in violence. Should ethnic Bosnians who live within Croatian borders be allowed self-rule, or must they pack up their belongings and move to Bosnia? What about ethnic Serbs who live in Bosnian territory? The issues we face today have their roots in many centuries of history.

Is Balkanization the fate that awaits the United States of America? Our country was already culturally diverse before the migration explosion of the last fifty years. The cultural and economic differences that led to the US Civil War are dwarfed by the growing divergence in our society today. When we have some regions that are majority African-American, others a majority Hispanic, and still others a majority Muslim, then how do we run the country? We have reached a point where minority groups no longer see any reason to live under white leadership – see the current crop of Democrats planning to run for president next year as evidence of that. Because of the massive expansion of the federal government, it is rational for each group to try and control the government from the top. The only workable way forward would be the sort of extreme federalism that characterized the country at its founding, but I fear we are past the point of no return.

Some cultures have contradictory and incompatible values. The Muslims of Saudi Arabia desire to order their society in a very different way than the Christians of Hungary, and both are different than Communist China, whose collectivist nature can be seen in the philosophy of Confucius more than two thousand years ago. It was hard enough to force together diverse cultures underneath the autocratic Hapsburgs. It is even more difficult to force diverse cultures together in a democratic republic where the people ostensibly have a direct hand in their own governance. Under the absolute rule of the Hapsburgs, Bohemians, Slavs, Hungarians, Croats, Poles, and the rest were equally subject to their German overlords. The idea of one of these groups replacing the emperor in Austria with their one of their own was simply not possible. Yet in a democratic republic, it is not only possible but encouraged. If the Somali community in Minnesota is numerous enough, they can elect a Somali representative to Congress. If the Hispanic population of California and Texas grows large enough, then we might see a Hispanic president soon. This is not to say that there is anything inherently wrong with each ethnic group being represented by their own, simply that it would be foolish to assume that they have the same values and traditions as the posterity of America’s founding fathers. If, as globalist media declares, it is impossible for a white man to properly represent a constituency of African-Americans, does that not imply that the reverse is also true?

Globalist media repeats the mantra “Diversity is our strength” over and over in a drumbeat of propaganda. Children are taught this phrase from preschool, and by the time they are grown they have completely internalized it without really understanding why it is or is not true. Questioning this phrase gets you labeled a racist bigot, with the deplatforming and blacklisting that follows. Yet history shows that diversity is not a strength. We can appreciate diversity, enjoying the art, music, traditions, and heritage of different cultures in different countries. But trying to create a single state out of many nations is doomed to failure, as the fall of Hapsburg Austria shows. When incompatible cultures are forced together the result is mistrust and misunderstanding. While a centralized world government might be in the interest of the globalists, it is not the best way to preserve unique cultures. The fate of the Hapsburgs is the fate of all globalist leaders who try to erase national borders, and it will likely be the fate of the United States of America as well.

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