Why and How Do States Collapse? The Case of Austria-Hungary in the Inter-war Historical Discourse

JVF Conference Papers

The breakdown of Austria-Hungary had many prophets, and it had been popularly considered an anachronism a long time before it actually collapsed. At the beginning of the 20 th century this hodge-podge of peoples and territories, ruled by the oldest living emperor in Europe, and having neither a proper name nor a common language, seemed an exception among the other states of Europe – probably more evidently than it seems to the modern historians. An English journalist trying to present a mosaic of the monarchy’s problems to his compatriots in 1913 warned them that “the Austrian problem is a problem sui generis, not to be solved on principle or in the light of theory.” Indeed, it was neither easy to govern Austria-Hungary, nor support its political ambitions with a convincing, up to date doctrine.

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