Austrian Politics and Society Today: In Defence of Austria by John Fitzmaurice (auth.)

By John Fitzmaurice (auth.)

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Following Napoleon's Russian defeat, Austria, Prussia and Russia formed a new coalition, sealing his fate at the battle of Leipzig in 1813. Prussia's contribution to Napoleon's defeat was at least as significant as that of Austria, who could not recover her dominance of the new German Confederation. Austria, host to the peace Congress, seemed to be at the high point of her influence and her idea of a reactionary alliance to police the continent did indeed emerge from the Congress. Yet she had made her fatal choice of the German option without obtaining a winning hand in the forthcoming battle for Germany, which was to polarise into a war with Prussia in 1866.

Austrian policy was now subordinated to Germany and since that alliance reposed on the German-Magyar axis inside the Empire, the German external guarantee of the Empire was bought against its prospect of internal reform and hence paradoxically destroyed it. In 1882 this alliance was extended, to include Italy, as the Triple Alliance. This was intended by Bismarck to strengthen the Alliance against France and reconcile Austria and Italy. This new ally was of very dubious value as her behaviour in 1915 was to show.

With great difficulty, he persuaded his Emperor to make no territorial demands on Austria. At the Peace of Prague, Austria recognised the dissolution of the German Confederation and hence her exclusion, after almost 600 years, from Germany, and the reorganisation of North Germany under Prussian leadership. Her own territorial integrity and that of her ally Saxony was respected. It was a shattering defeat for Austria, with multiple consequences. She was excluded from Germany and Italy (Peace of Vienna), but Italy remained dissatisfied as her Prussian ally had not assisted her in gaining the South Tirol or territory on the Dalmatian Coast.

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