Em­pire to Repub­lic

For the 100th an­niver­sary of the demise of the Hab­s­burg Em­pire and the form­ing of new states and ter­ri­to­ries in its place, we are em­bark­ing on a year-long re­port­ing project

METROPOLE - Vienna in English - - CONTENTS - By Ben­jamin Wolf

In the in­tro­duc­tion to our up­com­ing se­ries, we present the suc­ces­sor states of the Aus­tro-hun­gar­ian Em­pire a cen­tury af­ter their in­de­pen­dence. Over the year, we will ex­am­ine what the fu­ture holds for Cen­tral Europe.

In au­tumn 1918, af­ter four years of a grind­ing, dev­as­tat­ing war, the Aus­tro-hun­gar­ian Em­pire was dis­solved. What had once been one of the great pow­ers of Europe was taken apart into eight new na­tion states. The age of em­pire gave way to the birth of young in­de­pen­dent coun­tries that needed to find their own way. For the peo­ples of Cen­tral, Eastern and South­east­ern Europe, many of whom wanted to build so­ci­eties based on a shared lan­guage, cul­ture and na­tion­al­ity, a new era had be­gun. Aus­tri­ans tend to look back on these events with nostal­gia, with a melan­choly long­ing for lost great­ness. Rare is the Aus­trian school­child who does not look on the old maps with a cer­tain awe, ask­ing: “This all once be­longed to us?” Small won­der, for they might as well have dis­cov­ered on their re­cent fam­ily hol­i­day on the beach at Lig­nano Sab­bi­adoro that, in­deed, Aus­tria once even had ac­cess to the sea. In truth, of course, all this never be­longed to “us.” It be­longed to the peo­ple who lived there, whose homes and lands spread all across this re­gion, which in Ger­man is so aptly called Mit­teleu­ropa (the mid­dle of Europe). And it still does. We shared it then and we share it now once again, as peo­ple, ideas and goods cir­cu­late freely and bor­ders melt away – on the Bren­ner Pass to Italy, at Spielfeld/sen­tili to Slove­nia, Nick­els­dorf/hegye­shalom to Hun­gary, Marchegg/bratislava to Slo­vakia or Nick­els­dorf/mikulov to Czechia. The for­tunes of all these young coun­tries founded a cen­tury ago, some with wild en­thu­si­asm and some with sober re­al­ism, di­verged wildly over the last cen­tury. In 2018, a hun­dred years on­wards, we want to tell their story. Even more, we want them to tell us. This year, each is­sue of Metropole will fea­ture a chap­ter of “Em­pire > Repub­lic”, prob­ing the past and por­tray­ing the present and pic­tur­ing the fu­ture of a coun­try in the re­gion. We want to show that Mit­teleu­ropa is alive and kick­ing – and we are proud and happy to be a part of it.

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