Model and Mirror: Civil-Military Relations in the Late Austro-Hungarian Empire

AHA Session 59
Central European History Society 2
Friday, January 8, 2016: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Room 309/310 (Hilton Atlanta, Third Floor)
Daniel Unowsky, University of Memphis
Daniel Unowsky, University of Memphis

Session Abstract

Few polities have been as reliant on their militaries as Habsburg Monarchy, particularly in its last decades. Though of doubtful use in actual armed combat, the Habsburg army was essential to the creation of dynastic loyalty among the diverseand multinational civilian population, and hence stability within the monarchy. Emperor Franz Joseph frequently saw the army as embodying his ideal state – disciplined, orderly, and though multiethnic, loyal to him personally. Though many historians (notably Istvan Deak, Gunther Rothenberg and Alan Sked) have explored the social dynamics within the army, the relationship between soldiers and their civilian contemporaries on the local level is not well understood. Many questions remain about the expectations, economic relationships, social interactions, sport and leisure, spacial relationships, and intellectual interactions of soldiers and civilians. The panel “Model and Mirror: Civil-Military Relations in the Late Austro-Hungarian Empire” will explore the intersection between between the Austro-Hungarian army and the Habsburg civilian world. Chaired by Daniel Unowsky (University of Memphis), the panel will consist of Ke-chin Hsia (University of Indiana), Jason Engle (PhD student, University of Southern Mississippi), and John Fahey (PhD student, Purdue University).

Moving from the imperial periphery to the center, “Model and Mirror” will explore the relationship between civilians and the military on the Austro-Hungarian frontier, in the loyal core of the empire, and in the minds of Austria's generals in the midst of the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian state. John Fahey's paper “Zoning a Bulwark of Empire: City Government in Fortress Przemyśl, 1882-1902” will examine the political relationship between the city government and the garrison commander in Przemyśl, Galicia; Austria-Hungary's largest and most important fortress complex. Przemyśl served as a key defensive site for the Austrian Empire and had to manufacture loyalty, as well as a credible defense. Przemyśl's local government played an important role in the mission of the fortress. Jason Engle's paper ”Stutzen, Tracht, und Fahne: Tiroler Standschützen culture in the Late Imperial Austria” will explore civic imperial militarism in the Tyrolean Alps. He will demonstrate how concepts of imperial loyalty and patriotism became tied to local traditions of masculinity and defense, creating a militarized Alpine culture that would prove fertile ground for interwar militant movements like the Heimwehr. Ke-chin Hsia's paper, will examine the army's fantasies of internal colonization in the midst of disaster. In the middle of World War I, Austria's generals endorsed elaborate plans for the resettlement of loyal veterans into suspect zones. His paper shows the Habsburg military leaders’ ambition and some radical politicians’ confidence in using the war as a tool to combat nationalist politics and to reshape Austrian society.

Whether on the frontier of empire, in its heartlands, or in the fantasies of generals, the Austro-Hungarian army shaped Habsburg culture and society. These case studies will allow a closer look at how and if the Habsburg army achieved its mission at home, and how it both shaped and reflected the multifaceted Habsburg Monarchy.

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