Assimilation and Nationalism in East Central Europe During the Last Century of Habsburg Rule

Istvan Deak


The recent history of East Central Europe has been marked by wars, political and social upheaval, and extra-ordinary economic and technological advances. But few changes are likely to be of more lasting significance than the disappearance, step by step, of multinational states and their replacement by national ones. The Habsburg Monarchy, which once encompassed almost all of
East Central Europe, was composed of eleven major1 and scores of minor nationalities. Although the Habsburgs were German princes and the main menarchial institution, the Army, used German as its language of command, the ruling house showed no preference for any one nationality during the entire period
of its existence. The multinational character of the Monarchy was weakened, but not eliminated by the Compromise Agreement of 1867, which divided the realm into two associated estates: the Austrian Empire (or - Cisleithania) and the Hungarian Kingdom (or Transleithania). In the first of these states, the German element played the strongest role but was far from dominant, either politically, economically, or numerically. In the second state, the Magyar nation's numerical superiority was precarious at best, but its political domination was very real2.

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