Austria–Russia relations

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Austria–Russia relations
Map indicating locations of Austria and Russia

Austria

Russia

Austria–Russia relations (Russian: Российско-австрийские отношения or Австрийско-российские отношения, German: Österreichisch-russische Beziehungen) refers to the political, economic and social relations between Austria and Russia and their predecessor states.

Early history[edit]

The lands now part of Austria were once simply a collection of fiefs of the House of Habsburg whose head was also the Holy Roman Emperor from the 15th Century on. The history of Austria in international relations during this time period was synonymous with the foreign policy of the Habsburgs. Russia was more or less uninterested in European affairs before Peter I (r. 1682-1725) but there were contacts between the Holy Roman Emperor and the Tsars of Muscovy the most known of all was the Embassy conducted by Herberstein in the 16th Century. Between these two vast monarchies lay the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Ottoman Empire. However as the Habsburgs expanded their domain (often shortened as "Austria" after its central province, the Archduchy of Austria) south and east and Russia south and west, relations between the two monarchies became vital to European security.

Russia's entry into European affairs created a recurring alliance between Russia and Austria often directed against the Ottomans and France. Russia and Austria were allies during the War of the Polish Succession (1733–1738), the War of the Austrian Succession (1740–1748), the Seven Years' War (1756–1763), and from 1787 to 1791 the monarchies both waged separates wars against the Ottomans (the Austro-Turkish War (1787-1791) and the Russo-Turkish War (1787–1792)). The coming of the French Revolution created ideological solidarity between the absolutist monarchies including Russia and Austria, which both fought against France during the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars.

Austrian and Russian Empires[edit]

In 1804 Austria was proclaimed an Empire and after the Congress of Vienna the great reactionary powers of Europe pledged to work together to keep revolution at bay, and Austria and Russia were the greatest defenders of the Vienna settlement.

The Revolutions of 1848 shook the Habsburg lands, and the Hungarian lands declared their independence. Russia intervened by invading Hungary to suppress the revolutions and restore the Habsburg sovereignty.

During the Crimean War Austria maintained a policy of hostile neutrality towards Russia, and, while not going to war, was supportive of the Anglo-French coalition. This stance deeply angered Nicholas I of Russia and was a serious strain to Russo-Austrian relations thereafter. Russia subsequently stood aside as Austria was evicted from the Italian and German states. The Habsburgs therefore gave in to Hungarian demands for autonomy and refounded their state as the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Austria-Hungary and Russia[edit]

Austrian officials worried that Russia was adopting a pan-Slavist policy designed to unite all Slavonic-speaking peoples under the Tsar's leadership. This lead them to pursue an anti-Slavic policy domestically and abroad. The major source of tension between Austria-Hungary and Russia was the so-called Eastern Question: what to do about the weakening Ottoman Empire and its rebellious Christian subjects.

In order to counter Russia's support for independence movements in the Balkans, Austria occupied Bosnia in 1878. This brought Austria into conflict with the Principality of Serbia, an autonomous (de facto independent) state within the Ottoman Empire under Russian influence and protection.

Serbia was elevated to a kingdom in 1882, as the Ottoman Empire further decayed. When the Ottomans attempted to assert control over Bosnia, Austria formally annexed it in 1908, against the protests of Serbia and Russia, during the Bosnian crisis.

The lasting result was bitter enmity between Austria-Hungary on one side and Serbia and Russia on the other. After the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria by Serb nationalists of the Black Hand secret society, Austria delivered the July Ultimatum to Serbia demanding that the Austrian police and military have the right to enter Serbia. Serbia rejected this which led to the Austrian invasion of Serbia, the first battle of the First World War. Russia and Austria would fight to the point of exhaustion on the bloody Eastern Front. The war ended with revolution and the overthrow of the monarchy in both empires.

Austria and the Soviet Union[edit]

The rump Austrian state left after the war eventually joined with Nazi Germany in the Anschluss, and was therefore part of the German invasion of the Soviet Union.

After the war Austria was occupied by the allied armies, separated from Germany, and divided into four zones of occupation. The Soviets did not create a separate socialist government in their zone as they did in East Germany. Instead Austria was required to sign the Austrian State Treaty of 1955 under which it pledged total neutrality in the growing Cold War.

Austria and the Russian Federation[edit]

In May 2007, the President of Russia Vladimir Putin paid a state visit to Austria.[1] In 2001, shortly before Putin’s arrival to a meeting in Vienna, the Russian ambassador to Austria is reported to have stated that any attempt by Austria to join NATO would be seen as a violation of international law.[2]

Suspected Russian state activities in Austria[edit]

According to the report Gazprom's European Web, Austria has long been a favorite country for Soviet (now Russian) commerce, banking, and espionage activities. Austrian police sources have stated that the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) maintains its largest European station in Vienna.[2]

The fact that Austrian financial companies are not required to disclose owners, combined with tendency to turn blind eye to suspicious transfers, has helped to make Austria a center for Russian financial operations.[3]

In 2003 SVR agent Vladimir Alganov was caught in Vienna discussing bribes Russian spies had paid to top Polish officials.[4][5][6]

When Putin came to power, Vienna became the hub for numerous Gazprom-connected companies, such as GWH, Centrex Group, CentraGas Holding, Zangas, Centrex Energy Italian Gas Holding AG, Central Energy Italian Gas Holding AG, GroupDF, Ostchem Holdings, Deg Handles, Ukrinvest Holdings, and Citel AG.[2] According to Kupchinsky, it has strengthened Gazprom's position in the Austrian market, in addition to giving it higher access to government officials.[2]

Assassination of Umar Israilov in Vienna[edit]

Prominent Chechen activist Umar Israilov, who had filed a complaint to the European court of human rights and was just about to tell his story to the New York Times, was assassinated in Vienna in 2009. Austrian police and others suspected the Kremlin. Oleg Orlov, the director of Moscow's ­Memorial Human Rights Centre, said "We are deeply alarmed about what appears to be another politically motivated killing of a critic of high-level Russian government officials. ... In light of the brutal retaliation inflicted on those who speak out on abuses in Chechnya, Israilov's actions were particularly courageous, and his killers and those behind them need to be promptly held to account". Related to the case might be murders of human rights lawyer Anastasia Baburova and journalist Anastasia Baburova - both were interested in Israilov's case.[7][8]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Putin-Besuch: Heinz Fischer für strategische Partnerschaft EU-Russland" (in German). Federal President of the Republic of Austria. Retrieved 18 November 2008. 
  2. ^ a b c d Gazprom's European Web. Roman Kupchinsky. Published in February 2009. p. 17
  3. ^ Gazprom's European Web. Roman Kupchinsky. Published in February 2009. p. 18
  4. ^ Barnett, Neil (8 January 2006). "From Poland to Hungary, Gazprom takes stealth route to domination". London: The Independent. Retrieved 2009-10-17. 
  5. ^ "Oil scandal rocks Polish leadership - Some fear Moscow gaining influence". The Boston Globe. 2004-12-05. Retrieved 2009-10-17. 
  6. ^ The cultural politics of military alliances and energy security. Michael D. Kennedy. September 23, 2005.
  7. ^ Austrian police investigate Kremlin link to Chechen dissident's murder. The Guardian. 15 January 2009
  8. ^ New York Times Provides Fresh Details of Accusations against Kadyrov. Publication: North Caucasus Analysis Volume: 10 Issue: 5. February 6, 2009
  • Armour, Ian D. (2007). A History of Eastern Europe 1740-1918. Hodder Arnold. ISBN 0340760400. 

External links[edit]