United States of Greater Austria

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Proposed map of the United States of Greater Austria, superimposed on the major ethnic groups of Austria-Hungary

The United States of Greater Austria (German: Vereinigte Staaten von Groß-Österreich) was an unrealised proposal made in 1906 to federalize Austria-Hungary to help resolve widespread ethnic and nationalist tensions. It was conceived by a group of scholars surrounding Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, notably by the ethnic Romanian lawyer and politician Aurel Popovici.

Nationality conflict[edit]

The first program for the federalisation of the Habsburg Empire was developed by the Hungarian nobleman Wesselényi Miklós. In his work titled Szózat a magyar és a szláv nemzetiség ügyében, published in Hungarian in 1843 and in German in 1844, he proposed not only social reforms but reforms of the state structure of the Empire and its nationality policy. He aimed to replace the centralized empire with a federation of five states: a German state, a state of Bohemia and Moravia, Galicia as a Polish state, and the state of historical Hungary[1]

Another idea came from Hungarian revolutionary Lajos Kossuth: "True liberty is impossible without federalism".[2][3] Kossuth proposed to transform the Habsburg Empire into a "Danubian State", a federal republic with autonomous regions.[4][5]

The Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 established the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary. The Compromise partially re-established[6] the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Hungary, separate from and no longer subject to the Austrian Empire. However, the favouritism shown to the Magyars, the second largest ethnic group in the dual monarchy after the Germans, caused discontent on the part of other ethnic groups like the Slovaks and Romanians.[7]

In 1900 the greatest problem facing the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary was that it consisted of about a dozen distinctly different ethnic groups, of which only two, the Germans and Hungarians (who together accounted for about 44% of the total population), wielded any power or control. The other ethnic groups, which were not involved in the state affairs, included Slavic (Bosniaks, Croats, Czechs, Poles, Ruthenians, Serbs, Slovaks, Slovenes and Ukrainians) and Romance peoples (Italians, Romanians). Among them, only Croats had limited autonomy in the Kingdom of Croatia and Slavonia. In the Kingdom of Hungary, several ethnic minorities faced increased pressures of Magyarization.[8]

The idea of the Dual Monarchy system of 1867 had been to transform the previous Austrian Empire into a constitutional union, one German-dominated and one Hungarian-dominated part, having also common institutions. However, after various demonstrations, uprisings and acts of terrorism, it became readily apparent that the notion of two ethnic groups dominating the other ten could not survive in perpetuum.[citation needed]

The population of Hungary according to the census of 1880-81

Franz Ferdinand had planned to redraw the map of Austria-Hungary radically, creating a number of ethnically and linguistically dominated semi-autonomous "states" which would all be part of a larger federation renamed the United States of Greater Austria. Under this plan, language and cultural identification was encouraged, and the imbalance of power would be corrected. The idea would have encountered heavy opposition from Hungarian politicians, since a direct result of the reform would have been a significant territorial loss for Hungary.

However, the Archduke was assassinated at Sarajevo in 1914, triggering the outbreak of the First World War. After the war, Austria-Hungary was dismantled and several new nation-states were created, and various Austro-Hungarian territories were ceded to neighbouring countries at the Paris Peace Conference (see Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye and Treaty of Trianon).

States proposed by Aurel Popovici[edit]

According to Popovici's plans, the following 15 territories were to become states of the federation after the reform. The majority ethnic group within each territory is also listed.

Proposed map of the United States of Greater Austria, by Popovici, 1906

In addition, a number of mostly German-speaking enclaves in eastern Transylvania, the Banat and other parts of Hungary, southern Slovenia, large cities (such as Prague, Budapest, Lviv, and others) and elsewhere were to have autonomy within the respective territory.

“The great origin, language, customs and mentality diversity of different nationalities requires, for the whole Empire of the Habsburgs, a certain state form, which can guarantee that not a single nationality will be threatened, obstructed or offended in its national political life, in its private development, in its national pride, in one word – in its way of feeling and living”

Aurel Popovici (1906)

See also[edit]


  • Isac, Iulian Nicusor. The United States of Greater Austria – a step towards European Union? (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 September 2011. Retrieved 10 December 2009.
  • Kowalski, Erich (2005). Die Pläne zur Reichsreform der Militärkanzlei des Thronfolgers Franz Ferdinand im Spannungsfeld von Trialismus und Föderalismus (in German). Vienna: Universitätsbibliothek Universität Wien.
  • Popovici, Aurel (1906). Die Vereinigten Staaten von Groß-Österreich: Politische Studien zur Lösung der nationalen Fragen und staatrechtlichen Krisen in Österreich-Ungarn (pdf) (in German). Leipzig.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  • Teslaru-Born, Alina (2005). Ideen und Projekte zur Föderalisierung des Habsburgischen Reiches mit besonderer Berücksichtigung Siebenbürgens 1848–1918 (Inauguraldissertation) (PDF) (in German). Frankfurt am Main: Johann-Wolfgang-Goethe-Universität zu Frankfurt am Main. Archived from the original (PDF) on 31 January 2012. Retrieved 10 December 2009.
  1. ^ ROMSICS Ignác: A Habsburg Birodalom föderalizálási tervei. In: Európai Utas 2001. IV. sz. http://www.hhrf.org/europaiutas/20014/4.htm Archived 2015-09-24 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Patrick Pasture (2015). Imagining European Unity since 1000 AD. Springer. p. 85. ISBN 9781137480477.
  3. ^ Patrick Pasture; John Neubauer (2006). History of the Literary Cultures of East-Central Europe: Junctures and disjunctures in the 19th and 20th centuries, Volume 2. John Benjamins Publishing Company. p. 242. ISBN 9789027293404.
  4. ^ "Encyclopædia Britannica: Kossuth article"
  5. ^ Lessons of the War and the Peace Conference : Oreste Ferrara
  6. ^ André Gerrits; Dirk Jan Wolffram (2005). Political Democracy and Ethnic Diversity in Modern European History. Stanford University Press. p. 42. ISBN 9780804749763.
  7. ^ Cornwall, Mark. Last Years of Austria-Hungary: A Multi-National Experiment in Early Twentieth-Century Europe, 2nd ed. Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 2002.
  8. ^ Seton-Watson, R. W. (1925). "Transylvania since 1867". The Slavonic Review. 4 (10): 101–23.

External links[edit]