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Austro-Hungarian Rule: Tutorship and Westernization (1878 - 1918)

Written 15.12.2009. 16:34
Josip Filipovic, Austrian vice-marshal and Croatian baron, the head of Bosnia and Hercegovina occupation troops

After the Russo-Turkish war, the Berlin Congress has been held, ending with the decision that Bosnia-Herzegovina, which was formally still under the Turkish suzerainty, would be occupied by Austria-Hungary and subdued to its jurisdiction. The Austrian-Hungarian units, numbering 82,000 men, met the resistance of weakly organized, predominantly Muslim militia of 40,000 soldiers (along with a number of associated Orthodox chieftains) led by Sarayevo\'s agitator Hadzi Lojo. The main Austrian forces, so called "occupying units" of 9,400 soldiers under the command of a Croat, baron Josip Filipovic, have quickly broken in through northern Bosnia, conquering Banja Luka, Maglaj and Jajce. After the battle at Vitez in central Bosnia, in which they have decisively defeated the Bosnian Muslim army, Filipovic\'s forces have taken Sarajevo (breaking the severe resistance of local Muslim population ), and advancing further through Herzegovina and NoviPazar Sanjak have occupied the entire Bosnia-Herzegovina. The conquest has lasted for less than three months, during which the overall losses of the Austrian units amounted to 946 dead and 3980 wounded soldiers. Considering the bad condition of the roads, in accordance with one of the contemporaries it can be concluded that Austria has occupied Bosnia-Herzegovina in a time soldiers needed to tramp it from end to end.

Austrian administration in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The most pervasive processes that shaped the society and history in that period were:

--the definite re-inclusion of Bosnia-Herzegovina into the European cultural and political milieu. Since 1878. BiH and its nations are a part of the European order, their destiny tied to European ideologies, conflicts and geopolitical designs.

--the final crystallization of Bosnian-Herzegovinian Croats and Serbs, from ethnical/religious to modern political entities, or from peoples to nations, integrated into the national corpus together with their compatriots outside of BiH. Considering that the most nations of the Middle, North and East Europe have undergone this process in the post-Napoleonic period (the most intensely around 1850., with the exception of Scandinavian nations, Finns and Norwegians, whose national renaissance has had the apex in the second half of the19th century), the Croats and the Serbs of Bosnia-Herzegovina were "latecomers", with the delay of circa 50 years. However, once initiated, the process of national crystallization and homogenization turned out to be irreversible. Anguished over the separation from the Ottoman empire and faced with an alien, Christian and Western, imperial authority, the Bosnian Muslims reacted in two ways:

a) a part of them (according to some estimates, circa 100,000 people) moved to Turkey for good

b) the rest of them have reluctantly acknowledged the Austrian suzerainty and tried to get along with it, either by insisting on the preservation of the status quo (the majority of Muslim gentry), or by accepting/succumbing to the Western-style modernization

--during that period, three national ideologies (among which two of them turned out to be quasi-national) "struggled for the souls" of the Croats, Serbs and Bosnian Muslims:

a) the first was the ideology of the already established nations, the Croats and the Serbs. Along with massive lining up of the BH Croats and Serbs into their respective "national encampments", the Bosnian Muslims have set out on the trek (one might say a trudge) for self-identity: the major part of educated classes accepted the Croatian national ideology; the lesser part conformed to Serbian national mythology, while the rest of the intelligentsia and the majority of the common people stayed aside, feeling in their bones the unbridgeable separateness and distance from both Croats and Serbs, but nevertheless unready to transform their budding aspirations into articulate political and national programme of modern type (although they have succeeded in creating a separate political party as a sign of their permanent (but semi-conscious) desire for actualized national identity).

b) since 1882., the Austro-Hungarian administrator of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Hungarian historian Benjamin Kallay, was attempting through a methodical policy to enforce the term "Bosnian", which would, supposedly, have "covered" all the BiH inhabitants and served as the crucial catalyst in creating the Bosnian "nation". Practically, this was manifested in funding the pro-Bosnian publications, as well as in interdicting or suppressing the Croatian and Serbian national associations. However, this "nation-making" project, operated in an administrative manner, with Muslim aristocracy as the head office of the entire enterprise, was doomed to failure from the outset-- all attempts to negate and uncreate the already established nations (Croatian and Serbian) in Bosnia-Herzegovina, resulted only in heightened tensions. The 1910. elections, which turned into the "enrolment" of people into their respective national camps/parties, have only confirmed the failure of the Bosnian quasi-national programme. Historically, it is an interesting phenomenon that ideology identical to Kallayism resurfaced as a Bosnian Muslim ultra-nationalist option at the end of the 20th and the beginning of 21st centuries. This shows that bizarre political schemes/ghosts come back to life in altered circumstances when, according to all rationalist criteria, the ideological scrap is buried together with its creator, in this case the Habsburg Monarchy.

c) the ideology of Yugoslavism, or the South Slavs unity, originating primarily in the circles of Croatian intelligentsia (bishop Strossmayer, historian Franjo Racki et al.), has passed through many mutations. From romantic idea of linguistic-cultural communion of the South Slavs, encompassing the national lands of the Slovenes and spanning to the Bulgarian soil, through the Realpolitik strategy of the Croatian politicians at the beginning of the 20th century (Supilo, Trumbic), to the smokescreen of the megaserb expansionist territorial drive (similar to the idea of Pan-Slavism as a Trojan horse of the Russian czarist imperialism)- Yugoslav ideology became dominant among a tiny fraction of the Croatian, Serbian and Muslim younger intellectuals. However, what was lacking in numbers has been amply compensated with feverish activity. The vision of a future happy and harmonious Yugoslav state which will have naturally absorbed all of the existing "Yugoslav" nations, and liberate the "tribes" of the Croats, Serbs, Slovenes and still fuzzily defined Bosnian Muslims from the hated Austrian yoke has become: (one, numerically insignificant but historically decisive, branch) the guiding ideal of the fledgling activists, who have speedily accustomed to the assassins and terrorists role, and (another, more pragmatic branch) a contradictory political programme of the Croatian and Serbian politicians in the Habsburg Monarchy.

--the moderate modernization of Bosnia-Herzegovina (the beginnings of industrialization, reforms of the school system and social relations,..), intended for keeping BiH as a separate, self-sustainable administrative unit within the frame of Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, but without radical measures which could break the balance of relations in the Habsburg Empire. The general backwardness (less than 15% of urban inhabitants, social and national antagonisms (from the tally of 85,000 serf families, about 60,000 of them were Serbian, and 25,000 Croatian. The number of Muslim serfs was negligible)) had been blocking the implementation of even reluctant reforms. The Habsburg Monarchy had not dared to carry out the agrarian reform (which would mean taking away much of the fertile soil from the Muslim aristocracy, which has in the course of time, (ab)using the pragmatism and opportunism of the Vienna Court, evolved from an adversary of Austro-Hungarian Monarchy into one of the pillars of Austrian administration).

--the strenghtening of the Serbian kingdom, especially after successes in the Balkan Wars (1912-1913), as a client-state of the Russian Empire fuelled the antagonisms between great European powers. Also, Serbia\'s financial support of rapidly radicalized pro-Yugoslav secret society "Mlada Bosna" ("Young Bosnia") and the assassination of the Austrian Archduke in Sarajevo, have resulted in World War I and the collapse of Austro-Hungarian Monarchy.

Around 180-200 thousands of Croats, Slovenes, Czechs, Germans and others have immigrated into Bosnia-Herzegovina, and around 100,000, mostly Bosnian Muslims, have emigrated.

Ante Alaupovic, a priest, the chairman of the Croatian cultural association "Napredak" in Sarajevo, the most significant Croatian cultural society in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The so-called "Herzegovinian uprising". Military patrols in East Herzegovina attacked by local Serbian chieftains. The rebels, around a thousand of them, surrendered to the Austrian army, which numbered circa 4,000 soldiers in Herzegovina, after the surround and encirclement.

The Kallay regimen in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The systematic policy of Bosnian unitarism, along with the rebuff of the Croatian and Serbian national ideologies. The official introduction of "Bosnian" language as a political measure to slacken the tensions of Croatian-Serbian disputes has obtained, for the opportune reasons, even a support from the Croatian linguist Vatroslav Jagic, a professor in Vienna and Petersburg and the leading world-wide authority in the field of the Slavonic studies. However, the "linguistic experiment" has, just like other experiments in culture and national "engineering", fallen through. Kallay\'s "Bosnianhood" was evidently a failed political project already at the end of the19th century.

In the Franciscan monastery on Humac, nearby Ljubuski, the establishment of a museum, the first one in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The political newspaper "Glas Hercegovca" (The Voice of Herzegovinian) has been started. Its last issue came in 1896.

The Supreme-Bosnian archbishop (the somewhat pompous title of the oldest religious office in Bosnia and Herzegovina) dr. Josip Stadler opened the primary year of philosophical-theological studies in Mostar on Sep. the 1st. This was the beginning of the higher education system in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Ivo Andric- narrator, poet, novelist and the Nobel Prize winner.

The national structure of Bosnia-Herzegovina is as follows: out of 1,433,471 inhabitants, the Croats make up 21.31%, the Serbs 42.93%, and the Bosnian Muslims 34.99%.

Dominik Mandic, a Franciscan: a cultural, social and
political scholar and activist, one of the most prominent Croatian historians and unavoidable authority on the medieval Bosnia history.

The "Srbobran" (meaning "Serbs\'s defender"), a messenger of the Independent (Serbian) Party in Zagreb has published in its August issue the article "The Serbs and the Croats", penned by Nikola Stojanovic, and taken over from "Srpski knjizevni glasnik" (Serbian Literary Messenger). In that article, published under the title "To the Inquisition, Yours or Ours", this Serbian public and cultural performer endeavors to prove that the Croats are not a nation and that they will ineluctably disappear: "This struggle must continue to the inquisition, ours or yours. One of the two must succumb. That this one will be the Croats, it is guaranteed by their numerical inferiority, their geographical position, the circumstance that wherever they live they are mingled with Serbs, and the process of general evolution which invests the idea of Serbianhood with the progress". The article has provoked anti-Serbian outrage and demonstrations in Zagreb on Sep. the 1st and 2nd, and also further embittered and poisoned Croatian-Serbian relations, which had become fraught with distrust and enmity, especially in the second half of the XIX-th century following the expansion of mega-Serbian idea "the Serbs all and everywhere" that contravened everything non-Serbian in the territories Serbian strategists eyed as a booty.

1906 -1998
Vladimir Prelog, Croat from Sarajevo, later University professor in Switzerald, the Nobel prize winner for chemistry in 1975.

The foundation of Muslim People\'s Organization, the first political party of Bosnian Muslims.

The foundation of Serbian People\'s Organization, the leading party of Bosnian-Herzegovinian Serbs.

The foundation of Croatian People\'s Union, the first political organization of Bosnian-Herzegovinian Croats, close to Starcevic\'s Party of Rights.

The Annexation crisis. When the Young-Turks\'s revolution prevailed in the Ottoman Empire, Austro-Hungary got frightened that it would have to return back the BiH, so it decided to annex and incorporate the province directly into the Austro-Hungarian state organization. This has provoked the Serbs\'s and Muslims\'s demonstrations, as well as severe standoff from Serbia and Montenegro which have threatened with a war, claiming that the BiH is, ostensibly, theirs. Namely, Serbian politicians and ideologues have, according to the "theory" of great-Serbianism (a variant of provincial imperialism), claimed that all the Stokavian dialect speaking Catholics and Muslims are, essentially (and "unconsciously"), Serbs. Serbia and Montenegro were eventually calmed down by their protector Russia, which informed them that it is not yet ready to wage a war. In this way the annexation crisis was solved only temporarily, by diplomatic means, but the preparations for a showdown nevertheless continued. The terrorist organization named "Unification or Death" (also known as "Black Hand") has been founded in Belgrade.

The elections with limited voting rights. In the Bosnian Parliament the Serbs obtained 31 mandates, Muslims 24, and Croats 16 mandates. The denominational structure of the population--out of 1,897,962 inhabitants, 43.5% are Orthodox, 32.4% Muslim, 22.8% Catholic and 0.6% Jewish.

The Balkan Wars. Montenegro, Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece have defeated Turkish army and expelled it from Novi-Pazar "Sandzak" (Turkish term, pronounced as "sanjak", meaning "a province"), Kosovo and Macedonia. In the second round Serbia, with a help from the allies, routed Bulgarian army. Pogroms of Albanians, Macedonian and Turkish Muslims in the conquered areas followed thereafter.

The Archduke Franz Ferdinand assassinated in Sarajevo on June the 28th, together with his wife, Archduchess Sophia. Since the assassination was organized by pro-Serbian organization "Mlada Bosna" (the assassin Gavrilo Princip had been trained in terrorist organizations in Serbia and connected to Serbian intelligence service, headed by colonel Dimitrijevic-Apis), the assassination was a pretext for a war declaration which the Habsburg Monarchy announced to Serbia. This resulted in World War I, in which Croats have taken part on the battlefields from Montenegro, Serbia and Galicia to Italy and the Ardennes.


In spite of heavy losses, Serbia has held out and pushed back the offensives of the Austrian army under the command of general Potiorek, on the area covering the Serbian side of the Drina river. Late that summer, the Serbian army was defeated by united Austro-Hungarian and German armies, and has retreated over the northern Albania mountains to the Allies military bases in Greece.


The Croatian politicians (Ante Trumbic, Frano Supilo, Ivan Mestrovic, Hinko Hinkovic, Franko Potocnjak), the Serbian politicians from Bosnia-Herzegovina (Nikola Stojanovic (the infamous "Srbobran" author) and Dusan Vasiljevic) and the emissary of the Serbian government (headed by Nikola Pasic) Pavle Popovic, have come to an agreement on the foundation of Yugoslav Committee in Florence on Nov. the 22nd, with the task to struggle for the creation of a unified Yugoslav or possibly Serbo-Croatian state, depending on the agreement between Yugoslav Committee and the government of the Kingdom of Serbia. At the meeting the Montenegrin observer Lujo Vojnovic was present too. The Committee was constituted in Paris Apr. the 30th, choosing London for its permanent residence. The political activity of the Yugoslav Committee developed in very unfavorable circumstances, reflecting the different standpoints of the Yugoslav Committee and the Serbian government on the means and aims of creating the future common state.

A series of battles with Italy, which was defeated by Austro-Hungarian and German army at Kobaridi (Caporetto), commenced at Soca. In these battles the Croats, Muslims, Slovenes and Serbs from Austro-Hungary have shown great valor and endurance, enraged and motivated especially by Italian irredentist claims on the Croatian and Slovene lands.


One of the most significant Croatian politicians of the century\'s turning-point, Frano Supilo, passed away in London. He had left the Yugoslav Committee disillusioned by its growing Serbian expansionist slant, but had nevertheless, in Nis, Petersburg, London and Paris undertaken everything possible against joint intrigues of Italians and Serbian premier Pasic to divide Croatia.


The representatives of the Yugoslav Committee and the Kingdom of Serbia, on Corfu, have signed the so-called Corfu Declaration on the Union and Future Common Arrangement of the State. According to this agreement, the future state of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes should have been a constitutional, democratic and parliamentary monarchy headed by the Serbian Karadjordjevic dynasty.

According to some estimates, the demographic loss of the Bosnia-Herzegovina populace, including war losses and emigration, amounts to circa 300,000 people.

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