First World War: Exhibition Program

The End of Austria-Hungary
8 June 2015


On June 8, 2015, as part of the exhibition program Charles Ingrao gave a public lecture "The Dissolution of Austria-Hungary: Causes and Consequences." The scholar talked about the situation in Europe on the eve of World War I and the important geopolitical, socio-economic, cultural, and demographic consequences of the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

The dissolution of Austria-Hungary has attracted a great many scholars over the past century. The collapse of communism has generated renewed interest as both the Soviet and Yugoslav federations and their successor states have confronted many of the same problems that faced the Habsburgs.  The talk began by questioning the widely held notions that the monarchy "declined", in the 19th century, that it "collapsed" during World War I, and that its disappearance was "inevitable".  In its place, the lecturer argued that the empire was the first modern state to confront the unscripted challenges that nationalism and the nation-state present to democratizing societies - and that its performance was better than many of the "new democracies" of the 1920s and 1990s.  That said, the talk focused principally on the enormous geopolitical, socio-economic, cultural and demographic consequences of its dissolution.  Comprehending both the causes and consequences of Austria-Hungary's demise not only helps us to explain the torturous course of the 20th century, but the unmet challenges of the 21st.