The the Strategic Impact of the Reform Era

The the Strategic Impact of the Reform Era

Although the reforms improved Austrian military preparedness, they fell short of their original goal of enabling Austria to defend its interests in Europe. Hopes of regaining Silesia and partitioning Prussia were abandoned after only limited military success in the Austro-Prussian Seven Years' War (1756-63). Efforts to check Russian expansion yielded mixed results. Unable to prevent Russian and Prussian ambitions against Poland, Austria reluctantly joined them in the First Partition of Poland in 1772 and gained the province of Galicia. Five years later, Austria intervened between Russia and Turkey to prevent Russian gains at Turkish expense and in the process acquired Bukovina, a territory adjacent to Galicia and Transylvania. Because the new territories were economically backward, their acquisition served mainly to shift the ethnic balance of the Habsburg Empire through the addition of a large Slavic population (Poles and Ruthenians), a sizable Jewish minority (which accounted for 60 percent of the empire's total Jewish population), and a lesser number of Romanians.

The ideological rigidity with which Joseph II carried out his reforms also weakened the Habsburg Dynasty by provoking social unrest and, in Hungary and Belgium, rebellion. When Joseph died in 1790, his brother, Leopold II (r. 1790-92), had to reverse many of the reforms and offer new concessions to restore order. To get Prussian support for the military action that reestablished Habsburg authority in Belgium in 1790, Leopold foreswore further Austrian territorial gains at Turkish expense. He also confirmed Hungary's right not to be absorbed into a centralized empire, but to be ruled by him as king of Hungary according to its own administration and laws. In exchange, the Hungarian nobility ended their rebellion.

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