Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867

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The division between lands to be administered from Vienna (here deep pink) and lands to be administered from Budapest (yellow) under the 1867 Dual monarchy "Ausgleich" agreement. From 1878 Bosnia-Herzegovina (green) was jointly administered.
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The Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 (German: Ausgleich, Hungarian: Kiegyezés), alias Composition of 1867, established the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary. The Compromise re-established partially the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Hungary, separate from, and no longer subject to the Austrian Empire. Under the Compromise, the lands of the House of Habsburg were reorganized as a real union between the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary. The Cisleithanian (Austrian) and Transleithanian (Hungarian) regions of the state were governed by separate parliaments and prime ministers. Unity was maintained through rule of a single head of state, reigning as both the Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary, and common monarchy-wide ministries of foreign affairs, defence and finance under his direct authority. The armed forces were combined with the Emperor-King as commander-in-chief.

The names conventionally used for the two realms were derived from the river Leitha, or Lajta, a tributary of the Danube and the traditional border between Austrian and Magyar lands. The Leitha however did not form the entire border nor was its whole course part of the border: the Cis- and Trans- usage was by force of custom rather than geographical accuracy.

According to Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria only three people contributed to the compromise: "There were three of us who made the agreement: Deák, Andrássy and myself."[1]


In the Middle Ages Austria was a quasi-independent state within the Holy Roman Empire, ruled by the House of Habsburg, while the Kingdom of Hungary was a sovereign state outside the empire. In 1526 at the Battle of Mohács, Hungary was defeated and partially conquered by the Ottoman Empire. The crown of Hungary was inherited by the Habsburgs. The Ottomans were subsequently driven out of Hungary in 1699. From 1526 to 1804, Austria and Hungary were a personal union under the Habsburgs, but remained nominally and legally separate.

In 1804 the Holy Roman Emperor Francis II, who was also ruler of the lands of the Habsburg Monarchy, founded the Empire of Austria, in which all his lands were included. In doing so he created a formal overarching structure for the Habsburg Monarchy, which had functioned as a composite monarchy for about three hundred years. Until the 1848 revolution, the workings of the overarching structure and the status of its component lands stayed much the same as they had been under the composite monarchy that existed before 1804. This was especially demonstrated by the status of the Kingdom of Hungary, a country which had always been considered a separate realm—a status that was affirmed by Article X, which was added to Hungary's constitution in 1790 during the phase of the composite monarchy and described the state as a Regnum Independens. Hungary's affairs remained administered by its own institutions (King and Diet) as they had been beforehand. Thus under the new arrangements no Imperial institutions were involved in its internal government.[2][3][4] The Holy Roman Empire was abolished in 1806.

The administration and the structures of central government of Kingdom of Hungary remained well separated from the Austrian Imperial administration and Austrian government until the 1848-1849 revolution. Hungary was governed in larger degree by the Council of Lieutenancy of Hungary (the Gubernium) in Pozsony (Now Bratislava) and in a smaller degree the country was administered by the Hungarian Royal Court Chancellery in Vienna (which was independent from the Imperial Chancellery of Austria)[5]

In this period, the Kingdom of Hungary maintained its own customs borders, which separated Hungary from the customs system of the rest of the Empire of Austria. After the Hungarian revolution of 1848/49, the independent customs system of Hungary was abolished, and became part of the unified imperial customs system on the first of October, 1851.[6][7]

After the Hungarian revolution and war of independence (period: 1849–1867)

Further information: Hungarian Revolution of 1848

In the failed Hungarian Revolution of 1848, the Magyars came close to regaining independence, and were defeated by the Austrian Empire only with the military intervention of the Russian Empire. After the restoration of Habsburg power, Hungary was placed under martial law.[8] Prime Minister Félix von Schwarzenberg and his government, operating since November 1848, pursued radically new imperial policy. It wanted to develop a uniform empire in the spirit of the imperial constitution issued by Franz Joseph I in Olmütz on 4 March 1849, and as a result, Hungary's constitution and her territorial integrity was abolished. A military dictatorship was created in Hungary. Every aspect of Hungarian life was put under close scrutiny and governmental control.[9]

German became the official language of public administration. The edict issued on 9 October 1849[10] placed education under state control, the curriculum was prescribed and controlled by the state, the education of national history was confined, and history was taught from a Habsburg viewpoint.[11] Even the bastion of Hungarian culture, the Academy was kept under control: the institution was staffed with foreigners, mostly Germans, and the institution was practically defunct until the end of 1858.[12][13][14] Hungarians responded with passive resistance. Anti-Habsburg and anti-German sentiments were strong. In the following years, the empire instituted several reforms, but failed to resolve these problems.[15]

In 1866, Austria was completely defeated in the Austro-Prussian War and its position as the leading state of Germany ended forever, as the remaining German minor states were soon absorbed into the German Empire created by Prussia. Austria also lost almost all of its remaining claims and influence in Italy, which had been its chief foreign policy interest.

The state needed to redefine itself to maintain unity in the face of nationalism.[16]


As a consequence of the Franco-Austrian War, and the Austro-Prussian War the Habsburg Empire was on the verge of collapse in 1866, as these military endeavours resulted in monumental state debt, and a financial crisis.[17]

The Habsburgs were forced to reconcile with Hungary to save their empire and dynasty. The Habsburgs and part of the Hungarian political elite arranged the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867, despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of the populace wanted full independence.

Hungarian statesman Ferenc Deák (Francis Deak) is considered the intellectual force behind the Compromise. Deák initially wanted independence for Hungary and supported the 1848 Revolution, but he broke with hardline nationalists and advocated a modified union under the Habsburgs. Deák took the line that, while Hungary had the right to full internal independence, questions of defence and foreign affairs were "common" to both Austria and Hungary under the Pragmatic Sanction. He also felt that Hungary benefited through continued unity with wealthier, more industrialized Austria, and that the Compromise would end the pressures on Austria of continually choosing between the Magyar and Slav populations of the Kingdom of Hungary.[18] Imperial Chancellor Beust quickly negotiated the Compromise with the Hungarian leaders.[19] Beust was particularly eager to renew the conflict with Prussia, and thought a quick settlement with Hungary would make that possible.[20] Franz Joseph and Deák signed the Compromise, and it was ratified by the restored Diet of Hungary on 29 May 1867.[21]

The Compromise was negotiated and legitimised by only a very small part of Hungarian society (suffrage was very limited: less than 8 percent of the population had voting rights), and was seen by a very large part of the population as a betrayal of the Hungarian cause and the heritage of the 1848-49 War of Independence. The Compromise was very unpopular and the government resorted to force to suppress civil dissent. The Compromise caused deep and lasting schisms in Hungarian society.[22]

Beust's desired revenge against Prussia did not materialize. When in 1870, Beust wanted Austria-Hungary to support France against Prussia, Hungarian Prime Minister Gyula Andrássy was "vigorously opposed", effectively vetoing Austrian intervention.[23]


Under the Compromise, Austria and Hungary had separate parliaments that met in Vienna and Buda (later Budapest), respectively, that passed and maintained separate laws. Each region had its own government, headed by its own prime minister. The "dual monarchy" consisted of the emperor-king, and the common ministers of foreign affairs, defence, and finance in Vienna. The monetary and economic terms of the Compromise were renegotiated every ten years.

Under the terms of the Compromise Hungary took over a large part of the towering Austrian state debt.[24]

The King retained royal privileges:

This meant a strong reduction in Hungarian sovereignty and autonomy even in comparison with the pre-1848 status quo.

Despite Austria and Hungary sharing a common currency, they were fiscally sovereign and independent entities.[25]

Austria-Hungary used two separate passports: the Austrian passport or the Hungarian one. There was no common passport.[26][27]

Continuing pressures

The resulting system was maintained until the dissolution of the dual monarchy following World War I. The favoritism 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.[28] Although a "Nationalities Law" was enacted to preserve the rights of ethnic minorities, the two parliaments took very different approaches to this issue.

The basic problem in the later years was that the Compromise with Hungary only encouraged the appetites of non-Hungarian minorities in Hungary that were historically within the boundaries of the Hungarian Kingdom. The majority of Hungarians felt they had accepted the Compromise only under coercion. The Austrian Emperor, separately crowned King of Hungary, had to swear in his coronation oath not to revise or diminish the historic imperial (Hungarian) domains of the Hungarian nobility, magnates, and upper classes. The Hungarians, having been given self-rule and a separate status, only partially acquiesced to granting "their" minorities recognition and local autonomy.

In the Kingdom of Hungary, several ethnic minorities faced increased pressures of Magyarization.[29] Further, the renegotiations that occurred every ten years often led to constitutional crises. Ultimately, although the Compromise hoped to fix the problems faced by a multi-national state while maintaining the benefits of a large state, the new system still faced the same internal pressures the old had. To what extent the dual monarchy stabilized the country in the face of national awakenings and to what extent it alleviated, or aggravated, the situation are debated even today.

In a letter of February 1, 1913, to Berchtold, his Foreign Minister, Archduke Franz Ferdinand said that "irredentism in our country ... will cease immediately if our Slavs are given a comfortable, fair and good life" instead of being trampled on (as they were being trampled on by the Hungarians).[30]

The end

With the political agenda dominated by war and imminent defeat, in the middle of October 1918 the Hungarian government, with the agreement of King Charles IV of Hungary (who was also the Austrian Emperor Charles I), gave notice of termination. The 1867 compromise was formally terminated on 31 October 1918. Shared institutions such as the Council of Ministers remained formally in force until 2 November 1918, but by this time for all practical purposes power had devolved from Budapest to the various emerging nationally based regions that would form the basis for the redrawing of the map of middle Europe at the Paris Peace Conference, 1919 which formally began its own work early in 1919.


  1. Adam Kozuchowski: The Afterlife of Austria-Hungary: The Image of the Habsburg Monarchy in Interwar Europe. Pitt Series in Russian and East European Studies -PAGE: 83, Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press (2013), ISBN 9780822979173
  2. Laszlo, Péter (2011), Hungary's Long Nineteenth Century: Constitutional and Democratic Traditions, Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, the Netherlands, p. 6, From the perspective of the Court since 1723, regnum Hungariae had been a hereditary province of the dynasty's three main branches on both lines. From the perspective of the ország, Hungary was regnum independens, a separate Land as Article X of 1790 stipulated …….. In 1804 Emperor Franz assumed the title of Emperor of Austria for all the Erblande of the dynasty and for the other Lands, including Hungary. Thus Hungary formally became part of the Empire of Austria. The Court reassured the diet, however, that the assumption of the monarch's new title did not in any sense affect the laws and the constitution of Hungary
  3. "Vor dem Jahr 1848 is[t] das Kaisertum Österreich verfassungsrechtlich als ein monarchischer Einheitsstaat auf differenziert föderalistischer Grundlage zu sehen, wobei die besondere Stel[l]ung Ungarns im Rahmen dieses Gesamtstaates stets offenkundig war. Eine weitere Differenzierung der föderalistischen Grundlage erfolgte ab 1815 durch die Zugehörigkeit eines teiles des Kaisertums zum Deutschen Bund." "Before 1848 the Austrian Empire can be regarded in constitutional law as a unitary monarchy on a differentiated federalistic basis, whereby the special position of Hungary within the framework of this united state was always evident. A further differentiation of the federalistic position followed from 1815 through the affiliation of a part of the empire to the German federation."Zeilner, Franz (2008), Verfassung, Verfassungsrecht und Lehre des Öffentlichen Rechts in Österreich bis 1848: Eine Darstellung der materiellen und formellen Verfassungssituation und der Lehre des öffentlichen Rechts, Lang, Frankfurt am Main, p. 45
  4. József Zachar, Austerlitz, 1805. december 2. A három császár csatája – magyar szemmel, In: Eszmék, forradalmak, háborúk. Vadász Sándor 80 éves, ELTE, Budapest, 2010 p. 557
  5. Éva H. Balázs: Hungary and the Habsburgs, 1765–1800: An Experiment in Enlightened Absolutism. p. 320.
  6. Július Bartl (2002). Slovak History: Chronology & Lexicon. Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers. p. 102. ISBN 9780865164444.
  7. Stefan Berger, Alexei Miller (2015). Nationalizing Empires – G - Reference, Information and Interdisciplinary Subjects Series – Volume 3 of Historical studies in Eastern Europe and Eurasia. Central European University Press. p. 398. ISBN 9789633860168.
  8. The Making of the West: Volume C, Lynn Hunt, Pages 683–684
  9. Csohány János: Leo Thun egyházpolitikája. In: Egyháztörténeti Szemle. 11/2. 2010.
  10. Grundsätze für die provisorische Organisation des Unterrichtswesens in dem Kronlande Ungarn
  11. Az Entwurf hatása a történelemtanításra.
  12. Bolvári-Takács Gábor: Teleki József, Sárospatak és az Akadémia.
  13. Vekerdi László: Egy könyvtár otthonai, eredményei és gondjai.
  14. Vasárnapi Újság. 1858.XII.19.
  15. Sowards, Steven W (23 April 2004), Nationalism in Hungary, 1848–1867. Twenty Five Lectures on Modern Balkan History, retrieved 19 March 2009.
  16. Seton-Watson, R. W. "The Austro-Hungarian Ausgleich of 1867." The Slavonic and East European Review 19.53/54 (1939): 123–40.
  17. David F. Good: The Economic Rise of the Habsburg Empire, 1750-1914. 1984. p.82.
  18. Tihany, Leslie C. "The Austro-Hungarian Compromise, 1867-1918: A Half Century of Diagnosis; Fifty Years of Post-Mortem." Central European History 2.2 (1969): 114–38.
  19. Albertini, Luigi (1952), The Origins of the War of 1914, Volume I, Oxford University Press, p. 4
  20. "Impatient to take his revenge on Bismarck for Sadowa, he persuaded Franz Joseph to accept the Magyar demands that he had until then rejected. [...] Beust deluded himself that he could rebuild both the [Germanic Federation] and the Holy Roman Empire and negotiated the Ausgleich as a necessary preliminary for the revanche on Prussia. [...] As a compromise with Hungary for the purposes of revanche on Prussia, the Ausgleich could not be otherwise than a surrender to the Magyar oligarchy." Albertini, Luigi (1952), The Origins of the War of 1914, Volume I, Oxford University Press, p. 4
  21. Lackey, Scott (1995-10-30). The Rebirth of the Habsburg Army: Friedrich Beck and the Rise of the General Staff. ABC-CLIO. p. 22. ISBN 9780313031311. Retrieved 28 May 2012.
  22. Cieger András. Kormány a mérlegen - a múlt században (Hungarian)
  23. Albertini, Luigi (1952), The Origins of the War of 1914, Volume I, Oxford University Press, p. 6
  24. 1867. évi XV. törvénycikk az államadósságok után a magyar korona országai által vállalandó évi járulékról.
  25. Flandreau, Marc (April 2006). European Review of Economic History. 10. Cambridge University Press. pp. 3–33. ASIN B00440PZZC. 1361-4916.
  26. Szávai, Ferenc Tibor. "Könyvszemle (Book review): Kozári Monika: A dualista rendszer (1867–1918): Modern magyar politikai rendszerek". Magyar Tudomány (in Hungarian). p. 1542. Retrieved 20 July 2012.
  27. Szávai, Ferenc (2010). Osztrák–magyar külügyi ingatlanok hovatartozása a Monarchia felbomlása után (PDF) (in Hungarian). p. 598.
  28. Cornwall, Mark. Last Years of Austria-Hungary: A Multi-National Experiment in Early Twentieth-Century Europe, 2nd ed. Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 2002.
  29. Seton-Watson, R. W. "Transylvania since 1867." The Slavonic Review 4.10 (1925): 101–23.
  30. Valiani, Leo, The End of Austria-Hungary, Alfred A. Knopf, New York (1973) pp. 9-10 [translation of: La Dissoluzione dell'Austria-Ungheria, Casa Editrice Il Saggiatore, Milano (1966) pp. 19-20]


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