Stephan Burián von Rajecz

Stephan Burián von Rajecz
Consul General to Bulgaria
In office
4 May 1887  5 November 1895
Preceded by Rüdiger Freiherr von Biegeleben
Succeeded by Guido Freiherr von Call zu Rosenburg und Kulmbach
Minister to Württemberg
In office
24 June 1896  16 February 1897
Preceded by Theodor Graf Zichy zu Zich und von Vásonykeö
Succeeded by Siegfried Graf von Clary und Aldringen
Minister to Greece
In office
16 February 1897  24 July 1903
Preceded by Gustav Freiherr von Kosjek
Succeeded by Karl Freiherr von Macchio
Joint Finance Minister
of Austria-Hungary
In office
24 July 1903  20 February 1912
Preceded by Agenor Graf Gołuchowski von Gołuchowo
Succeeded by Leon Ritter von Biliński
Minister besides the King of Hungary
In office
10 June 1913  13 January 1915
Preceded by László Lukács de Erzsébetváros
Succeeded by Count István Tisza de Borosjenő et Szeged
Joint Foreign Minister
of Austria-Hungary
In office
13 January 1915  22 December 1916
Preceded by Leopold Graf Berchtold von und zu Ungarschitz, Frättling und Püllütz
Succeeded by Ottokar Graf Czernin von und zu Chudenitz
Joint Finance Minister
of Austria-Hungary
In office
22 December 1916  7 September 1918
Preceded by Konrad Prinz zu Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst
Succeeded by Alexander Freiherr von und zu Spitzmüller-Harmersbach
Joint Foreign Minister
of Austria-Hungary
In office
16 April 1918  24 October 1918
Preceded by Ottokar Graf Czernin von und zu Chudenitz
Succeeded by Julius Graf Andrássy von Csíkszentkirály und Krasznahorka
Personal details
Born (1851-01-16)16 January 1851
Stampfen, Austria-Hungary (now Slovakia)
Died 20 October 1922(1922-10-20) (aged 71)
Vienna, Austria
Spouse(s) Olga, née Freiin Fejérváry von Komlós-Keresztes (1861–1931)

Stephan Burián von Rajecz (Hungarian: rajeczi gróf Burián István) (16 January 1851 – 20 October 1922), commonly called: "Baron von Burian" or "Count Burian" in English language press reports (titles from 1900, Freiherr; from 1918, Graf) was an Austro-Hungarian politician, diplomat and statesman of Hungarian origin and served as Imperial Foreign Minister during World War I.



Stephan Burián von Rajecz was born in Stampfen (now Stupava) on 16 January 1851 into an ancient Hungarian noble family in what was then Upper Hungary (now Slovakia). In 1891, he married Olga née Freiin Fejérváry von Komlós-Keresztes (1861–1931), a daughter of General Géza Freiherr Fejérváry von Komlós-Keresztes, who briefly served as Hungarian Minister-President.[1]

Burián entered the consular branch of the Austro-Hungarian foreign service following graduation from the Consular Academy. He subsequently served in Alexandria, Bucharest, Belgrade and Sofia. From 1882 to 1886 he headed the Consulate General in Moscow before being appointed as consul general in Sofia from 1887 to 1895, then served as minister in Stuttgart from 1896 to 1897 and in Athens from 1897 to 1903, which won him a reputation of a Balkan expert.[2] In 1900, he was raised to the rank of Baron.

In July 1903, Baron Burián was appointed by Emperor Franz Joseph I to serve as Joint Finance Minister of Austria-Hungary, replacing the deceased Benjamin Kállay von Nagy-Kálló who had held the post since 1882. While the Imperial Finance Ministry only was responsible for the financing of common aspects of the Dual Monarchy, i.e. the Foreign Policy, the Army and the Navy), the administration of the Condominium of Bosnia and Herzegovina fell under his responsibility following the annexation in 1908. Burián administered the two territories with a relatively mild hand and attempted to provide the population with a greater voice in the imperial administration. His conciliatory approach, however, failed to calm the country and only earned him the wrath of fellow bureaucrats.[3] Burián left the post in February 1912 as he was finding it increasingly difficult to reconcile the various factions.[4]

In June 1913, Baron Burián was appointed minister besides the King of Hungary, i.e. the Hungarian minister to the Court of Vienna, the closest connection between the Court of Vienna and Budapest.[5] In his position of Hungarian emissary to Vienna, he successfully mediated between Foreign Minister Count Berchtold and the Hungarian Minister-President Count Tisza during the July Crisis.[6]

World War I

In January 1915, Austro-Hungarian Foreign Minister Count Berchtold was pressured by Germany to make territorial concessions to Italy as the price of securing that country's neutrality. When he acquiesced to the German proposal, he was forced from office on 13 January by hardliners.[7] Baron Burián's name was put forward by Count Tisza, who was a close friend and ally, as Berchtold's successor which was accepted, albeit reluctantly, by Emperor Franz Joseph.[8]

A relative moderate, Baron Burián initially resisted German pressure for territorial concessions as the price of maintaining Italy's neutrality, although he somewhat vacillated towards the end as Austro-Hungarian forces suffered a crushing defeat with the surrender of Przemysl in March. This did nothing, however, to prevent Italy from joining the Entente in May 1915. Considered a protégé of Count Tisza, he proved to be much steadfast in resisting German pressure as regards territorial concessions to Romania at the cost of Hungary. This led to Romania entering the side of the Entente in August 1916. Baron Burián, however, did win Bulgaria to the side of the Central Powers in October 1915 and provided for stronger ties with Turkey.[9]

Baron Burián insisted that Germany treat Austria-Hungary as an equal in all military, economic and political activism, which only antagonised German opinion. He opposed Germany’s policy of unrestricted submarine warfare, insisted on retention of Austro-Hungarian control on the Balkan front and demanded recognition of Austro-Hungarian interests in Poland. However, he increasingly lacked the material resources to back up his claims for equality with Germany.[10] He further angered Germany and its military leaders by proposing a peace plan that called for the re-establishment of a free Belgium and the return of all captured French territory in exchange for recognition of German and Austro-Hungarian rights in Eastern Europe. As a result of this peace proposal, he was forced to resign in December 1916, which reflected the extent of German control over imperial policy.[11] He was replaced by Count Czernin and returned to serve as Imperial Finance Minister.

Following the Sixtus affair, the position of Count Czernin had become untenable and on 15 April 1918, Baron Burián was recalled to serve as Imperial Foreign Minister with instructions to end the war. In his second stint, he sought a compromise peace settlement, a course he had consistently advocated, but the Habsburg Empire’s deteriorating military situation provided him little margin for manoeuvre facing increasing disputes with the German ally.[12]

On 14 September 1918, Baron Burián issued a public appeal for all nations to end the war by diplomatic negotiations. However, his proposal went unheeded as the Entente was committed to unconditional surrender. On 5 October, he and the German Chancellor requested President Wilson's participation in peace negotiations on the basis of the Fourteen Points. On 24 October, he resigned from office realising that nothing could prevent the dissolution of the Habsburg Empire.[13] He was succeeded by Count Julius Andrássy the Younger and thus became the penultimate Foreign Minister of the Dual Monarchy.

In 1918, he had been elevated to the rank of Count.


Count Burián took no active part in diplomacy or politics after the war and spent his remaining years writing his war memoirs, which were published posthumously in both German and English versions.

Count Burián had been bestowed with the Grand Cross of the Order of Saint Stephen in 1910[14] and invested as a Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece in 1918.[15]

During the war, Count Burián had sought to balance several sometimes conflicting demands; winning the war, preserving the Austria-Hungary's status and defending Hungary's position within the Dual Monarchy.[16] Certainly a task that was nothing short of overwhelming. Considered to be serious, legalistic and unimaginative, personal traits that made him a good fit for the bureaucracy and the Imperial Cabinet.[17] However, his rigidity and pedantry likely made him a less suitable choice at the helm of Austro-Hungarian diplomacy at such a decisive period as World War I with a greater need for flexibility.[18]

Count Burián died in Vienna on 20 October 1922.


Regarding personal names: Until 1919, Graf was a title, translated as Count, not a first or middle name. The female form is Gräfin. In Germany since 1919, it forms part of family names.



  1. 'Burián v. Rajecz, Stephan Graf', Neue Deutsche Biographie, vol. 3, Berlin, Duncker & Humblot, 1957, p. 52.
  2. 'Burian von Rajecz Stefan Graf', Österreichisches Biographisches Lexikon 1815–1950, vol. 1, Vienna, Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1957, p. 129.
  3. 'Burian von Rajecz Stefan Graf', op. cit.
  4. 'Graf István Burián von Rajecz', Solving Problems Through Force
  5. Spencer C. Tucker (ed.), The European Powers in the First World War: An Encyclopedia, New York, Garland, 1996, p. 153.
  6. Graydon A. Tunstall, Jr, 'Austria-Hungary', in Richard F. Hamilton & Holger H. Herwig (eds.), The Origins of World War I, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2003, p. 120.
  7. Tucker, op. cit.
  8. 'Graf István Burián von Rajecz', op. cit.
  9. Tucker, op. cit.
  10. Stephen Pope & Elizabeth-Anne Wheal, The Macmillan Dictionary of the First World War, London, Macmillan, 1995, p. 93f.
  11. Tucker, op. cit.
  12. Holger H. Herwig & Neil M. Heyman, Biographical Dictionary of World War I, London, Greenwood Press, 1982, p. 102f.
  13. Pope & Wheal, op. cit.
  14. Magyar Királyi Szent István Rend Archived December 22, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  15. Chevaliers de la Toison d'Or
  16. Spencer C. Tucker & Priscilla Mary Roberts (eds.), Encyclopedia of World War I: A Political, Social, and Military History, Santa Barbara, ABC-CLIO, 2005, p. 243f.
  17. 'Graf István Burián von Rajecz', op. cit.
  18. For more on Count Buriáns personality traits and his legacy, see István Diószegi, 'Außenminister Stephan Graf Burián. Biographie und Tagebuchstelle', Annales Universitatis Scientiarum Budapestinensis de Rolando Eötvös nominatae, Sectio historica, no. 8, 1966, pp. 169-208.


Political offices
Preceded by
Agenor Graf Gołuchowski von Gołuchowo
Joint Finance Minister of Austria-Hungary
Succeeded by
Leon Ritter von Biliński
Preceded by
László Lukács de Erzsébetváros
Minister besides the King
Succeeded by
Count István Tisza de Borosjenő et Szeged
Preceded by
Leopold Graf Berchtold von und zu Ungarschitz, Frättling und Püllütz
Joint Foreign Minister of Austria-Hungary
Succeeded by
Ottokar Graf Czernin von und zu Chudenitz
Preceded by
Konrad Prinz zu Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst
Joint Finance Minister of Austria-Hungary
Succeeded by
Alexander Freiherr von und zu Spitzmüller-Harmersbach
Preceded by
Ottokar Graf Czernin von und zu Chudenitz
Joint Foreign Minister of Austria-Hungary
Succeeded by
Julius Graf Andrássy von Csíkszentkirály und Krasznahorka
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Rüdiger Freiherr von Biegeleben
Austro-Hungarian Consul General to Bulgaria
Succeeded by
Guido Freiherr von Call zu Rosenburg und Kulmbach
Preceded by
Theodor Graf Zichy zu Zich und von Vásonykeö
Austro-Hungarian Minister to Württemberg
Succeeded by
Siegfried Graf von Clary und Aldringen
Preceded by
Gustav Freiherr von Kosjek
Austro-Hungarian Minister to Greece
Succeeded by
Karl Freiherr von Macchio
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