Croatia in the Habsburg Empire

From Academic Kids

This article is part of
the History of Croatia
Before the Croats
Medieval Croatian state
Union with Hungary
Habsburg Empire
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Croatia during WWII
Second Yugoslavia
Modern Croatia

Following the Battle of Mohács, in 1527 some of the Croatian (and Hungarian) nobles supported Ivan Zapolja, while some preferred suzerainty to the Austrian king Ferdinand of Habsburg. The latter option prevailed by 1540, when Zapolja died.


The Ottoman incursion

The change of leadership was far from a solution to the war with the Turks, in fact, the Ottoman Empire gradually expanded in the 16th century to include most of Slavonia, western Bosnia and Lika.

Taking advantage of the growing conflict between Maximilian and Sigismund, Suleyman started his sixth raid of Hungary in 1565 with 150,000 troops. They successfully progressed northwards until 1566 when they took a small detour to capture the outpost of Siget (Szigetvár) which they failed to capture ten years previously.

Missing image
The siege of Siget 1566

The small fort was defended by Count Nikola Zrinski and 2500 men. They were able to hold their ground for a month, killed Suleyman himself and decimated the Ottoman army before being wiped out themselves. This bought enough time to allow Austrian troops to regroup before the Turks could reach Vienna.

By orders of the king in 1553 and 1578, large areas of Croatia and Slavonia adjacent to the Ottoman Empire were carved out into the Military Frontier (Vojna Krajina) and ruled directly from Vienna's military headquarters. Due to the dangerous proximity to the Ottoman armies, the area became rather deserted, so Austria encouraged the settlement of Serbs, Germans, Hungarians, Czechs, Slovaks and Rusyns/Ukrainians and other Slavs in the Military Frontier, creating an ethnic patchwork.

The negative effects of feudalism escalated in 1573 when the peasants in northern Croatia and Slovenia rebelled against their feudal lords over various injustices such as unreasonable taxation or abuse of women in the Croatian and Slovenian peasant revolt. Ambroz Matija Gubec and other leaders of the mutiny raised peasants to arms in over sixty fiefs throughout the country in January 1573, but their uprising was crushed by early February. Matija Gubec and thousands of others were publicly executed shortly thereafter, in a rather brutal manner in order to set an example for others.

After the Bihać fort finally fell to the army of the Bosnian vizier Hasan-pasha Predojević in 1592, only small parts of Croatia remained unconquered. The remaining 16,800 km² were referred to as the remnants of the remnants of the once great Croatian kingdom.

17th and 18th century

After the Battle of Sisak in 1593, when the Ottoman army was successfully repelled for the first time on the territory of Croatia, the lost territory was mostly restored, except for large parts of today's Bosnia and Herzegovina. By the 1700s, the Ottoman Empire was driven out of Hungary and Croatia, and Austria brought the empire under central control.

The Austrian royal army was victorious against the Turks in 1664 but Emperor Leopold failed to capitalize on the success when he signed the Peace of Vasvar in which Hungary and Croatia were prevented from regaining territory lost to the Ottoman Empire. This caused unrest among the Hungarian and Croatian nobility which plotted against the emperor, but they weren't powerful enough to actually do something about it, even though they negotiated with both the French and the Turks. Imperial spies uncovered the conspiracy and on April 30, 1671 executed four esteemed Croatian and Hungarian noblemen involved in it, Petar Zrinski, F. K. Frankopan, F. Nadasdy and E. Tatenbach, in Wiener Neustadt.

Croatia was one of the crown lands that supported Emperor Karl's Pragmatic Sanction of 1713 and supported Empress Maria Theresia in the War of Austrian Succession of 1741-1748. Subsequently, the empress made significant contributions to Croatian matters, by making several changes in the administrative control of the Military Frontier, the feudal and tax system. She also gave the independent port of Rijeka to Croatia in 1776. However, she also ignored and eventually disbanded the Croatian Parliament and in 1779, Croatia was relegated to just one seat in the governing council of Hungary, held by the ban of Croatia.

With the fall of the Venetian Republic in 1797, its possessions in eastern Adriatic mostly came under the authority of France which passed its rights to Austria the same year. Eight years later they were restored to France as the Illyrian provinces, but won back to the Austrian crown by 1815. Though now part of the same empire, Dalmatia and Istria were part of Cisleithania while Croatia and Slavonia were under Hungary.

19th century up to WWI

The governments of Austria and Hungary each tried to colonize Croatia over a period of several centuries: they imposed their languages on the Croatian people and settled many Austrian and Hungarian colonists in Croatia. Croatian romantic nationalism emerged to counteract the non-violent but apparent Germanization and Magyarization. The Croatian national revival began in the 1830s with the Illyrian Movement. The movement was misnamed (some wrongly thought that they primarily descended from the ancient Illyrians rather than the Slav settlers), but it nevertheless attracted a number of influential figures and produced some important advances in the Croatian language and culture. The champion of the Illyrian movement was Ljudevit Gaj who also reformed and standardized the Croatian literary language.

By the 1840s, the movement had moved from cultural goals to resisting Hungarian political demands. By the royal order of January 11, 1843, originating from the chancellor Metternich, the use of the Illyrian name and insignia in public was forbidden. This deterred the movement's progress but it couldn't stop the changes in the society that had already started.

In the Revolutions of 1848 in Habsburg areas, the Croatian ban Jelačić cooperated with the Austrians in quenching the rebellion in Hungary by leading a military campaign into Hungary, successful until the Battle of Pakozd. Despite this contribution, Croatia was later subject to Bach's absolutism as well as the Hungarian hegemony under ban Levin Rauch when the Empire was transformed into a dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary in 1867.

Nevertheless, Ban Jelačić had succeeded in the abolishment of serfdom in Croatia, which eventually brought about massive changes in society: the power of the major landowners was reduced and arable land became increasingly subdivided, to the effect of risking famine. Many Croatians started emigrating to the New World countries in this period, a trend that would continue throughout the next hundred years and create a large Croatian diaspora.

The Illyrian movement was rather broad in scope, both nationalist and pan-Slavist. It would eventually develop into two major causes:

The loss of Croatian domestic autonomy was rectified a year after the Ausgleich, when in 1868 the Hungarian-Croatian Settlement (hrvatsko-ugarska nagodba) was negotiated. However, the governor (ban) was appointed by Hungary, 55% percent of all tax money went to Budapest, and Hungary had authority over the biggest sea port of Rijeka (something that was reportedly not part of the Settlement actually agreed upon).

Missing image
Counties of Croatia-Slavonia within the Kingdom of Hungary, 1867/68

The crown land of Croatia-Slavonia was divided into eight counties or comitatus (with county centers in the parenthesis):

The Croats from the coastal provinces also strove to unite with continental Croatia. As the Military Frontier was integrated back into the civic counties by 1881, the Croats and the Serbs from those provinces were also interested in the political strengthening of the country.

The country was again threatened by Magyarization under ban Khuen-Héderváry whose two decades of rule were marked by political and public demonstrations, and ended in 1903 with violent rioting.

Struggle towards more independence within the Austro-Hungarian monarchy was interrupted by the World War I which started in 1914. In the Great War, Croatian territory was not the site of any major battles, but the Croatian soldiers did participate in the gruesome winter battles of the Eastern Front with losses numbered in tens of thousands. A notable individual was Svetozar Boroević, an officer in the Austro-Hungarian Army who hailed from the areas of the former Military Frontier and who went on to become the first non-German field marshal in the Imperial army due to his successful defensive strategies.

See also


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