Friday, 31 March 2023 to Sunday, 2 April 2023

From Soft Imperialism to Colonization: Hungary in the Balkans (1867-1914)

Fri31  Mar03:00pm(15 mins)
James Watt South Room 361


Gabor Demeter1
1 Research Centre for the Humanities, HAS, Hungary


The Balkans had already gained importance as a sphere of political and economic interests for the Hungarian Kingdom at the beginning of the 19th century and this intensified after the 1867 Compromise. This paper analyzes the political and economic arguments and methods of Hungarian economic expansion into the Balkans (1867-1914) based on the writings of key figures like Endre György, Dezső Réthy and Károly Keleti propagating the idea of increasing Hungarian role in the region. The idea of a civilizing mission gradually shifted to economic imperialism and later undisguised expansionism. Though it was the 1867 Compromise that enabled Hungarians to participate in this rush for markets, the specific political organization of the Habsburg Monarchy and the conflicts that arose in the common Habsburg foreign policy also created obstacles. At the turn of the century, the two parts of the Monarchy were in open rivalry in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Dezső Szegh criticised the Sandžak railway as expensive and useless because of the strong opposition of the Balkan states, while the Austrians were reluctant to accept the plan for railway construction towards Albania along the Adriatic. In addition to the economic expansionism, the division of the Balkans into economic and political spheres of interest (Beck, Hohenlohe, Calice) was often discussed, and was blatantly summed up by László Rubin during the First World War as follows: “We wanted to establish a colony in Albania.”