Austro-Hungarian and Russian Empires

By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Feb 3, 2012

Time Line

1804 Austrian Empire founded
1815 Congress of Vienna
1825 Nicholas I becomes czar of Russia
1853 Crimean War begins
1861 Emancipation of serfs in Russia
1867 Creation of dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary
1905 Russo-Japanese War; First Russian Revolution
1908 Austria-Hungary annexes Bosnia


Empires of Austria-Hungary and Russia

Austria and Russia, the two great empires of Eastern Europe, shared certain important characteristics during this period of history. Both were members of the Holy Alliance, which had been established to preserve traditional monarchies like their own. Both were large, unwieldy landmasses (although Russia was much larger) and thus somewhat difficult to control. Both had large standing armies. Both suffered as a result of the Napoleonic Wars. Neither showed any willingness to establish any type of popular representation in government.

Although liberal conditions prevailed in Austria, the monarchy was conservative at heart. Emperor Joseph II did not dream of ruling as a constitutional monarch, nor of sharing his powers with other branches of a government. As a representative of the Hapsburgs, a family that had ruled European kingdoms for centuries, Joseph believed that he was the person best fitted to rule his own realm. Traditions of divine right, family honor, and class superiority all affected his thinking. However, Joseph’s actual policies were enlightened and benevolent; his subjects enjoyed many rights and freedoms that were unusual for the time.

Russia continued to develop along political and social lines that differed greatly from those prevalent in the nations of Western Europe. Because a Russian czar was an absolute ruler of the old style, the welfare of Russian society was heavily dependent on his personality—a factor that was less weighty in nations like France, where others exercised some restraints on the monarch’s power. As had been the case in France, unlimited autocracy would eventually lead to revolution in Russia.

Practice questions for these concepts can be found at:

Austro-Hungarian and Russian Empires Practice Test

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