"Our gratitude has no limit": Polish nationalism, dynastic patriotism, and the 1880 imperial inspection tour of Galicia

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Author: Daniel Unowsky
Date: Annual 2003
From: Austrian History Yearbook(Vol. 34)
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Document Type: Article
Length: 11,680 words

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On September 1, 1880, from Jawiszowice to Cracow, groups of peasants crowded along the rail lines, gathering in large numbers at train stations led by priests ... carrying church banners. At every station the numbers increased, and when the Special Imperial Court Train passed, for some time crowds ran behind, enthusiastically sending cheers in honor of the emperor [Francis Joseph] to the heavens. (1)

FOR ALMOST THREE WEEKS the scenes repeated themselves: cannon fire, chiming church bells, massive crowds, peasant bands on horseback, school girls in white dresses laying flowers along the emperor's path, torchlight parades, mountaintop bonfires, city illuminations, serenades, court dinners, aristocratic balls, early morning prayers at cathedrals and synagogues. During Francis Joseph's 1880 inspection tour of Galicia, (2) today divided between Poland and Ukraine, millions of Galicians either saw the emperor, talked with someone who did, read about his visit in the paper, or heard about it at a village reading hall or gathering, or from the local priest or rabbi. Francis Joseph, liberator of the peasants, protector of the Ruthenians, (3) patron of the Jews, granter of national rights to the Poles, drew the attention of Galicia's population to his presence.

The imperial inspection tour of Galicia represented a double celebration. The festivities asserted the continued relevance and enhanced popularity of the Habsburg dynasty in the constitutional era and advanced the interests of the Polish conservatives. In the decades before World War I, the Habsburgs, like their European rivals, cultivated dynastic loyalty and state patriotism by introducing public holidays and building monuments honoring the ruling dynasty. (4) The German, British, and Russian dynasties claimed to symbolize the dominant nationality in their respective empires--a claim the Habsburgs could not make without alienating the non-German majority of the population in the multinational Habsburg monarchy. (5) In any case, such an association of the dynasty with one nationality would have entailed a rejection of the supranational self-conception of the Habsburg dynasty. Imperial celebrations in the Habsburg monarchy, such as the 1880 imperial journey (Kaiserreise) to Galicia, instead emphasized the benevolent concern of the Father-Emperor for all his peoples. After the 1867 Compromise reorganized the state as Austria-Hungary, however, regional elites gained greater influence over the promotion of dynastic patriotism in the provinces. In this context, Polish conservatives used the inspection tour and the presence of the emperor to orchestrate public expressions of support for their vision of a noble-dominated and revitalized Polish nation within Habsburg Galicia.

The 1880 Kaiserreise was not Francis Joseph's first visit to Galicia. In 1851, the new emperor came to Galicia as part of a series of inspection tours undertaken in the years following the 1848-49 revolution. Festivities organized by the imperial court and neoabsolutist government in 1851 defined the roles of dynasty, local elites, and the wider population within the idealized imperial system. In the neoabsolutist system, all political power, backed by the imperial army, derived, at least in theory, from the person of the emperor. Cheering crowds supposedly provided public affirmation of this...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A135932822