Austria's Progress Towards the East

Austria’s Progress Towards the East

Emperor Ferdinand III died in 1657. In those same years, in northern Germany, the great elector Frederick William (1640-1688) had taken advantage of the Swedish-Polish war to detach the Prussian duchies from Polish sovereignty and had united them to brand of Brandenburg, which thus became the stronghold of the Germanic Protestant states, in place of Saxony. First the assertion of a new power which was then to become a proud and victorious rival of Austria itself. On the other hand, the French influence on the states of the Rhenish provinces had become so great that Louis XIV, after the death of Ferdinand III, was even able to advance his candidacy for the imperial crown and unite in a Rhenish league (Rheinbund) the principles devoted to him. However, the Hapsburg party won, raising Leopold I (1658-1705), second son of Ferdinand III to the imperial dignity. But Mazarin, the new head of French politics, did not abandon the hope of throwing the Habsburgs out of the first place in Europe, in favor of the Bourbons. The so-called Peace of the Pyrenees ensured France the possession of Spain through the marriage of Louis XIV, arranged on that occasion, with the Archduchess Maria Theresa, eldest daughter of King Philip IV. But to these failures of the Habsburgs in the west and in the center of Europe corresponded, right then, against the Turks, the resumption of that Drang nach Osten which was the true path marked by Austria. Not lucky at first, it had to end, at the end of the century,

In Transylvania, shortly after the death of George II Rákóczy (1648-1660), there was a double election, in which the imperial party proclaimed John Kemény prince, the Turkish party instead Michael Apafi. The imperial army, under the command of Montecuccoli, sent to Kemény’s aid, was rejected by the Turks; the same Calvinistic nobility of Hungary, aggravated by the attempts of the Catholic counter-reform, reunited with the Presburg diet, where they decided to refuse the emperor the help requested against the Turks. Instead the states of the empire allowed the formation of an army, which, in the summer of 1664, entered Hungary divided into three groups: the northern one, under Désouches, which won the Turks at Léva; the middle one, led by Montecuccoli, who won at S. Gottardo on the Raab; the southern one under Zriny who occupied Nagykanizsa. Since the Turks had appeared in Europe, it was for the first time that imperial armies waged a victorious offensive against the Crescent. The imperials, however, did not know how to draw any profit from the peace concluded immediately in Eisenburg (Vas). The emperor had to recognize Apafy as prince of Transylvania, cede the fortresses of Gran Varadino, Novigrad and Neuhäusl to the Sultan and also pay a hefty war indemnity. These concessions aroused the indignation of the Hungarian magnates, who plotted a conspiracy, under the leadership of Nicola Zriny and – after his death – of the palatine Francesco Wesseleny, of Francesco Nádasdy, of the Marquis Frangipani, of Francesco Rákóczy, son of Prince George II and of some other. The conspirators set out agreement with the enemies of the Empire, that is, with France and with the princes of the Rhenish League, and at last they even found support in Austria itself, in the person of the Styrian Count Erasmus of Tattenbach. But the conspiracy was discovered and the six leaders were executed in Wiener Neusiadt (1671). As in Bohemia after the Battle of the White Mountain, so now cruel procedures were adopted in Hungary. The Calvinists were persecuted with unprecedented cruelty. Even the administration of Hungarian finances was entrusted to a Catholic priest, Count Kolonitsch, archbishop of Vienna, recently appointed president of the imperial chancellery in Presburg. The soul of the persecutions, however, was the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order, Caspar von Ampringen, who presided over the new government for Hungary, established in Presburg. Kuruzzi (crusaders), under the command of Count Emeric Tököly, who, more usually, recalled the Turks, as custodians of Hungarian independence. These arrived again under the walls of Vienna, to besiege the imperial city. Vienna from July until September 1683 defended itself, under its mayor Liebenberg and the commander of the imperial troops Count Rüdiger of Starhemberg, from Turkish attacks. In the meantime, the emperor was working hard in Passavia to enlist an army under the command of the Duke Charles of Lorraine. Thanks to the Pope’s intervention, the King of Poland Giovanni Sobieski also came. On 12 September, German and Polish allied troops, unnoticed by the enemy, overtook the Wiener Wald and impetuously attacked the Turkish army camped west of the city from behind, on the site of today’s suburbs. The Turkish army was routed and the leftovers were driven back to Hungary. For Austria 2002, please check

The war against the Turks, which lasted for 15 years, after the liberation of Vienna, was an almost uninterrupted victorious march of imperial arms throughout Hungary, finally freed from the almost secular dominion of the Turks and definitively occupied by the Habsburgs, after so long aspirations. The most important success of this first phase of the war was the capture of the capital of Hungary, Buda, on September 2, 1686. The following year, on the historic fields of Mohács, the rout of 1526 and the possession of the whole of Hungary were avenged. it was secured by the capture of Belgrade, by the elector Massimiliano Emanuele di Baviera. After the fall of the last bastion of Turkish rule, the Hungarian parliament of Presburg recognized in 1687 the right of the Habsburgs to succession and renounced the famous freedom of the states, that is, the right of armed opposition recognized to them in 1222, with the golden bull of Andrew II. The conquest of Hungary was followed, in the last years of the century, by victorious expeditions of the imperial general, Margrave Ludwig of Baden, in the neighboring provinces of Hungary, Bosnia, Serbia, Bulgaria. But the possession of these countries could not be maintained, despite the defeat of the Turks at Slankamen (1691), because the Margrave Ludovico had to leave his army, urgently called on the western front against France. The elector of Saxony, Frederick Augustus, much less suited to command, took his place; and, only after he was called to the government of Poland, the fate of the imperial arms was entrusted to Prince Eugene of Savoy (1697), brilliant commander and statesman, true founder of the great Habsburg power. His great decisive victory at Zenta over Tisza (September 1697) ended the war and forced the Turks to surrender all of Hungary to the emperor, Morea and part of Dalmatia and Bosnia to the allied Venetian Republic. The eastern policy of the Habsburgs was finally paying off, and Austria became the great Danubian power.

Austria's Progress Towards the East

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