GlobalIt's 2078, and Austria-Hungary have Reunited. What Does the...

It’s 2078, and Austria-Hungary have Reunited. What Does the World Look Like?

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Today, almost a century after its dismemberment in the aftermath of World War I, the idea of a Greater Austria-Hungary seems attractive to many people – if not everywhere, then at least in large and numerous minorities. It is especially true among certain portions of the population in both the Republic of Hungary and the Republic of Austria, where there has been a steady rise in support for an Austrian-Hungarian union over the past few years. 

While this support may be more popular than ever, there are some significant obstacles between a reunited Austria-Hungary and the us: chiefly, it’s currently occupied by several sovereign nations with their constitutions and identities. That said, we can still explore ‘What If…Austria-Hungary Reunited today?’

How Would a Reunion Happen?

A reunited Austria-Hungary would start with its constituent parts voluntarily uniting, which is not a common way for countries to come together. It would also be an infrequent event: almost no countries have been re-formed or re-unified after being broken apart. There have been attempts at reunification – including in Germany and Italy – but so far, none have succeeded. The only real example from the last century is the Soviet Union, but the breakup of that nation was anything but voluntary. 

Austria-Hungary’s breakup would probably be like the Soviet Union’s dissolution: a messy and painful process filled with anger, name-calling, and violence. A reunion would almost certainly be a long and drawn-out affair, lasting many years and possibly even decades. It would also be a very messy business, involving a lot of debate between the constituent nations of Austria-Hungary and producing a great deal of bitterness and recrimination on all sides.

Austro-Hungarian Culture and Language

Despite the many differences between Austria and Hungary, the two countries were closely intertwined for over 100 years, sharing a common culture, language, and even name (Austria-Hungary). The two were so closely linked that it’s possible to speak of an Austro-Hungarian identity, with both cultures and languages being closely connected. 

In recent years, there has been a growing desire among Austrians and Hungarians alike to return to this shared identity and culture, with many feeling that their countries have been greatly enriched by blending both Austrian and Hungarian traditions. If a reunited Austria-Hungary were to emerge, this Austro-Hungarian identity and language would have to be the standard for the newly-formed country. Language is one of the significant ways that cultural and linguistic groups keep themselves separate and distinct, so adopting one language and abandoning the other would be a necessary part of forming a new Austria-Hungarian state.

It’s impossible to say what language the newly re-formed Austria-Hungary would choose. Still, combining the two would likely emerge as a new hybrid language that draws from the Germanic and Uralic languages. It would be a logical choice, as it would allow the newly re-formed country to retain the benefits of both languages and cultures.

What Would the Environment Look Like?

A reunited Austria-Hungary would have a very distinct climate and environment from its modern-day counterparts. It is because the two countries have very different natural settings and climates. Austria is a mountainous state, with most of the population living in the Alps. On the other hand, Hungary is almost all plains, with only a few scattered mountain ranges. 

It means that the newly re-formed Austria-Hungary would have two very distinct environments. Most of the newly re-formed state would have a temperate continental climate: a climate that’s warm and wet in the summer but cold and snowy in the winter. It is very different from modern-day Austria’s tropical climate and modern-day Hungary’s Mediterranean climate. This distinct difference in climate would have a significant impact on how the newly re-formed Austria-Hungary would develop. 

The different terrains and climatic conditions would create two distinct economic and environmental models: one in the mountainous regions and one in the plains. It would mean that although both areas would make up one country, they would have very different cultures, economies, and environments.

Photo By : Jakub David / Unsplash

The Rise of Hungary?

Most discussions of a reunited Austria-Hungary focus on how the newly-formed country would come together and what sort of institutions and laws it would adopt. However, a fundamental question needs to be asked: what would happen to the Republic of Hungary? The modern-day Republic of Hungary has existed since the end of the First World War, when it was created as the successor state to the Kingdom of Hungary.

While modern-day Hungary has a distinct identity and culture from the Kingdom, it would come under a lot of pressure if a reunited Austria-Hungary came into being. It is especially true if the newly re-formed state was democratic and had universal suffrage, which would give the larger Austrian population a strong voice in the government. In this case, it would be possible for the Austrian population to gradually erode the powers of the Hungarian government and replace them with their institutions and culture.

It would mean that the newly re-formed Austria-Hungary would be dominated by the Austrian population, with the Hungarians being pushed to the margins.

What Would Happen on a Political Level?

A reunited Austria-Hungary would be a very diverse and complicated state: it would be a mix of Austrian and Hungarian politics, cultures, and traditions. It would likely mean that the newly re-formed Austria-Hungary would adopt a federal system of government with a solid central legislature and several autonomous provinces.

It would have the dual effect of uniting the two countries – ensuring that both the Austrians and the Hungarians have a decisive say in how the country is run – while also acknowledging their differences. A federal system would also help the newly re-formed Austria-Hungary deal with the economic and cultural differences between the two provinces: the mountainous and prosperous Austrian lands and the mostly plains and poorer Hungarian lands.

Institutional Changes

There would be several significant institutional changes that would take place if a reunited Austria-Hungary were to emerge. The first and most obvious change would be the adoption of a federal system of government. It would have the effect of uniting Austria and Hungary and recognizing their differences and cultural distinctions. 

A federal system would also help ease the economic differences between the more mountainous and prosperous Austrian provinces and the mostly plains and poorer Hungarian provinces. Another significant change that would have to occur if a reunited Austria-Hungary were to emerge would be the adoption of a new common currency to replace the Austrian Euro and the Hungarian Forint.

It would create a single monetary system for the newly re-formed Austria-Hungary and help unite the two provinces economically.

Pros of an Austria-Hungary Reunion

There are many reasons why Austria and Hungary would benefit from a renewed union – even in the context of the 21st century. Finally, Austria-Hungary would have a more excellent voice on the global stage. It might rise as a regional superpower, something neither Austria nor Hungary can do on their own in the current geopolitical climate. 

A union would also help modernize the Austrian and Hungarian economies, which are currently struggling to keep pace with the rest of Europe. Both nations could benefit from sharing their best practices to modernize their manufacturing sectors, research and development, and other fields that have seen little progress since the dissolution of Austria-Hungary.

Cons of an Austria-Hungary Reunion

Not everything about a reunited Austria-Hungary would be purely positive. One of the most significant issues would be the cultural conflict that would almost certainly arise, as the two sides have developed very different identities over the last century. Many in the newly formed Austria would struggle to define their new national identity in the face of Austria-Hungary’s suddenly very different cultures.

 A similar problem would arise in Hungary, where those in the more forcefully Hungarian-oriented parts of the country would struggle to find a place in the new Austria-Hungary. Environmental damage would also be a significant concern in the event of a reunited Austria-Hungary. As one of the most polluted countries in the world, Hungary would have a tough time fitting into the Austrian landscape, in which environmentalism is a deeply embedded cultural norm.

Photo By :
Tom Def / Unsplash

Reunification Conditions

For Austria-Hungary to reunite, the two states would need to be willing to give up their sovereignty, or at least a significant amount of it. On the surface, there is no indication that either nation is willing to make this sacrifice, but some conditions could make it more palatable.

For one, the states could look towards either a confederative model, where they retain their rights but pool some of their power or a federalized system, where certain rights are pooled at the central level, but others are left to the states themselves. Another condition might be the reintroduction of the Habsburg dynasty. 

It would partly solve the issue of cultural conflict, as it would provide a clear line of leadership that everyone could follow. More importantly, it would allow for a clear transition from the old Austria-Hungary to the new one.

Cultural Implications

As we’ve discussed above, culture would be one of the most significant issues in the event of a reunited Austria-Hungary. Many in the newly formed Austria would struggle to define their new national identity in the face of Austria-Hungary’s suddenly very different cultures. 

A similar problem would arise in Hungary, where those in the more forcefully Hungarian-oriented parts of the country would struggle to find a place in the new Austria-Hungary. Environmental damage would also be a significant concern in the event of a reunited Austria-Hungary. As one of the most polluted countries in the world, Hungary would have a tough time fitting into the Austrian landscape, in which environmentalism is a deeply embedded cultural norm.

What Would an Austria-Hungary Reunion Look Like?

A reunited Austria-Hungary would join together a diverse mix of diverse people. Austria itself would also undergo a cultural shift, with the Austrian-German language ceding some space to the Hungarian language, which would become the second most-spoken language in the newly formed Austria-Hungary.

What If Austria-Hungary Reunited Today?

If Austria-Hungary were to reunite today, it would become the 16th most powerful country in the world, with a GDP of $1.9 trillion roughly. The newly formed Austria-Hungary would also have a total population of almost 90 million, which would place it as the world’s 5th most populous country. Being so large, however, it would also become less economically efficient than many other countries. 

If we were to look at how the two belligerents would fare economically by rejoining, Austria would see its GDP increase by an estimated $166 billion. In comparison, Hungary would see an increase of $62 billion. 

Austria’s unemployment rate would decrease from 6.2 per cent to 5.6 per cent, and its average income would rise from $42,000 to $45,000. Hungary’s unemployment rate, on the other hand, would rise from 5.9 per cent to 6.8 per cent, and its average income would fall from $24,000 to $21,000.

Why Would Austria-Hungary Reunite?

Austria-Hungary broke apart in the aftermath of the First World War, and while there was no major fight over its dissolution, there are many reasons why it might be advantageous for the two states to reunite today. First, it would help Austria and Hungary find new economic growth, which they’ll need to keep pace with other European economies.

Second, it would allow the two states to share the burdens of managing such a large population. Finally, it would give both sides a more excellent voice on the global stage and might even lead them to rise as regional superpowers. 

All of these reasons suggest that, while a reunited Austria-Hungary would not be without its challenges, the two countries stand to gain a great deal from it.

Photo By :
Sorasak / Unsplash

How Would Austria-Hungary Be Different Today?

The first thing to consider is what the new Austria-Hungary would look like. If we were to reunite Austria and Hungary, we’d have a single country with a population of around 50 million people. It would make it the third most populous country on the continent, behind only Russia and Germany and almost twice as populous as France. 

Politically, the new Austria-Hungary would be an absolute monarchy with a single emperor ruling over Austria and Hungary as a dual monarchy. Economically, it would be an export-driven economy with strong ties to Germany. 

Culturally, Austria-Hungary would be a German-speaking country with strong Roman Catholic traditions. Its language and culture would become a hybrid of Austrian and Hungarian, but predominantly German.

Which Countries Would Join The Reunited Austria-Hungary?

We’d have to determine which of Austria-Hungary’s states would join the reunited Austria-Hungary and which wouldn’t. The first step would be to rule out the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Austria proper, which would remain independent countries. After that, we’d have Croatia and the Serbian Republic, claiming substantial portions of the former Austria-Hungary. The Republic of Croatia and the Austrian Republic would be ruled out, so the choice would come down to Serbia and Slovenia.

 And, given that both countries have German-speaking communities that would likely prefer to join Austria, it seems likely that both Slovenia and Serbia would join the new Austria-Hungary. After that, the choice between Romania, Ukraine, and Moldova would be less clear-cut, but it seems likely that all three of them would become part of the reunited Austria-Hungary.

What Are the Challenges of Re-Uniting Austria-Hungary?

First and foremost, reuniting Austria-Hungary would mean forging a new identity for a vast and diverse population. If we brought the two countries together, we’d have a divisive population with diverse linguistic and cultural traditions. Today, Austria is a German-speaking country, Hungary is a Hungarian-speaking country, and the Austrian-Hungarian language is all but extinct.

Already, Austria and Hungary face enormous challenges as individual countries; bringing them together might be like trying to squeeze two huge and unwieldy ships into the same port. Beyond that, rejoining Austria and Hungary would also mean dealing with significant structural problems. How would we forge a new identity out of that? 

Austria, Hungary, and their respective German and Hungarian communities would have to work together to build a new government that’s big enough to be effective but small enough to avoid gridlock.

Photo By :
Hasmik Ghazaryan Olson/ Unsplash

Would an Austria-Hungary Reunion Be Good for Europe?

It’s worth asking: why do we even want to reunite Austria and Hungary? It’s worth remembering that Austria-Hungary was a significant factor in the lead-up to the First World War and that its re-establishment could spark tensions with many of its former neighbours.

That said, it seems equally likely that a reunited Austria-Hungary would help to stabilize Central and Eastern Europe. A strong Austria-Hungary would counter Russia and Germany, helping to ensure neither country becomes too powerful. 

It would also bring together two large populations – Austrian and Hungarian – that both have a lot of experience with democracy. It would give them a significant role in the future of Europe, helping to ensure that the continent remains stable and prosperous for many years.

Conclusion

If the two states were to reunite today, they would become the 16th most powerful country in the world. A reunited Austria-Hungary would become one of the largest economies in the world. While this would undoubtedly provide both states economic and political benefits, it would come with challenges.

These two countries would need to give up a large amount of their sovereignty to work effectively together, and they would also have to deal with different cultural issues. And yet, a reunited Austria-Hungary would be a powerful force within Europe, and it would have the strength to face the challenges of the 21st century.

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