Reactionary and autocratic, literal-minded and devoted to military engineering, Nicholas I worked hard at the business of the state. Although he despised all constitutions, he honored the liberal constitution that his elder brother Alexander had granted to the Poles until the Poles themselves revolted in 1831.
The Modernization of Nations
In Russia the process of modernization took far longer than in western Europe. There was no parliament in Russia until 1905. Serfdom was not abolished until 1861. Each time reform came—in the 1860s and in 1905 and 1906—it came as a result of military defeat abroad.
Since Austria was 90 percent Catholic, it did not experience the strenuous Kulturkampf of Germany. However, liberals did fight clerical conservatives over religious issues and forced through bills legalizing civil marriages, quasi- secularized schools, and taxes on church property.
In Hungary minority problems were more acute. The Slovaks, the Romanians, and the Serbs and Croats living in Hungary were the worst victims of a deliberate policy of Magyarization. The Magyar aim was to destroy the national identity of the minorities and to transform them into Magyars; the weapon used was language.
After 1867 many Czechs argued that the lands of the Crown of St. Wenceslaus, a martyred prince of Bohemia (d. 929), possessed rights comparable to those that the Magyars had successfully claimed for the lands of the Crown of St. Stephen (c. 975-1038), who had been crowned as first king of Hungary in 1001.
This formula was the Ausgleich, or “compromise,” which created the unique dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary. The Hungarian constitution of 1848 was restored, and the entire empire was reorganized as a strict partnership.