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Wiener Kongress -
Congress of Vienna
(1814 - 1815)
The Congress of Vienna was an international
congress aiming to restore peace and to restructure Europe,
which was in a mess after almost two centennaries of war and
the monomanic attempts of Napoleon to conquer Europe. It was
a quest for a balance of powers, so that future wars and revolutions
could be prevented.
Decisions were made by the four superpowers Prussia, Russia, Austria and Great Brittain. Due to diplomatic skill France, too, was allowed to take part in decision making.
Representation was almost as important at the Congress of Vienna as diplomacy. Festivities, balls and dancing turned upper class Vienna into a frenzy for over a year. This gave way to the saying: 'Le Congrès danse et ne marche pas.'
The differences which had to become where serious indeed. For a considerable time the aims of the congress seemed to fall through. Finally, compromise was hastened by Napoleon's flight from Elba, the island of his captivity.
Klemens von Metternich -
the era of
Count Klemens von Metternich was souvereign to Austrian emperor Franz I and one of the main diplomats of the Viennese Congress. He backed up France's claims to take part in the decision making process and supported the idea of a German alliance ('Deutscher Bund'), an important step towards a unified Germany even though the internal independance of the various German counties was not questioned.
Apart from leading the Congress of
Vienna Metternich was a very conservative politician. He strove
to cement the Austrian monarchy by a strict rule of censorship
and repression. Those measures lead to the era of Biedermeier.
The masses were poor and even well-settled families enjoyed
little personal freedom. Art was reduced to the portrayal
of the idyllic, the theatre popular albeit heavily censored.
Waltzing and operettas were harmless
and immensely fashionable pastimes. Strauss sr. and other composers competed for fame.
Results of the Congress of Vienna
- French returned territories gained by Napoleon from 1795 - 1810.
- Russia extended its powers and received souveranity over Poland and Finland.
- Prussia lost its claims over Poland, but extended its territory towards the West (Westphalia and the Rhyne Province)
- Austria, too, did extend its territory. Venetia, for example, was handed over to the Habsburg family. However, due to the increase of power of other European powers (Russia and Prussia) the Austrian monarchy rather lost in significance.
- Austrian Netherlands were unified with the Kingdom of Netherlands under the House of Orange.
- Bavaria and Hannover gained territories.
- Saxony was punished for its alliance with France and lost some territory to Prussia.
- Norway and Sweden were joined.
- Switzerland was declared neutral.
- Britain gained control over several strategic colonies and become the first superpower of the world.
- The balance of power was sort of successful... For 40 years Europe was peaceful. However, this stability was achieved at the price of personal freedom of the population of the major European powers.