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From grand opera houses to exuberant coffee houses, the Austro-Hungarians enjoy lively debate on matters philosophical, musical, and literary, powering their society.

The Final Act of the Congress of Vienna was signed in June 1815 and confirmed the dismantlement of the French Empire and the restoration of sovereign power to its traditional monarchs. The Conservative Order established through the Congress of Vienna was designed to quell revolutionary uprisings on the continent and through the creation of the Holy Alliance consolidated the Austrian Empire’s political, diplomatic, and cultural supremacy in European affairs.

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In the early 19th century, Austrian politics was dominated by the Count of Metternich’s fierce resistance to any softening of the absolutist regimes that existed in Austria and the rest of Europe. The Austrian Empire’s foreign minister and then Chancellor of the Empire from 1809, this skillful diplomat was still unable to prevent the outbreak of revolution that led to his downfall in 1848. Restored that same year with the accession of Franz Josef I, the Austrian Empire evolved into the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary after the Austro-Prussian War of 1867. A vast collection of different peoples and cultures, the empire underwent change throughout the 19th century due to the growth of liberal and nationalist movements in society. The crushing of revolutionary revolts in Vienna, Prague, and Buda after the Revolutions of 1848 (known in some countries as the Spring of Nations) did not hinder the growth of militant parties, societies, and cells in support of Italian and Slavic minorities calling for political representation or independence. These demands were dismissed by the ruling powers, leading to mounting frustration and motivating the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand by a Serbian militant in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914. Nonetheless, the long rule of Franz Josef I (1848–1916) was a period when all of Europe’s cities were fascinated by the Viennese lifestyle. The imperial capital was home to millions of inhabitants and had a middle class that loved art and theater. It was the flourishing home of numerous movements in literature, poetry, music, architecture, and aesthetics, such as the Biedermeier period, realism, expressionism, and the Jung-Wien (Young Vienna) authors.

Did you know?

Empress Elisabeth of Austria, the wife of Franz Josef, is the famous Sissi. A series of films about her life became an international box office hit in the 1950s and made the actress Romy Schneider a star.