Ernst von Koerber
Ernest von Koerber was an Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

n politician who served as Ministerpräsident (prime minister) of the
Austrian Empire
Austrian Empire
The Austrian Empire was a modern era successor empire, which was centered on what is today's Austria and which officially lasted from 1804 to 1867. It was followed by the Empire of Austria-Hungary, whose proclamation was a diplomatic move that elevated Hungary's status within the Austrian Empire...

 in 1900 to 1904 and in 1916.


Ernest von Koerber was born in Trento
Trento is an Italian city located in the Adige River valley in Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol. It is the capital of Trentino...

, now part of Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, then belonging to Austria. His family was ethnically German
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...


He became extremely involved in Austrian culture and politics. The study of Rechtsstaat
Rechtsstaat is a concept in continental European legal thinking, originally borrowed from German jurisprudence, which can be translated as "legal state", "state of law", "state of justice", or "state of rights"...

, or constitutionality and civil rights was popular during Koerber's teen years and Koerber and his peers such as Sieghart, Steinbach, Baernreither, and Redlich learned and immersed themselves in this principle.

Koerber’s knowledge of government was apparent when he launched his career as a bureaucrat in 1874. By 1897 Koerber was a member of the Reichsrat (the parliament of Cisleithania
Cisleithania was a name of the Austrian part of Austria-Hungary, the Dual Monarchy created in 1867 and dissolved in 1918. The name was used by politicians and bureaucrats, but it had no official status...

, the Austrian portion of Austria-Hungary) and Commerce Minister of Austria. At this time, under the "Dual Monarchy" of Austria-Hungary
Austria-Hungary , more formally known as the Kingdoms and Lands Represented in the Imperial Council and the Lands of the Holy Hungarian Crown of Saint Stephen, was a constitutional monarchic union between the crowns of the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary in...

, there were separate internal governments for Austria and the Kingdom of Hungary
Kingdom of Hungary
The Kingdom of Hungary comprised present-day Hungary, Slovakia and Croatia , Transylvania , Carpatho Ruthenia , Vojvodina , Burgenland , and other smaller territories surrounding present-day Hungary's borders...

. Two years later in 1899 Koerber rose to the position of Minister of the Interior. In 1900, Emperor Franz Joseph
Franz Joseph I of Austria
Franz Joseph I or Francis Joseph I was Emperor of Austria, King of Bohemia, King of Croatia, Apostolic King of Hungary, King of Galicia and Lodomeria and Grand Duke of Cracow from 1848 until his death in 1916.In the December of 1848, Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria abdicated the throne as part of...

 asked Koerber to create a cabinet and serve as prime minister. This was by far the most influential position of Koerber’s career. Koerber served in this capacity until the end of 1904 when he left office.

First Koerber cabinet

From the beginning of his term in office, Koerber encountered many difficulties. He had full authority only over Cisleithania. Furthermore, the Reichsrat was politically weak. In order to make major liberal reforms Koerber depended largely on Article 14, a provision which allowed the Emperor to issue an “emergency regulation” for any necessary purposes. The meetings of the Reichsrat quickly transformed into forums for Koerber to bargain with party leaders.

Koerber’s tenure in office was also marked by tensions within Austria-Hungary. The dual monarchy dissipated any sense of allegiance to a single crown. The various ethnic groups resented one another and it became apparent that most government actions would leave at least one offended group.

In military matters, Koerber opposed providing the Hungarian portion of the army (Honvédség) with its own artillery units. While the emperor advocated such a policy, Koerber sided with Archduke Franz Ferdinand against it, stating that the principle of parity would require the Austrian Landwehr
Landwehr, or Landeswehr, is a German language term used in referring to certain national armies, or militias found in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Europe. In different context it refers to large scale, low strength fortifications...

to also have artillery, which Austria could not afford.

Even education was a controversial aspect within the monarchy. The Italians in the Habsburg lands could no longer get a university education within the borders of Austria after it lost Veneto
Veneto is one of the 20 regions of Italy. Its population is about 5 million, ranking 5th in Italy.Veneto had been for more than a millennium an independent state, the Republic of Venice, until it was eventually annexed by Italy in 1866 after brief Austrian and French rule...

 in 1866. Koerber sought to fix this problem and presented a draft law establishing an Italian university. However widespread disapproval from Germans culminated in riots during the aborted inauguration of the first course, to be opened in Innsbruck
- Main sights :- Buildings :*Golden Roof*Kaiserliche Hofburg *Hofkirche with the cenotaph of Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor*Altes Landhaus...

 in November 1904 This forced the government to abandon this project. Koerber also attempted to institute a “National University” with German as the language of teaching but the Italians and Slavs protested this plan.

Koerber pursued reform for the infrastructure of the country, particularly railroads and canal
Canals are man-made channels for water. There are two types of canal:#Waterways: navigable transportation canals used for carrying ships and boats shipping goods and conveying people, further subdivided into two kinds:...

s. These expansive reforms were made in efforts to appease the Reichsrat and create a sense of regionalism with non-controversial government reforms. Despite Koerber's efforts, these changes did not provide the reaction Koerber expected and attention once again shifted towards the nationality question.

Additionally, Koerber aimed to promote the industrial and communications sectors. He abolished censorship of the press. Koerber believed this would benefit the changing and expansive monarchy. Koerber also exhibited his liberal ideology by reducing the harsh persecution of Social Democrat
Social democracy
Social democracy is a political ideology of the center-left on the political spectrum. Social democracy is officially a form of evolutionary reformist socialism. It supports class collaboration as the course to achieve socialism...

s, allowing them to organize openly in Austria. This was a tremendous stride in individual rights.

Coupled with these strategies was Koerber's economic savvy. Koerber got the Reichsrat to enact his 1902 economic development program without resorting to article 14. But once again, it was to no avail. Many historians believe that Koerber’s emphasis on economic matters over national issues made his administration highly unpopular. Ethnic hostilities ensued despite his attempts at reform. The lack of transition within the state diminished Koerber's dreams and he eventually resigned from office in December 1904. Koerber was succeeded by Paul von Gautsch, Minister of Education.

Second Koerber cabinet

Koerber returned to the spotlight during World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

. From 1915 to 1916, Koerber served as Finance Minister of Austria-Hungary (a "k.u.k" ministry which served both countries). In October 1916, Count Stürgkh, prime minister of Austria, was assassinated. Franz Joseph quickly recalled Koerber to return as prime minister. Many had hoped that Koerber would modify the tyrannical system that had developed during wartime. However Koerber came into conflict with the new emperor, Charles I and did not make such changes. In fact, the constant disputes made it difficult for Koerber to get anything accomplished. Koerber still held out hope that Austria and Hungary were able to unite, both politically and socially. Charles I, however, continued to take measures that would hinder this progress. Koerber, an aged man by this point, decided he could no longer take these differences. A few short months later Koerber officially retired from office.

He died shortly after the end of the war, on 5 March 1919, in Baden
Baden bei Wien
-Points of interest:The town offers several parks and a picturesque surrounding, of which the most frequented is the Helenental valley. Not far from Baden, the valley is crossed by a widespread aqueduct of the Vienna waterworks...

, a town near Vienna.

Further reading

  • Roman, Eric. Austria-Hungary and the Successor States; From the Renaissance to the Present. Facts on File, Inc., New York 2003.

External links

  • Austria.” The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition 2001. October 31, 2006. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. 2001, Houghton Mifflin Company.
  • Koerber, Ernest von.” Yahoo Encyclopedia Online 2006. Yahoo Encyclopedia. 31 October 2006.
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