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Aloys Lexa Von Aehrenthal


AEHRENTHAL, ALOYS LEXA VON, COUNT 1912), Austro-Hungarian statesman, was born at Gross-Skal, in Bohemia. He was the son of Baron (Freiherr) Johann Lexa von Aehrenthal and his wife Marie, nee Countess Thun-Hohen stein, and began his diplomatic career in 1877 as attache to the Paris embassy under Count Beust. He went in 1878 in the same capacity to St. Petersburg, and from 1883 to 1888 he worked at the Foreign Office in Vienna under Kalnoky, with whom he formed close relations. In 1888 he was sent as councillor of em bassy to St. Petersburg, where he exercised considerable influence with the ambassador, Count Wolkenstein. Recalled in 1894 to service in the Foreign Office, he undertook important duties, and in the following year went to Bucharest as ambassador. Here he succeeded in strengthening the relations between the courts of Vienna and Bucharest, the secret alliance which King Charles had concluded in 1883 with the Central European Powers being renewed on Sept. 3o. In 1899 he became ambassador in St. Petersburg, where he remained until his appointment as Foreign Minister in Oct. 1906. Aehrenthal at this time thought that Aus tria-Hungary must, even at the cost of some sacrifice, come to an agreement with Russia. In this sense he endeavoured to con tinue the negotiations successfully begun by his predecessor, Prince Franz Liechtenstein (1853-1938), for bridging over the difference on Balkan questions between Vienna and St. Petersburg, in order to create a basis for a permanent friendly relation be tween Austria-Hungary and Russia. He played a principal part in concluding the Miirzsteg Agreement of 1903. During the Russo-Japanese War he took a strong line in favour of a benevo lent attitude on the part of the Vienna Cabinet towards Russia. When, in Oct. 1906, he succeeded Count Goluchowski as Foreign Minister he at first maintained the views which he had professed as ambassador. He was determined to preserve the interests of Austria-Hungary in the Balkans, but also showed himself prepared to meet the Russian wishes in the Dardanelles question. Accord ingly he entered into negotiations, after the outbreak of the Young Turk revolution in the summer of 1908, with Isvolski, arranging with him Sept. 15 at the château of Buchlau, in Moravia, an agree ment which aimed at securing for Austria-Hungary the annexation of Bosnia and Hercegovina and for Russia the opening of the Dardanelles to Russian warships.

It was only when Isvolski's proposals were wrecked on the opposition of England, and the Russian minister protested against the annexation of Bosnia and Hercegovina, which had mean while been accomplished, and supported the Serbs in their op position to Austria-Hungary, that Aehrenthal abandoned the idea of a friendly accommodation with the Russian Government. In the sharp struggle during the annexation crisis, not only with Russia and Serbia, but with the Western Powers, he held with tenacious energy to his purpose, and, powerfully supported by Germany, succeeded in carrying out his intentions after excited negotiations which threatened to lead to war. The annexation of Bosnia and Hercegovina was acknowledged by the Powers; an agreement was reached with Turkey; Serbia, after long hesita tion, was obliged to submit. For this achievement Aehrenthal was rewarded by his master by elevation to the rank of Count (Aug. 18,1909), while at the courts of his opponents he was hated but respected.

This was the zenith of his political career. Aehrenthal took the greatest pains to prove in all quarters after the conclusion of the annexation crisis, that Austria-Hungary cherished no f ar reaching plans of conquest. In this spirit he offered the most decided opposition to those circles at the court of Vienna which advocated a bloody reckoning with Serbia. He held fast by the Triple Alliance, for he saw in this the surest bulwark of peace.

He sought to form the most intimate relations with the German Empire, but insisted on the independence of the Habsburg Mon archy, and energetically repulsed all efforts on the part of the German chancellery to set limits to that independence. A suc cession of agreements which he concluded with the Italian Foreign Minister Tittoni, enabled him to maintain correct relations with the Italian Government. Yet, by the maintenance of his peace policy, which had the full approval of the Emperor Francis Joseph, he came into serious conflict with Conrad von Hotzendorf. The battle, carried on with tenacious endurance, ended in 1911 with the victory of Aehrenthal and the resignation of Hi5tzendorf.

Aehrenthal married in 1902 Pauline, Countess Szechenyi. He died Feb. 17, 1912. During his life the estimate of his policy fluctuated violently. On the one hand it was blamed as provoca tive, on the other as weak. After the disastrous result of the World War, bringing with it the downfall of the Habsburg Mon archy, it is still more difficult to answer the question whether the path pursued by Aehrenthal in foreign affairs was the right one. It is certain that the Entente Powers were drawn more closely together by the active part played, during his period of office, by Austria-Hungary in Balkan affairs. It is true that the chances of success for the Central Powers in an international struggle were better in the years 1909 and 1911 than in 1914. But the question remains undecided whether, if his activity had been longer con tinued, Aehrenthal would have been able to maintain the posi tion of Austria-Hungary as a great power without an appeal to the decision of arms. There is no doubt that Aehrenthal was a statesman of considerable mark, a man of wide knowledge and well-ordered intelligence; he was ambitious, but not vain, and an untiring worker. Moreover, in moments of great excitement he was able to maintain outward calmness. He was convinced of his own value, but had no desire to parade it. The Emperor Francis Joseph esteemed him, stood by him in the good and evil hours of his administration of foreign affairs, and repeatedly re fused to accept his tendered resignation.


B. Molden, Alois, Graf Aehrenthal: Sechs Jahre auswartiger Politik Oesterreich-Ungarns (1917) ; and the article "Aehrenthal" in the Deutsche Nekrologen (vol. xviii., 1917, pp. 230 seq.). (A. F. P.)

austria-hungary, foreign, annexation, powers and russia