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  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: December 2013

8 - Distant Neighbors: Uses of Orientalism in the Late Nineteenth-Century Austro-Hungarian Empire


In contrast to Edward Said's classical model, modes of so-called orientalist thinking and writing in the Habsburg monarchy provide a more differentiated idea of the Orient. It would be inaccurate to speak of just one form of orientalist discourse in the late Habsburg Empire. This chapter will consider at least two variants, outlining and then illustrating them through quotations from influential Austro-Hungarian policymakers. One variant represents the image of the Orient as “distant” (referring to the ottoman Empire and the Turks, who were both kept at a distance in consequence of their defeat at the gates of Vienna in 1683, commemorated at the bicentennial celebrations), while the other conceives the Orient as “close to home” (Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Southern Slavic peoples); both variants were deployed, mainly for political reasons, by various protagonists. Both modes of thinking were decisively affected by two events: the occupation and later annexation of the former Ottoman provinces Bosnia and Herzegovina in the year 1878, and in 1883 the bicentennial anniversary of the siege of Vienna by the Turks (1683) and its victorious relief. This chapter seeks to reconstruct precisely this complexity and differentiation within Habsburg discourses on the Orient during the period in question.