Planning Capital Cities

(Barré) #1

Harald Heppner

it emphasized the connection between the Serbs, Romanians and Bulgarians
(outside of the Carpathian basin) and served as a rallying point vis-a-vis
the Ottoman Empire, a phenomenon which only at the end of the 18th and
beginning of the 19th century ended (with statehood, territorial expansion, and
independence). During the subsequent era of nation building, Constantinople
lost all importance, not only for political reasons, but also for intellectual and
infrastructural ones as well, leading the new national capitals to be unable to
find (regional) precedents.

The next urban focus for South Eastern European countries was Venice, not
only as a city but for its maritime and legal systems and accompanying civic
organization which were long prevalent in the region.^3 However, Venice was of
little relevance to the Romanians and Bulgarians and even for the Serbs only
nominally owing to the Serbian Orthodox minority in southern Dalmatia. Apart
from the diaspora of Serbs, Bulgarians and Romanians, some of which came into
contact or lived under Venetian rule, Venice could not function as an orienting
force for the three ethnic groups. This was because it was a Mediterranean
power, had internalized seafaring and trade, and was at the time of national
development either already in advanced decline or no longer in existence (in
1797 it was dissolved by Napoleon I).

That capital, which did assume a sort of role-model status in the pre-national
period for the Serbs, Bulgarians and Romanians, was Vienna, the residence
of the Habsburgs.^4 The Habsburgs dominated the zone between Central and
South Eastern Europe while at the same time wore the imperial mantle of the
Holy Roman Empire until its dissolution in 1806, effectively dividing themselves
between Eastern and Western Europe. This function can be traced back to the
commitment assumed by the Habsburgs, beginning in the 16th century against
the Ottomans which included not only periodic collaboration with the Serbs but
also (much less frequently) the Bulgarians. Further, the geographical proximity
of “Austria” to the settlement areas of the Serbs, Bulgarians and Romanians in
the early 18th century played a role not to be underestimated. For segments of
the Serbs and Romanians (those living within the Carpathian Mountains) Vienna
was of even more importance, since it was where the seat of the highest state
agencies was located (the Court, central authorities for Hungary, the Banat and
Transylvania, later for Bukovina as well). However, the relationship of members
of these two ethnic groups to Vienna was not only based on or reliant upon
anonymous organizational structures and platforms, but also on the integration
of the Serbian elite into the political and intellectual system of the Habsburg
Empire as scholars, soldiers (officers), civil servants, and teachers. Vienna was
a hub of cultural exchange and education in the age of national development,
which explains why students from outside the Habsburg Monarchy (Serbs and
Bulgarians) received their academic education there. However, Vienna was also
the centre of a multi-ethnic state, which wanted to preserve the status quo and
therefore was representative of a foreign policy which stood in conflict with
national goals of the various southeast European peoples.

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