Benjamin Von Kallay: Consul and Historian in Serbia from 1868 to 1875

Article excerpt

Following the Compromise Agreement the Austro-Hungarian government decided to appoint a new consul to the court of the Serbian Prince Mihailo Obrenovic. In March of 1868 Benjamin von Kallay was named to the post of a general consul with an additional title and responsibilities of a diplomatic agent. Kallay's appointment was designed to strengthen the Austro-Hungarian position in Serbia. (1)

Prior to Kallay's departure for Belgrade, Friedrich Ferdinand von Beust, the Austro-Hungarian minister for foreign affairs, took special care to prepare detailed instructions about the desired political goals that Kallay was to pursue on behalf of the Austro-Hungarian government. These policies were outlined in confidential papers, dated 5 April 1868, defining Kallay's mission as well as Beust's political credo. (2)

Beust admonished Kallay to monitor the situation in Belgrade and promote Austro-Hungarian influence in Serbian internal, as well as external affairs. Kallay's main task was to persuade the Serbian political elite in the benevolent intentions and good offices of the Austro-Hungarian government as a trustworthy neighbor. By the same token, while promoting collaboration with Austria-Hungary, Kallay should try to subside the Russian influence as well as any Panslav collaboration. Moreover, he was to discourage any Serbian attempts of establishing support for a broadly conceived Yugoslav platform. Any Serbian negotiation promoting unity among South Slavs should be curtailed; most notably a possible rapprochement with Bosnian and Hercegovinian Serbs should be discouraged.

Furthermore, Kallay was advised to deny the existence of any Austro-Hungarian annexation plans in regard to Bosnia-Hercegovina. Prince Mihailo and his statesmen should be assured that Habsburg Monarchy did not intend to change the existing borders. Most of all, Serbia should be warned not to start an aggressive action against Turkey under the influence of Russia. Kallay was to explain that Turkey, although not as strong as before, was still in command of an impressive military prowess. (3)

Beust recognized the potency of the rising spirit of nationalism among the South Slavs. He feared that the Serbian state, acting as a moving force, would proceed in uniting the South Slavs and establishing ties with other Slavic nations. Beust was opposed to the formation of a strong Slavic state: Serbian aspirations in regard to Bosnia-Hercegovina should not be supported. Under no circumstances should Serbia be allowed to take over these provinces, even if Serbia would elect to continue paying a tribute to the Porte. (4)

The same document urged Kallay to express goodwill towards Serbian governmental officials strengthening mutual respect and collaboration. Thus, the promotion that Kallay received should be explained as a gesture of such good will. The previous position of a general consul, held by his predecessor August von Lenk, was elevated to a higher rank with the added title of a diplomatic agent. Consul Lenk was replaced because "he did not sufficiently understand the local circumstances, personalities or speak the language." (5)

From the very beginning, Kallay's political career was influenced by his interest in the study of nationalities and in particular in the issues regarding the Serbian minority in Hungary. Kallay believed that the future of Hungary depended on the amicable and just solution of minority issues. In his formative years as a student, Kallay was influenced by the ideas of the Hungarian uprising of 1848-1849 that resulted in the short lived independence from Austrian rule. The political and administrative visions of a number of Hungarian revolutionary leaders projected Hungary's future in a broadly conceived union of Balkan states envisioning the possibility of a Hungarian-Serbian-Romanian confederation. (6) Kallay was also influenced by the ideas of Stuart Mills and subsequently decided to translate into Hungarian Mills' On Liberty. …