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Benjamin von Kállay

Benjamin von Kállay

Habsburg rule lasted from 1878 to 1918 and was to change Bosnia and Sarajevo in the most profound of ways. Perhaps the most important single character in shaping Austro-Hungarian rule was Benjamin Kállay von Nagy-Kálló (1839-1903). From 1882 until 1903 he was imperial joint minister of finance and administrator of Bosnia. He was extremely well qualified for the job, knowing the region well. Curiously echoes of his views and of his concerns persist to this day.

Kállay believed that the masses should be showered with benefits but deprived of rights. Although other imperial officials of his generation and background had begrudgingly reached an accommodation with ascendant liberalism as early as the 1860s, he approached his task as an unrepentant apostle of neoabsolutism. Authoritarian Rome, rather than democratic ancient Greece, served as his prototype of an ideal polity. In Rome's classical era, Kállay saw a vast empire bound by a uniform legal code, a far-flung system of roads, and allegiance to the person of the emperor.

...Along with many other imperial civil servants, Kállay believed the Habsburg Monarchy had a mission to civilize Bosnia-Herzegovina, and for two decades he worked to mold Bosnia and Sarajevo into his vision of enlightened European state and society. He aggressively promoted economic development, Westernization, Bosnian cultural awareness, and modern administration of the monarchy's new territory. Such innovations, he believed, would result in a docile, contented, and grateful population. At the same time, Kallay came to share the view of many Habsburg officials that neighbouring Serbia and Montenegro might incite the Serbian Orthodox population of Bosnia-Herzegovina to rebellion. To combat the infiltration of nationalism from neighbouring states, his administration fostered a regional patriotism called bošnjaštvo, a multiconfessional Bosnian nationalism that he hoped would prevail over the Serb and Croat nationalist waves then lapping at the province's boundaries. In Sarajevo particularly he instigated a major makeover of the central city to highlight the importance of religion and to divert popular attention from potentially divisive nationalism.

[pp: 62-63]

Sarajevo: A Biography. 2005. Robert Donia [C. Hurst & Co]

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