On the Relation between Borders and Infrastructure: The Problem of the Southern Moravian Frontier in the Treaty of Saint-Germain and After
In the early summer of 1919, representatives of the Allied and Associated Powers, convening with Austrian representatives in Paris, challenged the territorial claims of the newly-founded Republik Deutschösterreich. The territorial claims made by the Renner cabinet were established along a principle of territory-based national self-determination, based in part on statistics gathered during the 1910 imperial census. German-speakers represented a majority in these territories and, if Wilson and the others were true to the underlying negotiating principles that had been laid out, the territory of the Austro-Hungarian successor states should have been based exactly on principles of nationality—Umgangssprache being used as a proxy measure for nationality in the 1910 census. Yet, by mid-summer, the counter-offer made by the Allies seemed to reject nation-based territorial demarcation for a much more concrete and technical principle: ensuring the preservation of imperial infrastructural networks (e.g., railways, bridgeheads, and roads) inside the to-be-determined boundaries of the new Czechoslovak State. In this paper, I will look at the confluence of international diplomatic negotiations over border demarcations, the principles underlying these decisions, and introduce found archival sources that illuminate the local consequences of this border demarcation along the southern Moravian–northern Lower Austrian frontier along the river Thaya. To conclude the presentation, I will look into concrete cases of smuggling along this newly-demarcated border that emerged as a consequence of the delays in reconnecting railway supply lines inadvertently engendered by the work of the “Commission for the Division of Austro-Hungarian Rolling Stock” established in the wake of the Treaty of Saint-Germain. This complex of issues will be presented in overview, providing archival windows into one of the many knots caused by regional, short-term transitions out of the Cisleithanian imperial framework.