The Conceptual Transition of Mitteleuropa in Elemér Hantos’s Thought, 1901-1938
In his article entitled “Neue Mitteleuropa-Literatur” (Zeitschrift für die gesamte Staatswissenschaft, Bd. 93, S. 74-88) published in 1932, Elemér Hantos distinguished three periods in the history of Mitteleuropa: pre-war (-1914), war (1914-18/20) and post-war (1918/20-). After the breakup of Austria-Hungary, confirmed by the treaties of Saint-Germain-en-Laye and Trianon, Elemér Hantos (who was referring to Julius Wolf’s Vereinigte Staaten von Mitteleuropa of 1901 and to Friedrich Naumann’s Mitteleuropa of 1916) used the term Mitteleuropa to promote the reconstruction of the economic area of Austria-Hungary, enlarged to the new borders of the Successor States (Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Romania), without the restauration of the pre-war political order. During the interwar period, his concept of Mitteleuropa (the economic rapprochement of the Successor States of AustriaHungary) was challenged by a German concept of Mitteleuropa (the annexation of Austria to Germany) whose advocates were also claiming Friedrich Naumann’s legacy. Mitteleuropa with or without Germany? or in other words, Austria with Germany or with the Successor States of Austria-Hungary? After the presentation of the AustrianGerman Customs Union project in March 1931 and the collapse of the Credit-Anstalt in May 1931, but especially after Adolf Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor in March 1933, Elemér Hantos progressively abandoned the term Mitteleuropa in favour of the term Donauraum to distance himself from German political and economic expansionism in Central and Eastern Europe.
In my paper, I will study Elemér Hantos’ Mitteleuropäische Wirtschaftsgemeinschaft (the Monetary, Customs and Transport Community of the Successor States of AustriaHungary) as a response to the “structural” economic problems in Central Europe after the dismemberment of the economic area of Austria-Hungary. Then, I will analyse the two clashing concepts of Mitteleuropa in the light of Friedrich Naumann’s Mitteleuropa in order to reveal the geopolitical tensions related to the economic rapprochement in Central Europe in the 1920s and 1930s and to explain Elemér Hantos’s conceptual shift from Mitteleuropa to Donauraum in the 1930s.