Colonization attempt in the Balkans
If not a ‘proper’ colony on another continent, then at least something similar – this was roughly the way of thinking behind the Habsburgs’ attempt to bring Bosnia and Herzegovina under their control.
Military action at Livno in Bosnia on 15 August 1878 – just one of the many Balkan hostilities in the nineteenth century. Following the large territorial gains made by Russia at the expense of the Ottoman Empire, June 1878 saw the opening of the Berlin Congress, held with the intention of restoring the balance of power in the Balkans. At the Congress, Austria-Hungary was given a mandate to occupy and administer Bosnia and Herzegovina. The result was an almost uninterrupted sequence of crises and uprisings. Crown Prince Rudolf’s description of the move as ‘putting one foot into the grave’ was a true prediction of the consequences of this territorial ‘gain’. The next critical event came in 1908 with the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which constituted the formal takeover of the territory from the Ottoman Empire. The annexation was to be the initial cause of yet another grave European crisis. There were protests in certain sectors of the population of the occupied area, and oppositional organizations were formed. Finally, the assassination of the Austrian heir to the throne Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in June 1914 triggered off the First World War.
The occupation of Bosnia-Herzegovina by Austria-Hungary can be interpreted as an attempt to colonize an area that from the Habsburg point of view lay on the very edge of Europe. Even though the Danube Monarchy did not, like other European great powers, seek to establish a worldwide empire, the age of imperialism did see the Habsburgs endeavouring to extend their sphere of influence.