The Strategic Impact of the Reform Era
Although the reforms improved Austrian military preparedness,
they fell short of their original goal of enabling Austria to
defend its interests in Europe. Hopes of regaining Silesia and
partitioning Prussia were abandoned after only limited military
success in the Austro-Prussian Seven Years' War (1756-63).
Efforts to check Russian expansion yielded mixed results. Unable
to prevent Russian and Prussian ambitions against Poland, Austria
reluctantly joined them in the First Partition of Poland in 1772
and gained the province of Galicia. Five years later, Austria
intervened between Russia and Turkey to prevent Russian gains at
Turkish expense and in the process acquired Bukovina, a territory
adjacent to Galicia and Transylvania. Because the new territories
were economically backward, their acquisition served mainly to
shift the ethnic balance of the Habsburg Empire through the
addition of a large Slavic population (Poles and Ruthenians), a
sizable Jewish minority (which accounted for 60 percent of the
empire's total Jewish population), and a lesser number of
The ideological rigidity with which Joseph II carried out his
reforms also weakened the Habsburg Dynasty by provoking social
unrest and, in Hungary and Belgium, rebellion. When Joseph died
in 1790, his brother, Leopold II (r. 1790-92), had to reverse
many of the reforms and offer new concessions to restore order.
To get Prussian support for the military action that
reestablished Habsburg authority in Belgium in 1790, Leopold
foreswore further Austrian territorial gains at Turkish expense.
He also confirmed Hungary's right not to be absorbed into a
centralized empire, but to be ruled by him as king of Hungary
according to its own administration and laws. In exchange, the
Hungarian nobility ended their rebellion.
Data as of December 1993