Metternich, Clemens Wenzel Lothar von

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Metternich, Clemens Wenzel Lothar von


(Metternich-Winneburg). Born May 15, 1773, in Koblenz; died June 11, 1859, in Vienna. Prince; Austrian statesman and diplomat.

From 1801 to 1803, Metternich was Austrian minister to Saxony; from 1803 to 1805, Austrian minister to Prussia; and from 1806 to 1809, Austrian ambassador to Paris. He was foreign minister and de facto head of the Austrian government from 1809 to 1821, and from 1821 to 1848, chancellor. As a diplomat Metternich was a master of maneuvering and of temporizing tactics and was skillful at misleading his counterparts. After becoming foreign minister he tried to strengthen Austro-French relations, counting on recovering for Austria the territory it had lost in the Napoleonic Wars and on acquiring new territories. On Mar. 14, 1812, he concluded a treaty of alliance with Napoleonic France, which was preparing for a campaign against Russia. In March 1813, after the defeat of Napoleon’s troops in Russia, Metternich proposed “peaceful mediation” of the conflict by Austria, hoping to take advantage of this to further the interests of the Hapsburg monarchy and prevent Russia from strengthening its position in Europe. He vigorously opposed the recruitment of the popular masses for the struggle against Napoleonic France, and he was against the unification of Germany. After Austria joined the anti-French coalition in August 1813, Metternich delayed the launching of military operations against Napoleon. He played an important role at the Congress of Vienna of 1814–15. After suffering a setback in his effort to isolate Russia, in January 1815 he joined representatives of Great Britain and France in signing a secret treaty aimed against Russia and Prussia.

Metternich was one of the chief organizers of the Holy Alliance. The purpose of the Metternich System was to combat the revolutionary, liberal, and national liberation movements throughout the world. In Austria and the German states the Austrian chancellor initiated a policy of police repression. Seeking to strengthen the feudal absolutist system and ensure the dominance of the Austrian minority in the multinational Hapsburg monarchy, his government, which expressed the interests of feudal landowners and important financiers, stirred up hostility among the peoples of the Austrian Empire. In 1847, Metternich undertook an ultimately unsuccessful effort to organize foreign intervention in the civil war in Switzerland on the side of the reactionary Sonderbund. His regime in Austria was over-thrown by the Revolution of 1848–49. In March 1848 he fled to Great Britain, and in October 1849, to Belgium. In 1851, after the defeat of the revolution, Metternich returned to Austria, but he did not resume an active role in politics.


Aus Metternich’s nachgelassenen Papieren, vols. 1–8. Vienna, 1880–84.


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Engels, F. “Bor’ba v Vengrii.” Ibid., vol. 6.
Engels, F. “Revoliutsiia i kontrrevoliutsiia v Germanii.” Ibid., vol. 8, pp. 30–36.
Engels, F. “Rol’ nasiliia v istorii.” Ibid., vol. 21, pp. 432–37.
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Obermann, K. “Bemerkungen liber die biirgerliche Metternich-Forschung.” Zeitschrift fur Geschichtswissenschaft, 1958, no. 6.
Schroeder, P. W. “Metternich Studies Since 1925.” Journal of Modern History, 1961, vol. 33, no. 3.


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