Who's Who - Istvan von Burian

Count Istvan Burian von Rajecz Count Istvan Burian von Rajecz (1851-1922) served as Austria-Hungary's somewhat moderate Foreign Minister twice during World War One; firstly between January 1915-December 1916, and for a second brief spell from April-October 1918.

Born in Stampfen near Pressburg on 16 January 1851, Burian served twice as Imperial Finance Minister and civil Governor of Bosnia-Herzegovina, in addition to his two terms as Foreign Minister.

Burian first took up the position of Finance Minister (which included the Bosnian governorship) in 1903, succeeding the long-serving Benjamin Kallay.  Having offered concessions to the various Bosnian factions (without notable success) Burian left the post in 1912.

With Berchtold's forced resignation as Foreign Minister in January 1915, Burian's name was put forward by Hungarian Prime Minister Tisza - a close friend - as Berchtold's successor.  Accepted (albeit reluctantly) by the Emperor, Franz-Josef, Burian assumed his new role the same month.

From the start Burian opposed German attempts to assure Italian neutrality by persuading Austria-Hungary to cede territory to the latter.  This served merely to antagonise Austria-Hungary's German ally.

Burian further irritated Germany by insisting upon Austro-Hungarian dominance of military operations on the Balkan Front, and by consistently opposing the introduction of Tirpitz's policy of unrestricted submarine warfare.  Burian further demanded that Austria-Hungary's interests in Poland be formally recognised by the Germans.

These aside, Burian played a major role in bringing about Bulgaria's entry into the war with the Central Powers, and was instrumental in improving Austro-Hungarian ties with the Ottoman Empire.

With the Austro-Hungarian government under pressure from Germany, Burian was forced to resign in December 1916, his oft-repeated stance of seeking a negotiated peace with the Entente Powers having been comprehensively rejected (whereby the Central Powers would relinquish territory occupied in the west in exchange for retention of territory captured in the east).

With his resignation Burian assumed once again the responsibilities of the Finance Ministry; he was replaced as Foreign Minister by Ottokar von Czernin.

Recalled in April 1918 in a belated attempt to negotiate peace with the Entente powers along the lines he'd advocated earlier, Burian's second term as Foreign Minister was however brief.

Realising that the Allies would only recognise an unconditional surrender, Burian resigned for the second (and final) time on 24 October 1918.  He was replaced by Gyula Andrassy.

He died in 1922.  His memoirs were published posthumously the following year.

German losses at Messines were 25,000, of which 7,500 were taken prisoner.  British casualties were 17,000 killed or wounded.

- Did you know?

Who's Who