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Austro-Hungarian Empire

FIRST STAMPS: Turkish from 1870



1850, 60 kreuzer = 1 gulden.

1858, 100 kreuzer = 1 gulden.

1899, 100 heller = 1 krone.

To 1815

A major power in central Europe until the end of the First World War when the Empire broke up. In the 19th century, Austro-Hungary contained the lands which are now Czechoslovakia and parts of Italy, Poland, Russia, Rumania and Yugoslavia as well as Austria and Hungary. This vast area made up of many nations, creeds and languages was ruled over by the Habsburgs from 1282. They became the hereditary Holy Roman Emperors in 1437 and continued until this title disappeared under Napoleon in 1806.

Until 1772, the only Austrian postal system, apart from the Court messengers and that of the Counts of Thurn and Taxis was the 'BIG MAIL' which handled the incoming foreign mail. In March 1772, Joseph Hardy started a local mail in Vienna. He collected and delivered mail within the capital at a charge of 2 Kreuzers, and outside the city limits for 3 Kreuzers. This service ran at a loss and was joined to the Supreme Court Post Office in 1785.

The Thurn and Taxis post had begun operations in Northern Italy in the 15th century and by the mid 1500s covered Austria and Germany, acting as a link between the many small states and the titular head in Vienna.

Hungary was linked to Austria and the Holy Roman Empire as a subject state from the mid- 16th century.

During the Napoleonic Wars, Austria was allied with Britain and other countries against France. With Prussia and Russia, Austria bore the brunt of the land wars in Europe and was defeated on several occasions. In 1806, after the battle of Austerlitz, the Holy Roman Empire disappeared and in 1810, Napoleon married an Austrian princess.

After the final defeat of Napoleon, the Congress of the winning allies was held in Vienna and settled the future boundaries of Europe. Although Austria lost territory, principally to Prussia, the Emperor was firmly placed on the throne.


The independence of Hungary had been guaranteed by Austria in 1790, but when it was not implemented, there was a popular uprising in 1848. This led to intervention by Russia and the embryo Hungarian government was suppressed. In 1815, Austria joined a German federation which was jointly promoted with Prussia. A customs union was formed in 1818 and in turn led to the Austro-German Postal Union in 1850. Stamps for use throughout the Austrian Empire were issued on 1 June 1850.


In February 1867, a separate constitution was announced for Hungary. Stamps for the 'Dual Monarchy' were issued in 1867 and for Hungary as a separate area in 1868.

The Prussian attempt to gain control over Germany required the defeat of Austria and, after forcing the Austrian army to become reluctant allies in the war against Denmark in 1864, Prussia turned on Austria and defeated it in the Seven Weeks War of 1866. Having unwillingly gained a major power on its northern border, Austria increasingly turned to the Balkans to expand its sphere of influence.


In 1878, at the Congress of Berlin which followed the war between Turkey and Russia, the provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina remained under Turkish control but was occupied by an Austro-Hungarian Garrison. The Austrian Military Post was in operation until the area was annexed by Austria in 1908.

Austria-Hungary recognized the strength of the new Germany and was quick to form an alliance known as the Central Power. This was the basis of the structure which interlinked with other alliances in the early part of the 20th century and, in turn, led to the outbreak of World War I in June 1914 following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand at Sarajevo.


Initiated World War I on 28 July 1914 by declaring war on Serbia, and against Russia on 6 August. Austria would never have been strong enough to wage war on both fronts without the support of Germany. However, Austria over-ran Serbia and later defeated the Italians at Caporetto. Details of the stamps issued for occupied territories are shown under each country.

The drain of the Eastern Front against Russia weakened the Austrian army and after the defeat of their Italian army by the Allies at Vittoria Veneto in 1918, the Empire began to disintegrate, as a result of internal as well as external pressures. Emperor Franz Joseph, who had reigned since 1848, was succeeded by Charles in November 1916, but the defeat in 1918 led to the formation of the first republic on 12 November 1918. Stamps were issued in December 1918 and were overprinted 'German Austria' in German, but this was forbidden by the Treaty of St Germain.

Austro-Hungarian Empire 1814-1914
Click map for larger view

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