Otto von Habsburg's Ambiguous Legacy

By Srdja Trifkovic
Tuesday, 19 Jul 2011

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Archduke Otto von Habsburg, who died on July 4, 2011, at the age of 98, became the heir to the imperial crown of Austria and the royal crown of Hungary when his father Charles ascended the throne of the multinational Dual Monarchy in November 1916. Many obituarists have claimed that “his abiding theme was the need to bridge the East-West division of the continent.” This is incorrect. He has deepened that division by adopting a hostile attitude to Europe’s Orthodox nations and traditions.

Habsburg was an enthusiastic supporter of the Jihadist side in the Bosnian civil war, visited Sarajevo repeatedly during that war, and had several meetings with Alija Izetbegović. At his funeral, on Habsburg’s specific and detailed instructions, the religious leader of Bosnia’s Muslims, reis-ul-ulema Mustafa effendi Cerić, joined Roman Catholic and Jewish clerics in prayer. No Orthodox Christians were invited. Three days before the funeral in Vienna Cerić was asked by the Habsburg family to recite a funeral prayer at Otto von Habsburg’s requiem in Munich.

It should be noted that in a 2005 interview Cerić called Britain one of the early “trophies” of Islam in Europe. He counts among his international activities participation in radical Islamic groups and events, as well as links with Muslim activists banned from the U.S. for terrorist funding and phony Islamic “charities” tainted by terrorist links. After 9/11 Cerić was in the forefront of crying discrimination when the U.S. moved to close Bosnan-connected “charities” supporting Muslim terrorists. In August 2010 Cerić was criticized after he called for Islamic Sharia law to be incorporated into the Bosnian constitution.

Habsburg was a strong supporter of Bill Clinton’s Kosovo war and repeatedly called for the bombing of Belgrade, starting in 1993, six years before it happened in March 1999. His support of the KLA terrorists and of Kosovo’s independence was based on a mix of visceral Serbophobia and outright mendacity, earning him a badge of shame in the form of the morbid quasi-state’s “golden medal of freedom.” As the ruins of Christian Orthodox churches and monasteries were smoldering nearby, he attended ceremonies naming Kosovo’s town squares after him and his family. When he died, Kosovo’s “foreign minister” sent a message of condolence to the family, stressing that “Otto von Habsburg was a great friend of Kosovo [who] conveyed to the citizens of Kosovo the message of freedom… Later on, Von Habsburg became a great defender of the idea of our independence.” Kosovo’s “president” Atifete Jahjaga bewailed the loss of an irreplaceable friend who will be considered and remembered forever.”

Habsburg has recalled as an epiphany the day he first spontaneously answered the nationality question with “I am a European,” but his definition of that term was steeped in a rudely Huntingtonian paradigm vis-à-vis Orthodox Christianity. He supported the destruction of the Njegoš Chapel on Mt. Lovćen in Montenegro and Montenegrins’ eventual conversion from Orthodoxy to some form of union with Rome. His attitude to Orthodoxy was in sharp contrast to his conciliatory benevolence to Islam. His oft-repeated response to the issue of Christian-Muslim relations was, “We are made to understand each other.” Having read “the sacred books of Islam” he has claimed to have found “much Christian wisdom there.” While cautiously warning about “unforeseen consequences” of integrating Turkey into the European community, he repeatedly praised the “positive potential” of Turkey’s revived leadership in the Islamic world.

In the summer of 2001 Otto von Habsburg signed an “international appeal” on behalf of Chechen Jihadists and their leader Aslan Mashkadov — there’s hardly a nastier piece of work in the Muslim universe — which was initiated by a bunch of West European Russophobe far-leftists. “Chechnya: Enough!” was launched by the Transnational Radical Party and adressed to the authorities of the European Union which it accused of being “partners in crime… conscious allies of those who are perpetrating massacres,” i.e. “a Russia that is losing itself while torturing Chechnya.” Chechnya: Enough! called on the EU to oblige then-President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, “to negotiate immediatly with the legitimate President of the Chechen Republic, Mr. Aslan Mashkadov” and demanded that the EU and its member states “internationally recognize Chechnya” as a sovereign state.

The same week when his father Emperor Charles was beatified in Rome in October 2004, his son addressed an academic symposium on an allegedly emerging common Mediterranean civilization that includes both Christian Europe and Muslim nations along its African and Asian shores. On April 9, 2002, he told the Christian Science Monitor (“Europe, Prepare to Greet Islam”) that “all nations bordering the Mediterranean Sea—including those in North Africa and the Middle East—have a place in his broad vision for tomorrow’s Europe.” He had never made a similar declaration about any such place for Russia, let alone Serbia. His flawed concept has come to be known as Eurabia, and represents the greatest threat to Europe’s demographic, cultural and spiritual survival in the decades ahead.

Otto von Habsburg spent four years in the United States during the war but his understanding of this country’s social, political and cultural dynamics was eccentric at best. On April 20, 2005, he told the NPR, “There are many nationalities making up America. There are four states that in twenty years will have a majority of Spanish language [citizens]; and I don’t think that’s a catastrophe. It’s a very good thing. I’m already well located. I have many children and all my children speak Spanish too.” He went on to indicate his view that North African Muslim states should join the European Union.

The above facts, well documented and presented without malice or rancor, are not an obituary. They are merely a necessary addendum to the many obituaries repeating the mantra about the great and good “European.”


Daniel Larison's  comment in The American Conservative: There may be a temptation for traditional conservatives in the U.S. to confuse respect for some of the more admirable aspects of the Habsburg dynasty with straightforward enthusiasm for Otto von Habsburg on the occasion of his death, but Dr. Trifkovic’s article is a helpful reminder of why this is too easy. Obviously, his views on the Bosnian and Kosovo wars were wrongheaded, but it is the underlying antagonism towards Orthodox nations that is more significant. It was this same antagonism that helped to fuel the rivalries in the Balkans that led to the ruin of Europe, the destruction of the empire that Otto von Habsburg’s family had ruled, and the collapse of his family’s dynasty. More important, it reflects a basic misunderstanding of the nature of European civilization to exclude from its definition half of the European Christian inheritance.