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Prokesch-Osten, Anton von

Prokesch-Osten, Anton von (1795-1876) Prince Felix zu Schwarzenberg appointed Anton von Prokesch minister to Prussia in early 1849 as part of his attempt to restore Austria's influence in Germany after the 1848 revolutions. Prokesch was a man of unusual versatility, whose multi-faceted career as soldier, statesman, and scholar made him one of the most remarkable personalities in the Austrian service in the nineteenth century. Like Schwarzenberg, he was an army officer who had joined the diplomatic corps at the invitation of Prince Clemens von Metternich and thereafter had parallel careers in both the military and civilian services.

Prokesch went to Berlin believing that he would be able to revive the partnership through which Austrian and Prussian had dominated the German Confederation after 1815. However, he quickly discovered that King Frederick William IV and his favorite minister, Joseph von Radowitz, had plans for transforming Germany into a Prussian empire. Prokesch favored a limited Prussian expansion in north Germany, but he could not reconcile Prussian ambitions with the interests of Austria and the other states of Germany. Isolated and frequently without instructions form Vienna, he turned to Metternich for advice and counsel on the proper course for Austria to follow in Germany. Since Schwarzenberg was preoccupied with other issues, Prokesch and his Austrian colleagues in the other German capitals established an informal network to share information and coordinate their actions. Metternich readily accepted the role of senior counselor to his former subordinates, and from his place of exile in Brussels he was able to influence the development of a consistent Austrian approach to German affairs. The full restoration of the Confederate Diet in 1851 owed much to Prokesch's efforts, but his vigorous defense of Austria's traditional role in Germany made him unpopular in Berlin. In 1853 he was recalled and sent to Frankfurt, where, as the Austrian representative to the Confederate Diet, he had to endure the petty intrigues and obstructionist tactics of Otto von Bismarck for two years.

Prokesch's service in Germany in the aftermath of the 1848 revolutions was in many respects merely an interlude in a career that was focused primarily on the Middle East. After having served on active duty during the Napoleonic wars, taught mathematics in a military school, and worked as secretary to Field Marshall Karl Schwarzenberg, Prokesch was sent to the eastern Mediterranean in 1824 to observe the various conflicts arising out of the Greek wars of independence. It was a major turning point in his life. He became an authority on Middle Eastern languages and cultures, and his numerous scholarly publications would make him one of the most highly respected numismatist and orientalists in Europe. At the same time, his political reports gained him the support and patronage of Prince Metternich. In addition to serving as the first Austrian minister to Greece from 1834 to 1848, he also represented Austria as ambassador to the Sublime Porte in Constantinople (1855-1871). When he retired in 1871, the Emperor Francis Joseph bestowed on him the rank of hereditary count in recognition for sixty years of distinguished service.

Roy Austensen


Austensen, Roy A. "The Making of Austria's Prussian Policy, 1848-1852." The Historical Journal 27 (December 1984): 861-876.

Engel-Janosi, Friedrich Die Jugendzeit des Grafen Prokesch-Osten Innsbruck: Universitäts-Verlag Wagner, 1938.

Hoffmann, Joachim "Die Berliner Mission des Grafen Prokesch-Osten, 1849-1852" Ph.D. diss., University of Berlin, 1959.

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