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  • European Elites and Ideas of Empire, 1917–1957
  • Online publication date: May 2016
  • pp 67-172



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        • The power of prestige
        • Dina Gusejnova, University of Sheffield
        • Book: European Elites and Ideas of Empire, 1917–1957
        • Online publication: 25 May 2016
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        • The power of prestige
        • Dina Gusejnova, University of Sheffield
        • Book: European Elites and Ideas of Empire, 1917–1957
        • Online publication: 25 May 2016
        • Chapter DOI:
        Available formats
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        • The power of prestige
        • Dina Gusejnova, University of Sheffield
        • Book: European Elites and Ideas of Empire, 1917–1957
        • Online publication: 25 May 2016
        • Chapter DOI:
        Available formats
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Part II The power of prestige

The subject of the following three chapters is the role of aristocratic intellectuals in shaping political discourse and social institutions in interwar Germany, Austria, as well as Europe at large. When constitutional changes in central Europe and revolutions in Russia announced that old elites, such as the aristocratic families, would lose power in a new society of equals, some representatives of these social groups curiously became highly sought-after public speakers. In the age when aristocratic families were imbued with a sense of ‘group disgrace’, the aristocratic intellectuals became strangely appealing as global authorities on all things related to European identity at large.

Part of this perception came from the celebrity of particular intellectuals who became Europe’s self-proclaimed ambassadors in encounters with non-Europeans. One contemporary called them ‘Germany’s new prophets’.1 The photograph of one of these aristocratic celebrities, Count Hermann Keyserling, whom we last came across as a critic of the German war effort, shows him in such a role.

Characteristically, he is not in the centre of this image. The main protagonist is the Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore, whose global popularity in the 1920s had much to do with the appeal of his verdict that Europe was in need of revival.2 To the left of Tagore is Keyserling’s wife, Goedela Bismarck, the German Iron Chancellor’s granddaughter. The image represents not just a meeting of different worlds, but a joining of two kinds of continental celebrity: the Indian sage and the former Baltic Baron both speak of Europe’s future from the vantage point of aristocratic outsiders. Tagore, a Brahmin, observed Europe from an Indian perspective, while Keyserling, a Baltic aristocrat, considered himself above all nationalities due to his family’s relationship to more than one empire. He represented the kind of conversion of elites with inspiration from the Orient, which Max Weber had spoken about in his lecture of 1919. Keyserling’s celebrity in interwar high society, not only in Germany but, like Tagore’s, also in Britain and in Argentina, was the product of a particular kind of prestige, which was connected to the idea of European decline. This prestige of ‘former people’ is also the context in which the next chapter places Count Coudenhove-Kalergi’s initiative of a Pan-European federation.

Figure 8 Hermann Keyserling with Rabindranath Tagore and Goedela Keyserling (b. Bismarck).

HKN, ULB Darmstadt

Chapter 3 Soft power Pan-Europeanism after the Habsburgs

‘My father dreamt of a Slavic kingdom under the reign of the Habsburgs. He dreamt of a monarchy of Austrians, Hungarians, and Slavs. […] In his will, I was named heir to his ideas. It was not for nothing that I had been christened Franz Ferdinand’.1 These were the words of the protagonist of Joseph Roth’s novel, Capuchin Vault. It continued the story of the Trotta family, familiar to readers from Roth’s bestselling Radetzkymarsch in which the decline of Habsburg glory was explored from the perspective of three generations of a Slovenian family whose ennoblement dated back to one ancestor’s accidental role in saving the life of Franz Josef of Habsburg at the Battle of Solferino. In the sequel, written in the Netherlands during Roth’s exile from Vienna after the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany, Roth follows the decline of the von Trottas to the next two generations. Witnesses to the end of the Habsburg Empire in the revolution of 1918, Roth’s characters capture the atmosphere of loss that many former Habsburg subjects felt after the disintegration of the empire.

Returning from Siberia after having been taken prisoner on the eastern front, Franz Ferdinand von Trotta finds the Habsburg Empire in ruins. The horses in the Prater are dying of old age, as all the others ‘had been slaughtered, and people made sausages of them’. The back yards of the old army are filled with ‘parts of broken carriages’, which had previously served to transport such eminent personages as the ‘Tchirskys, the Pallavicinis, the Sternbergs, the Esterhazys, the Dietrichsteins, and the Trauttmannsdorffs’.2 These old families were now threatened by entrepreneurial new elites from the Prussian North and the Baltic lands, represented by the character of Kurt von Stettenheim, ‘a mix between an international tennis star and a territorially fixed manor house owner, with a slight touch of Ocean Lloyd’.3

Roth’s protagonist, Franz Ferdinand, gradually loses all he had: his wife, who runs off with a female artist; his mother, who dies on the day the revolution breaks out in Vienna in 1918; his money, lost to a Brandenburg entrepreneur; and, above all, ‘his’ monarchy. The proclamation of the idea of popular (self-)government, a Volksregierung, sounds to him like words of ‘a beloved woman’ telling him that ‘she did not need me in the least and could just sleep with herself’.4 He still has his son, but chooses to send him off to live with a friend in Paris. Even though the line of the von Trottas survives for the time being, their lives appear to be meaningless in the absence of the Habsburgs. Alone, Franz Ferdinand von Trotta has only one consolation: he goes to the Capuchin Vault to pay tribute to the Habsburg emperors. But his mourning is troubled by the fact that his own father had been what he calls a ‘loyal deserter’, a critic of Emperor Franz Josef, the Habsburgs’ last successful emperor before the short final reign of Karl I, from 1916 to 1918. Observing a guard marching up and down in front of the vault, von Trotta, the ‘heir’, asks himself: ‘What is left here to guard? The sarcophagi? The memory? The history?’5

These questions were Joseph Roth’s own; he drank himself to death only one year after the publication of this work. Another Habsburg author and a friend of Roth’s from Vienna, Stefan Zweig, followed suit in 1942, committing double suicide with his wife in Brazil, a country he had praised as the land of the future. The city where he died, Petropolis, was the place that, less than one hundred years earlier, had inspired Habsburg Archduke Maximilian to write one of his travel poems lamenting modernity: ‘For where the white man moves, his forest dries up,/ and his woman and child will be engulfed by a chain of sin’.6 Like Roth, Zweig had contributed to the charisma of declining monarchs during his exile. One of his bestsellers was the biography of Marie Antoinette; her assassination in the wake of the French Revolution had provided an example of how to end the Old Regime, but also an inspiration to critics of revolutionary radicalism like Edmund Burke.7 Like Roth, Zweig saw Prussia, Britain, and Russia as threats to the Habsburg Empire. As two Catholic dynasties, the Habsburgs and the Bourbons, were fighting their last battles against the ‘heretic people’ of an England ‘reaching for empire’, against the ‘Protestant Markgraviate of Brandenburg’ seeking an all-mighty kingdom, and ‘half-pagan Russia, preparing to stretch its sphere of power immeasurably’, they, who used to control most of Europe, grew ‘tired and weary’.8 The symbolic victim who, for Zweig, stands in for the sympathetic view of the Old Regime is Marie Antoinette, married off in accordance with a practice that used to work for Europe’s old dynasties. Austria was still marrying, as the old proverb had it, but it was no longer happy. Marie Antoinette, Zweig claimed, was actually a woman of average character. There was neither anything heroic nor contemptible about her; she became heroic by virtue of dying a martyr’s death at the hands of the revolution. In fact, as émigrés like Zweig and Roth saw it, the Habsburg Empire as a whole, after 1918, had suffered the fate of Marie Antoinette. Another contemporary, Robert Musil, painted the empire’s most lasting satirical image as Kakania, an eminently average empire, tucked between Britain’s overseas dominions and Russia’s internal model of colonization.

Roth’s protagonist calls his father ‘Franz Josef’s loyal deserter’; he is the descendant of a man who deserted an imperial dynasty whose empire no longer exists. His inheritance was a utopian ideal of reform for an empire that was no longer recoverable. When the Social Democrats came to power in Austria in 1918, outlawing the Habsburgs and all noble titles, the reform ideas of a generation of Habsburg elites were marooned in a past world whose preservation was no longer politically viable. To understand the ideals of these 1920s and 1930s idealists, it is important to know, just as with Franz Ferdinand von Trotta, the ideas they had inherited.

In the interwar years, Vienna became the capital of the Pan-European movement, a supra-party lobbying group associated with Count Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi.9 A graduate of the prestigious Theresianum school in Vienna where Austria’s imperial elite used to be trained, Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi found no empire to serve as a diplomat, which would have been his father’s natural choice for him. Instead, in 1922, he presented a suggestion for a Pan-European Union with Austria at its heart.10 The proposed federation endorsed Europe’s economic unity, multicultural diversity, and the use of Africa as a resource colony. He was opposed both to the idea of a German–Austrian Union and to the idea of an accommodation of German nobles within the existing post-Versailles boundaries. Instead, he wanted a multi-ethnic empire under Austrian leadership, whose political form was not necessarily monarchical. In the Austrian, German, and Czech press, Coudenhove-Kalergi criticized both Austrian-German parochialism in Bohemia and Austria, and Czech nationalism.

Franz Josef’s loyal deserters and their heirs

The assassination of Franz Ferdinand and the collapse of the Habsburg Empire four years later created options for counterfactual thinking based on a dramatic break from a past whose continuity had been provided by the Habsburg dynasty. The heritage collection assembled by successive generations of Habsburgs, and the newly institutionalized form of the multinational museum created by Franz Ferdinand and his entourage, now themselves became specimen about the Habsburgs Habsburg artefacts as much as about their purported objects.

Among the ideological debris left behind were the utopian reform plans for a multinational empire. Utopic thinking is usually associated with progressivist historical epochs such as the Enlightenment. But, as we see here, utopic and Enlightenment thinking also have their place in the context of an otherwise melancholic discourse of decline. As Karl Popper put it, ‘the breakdown of the Austrian Empire and the aftermath of the First World War […] destroyed the world in which I had grown up’, making restoration and reform the two central tasks of his generation.11 Imperialism imposed by an educated elite was seen by these liberal internationalists as a lesser evil than narrow-minded tribalism.12

Like Roth’s Franz Ferdinand von Trotta, Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi was in many respects heir to his father’s ideas. He was critical of the conservative elements among the Habsburg aristocracy. The core conceit of the Paneuropa idea was the prospect of a United States of Europe to occupy a position of geopolitical balance with Asia, the Soviet Union, ‘Pan-America’ and the British Empire. It was a ‘programme of foreign policy’ which invited ‘leaders from all European parties’, ranging from conservatives to socialists, democrats, and liberals. Questions of the internal constitutions of states, he argued, were secondary to the overall goal of European unity, and thus Paneuropa welcomed ‘monarchies and republics, democracies and dictatorships’. It excluded only the ‘extreme nationalists’ and the ‘communists’, who were the ‘natural and irreconcilable enemies of the Paneuropa movement’.

Austria-Hungary provided many intellectual resources for rethinking social roles.13 As diverse as any social network in that empire, the entourage of potential reformers around Franz Ferdinand, though most of them were elite administrators of high nobility, did not subscribe to any one ideology. Yet, in terms of the overall spectrum of political opinions in the empire, they shared a common interest – to promote the stability of a centrally organized empire rooted in loyalty to the Habsburg family. Preparing for his succession, Franz Ferdinand had surrounded himself with a circle that was to provide the foundation for his future reign. Many of these, he met during his world tour, and many had their main residence outside of the Austrian crown lands, especially in Bohemia (where Franz Ferdinand himself resided), Poland, Hungary, or Croatia. In the narrower circle of Franz Ferdinand’s supporters, we find such intellectuals as the moderate Baron Johann Heinrich von Chlumetzky, who, as a minister for agriculture in the imperial council in 1906, was instrumental in introducing such reforms as free elections with secret ballots.14 Other supporters included the Romanian-born Baron Alfred von Koudelka, an admiral who had published travel notes on his journeys to America, the Croatian-born Emil Woinovich von Belobreska, and the Polish nobleman Theodor von Sosnosky, a historian.15 Most of the aristocratic supporters had graduated from the Theresianum academy.

Among the non-noble reformers who put their hopes in Franz Ferdinand and were in turn supported by him was the Romanian scholar Aurel Popovici (1863–1917), who, in 1906, had published a proposal for the United States of Greater Austria in Leipzig.16 In his model, the different ethno-cultural components of the Austro-Hungarian empire would be given greater national autonomy in matters of culture and education; in exchange, they would remain bound to Greater Austria by means of a federal union. In total, this union would comprise fifteen quasi-independent units defined by language. Each of the fifteen states in the union would receive votes in the legislative chamber of the imperial government.

Popovici’s theory was influenced by three models: Swiss federalism, as defended by the legal theorist Johann Caspar Bluntschli; the constitutional model of the United States; and Habsburg imperialism.17 His explicit motivation in writing the work, aside from being a call to reject Magyarization, was to ensure the ‘future of the Habsburg empire’.18 His book also exhibited an outspoken anti-Semitism, opening with a call to resist what he called the ‘Jewish liberal press’ represented by Viennese newspapers such as Neue Freie Presse and Die Zeit, but also provincial papers like the Bukowinaer Post. He demanded a new idea of a ‘greater Austrian state’, deliberately using the words ‘union’ and ‘empire’ interchangeably. While his anti-Magyar position, underlining pragmatic uses of nationalism for the sake of strengthening the central power of the Habsburg dynasty, was characteristic of Franz Fredinand’s entourage. Popovici combined his defence of multinational imperial reform with an anti-Semitic critique on the Jewish press of the Habsburg Empire.

By contrast, Coudenhove-Kalergi’s father, the Orientalist scholar and diplomat Heinrich Coudenhove-Kalergi, also a believer in Franz Ferdinand’s reforms, sought to deconstruct the foundations of Habsburg anti-Semitism. What anti-Semites call the ‘Jewish press’ he argued, was in fact the empire’s national press; the Jewish press, by contrast, remained largely unknown to the general reader. As a speaker of Hebrew, among allegedly eighteen other languages, Coudenhove was familiar with such publications as Esperanza (published in Smyrna), Haam, published in Kolomea, Habazaleth in Jerusalem, Hasaron in Lemberg, the Corriere Israelito from Trieste, and El progreso, published in Hebrew in Vienna. In mentioning these newspapers, Coudenhove reminded his readers that the project of Europe was rooted in a commitment to the Enlightenment, which had always built on a series of micro-Enlightenments in each community for itself, one of which was the Jewish Haskalah movement. Coudenhove was drawing on an already established discourse of multicultural patriotism in the Habsburg lands, represented by a writer one generation younger, the novelist Leopold Sacher-Masoch. In Don Juan of Colomea (1866), he ‘recovers’ a link between the distant frontier town of Colomea with the Roman Empire by claiming that the word was related to ‘Colonia’ and that the small town had grown ‘on the soil of a Roman plantation settlement’.19 Coudenhove-Kalergi senior shared Sacher-Masoch’s philo-Semitism and philo-Slavism, as well as the desire to preserve the peculiarity of the multicultural empire against the opposing, nationalizing tendencies coming from Prussia.20 Aside from promoting reform within the old nobility, one of the Enlightenments he was particularly interested in was the Jewish one, which began with the reforms initiated by Joseph II. The supporters of Franz Ferdinand were military men of conservative views but they were also proponents of a vernacular sort of internationalism,

Another activity associated with Franz Ferdinand was a renewed interest in heritage preservation. In 1906, the Archduke had become the official head of the empire’s military department, which was also responsible for the maintenance of buildings and works of art. He personally invested much into maintaining the regional peculiarities of ‘his’ lands, such as the wooden churches of Galicia, for example, which residents themselves were quite willing to replace with more durable stone buildings, but which he placed under national protection.21 He also considerably expanded the state’s art collection, not least through his world travels, during which he collected specimens of art and natural history from various cultures, creating one of the first ethnographic museums. The purpose of these activities was to maintain control over the existing cultural diversity of the empire so that the dynasty and its cultural institutions could retain a monopoly over the overarching unity bridging the diverse cultures. Franz Ferdinand, in other words, prepared the institutions that would enable the Habsburg dynasty to give a form of identity for a multitude of people who had previously thought of themselves merely as Franz Josef’s ‘peoples’.22

The company of travellers who had accompanied Franz Ferdinand on his grand tour went on to witness further developments in Europe on the various fronts. Carl Pietzner became the Habsburg court photographer in 1914, in time to document the war on the eastern front.23 Prince Kinsky served in the Austro-Hungarian army on the Russian front, but died of a nervous disorder shortly upon his return in 1919. Count Pronáy lived to see the rise of Béla Kún’s communist regime in Hungary that year and joined the White Guards under Miklós Horthy who, in turn, had accompanied Franz Ferdinand’s uncle, Emperor Franz Josef, on his world tour as a young man, eventually falling during the Soviet siege of Budapest in 1944.

Lessons in internal colonization from Russia, Britain, and Japan

Despite their conservatism in terms of cultural values and their critical attitudes towards rival empires such as Russia and Britain, Franz Ferdinand and his circle were also influenced by their experience of Russian, British, and non-European government reforms. On his world tour, for example, Franz Ferdinand met the Austro-Hungarian consul Heinrich Coudenhove-Kalergi, a linguist of Dutch-Cretan origin, in Japan. Fluent in Japanese, among eighteen other, mostly Asiatic, languages, he had impressed Franz Ferdinand by translating a toast by Prince Arisugawa, a highly placed member of the imperial staff, honouring the Emperor.24 Consul Coudenhove had been in Japan for two years by this point and, in 1893, married the young daughter of a well-to-do merchant, Mitsuko Aoyama.

Like some of Emperor Meiji’s consultants, Coudenhove was an advocate of reform; back in Austria, he had published a critical pamphlet suggesting that the nobility abandon its old practice of duelling, and had defended his doctoral dissertation with a critique of anti-Semitism.25 The impact of his experience with the Meiji reforms and their abolition of the Samurai privileges found an unlikely interpretation in the context of Austrian society.26 Coudenhove used his knowledge of the abolition of the Samurai practice of seppuku when in Japan to advocate the reform of duelling rights in Europe.

This was the third decade of the period now known as the Meiji Restoration, when a section of Japan’s governing elite actively sought to integrate Japan into world politics. In 1872–73, a Japanese committee of scientists and civil servants led by Prince Iwakura Tomomi inspected the practices of government and education in North America, Britain, France, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Russia, Sweden, and Italy.27 The committee’s historian, Kume Kunitake, marvelled at the technological progress Europe had made in the forty years since he had last seen it, with its railways, telegraphs, and completely new fashions. Of the German states, however, it was Prussia and not Austria-Hungary that most impressed the delegation.28

In taking up his father’s vision for an internal reform of the nobility by arguing for the foundation of a new aristocracy – a kind of composite elite – to be formed by mixing tradition and new talent, a ‘serendipitous aristocracy’, Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi belonged to a minority in his generation. This was even more striking considering that, as he added, the vehicle for this form of social eugenics would be ‘socialism, the movement which started with the abolition of the nobility, the levelling of humanity’, but would culminate in the ‘cultivation of the nobility, the differentiation of humanity’. From the ‘ruins of pseudo-aristocracy’ humanity will create a ‘real, new nobility’.29 In the 1920s, he wanted a multi-ethnic empire under Austrian leadership, whose political form was not necessarily monarchical. In the Austrian, German, and Czech press, Coudenhove criticized both Austrian-German parochialism in Bohemia and Austria, and Czech nationalism.

The Paneuropa project, with branches throughout central and western Europe, and sponsorship from Europe’s best-known banks and industries, went through stages in which it was called an association and a movement and, from 1932 onwards, a European party in a non-existent European parliament. From the start, the Austrian government had offered Coudenhove a representative space for his lobbying office in the Vienna Hofburg, so that the movement was registered under the illustrious address of ‘Paneuropa, Hofburg, Wien’ until the annexation of Austria by Germany in 1938.30

The Paneuropa congresses were decorated by large portraits of great Europeans: Kant, Nietzsche, Mazzini, Napoleon, Dante, and others.31 In one publication covering the event, a photograph of this pantheon was placed next to the portrait of Krishnamurthi, a living sage who was very popular in Germany at the time [Fig. 9].32

Figure 9 Opening session of Paneuropa Congress in Vienna, 1926.

Photograph by Fritz Cesanek. Published in Österreichische Illistrierte Zeitung, 36:41 (10 October 1926), 1080

The Pan-Europeanists’ architecture of public memory formed part of a quixotic palace of European memory.33 It would be futile to attempt to reinsert some inherent logic according to which these very different intellectuals and their ideas of politics form a coherent montage of a European ideal. What we need is to understand how the invocation of these memory portraits on the walls of public buildings and private homes functioned in the social fabric of those who did ‘European civilization talk’ between the world wars, before it became ‘European civilization’ talk.

Coudenhove had shared and discussed his vision at London’s Chatham House, a foreign policy think tank, from as early as 1931, the year that the first Indian Congress met in India.34 As the British Empire was gradually transforming itself into a commonwealth, Coudenhove and his Pan-European followers tried to make sense of continental Europe, whose empires had already begun to crumble. In place of imperial nostalgia, he presented to the world a rebranded idea of empire. His was not just a disenchanted, rational international order, as Wilson’s Presbyterian-influenced League of Nations had it. He proposed an emotional European patriotism with echoes of a Catholic and a Dantean ideal of a universal monarchy, with a pinch of Habsburg nostalgia.35

Coudenhove fluctuated between a weaker notion of a federation of states (Staatenbund), as reflected in various wartime alliances like the Entente, and a stronger notion of a Bundesstaat, eventually preferring the latter.36 Formally speaking, the Union was considered to be the natural successor of the Holy Roman Empire after the Napoleonic Wars; it was supposed to become a strengthened version of the Confederation of States established under the Congress of Vienna regulations of 1815. In the twentieth century, on the stage of international politics, the idea of a Union was juxtaposed with other supranational political organizations, such as the Soviet Union (which soon revealed its foreign political face as a revised Russian Empire), the ‘Pan-American’ Empire, and the British Empire and Commonwealth. Paneuropa was to be a macro-regional organization with world influence.

Its map presented this Pan-European territory as already existing. National boundaries within Europe, with the exception of Turkey, which was marked with a question mark, were not visually represented. In 1924, the Paneuropa programme demanded a ‘systematic exploration of the European economic colony of West Africa (French Africa, Libya, the Congo, Angola) as a European resource’.37 Coudenhove’s aim, as he put it in 1934, was to turn Europe into a community of values, constituted by ‘Greek philosophy, Roman law, Christian religion, the lifestyle of a true gentleman and the declaration of human rights’.38 The question mark on Turkey was due to some of its territory belonging to Europe ‘despite’ its Muslim heritage, a conceptual problem for Coudenhove’s Christian conception of European identity.

Coudenhove believed that ‘Nietzsche’s Will to Power is where the foundational thoughts of fascist and Paneuropean politics stand side by side’.39 Kant’s presence in his pantheon of Europeanists, along with that of Hugo Grotius as well as the 18th-century balance of power theorists (Mirabeau, Abbé de St. Pierre), was due to their endorsement of European unity as an abstract goal, though this in many ways fits uncomfortably both with Nietzsche’s ‘aristocratic radicalism’ and with the discourse of national sovereignty signalled by the presence of Giuseppe Mazzini on Paneuropa’s symbolic map.

Drawing on Giuseppe Mazzini’s Europe: Its Conditions and Prospects, Coudenhove picked up on the traditions of the Young Europe movement, which bridged nationalism and cosmopolitanism. The combination between the two principles was also the motivation behind including the Bohemian humanist Comenius. Coudenhove’s journal, Paneuropa, devoted a great deal of attention to publishing seminal texts in which European identity was discussed. Nietzsche’s Will to Power manuscripts40 were part of a reading list Coudenhove-Kalergi set for future Pan-Europeans, which also included Napoleon’s Political Testament,41 as well as about a dozen or so other works by Dante, Comenius, Grotius, Kant, and Mazzini.42 At the opening of the first Pan-European Congress in 1924, Coudenhove’s wife Ida Roland recited Victor Hugo’s speech on European unification ‘in the service of propaganda for the Paneuropean idea’.43

The symbol of the Paneuropa movement, a red cross against the yellow sun of Hellenic Greece, reveals the intellectual legacies to which Coudenhove imagined himself heir: what could be called the Christian tradition of geopolitical integration, historically framed from the Crusades, to the European unification models of Abbé St. Pierre, and to the Christian socialism of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Within this tradition, Freemasonry was an important sub-group; and indeed, Coudenhove himself regarded Enlightenment projects which themselves criticized Christian traditions as falling within the Christian trajectory. The intellectual background of masonic eclecticism merged neo-Hellenic ideals with Kantian rationalism as well as the German ideal of Bildung, the ideal of culture and education, together with more recent calls for German cultural unity and an imperial discourse. These strands of thought were invoked at Coudenhove’s first international Paneuropa Congress.

This genealogy of European unity as Coudenhove presented it was thus composed of several sometimes contradictory traditions: ideas of a Christian empire and monarchy; ideas of national liberation which were based on resistance to large dynasties; ideas of a balance of power and contrary ideas of economic integration by its critics; and the emphasis on charismatic political leadership and technology as features of modern political systems, against the neo-medievalism of some of his other beliefs. Coudenhove’s Christian–Hellenic baggage did not prevent him from speaking of Vienna as ‘the Mecca of the Paneuropean Union’.44 In establishing this account of Paneuropa’s pedigree, Coudenhove not only marketed the noble ancestry of his own idea, but also sought to borrow authorities from other political movements. He reclaimed Kant and Grotius from Wilson and the liberal internationalists; Mazzini from the European nationalists such as Masaryk; and Victor Hugo from the social democrats. In drawing on a variety of authors, Coudenhove emphasized the inherently cosmopolitan background of the European ideal. The masonic eclecticism of his ideal of Europe was, interestingly, strongly reminiscent of the City of the Sun narrative by Tommaso de Campanella, whose depiction of this ideal city included references to Egyptian and Roman polytheism just as to Christianity, Islam, and fiction.

Britain, Coudenhove argued, had to be excluded for reasons of a global balance of power, while Paneuropa was to be modelled after what Coudenhove called ‘Pan-America’ both in its federal structure and its attitude to colonial resource. Coudenhove called for a revision of the Versailles agreement, especially with regard to the question of German (and Austrian) war guilt; a perpetual peace between all the European states; doing away with any customs and other economic borders and bringing about a unified currency; a joint army and fleet; a European limes on its eastern border and erosion of all inner European borders; a true guarantee of minority rights and the introduction of punishment for any propaganda of hate in the press; a Europeanization of education at schools; and a Pan-European constitution.45 Paneuropa was thus based on an essentialist perspective on European identity, and yet demanded policies of identity construction through education and infrastructure.

This vision had particular appeal among the non-British subjects of the Commonwealth present at gatherings such as the meeting at Chatham House. One of them was Abdullah Yusuf Ali, a Muslim British Indian and Qu’ran scholar who had been instrumental in securing Indian support for the allied war effort in the First World War. What Churchill, Coudenhove, and Yusuf Ali had in common was the belief that empires had to be reformed but not destroyed, that it was possible to decolonize without losing the sense of empire. The making of this memory was a complex social process, which was driven by the intellectual communities of interwar Europe.46

Coudenhove thought of the Paneuropa movement as supra-political and was happy to invite fascists and corporatists such as Benito Mussolini in Italy and Kurt Schuschnigg and Engelbert Dollfuß in Austria to patronize it. Despite this, he resisted the Nazis on account of their racial ideology and their pan-German treatment of Austria, and was in turn blacklisted by the Nazi party in 1933. The night of the Dollfuß murder, the Coudenhoves fled together with Dollfuß’s wife via Hungary and Switzerland to Italy, where Coudenhove-Kalergi notified ‘Mussolini through an Italian envoy’ that they would be ‘passing through Italy with Mrs Dollfuss and her children’. When Coudenhove looked back at his life up to this point, he concluded: ‘The world in which I had grown up has disappeared. The dynasty [the Habsburgs] which my ancestors had followed from Holland to Belgium, and from Belgium to Austria, was overthrown and disempowered. The influence of the nobility was broken. The new world was democratic, republican, socialist and pacifist’.47 After the annexation of Austria by Germany in 1938, when Coudenhove was forced to flee Austria, the movement’s central idea of reviving a European multi-ethnic empire based in Vienna had evidently failed. In 1940, the Coudenhoves left Europe for New York.

While Joseph Roth’s hero Franz Ferdinand went to the Capuchin vault to mourn, Coudenhove chose a different path, first becoming a professor of history at New York’s Columbia University and then an activist advocate for Paneuropa, in Switzerland, where the Habsburgs’ history had begun. Obtaining a teaching position in history and politics at New York University, supported by the Carnegie Foundation, Coudenhove revived Paneuropa in exile by founding a Research Centre for European Reconstruction which hosted a Pan-European congress there in 1943, inviting other exiles from Europe.48 Here, in 1977, Otto von Habsburg unveiled a monument commemorating Aurel Popovici’s (and Franz Ferdinand’s) work.

Personified cosmopolitanism

Coudenhove’s movement was characterized by a tendency to relate the more abstract genealogy of European unity to concrete historical personalities, as well as to a performance of his own cosmopolitan history. Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi’s mother, Mitsuko Aoyama, came from a Japanese Buddhist family and had converted to Catholicism.49 She was one of the first Japanese women of her status to marry a western man. Coudenhove’s wife, who became a lifelong champion of his ideas and co-manager of the project, was the Austrian Jewish actress Ida Roland.50 Having to choose a country of citizenship after the revolution of 1918, he opted for a Czechoslovakian passport based on his place of residence, arguing that he was ‘a citizen of the Republic of Czechoslovakia without feeling a commonality of sentiment with this state, apart from my personal admiration for its president Masaryk. Because I belong to German Bohemia and grew up there, I do not [even] have command of my country’s official language’.51

The Enlightenment roots of his father’s ideas were still visible in the junior Coudenhove’s plans. His letter of application to the Humanitas lodge, of which his father was already a member, shows the importance of his multi-continental heritage for Coudenhove’s political ideas: ‘Being children of a European and an Asian, thought in terms not of nations but of continents. […] Thus in our eyes Europe was always evidently unified – it was the land of our father’.52 He saw himself as a ‘half Japanese child’ whose projects culminated in the ‘first successes of the work on European unification’.53 ‘My father’, Coudenhove-Kalergi wrote in this motivational letter, was ‘a European with Flemish, Greek, Russian, Polish, German, and Norwegian noble blood’, whilst his mother was of ‘bourgeois Japanese’ origin. It was as ‘a consequence of this background’ that Coudenhove therefore lacked ‘any exclusive belonging to a nation [Volk], to a race’. He considered himself to belong to the ‘European cultural community and, in a narrower sense, to the German one, but not in the sense of some sort of nationalism’. For these reasons, Coudenhove could only describe his political identity as cosmopolitan and his social circles as stretching across all ‘social spheres and professions’.54

Coudenhove’s first individual publications bore close resemblance to the moral ideals behind the political activity of the Freemasons, which, for the first time, had gained formal legal acceptance in the Austrian republic. His book Ethik und Hyperethik (1922) was reviewed favourably in the Wiener Freimaurer-Zeitung (1/3, 1922), a new organ that had begun operating since the legalization of Freemasonry. By mid-1925, the master of the Viennese lodge, Richard Schlesinger, sent a circular to the masters of the great lodges of the world asking them to support Coudenhove-Kalergi’s political projects.55

A number of Coudenhove-Kalergi’s contacts also shared a background in Masonic thought. Coudenhove-Kalergi’s application to join the Viennese Freemasons was supported, among others, by the engineer and social philosopher Josef Popper-Lynkaeus and the legal theorist, and future Schmitt opponent, Hugo Heller.56 Although Coudenhove was admitted to the lodge, his notion of propaganda and open publicity of political ideals did not fit comfortably with the historically subtle influence of Masonic thought in Europe. Even though the Freemasons themselves expanded their modes of influencing the public after 1918 by founding a newspaper, Coudenhove’s use of publicity was not welcome. After 1926, Coudenhove had grown disenchanted with the Masons. Nonetheless, he probably owed his positive connection with Masaryk and Beneš – with whom he disagreed on almost all matters of policy, from the debate over the customs union between Austria and Germany in 1931, which he endorsed and they dreaded, to the status of Germans in Czechoslovakia – to their shared Masonic heritage adding to their perspectives a touch of cosmopolitan elitism.

Coudenhove-Kalergi also shared his father’s critique of anti-Semitism, which he had edited prior to its publication.57 His wife, the actress Ida Roland, was Jewish. Rather than socializing at the salons of high nobility, he instead joined his wife’s more socially mixed circles of writers, artists, and publishers, such as the salon of the Zsolnay family, a Jewish family whose regular visitors included writers like Arthur Schnitzler and Max Brod. Coudenhove’s cosmopolitan elitism was more in tune with the views of a cosmopolitan elite based in Vienna. The notion of ‘Heimat’, or home country, was seen in this circle as parochial, petit-bourgeois, primitive, anti-urban and anti-enlightenment, worthy only of the sharpest criticism.58

Paneuropa was one of many geopolitical concepts of European power politics developed between the end of the nineteenth century and the 1920s. This territorial perspective on identity was encompassed by the emerging discipline of geopolitics, which was founded, in the wake of the work of nineteenth-century German liberals such as Alexander von Humboldt, by conservative political theorists in Sweden and Germany, including Johan Rudolf Kjellén, Friedrich Ratzel, and Karl Haushofer.59 But Paneuropa was also responding to radical alternatives on the political Left. In June 1923, Leon Trotsky called for a European Socialist Federation under the name of ‘The United States of Europe’, which he saw as a way out of the fragments of the old empires and towards a future worker-led global order. As he put it then, ‘the moment British capitalism is overthrown the British Isles will enter as a welcome member into the European Federation’.60 Working against the Soviet paradigm of the European Union as an instrument for a permanent world revolution, but also competing with the idea of a devolved British Commonwealth, Coudenhove-Kalergi selectively appropriated some elements of both rival projects of Pan-European influence. He took the pathos and rhetoric from Trotsky, but rested the economic and ideological foundations of his organizations on the capitalist and imperialist principles of the Commonwealth. His archive of designs for the Paneuropa Congress contains examples of a set of newspapers from the Soviet Union with their characteristic modernist aesthetic as models for Paneuropa, alongside models of stamps coming from a more traditional empire, the British [Fig. 10]. This particular newspaper featured headings such as the need for ‘mass organisations’ of the future, an idea which also appealed to Coudenhove.

Figure 10 Soviet models for Paneuropa. Newspaper Upakovshchik [‘The Packer’].

In RNCK, Photo archive
The aristocrat as a social mediator

‘This book is designed to awaken a great political movement slumbering within all peoples of Europe’, Coudenhove pronounced in the first edition of his Pan-European project.61 He sent several thousand free copies of his first Paneuropa manifesto to politicians around the world. It was translated into English in 1926, French in 1927, then Czech, Croatian, Spanish, Hungarian, Lithuanian, and Greek, but never into Russian or Italian.62

Coudenhove-Kalergi’s strategy of influence was a more insistent and efficient propaganda effort than those of most of his contemporary theorists on European unity. It comprised a fee-paying and listed membership in his Paneuropa association; the publication of programmatic articles and opinion surveys in different press formats; the foundation of the journal Paneuropa, which was explicitly devoted to propaganda and hence did not publish any critical articles of itself; and his own private correspondence and communication network, to which he and his wife devoted considerable time. Coudenhove also organized a number of international congresses, typically held in one of the European capitals’ large hotels, bringing together politicians and industrialists.63

Coudenhove kept in touch with a diversity of what could be described as leader personalities from the spheres of politics, art and literature, and industry, and he put considerable effort into putting them in touch with each other. Many of the politicians and other activists Coudenhove worked with were also proponents of an eclectic blend of political views. This model of Europe as an imperial power was supported particularly by intellectuals. Interestingly, while Paneuropa attracted mostly reconstructed conservative thinkers like German Chancellor, and later Foreign Minister Gustav Stresemann, in France and in central Europe, it proved attractive to socialists, such as French President Aristide Briand, and the former Dreyfusards, such as radical socialist French Foreign Minister Edouard Herriot and economic theorist Francis Delaisi.64

In Britain, a new, non-governmental think tank which emerged after the First World War, Chatham House, was an important semi-public site where the imperial and colonial elites tested their ideas of imperial devolution in Europe and the world of the European empires. Coudenhove was invited as a guest from the Continent, and his ideas were widely received.65 Here, Coudenhove was in dialogue with Muslim representatives of the Indian Congress and other intellectuals. In Britain, this strand of thought led to the emerging discipline of International Relations in Aberystwyth.66 At the same time, among his followers in central and eastern Europe, Coudenhove gained prominence not only through his connections to Masaryk and the Polish Foreign Minister Zaleski but also through his lecture tours, including a trip to Warsaw in 1925.67 Among the statesmen most influenced by the Pan-European project were Aristide Briand – whose collaboration with Coudenhove culminated in his announcement of a European federation in 1930 – Edvard Beneš, Gustav Stresemann, and Tomas Masaryk.

In its initial stages, Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi’s Paneuropa project was financed wholly from his private sources.68 He quickly attracted enough attention to bring in other funding, mostly through elite circles of bankers, industrialists, and aristocrats. These comprised the Czech entrepreneur (and owner of the famous shoe production chain), Tomas Bata; the German industrialists Paul Silverberg, Carl Siemens, Adam Opel, Edmund Stinnes, Richard Gütermann, and Hermann Bücher (of the AEG, the German General Electricity Company); Carl Duisberg (of the Bayer corporation); a group of private German bankers; the Dutch industrialist N.V. Philips; and the Austrian Otto Böhler.69 The US-American Carnegie Foundation for Peace, headed by Nicholas Murray Butler – who published a book on Paneuropa six years before Coudenhove’s first publication on the subject – also supported the project.70 All of these figures, along with the governments of several European states, donated money in support of Pan-European’s activities.71 In the later 1920s, the founders of the summer conference at Pontigny in France and the Mayrisch circle in Colpach, Luxembourg, were among Coudenhove’s social contacts.72 These events were occasions for members of the industrial elites, especially of France, Belgium, Luxemburg, Germany, and Austria, to meet and discuss concerns as well as to invite writers and poets for entertainment and what could be described as public relations purposes. Coudenhove played a role as a mediator on these occasions. The nature of his connection with bankers and industrialists can be illustrated by taking a more detailed look at Coudenhove’s relationship with three of them: the Hamburg-based banker Max Warburg, heir to the European branch of the private bank M.M. Warburg & CO; the Stuttgart-based industrialist Robert Bosch; and the Luxemburg-based Emile Mayrisch.

Banker Max Warburg heard about Coudenhove’s enterprise through Baron Louis Rothschild and offered to support the project with 60,000 gold marks. In 1926, Warburg also sponsored the travel costs and royalties for speakers attending the Paneuropa Congress in Vienna.73 Warburg was simultaneously financially supporting other similar movements, ranging from Die Deutsche Nation to the Nietzsche Archive, his brother’s Warburg Institute, and a number of other projects, seeking always to maximize his reach and influence. By the end of the 1920s, Warburg’s support for Paneuropa subsided, since, as he put it to Coudenhove, his concern was that the movement was not sufficiently pragmatic.

Bosch’s support came thanks to the mediation of another sponsor of Paneuropa, Richard Heilner (head of a German linoleum company in Wuerttemberg), who in 1927 recommended Coudenhove-Kalergi to Bosch.74 Like Warburg, Robert Bosch was also investing in a number of rival political movements, including Karl Anton Rohan’s Kulturbund, but expressly demanded not to be listed as a public supporter. In fact, Bosch, who was a good friend of the British internationalist David Davies, was at first critical of Coudenhove-Kalergi’s exclusion of Britain from his proposed union, but was ultimately convinced and provided a link between Coudenhove-Kalergi and a number of British internationalists of the period. Bosch promised to contribute an annual sum of 2,500 Reichsmarks beginning in 1928, but in fact contributed even more until 1933. In 1930, he encouraged Coudenhove to found the ‘Society for the Promotion of the Paneuropean Cause’ (Pan-Europäische Förderungsgesellschaft) and took a seat on its directorial board. But Bosch withdrew his support immediately when the Nazi government officially blacklisted Paneuropa, significantly undermining Pan-European activities in Germany.

In addition to prominent figures representing individual banks and industry, like Warburg and Bosch, one of Coudenhove’s most successful networking connections was with the founder of the European steel cartel, the Luxemburg industrialist Emile Mayrisch. Mayrisch was the organizer of a series of summer conferences at Colpach, which brought together politicians, industrialists, and intellectuals, especially of German, Austrian, and French origin. He was one of the interwar proponents of the idea that European integration had to begin with a union of German and French interests on the Rhine and founded the German-French Committee of Studies to discuss this form of integration. Coudenhove participated in these meetings, on the one hand as a representative of his own Paneuropa movement, and on the other hand as a representative of Czechoslovakia, whose cause he endorsed internationally by supporting the work of Masaryk and Beneš.

One of Coudenhove’s chief strategies of getting prominent politicians on board was offering them honorary presidencies at Pan-European congresses, which he organized at regular intervals. The most important politicians to back Paneuropa in this way were Tomáš Masaryk, Edvard Beneš, Gustav Stresemann, Aristide Briand, Leo Amery, Zaleski, and Winston Churchill. Like Coudenhove, Beneš, and Masaryk, Zaleski joined the Freemasons during the First World War; he was a lecturer in Polish language and literature in London at the time, and was foreign minister of Poland between 1926 and 1932.75

Apart from Briand, socialists such as Karl Renner were typically reluctant if not entirely negative towards Paneuropa. Nationalists such as Masaryk and Beneš, on the other hand, supported Coudenhove’s work as an international political mediator and themselves encouraged other politicians to join his movement.

In connection with the organization of a Pan-European economic forum in the late 1920s, Coudenhove corresponded with, among other prominent politicians with a background in industry, the French Minister of Labour, Louis Loucheur.76 He was put in touch with Loucheur through his friend and Paneuropa supporter, Edvard Beneš.77 Beneš wrote a note to the French conservative politician and technocrat Louis Loucheur (1872–1931), then the French finance minister, in which he offered to bring Coudenhove to his first meeting with Loucheur in 1925: ‘Dear Sir, the bearer of this letter is Mr Coudenhove-Kalergi, whose writings on Pan-Europe you surely know. I ask you to give him a favourable welcome and to provide him with the opportunity to lay out his pacifist ideals.’78 This encounter then led to a series of meetings Coudenhove encouraged between German industrialists and Loucheur.79 In the course of Coudenhove’s correspondence with Loucheur, Coudenhove brought the Luxemburg industrialist Emile Mayrisch (January 1928), Bücher (of the AEG, February 1928), figures from Rhenish industry, Karl von Siemens, the director of the Warburg Bank, Karl Melchior, Caro of the Stickstoffwerke, Richard Heilner of the Linoleum factories, and Count Kanitz, German food minister (May 1928), together in a series of meetings.

The year when Germany joined the League of Nations, 1926, was also fortuitous for the Pan-European union. By 1927, Briand had become the honorary president of the union, and Coudenhove’s activities in this regard contributed significantly to the success of the Young plan, which was effectively a revision of the Versailles treaty, brought about following talks between Briand and Stresemann in 1929. In the spirit of international agreement following Locarno and the Kellogg-Briand pact stabilizing especially German–French relations, symbolized by the constructive policies of Stresemann and Briand, Briand produced a ‘Sketch for a Paneuropean pact’, officially presented in public in May 1930.80 Indeed, in 1930, which perhaps was the culmination of Coudenhove’s activities for a Pan-European Union, Briand announced his plan to work on a European Union of twenty-six states based on Coudenhove’s model.81 However, most European governments gave this publication a cool reception at best.

Coudenhove was also seeking to win over liberal internationalists, particularly German and Austrian liberals and social democrats, French socialists, and British liberal internationalists, especially proponents of a Christian empire espoused by figures such as Winston Churchill, David Davies, and Alfred Zimmern. From its inception, Coudenhove sought to involve Austrian, German, and French socialists in his Paneuropa movement – at least, those who sought no connection with Moscow. His move to contact the Briand government in 1925, after the defeat of the conservative Poincare, was motivated by the desire to engage the ‘new leftist government’ at a moment in time when they were ‘searching for a new slogan to replace the nationalistic sentiments of revenge and resentment’.82 With the same intentions, Coudenhove published a questionnaire to be sent to politicians of different European countries, but especially to internationalists like socialists or liberals, asking their opinion of a Pan-European Union. He then published their responses in his journal. The social democrat Karl Renner responded to the questionnaire by saying that the union was indeed ‘an economic and cultural necessity’.83 However, a year later, Renner distanced himself from the movement due to its express anti-Bolshevism.84

Similarly, in 1918, Coudenhove associated himself with the socialist Kurt Hiller, whose ‘Political Council of Spiritual Workers’ (Politischer Rat geistiger Arbeiter), founded in November 1918 in Munich, attracted people who were socialist but felt uncomfortable in a socialist party. What attracted Coudenhove to this project was neither its advocated pacifism nor its idea of council democracy, but rather the intellectual elitism that was reflected in Hiller’s programme of a ‘global intellectual logocracy’.85 Hiller, like Renner, later abandoned the connection due to Coudenhove’s explicit anti-Bolshevism.86

Among Coudenhove’s least successful attempts to influence government members was his attempt at a solution of the Polish corridor problem, which, being an outcome of the Versailles settlement, separated two parts of Prussia from each other.87 Realizing that Poland found it unacceptable to renounce its only access to its main port, Gdynia, whilst Germany could not accept East Prussia being separated, Coudenhove proposed building a special corridor comprising a double railway line and an automobile route, which would connect Danzig viz. East Prussia with the rest of the ‘Reich territory’. This line could not be maintained without infringing on Polish transportation within the corridor, ‘it will have to pass subterraneously through a tunnel. A commission consisting of a representative of the German and the Polish government will coordinate all the conflicts resulting from this technical-juridical construction’.88

One of the reasons for Coudenhove’s project coming to a halt around 1931 was that, within a short time span, a number of influential politicians and industrialists who had been supporting Coudenhove had died: Emile Mayrisch died in 1928, Gustav Stresemann in 1929, Louis Loucheur in 1931, and Aristide Briand in 1932.

From Paneuropa to the Cold War

Beyond Germany, Austria, and central Europe, Paneuropa had a lasting legacy in the Christian conservative circles of the Anglo-American elite. These included Leo Amery who, like Coudenhove-Kalergi, had an ethnically mixed and cosmopolitan background; his mother was of Hungarian-Jewish background, and he grew up in India. A co-author of the Balfour Declaration in 1917, Amery supported Paneuropa in the 1930s and also corresponded with Coudenhove concerning other matters, such as the problem of Europe’s Jewish population, which Coudenhove proposed to settle in Rhodesia.

But the most prominent British politician to have been influenced by Coudenhove was Winston Churchill, who in his speech on Europe’s need to unite praised the ‘work […] done upon this task by the exertions of the Pan-European Union which owes so much to Count Coudenhove-Kalergi and which commended the services of the famous French patriot and statesman, Aristide Briand’. Just like Coudenhove, who presented the union of Swiss cantons as an example for Europe, Churchill concluded his call for European unification by declaring that Europe should be ‘as free and happy as Switzerland is today’. This was far from Max Weber’s demand for national greatness to avoid succumbing to Swissification.89 But Coudenhove’s propaganda efforts eventually were absorbed in the Franco-British plans for European integration. One of the images of Coudenhove after the Second World War shows him seated next to Robert Schuman in the European parliament.

Figure 11 Coudenhove with Robert Schuman in 1956.

IMAGNO/Austrian archives

In the last decades of the Cold War, political theorists in the United States began to use the term ‘transnational’ to speak of social connections beyond the control of states, as well as to call ‘soft power’ the ability to get people to do what you want without coercing them through weapons.90 Unlike the ‘hard’, institutional power of states, soft power achieves influence through gradual projects in culture and education. But these terms also apply remarkably well to the remains of Austria-Hungary, a multinational empire that had no overseas possessions but rather a multicultural, internal space of influence. In addition to regular forms of coercion, Austria-Hungary was notable for centuries for the cultural prowess of its dynasty, the Habsburgs. After the revolution, aristocratic privilege in Austria was abolished and the Habsburgs sent into exile; however, many elements of their established practice of ‘soft power’ and of social connections across the borders of their empire’s component states survived. It was on the foundations of these traditions, I submit, that a number of Viennese intellectuals began to develop new projects for European unity. In the absence of the ‘hard’ power of an imperial army, which in the course of the Great War had fragmented into its national components, they embraced the ‘soft’ power of culture and informal networking between intellectuals, bankers, and industrialists.91

1 Joseph Roth, Die Kapuzinergruft (1939), in Die Kapuzinergruft. Romane aus der Exilzeit (Berlin: Aufbau, 1990), 439577, 441.

2 Ibid., 544.

3 Ibid., 545.

4 Ibid., 575.

5 Ibid., 520.

6 Erzherzog Maximilian, ‘Eisenbahn im Urwald’ (1860), in Maximilian, Gedichte, vol. 1 (Vienna: Aus der kaiserlich-königlichen Hof- und Staatsdruckerei, 1863), 7071.

7 Stefan Zweig, Marie Antoinette: The Potrait of an Average Woman (New York: Garden City Publishing Co., 1933).

8 Ibid., 1–4.

9 Coudenhove-Kalergi, Paneuropa ABC (Leipzig and Vienna: Paneuropa, 1931), 2425.

10 Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi, ‘Paneuropa. Ein Vorschlag’, Neue Freie Presse, 17 November 1922.

11 Karl Popper, Unended Quest: An Intellectual Autobiography (La Salle, Ill.: Open Court, 1982), 32.

12 On Popper’s critique of ‘tribalism’, see his discussion of Hegel in Karl Popper, The Open Society, 2 vols. (London and New York: Routledge, 2002), 3038.

13 For links between ethnic and sexual relations, see Kai Kauffmann, ‘Slawische Exotik und Habsburger Mythos: Leopold von Sacher Masochs Galizische Erzählungen’, Germanisch-Romanische Monatsschrift, 52.1 (2002), 175190. Albrecht Koschorke, Leopold von Sacher-Masoch: Die Inszenierungeiner Perversion (Munich: Piper, 1988); Joseph Metz, ‘Austrian Inner Colonialism and the Visibility of Difference in Stifter ’s “Die Narrenburg”’, in Proceedings of the Modern Languages Association, 121:5 (October 2006), 14751492; Barbara Hyams, ‘The Whip and the Lamp: Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, the Woman Question, and the Jewish Question’, Women in German Yearbook, 13 (1997), 6779.

14 Erzherzog Franz Ferdinand. Unser Thronfolger. Zum 50. Geburtstag, ed. Leopold Freiherr von Chlumetzky et al. (Vienna and Leipzig: Illustriertes Sonderheft der Oesterreichischen Rundschau, 1913), 911, 9. Georg Graf Wycielski, ‘Erzherzog Franz Ferdinand als Kunstfreund’, in Chlumetzky et al. (eds.), Erzherzog Franz Ferdinand, 55–85.

15 Alfred Freiherr von Koudelka, Aus der weiten Welt (1900); Emil Woinovich-von Belobreska, Aus der Werkstatt des Krieges. Ein Rundblick über die organisatorische und soziale Kriegsarbeit 1914/15 in Österreich-Ungarn. Manz, Wien 1915; Helden des Roten Kreuzes. Aus den Akten des k. u. k. Generalinspektorates der freiwilligen Sanitätspflege. Manz, Wien 1915; Theodor von Sosnosky, Die Politik im Habsburgerreiche. Randglossen zur Zeitgeschichte, 1912; Der Traum vom Dreibund, 1915; Franz Ferdinand, der Erzherzog-Thronfolger. Ein Lebensbild, 1929; Die rote Dreifaltigkeit. Freiheit, Gleichheit, Brüderlichkeit, 1931.

16 Aurel Popovici, Die Vereinigten Staaten von Groß-Österreich. Politische Studien zur Lösung der nationalen Fragen und staatrechtlichen Krisen in Österreich-Ungarn (Leipzig: B. Elisch, 1906); Aurel Popovici, La Question Rumaine en Transylvanie et en Hongrie (Lausanne and Paris: Payot, 1918).

17 He cites extensively from J.C. Bluntschli, Allgemeine Staatslehre (Stuttgart: Cotta, 1886), as well as Bluntschli, Die nationale Staatenbildung und der moderne deutsche Staat (Berlin: Habel, 1881). See also Bertrand Auerbach, Les races et les nationalités en Autriche-Hongrie (Paris: Alcan, 1898); L. Gumplowicz, Das Recht der Nationalitäten und Sprachen in Österreich-Ungarn (Innsbruck: Wagner, 1879). Other citations are of Disraeli’s novel Coningsby, to Carlyle and Macaulay, and to J.C.L. Sismondi, Etudes sur les Constitutions des peoples libres (Bruxelles: Société, 1839).

18 Popovici, 1906, Dedication to the reader.

19 Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, ‘Don Juan von Kolomea’, in Westermann’s Illustrirte Deutsche Monatshefte, 121:25 (October 1866), 126.

20 On Sacher-Masoch’s politics, see his periodical Gartenlaube für Österreich, in Ulrich Bach, Sacher-Masoch’s Utopian Peripheries’.

21 Theodor Brückler, ‘Thronfolger Franz Ferdinand als Denkmalpfleger’, in Die ‘Kunstakten’ der Militärkanzlei im Österreichischen Staatsarchiv (Kriegsarchiv) (Cologne, Weimar and Vienna: Böhlau, 2009).

22 Contrast this with a different sense of “multitude” in Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Multitude. War and Democracy in the Age of Empire (London: Penguin, 2005), v.

23 Anton Holzer (ed.), Die andere Front: Fotografie und Propaganda im Ersten Weltkrieg: mit unveröffentlichten Originalaufnahmen aus dem Bildarchiv der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek (Vienna: Primus, 2007).

24 Franz Ferdinand, Tagebuch meiner Reise um die Erde, vol. 2 (Vienna: Alfred Hölder, 1895), 392393; Marius B. Jansen, The Making of Modern Japan (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2000).

25 Ian Hill Nish, The Iwakura Mission in America and Europe: A New Assessment; Regine Mathias, Deutschland-Japan in der Zwischenkriegszeit (Bonn: Bouvier, 1990).

26 Henrich Graf Coudenhove-Kalergi, Der Minotaur der ‘Ehre’: Studie zur Antiduellbewegung und Duelllüge (Berlin: S. Calvary & Co., 1902).

27 Christian W. Spang and Rolf-Harald Wippich, Japanese-German Relations, 1895–1945: War, Diplomacy and Public Opinion (New York: Routledge, 2006). In 1929, of 251 Japanese government-funded scholars, 151 studied in Germany. Ibid., article by Kato Tetsuro, ‘Personal Contacts in Japanese-German Cultural Relations during the 1920s and the Early 1930s’, 119–139, 124. Physics, engineering, and literature were the most popular subjects.

28 Die Iwakura-Mission: das Logbuch des Kume Kunitake über den Besuch der japanischen Sondergesandtschaft in Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz im Jahre 1873. By 1892 Kume was dismissed for his critique of Shintoism as a ‘primitive naturalism’. See John S. Brownlee, Japanese Historians and the National Myths, 1600–1945: The Age of the Gods (Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press, 1999), 92.

29 Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi, Adel-Technik-Pazifismus (Vienna: Paneuropa, 1925), 5657.

30 Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi, Ein Leben für Europa. Meine Lebenserinnerungen (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1966), 223224.

31 Ignaz Seipel opening the first Paneuropa Congress of 1926, Fond 554.7.470.343–416, Coudenhove-Kalergi papers, RGVA, Moscow.

32 Photograph by Fritz Cesanek. Published in Österreichische Illistrierte Zeitung, 36:41 (10 October 1926) 1080.

33 Cf. Frances Yates, The Art of Memory (1966, London and New York: Routledge, 1999); eadem, Astraea. The Imperial Theme in the Sixteenth Century (London: Routledge, 1975).

34 Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi, ‘The Pan-European Outlook’, in International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1931–1939), 10:5 (September 1931), 638651.

35 Ibid., 645. Dante Alighieri, De Monarchia (1318–21), first published in Andrea Alciati (ed.), De formula romani imperii libellus (Basel: Oporinus, 1559), 53179.

36 See Reinhart Koselleck, entry on ‘Bund, Bündnis, Föderalismus, Bundesstaat’, in Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe: historisches Lexikon zur politisch-sozialen Sprache in Deutschland, ed. Otto Brunner, Reinhart Koselleck, and Werner Conze, vol. 1 (Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 1972–97), 631632.

37 Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi, ‘Das Pan-Europa-Programm’, in Paneuropa, 2 (1924), 4.

38 Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi, ‘Antworten auf eine Rundfrage I’, in Paneuropa, 1:3 (1925), 5562.

39 Coudenhove-Kalergi, ‘Antieuropa’, in Paneuropa, 3 (1930), 92. On Coudenhove’s relationship to fascism, see Anita Ziegerhofer-Prettenthaler, Botschafter Europas: Richard Nikolaus Coudenhove-Kalergi und die Paneuropa-Bewegung in den zwanziger und dreissiger Jahren (Vienna: Böhlau, 2004), 397399.

40 Coudenhove-Kalergi (ed.), ‘Nietzsche als Paneuropäer’ (excerpts from Nietzsche), in Paneuropa, 3 (1930), 95101.

41 Reprinted in Paneuropa, 5 (1929), 1822.

42 See, for instance, Abbé Saint-Pierre, A Project for Settling an Everlasting Peace in Europe. First Proposed by Henry IV of France, and Approved by Queen Elizabeth, and Most of the Then Princes of Europe, and Now Discussed at Large, and Made Particable by the Abbot St. Pierre, of the French Academy (London: J. Watts, 1714); François Fénelon, ‘Sentiments on the Ballance of Europe’, in Two Essays on the Balance of Europe (London: n.p., 1720).

43 Victor Hugo, ‘United States of Europe’, speech held at the Paris Peace Congress of 1849. Victor Hugo, ‘Discours d’ouverture aux Congrès de la Paix à Paris’, in Victor Hugo, Actes et Paroles. Avant l’éxil, 1849–51, ed. Charles Sarolea (Paris: Nelson, 1875), 423433. Ida Roland recited it at the Paneuropa Congress in Berlin in 1930. Mentioned in ‘Wiederauftreten Ida Rolands in Wien’, Neue Freie Presse, 7 June 1933.

44 In Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi, Der Kampf um Europa. Aus meinem Leben (Zurich: Paneuropa, 1949).

45 Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi, ‘Paneuropa. Ein Vorschlag’, Neue Freie Presse, 17 November 1922, 34, in, accessed 1 November 2008.

46 Geofff Eley, ‘Imperial Imaginary, Colonial Effect: Writing the Colony and the Metropole Together’, in Catherine Hall and Keith McClelland (eds.), Race, Nation and Empire. Making Histories, 1750 to the Present (Manchester: Manchester University Press, November 2010).

47 Coudenhove-Kalergi, Ein Leben für Europa. Meine Lebenserinnerungen, 93.

48 Coudenhove-Kalergi, ‘The Pan-European Outlook’, 638–651. See also ‘One Europe’, Time, 26 March 1945.

49 Mitsu Coudenhove-Kalergi, Memoirs, section 9 (‘Audienz Papst Leo XIII’), 136–137.

50 See Heinrich Coudenhove-Kalergi, Das Wesen des Antisemitismus (Berlin: Calvary, 1901).

51 Ziegerhofer-Prettenthaler, Botschafter Europas, 67. Coudenhove-Kalergi-Kalergy got to know Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk through the Masonic Lodge Humanitas. Both of them were Freemasons, and Coudenhove-Kalergi’s use of the Masonic networks for promoting his cause will be discussed in more detail at the end of the chapter. See Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi, ‘Czechen und Deutsche’, Die Zukunft, Nr. 52, 24 September 1921, S. 342–350.

52 Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi, Crusade for Pan-Europe. Autobiography of a Man and a Movement (New York and London: G.P. Putnam’s and Sons, 1943), 3738.

53 Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi, Ein Leben für Europa (Berlin and Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1966), Introduction.

54 Coudenhove-Kalergi, Letter to Humanitas, 3 September 1921. Freimaurerlogen, 1412.1.2092, in OA.

55 Circular by Dr. Richard Schlesinger, Grossmeister der Grosslogen, 1925. Freimaurerlogen, 1412.1.244, in OA.

56 Originating from the Ghetto of Kolin, Lynkaeus belonged to the same circle of enlightened critics of anti-Semitism as Coudenhove-Kalergi’s father, and also wrote a programmatic text on food management in modern societies.

57 Coudenhove-Kalergi (ed.), Antisemitismus nach dem Weltkrieg, Introduction to Heinrich Coudenhove-Kalergi, Das Wesen des Antisemitismus (Leipzig and Vienna: Paneuropa, 1932).

58 On parochialism versus cosmopolitanism in German thought, see Celia Applegate, A Nation of Provincials: The German Idea of Heimat (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990); Karl Popper, ‘Zur Philosophie des Heimatgedankens’, in Die Quelle 77 (1927), 899908.

59 On German geopolitical thought after the First World War, see Rudolf Kjellén, Studien zur Weltkrise (Munich: H. Bruckmann, 1917); Rudolf Kjellén, Karl Haushofer, Hugo Hassinger, Otto Maull, and Erich Obst, Die Grossmächte vor und nach dem Weltkriege (Leipzig und Berlin: B.G. Teubner, 1930). See also Mark Bassin, Horizons géographiques (Rosny-sous-Bois: Bréal, 2004), and Michael J. Heffernan, Meaning of Europe: Geography and Geopolitics (London and New York: Oxford University Press, 1998).

60 Leon Trotsky, ‘Is the Time Ripe for the Slogan: “The United States of Europe?”’, in Pravda (30 June 1923). Transl. cited after

61 Coudenhove-Kalergi, Ein Leben für Europa, 122.

62 Ziegerhofer-Prettenthaler, Botschafter Europas, 85.

63 For instance, influential politicians like Gustav Stresemann, Ignaz Seipel, Jean-Paul Boncour, Elemér Hantos, Francis Delaisi (1942), Willy Hellpach (1928, 1944), and Mihail Manoilescu (1936, 1939, 1941, 1944) published in both journals. On Briand’s idea of a European Union, see Aristide Briand, Memorandum sur l’organisation d’un régime d’union fédérale européenne, proposal at the annual meeting of the League of Nations general assembly (1929), in Documents relatifs à l’organisation d’un régime d’union fédérale européenne, League of Nations Archives, United Nations Office, Geneva.

64 In the French reception, Czech and Slovak theorists played a particularly important role. See Edvard Beneš, Problémy nové Evropy a zahraničný politika československá: projevy a úvahy z r. 1919–1924 (Praha: Melantrich, 1924); Edvard Beneš, ‘The New Order in Europe,’ in The Nineteenth Century and after (September 1941), 141; Edouard Herriot, La France dans le monde (Paris: Hachette, 1933).

65 On the British reception of Paneuropa, Quincy Wright, review of Pan-Europe by Richard N. Coudenhove-Kalergi, in Political Science Quarterly (December 1927), 42:4, 633636; Arthur Deerin Call, review of Pan-Europe by Richard N. Coudenhove-Kalergi, in The American Journal of International Law, 21: 2 (April 1927), 384385. See also Arnold Toynbee, ‘Historical Parallels to Current International Problems’, in International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs, 1931–39), 10:4 (July 1931), 477492; Inderjeet Parmar, ‘Anglo-American Elites in the Interwar Years: Idealism and Power in the Intellectual Roots of Chatham House and the Council on Foreign Relations’, in International Relations, 16:1 (2002), 5375. See also Lucian M. Ashworth, ‘Did the Realist-Idealist Great Debate Ever Happen? A Revisionist History of International Relations’, in International Relations, 16:1 (2002), 3353; Paul Rich, ‘Reinventing Peace: David Davies, Alfred Zimmern and Liberal Internationalism in Interwar Britain’, in International Relations, 16:1 (2002), 117133; Michael Pugh, ‘Policing the World: Lord Davies and the Quest for Order in the 1930s’, in International Relations, 16:1 (2002), 97115. See also Brian Porter, ‘Lord Davies, E.H. Carr and the Spirit Ironic: A Comedy of Errors’, in International Relations, 16:1 (2002), 7797.

66 On Christian internationalism in Britain, see William Harbutt Dawson, ‘The Pan-European Movement’, in The Economic Journal, 37:145 (March 1927), 6267. As Michael Pugh emphasizes, this movement was radically different from the postcolonial New Commonwealth movement of the 1970s.

67 On the reception of Coudenhove-Kalergi in Poland, see Adam Barabasz, ‘Poland’s Attitude to the Conception of European Integration in the Years 1918–1939’, in Western Review, 2 (2007), 229251; see also K. Fiedor, Niemieckie plany integracji Europy na tle zachodnioeuropejskich doktryn zjednoczeniowych 1918–1945 (Wrocław: Panstwowe Wydawn Nauk, 1999).

68 Coudenhove-Kalergi, Ein Leben für Europa.

69 See Coudenhove to Louis Loucheur, 3 February 1928, 3 May 1928, telegram of 10 December 1928, and 19 January 1929, in Stanford, Hoover Institution Archives (HA), Loucheur Papers.

70 Ziegerhofer-Prettenthaler, Botschafter Europas, 112–113.

71 As the account books show, however, most of the income was used up by Coudenhove-Kalergi himself with his extensive travel. Ziegerhofer-Prettenthaler, Botschafter Europas, 115–116.

72 On French-German elite sociability, see Gaby Sonnabend, Pierre Viénot (1897–1944): ein Intellektueller in der Politik (Munich: R. Oldenbourg, 2005); Uwe Puschner, Die völkische Bewegung im wilhelminischen Kaiserreich: Sprache-Rasse-Religion (Darmstadt: WBG, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2001), Michel Grunewald, Uwe Puschner and Hans Manfred Bock (eds.), Le milieu intellectuel conservateur en Allemagne, sa presse et ses réseaux (1890–1960) (Bern: P. Lang, 2003).

73 Coudenhove-Kalergi, Ein Leben für Europa, 125.

74 Ziegerhofer-Prettenthaler, Botschafter Europas, 110–111.

75 See also August Zaleski papers, 1919–81, in HA, especially the letter by Mieczyslaw Wolfke to Zaleski on the ‘Groupe du Travail Pacifiste Pratique de la Ligue Internationale des Francs-Maçons’, 22 February 1932.

76 Louis Loucheur Papers, Box 4, Folder 12, in HA.

77 Edvard Beneš to Louis Loucheur, Prague, 1 March 1925, in Loucheur Papers, Box 4, Folder 12, in HA. As historians have pointed out, many of the advocates of European economic integration were technocrats. Thus Loucheur and Coudenhove-Kalergi were also supporters of Le Corbusier’s urban modernization projects. This technocratic perspective united conservatives like Loucheur with socialists like Paul Otlet. Another important figure was the socialist Francis Delaisi. See Richard F. Kuisel and Ernest Mercier, French Technocrat (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967), 73. On the concept of French Taylorism, see Judith A. Merkle, Management and Ideology. The Legacy of the International Scientific Management Movement (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980), 137.

78 Edvard Beneš to Louis Loucheur, Prague, 1 March 1925, Loucheur Papers.

79 Coudenhove-Kalergi to Loucheur letters, especially 3 February 1928, 3 May 1928, telegram of 10 December 1928, and 19 January 1929, in HA.

80 ‘Entwurf für einen paneuropäischen Pakt. Eine Anregung Coudenhove-Kalergis’, Tagblatt, 30 April 1930.

81 On the emergence of the German–French alliance as a paradigm for European unification, see Jacques Bariéty (ed.), Aristide Briand, la Société des Nations et l’Europe, 1919–1932 (Strasbourg: Presses Universitaires, 2007). On the main authors of German-French Europe, see Aristide Briand, Frankreich und Deutschland (Dresden: Reissner, 1928); Briand, Dans la voie de la paix. Discours de 1929 (Paris: Stock, 1929); Edouard Herriot, The United States of Europe (London: George Harrap, 1931); Tomáš G. Masaryk, Das neue Europa (Berlin: Volk und Welt, 1922); Edvard Beneš, La France et la nouvelle Europe (Paris: Nouvelle Revue Française, 1932).

82 Coudenhove-Kalergi, Crusade for Pan-Europe. Autobiography of a Man and a Movement, 96.

83 Coudenhove-Kalergi, Rundfrage Teil I, in Paneuropa, 1:3 (1925), 39.

84 Karl Renner to Coudenhove-Kalergi, Vienna, 24 July 1926, in RNCK 554.1.132, 65.

85 Thus the title of a book promoted by Kurt Wolff’s publishing house. Kurt Hiller, Logokratie oder ein Weltbund des Geistes (Leipzig: Der Neue Geist, 1921). On their falling out, see also Coudenhove-Kalergi, ‘Zwei offene Briefe: Kurt Hiller contra Coudenhove’, in Paneuropa, 7 (1929), 1421.

86 Kurt Hiller contra Coudenhove-Kalergi’, in Paneuropa, 7 (1929), 19.

87 Coudenhove-Kalergi to Reichskanzler, in BA, R 43 I/125, 364–377.

88 Ibid., 364–377, Attachment, 12.

89 Winston Churchill, Speech delivered at the University of Zurich, 19 September 1946, in Randolph S. Churchill, The Sinews of Peace: Post-War Speeches of Winston S. Churchill (London: Cassell, 1948), 199201. At the same time, as far as his own nation was concerned, Churchill indicated that alongside this European Switzerland there was still room for a British Empire which was associated but not integrated in the European Union of states.

90 Robert Keohane and Joseph Nye, ‘Transgovernmental Relations and International Organizations’, in World Politics, 27:1 (October 1974), 3962; Joseph Nye, ‘Soft Power’, in Foreign Policy, 80 (Autumn 1990), 153171.

91 Blanning, The Culture of Power and the Power of Culture.

Chapter 4 The German princes An aristocratic fraction in the democratic age

‘German Princes and Nobility Rush Funds to Neutral Lands’, the Geneva correspondent of the New York Times noted in October 1918. Citing a Swiss banker, he observed that a ‘large proportion of the depositors bringing their money from Germany and Austria belong to the princely families, posing under assumed names’.1 The work of a newsmaker in Europe between 1917 and 1920 must have been exciting and hopeless at once. From the Urals to the Alps, with each deposed monarch, with each exiled prince, European society was becoming increasingly unfamiliar. Many people inhabiting this large territory felt compelled to reinvent themselves under new banners: national democracies, classless societies, people without land. One of the tasks for the relatively new craft of world news reporting was to give readers a provisional image of this continent’s new appearance when its former faces had become mere phantoms. A focus on the German princes allowed grasping imperial decline of the Hohenzollern, Romanoff, Habsburg, and Osman dynasties at once, and in historical perspective. As a shorthand identity, ‘German princes and nobility’ reveals a slice of imperial decline of more than one empire.2

At the same time, in Germany itself, even liberals were unsure whether a revolution had actually occurred. Not only did some Germans resent living in times ‘without emperors’,3 contemporaries of liberal and even socialist leanings also expressed doubts about the viability of the German revolutions, which seemed feeble and theatrical compared to the images from Russia.4 Somebody who is accustomed to images of the October Revolution – many of which, incidentally, were only produced retrospectively, in 1927 – would look in vain for an iconic equivalent from Germany.

In November 1918, the pro-republican Vossische Zeitung featured a confusing photograph of crowds gathered in Berlin on its front page, with a backward-facing Bismarck statue instead of the proclamation of the republic [Fig. 12].

Figure 12 Voss Zeitbilder, 17 November 1918, 1

It took the newspaper several days to change its name from ‘Royal Berlin newspaper for political and intellectual affairs’ to ‘Berlin newspaper for political and intellectual affairs’. Even on the five-year anniversary of the revolution, its weekend supplement showed no photographs from November 1918. Instead of images of crowds, the editors placed a large map of the world on the front page, which advertised the need for radio networks in post-war Germany, featuring the Atlantic Ocean more prominently than the continent of Europe [Fig. 13].5

Figure 13 Die Voss, Auslands-Ausgabe, 45 (10 November 1923), 1

There was a debate whether to blow up the statues of Prussian kings adorning the Alley of Victory (‘Siegesallee’), an unpopular project initiated by Wilhelm II to commemorate the defeat of France in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71 and derisively called ‘Alley of Puppets’ in Berlin. It had only been completed in 1901 and included a genealogical parade of German rulers from Albrecht of Prussia, the last grand master of the Teutonic Order, to the Prussian King Wilhelm I. The satirist Kurt Tucholsky asked himself: ‘What will come of the Siegesallee? Will they drive it out of the city towards the New Lake because it is too royalist, too autocratic and too monarchist? […] Will they maintain the statues but place new heads on the same necks? […] And was all that learning of their names for my exams in vain?’6 In the end they remained in place until Albert Speer’s grand plan to make Berlin fit for the Nazi empire forcibly removed them to a new location in 1938, where they were partially destroyed by allied bombs, then demolished under the auspices of the British and Soviet occupation, the remaining figures buried in the ground, only to be restored and reconstructed in 2009.7

Hans-Hasso von Veltheim, the officer who had served in the reconnaissance photography department of the Saxon royal army in the First World War, confessed that he experienced the European revolutions as a ‘purifying and revitalising’ force that may yet ‘constitute a large step forward’.8 This did not prevent him from serving as a volunteer officer in a dismantled Cavalry Division of the imperial guard in Berlin in 1919. Under the leadership of Waldemar Pabst and Reichswehr minister Gustav Noske, this division was chiefly responsible for crushing the socialist rebellions in Berlin in early January 1919. But when the Spartakists Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg were assassinated in the same month, Pabst himself was suspected of masterminding the murder. Veltheim chose to attend their funeral in civil attire. He confessed to his wife that he was ‘deeply moved’ by the ‘composure of this immeasurable, enormous crowd’. Deputies from ‘Switzerland, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Petersburg, Moscow, Kiev, Warsaw, Vienna, Sophia’ were among the mourners, and the ‘funeral procession of a Kaiser could not have been more ornate, dignified and moving’. One of the ‘proletariat’, as he described it, even offered him a sandwich, although ‘the man knew’ that he was ‘Oberleutnant and Dr. phil’.9 Choosing Munich as his base for the next years, Veltheim sympathetically witnessed the socialist revolution there. He corresponded with the anarchist Gustav Klingelhöfer, who was imprisoned for treason for joining the revolutionaries of the Munich Council Republic, particularly the Red Army group led by Ernst Toller.

While individual aristocrats, like the representatives of other social groups, aligned with a variety of social forces during the revolution, aristocratic families remained objects of critique in central Europe. These ruling families saw themselves as the descendants of families who, for generations, had acquired distinction in ruling over Europe’s vernacular populations of Slavs, Anglo-Saxons, various Germanic tribes, Celts, Galls, Roma, Jews, and other groups. In popular culture, the traits associated with most of these folk groups – visual features, professional affiliations, and such like – usually appeared as marks of stigma or inferiority; but for nobles, their special qualities were always marks of distinction. If in many traditional cultures, unusual physical traits are associated with some kind of evil – one need only to think of the image of the hunchback, or the witch, in the case of nobles, some traits of this kind, such as the Habsburgs’ protruding lip, were used to mark a special kind of familial charisma.10

In the early twentieth century, German aristocrats had become objects of satire in Germany and in the Habsburg lands. The Munich-based satirical magazine Simplicissimus ridiculed the Ostelbian Barons as symbols of the old world. ‘Let them cremate you, papa, then you won’t have to turn so much later on,’ reads the caption on one caricature dating from 1906 [Fig. 14].

Figure 14 ‘Herrenhäuser’, from Simplicissimus 16, 17 July 1911, 267. The caption reads: ‘Let them cremate you, papa, then you won’t have to keep turning so much later on’

After the First World War, such jokes became more serious. Election posters made the expropriation of former princes into one of the key rallying cries for voters.

In Czechoslovakia, National Democratic Party member Bohumil Nĕmec argued that ‘nationally foreign […] and rapacious noble families’ had been causing harm to the Czech nation throughout history.11 Ironically, his own Slavic surname, which means ‘German’, hints at the history of ethnic relations in his place of origin. The imperial nobility, previously backed by the ancient power of the Habsburgs in the region, became merely another ethnic German minority, which the new governments viewed as being on a par with others, such as the Sudeten Germans.12 In both Russia and Czechoslovakia, German nobles were granted citizenship in the new states but were effectively barred from participating in politics and exercising traditional feudal privileges like holding court.

In other states, aristocrats were mistrusted due to the disproportionate privilege they had enjoyed under the imperial governments. In fact, in Germany, for instance, already by the beginning of the twentieth century some members of the nobility had begun to organize themselves like an interest group whose interests go beyond party affiliations, such as the Agrarian Union or the Colonial Society. A number of nobles joined conservative associations of nobles such as the Deutsche Adelsgenossenschaft or the Deutscher Herrenklub, founded in 1924 by Heinrich von Gleichen; many Baltic Germans joined associations such as the Baltische Ritterschaften, which had their seat in Germany, but were active throughout western Europe in the interwar period. Other nobles from the Russian Empire joined the Union de la Noblesse Russe in France, which was founded in 1925, or aristocratic charitable organizations. Others again, particularly members of dynastic families, were active in chivalric associations, such as the Order of the Golden Fleece, the Order of St. John, and others.13 The very idea of an aristocratic association was a modern concept, and quite unlike the medieval knighthoods known from such groups associated with the Arthurean legends as the Knights of the Round Table or the Order of the Garter. The modern associations which emerged in late imperial and republican Germany, the most prominent of which was the Deutsche Adelsgenossenschaft, were in fact alternatives to parties. In this way they were a reaction to growing parliamentarization, more than the enactment of a medieval ideal. The very idea of a Genossenschaft of nobles is, conceptually speaking, somewhat absurd. The modern equivalent of that would an imaginary CEO solidarity network, a sort of elite cartel that borrows its language from groups socially and economically inferior to itself. As such, they became what Stefan Malinowski has called ‘laboratories of aristocratic reorientation’, that is, places of mutual aristocrat recognition, as much as organizations serving the purpose of making aristocrats recognized by their non-aristocratic fellow citizens.

In Germany, a communist member of the German Reichstag recalled the words of none other than Robespierre, who justified the execution of Louis XVI as ‘not a decision for or against a man’ but a ‘measure for the public good, an act of national precaution’.14 During the revolutionary period before the ratification of the constitution, the new governments of some former German principalities, for instance, Hessen Darmstadt, had already expropriated ‘their’ nobles as part of their revolutionary measures.

Although the constitutions of some smaller German states had ceased recognizing the nobility long before the revolution – for instance, the constitution of the Free City of Bremen from the period of the Kaiserreich did not acknowledge nobility as a politically privileged status – the majority of regional German constitutions had been dominated by the principles of monarchy and nobility, which only changed radically in 1918–19.15 A government initiative for a mass expropriation of nobles, documented in photographs of election campaigns, failed to reach a quorum because only 39.3 per cent of the electorate voted [Fig. 15].16

Figure 15 ‘Not a penny for the princes!’ Election poster from Germany, 1926. ‘Den Fürsten keinen Pfennig! Sie haben genug! -rettet dem Volk 2 Milliarden Den Notleidenden soll es zugute kommen!’ [Not a penny for the Princes! They have enough! – save 2 billion for the people/It should benefit those in need!] Election propaganda car (1926); Aktuelle-Bilder-Centrale, Georg Pahl.

Source: Bundesarchiv, Image 102–00685

Members of the Weimar government discussed at length whether it was acceptable to allow members of aristocratic associations to become members of Parliament.17 In the end, a compromise was reached whereby the princes lost some of their real state that had representative functions but were financially compensated for this effect of the law. However, as Schmitt and other critics of this measure insisted, abrogating rights from nobles set a precedent for future liberal legislation, which meant that under certain circumstances, states could redefine the basic principles of legitimacy in their society.

In his role as a legal counsel to the Weimar constitutional court, Carl Schmitt saw the attempts to inscribe derecognition of nobility into law as setting a dangerous precedent. Comparing the situation with the French Revolution, he argued that with the execution of a king (such as Louis XVI), both the person and the office of the monarch were simultaneously eliminated. This model of reform-by-regicide could not easily be applied to the much larger number of European aristocrats. Unless one wanted to resort to assassinations of individuals with noble names on a mass scale, as had happened in the Soviet Union, this could not be extended to an entire social class within the framework of a liberal constitution.18 However, even when laws abolishing the nobility were effective, their effect amounted to the abrogation of the rights of an entire social group, setting a dangerous precedent for depriving other groups of rights in the future. The legal definition of nobles as a ‘group of exception’ who can be expropriated by the state is particularly problematic for liberal legislation which is predicated on the a priori equality of all of the subjects of the law.19

The republic was in a dilemma: the existence of aristocratic privilege threatened to derail the new ideal of political equality, but so did the possibility of expropriating nobles by law. The new constitutional assemblies ratified the abolition of the nobility by economic means, removing the prerogatives of primogeniture and title, and barring members of noble corporations from public office.20 To give an example of popular attitudes towards the nobility in the German Republic, one K. Jannott, director of the Gothaer life insurance group, wrote to Reich Chancellor von Papen in 1932 that it would serve as ‘a great example’ if the noble members of government demonstratively renounced their nobility to show that they did not value the mere noble name ‘and that even by name they want to be nothing else but plain civic [bürgerlich-schlichte] citizens’. Thus, Jannott continued, the then-current government’s problems with accusations of being a ‘cabinet of Junkers and Barons’ could be decisively dismissed. ‘Noblesse oblige!’, Jannott cited the famous bon mot which bound nobles to serving the state and to honour their ancestors. He used it to incite nobles to give up their nobility in favour of the new ‘obligations’ associated with a republican regime.21

Members of aristocratic families as well as those who deposed them had the spectre of Bolshevism before their eyes when they witnessed the revolutions in their regions. In Germany, where twenty-two dynastically ruled communities changed constitution between 1918 and 1921, this was particularly acute, but nowhere as immediately as in Hessen Darmstadt, since the wife of Nicholas II, who had been murdered with him by revolutionaries in Russia, was the sister of Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig. As Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig’s son Georg recalled, the way in which his parents were held captive on 9 November 1918 ‘was a very good imitation of the pictures of the Russian Revolution which we, too, had seen in the illustrated journals, and which apparently had started quite a trend’.22

When Ernst Ludwig and his family found that they were not to be physically harmed by the revolutionary movement in Darmstadt but merely expropriated, the ex-Duke wished to bless the new government ‘for constructive work in the best interests of our nation [“Vaterland”]’. Ernst Ludwig wished to thank the new government ‘for the dignified way in which you have steered the wheel of the state under the most difficult circumstances and the often criss-crossing tendencies of the popular will, having managed a most serious transformation in the history of Hesse while avoiding all but the most necessary other hardships’. By ‘other hardships’, Ernst Ludwig was referring to the possibility of having been stripped not just of his status, but also of his life, as communist politicians at the time were calling for the beheading of Louis XVI. The letter was signed simply ‘Ernst Ludwig’, without titles.23 In return for giving up political power and a few castles, Ernst Ludwig received financial compensation of 10 million Reichsmark.24 However, the German hyperinflation rendered this transaction quasi meaningless.

The purposes behind abolishing the symbols of monarchy and nobility varied amongst the European states: in some cases, it was justified by the foreign heritage of formerly aristocratic families; in others, by their economic supremacy. Generally, the less radical European governments tried to address the problem of aristocratic privilege by making it impossible to combine membership in aristocratic corporations and service to the new states. In 1929, President Stresemann’s government determined that membership in the German Nobles’ Union, an aristocratic corporation, was unacceptable for members of the Reichstag, the ministries, and the army. The republican government of Austria had also passed a law concerning the ‘abolition [Aufhebung] of the nobility, its external privileges and titles awarded as a sign of distinction associated with civil service, profession, or a scientific or artistic capacity’. Ironically, Schmitt was right concerning the danger of the precedent, even though he himself helped bring to power the Nazi government, which went on to use the laws of the Weimar era to create its own mechanisms of derecognition. As Hannah Arent would later note, depriving Jews of citizenship in 1935 involved a multiple process of derecognition.25 At the same time, Nazi officials could not decide whether or not the old ideal of the nobility contradicted their own ideology of the Aryan race.

In Austria, too, after 1919, nobles had become ‘German-Austrian citizens’, equal before the law in all respects.26 During the parliamentary debates on the future of noble privilege in Austria, the social democrat Karl Leuthner argued that ‘the glorious names of counts and princes are in fact the true pillars of shame in the history of humanity’. His Christian socialist colleague Michael Mayr described the nobility as a ‘dowry of the bygone state system’ and thought it was ‘completely superfluous and obsolete in our democratic times’.27 But the law itself made the difference clear: all other citizens could keep their imperial decorations, such as titles of civic or military honour. For example, the anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski got to keep his doctoral distinction sub auspicii imperatoriis granted by Habsburg Emperor Franz Josef.28 But citizens with noble names had to give up their imperial distinction and even their very names. In this sense, not all imperial privileges were derecognized, but inheritable privileges associated with the German princes were.

However, perhaps paradoxically, one of the unintended effects of this policy of abolishing aristocratic privilege was the emergence of a group of derecognized nobles who turned their newly obtained ‘classlessness’ and social homelessness into a new source of social capital. Their heightened sense of precarity made them appealing to an international elite in search of its true self, Europeans and non-Europeans. Many of them were jointly attracted to such new ecumenical and post-Christian communities as the Theosophical Society, gurus such as Krishnamurthi and Annie Besant, and the intellectual anthroposophism of the German philosopher Rudolf Steiner.

All these were to serve as instruments for shaping a new ideal of humanity that would build bridges between the proletariat and the old aristocracy, negating the authority of the bourgeois middle class with which the policies of derecognition were mostly associated. As Joseph Schumpeter explained in 1927, much of the transition from the old imperial regime to the modern republic depended on the old elites themselves, on the way in which they embraced giving up power for personality and the degree to which they were able to endorse the ideas of the new elites.29 The nobility itself, as he put it, became ‘patrimonialized’, turning into a shared heritage.

Veltheim, like a vocal minority of other aristocratic intellectuals, reflected on the future international order from a European and an internationalist point of view. Even before the revolution, Veltheim and other nobles of his circle had attached themselves to modernist literary associations, where themes of European decline and homelessness, and the search for non-European culture, were prominent. Like Veltheim, many became attached to the political Left in the course of the First World War. Historians have so far looked at cases like Veltheim’s on an individual basis; and each biographer claims each of them to be singularly eccentric.30 However, when considered together, their eccentricity appears to be a shared one; their ‘redness’ seems much more ambiguous; and the influence of their, however unusual, ideas happens to be much wider. Veltheim’s social circle is one of the intellectual communities that was very transnational in scope.31

Veltheim’s world: homelessness and counter-culture before and after 1918

Hans-Hasso von Veltheim-Ostrau liked to entertain. In 1927, he inherited his paternal estate of Ostrau, near Halle, and was glad finally to be able to host his friends in a location worthy of his family name. Veltheim spent the first night at the castle chiselling out the ancestral crests of his ungeliebte stepmother, before introducing his own, supplemented by new portraits and busts of himself and a bespoke gallery of chosen ancestors, the Ahnengalerie. What followed were weeks and months of replanting, redecorating, rearranging and amplifying the eroded family library. Together with the rent that he was obliged to pay his brother Herbert by the rules of primogeniture, the Fideikommiss, the redecoration of the house cost him a considerable sum of money.

The castle of Ostrau, surrounded by a moat and a large park, had originally been built by Charles Remy de la Fosse in the early eighteenth century, an architect of Huguenot origin who was then also employed by several predominantly south-west German noble families, such as the Grand Duke of Hesse-Darmstadt. Like the Veltheims, they wanted to introduce French style to Germany, and now, Veltheim took the opportunity to reconnect to this tradition.32 Throughout his life, he had felt a certain sense of homelessness, which he occasionally enjoyed, since it gave him the lightness necessary for travelling. In 1908, he had copied out this poem by Friedrich von Halm in his diary: ‘Without a house, without a motherland/ Without a wife, without a child/ Thus I whirl about, a straw/ In weather and wind.// Rising upwards and downwards/ Now there, and now here/ World, if you don’t call me/ Why called I for you?’33 This was not only an age where Grand Tours expanded to exotic lands; new technologies also brought explorations upwards, into the sky.

Figure 16 Veltheim’s exlibris, designed by Gustav Schroeter (1918),

in Hans-Hasso von Veltheim Archive, Ostrau. Depositum Veltheim at the Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Sachsen-Anhalt, Halle (Saale)

Twenty years on and happily, though expensively, divorced from Hildegard née Duisburg, the heiress of Carl Duisberg, founder of IG Farben factory, Veltheim finally had found a home that could truly represent his character. Veltheim’s social circle from this time offers a glimpse into the world of elite sociability in Germany and Austria between the two world wars. His guests held a wide range of political views, from a militant opposition to the new republic to international socialism, and included an array of different professions, from artists, choreographers, and publishers to officers and diplomats. His guest book features entries by prominent German politicians, such as Paul Löbe, president of the Reichstag, General Wilhelm Groener, Reichswehr minister from 1928 to 1932, and Erich Koch-Weser, leader of the German Democratic Party (DDP). But what professional politicians like these had in common with his other, more Bohemian guests, had more to do with aesthetic taste than with agreement over political matters. Most of Veltheim’s guests were modernists in spirit; they experimented with new styles inspired by the ‘primitive’ cultures of Africa, Latin America, and the Far East. Many of them co-edited usually short-lived journals dedicated to literature, art, and political debate of a general kind, such as the character of Europe or the future of the world. Veltheim himself co-founded a publishing house, the Dreiländerverlag, with a base in Berlin, Zurich, and Vienna, in 1918, but was, unfortunately, forced to abandon it during the inflation.

In 1918, Veltheim had commissioned a new ex libris, designed by the Munich-based artist Gustav Schroeter, which illustrates the particular combination of modernity and esotericism in his thought.

It featured a Sphinx placed on an obelisk covered in symbolism which included a swastika. Sometimes called ‘sauvastika’ when facing left, as Veltheim’s version did, this symbol from Hindu mythology became fashionable in nineteenth-century esoteric circles, where it was associated with the goddess Kali and signified night and destruction. Russian Empress Alexandra Fedorovna (of Hessen-Darmstadt), who was immersed in the esoteric teachings of her age, had pencilled a left-facing swastika on the walls of Ipatiev house where the family spent its last days in Siberian exile.34 The Sphinx was likely a reference to Oscar Wilde, one of the best-represented poets in Veltheim’s library, which was otherwise filled with works on mysticism, Orientalism, and anthroposophical writings.35 Wilde’s poem The Sphinx, dedicated to his friend Marcel Schwob, a contemporary French surrealist whose own passion had been Edgar Allan Poe, resonated with Veltheim’s own symbolist influences: ‘In a dim corner of my room for longer than my fancy thinks/ A beautiful and silent Sphinx has watched me through the shifting gloom.’ Yet in the end, the Sphinx, as a fin de siècle Raven, turns out to be a deceptive guide, luring the onlooker away from his Christian faith to multiple secret passions. Veltheim’s fascination with Hindu symbolism reflected influences of German Orientalism of his time alongside Victorian Orientalism. In Veltheim’s ex libris, though, the Sphinx and the obelisk are merely providing a frame for another image, a view from a window onto a hot-air balloon rising up into a starry night, to reflect his passion for hot air ballooning.36

Just over ten years later, his residence provided the architectural equivalent to his ex libris. Along with the estate, Veltheim had inherited the patronage of the local church of Ostrau. Veltheim embraced this traditional task of aristocratic patronage, but gave it his distinctive signature. In 1932, he ordered a new design of the patron’s private prayer room above the chapel, which was invisible to the congregation, with anthroposophical features. An architect who was also the designer of Rudolf Steiner’s Goetheanum installed an altar here, featuring Rosicrucian symbolism. Stained-glass windows in the anthroposophical style by Maria Strakosch-Giesler, an artist who had been influenced by Vasily Kandinsky’s synaesthetic theory of art, were also added. As a member of the Theosophical Society, Veltheim thereby performed a kind of hidden oecumenicism, a feature of his semi-public spiritual life, which was further augmented when he joined the Theotiskaner Order in 1935. As a proponent of cremation practices, which the Theosophical Society endorsed as a modernist cremation movement, Veltheim also commissioned the design of an urn in which his ashes were to be stored, and placed in the altar of the chapel.37

Linking global mythology and contemporary modernist movements to his personal passions was characteristic not only of Veltheim’s personality, but of the particular syncretism which he actively sought in his social life. Veltheim liked to think of people he invited to his home as items in a unique collection. Unlike some of his friends of high nobility, like the Schulenburgs, he did not restrict himself to company of his social standing. He rather enjoyed the attention of people of all backgrounds, both social and geographical. This he learned from his travels around the world, which he began at a young age with the obligatory Grand Tour to Italy, and which eventually would lead him to Burma, Malaysia, India, Palestine and Egypt. From there, he not only brought artwork, Buddha statues, prints, shadow puppets and such like, but also, and more importantly, new friendships. For all his interest in foreign cultures, his steady circle of friends was mostly German-speaking. Alongside friends of high nobility such as Udo von Alvensleben, the art historian, Count Hermann Keyserling, the philosopher, and Constantin Cramer von Laue, who pursued a military career, the most significant group among his friends were poets, writers, and composers, such as the poet Rainer Maria Rilke, the existentialist novelist Hermann Kasack, the poet Thassilo von Scheffer, the artist Alastair, the Alsatian pacifist novelist Annette Kolb, the Georgian writer Grigol Robakidse, who was living in Germany since the Russian Revolution, and the composer Richard Strauß. Veltheim had met many of his friends during his studies in Munich were he attended lectures in art history. Among his favourites were Lucian Scherman’s lectures on Buddha and Buddhism, and a course on Persian art by Friedrich Wilhelm von Bissung. One photograph from 1931 shows him as the host of the world’s most renowned international spiritual celebrity, Jiddu Krishnamurti, at Ostrau [Fig. 17].

Figure 17 Hans-Hasso von Veltheim and Jiddu Krishnamurti at the sun terrace in Ostrau (April 1931) Image courtesy of John Palatini/ Schloss Ostrau e.V.

These were the German academics who continued the orientalist fashion that had begun in nineteenth-century German academia, with leading figures such as Indologist C.A. Lassen in Bonn or Egyptologist Heinrich Brugsch in Göttingen.38 Those who pursued related studies in Veltheim’s circle also attended courses by the ethno-psychologist Wilhelm Wundt in Leipzig and philosopher Henri Bergson in Paris. These Orientalists’ influence on their students was significant in later life; it was what provided a source of cohesion even where political agreement was lacking.

Figure 18 ‘Completed and restored’, plaque on the castle of Hans-Hasso von Veltheim (‘Completed and restored, 1929’), Ostrau, near Halle, Germany,

photograph Andreas Vlachos

A related group of Veltheim’s friends were the publishers, Anton Kippenberg, head of Insel publishing house; Peter Suhrkamp; and Hinrich Springer. Other friends came to Veltheim through the Theosophical Society and its German branch, the Anthroposophical Society, of which he was a member. He knew the founder, Rudolf Steiner, quite well, and another prominent anthroposophist, Elisabeth von Thadden, was a cousin. Veltheim’s travels to India and China put him in touch with members of the new political elites there; he met Gandhi and in 1935, hosted one of his financiers, Seth Ambalal Sarabhai, the head of the Bank of India. The American dancers Ted Shawn and his wife Ruth St. Denis, founders of modern dance in the United States, were also among Veltheim’s regulars.

When the work on his ancestral estate was finished, in 1929, Veltheim placed a plaque above the entrance to his house, which read: ‘Completed and restored’. It was a paradox, of course: if it was only now completed, how could it be a restoration? The completion of the restoration came ten years after the first, radical generation of German republican politicians suggested expropriating all noble families in Germany, inspired by the Russian Revolution as a model. In this first wave of expropriations, some of Veltheim’s friends, including those who had their estates in the Baltic region, and members of the former ruling princely houses in Germany, such as Ernst Ludwig, Grand Duke of Hesse-Darmstadt, lost all or significant parts of their estates. But all in all, the German land reforms of the 1920s had been minimal compared to those in some parts of eastern Europe.

Although nobles of high nobility who had inherited or were about to inherit large estates like Veltheim represented those social groups who were most threatened by the revolution, in the early 1920s they were still open to the changes these would bring to European culture. Indeed, the 1920s and early 1930s were years in which they could develop a number of projects as founders of educational and cultural institutions. Nobles who were based in Germany and Austria and who did not belong to the ruling princely families escaped the threats of expropriation that returned with Nazi legislation such as the Reichserbhofgesetz of 1933, with which the Nazis attempted to strengthen small-scale peasants at the expense of large landowners.

It was, indeed, not until 1945, in the Soviet part of divided Germany, that nobles who held estates in north-eastern Germany and what was now definitively Polish and Czechoslovak territory had to accept their expropriation as final. One day in October 1945, Veltheim received a call from Halle’s new mayor urging him to leave his ancestral estate within an hour.

Then I packed the barest necessities, before giving a call to the mayor to announce that I was now leaving the house – and once more, walked through my rooms and solemnly stepped down the large staircase, thinking that my great-great-grandfather Carl Christian Septimus von Veltheim (1751–1796) in 1785 […] had also walked down this same staircase with a heavy heart, before leaving Ostrau forever and going to St. Domingo, in the West Indies.39

By the 1780s, Veltheim’s ancestor had gone bankrupt, and to avoid prosecution by his creditors, enlisted as a cavalry officer in the British Army. Suffering a common fate of the ‘Hessian’ regiments – German mercenaries hired by foreign army – he died in the West Indies of a fever and was never to see his family or his house again.

Veltheim’s own chosen place of exile was not the West Indies, but the northern German island of Föhr; here, he spent the remaining eleven years of his life preparing to write an autobiography, which contained numerous critical remarks of Europe’s violent, colonial past. Meanwhile, his old estate became the site of a polytechnic high school named after Nikolai Ostrovsky, the Russian socialist realist playwright from Ukraine who is best known for his autobiographical novel How They Forged the Steel, published in English translation by the Hogarth Press.

After 1990, the descendants of nobles like Veltheim began a laborious process of reclaiming what remained of their properties from the German, Polish, Czech, Slovak, Lithuanian, Estonian, and Russian governments. Many estates and castles throughout Germany and eastern Europe now remain public institutions: they have been turned into universities, recreational facilities, or museums of cultural heritage that are being rented out for weddings and other ceremonies.

Veltheim’s response was characteristic particularly of those nobles who by and large accepted their loss of former privileges, but saw their intellectual activities as a new source of cultural authority. The most obvious sense in which he displayed his adjustment to the loss of privileges is discernible from his production of narratives – in letters, diaries, in conversation, in memoirs, such as the letter to his mother, where he is moved when a worker treats him as an equal, despite looking like an aristocrat sounding like a ‘Dr. Phil’. At the same time, his insecurity concerning his status is confirmed by the opposing tendency to reconstruct nobleness by cultivating his estate, and fulfilling his duties of supporting his younger brother associated with his status as his father’s eldest son.

In addition to being allegories of old Europe and models for the genealogical and symbolic construction of identity, aristocratic intellectuals like Veltheim also developed a particular, elegiac way of thinking about their twentieth-century status as a type of homelessness. This homelessness, coupled with their earlier, poetic interests in Grand Tours and in being both detached from Europe as well as safely rooted in its deepest history, gave their cosmopolitanism a negative form. This became particularly pronounced by 1945, when nobles from East Prussia, East Germany, and the Habsburg lands had lost not only a rootedness in a particular region, which they had to give up incrementally throughout the revolutions of the earlier twentieth century, but also, the very possibility of belonging to several European regions at once. Many memoirs of nobles from this period combine the general trope of homelessness and loss with an idea of belonging to Europe as a whole and embodying its past culture. Among the most representative figures of ‘noble homelessness’ in German thought after 1945 was the work of the social democrat Marion Countess Dönhoff, who, after her flight (on horseback) from East Prussia, embarked on a career as one of West Germany’s most prominent journalists.40 She became the founding editor of the weekly newspaper Die Zeit. Another nobleman who defined himself as an expellee from eastern Europe, as ‘Europe’s pilgrim’, was Prince Karl Anton Rohan.41 In the 1920s and early 1930s, he was the founding editor of the journal Europäische Revue. In 1945, his family lost the estates in Czechoslovakia, and Rohan was forced to work on his own estate as a gardener and then to spend one and a half years as an American prisoner of war; his reflections on Europe’s history, which he published in 1954, bore the title Heimat Europa.42 Rohan’s fellow Bohemian Alfons Clary-Aldringen published his memoirs under a similar title, A European Past.43

In the eyes of Prince Rohan and the contributors to his journal, Europe in the 1920s was facing a struggle between past and future. The European past was characterized by complexity regulated through a strict social hierarchy. In this structure, empires persisted not only thanks to formal institutions of power but also, and crucially, informally, because everyone knew in each situation how to behave appropriate to their rank or status. By contrast, in the age of modernity, those expectations were no longer clear. He could have made this point by speaking about institutional change or radical politics in the street, but his preferred example was social dance:

There is a higher meaning in the tradition that those in power […] do not dance with people, or, what is even more important, do not dance in front of people who are not of the same social standing. Today, you can see in any dance café people of high nobility, duchesses, wives of the large industrial and financial magnates, even girls of the underworld entwined in Charleston with their legs, arms, and other body parts, swinging amongst other unknown people to Negro rhythms. And at the same time, those in power in Europe attend meetings with rumpled hats and trousers. The dance of political representation has disappeared, to be replaced by the wacky body parts wobbling in Negro chaos.44

This passage highlights the extent to which thinking in terms of race, social status, as well as aesthetic taste became entangled in the 1920s. The threats of modernity for members of Europe’s old elites such as Rohan were multiple. But this passage highlights that they were essentially reducible to two points: an erosion of hierarchy, and an erosion of identity, continental, racial, and sexual. Not all responses to these threats of modernity were pure rejections. In fact, Rohan himself was particularly attracted to aspects of a modernist aesthetic and innovations in the theatre and literature. While deeply committed to Vienna at an emotional level, after the war, Rohan had settled in Berlin and made German political circles the central sphere of his own activity as an intellectual.

The quest for new spiritual as well as new sexual identities was another prominent element in interwar aristocratic intellectual circles. Both themes, the interest in oecumenical and non-Western spirituality and the Orient, and the openness towards non-conventional sexualities, were prominent in the work of aristocratic intellectuals and the circles they supported. Just as the Habsburgs had found a way of making signs of stigma into distinction, intellectuals like Keyserling made their ironic anti-nationalism into a Brahmanic quality rather than that of a pariah.

Double Orientalism: celebrity princes in the Soviet Union and India

The aristocratic mediators like Veltheim joined a generation of new global travellers who were interested to discover alternative civilizations in India and the Soviet Union. During an extended trip to India from December 1937 until August 1938, Veltheim was in Calcutta as an informal delegate of the German Reich and official guest of the Indian government. Among his hosts was Lord Brabourne, then Viceroy of India and Governor of Bengal. A conversation between the two, which the Viceroy declared as a ‘private and personal’ encounter between two aristocrats and old officers’, revealed that they had likely ‘faced each other’ at the battle of Ypres.45 Throughout this trip, Veltheim was expected to deliver public lectures and gauge private opinion from a variety of influential personalities in India, on which he reported in extended form in typescripts that were sent back to Germany, to be read by officials, as well as a group of close friends.46 In the typescript itself, Veltheim avoided stating his opinion on the German regime directly, however, his rendering of critical questions thrown at him on occasions such as in the immediate aftermath of the Night of Broken Glass, 9 November 1938, makes it sufficiently plain that his own attitude to the regime was critical. This became more pronounced in the revised version of his Indian travel ‘diaries’, which was first published in 1954. Thus, in said conversation with Lord Brabourne, Veltheim claims to have called Hitler a dictator who would not shy away from a war. Brabourne, by contrast, emphasized Hitler’s ‘immediate experience of the front’ as a simple soldier, unlike officers such as themselves; because of this proximity to the front line, Brabourne thought Hitler would not ‘expose the German people to a war’.47 At the same time, the typescript suggests that on other occasions, Veltheim defended the German regime from ‘false’ allegations, such as the assumption, which he often encountered in the company of Brahmins and Maharajahs, that the Nazi government expropriated large landowners. ‘Nothing could be further from the truth’, Veltheim assured his conversation partners, signalling to his readers that it was important to keep conversation with his aristocratic ‘peers’ in India in order to prevent them from having false views of Germany.

In addition to India, in the 1920s, many eyes turned to the Soviet Union as an alternative type of civilization: would it remain true to its radical premise and rule out traditional ranks and privileges from the army and other institutions? In 1927, Rohan went on a trip of the Soviet Union, primarily, Moscow and Leningrad, following an invitation from VOKS, the Soviet cultural organization for foreign relations. As he put it in his travelogue, he went to Russia as a Gentleman would go to the land of the Bolsheviks.48 For people of his social circle, the Land of the Bolsheviks was another social and cultural system that posed a threat to Europe’s former self.

However, the most famous project of a small court revival had been inspired by an example from India. It belonged to a philosopher from the Baltic region who initially had little to do with the smaller courts. Count Keyserling came from the Baltic region of the Russian Empire, and his wife was the granddaughter of Prussian Iron chancellor Otto von Bismarck. Yet personal connections meant that he was on good terms with the Grand Duke of Hessen Darmstadt, whose artists’ colony he proceeded to reinvigorate with a new concept.

Keyserling wrote in a letter to Kessler ‘strictly confidentially’ that he was about to found a ‘philosophical colony’ with himself ‘at its centre’. Its success would be ‘guaranteed since the Grand Duke of Hesse presides over it’. Keyserling believed that this school would bring about ‘something of importance’ because ‘all that was ever significant in Germany always began and will emerge only beyond the boundaries of the state’.49 The foundation did not do entirely without political support, however, even if it was the support of a politician who had only just lost the power over his state: Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig of Hessen-Darmstadt, Queen Victoria’s grandson, a cousin of Wilhelm II of Germany, and brother-in-law of the recently assassinated Nicolas II of Russia, had been deposed along with the remaining ruling princes on 9 November 1918.

In seeking to support Keyserling’s project, Ernst Ludwig drew on his prior project of aesthetic education. In 1899, his knowledge of the British Arts and Crafts movement of Ruskin and Macintosh had inspired him to found an artists’ colony in an area of Darmstadt called Mathildenhöhe, which persisted until the outbreak of the First World War. Its aim was to create a union between ‘art and life, artists and the people’, through a joint project of aesthetic reform through art nouveau. It eventually came to be organized in four exhibitions held between 1901 and 1914, which showcased German exponents of art nouveau. The innovative character of this colony was that it combined relatively new ideas of reform socialism, who envisaged art as a form of craft labour and introduced new concepts of living like ‘garden cities’ to the public imagination, with the older tradition of aristocratic patronage for artists. Ernst Ludwig’s project became influential in German circles of aesthetic resistance to the bombastic masculinity of Wilhelm II.

The focus of the School of Wisdom was from the start less patriotic and more universalist in spirit. This expressed not only Keyserling’s newly acquired knowledge of Oriental culture, but also Ernst Ludwig’s more recent interest in ecumenical thought, which he displayed in his book Easter. A Mystery (Leipzig: Kurt Wolff, 1917), published under the pseudonym K. Ludhart. As such, it became an internationally renowned centre for cultural critics, mystics, psychoanalysts and Orientalists. By 1921 Keyserling’s academy had some 600 permanent members and held three annual conferences. The rabbi and philosopher Leo Baeck, the philosopher Max Scheler, the psychoanalyst C.G. Jung, and the historian Ernst Troeltsch were among its participants. The academy functioned through membership lists and conferences, which took place regularly between 1920 and 1927, with one follow-up conference in 1930. Thereafter the academy turned into a virtual association through which members could obtain information about new books and borrow books from Keyserling’s vast library collection. One of his most intensive contacts was Karl Anton Rohan, the director of the Austrian branch of the Union Intellectuelle Française (Kulturbund) in Vienna. His association sought to promote peace in Europe through publications (for example, German–French co-editions) and other cultural activities. Keyserling’s early mentors included French philosopher Henri Bergson and the German philosopher (and later National Socialist ideologist) Houston Stewart Chamberlain (with whom Keyserling fell out even before the First World War). Thomas Mann’s diaries abound in entries confirming his appreciation of Keyserling’s works.50

Keyserling and his wife devoted the greatest part of their time to the management of his public appearance. Keyserling remained prolific throughout this period, publishing fourteen books between 1906 and 1945, though a number of his works are without doubt repetitive. In his thought he was strongly influenced by C.G. Jung’s and other psychoanalytic theories. Together with a psychoanalyst, Erwin Rousselle, Keyserling organized meditation sessions and even experimented with occult phenomena (only so as to question them, as he argued in a book). Among such experiments he invited a miracle healer from northern Germany to test his abilities in a Darmstadt hospital.

Keyserling’s school can be located within a larger circle of private educational reform associations positioned between cultural sceptics, neo-religious and reform movements of the post-First World War period, such as the Eranos group, or the anthroposophical school around Rudolf Steiner.51 Its closest analogue in many ways was the Theosophical Society, founded by the ‘clairvoyant’ Helena Blavatsky and Henry Steel Olcott in New York. Like Keyserling, Helena von Hahn, or Madame Blavatsky, as she came to be known, came from Baltic German nobility as well as an old Russian lineage, the Dolgorukii family.52 Unusually for women of her standing, she escaped the family ties of both her own and her husband’s family and embarked on a life of global travel, which took her from Constantinople to America, as well as travels in the Middle East, the Mediterranean, Nepal and India. She used her gifts of eloquence and invention to become a spiritual leader to Western enthusiasts in the East. When in the United States, she encountered the former Civil War military officer Olcott, who had actually undertaken to expose new occultist leanings in America. Born in New Jersey, he was a Presbyterian farmer and expert in agriculture who had once been invited to take the chair of scientific agriculture in Athens but instead became a journalist before joining the Civil War with the Union army. It was as a journalist reporting on the occult that he became persuaded by Blavatsky’s skills as a seer, and eventually the two formed a movement called the Theosophical Society, founded in 1875 in Adyar, Madras (now Chennai), India. Between 1886 and 1908, the society quickly spread, opening chapters in America, New Zealand, Australia, and several European countries, including England, France, and Russia. By 1896, its declared goals were a ‘universal brotherhood without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or colour’, a comparative approach to religion, philosophy, and science, and the belief in ‘powers latent in men’ that could be recovered.53 Among the most prominent European members of the society was Rudolf Steiner, who, having opened the German chapter, eventually split off from the society and became the founder of his own, the Anthroposophical Society. In Britain, a number of Fabian socialists and other prominent intellectuals were members of the society. In the United States, Unitarian architect Frank Lloyd Wright was close to the society along with his wife, the dancer Olgivanna (Olga Ivanovna Hinzenburg, of Montenegrin nobility). Throughout its years in existence, the society recruited more members who were considered gurus, such as Jiddu Krishnamurti, who was educated to become a guru from an early age, but eventually also split away from the society. Other figures of similar status, such as the gurus Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, had respect for the theosophists but never joined them.

The similarities between Keyserling’s project and that of the theosophists transpire at multiple levels. Keyserling was a great supporter of Besant, whom he met during his world tour in India in 1914, and many of his guests were theosophists. Intellectually, the influence of the theosophists was visible in his attempts to lead joint meditation sessions and to seek the participation of representatives of all world faiths. Practically, just as in theosophy, the figure of Keyserling himself as a leader whose ‘conversion narrative’ becomes a leading paradigm for attracting followers, was important for the school. Finally, just as the theosophists, the school sought to have an influence on modern society at a metapolitical level, with a particular interest in a comparative view of cultural peculiarities in different states. Annie Besant had been an active supporter of Gandhi’s Home Rule and Indian independence. In Russia, prominent theosophists included Russian poets and thinkers who fled the revolution or were hostile towards it, defending idiosyncratic conceptions of Slavic and Orthodox identity, people such as the poet Andrei Belyi, Aleksandr Blok, the philosophers Vladimir Soloviev and Nikolai Berdyaev, and the composer Alexander Skriabin. In Britain, many Fabians, as well as novelists such as Aldous Huxley and Christopher Isherwood, the poets W.B. Yeats, W.H. Auden, were members. In the United States, the inventor of the lightbulb, Thomas Edison, was among its members. A prominent Dutch member was the artist Piet Mondrian.

All these individuals subscribed to the theosophists’ manifesto of seeking to recover the ‘powers latent in man’ under the belief in the fundamental equality of people of all creeds and races. Although not a majority of theosophists and related mystics were of aristocratic background, aristocrats were important in many cases as hosts of conferences and facilitators of encounters between different theosophists. For example, neither Rudolf Steiner nor Gourdjieff were of aristocratic background. Yet association with aristocrats was an important vehicle to gain wide social support.54 Thus a Dutch nobleman had lent his castle to Krishnamurti, Castle Eerde, which belonged to Baron Philip van Pallandt, in 1921.

In founding a separate school that was inspired by, yet not incorporated into, the Theosophical Society proper, Keyserling pursued several goals. First, he wanted to use the conferences to assess the present situation of European politics specifically, rather than universal human culture. Secondly, he wanted to ‘create a new, higher culture from our current internal collapse’. Looking explicitly beyond the differences between ‘races, parties and faiths’, the aim was to instil in his students an ‘atmosphere of high culture’.55 Politically, he wanted to emphasise the importance of aristocratic and intellectual leadership in overcoming this process of decline; and to learn from other cultures in preparing for a future transformation in the hand of aristocratic sages. In this sense, the School constituted, as Suzanne Marchand put it, a ‘breathtaking’ break from its humanist foundations, which rested on the superiority of Western civilization’s Greek roots.56 It was not just a break from humanism, but above all a radically different project from that of bourgeois intellectuals. After the over-democratised state it was in now, Keyserling concluded, the future belonged to a ‘supranational European idea’, which would overcome the extreme democracy of America and Russian Bolshevism.57

The place of Germanic culture in the genealogy of European memory

After the Second World War, the idea of two opposing German traditions of Europe, one, a benign federation of principalities, another, a malignant national empire-state, remained an influential paradigm of international thought in the twentieth century. But it was the work of individual celebrity aristocrats like Keyserling that had kept it particularly alive in the minds of the European elite in the 1930s.58 Only a reformed aristocracy could offer such a structure.59 Keyserling argued that Europe, which was currently in a period of historical decline and overtaken by many rival civilizations, would again reach a historic high in the future. Germany and Austria, fused in an ideal ‘chord of Vienna-Potsdam-Weimar’, would play the greatest role in bringing about this new constellation – not as a pan-German state, however, but as the heart of a new Holy Roman Empire. He demanded a leading role for Germany in a future European state, because the ‘representatives of German culture’ have displayed the least attachment to the ‘idea of a nation-state’. Instead, they were more at home with the notions of a ‘tribe or a party’ than that of ‘peoplehood’, just as in the times of Arminius as Tacitus has described it.60 The future, Keyserling argued in later works, would bring about a ‘Pan-European, if not a universal Western solidarity the like of which has not existed since the Middle Ages’. As he put it in a manuscript version of a public lecture to be given at the Salle Pleyel in 1937, which Nazi authorities prevented him from attending, the role of the intellectuals was to ‘anticipate the best possible future on the basis of fulfilled Destiny’.61

As he put it in 1937, for ‘the foundation of the new aristocracy of his dreams, Nietzsche hoped for a preceding era of socialist convulsions; and at this very moment we are passing through it’. In this double sense of an emotional superiority and an overcoming of bourgeois narrowmindedness, Keyserling published an article advocating socialism as a necessary ‘basis’, perhaps also a necessary evil, for the transition to a future aristocratic politics.62 In this respect, Keyserling appropriated the prominent discourse on a ‘new nobility’, which was common to the elite circles of German and Austrian sociability in the interwar years, albeit by infusing it with theoretical reflections on his own life.63 Despite Keyserling’s emphasis on renewal, however, his School was also an enactment of the old, pre-revolutionary order in which the Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig appeared in his function as a patron of art and culture.

A central part of Keyserling’s project was his cultivation of a vast and international social network through which his project of aristocratic renewal was propagated and developed. On his international lecture tours, he was celebrated as an ‘ex-hidalgo’ who turned his expropriation into a new form of spirituality. Keyserling’s Spanish audiences placed him at the same time on the same plane as Don Quixote and as a specifically Germanic import product. ‘Antiguo hidalgo de Estonia, hoy es el conde de Keyserling un errabundo descubridor de reinos espirituales’, read one of the articles covering Keyserling’s visit to Spain in 1929 [Fig. 19].64 For his English and French readers, by contrast, Keyserling becomes more a symbol of restlessness and a wandering elitism.65

Figure 19 Juan G. Olmedilla, ‘Antiguo hidalgo de Estonia, hoy es el conde de Keyserling un errabundo descubridor de reinos espirituales …’, in: Cronica, 11 May 1930, 2

Following his trip to South America in 1929, he published his South American Meditations, which Carl Gustav Jung praised as ‘a new and contemporary style of “sentimental journey”’, and in another instance he characterized Keyserling as ‘the mouthpiece of the Zeitgeist’.66 Not least due to the personal connections to the influential literary editor Victoria Ocampo, Keyserling’s work found wide, albeit critical, reception among Spanish-speaking, particularly among Argentinian, readers such as Eduardo Mallea and Jorge Luis Borges.67

His School of Wisdom, which persisted until 1937, was partially financed through its summer conferences and membership lists, which were managed through subscriptions to two journals associated with the School: Der Leuchter, and Der Weg zur Vollendung. Informal networks were to provide an alternative to official collaborations, since Keyserling was willing to ‘collaborate with all parties’ who wanted to come to his ‘centre of influence’. The purpose was to ‘form a new human type, who is the bearer of the future’.68 Keyserling argued that his School was designed to become a ‘movement’ whose ‘economic substructure is the Society of Free Philosophy’. 69 It ‘addresses itself not to philosophers only, but rather to men of actions, and is resorted to by such’.70 As one reviewer commented,

The community of Keyserling’s pupils is being united by his publications. […] From the impulse of Count Keyserling’s personality – this is the firm goal of the Society for Free Philosophy – there will arise a circle of men and women in all of Germany which will smoothen the path towards the eternal goods of life for our people.71

The political goals of Keyserling’s School were threefold: to assess the present situation of European politics as a decline into anarchy and mass culture, a period of radical and socialist ideas which had to be accepted; to emphasise the importance of aristocratic and intellectual leadership in overcoming this process of decline; and to learn from other cultures in preparing for a future transformation in the hand of aristocratic sages. In this sense, the School constituted a sharp break from its humanist foundations, which rested on the superiority of Western civilization’s Greek roots. It was not just a break from humanism, but above all a radically different project from that of bourgeois intellectuals. After the over-democratized state it was in now, Keyserling concluded, the future belonged to a ‘supranational European idea’, which would overcome the extreme democracy of America and Russian Bolshevism.72 His Baltic correspondence partner, the historian Otto von Taube, agreed that the princely attitude of being rooted to a region and simultaneously standing ‘above nations’, could serve as a model for the future of European regeneration.73

As Rom Landau recalled Tagore’s visit in 1921, hosted by the former Grand Duke of Hesse Ernst Ludwig:

After tea we went into the neighbouring fields, and grouped ourselves on the slope of a hill, on the top of which stood Keyserling and Tagore. […] The Indian poet was wearing long silk robes, and the wind played with his white hair and his long beard. He began to recite some of his poems in English. Though the majority of the listeners hardly understood more than a few words – it was only a few years after the war, and the knowledge of English was still very limited – the flush on their cheeks showed that the presence of the poet from the East represented to them the climax of the whole week. There was music in Tagore’s voice, and it was a pleasure to listen to the Eastern melody in the words. The hill and the fields, the poet, the Grand Duke and the many royal and imperial princes, Keyserling and all the philosophers and philistines were bathed in the glow of the evening sun.74

Keyserling’s own intentions to learn from Tagore for European renewal had hit a nerve among his post-war audiences.75 Among the most important influences on his work was the Academy at Santiniketan (today known as Visva-Bharati University), founded in 1921 by the Bengali writer and poet Rabindranath Tagore on the location of his father’s ashram. Keyserling had first met Tagore, twelve years his senior, during the Indian part of his world tour, in 1912, when he stayed at Tagore’s house in Calcutta, then again in London in 1913, and soon after the foundation of the Darmstadt School, in 1921, he invited Tagore on a lecture tour of Germany. Both men had taken similar roles upon themselves, even though Tagore’s fame surpassed that of Keyserling by far after Tagore won the Nobel Prize in 1913. Both were of noble origin but also critical of the ossification of nobility; both were in some sense nationalists but at the same time considered their mission to be reaching humanity at large, and therefore travelled the world to give public lectures and, not least, receive financial backing for their educational institutions; both also took some inspiration from another Count, Leo Tolstoy, whose revolutionary peasant communities in Russia also inspired movements in South Africa. Moreover, like Keyserling, Tagore had been impressed by Victoria Ocampo’s cosmopolitan cultural patronage in Argentina, where he too stayed as an honorary guest.76

Inspired by Tagore, Keyserling positioned himself as bridging East and West. His intention was to turn the position of Europe between the two into an advantage, and criticise the old aristocratic system without rejecting it entirely.77 Even though he shared some premises with other elitist educational programmes of the period, Keyserling’s Orientalist School differed markedly from the neo-classical background of other contemporaries. For instance, the classicist Werner Jaeger decried in 1925 that while ‘in Beijing Rabindranath Tagore proclaims the reawakening of Asia’s soul to the gathered crowd of yellow-skinned students, we, tired from the World War and the crisis of culture, are staring at the fashionable theory of the Decline of the West’.78 Keyserling’s School proposed an entirely different use of the comparative shift in cultural criticism by bringing Tagore to a gathering of the Darmstadt crowds and selected participants of his School at the princely palace.

Keyserling was particularly interested in proving that different cultures have always been associated with aristocracies. In his book reviews of ‘oriental’ cultural critics, therefore, he reserved critical positions, such as the views of Tagore himself, to footnotes, in which he commented on Tagore’s remark that Indian culture had been shaped by the Kshattryas, not the Brahmins, merely as ‘interesting’.79 With regard to the more radical movement of Mahatma Gandhi, he expressly described him as a ‘reactionary’, because in ‘sympathising with the false progressivism of modernization he denied Indian culture’.80

Another interest of Keyserling’s in comparing his contemporary ‘post-war’ Europe with other cultures, was his desire to relativize the impression cultivated by many Germans that Germany had been mistreated the most by the post-war political settlements. Other countries, Keyserling argued, had suffered an even more catastrophic decline, drawing attention to Turkey. Nonetheless, as he put it, it was due to this imperial decline that countries like Turkey or Germany would be able to recreate a new European order, as the Turkish intellectual Halidé Edib wrote in a book which she sent to Keyserling with a dedication.81

As one of Keyserling’s followers, Prince Karl Anton Rohan wrote in his book Europe, first published in 1923, the old ‘nobility’ now had the task ‘to transform the old values in a conservative way, according to its tradition, using the new impulses of the revolution’. Unlike the class struggle that motivates the Bolshevik conception of the revolution, he thought, the goal of this one was the creation of a ‘unified Europe’ instead of an ‘ideological brotherhood of mankind’.82 Count Keyserling, in his correspondence with Rohan, engaged in theorizing the new status of the nobility further. He described to him that he was also, ‘under conditions of utmost secrecy’, working on a ‘vision for all the peoples of Europe’.83

Keyserling also promoted his School by lecturing abroad. Such lectures were paid and frequently guaranteed him his income, and they were organized by professional concert agencies.84 He corresponded with scholars interested in his work and actively invited them to visit his School. Among those who paid attention to the project was the Flemish socialist and in later years Nazi collaborationist Hendrik de Man, who taught at Frankfurt University in the early 1920s, and became interested in Keyserling’s project. He classified him as one of ‘Germany’s New Prophets’, a generation inspired by Nietzsche’s role as a philosopher lecturing to his contemporaries while also addressing a future humanity.85 These three thinkers identified by de Man – Keyserling, Oswald Spengler, and the philosopher of fiction, Hans Vaihinger, – had also received the Nietzsche Prize of the Weimar Nietzsche Society in 1919. De Man was surprised that ‘K. the aristocrat’ was ‘a democrat’, while ‘Sp. the plebeian Oberlehrer – a monarchist’ and a ‘worshipper of aristocracy’ – this to him was a ‘a vindication of the psycho-analytic theory of “compensations”!’86 For de Man’s own elitist vision of socialism, Keyserling’s work was of central importance.

Keyserling’s influence on like-minded younger intellectuals such as Prince Karl Anton Rohan had not only intellectual, but also institutional significance. Rohan founded two institutions in the spirit of Keyserling’s School: the literary and political journal Europäische Revue, and the Kulturbund, a Viennese branch of the Paris-based Institut international de cooperation intellectuelle. While the Revue eventually succumbed to Nazi propaganda efforts and eventually ceased publication during the War, the Institut became the institutional progenitor of UNESCO after the Second World War. Keyserling encouraged Rohan ‘under conditions of utmost secrecy’ to work with him on a ‘vision for all the peoples of Europe’.87 Specifically, he sought to encourage Rohan to use his private circle of ‘friends’ for studying the ‘problem of nobility’ under his ‘guidance’, which was supposed to contribute a chapter on ‘Germany’s Task in the World’ to a forthcoming publication on Germany and France to be edited by the Prince.88 In the proposal for an edited book on Germany and France, Rohan lined up not only well-known historians and legal theorists like the German nationalist historian Hermann Oncken and the constitutional theorist Carl Schmitt, but also now forgotten German and French authors who fall into the suggested category of aristocratic writers. They included names such as Wladimir d’Ormesson, Alfred Fabre-Luce, Henry de Montherlant, or Knight Heinrich von Srbik. Keyserling, in turn, also used Rohan’s network of relatives and acquaintances among the German-speaking Habsburg nobles in Bohemia to promote his own work. In this connection, he approached Rohan’s elder brother Prince Alain as well as members of the oldest Austro-Bohemian noble families like ‘Count Erwein Nostitz’, ‘Count Karl Waldstein’, ‘Count Feri Kinsky, Countess Ida Schwarzenberg, Count Coudenhove’, ‘Senator Count Eugen Ledebur’, and other, exclusively noble, families that he wanted to win over as ‘donors’ for his own project of a ‘School of Wisdom’ for the creation of future European leaders.89

I was not born in Germany but in Russian Estonia. Only in 1918, when Bolshevism robbed me of all I had inherited [alles Ererbte], I moved to Germany and found a refuge here, a new circle of influence and a new home; … Since 1918 I have therefore considered it my duty of honour and obvious duty and burden to serve Germany’s prestige wherever I could. […] I hope to be able to contribute to Germany especially today thanks to my special constitution.90

The aristocrat as an anti-fascist

During a conference on the future of Europe, which the Union for Intellectual Cooperation had convened in Europe, Keyserling arrived as Germany’s representative.91 Aldous Huxley, Paul Valéry, and numerous other famous European public intellectuals were also present. Thomas Mann, who was soon to leave Germany for his first place of exile (and one that attracted most of Germany’s best known writers and intellectuals) in Sanary-sur-mer, had cancelled his participation at short notice. Before travelling to Paris, Keyserling, by contrast, sent a letter to the propaganda ministry, addressed to Goebbels personally, asking for permission to travel. He secured it by promising to report on the meetings. In a letter dated 20 September 1933 and addressed to the ‘Reichsminister für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda’, Keyserling, on the one hand, emphasised that he participated at the congress ‘only as a personality, not as a representative of Germany’ [nur als Persönlichkeit, nicht als Vertreter Deutschlands]; on the other hand, he used the opportunity to assert his essentially positive attitude to National Socialism as a movement, which he dated back to the year 1918, when he belonged ‘to the first who had predicted and promoted a new art of socialism as a future form of life for Germany’, drawing his attention to his publication on ‘Socialism as a universal foundation of life’ of 26 November 1918.92

Keyserling held that ‘politics is never the primary cause, but only the execution of popular will’, regardless of whether formally the government is a ‘democracy or a tyranny’. 93 Locating Europe between two ‘collective primitivisms’, the Russian and the American, and ‘fanatic’ movements – Bolshevism, Marxism, and Hitlerism – Keyserling sketched the possible future of European identity as an essentially intellectual one. It all depends on a superior type of human being, a European who is beyond the above movements, who has not yet been born, in short, ‘un type d’Européen supérieur’. The old elites, to which Keyserling counted himself, would have to recognize their lack of worth due to the lack of applicability of their ideas. The men of the future would incorporate both ancient and modern culture and will be able to aspire for a common life disregarding the differences.

In this context, Keyserling’s own position gestured towards a voluntary identification with the Jews, a posture with which he provoked his social circle. Voluntarily identifying with the Jews, or having his books translated by writers in Yiddish, as Keyserling did, was a form of ‘going native’ under conditions of elite precarity. In a strange way, this tendency to compare Jewish and aristocratic identity echoed the discourse on aristocracy and the Jews in Nazi propaganda. One caricature from a Nazi satirical magazine compared the Jew and the Baron in their status as enemies of the (Aryan) state [Fig. 20].

Figure 20 ‘Enemies of the state in each other’s company’, in: Die Brennessel, 5:36 (10 September 1935). BA R 43 II 1554–5, 61ff.

‘What do you say about our times, Levi,’ the nobleman asks the Jew. ‘Oh, don’t try to talk to me, Herr Baron. I don’t want to be compromised by your company.’ The image displays only one of many examples of efforts within parts of the National Socialist movement to oust nobles from the new Germany, and was sent to the Reich chancery as part of a series of complaints made by the German Nobles’ Union about affronts against the status of the nobility in Nazi newspapers.94

One of Keyserling’s relatives, another Baltic German, had become a ‘Siberian and Mongolian condottiere’.95 Roman Ungern-Sternberg (1886–1921) served as a self-proclaimed dictator of Mongolia during the Russian Civil War in 1921, which he entered as a member of the White Army but continued as an independent warlord. He wanted to restore not only the Khanate in Mongolia, but also the Russian monarchy, and came to fame as a ruthless anti-Semite and persecutor of communists.96 He was tried and executed by the Red Army, however. Keyserling emphasized some positive qualities of the ‘Mad Baron’. His biographers, Keyserling thought, presented him in a one-sided light. In fact, his relative was ‘no Baltic reactionary, but the precursor of new Mongolian greatness, which continues to live on in the songs and tales of the steppe.’97 Moreover, Roman, in his eyes, was characterized by an extraordinary ‘Delicadeza’ – the typical softness of brutal men, which he had discerned in South American culture as the kernel for a new renaissance.98

These different cultural comparisons Keyserling drew on were all united by a common theme – the need for aristocratic leadership for political renewal which, Keyserling hoped, also awaited Europe. But there was one further, intellectual component to this new aristocracy, which Keyserling himself wanted to cultivate with his School.

In his role as a global thinker, Keyserling joined the anti-fascist intelligentsia which gathered in Paris in the mid-1930s and comprised mostly liberal writers and public figures. In his lecture on ‘La Révolte des forces telluriques et la responsabilité de l’Esprit’, delivered on 16 October 1933, Keyserling positioned himself as a fatalist.99 These intellectuals have to show understanding for these telluric forces and they can ‘preempt the event, anticipate the best possible future on the basis of a fulfilled Destiny’.100 All the historical phenomena, which Keyserling classified as essentially telluric – Bolshevism, National Socialism, and Fascism – ‘have to be accepted, for no reasoning will change them’.101

Only two years later, Keyserling would warn Kessler in a personal conversation that he should never return to Germany for ‘anti-Semitism and the [National Socialist] movement are getting more virulent every day’ and that with support from the ‘majority of the population’.102 By 1939, Keyserling was in internal exile in Germany and would only be allowed to leave Germany during the allied bomb raids thanks to the interference of his publisher Peter Diederichs.

Orientalism and cosmopolitanism

Aristocratic modernists like Veltheim and Keyserling played a key role as go-betweens between Europeans and non-Europeans. In this, they formed part of a longer tradition of German Orientalism as it had formed in the period leading up to the First World War.103 The twentieth-century lives of some of these Germanic Orientalists suggest a further nuance to the history of international culture between the decline of Europe’s empires and the rise of National Socialism. It was their shared status as derecognized, formerly voluntarily, now involuntarily, rootless European subjects that allowed this generation of German aristocrat-intellectuals to assume an ambivalent role as forgers of a new, global elite. At the same time, the case of Keyserling also demonstrates how this ideal became increasingly compromised, as aristocratic character-builders like Keyserling came to various arrangements with the Nazi regime, or tried to associate themselves with the cultural internationalism of large interstate organizations such as the League of Nations. In this sense, the path from the princely courts into the twentieth century leads to such institutions as UNESCO, and to transnational spiritual elite communities such as the Theosophical Society.

1 NN, ‘German Princes and Nobility Rush Funds to Neutral Lands’, New York Times, 22 October 1918, 1., accessed 1 November 2008.

2 On mechanisms for ascribing identity, see Rogers Brubaker, Ethnicity Without Groups (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2004).

3 From the prefatory note to Ernst Kantorowicz, Kaiser Friedrich der Zweite (Berlin: Bondi, 1927), as analysed in Martin A. Ruehl, “‘In This Time Without Emperors”: The Politics of Ernst Kantorowicz’s Kaiser Friedrich der Zweite Reconsidered’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 63 (2000), 187242.

4 Klemperer, Revolutionstagebuch 1919.

5 ‘Zeitbilder’, Beilage zur Vossischen Zeitung, 17 November 1918, featuring crowds gathered on 10 November under the Bismarck memorial, with the Siegessäule in the background, and Die Voss, 45 (10 November 1923), front page.

6 Theobald Tiger, aka Kurt Tucholsky, ‘Bruch’, in Ulk, 13.12.1918, Nr. 50.

7 Christopher Clark, Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600–1947 (London: Penguin, 2006), 679.

8 In LHASA, Rep. H. Ostrau II, Nr. 188, cited in Karl Klaus Walther, Hans Hasso von Veltheim. eine Biographie (Halle: Mitteldeutscher Verlag, 2004), 75.

9 Ibid., 77–78.

10 Georg Simmel, ‘Zur Soziologie des Adels’. The philosophical system of which this is a part is Simmel’s theory of value, in Simmel, Philosophie des Geldes [Philosophy of Money] (Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot, 1900).

11 Eagle Glassheim, Noble Nationalists. The Transformation of the Bohemian Aristocracy (London and Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2005), 65.

12 V. Alton Moody, ‘Reform Before Post-War European Constituent Assemblies’, Agricultural History, 7 (1933), 8195; L.E. Textor, Land Reform in Czechoslovakiania (London: G. Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1923).

13 On these alignments in the interwar period, see Stephan Malinowski, Vom König zum Führer: Sozialer Niedergang und politische Radikalisierung im deutschen Adel zwischen Kaiserreich und NS-Staat (Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 2003); Dimitri Obolensky, Bread of Exile: A Russian Family, transl. Harry Willetts (London: Harvill Press, 1999); Peter H. Johnston, New Mecca, New Babylon: Paris and the Russian Exiles, 1920–1945 (Canada: McGill University Press, 1988); Mathias F. Müller, Der Orden vom Goldenen Vlies und das Haus Habsburg im Heiligen Römischen Reich: ein (kultur-)geschichtlicher Rückblick (Vienna: Gesellschaft für vergleichende Kunstforschung, 2009); Gordon Brook-Shepherd, Uncrowned Emperor: The Life and Times of Otto Von Habsburg (Hambledon: Continuum, 2003).

14 ‘129. Sitzung des Reichstags am 2. Dezember 1925’, cited in several passages in Carl Schmitt, Unabhängigkeit der Richter, Gleichheit vor dem Gesetz und Gewährleistung des Privateigentums nach der Weimarer Verfassung. Ein Rechtsgutachten zu den Gesetzentwürfen über die Vermögensauseinandersetzung mit den früher regverenden Fürstenhäusern (Berlin und Leipzig: de Gruyter, 1926), 1314.

15 For instance, the constitution of Bremen, § 17 Abs. 2, explicitly did not acknowledge noble privilege even before 1918., 5 October 2008.

16 See Karl Heinrich Kaufhold, ‘Fürstenabfindung oder Fürstenentschädigung? Der Kampf um das Hausvermögen der ehemals regierenden Fürstenhäuser im Jahre 1926 und die Innenüpolitik der Weimarer Republik’, in Deutscher Adel im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert, ed. Markus A. Denzel and Günther Schulz (St. Katharinen: Scriptae Mercaturae, 2004).

17 Bundesarchiv, Berlin, R 43 II/1554, 6ff.

18 Schmitt, Unabhängigkeit der Richter, 25–27.

20 On the abolition of titles in the Weimar Republic, see Bernhard Raschauer, Namensrecht. Eine systematische Darstellung des geltenden österreichischen und des geltenden deutschen Rechts (Vienna and New York: Springer 1978).

21 BA, ‘Adel’ 1925–38, R 43 II 1554–5, 38. K. Jannott to Reichskanzler von Papen, Gotha, 14 September 1932.

22 Manfred Knodt, Ernst Ludwig. Großherzog von Hessen und bei Rhein (Darmstadt: H.L. Schlapp, 1978; 3rd ed. 1997), 375376.

23 Knodt, Ernst Ludwig, 375–376.

24 Kaufhold, ‘Fürstenabfindung oder Fürstenentschädigung? Der Kampf um das Hausvermögen der ehemals regierenden Fürstenhäuser im Jahre 1926 und die Innenüpolitik der Weimarer Republik’, 283.

25 Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (Cleveland and New York: Meridian Books, 1951), 279280.

26 The Austrian eqivalent was called Adelsaufhebungsgesetz StGBl. Nr. 211, Vollzugsanweisung am 18 April 1919, StGBl. 237. The Austrian constitution of 1920 noted in Article 7: ‘Alle Bundesbürger sind vor dem Gesetz gleich. Vorrechte der Geburt, des Geschlechtes, des Standes, der Klasse und des Bekenntnisses sind ausgeschlossen.’

27 Hannes Stekl, Adel und Bürgertum in der Habsburgermonarchie, 18. bis 20. Jahrhundert (Vienna and Munich: Oldenbourg, 2004), 104.

28 Andrzej Flis, ‘Broniwslaw Malinowski’s Cracow Doctorate’, in Malinowski between Two Worlds. The Polish Roots of an Anthropological Tradition, ed. Ernest Gellner, Roy Ellen, Grazyna Kubica, and Janusz Mucha (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 195200.

29 Joseph Schumpeter, ‘Die sozialen Klassen im ethnisch homogenen Milieu’, in Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik, 57: 1 (1927), 168.

30 Cf. James Palmer, The Bloody White Baron (London: Faber & Faber, 2008).

31 On the idea of a group or community constituted by the memory of loss, see Maurice Halbwachs, Les Cadres Sociaux de la Mémoire (Paris: Alcan, 1925); see also Serguei Alex Oushakine, The Patriotism of Despair. Nation, War, and Loss in Russia (Ithaca, N.Y. and London: Cornell University Press, 2009).

32 On the material culture of the aristocracy, see Tim Blanning, The Culture of Power, esp. ch. 2, 53–77.

33 Cited in Walther, Veltheim, 36. Veltheim’s diary entry of 25 March 1908. Kein Haus, keine Heimat,/ Kein Weib und kein Kind/ So wirbl´ich, ein Strohhalm,/ In Wetter und Wind.// Well auf und Well nieder,/ Bald dort und bald hier,/Welt, fragst Du nach mir nicht,/ Was frag ich nach Dir?’ In Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Halle, Nachlass Veltheim [LHASA].

34 On esotericism and the Romanoffs, see Greg King and Penny Wilson, The Fate of the Romanoffs (Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley, 2003). On Tsaritsa Alexandra’s use of the swastika, see Vladimir Kozlov, Vladimir M. Khrustalëv, and Alexandra Raskina (eds.), The Last Diary of Tsaritsa Alexandra (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997), 15.

35 On Veltheim’s worldview as expressed in his library, see especially John Palatini, ‘Hans-Hasso von Veltheims Bibliothek – eine Annhäherung’, in Das Erbe der Veltheims. Schloss, Park und Kirche Ostrau, ed. John Palatini and Georg Rosentreter (Halle/Saale: Mitteldeutscher Verlag, 2014), 85110. See also Walther, Veltheim.

36 Oscar Wilde, The Sphinx, with decoratins by Charles Ricketts (London: E. Matthews and J. Lane, 1894). On the popularity of this poem in its time, see Nicholas Frankel, Oscar Wilde’s Decorated Books (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2000), 155177.

37 I am grateful to Georg Rosentreter for showing me the chapel itself, and to John Palatini for providing me with the intellectual context of Veltheim’s beliefs: John Palatini, ‘Weltanschauungsarchitektur in einer evangelischen Kirche – die Grab-Altar-Kapelle Hans-Hasso von Veltheims’, in Palatini and Rosentreter, Das Erbe der Veltheims. Schloss, Park und Kirche, 220–260. On Theosophy and the cremation movement in the United States and Victorian Britian, see Douglas J. Davies, ‘The Cremation Movement’, in Encyclopedia of Death and the Human Experience, ed. Clifton D. Bryant and Dennis L. Peck (London: Sage, 2009), 237240.

38 On German Orientalism in context, see Suzanne Marchand, German Orientalism in the Age of Empire: Religion, Race, and Schlarship (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 9697.

39 LHASA Rep H Ostrau II, Nr. 1171.

40 Mark Mazower, Hitler’s Empire. Nazi Rule in Occupied Europe (London: Allen Lane, 2008); Marion Gräfin Dönhoff, Namen die keiner mehr kennt (Düsseldorf and Cologne: Eugen Diederichs, 1962, 1980), 3537; Tatjana Dönhoff and J. Roettger, Auf der Fluchtroute von Marion Gräfin Dönhoff (Berlin: Nicolai-Verlag, 2004), 186200.

41 Karl Anton Rohan, Heimat Europa (Düsseldorf: Diederichs, 1954), 56.

42 Rohan claims to have been imprisoned in six different military camps during 1945–6. Ibid., 314–316.

43 Alfons Clary-Aldringen, Geschichten eines alten Österreichers (Berlin: Ullstein, 1977).

44 Karl Anton Prinz Rohan, Moskau (Karlsruhe: Braun, 1927).

45 Hans-Hasso von Veltheim-Ostrau, Tagebücher aus Asien, vol. 1 (Hamburg: Claassen, 1956), 309310.

46 Veltheim, typescript (1936), LHASA.

47 Veltheim, Tagebücher, vol. 1, 310.

48 Robert Müller, Bolschewik und Gentleman (Berlin: Reiss, 1920).

49 Hermann Keyserling to Harry Kessler, 9 July 1919, A: Kessler, DLA Marbach.

50 Entry of 18 May 1919: ‘Nachher lag ich eine Weile im Garten im Liegestuhl und las eine Schrift des Grafen H. Keyserling: “Deutschlands wahre politische Mission”, deren Vortrefflichkeit mir Mut mach, mich auf sein Hauptwerk, das Reise-Tagebuch einzulassen.’ In: Thomas Mann, Tagebücher, ed. Peter de Mendelssohn (Frankfurt: S. Fischer, 1977), 240. Mann, Tagebücher, entry of 21 March 1919.

51 For this comparison, see Barbara von Reibnitz, ‘Der Eranos-Kreis. Religionswissenschaft und Weltanschauung oder der Gelehrte als Laien-Prieser’, in Kreise – Gruppen – Bünde. Zur Soziologie moderner Intellektuellenassoziation, ed. Richard Faber and Christine Holste (Würzburg: Königshausen und Neumann, 2000), 427428.

52 Peter Washington, Madame Blavatsky’s Baboon. Theosophy and the Emergence of the Western Guru (London: Secker & Warburg, 1993).

53 Washington, Madame Blavatsky´s Baboon, 69.

54 Cf. John Paul, ‘Attending the First Organic Agriculture Course: Rudolf Steiner’s Agriculture Course at Koberwitz, 1924’, in European Journal of Social Sciences, 21:1 (2011), 64.

55 Keyserling, ‘Die Schule der Weisheit’, in Der Weg zur Vollendung (1920), 1.

56 Suzanne Marchand, ‘German Orientalism and the Decline of the West’, in Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 145 (2001), 465473, 472.

57 Graf Hermann Keyserling, Das Spektrum Europas (Heidelberg: Niels Kampmann, 1928), 194.

58 Keyserling, Spektrum, 454.

59 HKN, in Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (1 January 1925). Keyserling, ‘Eine Vision der kommenden Weltordnung’, 5 January 1925, 5.

60 Keyserling, Spektrum, 190.

61 HKN Nr. 0093, 061.25, 10. [‘Ils peuvent devancer les événement, anticiper l´avenir meilleur possible sur la base du Destin accompli. S´ils font cela, leur rôle aura été plus important que celui d´aucune élite du passé.’]

62 Hermann Keyserling, ‘Der Sozialismus als allgemeine Lebensbasis’ (1918), Neue Europäische Zeitung für Staat, Kultur, Wirtschaft (26 November 1918).

63 Alexandra Gerstner, Neuer Adel: aristokratische Elitekonzeptionen zwischen Jahrhundertwende und Nationalsozialismus (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2008).

64 Juan G. Olmedilla, ‘Antiguo hidalgo de Estonia, hoy es el conde de Keyserling un errabundo descubridor de reinos espirituales …’, in: Cronica, 11 May 1930, 2.

65 J. de Saint-Charmant, ‘Réponse à Keyserling’, in Revue Hebdomadaire, 35:43 (2 September 1933), 349360.

66 Aniela Jaffé (ed.), C.G. Jung. Letters, 2 vols., vol. 1 (London: Routledge & Kegan, 1973), 84. Jung to Keyserling on 13 August 1931. For the ‘mouthpiece of the Zeitgeist’, see C.G. Jung, Book review of Keyserling´s La revolution mondiale et la responsabilité de l´Esprit (Paris: Stock, 1934), first appeared as « Ein neues Buch von Keyserling », Basler Nachrichten, Sonntagsblatt, xxviii:19 (13 May 1934), 7879. Reprinted in C.G. Jung, Civilization in Transition, 2nd ed. (London and Henley: Routledge & Kegan Paul and Princeton University Press, 1970, reprinted in 1981), 496501, 501.

67 Kaminsky, Argentina, esp. ch. 5: ‘Victoria Ocampo and the Keyserling Effect’, 70–99.

68 Keyserling, ‘Eine Ansprache an die radikale Jugend’, in Der Weg zur Vollendung (1921), 2.

69 HKN, Nr. 0604, folder 15 of 54, 218.15, 2.

70 HKN, Nr. 0604, folder 1 of 54, 218.01, 8.

71 Otto Schabbel, ‘Die Schule der Weisheit’, Hamburger Nachrichten, 1 December 1920, in 0604, Konvolut Presse zur Schule der Weisheit, folder 27, 220.03, HKN.

72 Keyserling, Spektrum, 194.

73 On marriage between the Balts and non-German princes, see also O. von Taube, ‘Russische und litauische Fürsten an der Düna zur Zeit der deutschen Eroberung Livlands’ (12. und 13. Jahrhundert), in Jahrbücher für Kultur und Geschichte der Slawen (1935), 34.

74 Rom Landau, God Is My Adventure. A Book on Modern Mystics, Masters and Teachers (London: Faber and Faber, 1935), 3637.

75 H. Keyserling, Politik, Wirtschaft, Weisheit (Darmstadt: O. Reichl, 1922). Review of Hu-ming Ku, Vox clamantis (Leipzig: Neuer Geist Verlag, 1921), 24, in Der Weg zur Vollendung (1921), 2.

76 However, Tagore was far more critical of the Indian caste system than Keyserling was of the European aristocracy.

77 Landau, God, 25.

78 W. Jaeger, Humanistische Reden (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1937), 104.

79 Review of Tagore’s ‘Vision of Indian History’, in The Visva-Bharati Quarterly (Calcutta, 210 Cornwallis Street), review in Der Weg zur Vollendung (1923), 6.

80 Keyserling, Book review section of Der Weg zur Vollendung (1921), 2.

81 Keyserling’s review of Halidé Edib, Turkey Faces West (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1930 and London: Humphrey Milford & Oxford University Press, 1930), in Der Weg zur Vollendung (1931), 19.

82 Karl Anton Rohan, Europa. Streiflichter (Leipzig: Der Neue Geist Verlag, 1923). Discussed in Müller, ‘“Europa” als Konzept adlig-bürgerlicher Elitendiskurse’, 251.

83 Keyserling to Karl Anton Rohan, 14 July 1927, in Darmstadt, Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek, Handschriften- und Musikabteilung, Hermann-Keyserling-Nachlass (HKN), Correspondence, R-3 172.01.

84 HKN, V-4, 205.08, Vorträge Europa – 1930, Konzertagentur Paul Neff, Inh. Walter Guttmann, Guttmann to Keyserling, 27 June 1930. See also Memoranda re Count Hermann Keyserling’s visit to Harvard, Hoover Institution Archives (HA), John Davis Lodge Papers, Box 2, Folder 2–3. For Keyserling’s lecture notes abroad, see HKN, V-4, Keyserling, Lecture in Rome (1925), 07.612; lecture in Vienna (1927), 076.14; lecture in Madrid (1930), 076.09; lecture in Spain (1934, 1935), various locations, 076.13; lecture in Paris (1931, Salle du Trocadéro). 076.10, and 1933, Salle Pleyel, 076.11.

85 Henry de Man, ‘Germany’s New Prophets’, in Yale Review, 13:4 (July 1924), 665683.

86 IISG Amsterdam, Hendrik de Man papers, II.88 (Spengler) and 89 (Keyserling).

87 HKN, Correspondence, R-3 172.01, Keyserling to Karl Anton Rohan, 14 July 1927.

88 HKN, Correspondence, R-3 172.01, Rohan to Keyserling, 16 August 1927.

89 HKN, Correspondence, R-3 172.01, Keyserling to Rohan, 1 March 1923.

90 HKN, Nazis 1933ff, Keyserling an Adolf Hitler, 10 April 1933.

91 Harry Kessler, TB, Wednesday, 24 May 1933.

92 HKN Nazis 1933ff., Keyserling an Reichsminister für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda, 20 September 1933.

93 HKN, Nr. 0412 Vorträge Paris Salle Pleyel 1933.

94 BA R 43 II 1554–5, 61ff.

95 Hermann Keyserling, Creative Understanding (New York and London: Harper and Brothers, 1929), 276.

96 On the interwar reception of the ‘bloody baron’, see Ferdynand Ossendowksi, Beasts, Men, and Gods (New York: Dutton, 1922); Vladimir Pozner, Bloody Baron: The Story of Ungern-Sternberg (New York: Randomhouse, 1938), previously as Le mort aux dents (Paris: Les éditions Noël, 1937). Most recently in Palmer, The Bloody White Baron.

97 Keyserling, book review of Frans August Larson, Die Mongolei und mein Leben unter den Mongolen (Berlin: Gustav Kiepenheuer Verlag, 1936), in Der Weg zur Vollendung (1937), 26.

98 Hermann Graf Keyserling, Reise durch die Zeit, vol. 2 (Vaduz: Liechtenstein-Verlag, 1948).

99 HKN, 0312, 070.13, ‘Discours du Comte de Keyserling à la Séance d´Inauguration des Entretiens sur l’Avenir de l’Esprit Européen’. Paris 16 October 1933, 6–7.

100 Ibid., 10.

101 Kessler TB, 19 October 1933.

102 DLA Marbach, A: Kessler, Keyserling to Kessler, 4 May 1935.

103 Marchand, German Orientalism in the Age of Empire.

Chapter 5 Crusaders of civility The legal internationalism of the Baltic Barons

[T]hose Masters or Lords, principally to the end they might, when they were Covered with Arms, be known by their followers; and partly for ornament, both painted their Armor, or their Scutchion, or Coat, with the picture of some Beast, or other thing […] And this ornament both of their Armes, and Crest, descended by inheritance to their Children.

Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, ch. X

Around us nothing but ruins, and above our head there reigns uncompromising fate.1

Mikhail Taube, citing freely from Sophocles’s Antigone in Baron M. de Taube, La politique russe d’avant guerre et la fin de l’ emipire des Tsars (Paris, 1928)

Sitting in his Paris apartment in December 1941, Mikhail Aleksandrovich Taube, or Baron M. de Taube, as he was known in France, was growing impatient. A Berlin-based history journal, specializing in eastern Europe, had promised him a transit permit to Königsberg, but there was still no word from them. This was an archival trip of utmost importance, as he expected that his research would give him conclusive evidence that Catherine the Great of Russia was in fact the illegitimate daughter of Frederick II of Prussia. He had located a talisman ring that explained the ‘Russian-Prussian alliance after the Seven-Years’-War’ with this circumstance of the two powers having been related more closely than previously assumed. Taube did not understand why it took the Zeitschrift für Osteuropa so long, despite good connections in the highest offices of the Nazi administration. From his point of view, the situation was as ‘bright as the day’: He was a ‘scholar of German race from the Tsarist period who is honorary professor at Münster-Westphalia, who with his 72 years still wants to conduct research in German libraries and archives!’2

In late 1941, travels to East Prussia on private business had become difficult, if not impossible, for more than merely legal reasons. In June, Germany had breached the treaty with the Soviet Union, which Molotov and Ribbentrop had signed in 1939, and opened the eastern front of the German war effort for a second time in the twentieth century. What made things more complicated for his case was that Taube, who was born in 1869 in the imperial Russian residential city of Pavlovsk, had been stateless since the October Revolution. As a holder of a Nansen passport, his intended transit called for negotiations between the Foreign Office in Berlin, the German Consulate in Paris and the Police Prefecture of a city under German occupation.

Taube’s confusion was not just a bureaucratic problem of identification to external authorities. His understanding of his very self, his place in the world and his role in the past, had become uncertain. As a perpetual expatriate, Taube was one of thousands of refugees from eastern and central Europe who had come to France in the hopes of finding security. In Taube’s case, the threat came more from the Soviet than from Nazi terror. In fact, his connections to Germany remained largely intact during Germany’s occupation of France. But many other refugees, including people from his social circle, fled from the Nazi regime and had been active in French anti-fascist circles, at least before 1940. In the 1920s, Paris and Berlin rivalled each other as capitals of Europe’s emigration, particularly from eastern Europe. By the 1930s, Paris had taken a clear lead, with streams of refugees now also coming from Europe’s fascist south and centre. It was here that a number of critically minded refugees gathered for such grandiose occasions as the Anti-fascist Writers’ Congresses of 1933 and 1935.3 But paradoxically, here also, Europe’s most destructive regimes, the Nazi and Soviet empires, were granted legitimacy on such occasions as the Universal Exposition of 1937.

Within this mixed demographic of refugees, Taube’s case sheds light on a now forgotten elite community of imperial internationalists from the Baltic lands. By contrast to the role that French and Belgian scholars of the Belle Epoque played in European internationalism of the interwar period, the role of scholars from the German and Russian empires has moved out of focus.4

Much of this forgetting had to do with a similar kind of confusion regarding the group biography of Baltic German and other exiled elites of the Russian Empire, whose mentality has been usually reduced to the role of nostalgic or reactionary ‘white émigrés’. As the case of Taube will show, the dividing line between monarchism and liberalism, however, as well as between patriotism and imperialism, was never reducible to a schematic contrast between progress and reaction, or indeed, a geographical boundary between Russia, Germany, and France. Their transnational networks connected them to contemporaries in multiple European empires, and these networks vanished neither with the October Revolution, nor with the Nazi rise to power. Instead, their commitment to the idea of pedigree made the Baltic Barons broker a strange position between compliance and dissidence under Nazi ideology as it manifested itself in Germany as well as in Paris under German occupation.

Joking relationships between class war and ethnic cleansing

What gave intellectuals from the Baltic, and some scholars of the Baltic, a deeper understanding of the relationship between municipal and state, public and private, government and international law was the fact that the region consisted of a highly complex interrelationship of porous jurisdictions.5 Their allegiances were expressed in terms of vernacular cultures versus the culture of the overwhelmingly German literati. The Baltic region had become a sort of inter-imperial buffer zone. Part of the Hanseatic network of trade, it also attracted a wide range of mythologies from its inhabitants and visitors alike.

Intellectuals from eastern Europe living in the West, such as Bronislaw Malinowski or, later, Eugen Weber, contributed to the image of the wild East themselves. Some of them where more interested in Polynesian natives or French peasants than in the ‘natives’ of their own regions. Others, like Czeslaw Milosz, flirted with the idea that ‘while kingdoms rose and fell along the shores of the Mediterranean’, their native land was a ‘virgin forest’ and that the ‘streets of Chicago and Los Angeles’ were therefore as strange to them as the ‘Incas and the Aztecs’.6 The entire area ‘from the Urals to East Prussia’ was ‘unpopulated’ and ‘filled with demons and gloomy gods’.7 This region-transcending imperial imaginary, which projected populations in space, was characteristic of an elite perspective of this regional history.

The Baltic Barons were located in a sociocultural landscape that defied the monolingual systems of analysis that Ferdinand de Saussure in Paris and Geneva so carefully tried to establish. In fact, however, national and class identities were entangled in a complicated way in this region.8

Many among the Baltic Barons saw themselves as the pacifiers and civilizers in the Russian Empire. There was no unified private law, and generally, Russian legal history was highly fragmented, with many and sporadic foreign influences. A fully formed legal tradition only existed in the three Baltic provinces – Livland, Estland, and Courland – but here, too, it was deeply uneven, a kind of ‘jurisdictional jockeying’ that Lauren Benton has observed with regard to the peripheries of other imperial states.9

By contrast, the national movements, which had sprung up in the Baltic during the revolution of 1905, viewed the Baltic Barons as sources of alien oppression. One caricature from 1906 shows the mental universe of ‘Count Tiesenhausen’, a Baltic German: ‘In Paradise, people don’t live better than my workers. They walk around like Barons and drive in carriages like Lords, eat and drink well, live in magnificent houses. My life is like hell. I am working like a dog here’ [Fig. 21].

Figure 21 K. Merilaid (Schnell), caricature on the Tallinn case concerning the plundering of baronial estates. From Reinuvarder (1906), in I.P. Solomykova, Estonskaia demokraticheskaia grafika perioda revoliutsii 1905–1907 godov (Tallin: Estonskoe gosudarstvennoe izdatel’stvo, 1955), 145

Another caricature identified the Barons by their reactionary student fraternities and their joint actions against the new national revolutions [Fig. 22]. These caricatures from 1906 obtained a new meaning when, reproduced in Soviet Estonia in 1955, they were redefined as documents of a socialist uprising against German feudalism and not a national revolution against Russian imperialism.10

Figure 22 Unknown Russian artist, caricature in the Petersburg-based Estonian revolutionary magazine Zalp (1906), ed. Yukhan Lilienbach, in Solomykova, Estonskaia demokraticheskaia grafika, 115

From the point of view of the Baltic Barons, the revolutions of 1905 and 1917 destabilized what was an essentially natural ecosystem of animosities. One of the most regrettable aspects of the late Russian Empire, in Taube’s view, was the government’s own propaganda against the empire’s German and Jewish population, which started still under imperial rule.11 He recalled an incident in St. Petersburg, when he received a letter from an anonymous Russian demanding to free the Russian people from the ‘Germans’, by which he meant both Baltic Germans like Taube himself, and the Romanoff dynasty, a family with roots in Schleswig-Holstein. The paradox was that ‘our [Russia’s] highest military offices, which had been so inventive in devising means of oppression against the Baltic Barons and the Polish Jews’ suddenly saw itself almost incapacitated by this new nationalist force.12

Taube began to feel unwelcome in Russia soon after the outbreak of the First World War and even complained about it in a personal conversation with Tsar Nicholas on 29 December 1914. ‘On the various military fronts’, Taube argued, there are some ‘twenty members of the Taube family – pure Russian, Baltic, Finnish, Polish’ – fighting for the Russian cause, and yet the Russian press was full of derogatory remarks on the German menace coming from the Baltic Barons. ‘I know how faithfully the representatives of families with such ancient names have served me’, Tsar Nicholas replied to him, and was particularly surprised by some of Taube’s fellow aristocrats trying to Russianize their German-sounding names.13 Nicholas’s own ancestors, the Holstein-Gottorps, were of German descent, albeit of much more recent nobility than most of the Baltic Barons, who could trace their genealogy to the Crusades. They were worried for good reason: in 1917, Taube’s brother Boris was briefly imprisoned at Kronstadt, to be liberated thanks only to British intervention, and Tsar Nicholas would suffer a worse fate still in the following year.

Extending the metaphor of the family to an entire region, one could say that the Baltic Barons had formed what structural anthropologists call ‘joking relationships’ with other peoples. Structural anthropologists have focused on certain types of relationships, which they call ‘joking’, based on the type of conversations that typically occur between these parties. As Radcliffe-Brown puts it, they are ‘relationships between persons related through marriage or by kinship’. Secondly, they ‘occur as social institutions in structural situations of a certain general kind in which there are two groups, the separateness of which is emphasized’. A typical example is a son-in-law and a mother-in-law. The relationship expresses and emphasizes ‘both detachment (as belonging to separated groups) and attachment (through the indirect personal relation)’ as well as the jokes about relationships.14

The term does not describe a relationship that is not serious. Rather it means the existence of a relationship in which mutual misrecognition is a sign of acknowledging within certain limits the existence of another’s inalienable authority in one’s own sphere of existence. This means that the Baltic Barons were, in a sense, the Russian Empire’s ‘mother-in-law’.

For the Baltic Barons and other old aristocratic communities, their exclusive status was not available to groups outside their own genealogical network. It was dependent on the simultaneous coexistence of other, albeit, socially inferior cultural communities. Such communities included the Jews of the Russian Pale of Settlement, a geopolitical sphere of collective inferiority that Catherine the Great had created and which persisted until the revolutions of 1918. It also included the vernacular peoples whose unwritten languages the Baltic Barons rarely cared to learn, but which they liked melodically: Estonian, Lithuanian, and Latvian. They also included, interestingly, the Russians themselves, even though the Baltic Barons also saw themselves as Russian: but their sense of being Russian, an imperial sense, was different from the vernacular sense of the Russian as a peasant.

The deconstruction of the identity of the Baltic Barons makes them archaic in an age of extreme and radical modernity and calls for an anthropologist’s attention to oral practices.15 The cultural production of this space became what Henri Lefèbvre has called a ‘third’ space between Europe’s civilized centres and its imperial peripheries.16 What Walter Scott had written of the Scottish borders applies very much to the Baltic lands:

The Borderers had, in fact, little reason to regard the inland Scots as their fellow-subjects, or to respect the power of the Crown. […] They were in truth, during the time of peace, a kind of outcasts, against whom the united powers of England and Scotland were often employed. […] This strange, precarious, and adventurous mode of life, led by the Borderers, was not without its pleasures, and it seems, in all probability, hardly so disagreeable to us, as the monotony of regulated society must have been to those who had been long accustomed to a state of rapine.17

The Baltic also appeared in the minds of aristocratic gentlemen as a global borderland. The Scottish gentleman Leitch Ritchie, who had passed through Russia in 1835 as part of a Grand Tour, called the area of sand and morass, the politically ‘neutral ground’ between Prussia and Russia, a ‘waste land’.18 Another aspect that Leitch had noticed was the region’s peculiar cosmopolitanism. A chance meeting with an Englishman revealed to him that here in the East, this English traveller had become a peculiar ‘citizen of the world’, who spoke ‘all languages with equal fluency, and all equally badly; now snuffling French, now expectorating German, and now lubricating his mouth with Italian as one greases a coach-wheel’.19 Up to the late eighteenth century, accounts of travellers, who typically passed through the region between the rivers Memel, or Nieman, in the west and Narva in the east – mostly merchants, ambassadors, and, towards the end of the eighteenth century, gentlemen on Grand Tours – had three things to say about it: it was covered in forests, where most of its indigenous population lived; its towns were German and Swedish, the population was divided into ‘German’ and ‘Ungerman’ (Unteutsche), and the non-German population was treated very harshly, like slaves. Accounts also say that although they were Christian, they retained many pagan rituals. Eighteenth-century maps of Livonia still looked rather similar to eighteenth-century maps of the African cape, with the lands of the Hottentots demarcated from the territory of European civilization.

Their special family history, publicly displayed as heraldic symbols, constituted their power as much as their enormous landed wealth. To understand the nature of this symbolic power, we could turn to a number of works of anthropology and social theory from the twentieth century, most recently, that of Pierre Bourdieu and before him, the semioticians of the Tartu school such as Yuri Lotman. Yet the clearest analysis, and the most succinct, in my view, can be found in the work of Thomas Hobbes, the political philosopher who is best known for his theory of the state. Drawing on the Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus, he remarked that historically, this practice was typical for old families of Germanic origin, who would wear coats of arms principally so that ‘they might, when they were Covered with Arms, be known by their followers’. The symbolism on these Coats of Arms typically contained the ‘picture of some Beast, or other thing’ as well as ornaments. Together, it was then ‘descended by inheritance to their Children’.20 Catalogues of appropriate animals and other attributes to be used on coats of arms were available thanks to book printing in editions such as Andrea Alciati’s book of emblems.21 According to Hobbes, the ‘Value, or Worth of a man, is of all other things, his Price; that is to say, so much as would be given for the use of his Power: and therefore is not absolute; but a thing dependant on the need and judgment of another’.22 The idea is that symbols of universally recognizable virtues thus became connected to the name of a particular family, thus combining two kinds of recognition: one, in the sense of knowing who is being spoken about; the other, in the sense of acknowledging their particular virtues as being outstanding. By the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the art of heraldry had still been best preserved among German nobles, but particularly so among these descendants of Teutonic knights. Perhaps this is the reason why the Baltic region also produced one of the most influential schools of modern semiotics.23

Their coats of arms, which, as anthropologists assert, encode their identity in the form of symbols, told the story both of origin and of displacement. For example, the Keyserlings had a palm tree on their coat of arms. With a handful of other German-speaking families, the Keyserlings dominated the political and cultural life of this region for centuries, while constituting a linguistic and ethnic minority in the Baltic region. Their familial memory of this history was embodied in their familial crest, which included the image of a palm tree. Even though in the modern era, this crest was displayed in the Lutheran Cathedral of Tallinn, its symbols reflected the family’s ancient service to the Popes in an attempt to conquer Jerusalem.

For centuries, this position as Europe’s inner frontier provided a resource for great careers for the region’s elites serving the Russian Empire.24 They had family names with a publicly known and often distinguished family history, such as Nolde, von Maydell, von Manteuffel, von Kessenbroich, von Stackelberg, and von Dellingshausen, and were often called Alexander, Otto, or Bernhard. Even when they produced works of fiction, many of them would choose protagonists with their own family names for their heroes. By contrast, their peasants would be called Jaan, Elvine, Mats, and in many cases would not even have surnames, if they were members of the household of a German noble family. Estonian and Latvian peasants would sing vernacular folk songs at home, Protestant hymns in church, and would be free subjects of the tsar and de facto subjects of their local, German, lord of the manor. Therefore in these areas, progressive movements towards greater social equality were couched in national terms and in the terms of a national emancipation as well as social equality. Apparently, non-national or professional associations of beekeepers or study groups of vernacular cultures became points of association for political unrest, and they were monitored as such by the Russian imperial police, the Okhrana.25

It was traditional for noble families in the Baltic area to employ English-speaking governesses, as well as French teachers, for their children, while the servants of lower order spoke vernacular languages, such as Latvian, Lithuanian, and Estonian. Growing up in this context was not a multicultural experience in the pluralistic sense in which it is understood today, however; on the contrary, because languages such as Estonian, Russian, German, French, and English stood in a hierarchical relationship to each other, it was the unity of this hierarchy and not the plurality of its components that stood out. French and German were languages of high culture, English was a language in which children would be educated, Russian was one of the official languages of the empire, and Estonian was for unwritten purposes. From the 1860s onwards, students seeking careers in civil administration, while still leading via German universities in Dorpat and Riga, now had to be taught Russian. Attending Russian Orthodox Church services became compulsory even for German noble lords who had their own, Lutheran, parishes to control. In other words, if Kant had lived into the reign of Alexander III, the categorical imperative would have been taught in Russian. The thought of this drove many German nobles to study in western Europe.

The generation of Baltic Barons born in the post-Napoleonic era had enough of the ruins of former civilizations that surrounded them; they wanted to manifest their links with the classical foundations of European civilization in the newest fashion. The Greek revival style, which had become fashionable throughout northern Europe and America in this period, had been brought to the Baltic area by a generation of travellers who had been inspired by the real models of ancient Greece and Rome. This style, which most people today associate with British and American public buildings such as the National Gallery in London and the Washington or Madison Capitol, was prominent in the semi-private residential architecture of landed nobility in the Baltic littoral, and in fact the Baltic nobles were among the first Europeans to develop it. One of the first archaeologists whose publications inspired the trend in Europe, Baron Otto Magnus von Stackelberg, originated from this region, and he had brought the style to his home area following excavations in Messenia, Greece. These aristocrats had reinserted themselves on the map of European high nobility architecturally as well as intellectually. They could host in style. And the way they hosted was to glorify the Eastern wilderness, the beautiful landscapes, the hunting parties, and the snow. By the beginning of the twentieth century, most Baltic Barons were Russian imperial patriots of sorts: many had converted to the Russian Orthodox Church and had acquired estates close to the summer residence of the Russian imperial family.

By the beginning of the twentieth century, and especially since the 1905 revolution, most German nobles from the Baltic responded to the Russian imperial policies of Russification by becoming more conscious of their own Germanness: consolidating ties to Baltic Germans of non-noble background, as well as the German public in the German Empire. Conversely, the population of these universities was increasingly less willing to accept the overwhelmingly German presence in its universities. Baltic scientists with their characteristic knowledge of many languages were employed in imperial expeditions of the Romanoff, Habsburg, and Hohenzollern court. In Germany they were called Baltendeutsche, and in Russia they were called ostzeiskie nemtsy, the Ostsee Germans. In the events leading up to the 1905 revolution, a group of Baltic German nobles commissioned a historian, Astaf von Transehe-Roseneck, to write a history of the Lithuanian revolution; the book, published anonymously in 1906, criticized the national revolutionaries by insisting on the civilizing force which the German nobility had been for the region.26

All these national interpretations of the political thought emanating from the Baltic region, however, lose sight of the basic sense of identity that most Baltic Barons had, which was not reducible to any one national narrative. As Hermann Keyserling put it, ‘in the course of history, the Baltic knights formed pacts now with this, now with that regional lord and placed themselves under his suzerainty’. What allowed for that situation to serve as the foundation for a distinctive identity of the ‘Balt’ was their continuous base in the Baltic littoral. The loss of this basis meant a loss of identity, of the ‘Balt as a type’.27 In terms of international legal theory, they were mixed subjects or sujets mixtes: represented in the Prussian Herrenhaus as well as at the court of the tsar and, for those who stayed in Russia, in the Duma after 1905.28 ‘When I analyse my own self, what do I find there?’ Keyserling asked himself in a book devoted to the social psychology of all European nations. ‘First myself, second, myself as an aristocrat, third, as a Keyserling, fourth, as an Occidental, fifth as a European, sixth, as a Balt, seventh, as a German, eighth, as a Russian, ninth, as a Frenchman.’29 All aristocrats, in his view, but especially the Baltic Barons like himself, embodied in themselves the identities of all leading European cultures and were yet conscious of their detachment from them.

Perpetual Peace or Perpertual War? A Tolstoyan exile’s view of the League of Nations

Among Mikhail Taube’s first publications in exile from Russia was a little brochure, in Russian, called Perpetual Peace or Perpetual War? Thoughts on the League of Nations. Taube’s Perpetual Peace was published by Detinets, one of the renowned Russian expatriate in Berlin. Its founder, the writer Ivan Nazhivin, gave it the name ‘detinets’ to allude to an older Russian political tradition. The word denotes a medieval Russian fortress, a historical predecessor of the Kremlin, known from cities such as Novgorod, which had a republican tradition. Taube’s work could be considered his political manifesto. A magisterial overview of international historical alliances for peace from ancient Egypt to his present day, the book was based on the lectures Taube had given, originally in Swedish, at Uppsala University. It was given further weight by a facsimile reproduction of a letter the author had received from Leo Tolstoy in support of his project. He had previously published a much shorter version (to pass imperial censorship) in Tolstoy’s publishing house Posrednik.30

In addition, Taube worked privately as a lawyer for the émigré nobility, including one of the surviving members of the Romanoff family, and the union of former Russian municipal governments in exile, Zemgor. He also acted as a legal advisor to the artist, mystic, and internationalist Nikolai Roerich, who was committed to fostering a language of international culture beyond the state. Roerich’s ‘Banner of Peace’, to protect cultural monuments in times of conflict by international agreement, dated back to an idea he had during the Russian–Japanese war. ‘If the Red Cross takes care of the physically wounded and sick, our Pact shields the values of the human genius, protecting spiritual health’, said Roerich and his followers. Between all these activities, Taube still found the time to contribute to the small parish circular of his church, the Holy Trinity Diocese, a branch of the Russian Catholic Church in exile since the revolution.

Taube spent most of his life as a historian and theorist of international law and not as practitioner. Yet he had his moment, as a young lawyer and student of the renowned Russian international legal scholar Fedor Martens, when he got sent to Paris to negotiate the crisis over the so-called Dogger Bank incident, or ‘outrage’, as it was better known in English. In 1904, a Russian cruiser had accidentally fired on a set of fishermen near Hull, thinking that they were Japanese military ships. In the end, some of the fishermen died, British property was damaged, and another Russian cruise ship, the Aurora – which would later acquire fame in the public narratives of the Russian Revolution for allegedly firing the first shot in the storm of the Winter Palace – was damaged. All participating parties were aware that this could lead to a major escalation. Thanks to benevolent mediators from France and skilled negotiation by both the Russian and British sides, however, confrontation was not only avoided, but Russia managed to broker a closer relationship with Britain than it ever had – against French interests. This incident was the closest Taube got to world historical events in his capacity of a second-order agent.

Ten years later, this success of brinkmanship that extended the peace between Europe’s empires would be forever overshadowed by the unprecedented international conflict that came to be known as the Great War. It was to the understanding of this Great Catastrophe, which Taube perceived as a personal, an imperial, and a generational disaster, that his remaining life work was devoted.

Theatrical metaphors, like his image of himself in a second-tier armchair of a first-order theatre box, never left Taube’s thinking about politics. In the conclusion to his book of memoirs, Towards the Great Catastrophe, he turned to the world of ancient Greek drama to make sense of the present. He evoked the ruined city of Thebes, which he suggested to see through the eyes of the heroine in Sophocles’s drama Antigone, a work that experienced a particular revival in mid-twentieth-century Europe, particularly among exiles in Paris.31 Antigone, daughter from Oedipus’s incestuous union with his mother, and in love with her deceased brother, confronts Creon, the king of Thebes, who personifies the power of the state, with the wish to be loyal to her brother, who had been disloyal to the king. In the end Antigone is buried alive, but Thebes and everyone else is ruined, too.

It is perhaps peculiar to see a former member of imperial rule, albeit not an emperor but a senator, identify with Antigone and not with Creon or at least with the choir in this tragedy. Such a perspective is more commonly associated with theorists of revolution. Perhaps the best-known reading of Antigone as the plot of a revolution was that of another Paris-based exile from the Baltic, Aleksandr Kozhevnikov, who in the 1930s lectured at the Sorbonne on Hegel’s philosophy of history under the name of Alexandre Kojève.32 Kojève combined a selective interpretation of Marx’s interpretation of Hegel with ideas from Russian Orthodox thought to advance a philosophy of history of his own. Marx had concentrated on one segment of Hegel’s metaphysical construction in the history of mind, the ‘materialist’ narrative of human history. Hegel had labelled this section in his Phenomenology of Spirit as ‘Lord and Serf’ (Herr und Knecht, usually translated as ‘Lord and Bondsman’). Class struggle, he said, was a ‘real historical “discussion”’ that was ‘different from a philosophic dialogue or discussion’. Its central agents were not ‘verbal arguments’, but ‘clubs and swords or cannons on the one hand’ and ‘sickles and hammers or machines’ on the other. Unlike the orthodox Marxists, Kojève believed that the agents holding these instruments were individuals and not classes. History was a process of ‘bloody fights’ and of ‘physical work’. For Kojève, the central force of history was thus not the autonomy of mind, as in Hegel, and not a class struggle for resources, as for Marx. Instead, he argued that the motor of history was desire itself – the desire people have to be recognized by others as subjects of their own destinies. The subsequent career of Kojève’s influential conceptualization of the term ‘recognition’ in French and American thought then shifted even further from the idea of a social struggle to that of an the intersubjective function of desire for identity.33 However, Kojève himself developed his thoughts on revolution in an unusual direction, eventually advocating the creating of a new Latin Empire based in France after the Second World War.

What Taube had in common with other exiles in Paris, then, was an intensive preoccupation with the past, with imperial decline, and with the psychological experience of revolution. In this period of turmoil and destruction that began in 1904 and crashed in 1914–18, intellectuals like Mikhail von Taube and his circle of correspondents turned to their own family history as a source of consolation and consolidation of their identity.34

Forced into emigration during the revolution, Taube and many of this class, including the distinguished minister Baron Nolde, reflected not only on Russia’s history, but also on that of the Baltic elite. For Taube, doing genealogical research was one of the ways of recovering this world he had lost. He was interested in the history of international relations from the Byzantine period.35 A loyal subject of the tsars, in the Russian Empire, Taube belonged to a circle of moderate imperial reformers: fiercely loyal to the ideology of the Russian Empire in the broad sense of its multicultural make-up officially represented by legislative and executive institutions that endorsed the Orthodox faith. He was a patriot of his empire and a liberal internationalist, the Russian equivalent of a Gladstonian. Alongside another Baltic Baron, Nolde, he was one of his generation’s most distinguished scholars of international law.36 He had taught at the University of Dorpat, now Tartu, in the province of Courland, and at the University of Kharkov in what is now Ukraine, and he believed that international relations had a history that began in the Byzantine Empire in the tenth century and would culminate in the continuation of the Holy Alliance. His greatest success as a lawyer, historian, and political advisor was the Russian initiative of the Hague agreements on maritime law, in 1907. It built on the model of universal peace brokered by the great powers that had first emerged in the post-Napoleonic era with the Holy Alliance. Both universities where Taube taught were key institutions which mediated between Western and Russian scholarship particularly in the fields of Law and Philosophy, in which Russian scholarship lagged far behind studies of international law practised in Germany, Switzerland, and increasingly, the United States. As such, they also reached an audience of students who, for personal or financial reasons, were unable to study at the more prestigious universities in Germany or France. In particular, Dorpat had been a centre for teaching of Roman law in the Russian Empire, which is where liberally minded intellectuals saw a possible future for the development of a Russian system of civil law.37

After the revolution, Taube taught for several years at the Russian Scientific Institute, a university in exile active in Berlin between 1922 and 1932.38 He was a regular lecturer at the Hague Academy of International Law, where a magnificent building for the International Court of Justice had been completed, ironically, in 1913, just a year before the war. He had a chair at the University of Münster in German Westphalia.39 There were also publication opportunities on matters of international law in German, Swedish, and émigré Russian journals.

The chief outlet of the legal internationalists was the Belgian journal Révue de droit international et de droit comparé, which was published since 1908. After the First World War, Belgium attracted the interest of international legal thought for other reasons. Belgium’s particular suffering in the war, when the German army bayonetted innocent civilians, raised international alarm in 1915. By this point, English and not French began to dominate international legal thought.40 In 1909, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace had already initiated a series of Classics of International Law, which began with publishing works by the forerunners of Grotius in their original languages. They began with Italian municipal law in the fourteenth century, followed by the scholarship of the Spanish Jesuits, with particular focus on the law of war in the context of early modern Italian city states on the one hand and natural law on the other.41 The series published 352 volumes, culminating in the works of Grotius and Pufendorf.

The Hague academy attracted some of the leading international jurists of the time. Presided over by Charles Lyon-Caen, a scholar of Roman law at Paris’s Science-Po and author of an influential book on international private law, it also included distinguished members from across the international legal community. One of them, Nicholas Politis, advocated making the individual, instead of the state, a legal subject of international law, personally responsible for crimes committed in political capacity.42 Another leading member was the Italian lawyer Dionisio Anzilotti, Under-Secretary-General of the League of Nations in charge of legal affairs who was also present at the signing of the Paris Peace Treaty. A critic of the natural law tradition, he was a positivist who believed that international law had to be built up from a genealogy of European municipal law, among other sources.43 For them, law was in existence when it was used and accepted by the communities to which it applied.44

A number of people from Taube’s social circle were not very political men, and the subjects on which he corresponded with them largely touched upon questions such as family matters, or genealogy – a special interest for many members of Baltic nobility. Taube himself began his genealogical studies with his own family, but then also offered his services to others.45 He also had links to a circle of devotees of Leo Tolstoy, who chose to go into exile after the revolution because they did not agree with the Bolshevik version of socialism that had won the day. Others were more clearly radical. For instance, the frontispiece to his memoirs, designed by fellow Balt Nils Stenbock Fermor, was a faded Russian double eagle pattern, which was sliding away to the side of the book into oblivion. Fermor, originally of Swedish extraction, was of Baltic nobility himself, but politically further to the left than Taube; in the 1920s, he also designed sets for the experimental German theatre director Erwin Piscator. His brother, Alexander, was known as a Red Count; he wrote socialist realist works under the pseudonym of Peter Lorenz. Notwithstanding their political differences, the symbolic thinking about imperial decline as the fading away of imperial insignia nonetheless united these intellectuals of Baltic background.

In 1922, the year of publication of Taube’s book, at The Hague, the Permanent Court of International Justice held its inaugural meeting. If it had not been for the ruined empires that had melted in the meantime, this would have been a momentous day for internationalists like Taube who had been involved in brokering peace through international legal treaties since the Hague agreements of 1899. The court remained in operation until 1940, but in 1946, the International Court of Justice was founded in its place. Its composition reflected the structure of the League of Nations, which appointed all judges in a council decision. Most judges of this court came from states whose governments had not collapsed as a result of the war. Of these, five were professors of international law from Switzerland, Italy, and the United States; others had been judges from the Netherlands, Britain, Norway, and China.46 Typically for European internationalism, the Hague court replaced a rival project, founded by the renowned Swiss legal theorist Johann Caspar Bluntschli at Ghent in 1873.

The forgotten Russian-German and Baltic connection in European legal internationalism of the interwar period shows how imperial memory was preserved in exile.47 It was multilingual, multi-discursive, and almost gestural in its exchange of emblematic knowledge. In this cryptic quality, it was soon forgotten and remains difficult to reconstruct. To understand these diasporic communities in exile, we need to turn to methods originally designed for spoken texts, as well as to semiotics, an approach originally conceptualized for interpreting images and emblems.

Genealogy as counter-history: a Baltic correspondence network between the world wars

The notion of ‘double consciousness’ has come to be associated with the colonial dimension of modernity and the attributes of Europe’s oppressed ethnic ‘others’.48 However, the case of the Baltic Barons demonstrates that ambivalent social and ethnic identities constituted by colonial relations were also characteristic of Europe’s oldest nobilities. In Russia itself, people still made do with a legal code that came into existence when serfdom still existed, commerce was restricted, and civil rights were only applicable to the landowning nobility.49 A number of Russian lawyers from the Baltic region were familiar with the German school of Georg Jellinek. Thus Fedor Martens, Russia’s most eminent scholar of international law, had studied with Bluntschli and reproduced some of his ideas of civilization versus barbarism in his own work. Earlier in his life, when the empire was still intact, Taube had produced and published genealogical trees of the Romanoff dynasty. Now that it was no longer in power, he turned to write about his own life and the ancestors of his Baltic peers.50

In his lifetime, genealogical research in general had developed new facets. From a science of empowering the ruling dynasty, the Romanoffs, it became the source of identity among displaced Baltic aristocrats in the interwar period; as an abstract genealogy of European international law, it was a mode of reading historical texts which also connected to Taube’s teaching at the expatriate Russian Scientific Institute, which existed in Berlin from 1923 to 1925 with three faculties: Economics, Law, and a faculty called Spiritual Culture (a variant of Divinity). By the late 1930s, genealogy had also become one of the crown sciences of the Nazi Reich, whose theory of Aryan race sent all German subjects, on a search for racial purity for fear of punishment and restrictions. But it also remained important among circles of Russian expatriates in central and western Europe.51

While in Paris, Taube was still maintaining his links with the descendants of the Romanoff dynasty; thus he was the family lawyer of Prince Romanovich (killed in 1918) who thought of himself as the legitimate surviving successor of the Romanoff family. In fact, one of the last letters that the tsar’s wife, Alexandra, had drafted in exile in Siberia had been to Taube, who was, besides his service, a loyal friend of the family.52 Taube’s genealogical findings concerning the links between Frederick and Catherine would have changed the past in the way that he had intended to change the future as a lawyer. It was well known that the two eighteenth-century rulers of Prussia and the Russian Empire, respectively, had shared the ability to absorb, if not plagiarize, the ideas of the great Enlightenment philosophes on liberty and legality in such a way as to render them safe for their own rule. Frederick’s Anti-Machiavel cast him as a lover of freedom, taking this trope from the pens of his critics. Catherine’s Nakaz on a Constitution of Russia effectively laid out a version of Montesquieu’s concept of liberty, but one that would leave her authority unchallenged. But for all their similarities in the public eye, their projects were also thought of as rival imperial endeavours, Catherine’s being more suited to the wilder eastern Europe; they were two projects that produced two quite separate branches in the European genealogy of statecraft. Frederick’s was the bureaucratic state that would ultimately be capable of democratization; Catherine’s legacy was that of an oppressive system of internal colonization, with the infamous Pale of Settlement – a vast rural ghetto for Russia’s Jews – as one of its most tangible twentieth-century legacies. If it was indeed the case that in addition to being rivals, they were also a father and daughter, this would make the case for a historically formed opposition between Germany and Russia, which was so crucially revived in 1941, much more complicated. Taube had also proved that the Baltic Ungern family had in fact, as the name suggests, originated from Hungary, a dynastic family of semi-sovereign powers, whose records demonstrate much closer ties between pre-Christian Lithuania and Russia. The sons of Prince Igor of the Russian epos belonged to this group.

Another one of Taube’s clients for genealogical research was the philosopher Hermann Keyserling, who had settled in Germany in 1919, after the new Estonian government had expropriated his estate. Having arrived on a Nansen passport, he eventually chose to claim German citizenship. By the time the so-called ‘Aryan paragraph’ was brought into German legislation by the Nuremberg Laws of 1935, which demanded that all German citizens were required to be of Aryan race or risked losing citizenship, Keyserling, too, was required to prove his Aryan descent. As he wrote in a letter to a friend, the irony of the law was that it was particularly harsh on noble families who could prove their descent; German families with no official knowledge of Jewish ancestry, by contrast, could simply use a physiognomic test. Indeed, the Nazis introduced their own version of the Gotha and were engaged in transferring data, once it was proven, to the Edda book, a Nazi analogue to the Gotha. The new German laws required proof of racial purity until 1800. As Keyserling wrote to his relative, the demand to prove Aryan descent to 1800 may only be the first step, and to be absolutely sure Keyserling decided to prove his family back to the fifteenth century. In this process, he encountered the greatest difficulties trying to locate the relevant documents, since the main papers which satisfied the German authorities were marriage and baptism certificates, most of which were held either in Russia or in Estonia, which were now parts of the Soviet Union, where a number of churches and parishes were being looted or destroyed.

In fact, it is highly likely that Keyserling’s maternal family had Jewish roots. The German ancestors of Hermann Keyserling’s maternal line, the Cancrins (Latinized from Krebs), had migrated from Hesse to Nowgorod in the fifteenth century; one of his ancestors was a famed minister of finance in the Russian Empire who was Jewish. Despite the fact that in Russia at least, the Cancrins were thought to be Jewish, Keyserling managed to procure documents from a certain Nikolai Ikonnikov, a Russian nobleman who had fled from the October Revolution and lived in Paris.

Dear Nikolai Flegontowitsch,

Excuse me for writing in German and not in Russian, which I have perfect command of, but I can only dictate in German, and my handwriting is not very legible.

For the genealogical trees of my sons, I need some detailed information about my ancestors the Murawioffs, and Baron Michael Taube in Münster writes to me that I can obtain them from you. The mother of my paternal grandmother, the Countess Zenaide Keyserling born Countess Cancrin, daughter of the Russian minister of finance Count Georg Cancrin, was born a Murawioff. […] Now we are lacking all data on the Murawioff family. We only know that it was an old family from Nowgorod and that the line of the Murawioffs to which I am related is the one of which it was said, she does not hang but she gets hanged. We still possess a necessaire which belonged to the Decembrist Artamon Murawioff, which he woodcut in his Siberian exile.53

Nikolai Ikonnikov, who was the regional head of a nobles’ association in the Saratov province, had a brief stint as the administrator of sugar provision in Bolshevik Russia. He had used this position to help fugitive aristocrats escape to the west, a dangerous undertaking which he described in memoirs of his own, published in Paris in 1933.54 Ikonnikov was running a business offering genealogical services, based on the rather substantial library and documentary collections of the Russian nobility, which he had managed to take with him on his flight to France. Against a fee, Ikonnikov provided Keyserling with a list of his 300 ancestors of the Muraviev and Cancrin family, and brief descriptions of anything known about them. The fact that none of the documents mentioned the word Jew appears to have sufficed for Keyserling’s Aryan record to be approved.

Keyserling’s search for his genealogical tree also took him to his native villages in Courland, where he had to find marriage registers. These investigations confirmed that his ancestors had many faiths – Protestant, Catholic, Russian Orthodox – but that none had been known to be Jewish. ‘Dear Aunt Jenny’, Keyserling wrote on 9 July 1935 to the Baroness Jenny Pilar von Pilchau, who was still living in Pärnu, in Estonia:

Some serious matter today. Yesterday a highly exacerbating Aryan restriction was legislated in Germany for the admission to study, which also affects Germans by descent outside of the Reich, that is also your grand children. Only those who can prove the absence of any Jewish blood until 1700 will be sure to be allowed to study. […] The Bismarcks had difficulties with it for two years. It was argued that the Whiteheads had Jewish blood, which of course was not the case. But it was not so easy to find the necessary certificate, because it was in Gibraltar. […] Now, of course we are all absolutely pure Aryans. But I do not know the Pilar genealogial tree in detail.55

Then Keyserling asked his aunt for documents, which could help him acquire an ‘Ahnenpass’, a certificate of immaculate descent. All in all, this process took him nearly four years. Keyserling and his wife then had to prove that her family, the Bismarcks, was also purely Aryan. It was suspected that a relative in England, a certain Whitehead, who lived in London in the eighteenth century, may have been a rabbi.56

But to call genealogical research a ‘private’ endeavour would belie the ideological context in which issues of pedigree were discussed in Europe in the 1930s. When the Nazis introduced new laws concerning citizenship in 1935, nobles who were German citizens faced a particular problem. Unlike middle-class Germans who could not be expected to show proof of descent from centuries back and were instead expected to be examined by craniologists who measured their sculls, nobles were required to provide proof of their heritage as well as proof of the absence of Jewish blood since at least as far back as 1750. In the mid-1930s, this posed particular problems for those nobles whose family papers were held in areas where the nobility was violently abolished during the revolutions, such as the Baltic region. In lieu of legal documents, some corporate and familial associations of nobles tried to publish their own historical genealogies, in which they fervently reconstructed their history up to the thirteenth century, highlighting its German character.57 One such history was the Book of the Keyserlings, published by Fischer in Berlin in 1937. In his introduction to a book published in 1939, the Genealogical Table of Famous Germans, Baltic Baron Otto Magnus von Stackelberg wrote a piece entitled ‘The Ancestry of the Philosopher Count Hermann Keyserling,’ in which he argued that in Hermann Keyserling’s ancestry you can find most of the German and Nordic imperial and royal dynasties.58 As well as proving Aryan descent, in the course of his research Keyserling even proved that he was related to the Scaliger and the Visconti families.59 By this time, the Gotha book, the aristocratic union and even the Nazi follow-up of the Gotha ceased to be acknowledged by the authorities. An article published in the Frankfurter Zeitung of 6 February 1935 emphasized that

the fact of entry in the EDDA does not give a guarantee for the proof of German blood in the sense of §13 REG [Reichserbhofgesetz]. The Reich and Prussian Minister for Food Supply and Agriculture has therefore ordered that applicants who are already listed in the Iron Book of German Nobility (EDDA) have to submit documentary evidence on their person reaching back to 1 January 1800 … just as all other applicants.60

Having found all the documents, the Keyserlings had to contact the department for foreign currency in order to be allowed to transfer payments for genealogical services abroad, writing letters all of which ended with ‘Heil Hitler’.

When it comes to groups or individuals that lost or reconfigured their identities, such as diasporic ethnicities, political or economic refugees, we usually think of examples of inferior social status: the Jewish or African diaspora, for example; the economic or political emigration from Europe to the Americas in the nineteenth century, and such like. Few studies have focused on diasporic identities among elites, cultural or economics.61 But diaspora is equally applicable to elites, as the case of the Barons shows.62 Elites, too, can be seen as a ‘segment of a people living outside the homeland’.63 In the case of the Baltic knights, their point of focus for their eventual home lay not so much in their historical places of origin, as in their mythical place of destination: the grave of Jesus at the Temple of the Holy Sepulchre, which these knights’ ancestors had pledged to conquer in Jerusalem. In a sense, the Baltic Barons, then, were Zionists centuries before Theodor Herzl had made Zionism into a rallying cry for eastern Europe’s suffering Jews.

Post-imperial typewriters: modernity and the gender of memory

Among Taube’s multilingual, multi-alphabet correspondence, one exchange with an old friend, Baron Uexküll von Gildenband, who was based in Switzerland and in Athens in the interwar period, is particularly noteworthy. Written on typewriters and by hand, in Paris, Switzerland, Germany, and Greece, Taube and Uexküll, these two friends in exile preferred to think of themselves back to Byzantine times: the dates of their letters dropped the 1 and wrote ‘930’ instead of 1930, ‘932’ instead of 1932, and so on. Within their letters, they exchanged jokes in Russian and typed in Latin transcription, in handwritten Russian, and in German and French. They would include Russian jokes in a German text and French jokes in a Russian text. They would wish each other Happy Easter in the Orthodox fashion (‘Khristos voskrese’), even though at least one of them was Catholic. They would also parody German Nazis by writing ‘Heil Hitler’. Some letters comprised sketches of genealogical trees and heraldry.

Other letters discussed the current financial crisis, the devaluation of currency, or the decline of good manners among the youth. Thus at one point, Ungern sought advice on how to address a countess. Taube recommends the title ‘Reichsgräfin’, even though in his day a more appropriate title would be comtesse. ‘Tempora mutantur i teper kakie-to novye formuly’ [Times are changing and there are some new formulas around].64 As they well knew, the real ending of this idiomatic expression is different though: ‘Tempura mutantur et nos mutamur in illis – times change and we change in them’. It was this conclusion that they sought to resist by means of resorting to the practice of genealogy as a way of constantly reaffirming their true self.

Polagaiu, cto wychod v svet wtorogo toma naschei istorii ne predwiditsia w 931 godu, no moe pismo raswiashet Wam ruki et Vous pourrez faire appel à la générosité aussitôt que tous les matériels pour l´édition wtorogo toma budu druckreif. […] odnim slovom ia daiu Wam carte blanche w etom otnoshenii.65

Mikhail Taube kept his friend updated about the progress of his genealogy, with its roots in Byzantine history, in Russian, French, and German simultaneously, with the main threat woven in Russian. ‘I assume that the appearance of your second volume of our history is not to be anticipated in the year 931’, he began in Latin transliteration of his Russian. Expressions of politeness were left in French, whereas technical terms relating to book production, in this case ‘druckreif’ (ready to print), were left in German. In another letter, multilinguality appears to be simultaneously the expression of a tragic sentiment of decline and a critique of ideology. Says Baron Uexküll, writing from Athens, spelt in Latin script but Russian pronunciation: ‘Mes tantes (89, 78 et 75 ans) évacuées à Danzig en 5 jours. Finis dominiii baltici après 7 siècles. Les Dünafürsten remplacés par Molot i serp’ [My aunts (89, 78 and 75) to be evacuated to Danzig in five hours. The end of the Baltic empire after seven centuries. The Princes of the Duna replaced by Hammer and sickle] [Fig. 23].

Figure 23 Baron Üxküll von Gildenband to Baron von Taube, 31 May 1931, in Mikhail von Taube papers, Bakhmeteff Archive, Columbia University Special Collections

This hyperbolic use of semiotics to describe a rapid loss of power is illuminating because it shows to what extent the Baltic elite lamented the loss of their power over the region, the empire of the ‘Princes of the Duna’, more than they lamented the decline of the Russian Empire. The semiotic appropriation of aristocratic emblems by the new Soviet state was all the more bitter for these masters of genealogy as the Soviet leadership had recruited artists to design their new emblems, the Hammer and Sickle, without any in-depth understanding of the practice of heraldry. Thus the hammer and sickle became a non-dialectical symbol, a brand showing the unity of workers and peasants; by contrast, the animals and other symbols typically shown on the emblems of old families are there because they are symbols of the powers that had been defeated by the power bearing the insignia.66 The intertextual irony in the private correspondence of the Baltic Barons was a kind of ‘elite subalternism’ in response to the hegemonic use of chivalric symbolism by organizations such as the VchK, the Soviet security organization founded by another Balt, Feliks Dzerzhinsky, and the Hammer and Sickle emblem itself. The new emblems of honour for a proletarian class had become emblems of dishonour and uncivilization for the former elites.

The typed correspondence between these Baltic Barons was a response to two conditions with which the Barons had been confronted in the twentieth century. One was their status as stateless citizens, a dramatic fall from grace after having been close to ruling one of Europe’s largest empires. The other was their status as a potential threat to the ideal of a new nobility that the Nazis were conjuring up with their theory of the Aryan race. For the Baltic Barons, this was like their worst nightmare come true. A paradigm derived from Herder and Saussure, the growing enthusiasm for vernacular cultures became a force for anti-imperial resistance. Paradoxically, in their home region, the myth of the Indo-Germanic race had thus served to undermine, rather than support the power of the oldest Germanic nobility in the region.

The social function of typewriters among this aristocratic elite suggests another sense in which culture remains a divisive feature in the age of modernity. It is also divisive in terms of gender. Keyserling’s letters and works were typed by his wife Goedela and are therefore bearing an imprint of Prussian traditions: here, aristocratic ladies would increasingly take on the fashion of typing works dictated by their husbands. In fact, men would not typically learn how to type. In Britain, too, one of the first typists was Queen Victoria, for instance. Throughout his life, Keyserling depended on Goedela’s skills as a typist because, as his correspondence partners frequently lamented, his handwriting was very bad. The moments when it becomes visible in the text that he did not type it himself are few and far between, but particularly noteworthy, as in the letter to Ikonnikov, which is preceded by the apology: ‘Excuse me for writing in German and not in Russian, which I have perfect command of, but I can only dictate in German, and my handwriting is not very legible.’67

Contrary to what many theorists of modernity from Heidegger to Wiezbicka have said, this technological aspect of modernity did not lead to a greater uniformity of cultural consciousness, of ‘everyone looking the same’.68 This can even be seen in widely known documents of post-imperial transition, like the treaty of Brest-Litovsk. The text of the treaty, which was eventually signed by five parties, made more common features amidst this heterogeneity visible: the German and Hungarian signatories had signed a typed text, the Ottoman section was written in classical calligraphy, and two more columns in Bulgarian and Russian were written in plain Cyrillic.69 The dislocation of this revolutionary period affirmed differences in social position and inverted others. Thus paradoxically, in the peace treaty of Brest-Litovsk, the typewriter became an instrument of the old regimes.

Likewise, the Baltic barons’ typed reconstructions of genealogical heritage reveal a gradual process of identity deconstruction. Their old sense of self as Crusaders who had become colonizers of eastern Europe was being deflated. They became a modern diaspora, stigmatized in the Baltic land for being German, in Soviet official discourse, for being aristocratic, and in western Europe, for being Russian. To contemporaries, their attempt to express themselves easily made the impression of a kind of aphasia.70 Here, archaic features coexist with ironic commentaries on present ideologies, as the ‘Heil Hitler’ appears along with the more heartfelt ‘Happy Easter’.71 It demonstrates also the feature which linguists note as ‘instances of deviation from the norms of either language which occurs in the speech of bilinguals as a result of their familiarity with more than one language’.72

The form of theorizing the international that the Baltic Barons had traditionally developed rested on the patriarchal order of Europe’s imperial elites, which was in tension with dynastic power that could tolerate both male and female lines of succession. Not only were their estates passed down, whole, as patrimony of their eldest sons. Their family names, too, only encoded a male pedigree of history. In the female line, such passing on was more indirect. Daughters would lose their fathers’ names and gain new names; wives would become the typists who would eventually carry the memory of the Baltic Barons to a wider market.

As a historical diaspora, the Baltic nobility, like many other noble families, had turned estrangement into a marker of distinction. Erving Goffman’s theory of ‘stigmatization’ as a constructed entity has invited generations of social theorists to think of this kind of marking as an act of making the other inferior to oneself. But as Sofia Tchouikina and Longina Jakubowska have shown, markers of distinction follow the same logic.73

Reading the archive of this strange grouping of exiles is almost like listening in on a conversation among people who are speaking with an inflection and in a dialect that is no longer spoken today. In the end, Taube’s hypothesis about the relationship between the two ‘Greats’, Catherine of Russia and Frederick II of Prussia, remained unconfirmed. Taube died in 1961 in Paris. In 2013 I was able to obtain a copy of his typescript on Catherine’s genealogy via a major online second-hand bookseller from an antiquarian bookstore located in New Zealand.74 I have been unable to verify the archival sources that Taube wanted to research; they were likely lost in the war, confiscated either by Alfred Rosenberg’s department of historical research or by the Soviet Army in 1945. Another copy of the typescript can also be found at Columbia University’s special collections in New York, where part of Taube’s archive is now based, which Columbia had bought in the 1970s. Taube’s pre-1917 archive remains in Russia.

Despite the inconclusive end to his career as a lawyer and a historian, the history of Taube’s life in exile, as well as that of his archive, reflects more than just the fate of an unusual individual. What it shows is the social process by which a memory of empire was produced and shared in multiple languages, on typewriters and by hand, in private and public contexts, and in different cities such as Berlin, Uppsala, and especially Paris. Unlike most fugitives, these intellectuals projected themselves not just to their old home country, but into an entirely different epoch. The images they conjured up were images of multiple ruins of what they considered to be a lost European civilization. This is why, in this particular tragedy, like many in Paris, they felt closer to Antigone than to Creon. They traced their titles further back than the ruling dynasties or the new national governments of their day, back to the history of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, effectively a Franco-Germanic conglomerate of states with a dominant German cultural tradition, which had ceased to exist by a whim of Napoleon’s revolutionary fervour in 1806. By 1941, the Nazis were turning Germany into a Third Reich and stepping in Napoleon’s footsteps on their Russian campaign. In this process, Paris itself had turned from the capital of Europe’s refugees and the international struggle against fascism into a peripheral city of a republic under Nazi occupation. Against this backdrop, the Baltic Barons, descendants of the Crusaders, could do little else but idealize the internationalism of Europe’s second Byzantine Empire by dropping the ‘1’ from the years ‘1939–45’.

1 Michael Freiherr von Taube, Der großen Katastrophe entgegen. Die russische Politik der Vorkriegszeit und das Ende des Zarenreiches (Leipzig: Koehler, 1937), 376.

2 Mikhail Taube to Frau Dr. E. Fleischhaker-Ueberberger, 1 December 1941. MT, box 2, Folder Correspondence Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas, Columbia University Special Collections, New York.

3 On the significance of Paris in the anti-fascist movement, see Eric J. Hobsbawm, ‘Gli intellettuali e l’antifascismo’, in Storia del marxismo, 3:2 (Turin: Einaudi, 1981), 441490; for a transcript of the Paris anti-fascist congress, involving the Baltic philosopher Hermann Keyserling, see Paris 1935. Erster Internationaler Schriftstellerkongreß zur Verteidigung der Kultur. Reden und Dokumente, ed. Akademie der Wissenschaften der DDR (Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1982).

4 For more details on Belgian internationalism, see the work of Daniel Laqua, The Age of Internationalism and Belgium, 1880–1930: Peace, Progress and Prestige (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2013).

5 For the difficulty in naming these ethnic groups, see Andrejs Plakans, The Latvians: A Short History (Stanford: Hoover Institution Press, 1995), 113.

6 Czeslaw Milosz, Native Realm: A Search for Self-Definition (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981), 7, 263.

7 Fritz Reck-Malleczewen, Diary of a Man in Despair/ Tagebuch eines Verzweifelten (New York: Macmillan, 1947, 2000), 21.

8 On region-specific jokes, see also Wendy Bracewell (ed.), Orientations. An Anthology of East European Travel Writing, ca. 1550–2000 (Budapest: Central European University Press, 2009); on visual jokes, see also Simon J. Bronner, ‘Pictorial Jokes: A Traditional Combination of Verbal and Graphic Processes’, in Tennessee Folklore Society Bulletin, 44 (1978), 189196.

9 Lauren Benton, Law and Colonial Cultures: Legal Regimes in World History, 1400–1900 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 13, 153.

10 Cf. I.P. Solomykova, Estonskaia demokraticheskaia grafika perioda revoliutsii 1905–1907 godov (Tallin: Estonskoe gosudarstvennoe izdatel’stvo, 1955). I am grateful to Gert von Pistohlkors for directing me to this volume, which, as he said, he had obtained in a second-hand bookstore in Estonia in the 1990s. I had ordered my copy online from a Latvian store. For his interpretation of the caricatures, see Gert von Pistohlkors, Baltische Länder, in the series Deutsche Geschichte im Osten Europas (Berlin: Siedler, 1994), 421422.

11 Michael Freiherr von Taube, Der großen Katastrophe entgegen. Die russische Politik der Vorkriegszeit und das Ende des Zarenreiches (1904–1917) (Berlin and Leipzig: Georg Neuner, 1929), 355ff.

12 Ibid., 356.

13 Ibid., 191.

14 Andrew Radcliffe-Brown, ‘On Joking Relationships’, in Africa: Journal of the International African Institute, 13: 3 (July 1940), 195210; Andrew Radcliffe-Brown, ‘A Further Note on Joking Relationships’, in Africa: Journal of the International African Institute, 19:2 (April 1949), 133140, 136. I am grateful to Philip Wood for suggesting to look for literature in structural anthropology to get out of a theoretical impasse in this chapter.

15 Peter Burke, ‘Context in Context’, in Common Knowledge, 8:1 (Winter 2002), 152177.

16 Henri Lefèbvre, La production de l’espace (Paris: Anthropos/Economica, 1999). See also depiction of Livonia in Sebastian Münster’s Cosmographey oder Beschreibung aller Länder, Herrschafftenn und fürnemesten Stetten des gantzen Erdbodens (Basel, 1588; Munich: Kölbl, 1977).

17 Sir Walter Scott, ‘Introduction to the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, Consisting of Historical and Romantic Ballads Collected in the Southern Counties of Scotland, with a Few of Modern Date, Founded upon Local Tradition’, in The Complete Works of Sir Walter Scott, 7 vols., vol. 1 (New York: Conner & Cooke, 1833), 28.

18 Leitch Ritchie, A Journey to St. Petersburg and Moscow Through Courland and Livonia (London: Longman, 1836).

19 Ibid., 43.

20 Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, ed. Richard Tuck (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), ch. X, 68.

21 Andrea Alciato, Emblemata (Venice: Gulielmus Rouillius, 1548). See also collection of photographs of early modern nobles and clergy with coats of arms, e.g. ‘Männliches Bildnis mit Wappen der Bocholtz (Bischof von Paderborn), Deutschland, um 1560’, Berlin, private Sammlung, Foto Marburg, Aufnahme-Nr. 65.340 (1937); ‘Scheibe mit Bildnis des Herzogs Maximilian I., umgeben von den Wappen der 28 bayrischen Städte, Bayern, 1602, München, Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, Foto Marburg, Aufnahme-Nr. 110.167; Stehender Krieger mit Fahne und Wappen, Deutschland, 1501/1600, Köln, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum – Fondation Corboud, Graphische Sammlung, Inv.-Nr. Z, Rheinisches Bildarchiv Köln, Aufnahme-Nr. RBA 068 806; Bildindex der Kunst und Architektur, Bildarchiv Foto Marburg,|1, accessed 5 November 2013. See also entries for Secular Iconography, Warburg Institute Iconographic Database,, accessed 4 April 2014.

22 Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, ed. Richard Tuck (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 6263.

23 Alexei Losev, Problema simvola i realisticheskoe iskusstvo, 2nd ed. (Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1995).

24 Henri Lefèbvre, The Production of Space (London: Blackwell, 1991).

25 Arnolds Spekke, History of Latvia. An Outline (Stockholm: M. Goppers, 1951), 316.

26 Anon., Die lettische Revolution, Introduction Theodor Schiemann, vol. 1 (Berlin: G. Reimer, 1906), vol. 2 (Berlin: G. Reimer, 1907).

27 Hermann Keyserling, Reise durch die Zeit, 2 vols., vol. 1 (Vaduz: Liechtenstein Verlag, 1948), 33, 64.

28 August Wilhelm Heffter, Das europäische Völkerrecht der Gegenwart, auf den bisherigen Grundlagen (Berlin: Schroeder, 1844), cited after 5th ed., 1867.

29 Count Hermann Keyserling, Europe, transl. Maurice Samuel (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1928), 450451.

30 Mikhail von Taube, Khristianstvo i mezhdunarodnyi mir, 2nd ed. (Moscow: Posrednik, 1905).

31 Cf. George Steiner, Antigones: How the Antigone Legend Has Endured in Western Literature, Art, and Thought (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984). For mid-twentieth-century performances, see Jean Anouilh’s performance in 1944, during the Nazi occupation, and Brecht’s performance in 1949.

32 Cf. Alexandre Kojève, Introduction to the Reading of Hegel (based on Sorbonne lectures from 1934 to 1939, Engl. transl., New York: Basic Books, 1969).

33 For a critical overview, see Robert Pippin, Hegel on Self-Consciousness: Desire and Death in the Phenomenology of Spirit (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011), 11ff; Axel Honneth, Kampf um Anerkennung. Zur moralischen Grammatik sozialer Konflikte (Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp, 2003), 8089, on Kojève’s mistranslation of the term Begierde.

34 Mikhail Taube, ‘K istorii gerba Romanoffykh (dogadka o proiskhozhdenii Romanoffskogo grifa)’, Lecture given at the Russian Genealogical Society on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of the Romanoffs, 26 February 1913, Gerboved (July 1913), 109117,, accessed 3 April 2014.

35 Baron M. de Taube, ‘Les origines de l’arbitrage international. Antiquité et Moyen Age’, in Collected Courses of The Hague Academy of International Law, 42 (1932). See also Baron M. de Taube, L’apport de Byzance au développement du droit international occidental, 67 (1939).

36 Lauri Mälksoo, ‘The History of International Legal Theory in Russia: A Civilizational Dialogue with Europe’, in The European Journal of International Law, 19:1 (2008), 211232.

37 Zoran Pokrovac, Juristenausbildung in Osteuropa bis zum Ersten Weltkrieg. Rechtskulturen des modernen Osteuropa. Traditionen und Transfers (Frankfurt: Klostermann, 2007), esp. Anton D. Rudokvas and Aleksei Kartsov, ‘Der Rechtsunterricht und die juristische Ausbildung im kaiserlichen Russland’, 273–317; Aleksei Kartsov, ‘Das Russische Seminar für Römisches Recht an der juristischen Fakultät der Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität zu Berlin’, 317–353; Marju Luts-Sootak, ‘Der lange Beginn einer geordneten Juristenausbildung an der deutschen Universität zu Dorpat (1802–1893)’, 357–391.

38 ‘Delegation in Germany’, in Russisches Wissenschaftliches Institut: Various Correspondence, Financial Statements, Press Cuttings, etc., 1922–1932, C1255/151/170.1, UNOG Records and Archives Unit, Nansen Fonds, Refugees Mixed Archival Group, 1919–47.

39 Lieselotte Steveling, Juristen in Münster: Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Rechts- und Staatswissenschaftlichen Fakultät der Westfälischen Wilhelms-Universität Münster/Westf, Beiträge zur Geschichte der Soziologie, 10 (Münster: LIT-Verlag, 1999). See also O. Nippold, ‘Les conférences de La Haye et la Société des Nations’. Le développement historique du droit international depuis le Congrès de Vienne, in Collected Courses of the Hague Academy of International Law, 2 (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1924); M. de Taube, Études sur le développement historique du droit international dans l’Europe orientale, in Collected Courses of the Hague Academy of International Law, 11 (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1926); M. de Taube, L’inviolabilité des traités, in Collected Courses of the Hague Academy of International Law, 32 (1930); M. de Taube, Le statut juridique de la mer Baltique jusqu’au début du xixe siècle, in Collected Courses of the Hague Academy of International Law, 53 (1935); M. de Taube, L’apport de Byzance au développement du droit international occidental, 67 (1939); M. de Taube, La Russie et l’Europe Occidentale à travers dix siècles, Etude d’histoire internationale et de psychologie ethnique (Bruxelles: La Lecture au Foyer, Librairie Albert Dewit, 1926).

40 For more on this subject, see Isabel Hull, A Scrap of Paper: Breaking and Making International Law (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2014). Initially, the Carnegie Foundation’s interest in international law was expressed in publications of the classics in their original languages. See its modern edition of Emil de Vattel’s Le droit des gens, ou Principes de la loi naturelle appliqués à la conduite et aux affaires des nations et des souverains, Classics of International Law (Washington: Carnegie Institution, 1916).

41 See, for instance, Giovanni da Legnano, De Bello, De Represaliis et De Duello, ed. James Brown Scott (Oxford and Washington: Oxford University Press for the Carnegie Institution, 1917).

42 Fedor Martens, Sovremennoe mezhdunarodnoe pravo civilisovannykh narodov [Modern International Law of Civilized Peoples], 2 vols. (St. Petersburg: Benke, 1883). In this, Politis was in agreement with other notable lawyers such as the German Hans Kelsen and the Russian Fridrikh Martens. Politis was also instrumental in establishing the legal formulation for an ‘act of aggression’ in cooperation with the Soviet Union’s ambassador Maxim Litvinov in 1933. On Lyon Caen, see obituary by H.C. Gutteridge in The Cambridge Law Journal, 6:1 (March 1936), 9394; Nicholas Tsagourias, ‘Nicholas Politis’ Initiatives to Outlaw War and Define Aggression, and the Narrative of Progress in International Law’, in The European Journal of International Law, 23:1 (2012), 255–66; see also the primary source of the documents, League of Nations treaties No. 3405 of 5 July 1933.

43 Dionisio Anzilotti, Teoria generale della responsibilitá dello stato nel diritto internazionale (Florence: F. Lumachi, 1902).

44 Cf. Georg Jellinek, Allgemeine Staatslehre (Berlin: Haering, 1914), 337; Georg Jellinek, System der subjektiven öffentlichen Rechte (Freiburg: Mohr, 1892).

45 M. von Taube, Archiv des uradeligen Geschlechts Taube, sonst Tuve genannt (Yuryev: Mattiesen, 1911); M. de Taube, ‘Beiträge zur baltischen Familiengeschichte’, in Jahrbuch für Genealogie, Heraldik und Sphragistik (1899), 143147; 1900, 8589; 1903, 113115; 1904, 115120; 1905/06, 257–262; 1907/08, 65–73; 1909/10, 13; M. de Taube., Die von Uxkull; genealogische Geschichte des uradeligen Geschlechts der Herren, Freiherren und Grafen von Uexkull, 1229–1929 (Berlin: Julius Sittenfeld, 1930).

46 See Ole Spierman, ‘A Permanent Court of International Justice’, in Nordic Journal of International Law, 72 (2003), 399418.

47 More on the imperial history of Russian legal internationalism, see Peter Holquist, ‘Baron Boris Nolde. Dilemmas of a Progressive Administrator’, in Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History, 7:2 (Spring 2006), 241273.

48 W.E.B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk (Chicago: McClurg, 1904); Paul Gilroy, The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1993).

49 Anomymous, ‘Das römische Recht in Russland’, in Stimmen des Auslands über die Zukunft der Rechtswissenschaft, ed. Rudolf Leonhard, series Studien zur Erläuterung des bürgerlichen Rechts, vol. 17 (Breslau: M&H Marcus, 1906), 105106.

50 Taube, ‘K istorii gerba Romanoffykh’.

51 On the connections between the Russian expatriate universities and the old imperial elites, see the papers of Mikhail Nikolaevich de Giers, the last Russian ambassador in Rome during the First World War. Mikhail de Giers papers, Box 21, Folder 1, Hoover Institution Archives, Stanford, California. See also Robert Paul Browder and Alexander Kerensky (eds.), The Russian Provisional Government 1917 Documents, vol. 1 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1961).

52 Kozlov et al. (eds.), The Last Diary of Tsaritsa Alexandra, 29.

53 Keyserling to Nikolai Ikonnikov, 16 June 1937, in HKN A-4 Ahnenforschung. Ikonnikov replied on 19 June 1937 in Russian, attaching a list of about 300 Murawioffs and their relatives and apologizing for the incomplete information, since many documents were inaccessible to him.

54 Nikolai Ikonnikov, ‘Piatsot dnei: sekretnaia sluzhba v tylu bolshevikov, 1918–1919’, in Russkoe Proshloe, 7 (1996), 43105.

55 Keyserling to Baronin Jenny Pilar von Pilchau, Darmstadt, 9 July 1935, in HKN A-4, Ahnenforschung.

56 Keyserling’s documents contain a copy of the certificate issued by the ‘Sachverständige für Rasseforschung beim Reichsministerium des Innern’ on 8 November 1933, that the alleged Jewish ancestor of Bismarck, so claimed by the Semigothasches Genealogisches Taschenbuch, 1914, 198, was in fact an English reverend. Berlin, 8 November 1933.

57 See, for example, Eduard von Dellingshausen, Die Entstehung, Entwicklung und Aufbauende Tätigkeit der Baltischen Ritterschaften (Langensalza: H. Beyer, 1928); Otto Magnus von Stackelberg, Genealogisches Handbuch Der Estländischen Ritterschaft (Görlitz: Verl. für Sippenforschung und Wappenkunde Starke, 1930); Oskar Stavenhagen, Genealogisches Handbuch der Kurländischen Ritterschaft (Görlitz: Verl. für Sippenforschung und Wappenkunde Starke, 1939).

58 See, for example, Ahnentafel berühmter Deutscher, ed. Zentralstelle für Deutsche Personen- und Familiengeschichte, 1939. Introduction by Otto Magnus Stackelberg, typescript in HKN, A-4, Ahnenerbe.

59 Kessler, 30 January 1935, in Kessler, Diaries, vol. 9.

60 ‘Abstammungsnachweis für Adlige beim Erbhof- Zulassungsverfahren’, Beiblatt der Frankfurter Zeitung, 6 II 1935, in HKN A-4, 194.02.

61 For a great example of elite group cosmopolitanism, see Maurizio Isabella, Risorgimento in Exile. Italian Émigrés and the Liberal International in the Post-Napoleonic Era (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009).

62 William Safran, ‘Diasporas in Modern Societies: Myths of Homeland and Return’, in A Journal of Transnational Studies, 1:1 (Spring, 1991), 8399, 8384; Orlando Patterson, Slavery and Social Death: A Comparative Study (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1982); Gilroy, The Black Atlantic; Kim D. Butler, ‘Defining Diaspora, Refining a Discourse’, in Diaspora: A Journal of Transnational Studies, 10:2 (Fall 2001), 189219; Elliott P. Skinner, ‘The Dialectic between Diasporas and Homelands’, in Global Dimensions of the African Diaspora, ed. Joseph E. Harris (Washington: Howard University Press, 1982), 1745; Anthony D. Smith, Theories of Nationalism (New York: Harper, 1971); Robin Cohen, ‘New Roles for Diasporas in International Relations’, in Journal of Transnational Studies, 14:1 (Spring 2005), 179183; Robin Cohen, Global Diasporas, An Introduction (London: Routledge, 1997).

63 Walker Connor, ‘The Impact of Homelands Upon Diasporas’, in Modern Diasporas in International Politics, ed. Gabriel Sheffer (New York: St. Martin’s, 1986), 1646; James Casteel, ‘The Politics of Diaspora: Russian German Émigré Activists in Interwar Germany’, in German Diasporic Experiences: Identity, Migration, and Loss, ed. Mathias Schulze et al. (Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2008), 117130; Pieter Judson, ‘When Is a Diaspora Not a Diaspora?’, in Heimat Abroad, ed. Krista O’Donnell, Renate Bridenthal, and Nany Reagin (Ann Arbor: Michigan University Press, 2005), 219247.

64 Keyserling to Üxküll von Gildenband, 31 May 1931, Mikhail von Taube papers, Special Collections, Columbia University, New York: ‘çto kasaetsia grafini U.-G., to, moe skromnoe mnenie: na konwerte napischite po nemezki – Ihrer Hoch- und Wohlgeboren, Reichsgräfin etc … W priglasitelnych na swadbu doçeri biletach Eux U.ßG napeçatal « … Ihrer Tochter, Reichsgräfin imiarek ». W moe wremia w Wene baryschen imenovali Komtessen, a ne Reichsgräfin. Tempora mutantur i teper kakia-to nowyia formuly. Po franz. Wy, koneçno, obratilis by k grafine s « Madame ». Ia polagal by, çto obrascenie Hochgeehrte Gräfin Uxkull bylo by ssamoe prawilnoe.’ See also Üxküll to Keyserling, 6 November 1939: ‘Mes tantes (89, 78 et 75 ans) evacuees à Danzig en 5 jours. Finis dominie baltici après 7 siècles. Les Dünafürsten remplacés par Molot i serp. Hommages, amitiès. Votre devoué Uxkull’. G rue Patr. Joachim, 27 Afiny, Mikhail von Taube papers.

65 Uexküll to Mikhail von Taube, 11 March 1931, Mikhail von Taube papers.

66 On the design of the hammer and sickle, see the work of Viktor Narbut, as discussed after his death in the mid-1920s by Viktor Lukomskii and others. There was a commemorative album of his designs of heraldic symbols for the Soviet Union, published in Kiev in 1926. Giorgi Narbut. Posmertna vystavka tvoriv (Kiev, 1926), but I have not been able to locate it. For more references, see, accessed 1 June 2013. For a philosophy of the symbol within and beyond a Soviet context, see the rival views of Alexei Losev, Znak, simvol, mif (Moscow: Izd-tvo moskovskogo un-ta, 1982); and Yuri Lotman, Semiotika kul’tury i poniatie teksta (Tallinn: University Press, 1992).

67 Keyserling to Nikolai Ikonnikov, 16 June 1937, HKN.

68 Martin Heidegger, ‘The Hand and the Typewriter’ (1942–43), in Gramophone, Film, Typewriter, ed. Friedrich Kittler (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999).

69 Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, 3 March 1918. Facsimile at, accessed 5 July 2015.

70 On heredity as a type of memory, the continuity between psychic and physical memory, and forgetting, Théodoule Ribot, Les Maladies de la mémoire (Paris: Alcan, 1895), 49ff, 164165; Sigmund Freud, Zur Auffassung der Aphasien. Eine kritische Studie (Leipzig and Vienna: Deuticke, 1891); and Roman Jakobson, Kindersprache, Aphasie und allgemeine Lautgesetze (1941) (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1969); on multilingualism and trauma, see Jacqueline Amati Mehler, Simona Argentieri, and Jorge Canestri (eds.), The Babel of the Unconscious Mother Tongue and Foreign Languages in the Psychoanalytic Dimension (Madison, Conn.: International Universities Press, 1993).

71 Anna Wiezbicka, Semantics, Culture and Cognition: Universal Human Concepts in Culture-Specific Configurations (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992).

72 On code-switching and language loss, see Uriel Weinreich, Languages in Contact: Findings and Problems (The Hague: Mouton, 1953); Steven G. Kellmann, The Translingual Imagination (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2000).

73 Longina Jakubowska, Patrons of History. Nobility, Capital and Political Transitions in Poland (London: Ashgate, 2012); Sofia Tchouikina, Dvorianskaia pamiat’: ‘byvshye’ v sovetskom gorode (Leningrad, 1920e–30e gody) (St. Petersburg: Izd-vo Evropeiskogo universiteta v StPb, 2006).

74 Michael Taube, ‘The Birth Secret of Catherine II and Its Political Significance’, typescript marked uncorrected, my archive (acquired on from New Zealand bookseller), probably a translation by Nicholas Danilow.

1 Norbert Elias, ‘Group Charisma and Group Disgrace’, in Elias, Essays III. On Sociology and the Humanities (Dublin: University College Dublin Press, 2009), 7382; Henry de Man, ‘Germany’s New Prophets’, in Yale Review, 13:4 (July 1924), 665683.

2 On Rabindranath Tagore’s global appeal, see Michael Collins, Empire, Nationalism and the Postcolonial World. Rabindranath Tagore’s Writings on History, Politics and Society (London: Routledge, 2011).