The Cunning of History: The Politics of Today and the Austro-Hungarian Empire of the Past

Leon Botstein
President of Bard College and Board Chairman of Central European University

When: May 11, 2018
Where: Johns Hopkins SAIS, Washington, DC

The Annual Botstiber lecture 2018 was presented by Professor Botstein, the longstanding president of Bard College, on May 11th, 2018 at Johns Hopkins University in DC.
His talk entitled “The Cunning of History: The Politics of Today and the Austro-Hungarian Empire of the Past” opened with a fascinating presentation of the cultural state of play during the Belle Époque in Vienna, focused on the achievements of Botstiber’s father Hugo as a co-founder of the Vienna Konzerthaus, a secessionist movement aiming at organizing classical concerts for the masses to counterbalance the elitist Musikverein and its prohibitive musical subscription system. Botstein went on to extemporate on the Germanic vs. national identity of famed composers from the different “Crown-Lands” (Dvorak, Bartok, etc.) to conclude by using the political history of Eastern and Central Europe since the end of the First World War as a guide to look at the post-Communist period and recent political developments, including the question of democracy in its liberal and illiberal forms.
At the end of talk, discussions among the audience went on over wine and cheese, before the orator, the Botstiber staff and the Austrian Ambassador retreated to the Cosmos Club for further debates over dinner.
This Botstiber lecture was a part of the Austrian Lecture Series jointly organized by the Botstiber Institute for Austrian-American Studies, the Austrian Marshall Plan Foundation, the Embassy of Austria, and the Center for Transatlantic Relations at Johns Hopkins University SAIS on the occasion of the 180th anniversary of the U.S.-Austrian diplomatic relations, the Commemorative Year 2018 (including the centenary of the founding of the Republic of Austria) and the Austrian presidency of the European Union 2018.