Leon von Bilinski
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Leon von Bilinski
Leon von Bilinski, a conservative Polish noble, who was highly favoured by Kaiser Franz Josef. In 1912, he succeeded Istvan Burian in the dual posts of Imperial Finance Minister and Bosnian Governor.  Not long after this, however, Bilinski began to experience troubles with the military Governor in Bosnia, Oskar Potiorek. Simply put, Potiorek was a hard-liner while Bilinski was open to accomodation.  The public rivalry of these gentlemen caused real dissention among the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina; perhaps more than was to be expected.

The duality of the governorship in Bosnia-Herzegovina illustrated the struggle between Archduke
Franz Ferdinand, General Conrad von Hötzendorf, and the military chiefs (supporting Potiorek) on the one hand, and the Kaiser and his cabinet (supporting Bilinski) on the other.  Bilinski and his civil authority was being sapped from him thanks to the factional dissention.  Such troubles caused Potiorek to close the Bosnian parliament, Serb societies, and other factional offices.  Bilinski opposed these measures as they might exascerbate the tense situation in Bosnia. 

Bilinski was not even informed of the Archduke's decision to visit Bosnia for the summer manoeuvers in June, 1914.  For this, the military arranged security, and the civil police took orders from them. This may be the reason for the obvious laxness in security during the Archduke's visit and subsequent assassination:  the Sarajevo authorities were forbidden to take orders from their civil governor.


Re-creating a Kingdom

From the beginning of the war, the minister was very interested in unifying conquered Congress Poland to Galicia-Lodomeria as either an autonomous crownland or, more ideally, as a third member equal to Austria and Hungary.  In an endeavour to convince the Germans and Hungarians to accept this trialist scheme, Bilinski joined forces with Michal Bobrzynski, former governor of Galicia-Lodomeria.  They, in turn, received support from the Naczelny Komitet Narodowy (Supreme National Committee), which was formed in Krakau in August 1914 to take charge of the expected Polish uprising that Generals Kummer and Woyrsch were supposed to foment.  These uprisings did not take place, however, and the committee leaned toward Bilinski as its chief spokesman. 

Conrad warned Bilinski not to push the issue before the war was over.  Foreign Minister
Berchtold welcomed the effort on the Finance Minister's part, because the alternative was an independent Polish state that would inevitably turn into another Piedmont for Austria to deal with.  Hungary's Premier Tisza was opposed to trialism of any kind, be it with South Slav territories, because it threatened Hungary's control of Croatia-Slavonia or with Poland, because it challenged Hungary's preferential relationship with Austria.  Austrian Chancellor Stürgkh understood the Polish situation better than anyone.  He admitted to Bilinski and others that "the Pole is and remains a Pole.  He is not an Austrian after 150 years of union with Austria."

Bilinski's efforts directly paralleled the effort of Potiorek's replacement as military governor of Bosnia-Herzegovina, General
Stefan von Sarkotic. The efforts by Sarkotic were aimed at bringing about a triune monarchy consisting of Austria, Hungary, and a South Slav state.  Both Bilinski and Sarkotic believed trialism to be the answer to the Empire's woes, but their directions were completely different.  As Bilinski was the civil governor at the same time Sarkotic was military governor, the two men must have discussed their respective positions.  Whatever their words, it must have been interesting, as each gentleman was devoted to both the Empire and his respective people. 

GWS, 3/01
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