On horseback to the Kremlin
Why did the former Austrian foreign minister go to Russia (along with her ponies)? Some observations on Austria's negative similarities with the Balkans - and the benefits the Balkans have had from Vienna
Years ago (even then it was almost autumn) a diplomat of a very important European state, while enjoying Peja beer in a restaurant in Pristina, started to tell about his experiences during meetings of Western ambassadors in the capital of Kosovo. According to him, it is self-evident and not at all surprising that the American ambassador (or ambassador) has the most influence in the country (for well-known historical reasons).
But, he continued, sometimes "the ambassador of Austria tries to appear in front of us and in front of the American, who in a not so diplomatic way informs us that 'we Austrians know the Balkans best'. This may be true, because Austria is very similar to the Balkans - not only for the better," the diplomat of the important European state added ironically.
"The Balkans begins at the Rennweg" (a street in Vienna). This quote is circulating everywhere and it is said that its author is Chancellor Metternich of Austria. This is not true, but since it sounds nice, then it continues to be quoted to this day - by politicians and publicists, although the desolate Metternich died in 1859 (he was born in 1773).
The Balkans begins in Vienna: this quote gained new relevance in recent days after it became known that Austria's former foreign minister, Karin Kneissl, has moved to Russia. She became known beyond Austria when in 2018 she invited the ruler of Russia, Vladimir Putin, to her wedding. He even danced with her and made a kneeling gesture, which was immortalized by photographers and spread to the four corners of the world. In 2018, Putin was almost rehabilitated in some western states (despite the occupation of Crimea) and in this process of rehabilitation, Austria appeared. Kneissl was criticized but showed no signs of remorse.
In 2019, the Austrian government lost power after a secretly recorded video revealed that politicians from the populist FPÖ party had gone to a villa on the Spanish island of Ibiza to discuss with a Russian woman about investments in Austria and the purchase of an Austrian newspaper. with Russian money. The Russian introduced herself as the granddaughter of a Russian oligarch. In fact, she was not Russian (her identity has not yet been fully clarified), but part of a trap set up for populist politicians. When the video became public, the populists fled the government - along with then-chancellor Sebastian Kurz's People's Party. Kneissl was proposed by the populists as foreign minister. Since she was not a member of the FPÖ, she remained in the post for a few months, but when she swore in a government of experts, Kneissl finally left the post of chief diplomat. In 2020, her marriage ended. After harsh criticism of his closeness to the Putin regime, Kneissl went to France, then to Lebanon. He called himself politically persecuted. Putin did not forget the ambitious Austrian: he rewarded her with a position on the board of a Russian oil company. In May 2022, he withdrew from this function, since as an EU citizen he had no right to hold it.
But Kneissl remained loyal to his master in the Kremlin. Now, as already said, she chose Russia as her new homeland. She also took her ponies, a short breed, with her. How to ride horses in wartime Russia? The Government in Moscow took care of this. Kneissl and the horses made their way to Syria. From a military base there, a Russian military plane brought the animals and the former Austrian diplomat to Russia. Plus a cat. Perhaps it is not unfair to say that Kneissl may have a motive for moving to Russia - money. As a pro-Russian propagandist and apologist for Putin, she is welcome in the Evil Empire. In St. Petersburg, Kneissl will head the Gorky Institute, a think tank to rationalize Russian hegemonic geopolitics.
At the wedding, Putin didn't miss out: he brought a Cossack choir and sapphire earrings, an extremely precious stone. The value of the earrings was: 50 thousand euros. The Austrian Foreign Ministry considered the earrings a gift belonging to the state. Kneissl fought to get the ornaments, but eventually gave up. She accused her husband of violence and of killing her dog. Left without a husband, without a dog and - most importantly - without money, Kneissl began to fall even more to the drum of pro-Russian propaganda, spoke in favor of Moscow wherever she was given the opportunity, and especially on the Russian propaganda television RT. The moral of this whole story: Kneissl has demonstrated in recent years a very Balkan behavior, if the political Balkans is taken as a synonym for corruption and comedy.
The former head of the Austrian Secret Service, Peter Gridling, recently told the British newspaper "Financial Times" that one should be careful and watch carefully the connections of the Austrian populists of the FPÖ with Russia. This party signed a cooperation agreement with Putin's party years ago. This party has cultivated close relations with Serbian nationalists in Belgrade and Banja Luka for years.
Looking a little further back in history, Vienna has been the undeclared capital of the Balkans. Here a peasant from Mati with aristocratic ambitions has seen the first opera: we are talking about Ahmet Zogu. When he wasn't watching opera, he was trying to escape the Austrian police, who were interested in which hotel he was going to with his Austrian girlfriend, who was said to be a dancer. Hasan Prishtina, meanwhile, used the cafes of Vienna's hotels to meet Bulgarian nationalists and to convince them to oppose Serbian expansionist policies together. If we dig a little deeper in history, we reach the year 1683, when the Ottomans surrounded Vienna and there were Albanians and Bosniaks among the soldiers. Skanderbeg's sword and helmet are kept in a museum in Vienna. In Vienna, Eqrem Bey Vlora finished high school and was thus immersed in Austrian and German culture, so much so that he wrote his famous memoirs in German.
Even in the history of the South Slavs, Vienna occupies an important place: in 1850, Croatian and Serbian intellectuals met in Vienna to discuss the common language that was later called Serbo-Croatian and today is called Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian, Montenegrin (or not it is said: Montenegrin?) In Vienna, Vuk Karaxhiqi laid the foundations of the Serbian written language, the Croatian physicist Rugjer Boshkovic wrote one of his most important works, the Albanian Aleksandër Moisiu conquered the theater stages and the hearts of the ladies of the city, Maria Kon, born near Sarajevo, was the first woman from Bosnia to receive a doctorate at the University of Vienna. The Serbian enlightener Dositej Obradoviqi (1739-1811) also lived in Vienna, who traveled around Albania and kept notes about Albania.
Miss Karin Kneissl is probably now feeding someone in a village near Moscow. With Russian tags.
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