In the latest installment of our new (semi)regular segment, Wow! Really?, we examine little-known or unexpected facts about Hungary and Hungarian culture.
Emperor-King Francis Joseph, the archipelago’s namesake.
Many of our readers have no doubt heard of Francis Joseph, Emperor-King of Austria-Hungary (if you haven’t, be sure to check out Hungary Today’s article on the 100th anniversary of his death here). What you may not know, however, is that there is an archipelago in the Arctic Ocean that bears his name to this very day, that when first discovered was one of Austria-Hungary’s few overseas territories. From a certain point of view then, this beautiful, uninhabited series of islands is perhaps Hungary’s first (and only) foray into the 19th century world of colonialism.
The islands, known in Hungarian as Ferenc Józesf-föld, were officially discovered by the Austro-Hungarian North Pole Expedition, which ran from 1872 to 1874. While they never reached the North Pole, the expedition did manage to claim a piece of the artic for the Monarchy, and were hailed as heroes upon their return home.
The individual islands are named after a slew of notables; these include Rudolf Island, named after Austro-Hungarian Crown-Prince Rudolf; Zichy Land, named after Count Ödön Zichy, member of the prominent Hungarian aristocratic family and key sponsor of the expedition; Prince George Land, named after future British King George V; and Graham Bell Island, named after the famed inventor of the telephone.
A polar bear on Rudolf Island in Franz Joseph Land (Photo- Cory Richards, National Geographic).
Following the end of the First World War and the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Franz Joseph Land was annexed by the Soviet Union, and while it has retained the Emperor-King’s name, the archipelago remains Russian territory to this very day.
Uninhabited, the islands are officially a nature reserve within Russia’s Artic National Park. They remain an important destination for scientists and researchers.
Via National Geographic and Wikipedia
Images via National Geographic, Wikimedia Commons, and the Belvedere