Rudolf Carl von Slatin

Rudolf Carl von Slatin

Major-General Sir Rudolf Anton Carl von Slatin GCVO KCMG CB [1] (June 7, 1857, Ober-Sankt-Veit, Hietzing, Vienna – October 4, 1932, ) was an Anglo-Austrian soldier and administrator in the Sudan.[2]

Early life

Slatin was born in Ober St Veit near Vienna.[3][4][5] He was the 4h child of the merchant Michael Slatin and his second wife Anna.[3] His father converted from Judaism to Christianity (Roman Catholic).[3] The children consisted of the twins, Maria and Anna (born in 1852); Heinrich (born in 1855); Rudolf Adolf (born in 1861); and Leopoldine (born in 1864).[3] His father died in 1873[3] when Rudolf was at the Viennese commercial academy. He heard that a German bookseller in Cairo was looking for an assistant.[3] He traveled to Trieste and thence in 5 days to Alexandria.[3] He worked in the bookstore[4] until travelling with the German businessman and consul Rosset to Khartum.[3][6] Thence he went through Kordofan[6] to Dar Nuba, exploring the mountains of that region. He was forced to return to Khartum because of a rebellion of the local Arabs against the Egyptian government. There Slatin met Dr Emin (Emin Pasha) and with him purposed visiting General Charles George Gordon[6] at Lado, Gordon at that time being Governor of the Equatorial Provinces. Slatin, however, was obliged to return to Austria without accomplishing his desire, but Emin went to Lado and at Slatin's request recommended the young traveler to Gordon for employment in the Sudan.[3][4]
In 1875 he accompanied German explorer and ornithologist Theodor von Heuglin to Khartum.[5] Slatin left Africa in order to serve his conscription order in the Austrian army.[5][7][8][9][10]

In 1878, while Slatin was serving as a lieutenant in the crown prince Rudolf's regiment in the Bosnian campaign[5][9][10] he received a letter from Gordon inviting him to the Sudan, where Gordon had become the Governor-General.[1][6] Slatin was now a Lieutenant in the reserves of the Austro-Hungarian Army.[1][3] At the close of the campaign, Slatin received permission to go to Africa and he arrived in Khartum in January 1879. After a brief period as financial inspector[6], Slatin was appointed Mudir (governor) of Dara, the south-western part of Darfur[6][10], a post he held until early in 1881, when he was promoted Governor-General of Darfur and given the rank of bey.

Surrender of Dara

While administering Dara, Slatin conducted a successful campaign against one of the Darfur princes in revolt, and as governor of Darfur he endeavoured to remedy many abuses, particularly the endemic slave trade. He had soon to meet the rising power of the Mahdi Mahommed Ahmed. Early in 1882 the Arabs in southern Darfur of Rizeigat tribesmen led by Sheikh Madibbo who was the Emir of Darfur in Mahdiya revolted at the battle of Om Waragat. Slatin gallantly defended his province. Though victorious in over 20 engagements, he lost ground tremendously. As his followers attributed this failure to the fact that he was a Christian, Slatin nominally and publicly adopted Islam in 1883.[1]

But all hope of maintaining Egyptian authority vanished with the news of the destruction of Hicks Pasha's army and in December 1883 Slatin surrendered, refusing to make any further sacrifice of life in a hopeless cause. When the Mahdis reached Khartum, an attempt was made to use him to induce the commander Charles George Gordon, former governor general of Sudan, to surrender. This failing, Slatin was placed in chains, and on the morning of January 26, 1885, an hour or two after the fall of Khartum, Gordon's head was brought to the camp and shown to the captive. After the sudden death of the Mahdi the same year, Slatin was kept at Omdurman by his successor, the Khalifa Abdullahi, being treated alternately with savage cruelty and comparative indulgence. During his captivity, he worked as adviser and interpreter for the Mahdi, and was made to serve in the personal retinue of the Khalifa.[1]

Escape from captivity

At length, after over eleven years captivity, he was able to escape[11], with the help of Sir Reginald (then Major) Wingate of the Egyptian Intelligence Department, in a perilous 1000 km. and three week journey across the desert, reaching Aswan, Egypt in March 1895. In a remarkable book, Fire and Sword in the Sudan, written in the same year and issued in English and German in 1896, Slatin gave not only, as stated in the sub-title, a personal narrative of fighting and serving the dervishes but a comprehensive account of the Sudan under the rule of the Khalifa.

Raised to the rank of Pasha by the Khedive[1][5], Slatin received from Queen Victoria the Companionship of the Bath. On the eve of his surrender to the Mahdi at Christmas 1883, he had resolved, if he regained his liberty, to use the knowledge he would acquire while in captivity for the eventual benefit of the country, and after a years rest he took part, as an officer on the staff of the Egyptian army, in the campaigns of 1897-98 which ended in the capture of Omdurman.[11][12]

In autumn 1895, he was granted an audience with Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria.[10]

Further service

For his services in these campaigns, he was made a KCMG and in 1899 was knighted by Franz Joseph I of Austria and in 1900 by Queen Victoria.[1][8][13] Also in 1899, he was made a Brigadier-General in the British Army.[7][8][9] In 1900 he was appointed Inspector-General of the Sudan[1][7][9][14], in which capacity his mastery of Arabic and his profound knowledge of the land and peoples proved invaluable in the work of reconstruction undertaken by the Anglo-Egyptian government in that country.[4] He was a personal friend of the Governor General, F. R. Wingate, and was free to define his role as Inspector-General without much interference from his colleagues and superiors. Never before or since did any official hold the title of Inspector-General. He was a frequent guest of Queen Victoria.[4]

In 1906, he was ennobled by Franz Joseph I of Austria.[1][13] He was since styled "Freiherr von Slatin".[9] In 1907, he was made an honorary major-general in the British army. His rank in the Austro-Hungarian Army always remained Leutnant d.R.[9][10]

He wrote his memoirs "Feuer und Schwert in Sudan"[5][12], which became a bestseller.[10] They were edited by F. R. Wingate, and originally published in English in 1896 entitled "Fire and Sword in the Sudan". They were published in German in 1896 by the Brockhaus Verlag in Leipzig.[4][15] His position as Inspector-General of the Sudan terminated in 1914 due to the commencement of hostilities in World War I between Great Britain and Austria-Hungary.[1][11][14]

He then headed the Prisoners-of-War section of the Austrian Red Cross.[1][7][9] [10][13][16] He was awarded with the title Geheimrat[13] by Franz Joseph I of Austria during World War I.[4][8]

He was involved in the plans of Charles I of Austria to get a separate peace with Great Britain and France.[8][9]

Later life

He received absolution from the Pope for his conversion to Islam, which he had reversed.[3]

On 21 June 1914, Rudolf Carl von Slatin married Baroness Alice von Ramberg.[1][10] The wedding took place in the Votivkirche in Vienna. In 1916, their daughter Anne Marie was born.

During the years he served the British Empire, he became acquainted with Robert Baden-Powell and became his personal friend.[12] So it was not surprising that he was asked to serve within the new founded Austrian Scout organisation. From 1914 to 1918, he was the Honorary Chief Scout of the Österreichischer Pfadfinderbund.[17]:278

He was also a Honorary member of the Royal Geographical Society.[13]

In 1918, on behalf of the Austrian government led by Renner, he was instrumental, through his British contacts, in ensuring the supply of food and coal from Czechoslovakia for the beleaguered and starving inhabitants of Vienna.[8] For this he was made an honorary citizen of Vienna.[4][8][12]

In 1919, he was a member of the Austrian delegation in St. Germain.[1][7][8][9][10] and was responsible for the repatriation of Prisoners of War.[7][13]

In 1919, a Scout group of the Österreichischer Pfadfinderbund in Klosterneuburg was named Slatin Pascha.[17]:57

He first moved to Switzerland with his family, but after the death of his wife he went to South Tyrol.[1][7][18]

In 1923, after the death of his wife, he moved to Meran and lived in a villa in Obermais, a quarter of Meran.[1] In June 1932, he and his daughter Anne Marie were guests of George V.[8]

He died on 4 October 1932[12], during an operation for cancer in Vienna,[3][4][9] and was buried on 6 October in the cemetery of Ober St. Veit, a suburb of Vienna. His funeral looked like a state funeral.[8] His grave is still there.[4]

Memory and legacy

In 1936, a memorial was erected in Khartum, but it was destroyed in 1956 by the Sudanese government, after Sudan became independent.[9]

The Spitzvilla in Upper Austria near Traunkirchen is a memorial site for Rudolf Carl von Slatin. He bought it in 1897 and there entertained many grand persons of his epoch.

In 1967 the public-service German television channel ZDF produced a movie in two parts about Rudolf Carl von Slatin.[19] It was titled Slatin Pascha.[19] At the moment a documentary film about Slatin Pascha, Sudanese history and Sudan today is produced by the Austrian company Fischer Film.[20][21][22]

At the Austrian National Jamboree in 1961 a Subcamp was named Slatin Pascha.[17]:190

An Old Scouts Guild, affiliated with the Pfadfinder-Gilde Österreichs is named Slatin Pascha.[23] An Old Scout Group, belonging to the Österreichischer Pfadfinderbund in Vienna is named Slatin Pascha.[24][25] A Scout Group in Vienna, belonging the National Scout Organisation Pfadfinder Österreichs, was also named Slatin Pascha.[26]


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 "Slatin Rudolf (Anton Carl) Pascha" (in German). Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften. Retrieved 2008-01-19. 
  2. (in German) Großes Handlexikon in Farbe. Gütersloh: Lexikon-Institut Bertelsmann. 1979. p. 983. 
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 Schwaner, Birgit (2007-06-01) (in German), Der Abenteurer aus Ober St. Veit,, retrieved 2008-01-19 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 4.8 4.9 Pircher, Astrid (2002). "Ein Österreicher im Sudan-Die Geschichte von Rudolph Karl Slatin, genannt Slatin Pascha" (in German) (pdf). Global View (2): 12. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 (in German) Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon. Leipzig: Bibliographisches Institut. 1909. p. 538. Retrieved 2009-09-07. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 Dr. A. Berger (1924) (in German). Der heilige Nil. Mit 16 Bildern nach eigenen Aufnahmen des Verfassers.. Berlin: Wegweiser Verlag. Retrieved 2009-12-28. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 "Pascha Sir Rudolf Anton Karl Slatin" (in German). Retrieved 2008-01-19. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 8.6 8.7 8.8 8.9 Felix Steinwandtner (2002). "Er war ein General...." (in German). Retrieved 2008-01-19. 
  9. 9.00 9.01 9.02 9.03 9.04 9.05 9.06 9.07 9.08 9.09 9.10 Karl Heinz Fasol. "Das abenteuerliche Leben des Rudolf Slatin (1857–1932)" (in German) (doc). Rotary Club Bochum-Hellweg. Retrieved 2008-01-19. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 10.5 10.6 10.7 10.8 Erwin A.Schmidl. "Österreicher in Afrika" (in German). TRUPPENDIENST-Zeitschrift für Ausbildung, Führung und Einsatz im Österreichischen Bundesheer. Retrieved 2009-12-28. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Christian Gastgeber. "Naher Osten: Einfluss und Wirkung des Habsburger" (in German). ORF ON Science. Retrieved 2009-12-28. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 Ernst Joseph Görlich (October 1957). "Ein großer Österreicher: Rudolf Slatin Pascha" (in German). Unser Ziel-Monatsschrift für Führer und Mitarbeiter (Pfadfinder Österreichs): 21–22. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 13.5 Ringhoffer, E. (in German), Slatin,, retrieved 2009-12-28 
  14. 14.0 14.1 (in German) Der Volks-Brockhaus. Wiesbaden: F.A.Brockhaus. 1959. p. 734. 
  15. "Panbuch-Österreichisch Sudanesische Gesellschaft" (in German) (pdf). Dachverband aller österreichisch-ausländischen Gesellschaften - PaN. pp. 62–63. Retrieved 2008-01-19. 
  16. "Slatin, Rudolf Karl" (in German). Retrieved 2008-01-19. 
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 Kurt Pribich (2004) (in German). Logbuch der Pfadfinderverbände in Österreich. Vienna: Pfadfinder-Gilde-Österreichs. 
  18. Erich Sommerauer. "Slain Pasha (1857-1932)" (in German) (pdf). Geschichte der Afrikanistik in Österreich. p. 8. Retrieved 2009-12-28. 
  19. 19.0 19.1 "Slatin Pascha (1967)" (in German). IMDb. Retrieved 2009-09-07. 
  20. "Filme in Vorbereitung: Feuer und Schwert im Sudan - Slatin Pascha" (in German). Österreichisches Filminstitut. Retrieved 2009-09-07. 
  21. "Feuer und Schwert im Sudan / Slatin Pasha" (in German). Filmfonds Wien. Retrieved 2009-09-07. 
  22. "4 TV Projekte" (in German). FOR TV GmbH und Co KG. Retrieved 2009-12-27. 
  23. "Distrikte-Wien" (in German). Pfadfinder-Gilde-Österreichs. Retrieved 2008-01-19. 
  24. Hans Popotnig (1980). "Bundesverlautbarung Nr.180-Gruppen:Umschichtungen, Zusammenlegungen und Stillegungen" (in German). Unser Weg-Die Pfadfinderzeitung des ÖPB (Österreichischer Pfadfinderbund) 4/1980: 15. 
  25. Bärbel Engelhart (2009). "FM Kurt Berger" (in German). Unser Weg-Die Pfadfinderzeitung des ÖPB (Österreichischer Pfadfinderbund) 2/2009: 16. 
  26. (in German) Führer- und Mitarbeiterverzeichnis. Vienna: Pfadfinder Österreichs. 1970-07-01. p. 45. 

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