1893-1914 World War I
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Austria-Hungary in World War I, 1914-1918

A.) The Chain of Events leading to World War I

In 1914 the DOUBLE MONARCHY continued to be ruled by an administration appointed by the Emperor in Vienna, permitting the state's assembly only very limited participation in the process of government. The franchise was based on property restrictions which excluded large segments of the population from voting and clearly discriminated against a number of ethnic minorities.
Crown prince and heir apparent ARCHDUKE FRANZ FERDINAND and his wife were assassinated in SARAJEVO on June 28th 1914 by GAVRILO PRINCIP. The culprit was arrested and the involvement of Serbian authorities proven.
Austria issued an ULTIMATUM at the Serbian government, which the Serbian government, in most points, complied with.
Relying on it's alliance with Germany, and based on a Go-Ahead from the German General Staff, Austria declared war on Serbia on July 28th. Russia, Serbia's ally mobilized, ermany declared war on Russia and France, violated Belgian neutrality, Britain declared war on Germany, the situation had escalated into a world war within a matter of days.

B.) The War from Austrian Perspective

On the Serbian front, little progress was made. However, the Russians quickly gained ground, taking the fortress of PRZEMYSL, believed to be impregnable, and occupying most of Galicia as well as Carpatho-Ruthenia. Only in the winter of 1914/15 were the Russians stopped and slowly pushed back.
In 1915, Italy entered the war, adding another front in the southwest. Then Bulgaria joined the Central Powers, causing the Serbian front to collapse (also 1915). German and Austrian forces occupied Russian Poland (Congress Poland).
In 1916, Rumania declared war on Austria-Hungary; Rumanian forces temporarily occupied parts of Transylvania, but were soon expelled and Rumania itself occupied by the Central Powers. War fatigue and disillusionment was growing; chancellor Karl Count von Stuergkh was assassinated on Oct. 21st 1916. Emperor FRANZ JOSEF died on Nov. 21st; he was succeeded his grandson by KARL, who immediately attempted to reconciliate the Czechs ny appointing Heinrich Count Clam-Martinitz chancellor; the measure did not have the intended effect.
In 1917 China joined the Entente and declared the Austro-Hungarian concession in Tientsin expired.
In 1917 the Austrian forces defeated the Italians at CAMPORETTO, advancing into the Veneto where a new front was established along the PIAVE. In Russia the revolution broke out; in March 1918 the Bolzhevist government signed the PEACE OF BREST-LITOVSK, granting independence to vast areas of the former Russian Empire (Russian Poland, Ukraine). Yet the victory had come too late; Austria was exhausted. In October Austrian forces were defeated on the Serbian front and on the Italian front (BATTLE OF VITTORIO VENETO). On November 3rd 1918 an ARMISTICE was proclaimed.

C.) Austrian War Aims

In 1915 and 1916, when victory was still regarded a possibility, Austria'a ambitions were limited to the Balkan peninsula, where it strove to annex Montenegro, as well as the larger part of Serbia and Rumania (the remainder to be annexed by Bulgaria). As a junior partner to Germany, Austria had no ambitions in Russian Poland, although a part of it was placed under Austrian military administration during the war.

D.) The Disintegration of the Empire in 1918

The ethnic groups living in the Austro-Hungarian Empire were divided in two groups : the "ruling nations" : Germans and Hungarians, and the ruled nations : Czechs, Slovaks, Poles, Ruthenians (Ukrainians), Vlachs (Rumanians), Croats, Serbs, Slovenians, Italians. While the ruled nations by and large supported the Austrian war effort (among the writers : HUGO VON HOFFMANSTHAL), the ruled nations were less than enthusiastic. Many Czech and Slovak soldiers, for instance, deserted on the Russian front - in Siberia, they were to form a CZECHOSLOVAK LEGION. This indifference of large population groups to the Austro-Hungarian state was partially responsible for the quick progress the Russian army had made in Galicia in 1914 and the Rumanian army had made in Transylvania in 1916.
When negotiations for an armistice began, the Entente declared that they would not negotiate with an Imperial Government. President Wilson's 14 POINTS, promising self-government to the various nations on Austro-Hungarian soil, meant the dissolution of the Double Monarchy. Czechoslovakia was proclaimed in October 1918; the old union between Austria and Hungary broken up; Croatia and Slovenia joined Serbia in a new kingdom later known as Yugoslavia, Galicia joined the reestablished Polish state, Trento and Istria Italy. Most of these territorial changes happened according to the wishes of the majority of the population. SUEDTIROL, almost purely German, was annexed by Italy to give it control over the strategic Brenner pass.
CARINTHIA was separated from Austria until a plebiscite was to decide the area's future (with Austria or the Kgd. of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes); similarily, LAJTABANZAC was separated from Hungary until a plebiscite was to decide it's future (With Hungary of Austria).

Library of Congress, Country Studies : Austria
John Dixon-Nuttall, The Austro-Hungarian Army 1914-1918, for collectors of its postal items, from Austrian Stamps Homepage
Philip R. Abbey, Treaty Ports & Extraterritoriality in 1920s China , scroll down for Tientsin
Sarajewo, from aeiou; Bosnia-Herzegovina, from aeiou
Archduke Franz Ferdinand, from aeiou
First World War, from aeiou
Franz Baron Conrad von Hoetzendorf (later Count Conrad von Hoetzendorf), from aeiou, chief of staff 1912-1917; Arthur Baron Arz von Straussenburg, from aeiou,
Karl Count von Stuergkh
Solving Problems Through Force. Austria's Leadership in WW I, by Glenn W. Stefanovics
chief of staff 1917-1918
DOCUMENTS 4 weeks in the Trenches, by Fritz Kreisler (1915), posted by Habsburg Net
Austrian WW I documents, from Primary Sources of Austrian 20th Century History, posted by Zeitgeschichte Information System; documents in German
Austro-Hungarian Documents on the Outbreak of War, 1 July 1914 - 27 August 1914, The Austro-Hungarian RedBook, Borijovice Jevtic : The assassination of crown prince Franz Ferdinand, June 28th 1914, Austro-Hungarian Ultimatum to Serbia, July 23rd 1914; Serbian Response to the Austro-Hungarian Ultimatum, July 25th 1914; The Austro-Hungarian Declaration of War, July 28th 1914; Franz Josef's order to the soldiers and sailors, Aug. 6th 1914; Austria's first offer to cede territory to Italy, March 27th 1915, The Capture of Przemysl, March 30th 1915; Italian concept of a treaty with Austria over Austrian cessions of territory, April 11th 1815, Franz Josef's orders after the Italian Declaration of War, May 23rd 1915, from Trenches on the Web
Images from Chronik 2000 Bilddatenbank : Gavrilo Princip; Austrian crown prince and wife; Emperor Karl I. of Austria, 1916; Emperor Franz Joseph; Karl I. handing out medals, Dec. 1916
REFERENCE Entry : Austria, in : Statesman's Year Book 1918 pp.660-673 [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on September 14th 2008

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