Sunday 17 July 2011

History of the 'Austro-Hungarian Empire'

Austro-Hungarian Empire, more formally known as the Kingdoms and Lands Represented in the Imperial Council and the Lands of the Holy Hungarian Crown of Saint Stephen, was a constitutional monarchic union between the crowns of the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary in Central Europe.

The union was a result of the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867, under which the House of Habsburg agreed to share power with the separate Hungarian government, dividing the territory of the former Austrian Empire between them. The Austrian and the Hungarian lands became independent entities enjoying equal status. Austria-Hungary was a multinational realm and one of the world's great powers at the time. The dual monarchy had existed for 51 years until it dissolved on 31 October 1918 before a military defeat on the Italian front of the First World War.

The realm comprised modern-day Austria, Hungary, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, and parts of Italy, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, and Ukraine.

Structure and name

The Habsburg monarch ruled as Emperor of Austria over the western and northern half of the country that was the Austrian Empire (Cisleithania or Lands represented in the Imperial Council) and as King of Hungary over the Kingdom of Hungary (Transleithania or Lands of St Stephen's Crown) which enjoyed self-government and representation in joint affairs (principally foreign relations and defence). The two capitals of the Monarchy were Vienna for Austria and Buda for Hungary, the latter united with neighbouring Pest as Budapest from 1870 Vienna, however, would serve as the nation's primary capital.

Austria-Hungary was geographically the second largest country in Europe after the Russian Empire (621,538 square kilometres (239,977 sq mi) in 1905), and the third most populous (after Russia and the German Empire). Today, the territory it covered has a population of about 69 million.

As a multinational empire and great power in an era of national awakening, it found its political life dominated by disputes among the eleven principal national groups. The Monarchy bore the name internationally of "Österreichisch-Ungarische Monarchie" (on decision by Franz Joseph I in 1868), which in full meant "The Kingdoms and Lands Represented in the Imperial Council and the Lands of the Crown of St. Stephen".

The Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867, which inaugurated the empire's dual structure in place of the former unitary Austrian Empire (1804–67), originated at a time when Austria had declined in strength and in power—both in the Italian Peninsula (as a result of the Austro-Sardinian War of 1859) and among the states of the German Confederation (where it had been replaced by Prussia as the dominant German power following the Austro-Prussian War, also named the German War, of 1866). Other factors in the constitutional changes were continued Hungarian dissatisfaction with rule from Vienna and increasing national consciousness on the part of other nationalities of the Austrian Empire.

Hungarian dissatisfaction arose partly from Austria's suppression, with Russian support, of the Hungarian liberal revolution of 1848–1849. However, dissatisfaction with Austrian rule had grown for many years within Hungary, and had many other causes.

By the late 1850s, however, a large number of Hungarians who had supported the 1848–49 revolution were willing to accept the Habsburg monarchy. They took the line that while Hungary had the right to full internal independence, under the Pragmatic Sanction foreign affairs and defense were "common" to both Austria and Hungary.

After the Austrian defeat at Königgrätz, reconciliation with Hungary was needed to regain status of a great power, and the new foreign minister Friedrich Ferdinand von Beust wanted to successfully conclude the stalemated negotiations with the Hungarians. To shore up support for the monarchy, Emperor Franz Joseph began negotiations for a compromise with the Hungarian nobility to ensure their support. In particular, Hungarian leaders demanded and received the Emperor's coronation as King of Hungary, and the re-establishment of a separate parliament at Budapest with powers to enact laws for the lands of the Hungarian crown.
Politics and government
Three distinct elements ruled the Austro-Hungarian Empire:
1.       common foreign, military and joint financial policy under the monarch
2.      the "Austrian" or Cisleithanian government
3.      the Hungarian government

Hungary and Austria maintained separate parliaments, each with its own prime minister. Linking/co-ordinating the two fell to a government under a monarch, wielding power absolute in theory but limited in practice. The monarch’s common government had responsibility for the army, for the navy, for foreign policy, and for the customs union.Within Cisleithania and Hungary certain regions, such as Galicia and Croatia enjoyed special status with their own unique governmental structures.

A common Ministerial Council ruled the common government: it comprised the three ministers for the joint responsibilities (joint finance, military, and foreign policy), the two prime ministers, some Archdukes and the monarch.

Two delegations of representatives (60–60 members), one each from the Austrian and Hungarian parliaments, met separately and voted on the expenditures of the Common Ministerial Council, giving the two governments influence in the common administration. However, the ministers ultimately answered only to the monarch, and he had the final decision on matters of foreign and military policy.

Overlapping responsibilities between the joint ministries and the ministries of the two halves caused friction and inefficiencies. The armed forces suffered particularly from overlap. Although the unified government determined overall military direction, the Austrian and Hungarian governments each remained in charge of "the quota of recruits, legislation concerning compulsory military service, transfer and provision of the armed forces, and regulation of the civic, non-military affairs of members of the armed forces". Needless to say, each government could have a strong influence over common governmental responsibilities. Each half of the Dual Monarchy proved quite prepared to disrupt common operations to advance its own interests.

Relations over the half-century after 1867 between the two halves of the Empire (in fact the Cisleithan part contained about 57% of the combined realm's population and a rather larger share of its economic resources) featured repeated disputes over shared external tariff arrangements and over the financial contribution of each government to the common treasury.

Under the terms of the "Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867", an agreement, renegotiated every ten years, determined these matters. Each build-up to the renewal of the agreement saw political turmoil. The disputes between the halves of the Empire culminated in the mid-1900s in a prolonged constitutional crisis—triggered by disagreement over the language of command in Hungarian army units, and deepened by the advent to power in Budapest (April 1906) of a Hungarian nationalist coalition. Provisional renewals of the common arrangements occurred in October 1907 and in November 1917 on the basis of the status quo. 

Legally, besides the Pragmatic Sanction of 1713 there were no common laws in Austria-Hungary. All laws, even the ones with identical content like the compromise of 1867, had to pass the parliaments both in Vienna and Budapest and were published in the respective official medium (in the Austrian half it was called Reichsgesetzblatt and was issued in eight languages). To conclude on identical texts, the two parliaments elected delegations of 60 of their members each, which discussed motions of the Imperial & Royal ministries separately and tried to find a compromise.

The first prime minister of Hungary after the Compromise was Count Gyula Andrássy. The old Hungarian Constitution was restored, and Franz Joseph was crowned as King of Hungary. During this time Austria-Hungary was geographically the second largest country in Europe after the Russian Empire (621,537 km2 (239,977 sq mi)), and the third most populous (after Russia and the German Empire).

The Empire relied increasingly on a cosmopolitan bureaucracy – in which Czechs played an important role – backed by loyal elements, including a large part of the German, Hungarian, Polish and Croat aristocracy.

 Political struggles in the Empire

The political opponents of the "conservative liberal" aristocracy and gentry class were the leftist liberal "cosmopolitan" political parties in the parliaments of Vienna and Budapest. These leftist liberal parliamentary parties were backed by the big industrialists, bankers, businessmen and the predominant majority of newspaper "media moguls". During the war, they had a important functions in the organization of strikes, protests and civil unrest in the Empire. After the war (as consequent republicans) that parties had key-role in the disintegration and collapse of the monarchy in Austria and Hungary, and proclamation of the republics in Vienna and Budapest.

Like the German Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire frequently employed liberal economic policies and practices. From the 1860s liberal businessmen succeeded in industrializing parts of the Empire, and prosperous members of the bourgeoisie erected conspicuously large homes, giving themselves a prominence in urban life that rivaled the aristocracy's. They persuaded the government to search out foreign investment to build up infrastructure such as railroads in the early period of the Empire.

Liberals in Austria, most of them ethnic Germans, saw their influence weaken under the leadership of Count Edouard von Taaffe, Austrian prime minister from 1879–1893. Taaffe used a coalition of clergy, conservatives and Slavic parties to weaken the liberals. In Bohemia for example, he designated Czech as an official language of the bureaucracy and school system, thus breaking the German speakers' monopoly on holding office. Reforms motivated other ethnic groups to push for even greater autonomy. By playing nationalities off one another, the government ensured the monarchy's central role in holding together competing interest groups in an era of rapid change.

Foreign policy

By the late 1860s, Austrian ambitions in both Italy and Germany had been choked off by the rise of new national powers. With the decline and failed reforms of the Ottoman Empire, Slavic opposition in the occupied Balkans grew and both Russia and Austria-Hungary saw an opportunity to expand in this region. In 1876, Russia offered to partition the Balkans, but Andrássy declined for Austria-Hungary was already a "saturated" state and it could not cope with additional territories.

The whole monarchy was thus drawn into a new style of diplomatic brinkmanship, first conceived of by Andrássy, centering on the province of Bosnia and Herzegovina, a predominantly Slavic area of the Ottoman Empire, which was transferred to Austro-Hungarian control in 1878, by the Congress of Berlin. It was a dangerous game to play in a dangerous place. A road was thus mapped out, with a terminus at Sarajevo in 1914.


The Austro-Hungarian economy changed dramatically during the existence of the Dual Monarchy. The capitalist way of production spread throughout the Empire during its 50-year existence replacing medieval institutions. Technological change accelerated industrialization and urbanization.

The GNP per capita grew roughly 1.76% per year from 1870–1913. That level of growth compared very favorably to that of other European nations such as Britain (1%), France (1.06%), and Germany (1.51%). However, in a comparison with Germany and Britain: the Austro-Hungarian economy as a whole still lagged considerably, as sustained modernization had begun much later.

In 1873, the old capital Buda and Óbuda (Ancient Buda) were officially merged with the third city, Pest, thus creating the new metropolis of Budapest. The dynamic Pest grew into Hungary's administrative, political, economic, trade and cultural hub. Many of the state institutions and the modern administrative system of Hungary were established during this period.

Economic growth centered on Vienna and Budapest, the Austrian lands (areas of modern Austria), the Alpine region and the Bohemian lands. In the later years of the 19th century, rapid economic growth spread to the central Hungarian plain and to the Carpathian lands. As a result, wide disparities of development existed within the Empire. In general, the western areas became more developed than the eastern.

However, by the end of the 19th century, economic differences gradually began to even out as economic growth in the eastern parts of the Empire consistently surpassed that in the western. The strong agriculture and food industry of the Kingdom of Hungary with the center of Budapest became predominant within the Empire and made up a large proportion of the export to the rest of Europe. Meanwhile, western areas, concentrated mainly around Prague and Vienna, excelled in various manufacturing industries.

This division of labour between the east and west, besides the existing economic and monetary union, led to an even more rapid economic growth throughout Austria-Hungary by the early 20th century. The most important trading partner was Germany (1910: 48% of all exports, 39% of all imports), followed by Great Britain (1910: almost 10% of all exports, 8% of all imports). Trade with the geographically neighboring Russia, however, had a relatively low weight (1910: 3% of all exports /mainly machinery for Russia, 7% of all imports /mainly raw materials from Russia).

World War I

Preludes: Bosnia and Herzegovin

Russian Pan-Slavic organizations sent aid to the Balkan rebels and so pressured the tsar's government that Russia declared war on Turkey in 1877 in the name of protecting Orthodox Christians. Unable to mediate between Turkey and Russia over the control of Serbia, Austria-Hungary declared neutrality when the conflict between the two powers escalated into a warWith help from Romania and Greece, Russia defeated the Ottomans and by the Treaty of San Stefano created a large pro-Russianulgaria.

This treaty sparked an international uproar that almost resulted in a general European war. Austria-Hungary and Britain feared that an enlarged Bulgaria would become a Russian satellite that would enable the tsar to dominate the Balkans. British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli moved warships into position against Russia in order to halt the advance of Russian influence in the eastern Mediterranean so close to Britain's route through the Suez Canal.

The Congress of Berlin rolled back the Russian victory, by partitioning the large Bulgarian state that Russia had carved out of Ottoman territory, and denying any part of Bulgaria full independence from the Ottomans. Austria occupied Bosnia and Herzegovina as a way of gaining clout in the Balkans. Serbia and Montenegro became fully independent.

Nonetheless the Balkans remained a site of political unrest, teeming ambition for independence and great power rivalries. At the Congress of Berlin in 1878, Gyula Andrássy (Minister of Foreign Affairs) managed to force Russia to retreat from further demands in the Balkans.

As a result, Great Bulgaria was broken up and Serbian independence was guaranteed.] In that year, with Britain's support, Austria-Hungary stationed troops in Bosnia, to prevent the Russians from expanding into nearby Serbia. In another measure to keep the Russians out of the Balkans, Austria-Hungary formed an alliance, the Mediterranean Entente, with Britain and Italy in 1887 and concluded mutual defence pacts, with Germany in 1879 and with Romania in 1883, against possible Russian attack. Following the Congress of Berlin the European powers attempted to guarantee stability through a complex series of alliances and treaties.

Anxious about Balkan instability and Russian aggression, and to counter Frence interests in Europe, Austria Hungary forged a defensive alliance with Germany in October 1879 and in May 1882. In October 1882, Italy joined this partnership in the Triple Alliance largely because of Italy's imperial rivalries with France. 

Tensions between Russia and Austria-Hungary remained high, so Bismarck replaced the League of the Three Emperors with the Reinsurance Treaty with Russia to keep the Habsburgs from recklessly starting a war over Pan-Slavism. On the heels of the Great Balkan Crisis, Austro-Hungarian forces occupied Bosnia and Herzegovina in August 1878 and the monarchy eventually annexed Bosnia and Herzegovina in October 1908 as a common holding of Cis- and Transleithania under the control of the Imperial & Royal finance ministry, rather than attaching it to either territorial government.

This occupation was a response to Russia's advances into Bessarabia. The annexation in 1908 led some in Vienna to contemplate combining Bosnia and Herzegovina with Croatia to form a third, Slavic component of the Empire. The deaths of Franz Joseph's brother, Maximilian (1867), and only son, Rudolf, made the Emperor's nephew, Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne. The Archduke was rumoured to have been an advocate for this trialism, as a means to limit the power of the Magyar aristocracy.

Decision for war

On 28 June 1914, Franz Ferdinand visited the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, where Bosnian Serb militants of the nationalist group Mlada Bosna, supplied by the Serbian militant group Black Hand, ambushed his convoy and assassinated him. There were several members of the Black Hand in Sarajevo that day. Before Franz was shot, somebody had already tried to kill him and his wife.

A member of the Black Hand threw a grenade at the car, but missed. It injured some people nearby and Franz Ferdinand made sure they were given medical attention before the convoy could carry on. Gavrilo Princip was the man who shot and killed Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie. The convoy took a wrong turn into a street where Gavrilo Princip was. He took out a pistol from his pocket and shot Franz and his wife.

The reaction among the Austrian common people was mild, almost indifferent. As historian Z.A.B. Zeman later wrote, "the event almost failed to make any impression whatsoever. On Sunday and Monday [June 28 and 29], the crowds in Vienna listened to music and drank wine?as if nothing had happened." The Empire's military spending had not even doubled since the 1878 Congress of Berlin, while German spending had risen fivefold, and British, Russian, and French threefold.

The Empire had lost ethnic Italian areas to Piedmont owing to nationalist movements sweeping through Italy, and many Austro-Hungarians perceived the threat of losing the southern territories inhabited by Slavs to Serbia as imminent. Serbia had recently gained considerable territory in the Second Balkan War of 1913, causing much distress in government circles in Vienna and Budapest.

Some members of the government, such as Count Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf, had wanted to confront the resurgent Serbian nation for some years in a preventive war, but the Emperor, 84 years old and enemy of all adventures, disapproved. But now the leaders of Austria-Hungary, especially General Count Leopold von Berchtold, backed by its ally Germany, decided to confront Serbia militarily before it could incite a revolt; using the assassination as an excuse, they presented a list of ten demands called the July Ultimatum expecting Serbia would never accept.

When Serbia accepted nine of the ten demands but only partially accepted the remaining one, Austria-Hungary declared war. Franz Joseph I finally followed the urgent counsel of his top advisors.

Over the course of July and August 1914, these events caused the start of World War I, as Russia mobilized in support of Serbia, setting off a series of countermobilizations. Italy initially remained neutral, although it had an alliance with Austria-Hungary. In 1915, it switched to the side of the Entente powers, hoping to gain territory from its former ally.

Main events

General von Hötzendorf was the Chief of the Austro-Hungarian General Staff. Franz Joseph I, who was much too old to command the army, appointed Archduke Friedrich von Österreich-Teschen as Supreme Army Commander (Armeeoberkommandant), but asked him to give Von Hötzendorf freedom to take any decisions. The latter remained in effective command of the military forces until Emperor Karl I took the supreme command himself in late 1916 and dismissed Conrad von Hötzendorf in 1917.

Serbian front

At the start of the war, the army was divided in two: the smaller part attacked Serbia while the larger part fought against the formidable Russian army. The invasion of Serbia in 1914 was a disaster: by the end of the year, the Austro-Hungarian Army had taken no territory but had lost 227,000 out of a total force of 450,000 men (see Serbian Campaign (World War I)). However in autumn 1915, the Serbian Army was defeated by the Central Powers, which led to the occupation of Serbia.

Near the end of 1915, in a massive rescue operation involving more than 1,000 trips made by Italian, French and British steamers, 260,000 Serb soldiers were transported to Corfu, where they waited for the chance of the victory of Allied Powers to reclaim their country. Corfu hosted the Serbian government in exile after the collapse of Serbia, and served as a supply base to the Greek front. In April 1916 a large number of Serbian troops were transported in British and French naval vessels from Corfu to mainland Greece. The contingent numbering over 120 000 relieved a much smaller army at the Salonika front and fought alongside British and French troops.

Russian front

On the Eastern front, things started out equally poorly. The Austro-Hungarian Army was defeated at the Battle of Lemberg and the great fortress city of Przemyśl was besieged and fell in March 1915. The Gorlice–Tarnów Offensive started as a minor German offensive to relieve the pressure of the Russian numerical superiority on the Austro-Hungarians, but the cooperation of the Central Powers resulted in huge Russian losses and the total collapse of the Russian lines, and their 100 km long retreat into Russia. The Russian Third Army perished.

In summer 1915, the Austro-Hungarian Army, under a unified command with the Germans, participated in the successful Gorlice–Tarnów Offensive. From June 1916, the Russians focused their attacks on the Austro-Hungarian army in the Brusilov Offensive, recognizing the numerical inferiority of the Austro-Hungarian army.

By the end of September 1916, Austria-Hungary could mobilise and concentrate new divisions, and the successful Russian advance was halted and slowly repelled; but the Austrian armies took heavy losses (about 1 million men) and never recovered. However the huge losses in men and material inflicted on the Russians during the offensive contributed greatly to their two revolutions of 1917, and it caused an economic crash in the Russian Empire.

Italian Front

In May 1915, Italy joined the Triple Entente and attacked Austria-Hungary. Italy was the only military opponent of the Empire which had similar degree of industrialization and economic level. The bloody but indecisive fighting on the Italian Front would last for the next three and a half years. It was only on this front that the Austrians proved effective in war, managing to hold back the numerically superior Italian armies in the Alps and at the Isonzo river, through alternating phases, until the last month of war.

In 1917, the Battle of Caporetto was a decisive victory of the Central Powers: the Austro-Hungarian and German forces advanced more than 100 km (62.14 mi) in the direction of Venice, but could not cross the Piave River. The military and economic crisis of Italy was resolved by enormous material supports from the Allied powers: by 1918, huge amounts of war materials and American, British, and French divisions arrived in the Italian battle zone to stop the advance of the Empire.

Romanian Front

On 27 August 1916, Romania proclaimed war against Austria-Hungary. The Romanian army crossed the borders of Eastern Hungary (Transylvania). By November 1916, the Central Powers had defeated the Romanian army and occupied Southern and Eastern parts of Romania. On 6 December the Central Powers captured Bucharest, the Romanian capital city.

The Austro-Hungarian war effort became more and more subordinated to the direction of German planners. The Austrians viewed the German army favorably, but by 1916 the general belief in Germany was that it was "shackled to a corpse". The operational capability of the Austro-Hungarian army was seriously affected by supply shortages, low morale and a high casualty rate, as well by the army's composition of multiple ethnicities with different languages and customs.

The last two successes for the Austrians, the Romanian Offensive and the Caporetto Offensive, were German-assisted operations. As the Dual Monarchy became more politically unstable, it became more and more dependent on German assistance. The majority of its people, other than Hungarians and German Austrians, became increasingly restless.

Role of Hungary

Austria-Hungary held on for years, as the Hungarian half provided sufficient supplies for the military to continue to wage war. This was shown in a transition of power after which the Hungarian prime minister, Count István Tisza, and foreign minister, Count István Burián, had decisive influence over the internal and external affairs of the monarchy. By late 1916, food supply from Hungary became intermittent and the government sought an armistice with the Entente powers. However, this failed as Britain and France no longer had any regard for the integrity of the empire because of Austro-Hungarian support for Germany.

Analysis of defeat

The setbacks that the Austrian army suffered in 1914 and 1915 can be attributed to a large extent to Austria-Hungary becoming a military satellite of Imperial Germany from the first day of the war. They were made worse by the incompetence of the Austrian high command. After attacking Serbia, its forces soon had to be withdrawn to protect its eastern frontier against Russia's invasion, while German units were engaged in fighting on the Western Front.

This resulted in a greater than expected loss of men in the invasion of Serbia. Furthermore it became evident that the Austrian high command had had no plans for a possible continental war and that the army and navy were also ill-equipped to handle such a conflict. Former ambassador and foreign minister Count Alois Aehrenthal had assumed that any future war would be in the Balkan region. In 1917, the Eastern front of the Allied (Entente) Powers completely collapsed.

The Austro-Hungarian Empire then withdrew from all defeated countries. Despite great eastern successes, Germany suffered complete defeat in the more decisive western front. By 1918, the economic situation had deteriorated. Leftist and pacifist political movements organized strikes in factories, and uprisings in the army had become commonplace. During the Italian battles, the Czechoslovaks and Southern Slavs declared their independence.

On 31 October Hungary ended the personal union officially dissolving the Austro-Hungarian state. At the last Italian battles the Austro-Hungarian Army took to the field without any food and munition supply, and fought without any political supports for a de facto non-existent Empire. On the end of the decisive Italian British and French cooperating offensive at Vittorio Veneto, the disintegrated Austria-Hungary signed a general armistice in Padua on 3 November 1918.


The Communists ruled multiethnic Budapest from 21 March 1919 to 1 August 1919. The statues of the Heroes Square of Budapest are covered with Communist symbols for May Day. At the basement of the original obelisk a new statue was erected: Marx with a worker and a peasant. The statues of historic heroes were toppled, Hungarian national symbols were banned in the name of internationalism.

In the autumn of 1918, as a political result of German defeat on the western front in World War I, the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy collapsed. In the capital cities of Vienna and Budapest the leftist and liberal movements and politicians (the opposition parties) strengthened and supported the separatism of ethnic minorities. These leftist or left-liberal pro-Entente maverick parties opposed the monarchy as a form of government and considered themselves internationalist rather than patriotic.

Eventually, the German defeat and the minor revolutions in Vienna and Budapest gave political power to the left/liberal political parties. As it became apparent that the Allied powers of the British Empire, France, Italy and the United States would win World War I, nationalist movements which had previously been calling for a greater degree of autonomy for various areas started pressing for full independence.

As one of his Fourteen Points, U.S. president Woodrow Wilson demanded that the nationalities of the empire have the "freest opportunity to autonomous development". In response, Karl I agreed to reconvene the imperial parliament in 1917 and allow the creation of a confederation with each national group exercising self-governance. However the leaders of these national groups no longer trusted Vienna and were now dead set on independence.

On 14 October 1918 Foreign Minister Baron István Burián von Rajecz asked for an armistice based on the Fourteen Points. In an apparent attempt to demonstrate good faith, Karl I issued a proclamation ("Imperial Manifesto of 16 October 1918") two days later which would have significantly altered the structure of the Austrian half of the monarchy. The Polish majority regions of Galicia and Lodomeria were granted independence, and it was understood that they would join their ethnic brethren in Russia and Germany in forming a Polish state.

The rest of Cisleithania was transformed into a federal union composed of four parts—German, Czech, South Slav and Ukrainian. Each of these was to be governed by a national council that would negotiate the future of the Empire with Vienna, and Trieste was to receive a special status. No such proclamation could be issued in Hungary, where Magyar aristocrats still believed they could subdue other nationalities and maintain the "Holy Kingdom of St. Stephen".

It was all in vain: four days later, on 18 October United States Secretary of State Robert Lansing replied that the Allies were now committed to the causes of the Czechs, Slovaks and South Slavs. Therefore, Lansing said, autonomy for the nationalities – the tenth of the Fourteen Points – was no longer enough and Washington could not deal on the basis of the Fourteen Points any more.

In fact, a Czechoslovak provisional government had joined the Allies on 14 October. The leaders of the South Slavs had already declared in favor of uniting with Serbia in a large South Slav state by way of the 1917 Corfu Declaration signed by members of the Yugoslav Committee.

The Lansing note was, in effect, the death certificate of Austria-Hungary. The national councils had already begun acting more or less as provisional governments of independent countries. With defeat in the war imminent after the Italian offensive in the Battle of Vittorio Veneto on 24 October Czech politicians peacefully took over command in Prague on 28 October (later declared the birthday of Czechoslovakia) and followed up in other major cities in the next few days.

On 30 October, the Slovaks followed in Martin. On 29 October, the Slovenes declared their independence from Austria and joined the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs as had the Croatians, who had been ignoring orders from Budapest since the beginning of October. The Hungarian government terminated the personal union with Austria by 31 October, officially dissolving the Austro-Hungarian state. There was now nothing left of the Habsburg realm except its majority-German Alpine and Danubian provinces.


The last Habsburg Emperor-King, Charles (Karl I in Austria and Károly IV in Hungary), was persuaded by his Austrian prime minister, Heinrich Lammasch, that he was in an impossible situation. By this time, the German-Austrian state council was challenging his authority in the German-speaking areas of his realm.

On 11 November, he issued a proclamation which recognized Austria's right to determine the form of the state and renounced the right to participate in Austrian affairs of state. He also released the officials in the Austrian half of the empire from their oath of loyalty to him. Two days later, he issued a similar proclamation for Hungary. However, he did not abdicate, remaining available in the event the people of either state should recall him.

In Austria and Hungary, republics were declared at the end of the war in November. The Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye (between the victors of World War I and Austria) and the Treaty of Trianon (between the victors and Hungary) regulated the new borders of Austria and Hungary. The Allies assumed without question that the minority nationalities wanted to leave Austria and Hungary, and also allowed them to annex significant blocks of German- and Hungarian-speaking territory.

As a result, the Republic of German Austria lost roughly 60% of the old Austrian Empire's territory. It also had to drop its plans for union with Germany, as it was not allowed to unite with Germany without League approval. The Hungarian Democratic Republic lost roughly 72% of the pre-war territory of the Kingdom of Hungary.

The decisions of the nations of the former Austria-Hungary and of the victors of the Great War, contained in the heavily one-sided treaties, had devastating political and economic effects. The previously rapid economic growth of the Dual Monarchy ground to a halt because the new borders became major economic barriers.

The formerly well established industries were designed to satisfy the needs of an extensive realm. As a result, the emerging countries were forced to make considerable sacrifices to transform their economies. The treaties created major political unease. As a result of these economic difficulties, extremist movements gained strength; and there was no regional superpower in central Europe.

The new Austrian state was, at least on paper, on shakier ground than Hungary. While what was left of Austria had been a single unit for over 700 years, it was united only by loyalty to the Habsburgs. By comparison, Hungary had been a nation and a state for over 900 years. However, after a brief period of upheaval and the allies' foreclosure of union with Germany, Austria established itself as a federal republic. Despite the temporary Anschluss with Nazi Germany, it still survives today.

Hungary, however, was severely disrupted by the loss of 72% of its territory, 64% of its population and most of its natural resources. The Hungarian Democratic Republic was short-lived and was temporarily replaced by the communist Hungarian Soviet Republic. Romanian troops ousted Béla Kun and his communist government during the Hungarian-Romanian War of 1919.

In March 1920, a monarchist revival resulted in the restoration of the Kingdom of Hungary. Royal powers were entrusted to a regent, Miklós Horthy, who had been the last commanding admiral of the Austro-Hungarian Navy and had helped organize the counter-revolutionary forces.

In March and again in October 1921, ill-prepared attempts by Károly IV (Karl I in Austria) to regain the throne in Budapest collapsed. The initially wavering Horthy, after receiving threats of intervention from the allied powers and neighboring countries, refused his cooperation. Subsequently, the British took custody of Karl and removed him and his family to the Portuguese island of Madeira, where he died the following year.

Successor states

The following successor states were formed (entirely or in part) on the territory of the former Austria-Hungary:
·        Czecho-Slovakia ("Czechoslovakia" from 1920 to 1938)
·        State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs (joined with the Kingdom of Serbia on 1 December 1918 to form the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, later Kingdom of Yugoslavia)
·        Second Polish Republic, West Ukrainian People's Republic

      Austro-Hungarian lands were also ceded to the Kingdom of Romania and the Kingdom ofItaly. The Principality of Liechtenstein, which had formerly looked to Vienna for protection, formed a customs and defense union with Switzerland, and adopted the Swiss currency instead of the Austrian. In April 1919, Vorarlberg – the westernmost province of Austria – voted by a large majority to join Switzerland; however, both the Swiss and the Allies disregarded this result.

The following present-day countries and parts of countries were located within    theboundaries of Austria-Hungary when the empire was dissolved:

·        Austria (with the exception of Burgenland)
·        Czech Republic (with the exception of the Hlučínsko area)
·        Slovenia (with the exception of Prekmurje)
·        Italy (Trentino, South Tyrol, parts of the province of Belluno and small portions of Friuli-Venezia Giulia)
·        Croatia (Dalmatia, Istria)
·        Poland (voivodeships of Lesser Poland, Subcarpathia, southernmost part of Silesia (Bielsko and Cieszyn)
·        Ukraine (oblasts of Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Ternopil (except its northern corner) and most of the oblast of Chernivtsi)
·        Romania (county of Suceava)
·        Montenegro (bay of Boka Kotorska, the coast and the immediate hinterland around the cities of Budva, Petrovac and Sutomore)

·        Hungary;
·        Slovakia     Austria (Burgenland)
·        Slovenia (Prekmurje)
·        Croatia (Slavonia, Central Croatia, southern parts of the pre-1918 Baranya and Zala counties – today's Croatian part of Baranja and Međimurje county)
·        Ukraine (oblast of Zakarpattia)
·        Romania (region of Transylvania and Partium)
·        Serbia (autonomous province of Vojvodina and parts of the present-day Belgrade north of the Sava River)
·        Poland (Polish parts of Orava and Spiš)
·        Bosnia and Herzegovina (the villages of Zavalje, Mali skočaj and Veliki skočaj including the immediate surrounding area west of the city of Bihać)

Austro-Hungarian Condominium

·        Bosnia and Herzegovina
·        Montenegro (Sutorina – western part of the Municipality of Herceg–Novi between present borders with Croatia (SW) and Bosnia and Herzegovina (NW), Adriatic coast (E) and the township of Igalo (NE))
·        Raška region/Sandzak of Serbia and Montenegro, under effective Austro-Hungarian occupation while formally part of the Ottoman Empire until 1912

·        The empire was unable to gain and maintain large colonies owing to its geographical position. Its only small colony was in Tianjin (now China), which it was granted in return for supporting the Eight-Nation Alliance in suppressing the Boxer Rebellion. However although the city was only an Austrian colony for 16 years, the Austro-Hungarians left their mark on that area of the city, in the form of architecture that still stands in the city. Other parts of Europe had been part of the Habsburg monarchy once but had left it before its dissolution in 1918. Prominent examples are the regions of Lombardy and Veneto in Italy, Silesia in Poland, most of Belgium and Serbia, and parts of northern Switzerland and southwestern Germany.

Like the German Empire, that of Austria-Hungary frequently employed liberal economic policies and practices. From the 1860s liberal businessmen succeeded in industrializing parts of the Empire and the prosperous middle classes erected conspicuously large homes, thus gaining a prominence in urban life that rivaled that of the aristocracy. They persuaded the government to search out foreign investment to build up infrastructure such as railroads. Despite these measures, Austria-Hungary remained resolutely monarchist and authoritarian.

Liberals in Austria, most of them ethnic Germans, saw their influence weaken under the leadership of Count Edouard von Taaffe, Austrian prime minister from 1879–1893. Building a coalition of clergy, conservatives and Slavic parties, Taaffe used its power to weaken the liberals. In Bohemia, for example, he designated Czech as an official language of the bureaucracy and school system, thus breaking the German speakers' monopoly on office holding. These reforms outraged the ethnic groups that lost out, while those who won concessions, such as Czechs, clamored for even greater autonomy.

By playing nationalities off one against another, the government preserved the monarchy's central role in holding together competing interest groups in an era of rapid change. Russian Pan-Slavic organizations sent aid to the Balkan rebels and so pressured the tsar's government that Russia declared war on Turkey in 1877 in the name of protecting Orthodox Christians. With help from Romania and Greece, Russia defeated the Ottomans and by the Treaty of San Stefano created a large Pro-Russian Bulgaria. 

This treaty sparked an international uproar that almost resulted in a general European war. Austria-Hungary and Britain feared that an enlarged Bulgaria would become a Russian satellite that would enable the tsar to dominate the Balkans. Austrian officials worried about an uprising of their own restless Slavs. British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli moved warships into position against Russia in order to halt the advance of Russian influence in the eastern Mediterranean, so close to Britain's route through the Suez Canal.

The public was drawn into foreign policy: the music halls and newspapers of England echoed a new jingoism or political sloganeering that throbbed with sentiments of war: "We don't want to fight but by Jingo if we do / We've got the ships, we've got the men, We've got the money too." The other great powers, however, did not want a Europe-wide war and in 1878 they attempted to revive the concert of Europe by meeting at Berlin under the auspices of Bismarck, who was a calming presence

Author | Source | Wikipedia | July 17th 2011

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