Alternate History

Austria-Hungary (Central Victory)

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Österreichisch-Ungarische Monarchie (German)
Osztrák-Magyar Monarchia (Hungarian)
Austro-Hungarian Monarchy
Flag of the Habsburg Monarchy.svg
1867–1920 CV Flag of Austria 1920-1941.png
Flag of Austria-Hungary (1869-1918).svg Austria-Hungaria transparency.png
Civil Ensign Coat of arms
Indivisibiliter ac Inseparabiliter
"Indivisible and Inseparable"
Gott erhalte, Gott beschütze, Unsern Kaiser, unser Land!
CV Austira 1919.png
The Austro-Hungarian Monarchy in 1914.
Capital Vienna
Official language German and Hungarian, Czech, Polish, Ukrainian, Romanian, Croation, Italian
Religion Roman Catholic; also Protestant, Eastern Orthodoxy, Judaism, and Sunni Islam (from 1878 to 1920)
Government Constitutional monarchy, personal union through the Dual Monarchy
 - 1867–1916 Franz Joseph I (first)
 - 1916–1920 Charles I & IV (last)
 - 1867 Friedrich von Beust (first)
 - 1918–1920 Karl Renner (last)
Prime Minister
 - 1867–1871 Gyula Andrássy (first)
 - 1918–1920 János Hadik (last)
Legislature Imperial Council, Diet of Hungary
Historical era New Imperialism, World War I
 - 1867 Compromise 1 March 1867
 - Creation of Greater Austria 1 October 1920
Today part of Flag of Czechoslovakia Czechoslovakia

Flag of Germany Germany
Flag of Hungary Hungary
Flag of Poland Poland
Flag of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia Yugoslavia
Flag of Italy (1861-1946) Italy

Austria-Hungary, also known as the Austro-Hungarian Empire or the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, and described as the Dual Monarchy or the k.u.k. Monarchy, was a monarchic union between the crowns of the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary in Central Europe. The union was a result of the Ausgleich or Compromise of 1867, under which the Austrian House of Habsburg agreed to share power with the separate Hungarian government, dividing the territory of the former Austrian Empire between them. The Dual Monarchy existed for 53 years until March 1, 1920 when it was restructered into Greater Austria.

The Great War

Preludes: Bosnia and Herzegovina

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 under the control of the I. & R. finance ministry, rather than attaching it to either territorial government. The occupation of Bosnia-Herzegovina was a step taken in return for Russia's advances into Bessarabia. 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 war. At the Congress of Berlin in 1878, Andrássy 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 order to counter Russian and French interests in Europe, Austria-Hungary concluded an alliance with Germany in October 1879 and with Italy in May 1882.

The annexation in 1908 led some in Vienna to contemplate combining Bosnia and Herzegovina (originally Bosnien und Herzegowina) 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 said to have been an advocate for this trialism, by which he wanted to limit the power of the Magyar aristocracy. As a result of these rumors Franz Ferdinand was not loved either in Hungary or in Serbia.

Decision for war

On June 28, 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 Franz Ferdinand's convoy and assassinated him. There were a few 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 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 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 previously lost ethnically 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 a significant amount of 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 Conrad von Hötzendorf, had wanted to confront the resurgent Serbian nation for some years in a preventive war, which was disliked by the emperor, 84 years old and enemy of all adventures. But the leaders of Austria-Hungary, especially 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 in the end had followed the urgent suggestions 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 Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf was the Chief of the Austro-Hungarian General Staff. Franz Joseph I, feeling himself much too old to command the army, made archduke Friedrich von Österreich-Teschen Supreme Army Commander (Armeeoberkommandant), but asked him to give general Conrad any freedom to take decisions. Under Conrad's command, Austro-Hungarian troops were involved in the fighting in the Great War until emperor Karl I took the supreme command himself in late 1916 and dismissed Conrad in 1917.

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 1914 invasion of Serbia was a disaster. By the end of the year, the Austro-Hungarian Army had taken no territory and had lost 227,000 men out of a total force of 450,000 men.

On the Eastern front, things started out equally poorly. The Austro-Hungarian Army was defeated at the Battle of Lemberg and the mighty fort city of Przemyśl was besieged and fell in March 1915.

In May 1915, Italy joined the Triple Entente and attacked Austria-Hungary. 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.

In the summer, the Austro-Hungarian Army, working under a unified command with the Germans, participated in the successful Gorlice–Tarnów Offensive. Later in 1915, the Austro-Hungarian Army, in conjunction with the German and Bulgarian armies, conquered Serbia.

In 1916, the Russians focused their attacks on the Austro-Hungarian army in the Brusilov Offensive, recognizing the numerical inferiority of the Austro-Hungarian Army. The Austrian armies took heavy losses (losing about 1 million men) and never recovered. However, the huge losses of men and material inflicted on the Russians during the offensive contributed greatly to their two revolutions of 1917. The Austro-Hungarian war effort became more and more subordinate to the direction of German planners. The Austrians saw the German army positively, but by 1916 the general belief in Germany was that they were "shackled to a corpse." Supply shortages, low morale, and the high casualty rate seriously affected the operational abilities of the Austro-Hungarian army, as well as the fact the army was of multiple ethnicity, with different peoples, 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, not of Magyar or German-Austrian ethnicity, became increasingly restless.

The role of Hungary

Austria-Hungary could hold on for years, as the Hungarian half provided sufficient supply for the military to continue to wage war. This was also shown in a transition of power when Hungarian prime minister István Count Tisza and foreign minister István Count Burián had decisive influence on internal and external affairs of the Monarchy. By late 1916 and early 1917, food supply from Hungary became intermittent shifting the government to seek armistice from the Entente powers. However, most of these attempts failed. Britain and France no longer had any regard to the integrity of the Empire owing to Austro-Hungarian support for Germany.

Analysis of victory

Much of the military victory of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in World War I could be put down to its inability to act entirely on its own because, as part of the Dual Alliance, it was effectively a military satellite state of Imperial Germany which tied its hands. After having attacked Serbia, 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 unfortunate maneuver resulted in a greater loss of men in the Serbian invasion than expected. Furthermore, during the course of the war it became evident that the Austrian high command had possessed no plans for a possible continental war and the army and navy were also ill-equipped to handle such a conflict. Former ambassador and foreign minister Alois Count Aehrenthal had assumed 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 occupied the Ukraine and Montenegro as well as jointly occupied Serbia and Romania. By 1918, the economic situation had deteriorated (strikes in factories were organized by leftist and pacifist movements), and uprisings in the army had become commonplace. Austria-Hungary asked for German assistance in maintaining control of the situation. Austria-Hungary had gained territory from Italy and had annexed Montenegro in the Treaty of Vienna signed on September 10, 1919.

Creation of Greater Austria

As it became apparent that the Central Powers of Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey and Bulgaria would win World War I, nationalist movements which had previously been calling for a greater degree of autonomy for various areas stopped pressing for full independence. In Austria and Hungary (in places where the German Austrians and Magyar Hungarians were the majority) the leftist and liberal movements and politicians strengthened and supported the separatism of ethnic minorities.

These groups demanded that the nationalities of the empire have "freest opportunity to autonomous development." In response, Karl I agreed to reconvene the Imperial parliament in 1917 and allow for the creation of a confederation with each national group exercising self-governance. In an apparent attempt to demonstrate good faith, Karl I issued a proclamation ("Imperial Manifesto of 16 October 1918"), which significantly altered the structure of the Austrian half of the monarchy. The Austrian half was transformed into a federal union composed of four parts—German, Czech, South Slav and Ukrainian. Each of the four parts 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 keep up the "holy kingdom of St. Stephen".

By the summer of 1919 the threat of ethnic uprisings across Hungary was great and the Hungarian government ceded control of its territorial administration to the monarchy. Karl I issued a similar manifesto in Budapest which allowed Hugary to enjoy the autonomy it had before the war but with drastically carved up borders. Finally after the new states were set up the Imperial House of Representatives met in Vienna and agreed on a new constitution which formally transformed the old Empire into a multi-ethnic confederation under the monarchy. Name proposals went back and forth for days until it was majority voted to call the state the United States of Greater Austria.

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