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Participants in World War I
Orange: Central Powers and their colonies.
Green: Allies and their colonies.
Gray: Neutral countries.
|Capital||none (de jure)|
Berlin (de facto)
|-||Established||28 June 1914|
(Germany \ Austria-Hungary)
|7 October 1879|
|-||Ottoman–German Alliance||2 August 1914|
|-||Bulgaria–Germany treaty||6 September 1915 (secret)
14 October 1915 (public)
|-||Joined by Finland,
Lithuania and Azerbaijan
The Central Powers (German: Mittelmächte; Hungarian: Központi hatalmak; Turkish: İttifak Devletleri or Bağlaşma Devletleri; Bulgarian: Централни сили Tsentralni sili), consisting of Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria – hence also known as the Quadruple Alliance (German: Vierbund) was one of the two main factions during World War I (1914–18). It faced and defeated the Allied Powers that had formed around the Triple Entente, after which it was dissolved.
The Powers' origin was the alliance of Germany and Austria-Hungary in 1879. The Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria did not join until after World War I had begun.
The Central Powers consisted of the German Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the beginning of the war. The Ottoman Empire joined the Central Powers later in 1914. In 1915, the Kingdom of Bulgaria joined the alliance. The name "Central Powers" is derived from the location of these countries; all four (including the other groups that supported them except for Finland and Lithuania) were located between the Russian Empire in the east and France and the United Kingdom in the west. Finland, Azerbaijan, and Lithuania joined them in 1918 before the war ended and after the Russian Empire collapsed.
The Central Powers were composed of the following nations:
- Austria-Hungary 28 July 1914
- German Empire 1 August 1914
- Ottoman Empire 2 August 1914 (secret)
29 October 1914 (public)
- Kingdom of Bulgaria 14 October 1915
In early July 1914, in the aftermath of the assassination of Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and the immediate likelihood of war between Austria-Hungary and Serbia, Kaiser Wilhelm II and the German government informed the Austro-Hungarian government that Germany would uphold its alliance with Austria-Hungary and defend it from possible Russia intervention if a war between Austria-Hungary and Serbia took place. When Russia enacted a general mobilization, Germany viewed the act as provocative. The Russian government promised Germany that its general mobilization did not mean preparation for war with Germany but was a reaction to the events between Austria-Hungary and Serbia. The German government regarded the Russian promise of no war with Germany to be nonsense in light of its general mobilization, and Germany in turn mobilized for war. On August 1, Germany sent an ultimatum to Russia stating that since both Germany and Russia were in a state of military mobilization, an effective state of war existed between the two countries.
In August 1914, Germany waged war on Russia, the German government justified military action against Russia as necessary because of Russian aggression as demonstrated by the mobilization of the Russian army that had resulted in Germany mobilizing in response.
After Germany declared war on Russia, France with its alliance with Russia prepared a general mobilization in expectation of war. On 3 August 1914, Germany responded to this action by declaring war on France. Germany facing a two-front war enacted what was known as the Schlieffen Plan, that involved German armed forces needing to move through Belgium and swing south into France and towards the French capital of Paris. This plan was hoped to quickly gain victory against the French and allow German forces to concentrate on the Eastern Front. Belgium was a neutral country and would not accept German forces crossing its territory. Germany disregarded Belgian neutrality and invaded the country to launch an offensive towards Paris. This caused Great Britain to declare war against the German Empire, as the action violated the Treaty of London that both nations signed in 1839 guaranteeing Belgian neutrality and defense of the kingdom if a nation reneged.
Subsequently several states declared war on Germany, including: Japan declaring war on Germany in late August 1914; Italy declaring war on Austria-Hungary in 1915 and Germany on August 27, 1916; and Greece declaring war on Germany in July 1917.
Colonies and dependencies
Upon its founding in 1871, the German Empire controlled Alsace-Lorraine as an "imperial territory" incorporated from France after the Franco-Prussian War. It was held as part of Germany's sovereign territory.
Germany held multiple African colonies at the time of World War I. All of Germany's African colonies were invaded and occupied by Allied forces during the war.
German New Guinea was a German protectorate in the Pacific. It was occupied by Australian forces in 1914.
Austria-Hungary regarded the assassination of Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand as being orchestrated with the assistance of Serbia. The country viewed the assassination as setting a dangerous precedent of encouraging the country's South Slav population to rebel and threaten to tear apart the multinational country. Austria-Hungary formally sent an ultimatum to Serbia demanding a full-scale investigation of Serbian government complicity in the assassination, and complete compliance by Serbia in agreeing to the terms demanded by Austria-Hungary. Serbia submitted to accept most of the demands, however Austria-Hungary viewed this as insufficient and used this lack of full compliance to justify military intervention. These demands have been viewed as a diplomatic cover for what was going to be an inevitable Austro-Hungarian declaration of war on Serbia.
Austria-Hungary had been warned by Russia that the Russian government would not tolerate Austria-Hungary crushing Serbia. However with Germany supporting Austria-Hungary's actions, the Austro-Hungarian government hoped that Russia would not intervene and that the conflict with Serbia would be a regional conflict.
Austria-Hungary's invasion of Serbia resulted in Russia declaring war on the country and Germany in turn declared war on Russia, setting off the beginning of the clash of alliances that resulted in the World War.
Austria-Hungary was internally divided into two states with their own governments, joined in communion through the Habsburg throne. Austrian Cisleithania contained various duchies and principalities but also the Kingdom of Bohemia, the Kingdom of Dalmatia, the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria. Hungarian Transleithania comprised the Kingdom of Hungary and the Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia. In Bosnia and Herzegovina sovereign authority was shared by both Austria and Hungary.
The Ottoman Empire joined the war on the side of the Central Powers in November 1914. The Ottoman Empire had gained strong economic connections with Germany through the Berlin-to-Baghdad railway project that was still incomplete at the time. The Ottoman Empire made a formal alliance with Germany signed on 2 August 1914. The alliance treaty expected that the Ottoman Empire would become involved in the conflict in a short amount of time. However, for the first several months of the war the Ottoman Empire maintained neutrality though it allowed a German naval squadron to enter and stay near the strait of Bosphorus. Ottoman officials informed the German government that the country needed time to prepare for conflict. Germany provided financial aid and weapons shipments to the Ottoman Empire.
After pressure escalated from the German government demanding that the Ottoman Empire fulfill its treaty obligations, or else Germany would expel the country from the alliance and terminate economic and military assistance, the Ottoman government entered the war with the recently acquired cruisers from Germany, the Yavuz Sultan Selim (formerly SMS Goeben) and the Midilli (formerly SMS Breslau) launching a naval raid on the Russian port of Odessa, thus engaging in a military action in accordance with its alliance obligations with Germany. Russia and the Triple Entente declared war on the Ottoman Empire.
Bulgaria was still resentful after its defeat in July 1913 at the hands of Serbia, Greece and Romania. It signed a treaty of defensive alliance with the Ottoman Empire on 19 August 1914. It was the last country to join the Central Powers, which Bulgaria did in October 1915 by declaring war on Serbia. It invaded Serbia in conjunction with German and Austro-Hungarian forces. Bulgaria held irredentist aims on the region of Vardar Macedonia held by Serbia.
The Dervish State was a rebel Somali state seeking independence of Somali territories. Dervish forces fought against Italian and British forces in Italian Somaliland and British Somaliland during World War I in the Somaliland Campaign. The Dervish State received support from Germany and the Ottoman Empire.
Sultanate of Darfur
During 1917 and 1918, the Finns under Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim and Lithuanian nationalists fought Russia for a common cause. With the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics's aggression of late 1917, the government of Ukraine sought military protection from the Central Powers.
German client states
- Belarus (Belarusian People's Republic)
- The Belarusian People's Republic was a client state of Germany created in 1918.
- Courland and Semigallia
- The Duchy of Courland and Semigallia was a client state of Germany created in 1918.
- Don (Don Republic)
- The Don Republic was closely associated with the German Empire and fought against the Bolsheviks.
- Finland (Kingdom of Finland)
- The Kingdom of Finland was a client state of Germany created in 1918
- Georgia (Democratic Republic of Georgia)
- In 1918, the Democratic Republic of Georgia, facing Bolshevik revolution and opposition from the Georgian Mensheviks and nationalists, was occupied by the German Empire, which expelled the Bolsheviks and supported the Mensheviks.
- Lithuania (Kingdom of Lithuania)
- The Kingdom of Lithuania was a client state of Germany created in 1918.
- Northern Caucasus (Mountainous Republic of the Northern Caucasus)
- The Mountainous Republic of the Northern Caucasus was associated with the Central Powers.
- Poland (Kingdom of Poland)
- The Kingdom of Poland was a client state of Germany created in 1916. This government was recognized by the emperors of Germany and Austria-Hungary in November 1916, and it adopted a constitution in 1917. The decision to create a state of Poland was taken by Germany in order to attempt to legitimize its military occupation amongst the Polish inhabitants, following upon German propaganda sent to Polish inhabitants in 1915 that German soldiers were arriving as liberators to free Poland from subjugation by Russia.
- The state was utilized by the German government alongside punitive threats to induce Polish landowners living in the German-occupied Baltic territories to move to the state and sell their Baltic property to Germans in exchange for moving to Poland, and efforts were made to induce similar emigration of Poles from Prussia to the state.
- South Africa (South African Republic)
- In opposition to the Union of South Africa, which had joined the war, Boer rebels founded the South African Republic in 1914 and engaged in the Maritz Rebellion. Germany assisted the rebels, and the rebels operated in and out of the German colony of German South-West Africa. The rebels were defeated by British imperial forces.
- Ukraine (Ukrainian State)
- The Ukrainian State was a client state of Germany led by Pavlo Skoropadskyi, who overthrew the government of the Ukrainian People's Republic.
- United Baltic Duchy
- The United Baltic Duchy was a proposed client state of Germany created in 1918
Ottoman client states
- Azerbaijan (Azerbaijan Democratic Republic)
- In 1918, the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, facing Bolshevik revolution and opposition from the Muslim Musavat Party, was then occupied by the Ottoman Empire, which expelled the Bolsheviks while supporting the Musavat Party. The Ottoman Empire maintained a presence in Azerbaijan until it collapsed in November 1919.
- Jabal Shammar
- Jabal Shammar was an Arab state in the Middle East that was closely associated with the Ottoman Empire.
- Franz Josef I: Emperor of Austria-Hungary
- Karl I: Emperor of Austria-Hungary
- Count Leopold Berchtold: Austrian Foreign Minister
- István Tisza: Prime Minister of Hungary
- Archduke Friedrich: Supreme Commander of the Austro-Hungarian Army
- Conrad von Hötzendorf: Chief of the Austro-Hungarian General Staff
- Arthur Arz von Straußenburg: Chief of the Austro-Hungarian General Staff
- Svetozar Boroević: Austro-Hungarian field marshal regarded as one of the finest defensive strategists of the war.
- Anton Haus: Commander-in-Chief of the Austro-Hungarian Navy
- Maximilian Njegovan: Commander-in-Chief of the Austro-Hungarian Navy
- Miklós Horthy: Commander-in-Chief of the Austro-Hungarian Navy
- Wilhelm II: German Emperor
- Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg: Chancellor of the German Empire
- Arthur Zimmermann: German foreign minister
- Helmuth von Moltke: Chief of the German General Staff
- Erich von Falkenhayn: Chief of the German General Staff
- Paul von Hindenburg: Chief of the German General Staff
- Alfred von Tirpitz: Admiral in the German Navy
- Reinhard Scheer: Commander of the Imperial High Seas Fleet
- Erich Ludendorff: Quartermaster general of the German Army
- Leopold of Bavaria: Supreme Commander East
- Max Hoffmann: Chief of Staff in the East
- Wilhelm Souchon: German Naval Advisor to the Ottoman Empire
- Otto Liman von Sanders: German Army Advisor to the Ottoman Empire
- Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck: German Army Commander of East Africa Campaign
- Hermann von François: Germany Army General
- Georg von der Marwitz: Prussian cavalry general in the German armies
- Mehmed V: Sultan of the Ottoman Empire
- Mehmed VI: Sultan of the Ottoman Empire
- Said Halim Pasha: Ottoman Grand Vizier
- Enver Pasha: Commander-in-Chief of the Ottoman Army
- Fritz Bronsart von Schellendorf: Chief of the Ottoman General Staff
- Mustafa Kemal Atatürk: Commander of the Second Army
- Djemal Pasha: Commander of the 4th Army in Syria, Minister of the Navy
- Fevzi Çakmak: Commander of 7th Army in Palestine, II. Caucasian Corps
- Ferdinand I: Tsar of Bulgaria
- Vasil Radoslavov: Prime Minister of Bulgaria
- Nikola Zhekov: Commander-in-Chief of the Bulgarian Army
- Georgi Todorov: commander of the 2nd Army, deputy Commander-in-Chief
- Konstantin Zhostov: Chief of the Bulgarian General Staff
- Vladimir Vazov: Bulgarian Lieutenant General