| Vereinigte Staaten von Groß-Österreich|
United States of Greater Austria
|Anthem: Gott erhalte, Gott beschütze / Unsern Kaiser, unser Land!|
|Emperor|| Karl I (First)|
Otto I (Last)
|- Upper house||House of Lords|
|- Lower house||House of Representatives|
|- Creation of Greater Austria||March 1, 1920|
|- Soviet conquest of Vienna||April 13, 1941|
The United States of Greater Austria (German: Vereinigte Staaten von Groß-Österreich) was the successor state to the Austro-Hungarian dual monarchy created in the aftermath of the First World War. Greater Austria was the result of compromises between the central governments in Vienna and Budapest and the various nationalities of the old empire between October 1918 and March 1920. The empire came to an end with the Soviet Offensive that ended with the capture of Vienna in 1941. Under the Soviet occupation the empire was divided up into various puppet Communist regimes loyal to Moscow. Finally after World War II in Europe ended the empire was formally partitioned into states loyal to Germany or attached to states that were part of the Axis.
As the twentieth century started to unfold, the greatest problem facing the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary was that it consisted of about a dozen distinctly different ethnic groups, of which only two, the Germans and Hungarians (who together accounted for about 44% of the total population), wielded any power or control. The other ethnic groups, which were not involved in the state affairs, were consisted of Italians, Romanians and a group of Slavic peoples (Croatians, Czechs, Poles, Ruthenians, Serbs, Slovaks, Slovenes and Ukrainians). Among them, only Croats had limited autonomy in the Kingdom of Croatia and Slavonia. The idea of the Dual Monarchy system of 1867 had been to split the previous Austrian Empire into two realms, one German-dominated, the other Hungarian-dominated. However, after various demonstrations, uprisings and acts of terrorism, it became readily apparent that the notion of two ethnic groups dominating the other ten could not survive in perpetuity.
Franz Ferdinand had planned to redraw the map of Austria-Hungary radically, creating a number of ethnically and linguistically dominated semi-autonomous "states" which would all be part of a larger confederation renamed the United States of Greater Austria. Under this plan, language and cultural identification was encouraged, and the disproportionate balance of power would be corrected. The idea was set to encounter heavy opposition from the Hungarian part of the Dual Monarchy, since a direct result of the reform would have been a significant territorial loss for Hungary.
However, the Archduke was assassinated at Sarajevo in 1914, triggering the outbreak of the First World War. Near the end of the war Austria-Hungary was on the verge of complete collapse. Franz Ferdinand's cousin Emperor Karl I issued a manifesto federalizing the Austrian half of the empire in October 1918, averting the immediate collapse of Austria. After battling with the Hungarian half as predicted it was finally done on the Hungarian side in January 1920. The first session of the new parliament met and agreed upon a new constitution that formally created Greater Austria realized Franz Ferdinand's dream six years after his death.
Government and politics 1920–1938
After 1920, Austria's national government was dominated by the Christian Social Party which retained close ties to the Roman Catholic Church. The party's first Chancellor, Ignaz Seipel, attempted to forge a political alliance between wealthy industrialists and the Roman Catholic Church. Despite the nation having a steady political party in power, the politics of the empire were fractious and violent, with both left-wing and right-wing political paramilitary forces clashing with each other in German Austria and repression in Hungary. In 1927, left-wing supporters engaged in a massive protest over the acquittal of right-wing paramilitaries who were found guilty of killing a man and a child. The huge protest was known as the July Revolt of 1927. The July Revolt was put down through violence by police which killed a number of protestors. The violence in German Austria continued to escalate until the early 1930s when Engelbert Dollfuss became Chancellor.
Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss of the Christian Social Party took power in Greater Austria in 1932, and moved the party and Austria towards dictatorship, reversal of the federalization and Fascism. In 1933, Dollfuss took advantage of an error in a bill in parliament, and his cabinet voted to dissolve the Imperial Council and declared that parliament ceased to function.
The government was in competition with the rebirthing elements of local nationalism, which wanted Greater Austria to dissolve. Dollfuss's Austro-Fascism tied Austria's roots with Roman Catholicism to the government, as a means to show religious Emperor Karl that this was the will of God. Violence escalated into near civil war between nationalists, socialists, and Austro-Fascists.
On May 1, 1934, Dollfuss created a one-party state, to be led by the Fatherland Front, with the proclamation of the authoritarian "May Constitution". Federalism and the controlling powers of the Imperial Council was curtailed, while elections for the Imperial Council was abolished, its members instead nominated by four non-elective, corporatist-styled councils; the State Council (Staatsrat), Imperial Culture Council (Reichskulturrat), Imperial Economic Council (Reichswirtschaftsrat) and the States' Council (Länderrat), supposedly providing their best opinions on respective areas. In practice all legislation and appointment was exercised from above by the Chancellor's and Emperor's decree. The state took complete control of employer–employee relations, known as Ständestaat, and began to crack down on pro-independence and pro–German sympathizers. The nationalist government in Germany responded by assassinating Engelbert Dollfuss on July 25, 1934.
This assassination infuriated Austria's neighbor, Fascist Italy under dictator Benito Mussolini. Fascist Italy had good relations with Greater Austria under Dollfuss and Mussolini suspected German involvement and promised the Austro-Fascist regime military support if Germany were to invade, as the Germans had claims on Tyrol which Italy wanted to annex. Italy's support helped save Austria from potential annexation in 1934.
End of the Dual Alliance
In 1938 Adolf Hitler, desiring close relations with Italy, told Mussolini to make a number of unacceptable demands to the Austrian government. Emperor Karl insisted on a meeting that included the British and French prime ministers to discuss the Tyrol crisis. Mussolini demanded the immediate annexation of the Italian areas lost under the Treaty of Lichtenberg along with Tyrol. Two more meetings followed, in the second of which, the infamous "Munich Agreement" was signed, forcing the Austrian government to accept the annexation, but having no part in the negotiations. Karl sent a message to Wilhelm II, stating that this was "the last straw" and that Austria withdrew from its alliance with Germany. The kaiser was so furious at Karl's message that he ordered Hitler to begin secret alliances with the various Austrian states, particularly Hungary.
World War II
Some members of the government, such as Prince Ernst Rüdiger von Starhemberg, had wanted to confront Germany for some years, but the young Emperor Otto, under advice from Seyss-Inquart, disapproved. But now the leaders of Austria, especially General Erhard Raus, decided to push for military support for countries like Ukraine in order to demonstrate independence from Germany; using the separate pacts with German puppets as an excuse, they presented themselves as a separate but equal force to ease Soviet demands, expecting the Soviet Union to accept appeasement. When the Soviet Union attacked eastern Ukraine, Austria declared war and moved into Ukraine to provide support. Kiev fell on November 13, 1939 resulting in the collapse of the Ukrainian nation. The Austrian Army launched a failed attack on the city until December. The Dnieper–Carpathian Offensive began on December 24, 1939 intending to take all of western Ukraine and drive the Austrians on the defensive. The operation brought the Red Army forces into Austria and Romania, completely destroyed 18 Austrian and reduced another 34 to below half of their establishment strength. This also resulted in Romania entering the war against the Soviet Union.
The 1940 Lviv–Sandomierz Offensive is generally overshadowed by the overwhelming successes of the concurrently conducted Operation Bagration that led to the destruction of the Belarusian Army. However, most of the Red Army and Red Air Force resources were allocated, not to Bagration's Belorussian operations, but the Lviv-Sandomierz operations. The campaign was conducted as Maskirovka. By concentrating in Austria and Ukraine, the Soviets drew German mobile reserves southward, leaving the Belarusian forces vulnerable to a concentrated assault. When the Soviets launched their Bagration offensive against the Belarusians, it would create a crisis in the central front, which would then force the powerful German Panzer forces back to the central front, leaving the Soviets free to pursue their objectives in seizing the Vistula bridges and gaining a foothold in Romania. The 2nd Jassy–Kishinev Offensive in August 1940 resulted in the loss of Romanian support to the south-east.
In the summer, the Slovaks rebelled against the Austrian government and the Slovak government appealed to the Soviets for help. On August 31, Soviet marshal Ivan Konev was ordered to prepare plans for an offensive to destroy Austrian forces in Slovakia. In the meantime, however, the Austrians had fortified the region, forming the Karpatenfestung ("Carpathian fortress") or Árpád line. The Battle of the Dukla Pass became the scene of bitterly contested battle for the Dukla Pass (borderland between East Galicia and Slovakia) from September–October 1940. It was part of the Soviet East Carpathian Strategic Offensive that also included the Carpathian-Uzhgorod Offensive. The operation's primary goal to provide support for the Slovaks was not achieved. However, it concluded the occupation of the Subcarpathian region as a territory of the Carpatho-Ukraine. As operations in north-eastern Austria began winding down the Red Army began the a push into Hungary on October 6. It was opposed by the Austrian Sixth Army (II formation) and Hungarian VII Army Corps units which were forced to retreat some 160 km, while opposing Marshal Rodion Malinovsky's 2nd Ukrainian Front which had Debrecen, Hungary as its strategic objective.
From October 1940, the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Ukrainian Fronts advanced into Hungary. After isolating the Hungarian capital city in late December, the Soviets besieged and assaulted Budapest. On February 13, 1941 the city fell. While this destroyed most of the Austrian forces in the region, troops were rushed from the Austro-German frontier and, in March, the Austrians launched the ill fated Operation Spring Awakening (Unternehmen Frühlingserwachen) in the Lake Balaton area. The expansive goals of this operation were to protect one of the last oil producing regions available to the Austria and to retake Budapest. Neither goal was achieved. As violence increased through out the empire and demands from the government and military that Emperor Otto agree to allow German troops into Austria to stabilize their front, Chancellor Seyss-Inquart met with Hitler on February 12 at Berchtesgaden in an attempt to negotiate terms.
Hitler presented Seyss-Inquart with a set of demands which included the surrender of operational authority to the OKR. In return Hitler would publicly reaffirm his support for Austria's national sovereignty. Seyss-Inquart accepted Hitler's "deal", returned to Vienna and inform Emperor Otto. Hours later, as the news of Budapest's capture reached Berlin, Hitler made a speech in which he stated, "The German Reich is not willing to allow the capture of ten million Germans across its borders." This was clearly directed at Austria and it's increasingly crippling military position.
German troops march into Austria
On the morning of March 12, the 8th Army of the German Reichswehr crossed the border to Austria. The troops were greeted by cheering German-Austrians with salutes, German flags, and flowers. Because of this, the German annexing is also called the Blumenkrieg (war of flowers), but its official name was Unternehmen Otto. Otto's political future became uncertain. Rushing to the Hofburg Palace, Seyss-Inquart, advised Otto that it was fruitless to stay on. Although the defending forces were badly organized and coordination among the units was poor, it mattered little because no fighting took place despite Otto's direct orders to unit commanders to resist.
In the early hours of March 13, Otto left for Switzerland, escorted by the commander of the small guard detachment at Eckartsau. Later that morning Seyss-Inquart announced the departure of the emperor, however carefully explained how there was no abdication, and approved the replacement of German officers in place of the Austrian ones. Officers of remaining nationalities remained in place strangely, presumably to maintain control of the multi-ethnic units remaining in Austria. German Crown Prince and Regent Wilhelm traveled to Vienna, on March 15, when around 200,000 German-Austrians gathered around the Schönbrunn to hear him say in front of tens of thousands of cheering people that "Not as tyrants have we come, but as liberators and protectors."