21/10/1916 Vienna: an assassin strikes

Many European countries are feeling the strain of war. Austria-Hungary feels it more than most, with the empire’s defeats on the battlefield reducing it to little more than a client state of its German ally. People are increasingly going hungry, particularly in the industrial cities of Austria.

The empire’s unusual constitutional arrangement means that it effectively has two internal administrations. The Hungarian half of the empire (including many people who are not Hungarian) is ruled from Budapest by Count Tisza’s government. Count Stürgkh is the prime minister of Austria. Tisza’s government is responsible to the Hungarian parliament, but Stürgkh serves at the pleasure of the emperor, Franz Josef. There is notionally an Austrian parliament, but Stürgkh’s government has been ruling without it since before the start of the war, using emergency powers to rule by decree.

Stürgkh’s bypassing of parliament is not universally popular, with many feeling that this contributed to the mistakes in the July Crisis that preceded the war. That emergency rule has continued since then rankles with many opposition politicians. It underlines Austria’s internal problems and lack of cohesion, in contrast to the more pliant politicians of Germany’s Reichstag.

Today Stürgkh’s embrace of rule by decree proves fatal, for him. He is dining in a Viennese hotel when he is approached by Friedrich Adler, a socialist activist who is angered by his policies and authoritarian rule. Adler shoots him three times. Stürgkh dies and Adler is arrested.

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