2/7/1917 Emperor Karl frees Austria-Hungary’s political prisoners

Emperor Karl of Austria-Hungary is attempting political reforms in an effort to revitalise popular support for the Empire. He has revoked some emergency powers and curtailed the powers of the army within Austria. There is also talk of relaxing censorship. And today he undertakes the bold step of declaring an amnesty for all political prisoners. The amnesty sees thousands of malcontents released into society, from socialist radicals to nationalists seeking greater rights or outright independence for their particular part of the Empire.

Karl hopes that releasing the political prisoners will allow for a fresh start in relations between the regime and the peoples of Austria-Hungary. But the effect is not quite what he hoped for. Many German-speaking Austrians are shocked to see political prisoners from other nationalities released, fearing that this will strengthen centrifugal forces. And the large numbers of prisoners released only serves to emphasise how repressive the regime has previously been. In Bohemia and Moravia the release of over a thousand Czech prisoners is a particular boost to nationalist elements that were already on the rise. And Karl’s renunciation of the imprisonment of the regime’s political enemies now leaves it looking weakened.

image source:

Emperor Karl (Wikipedia: Croatia during World War I)

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