The Austro-Hungarian Empire is falling apart thanks to the strains of war and now defeat. Its territorial integrity is now under threat, with newly emergent proto-states of Yugoslavia and Poland seeking to detach territory from it. The Czechs too are on the brink of declaring their own independence, perhaps joining with their Slovak relations to create a Czechoslovakia, straddling the empire’s internal border between Austria and Hungary.
Germany and Austria-Hungary have sought an armistice from the Allies, though the negotiation process is proving more drawn out than might have been expected. Emperor Karl hopes that a swift achievement of a ceasefire will lessen the pressures that are tearing apart his Empire. Nevertheless, he realises that time is of the essence. The Empire is clearly in need of some kind of reform and today he announces plans to introduce a federal system for the Austrian part (he is not in a position to dictate the internal arrangements of Hungary). His proposal is dubbed the People’s Manifesto and envisages the creation of self-governing German, Czech, Ukrainian and South Slav regions, with a separate Polish region having the option of staying in the Empire or leaving to join the newly emerging Poland.
The People’s Manifesto is however immediately rejected by the nationalities it is supposed to appeal to. They no longer see a future for themselves within the Austro-Hungarian Empire and are looking for full independence.
Although the People’s Manifesto is a failure, it has unintended consequences. Hungary was excluded from its operation but the Manifesto encourages separatist sentiment among the non-Hungarian peoples there. The Hungarians themselves also see the People’s Manifesto as a sign of the Empire’s increasing weakness, with many thinking now that they would also be better off seeking a future outside the rule of the Habsburg Emperor.