11/11/1918 Emperor Karl renounces power but without actually abdicating as his empire dissolves around him #1918Live

Austria-Hungary has made peace with the Allies. This effectively marks the end of the Habsburg Empire. Emperor Karl issues a statement renouncing power in Austria, but it is worded so carefully that it does not constitute an actual abdication. Karl continues to consider himself the rightful Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary.

Austria and Hungary are both going their separate ways, and both are being torn apart by the conflicting national aspirations of Czechoslovaks, Yugoslavs and Italians, as well as those of the German-Austrians and Hungarians themselves. Hungary also looks like it might be losing Transylvania, coveted by Romania. Romania was bludgeoned into submission by Germany earlier this year but now it has sprung back into life. Yesterday it declared war on Germany and today it invades the eastern Austrian province of Bukovina. Transylvania (inhabited both by Hungarians and Romanians) is surely next on its list.

31/10/1918 The nationalists take over in Budapest and settle accounts with Count Tisza #1918Live

The once mighty Habsburg Empire is disintegrating into a patchwork of new nations with overlapping borders. Yugoslavia has been proclaimed in the south, to combine southern Slav areas of the Empire with Serbia. The Czechs have declared their independence from Austria and now the Slovaks declare their independence from Hungary; the two kindred peoples hope to unite into a new state, Czechoslovakia. Meanwhile German-Austrians are talking about either establishing a republic for themselves or else uniting with Germany.

Budapest has seen increasingly large and rowdy demonstrations by Hungarian nationalists seeking to sever the link with Austria. Blood has been spilled but Lukachich, commander of the city’s garrison is unable to restore order. So many of his troops have gone over to the rebels that he begs Emperor Karl to send him a contingent of loyal troops. However, the Emperor demurs; “enough blood has been spilt,” he says. Wekerle, the Hungarian Prime Minister, resigns and is replaced by Károlyi, the nationalists’ leader. Lukachich is placed under arrest.

The changing of the guard in Budapest allows old scores to be settled. Tisza, the Hungarian prime minister in 1914 when Austria-Hungary went to war, has already survived two assassination attempts. Tonight his luck runs out as armed soldiers burst into his city residence. Blaming him for the war in which millions have died, they shoot him down in front of his wife and niece.

For all the chaos within its borders, Austria-Hungary is still at war with the Allies, but the war may not have much time left to run. Emperor Karl has already requested an armistice of the Italians and now they receive his negotiators at Padua to work out the details of the end to hostilities. Meanwhile in Paris representatives of the USA, Britain, France and Italy meet and agree that once Austria-Hungary drops out of the war the Italians should occupy the territories on the Dalmatian coast assigned to them by the Treaty of London.

István Tisza

28/10/1918 As his empire disintegrates, Emperor Karl requests an armistice #1918Live

Austria-Hungary is at breaking point, with the Empire’s cohesion being torn apart as the strains of war and the imminent defeat leave the central governments powerless in the face of local unrest. In Cracow the city council confiscates food supplies intended for the Austro-Hungarian army, determined that the needs of Polish people should come first. In Prague the Czechoslovak National Council declares itself the government of an independent Czechoslovakia; across Bohemia and Moravia officials who had previously served the Austrian government in Vienna now row in behind the new regime. Unrest continues in Budapest, where the authorities are struggling to contain nationalist supporters of Károlyi and his National Committee. Meanwhile the military situation remains dire, with every indication that the Italian advance across the Piave will lead to a complete rout of the Austro-Hungarian army.

Seeing that the end has arrived, Emperor Karl now requests an unconditional armistice from the Italians. In Prague the news is greeted with jubilation. Crowds throng the street, shouting the names of President Wilson and Tomáš Masaryk, Czechoslovakia’s exiled leader.

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Karl, Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary (Wikipedia)

20/10/1918 Lansing’s note to Vienna: the writing on the wall for Austria-Hungary #1918Live

Emperor Karl of Austria-Hungary had hoped that his People’s Manifesto, a proposal for national federalism within Austria (but not Hungary) would go some way to dampening down separatist tendencies within his Empire. It has however failed to do so. Increasingly the various peoples of Austria-Hungary see the Habsburg Empire as a failed entity that they want nothing more to do with. Autonomy within Austria is not good enough for people who are now seeking independence.

Emperor Karl also hopes that a swift conclusion of an armistice might also relieve the pressures threatening to tear the Empire apart. His own request for an armistice went to the Allies with that of Germany. As the Germans are the senior of the Central Powers, Wilson is engaging primarily with them. However today a disturbing note arrives in Vienna from Washington. Wilson had previously been seeking peace on the basis of his Fourteen Points, one of which proposed that the various peoples of Austria-Hungary be provided with the “freest opportunity of autonomous development”. Now though Lansing, Wilson’s secretary of state, reports that developments have forced a change in Wilson’s thinking. Autonomy may not be enough for the peoples of Austria-Hungary and if they wish to pursue independence then Wilson will support them. For Emperor Karl this is a disaster: the peace his Empire so desperately needs will also be the end of it; he will be the last Habsburg Emperor.

The text of Lansing’s note

16/10/1918 The People’s Manifesto: Emperor Karl’s desperate attempt to reform his empire #1918 Live

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.

14/9/1918 Emperor Karl seeks peace, in vain

Austria-Hungary is falling apart. Four years of war have led to unimaginable privations on the home front and an accentuation of divisions between regions and ethnicities as well as between town and countryside. The army is increasingly unable to continue fighting thanks to supply problems, a breakdown of its cohesion and a collapse in morale following the failure of the Piave offensive.

Emperor Karl and his government fear that the war’s continuance will lead to revolution and social collapse. They have pressed the Germans to seek peace on whatever terms can be obtained, but the Kaiser‘s government and generals have prevaricated. While the Germans are on the back foot on the Western Front, their domestic situation is not quite so disastrous as Austria-Hungary’s, so they do not feel under quite the same pressure. While Emperor Karl is seeking peace at any price, the Germans are still hoping to retain the gains of 1914, terms which are anathema to the Allies.

With Germany’s Ludendorff still talking of pursuing the war to victory, Emperor Karl decides that he has to act. He has Burián, his foreign minister, issue an appeal for peace to the Allies. But alas, the effort avails him nought. The Allies see negotiations with Austria-Hungary as a waste of time, as their real enemy is Germany. And this latest attempt at negotiations serves only to further poison relations between Berlin and Vienna.

Emperor Karl (Tradical (@NoTrueScotist) on Twitter)

23/6/1918 Piave: for Italy a triumph, for Austria-Hungary disaster #1918Live

The Battle of the Piave is now over. The Austro-Hungarians have retreated to the east bank of the river having failed to break out of their bridgeheads. The Italians hail this “Battle of the Solstice” as a great victory: it shows that their army is able to fight again, the stain of Caporetto now erased. For the Austro-Hungarians meanwhile the battle is a disaster, laying bare the organisational failures that led to soldiers going into battle underfed and without adequate supplies.

The human losses of the fighting are considerable. The Italians suffer around 85,000 casualties, of whom around half were captured by the enemy and now face starvation (the Italian authorities forbid the sending of food parcels to their prisoners and the Austro-Hungarians are struggling to feed their own soldiers, let alone those of the enemy). Austro-Hungarian losses are greater, at around 118,000, with a much higher proportion of these killed or wounded.

The failed offensive severely dents the prestige of Emperor Karl, the army’s commander. Parliamentarians in Austria and Hungary condemn the foolhardiness the inadequately prepared venture. Wider discontent with the conduct of the war and the Empire itself spreads further through its subject peoples.

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Italian soldiers at the front (Wikipedia: Second Battle of the Piave River)

Emperor Karl (Wikipedia)