In 1914 Austria-Hungary’s leaders pushed for war with Serbia in the hope that it would restore the Habsburg Empire’s fortunes and reverse its long decline. Events since then have not progressed entirely to their satisfaction, with the underperformance of the Austro-Hungarian military turning the Empire into little more than a client state of the Germans. Now its continued existence is increasingly threatened. The travails of war have led to great hardships and discontent and the disaster at the Piave has shattered what remained of the Empire’s prestige, with Emperor Karl himself being blamed for the debacle. Now the various ethnicities and peoples that make up the Empire are restless, with many wishing to separate themselves from the Habsburgs.
The Allies meanwhile are increasingly intent on breaking up the Empire. In his Fourteen Points, Wilson had proposed that Austria-Hungary’s peoples should have every possible opportunity for autonomous development. Since then the US President’s views have developed and how he argues that “all branches of the Slav race should be completely free from German and Austrian rule”. Talk of joining Serbia with Austria-Hungary’s southern Slav territories to create a new state (Yugoslavia) is finding a receptive audience in most Allied capitals, with the notable exception of Italy. Meanwhile in Paris the cause of Czechoslovakia is being advanced by exiled Czech nationalist Tomáš Masaryk and his Czechoslovak National Committee. Today they achieve a diplomatic breakthrough, with the French government formally recognising them as the representatives of the Czechoslovak nation. With the Allies also talking of attaching Galicia to a newly independent Poland, it looks like there will not be much left of Austria-Hungary if the Allies win the war.
Tomáš Masaryk (Českobudějovický deník: Jihočeské kalné ráno…)