Who Led Austria-Hungary Through The World War I?

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The beginning of World War I was set off by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria by a Serbian nationalist. After the assassination, the Austro-Hungarian empire sent an ultimatum to Serbia with a list of concessions that the country had to abide or they would invade Serbia. Franz Joseph I was the emperor during this time but the ultimatum was created by Count Leopold Berchtold, the foreign minister. The Serbian government agreed to all of the demands except one, and the Austro-Hungarian government took that as a sign of aggression and started the First World War. Franz Joseph I was the emperor at the start of the war. However, he was not interested in the details of the war and left decisions up to his military officers. In fact, the declaration of war on Serbia was encouraged by Berchtold because he was unwilling to compromise with the Serbian government.

The War

Austria-Hungary had Germany as its main ally, who supported all of their war efforts. The initial reasoning behind starting the war was to maintain the power of the monarchy because Serbia had directly threatened them by killing the archduke. By 1916 foreign minister Istvan Burian was contemplating the possible territory gains that the war could give the empire. Later in the year, though, the war was turning against Austria-Hungary and the monarchy was reliant on Germany for their funding. The Brusilov offensive instigated by Russia did not end well for Austria-Hungary. Conrad von Hotzendorf was the chief of the general staff when the offensive attacked and he was dismissed by Karl I shortly after and replaced by Arz von Staussenberg. Archduke Friedrich was also blamed for the poor defense strategy and was also dismissed by the new emperor.

The Leaders

One of the most decorated officers of the Austro-Hungarian empire was Svetozar Boroevic, an Ingenious defense strategist. He fought in the war from its beginning in 1914 in the Carpathian mountains and was later moved onto the Italian front at Isonzo in 1915 and led armies in all 12 of the battles against the Italians. After the Austro-Hungarian empire disintegrated in 1918, he retired out of public view to live out the remaining two years of his life.

Karl I was the last emperor of Austria-Hungary before the empire fell apart in 1918. He became heir to the throne after Franz Ferdinand’s assassination. The would-be emperor served in the military on multiple fronts until Franz Joseph I died in 1916. He believed in liberal measures and reformed the army by banning practices such as flogging and duels. Dissent within the empire was growing so Karl I tried to make changes to appease the populace. He proclaimed the October Manifesto in 1918 but the reforms did not go far enough and the empire fell apart shortly after. The family was forced to flee to Switzerland and was unable to return after he tried to take back his throne.

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