Military Review

Hope for the preservation of the Habsburg Empire. Plans for the Archduke Franz Ferdinand

On the way to war

The last years before the First World War were a series of almost incessant crises and conflicts. The rivalry of the great European powers was becoming more acute. At the same time, each state had its own “hawks” and “pigeons”; supporters of the war fought with those who believed that problems could be solved by political and diplomatic means.

In Vienna itself, after the Bosnian crisis, "pigeons" prevailed. The head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Erenthal himself supported a peaceful policy. The Foreign Minister was a realist and well understood that a big war, especially with the Russian Empire, could put an end to the Habsburg monarchy. The head of the General Staff, von Hoetzendorf, tried to continue the aggressive course and enter into conflict, if not with Russia, then with Serbia or Italy. Austrian emperor Franz Joseph, who did not want political aggravations, put him in his place, reminding the zealous military man that the peace policy pursued by the head of the foreign ministry is his monarch policy. However, due to illness in the beginning of 1912, Erenthal died. The Foreign Minister of the Austro-Hungarian Empire was Leopold von Berchtold, who continued the offensive policy on the Balkan Peninsula.

In 1911, there was a conflict between Germany and France due to the influence in Morocco. However, Russia made France understand that it was not ready to fight, and Germany had not yet completed the main military programs, so Berlin and Paris gradually calmed down. In the meantime, Italy did not express unequivocal support for Germany and began to flirt with the Entente. This gave the Austro-Hungarian "hawks" led by Hoetzendorf another trump card. They have long argued that Rome can not be trusted, there will be no benefit from the Italians, only one harm. The Hawks offered a preemptive war against Italy. In addition, Italy in 1911-1912's. robbed Libya (Tripolitania) from the Ottoman Empire.

In 1912, the Balkans again came to the fore. Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro and Greece formed an anti-Turkish alliance and defeated the Ottomans. At first, Russia supported the union of “Orthodox brothers”, but then it was very surprised and upset by their agility. Turkey has lost almost all possessions in Europe. Historical the era associated with the centuries-old dominion of the Ottomans in the Balkans is over. In this case, the last point was not set by the Habsburgs, who began to squeeze the Ottomans on the Balkan Peninsula, but the Balkan states, freed from the power of the Sultan.

However, as soon as the winners made peace with the Sultan, they quarreled over the spoils. Bulgaria, which bore the brunt of the war with the Turks, demanded the lion's share of the mined. Bulgarians quarreled with the Serbs and Greeks over Macedonia. Bulgaria, overestimating its strength, attacked the former allies, but suffered defeat. It was opposed not only by Serbia, Montenegro and Greece, but also by Romania and Turkey. From a complete disaster, Bulgaria was saved only by the intervention of the great powers. As a result, Bulgaria has lost most of the land that it received during the First Balkan War. But the Serbs almost doubled their territory, and the Greeks - by two thirds. And Turkey was able to repel Edirne (Adrianople) with the district.

Two rapid wars in the Balkans showed how fragile peace is in Europe. It was obvious that peace on the Balkan Peninsula would soon be broken. Bulgaria craved revenge. Turkey was unhappy. Serbia has increased dramatically and longed to continue the offensive. Austria-Hungary was afraid of gaining Serbia, the “hawks” demanded a preventive war against the Serbs. At the same time, the Austro-Hungarian Empire was beneficial to the split between the Balkan states. The Balkan alliance, directed against Turkey and oriented towards Russia, collapsed. The danger of the existence of a large union of the Balkan states, which will be directed against Austria-Hungary, has disappeared.

However, the situation with Serbia has escalated again. Vienna supported the idea of ​​creating an independent (under the protectorate of the Austrians) Albanian state. And the Serbs and Montenegrins occupied most of Albania and hoped to divide these lands among themselves. Serbia hoped to get access to the Adriatic Sea, and Montenegro claimed the city of Shkoder. Vienna officially stated that it would not allow Belgrade to gain access to the Adriatic Sea, since this infringes upon the national interests of the state. Austria-Hungary and Russia began to concentrate troops on the border. The Russian Empire was not going to give in this time. However, the war was avoided because of the position of the great powers. France and England did not want to start a war because of the particular problem of Austria-Hungary and Serbia. The German Kaiser also said that he was not going to go to Paris and Moscow because of Albania. This kept Europe from war. Under pressure from the great powers, the Serbs and Montenegrins left Albania, which formally became independent.

However, the Albanian crisis further angered the Serbs. And the Second Balkan War worsened the geopolitical position of Austria-Hungary on the Balkan Peninsula. Serbia has seriously strengthened, having won the second war in a row. The clash between Romania and Bulgaria has destroyed Vienna’s hopes that the two powers will be allies in the struggle against Serbia and, in the long run, with Russia. Italy moved further away from the Central Powers.

Hope to save the empire

The political situation was getting worse. The Hawks believed that only a victorious war against Serbia and Russia would allow Austria-Hungary to break the vicious circle. The Austrian nationalists and the Hungarian elite planned to inflict a decisive defeat on the Slavs, expel Russia permanently from the Balkans and Europe in general, establish control over Serbia, in which they saw the main troublemaker in the region. Slavic and Romanian politicians loyal to the Habsburgs hoped to expand political rights, replacing dualism with a more fair system.

The leader of the "pigeons" was not the aged Franz Joseph, but his successor, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand. It was a man with a difficult character. Years of illness, which almost brought him to the grave (tuberculosis), loneliness and detachment from the government did their work. Leading traits of his character were suspicion, nervousness and at the same time severity, purposefulness and stubbornness. Since childhood religious, despite the dissolute antics of youth, the heir considered the miraculous deliverance from the disease a divine blessing, which strengthened his faith. At the same time he was very passionate about hunting and exterminated thousands of animals. Having quarreled in his youth with Magyar (Hungarian) officers, he retained hostility towards Hungarians for the rest of his life. Having met at the ball and fell in love with the Czech Countess Sofia Hotek, no longer young, he remained faithful to her for life.

Gradually politicians grouped around Franz Ferdinand who were dissatisfied with the state of affairs in the empire and who wanted radical reforms. Belvedere Castle in the southern part of Vienna, which became the residence of the heir to the throne, began to turn into a center of power, an alternative to the imperial Hofburg and Schönbrunn. In Franz Ferdinand saw the future of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

The heir to the throne was a passionate man and not inclined to compromise. He considered the main business to carry out fundamental reforms in Hungary. The source of evil in the empire (separatism and instability) Franz Ferdinand considered Hungary. Upon assuming the throne, he planned to put an end to the autocracy of the Magyar gentry. To do this, at the head of the Hungarian government, Franz Ferdinand was going to put the loyal Magyar general, the head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs to select representatives of national minorities, to introduce universal suffrage in Hungary, which would weaken the autocracy of the Hungarian community. And after the election of a new parliament, where the Hungarians will be just one of the factions, change the Hungarian constitution. To implement these reforms, Franz Ferdinand was even ready to impose martial law in Hungary. Hostility to the Hungarians brought the heir to the throne with representatives of other national communities of the empire. Franz Ferdinand was especially warm towards the Transylvanian Romanians, seeing in the large Romanian community a counterweight to the Hungarians.

The main idea of ​​the heir was the federalization of Austria-Hungary. And for this it was necessary to get out of the way uncompromising Magyar elite, who did not want to compromise their privileges. The heir was about to transform the dualistic monarchy into a trialistic one. Here, Franz Ferdinand was the successor of Erenthal, who moved similar projects. It was planned to bestow on the Croatian Kingdom, which should have included the South Slavic lands, equal rights with Cisleytania and Hungary. The leading role in the creation of the southern Slavic part of the empire was to be played by the Croats, who were brought together by Catholicism with the Austrian Germans. This created a counterbalance to the idea of ​​"Greater Serbia" led by Orthodox Serbs. From the power of Hungary were derived Croatia, Slovakia and Transylvania. The draft manifesto on the accession to the throne of Franz II declared the principles of equality of all peoples, the freedom of national development.

True, the reform plans of Franz Ferdinand were not clearly worked out. The federalization of Austria-Hungary did not lead to a general "democratization", it was supposed to lead to the emergence of a federation of equal autonomy, united by a common and powerful central power of the Hapsburgs. The Archduke maintained unconditional faith in the high historical mission of the Hapsburgs. It was a renewal of the empire, which gave a chance to a fading empire for a new life.

Emperor Franz Joseph encouraged the heir’s interest in military affairs. In 1898, Franz Ferdinand was appointed deputy emperor in the high command of the army, and in 1902 he was appointed admiral. After 1906, the military office of the heir, headed by the capable and energetic Major Alexander Brosh von Aarenau, acquired the significance of the second General Staff. The rivalry between the heir’s headquarters and the General Staff, who headed Hetzendorf, became quite sharp, as the views of the Archduke of Austria and the head of the General Staff on the military policy of the empire differed greatly. Franz Ferdinand was a man of determination and tough, but was a consistent opponent of military adventures. In his opinion, the army was the most important pillar of the internal unity of the empire and emperor. The army was always ready to speak at the call of the emperor, but the archduke saw the main enemies inside the state, and not abroad. The heir was afraid of the separatist aspirations of Hungary, the socialist revolution. And in a crisis situation only the army could save the empire and the throne. The future monarch believed that the main task of the army was to protect the throne and suppress internal enemies. External conflicts only destabilize the situation and lead to a weakening of the army.

Franz Ferdinand made an absolutely correct prediction. It is the internal contradictions that will tear apart the Habsburg Empire. And a weakened and demoralized army cannot resist the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In this regard, Austria-Hungary resembled the Russian Empire, and Franz Ferdinand looked like Stolypin, two great state husbands held two empires on the verge of death. And their deaths involved the two powers in a disastrous war for them.

Therefore, the plans of a preventive war against Serbia and Italy, which were hawked by hawks, irritated the heir to the throne. The archduke did consider the possible war with Russia disastrous for the two monarchies. “The war with Russia is the end for us ...” prophetly noted Franz Ferdinand. “Should the Austrian emperor and the Russian tsar overthrow each other and open the way of revolution?” Franz Ferdinand, like Conrad von Höttsendorf, decisively strengthened and modernized the army and navy. But they had different goals. The Archduke was a powerful armed forces needed to preserve peace, Hettsendorf - to start a war.

Positive conservatism touched the foreign views of the heir to the throne. Franz Ferdinand believed that it was possible and necessary not only to preserve the alliance with Germany, but also to revive the old alliance with the Russian Empire. That is, it is necessary to set a course for a return to the "union of the three emperors." It was a perfectly sound plan that could save Europe from a big war and eliminate the influence of the Anglo-Saxons, which was beneficial to push the German and Slavic worlds.

It is not surprising that the actions of Erenthal, which caused the Bosnian crisis, irritated the heir to the throne. He believed that the “cheap laurels” of the winner could lead to a European conflict and possibly a war on two or three fronts, which Austria-Hungary cannot wage. Franz Ferdinand continued to insist on preserving peace in order to preserve the Habsburg dynasty and to carry out urgent internal political reforms.

With Wilhelm II, Franz Ferdinand maintained an even relationship. However, he did not share his views on the fact that the Slavs are the main enemies of the Germans and threaten the integrity of the Habsburg Empire and the interests of Germany. The main threat of the Danube monarchy, he saw in the Hungarians. He was particularly annoyed by Hungarian Prime Minister Istvan Tisza, whom the archduke considered the embodiment of Hungarian nationalism, arrogance and separatist aspirations of the Magyar nobility.

Thus, the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Franz Ferdinand, was the main hope for reforming and preserving the Habsburg Empire, as well as the main opponent of drawing the power into war. Thus, Franz Ferdinand signed a death sentence. He annoyed the Hungarian elite, the Austrian hawks. But the main thing was that he stood in the way of the powerful forces behind France, Britain and the United States, who decided to start a world war to establish their New World Order. Therefore, Franz Ferdinand shared the fate of Peter Stolypin, who prevented Russia from being drawn into the war. The murder in Sarajevo opened the way to a big war.

Hope for the preservation of the Habsburg Empire. Plans for the Archduke Franz Ferdinand

Heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary Franz Ferdinand

To be continued ...
Articles from this series:
Part 1. Austria-Hungary in the First World War
Part 2. The imperial and royal army of Austria-Hungary on the eve of the First World War
Part 3. Towards a catastrophe: the foreign policy of Austria-Hungary on the eve of the First World War

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  1. inkass_98
    inkass_98 22 May 2015 09: 21
    Franz Ferdinand was a real figure capable of preserving the unity of Austria-Hungary. If he took the throne in Vienna, the triune monarchy of Austria-Hungary-Czechia could appear on the map: he was married to a Czech woman, he himself harshly suppressed any ethnic strife in his environment and was intolerant of her in imperial society. Franz Joseph was not crowned with the Czech crown, although he had to do it, Franz Ferdinand would have done it absolutely, which would have gained popularity among the Slavs of the empire. And it is not known then how the fate of the Czech soldiers would have turned into a world war, if they would have so actively surrendered to the Russians, already fighting for their emperor. All "Schweik" in FIG, so to speak.
  2. napalm
    napalm 22 May 2015 11: 00
    Interesting article. A lot of new facts. We look forward to continuing.
    1. Omsk
      Omsk 22 May 2015 11: 33
      rather Austria-Hungary-Croatia (at first), and then Austria-Czecho-Croatia, given his not just dislike, but hatred of the Hungarians. That's when the secret services began to control and direct terrorist organizations, such as the Serbian "Black Hand".
  3. abvgde
    abvgde 22 May 2015 12: 20
    Certainly there were people in Austria and Russia, who understood why this war was being organized. And they did everything possible to prevent this war from unleashing.
    But there were those who pursued other goals. Most of them appeared in the elite of states. And they apparently had more strength. Once they have achieved their.
  4. Kerzhak
    Kerzhak 22 May 2015 12: 55
    If you dig, you can find the Anglo-Saxon trace in the murder of Stolypin. And we have toppled on anyone, not seeing the main thing.
  5. haraz
    haraz 22 May 2015 14: 32
    The companions of Franz Ferdinand included the Slovak journalist and politician Milan Hodža, later the Prime Minister of Czechoslovakia.

    Slovaks were part of Hungary. Madyarov was in Hungary about 30 percent but took possession of it. The familiar words of the Hungarian Prime Minister Koloman Tisz are "The Slovak people are nesushchestbuet".
    There is a river Leutha / Loyta Slavic Lithuania. Austria it was Predlitavsko and Hungary Zalitavsko. This is analogous to Transnistria / Transnistria.
  6. RuslanNN
    RuslanNN 22 May 2015 21: 34
    Angela Merkel to the note - if he wants the greatness of his people - let him get out from under the arrogant Saxons and establish relations with Russia.
  7. FM-78
    FM-78 23 May 2015 18: 30
    Really worthy article, a big plus, I’ll add from myself that the most adequate Russian lovers are the Greeks, I love this Country.