Austria-Hungary on the Defensive

  • Mark Cornwall


From the time of the Rome Congress, according to Edmund von Glaise-Hor- stenau, ‘an especially dangerous and brilliantly organized campaign of propa- ganda threatened the morale of the Austro-Hungarian armies’.1 To understand how the Austro-Hungarian authorities came to perceive ‘enemy propaganda’ as a pervasive force, it is important to appreciate the context in which they were operating. Having witnessed the collapse of Russia’s army, stimulated in part by their own effective propaganda, the Austrian military leaders by the spring of 1918 were vigilant, bracing themselves for the onslaught of Bolshevik propa- ganda from the East. This coincided with the most serious internal crisis to engulf the Monarchy for the whole war. In mid-January, mass strikes due to the food crisis and expectation of peace began in Vienna, and spread simulta- neously to Trieste, Krakow, Budapest and all other major urban centres.2 By February the strike encompassed 34000 miners in the coalfields of Moravia- Silesia; mass Polish demonstrations erupted in Galicia as a result of the Mon- archy’s peace with Ukraine; and, most alarming for the AOK, the naval forces in the gulf of Cattaro revolted. It was a time when the Emperor was pleading with his foreign minister to make a speedy peace at Brest-Litovsk with the Bolshe- viks, as the alternative seemed to be an imminent revolution. He himself, having fled out of Vienna with his family, contemplated for a while a ‘ministry of generals’, an effective dictatorship or Staatstreich.


Armed Force Food Crisis Military Command Military Authority Eastern Front 
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© John Mark Cornwall 2000

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  • Mark Cornwall

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