As the end of hostilities appeared on the horizon in October 1918, one Austrian commander in the Tyrol observed that while the enemy in its propaganda was exploiting what was happening in the AustroHungarian hinterland, what was far more dangerous for army morale was the wretched reality of what was actually occurring there.1 It might be seen as a repetition of what had happened in Russia a year earlier. Then, the AOK had viewed Russia’s domestic chaos as a crucial element in undermining the cohesion of the Russian armed forces, enabling the Central Powers’ propaganda campaign to play its part in maintaining a close interaction between front and hinterland. In the autumn of 1918, the same process was at work in the Habsburg Empire with the mood of front and hinterland often mirroring each other, and being reflected in turn in the themes of Italy’s psychological offensive. Although the Austrian commanders until the very end tended to see the hinterland as the source of most evils, infecting their otherwise blameless and reliable forces, any such attempt to delimit military and civilian spheres, or indeed to suggest that the ‘poison’ was only acting in one direction, was highly questionable by August 1918.2 Rather, the final months of the war witnessed an interaction, with ideas not only flowing into the war zone, but a mass desertion into the interior by troops who passed on their experiences (and their perceptions of the enemy) to friends and relatives.
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