Austria-Hungary 1918

Kaiser Charles I of Austria-Hungary
Kaiser Charles I of Austria-Hungary

[Austria-Hungary, November 1918] Already in the last days of the war, the Czechs, Galicians, Poles, Slovenes and Croats had broken away from Austria-Hungary. In Transylvania, Romania had taken power.

On October 31, 1918, the Hungarian government terminated the Real Union with Austria. On November 3, Austria-Hungary signed the armistice at Villa Giusti in Padua.

Emperor Charles’ Manifesto for the Nations comes too late

It had been foreseeable. Emperor Charles’ caving in to Kaiser Wilhelm II, thus Austria-Hungary was no longer a great power. No one would stand up for this Austria-Hungary. “The people of Austria-Hungary, whose place among the nations we wish to see safeguarded and assured, should be accorded the freest opportunity to autonomous development” read Wilson’s 14 points. This was what everything now boiled down to. Charles’ manifesto of October 14, saying that he would transform Austria-Hungary into a federal state of individual national states, came too late.

Austria-Hungary no longer exists

As soon as the armistice had come into force, Matthias and Lottie had traveled to Budapest. Joscha had met them and taken them to the Csabanys’ family estate.

Now Lottie was standing at father Andras’ grave. “Papa wouldn’t want us to stand by his grave and cry for long,” Joscha finally said. “He was so proud of you. His eyes lit up when he opened a bottle from your winery, and he savored every glass.” Suddenly they were the two Csabany children again, as connected to Austria-Hungary as they were to Germany.

The job of a diplomat’s family was to connect people and their countries, or so they had known from an early age. Now their parents were both dead, and their Austria-Hungary no longer existed.

Their joint ministers had resigned during November 1918. Emperor Charles had finally laid down the crown, on November 11 in Austria and on November 13 in Hungary. On November 12, the democratic republic was proclaimed, which was called part of the German Republic. The first chancellor of the state became the Social Democrat Karl Renner. Many people in the remaining, German-speaking remnant of Austria thought that this “rump country” could hardly survive. Therefore, they wanted to join Germany. “In the next few weeks there will probably be a few meetings of the foreign ministers,” said Joscha, “Germany seems to go along with us.”

Deep traces

Lottie felt the deep traces that the war, the defeat and the disintegration of Austria-Hungary had left on her brother. She, too, loved Austria, Hungary and all the people and countries she had come to know with her parents Sophie and Andras Csabany. But with her husband Matthias and her children Kathi and Walter, she had now put down firm roots on the Rhine. Joscha, however, seemed almost lost. He was of Austrian, Hungarian and German origin, and as an imperial and royal diplomat he had represented all the countries of the Danube monarchy. As a young diplomat, he had spent many years in Belgium, but that now seemed like something from another life.

Hungary and the Non-Magyars

“And you, what are you going to do?” asked Lottie. “I’m afraid that hard times are coming,” replied Joscha. “For you and me, the war is not over yet. The Rhineland is occupied by the Allies. Hungary is in turmoil. The Hungarian government was so intolerant towards the non-Magyars. Now the Slovaks, the Croats, the Romanians, they all want to lget away from us. The Romanian army is already occupying areas that belong to Hungary, but which are mostly populated by Romanians. I don’t think the new prime minister will be able to hold on for long, because the problems are far too big and the rifts too deep. I will stay for now and help our people find their way back to life, as far as I can at all. They have gone through hell.”

He hesitated for a while, then his expression brightened after all. “But we’ll get through this, too,” he said. “And then it’s time to think of our own lives.” Now Lottie smiled, too. “You’re thinking about Marie, aren’t you?” Her brother nodded. “Yes, Marie,” he said. “The plan is for Austria’s Foreign Minister to meet with his German counterpart Brockdorff-Rantzau in Berlin at the beginning of March. As it seems, I will go with him, in case he needs advice. After all, I am an Austro-Hungarian mixture with German roots. And if all goes well, I’ll come for a visit afterwards.”

Fighting in Hungary

Joscha was to be proved right. In March 1919, the communists took power and established a soviet republic. The conflict with Romania escalated, war broke out. Romanian troops advanced far into the interior of Hungary and marched into Budapest at the beginning of August 1919. The soviet republic collapsed, turbulent months followed.

Finally, former Imperial and Royal Admiral Horthy entered Budapest with his troops on November 16, 1919. Horthy formally reinstated the monarchy on March 1, 1920, but remained de facto head of state. From his exile in Switzerland, ex-emperor Charles twice attempted to resume rule in Hungary; both times, however, Horthy refused to hand over power.

No union with Germany

The foreign ministers of Germany and Austria had signed a protocol on the union of their countries in Berlin on March 2, 1919.

But the grand old Habsburg Monarchy was defeated. . And the Allies decided differently: Austria lost South Tyrol to Italy, the German-speaking areas in Bohemia and Moravia to Czechoslovakia. The Union of German-Austria and Germany was expressly forbidden.

Hungary had to cede two-thirds of its territory to Czechoslovakia, Romania, the South Slavic state, and Austria. The restoration of the Habsburg monarchy was forbidden to Hungary.

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