Austro-Hungarian Empire

The World War I combatant known as the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary, or Austro-Hungary, included the territories of Austria, Hungary, Transylvania, Polish Galicia, Croatia, Slavonia, Fiume, Bosnia, Herzogovina, Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia, Bukowina and Dalmatia. The empire was ruled by a monarch. The ruler of Austro-Hungary was both the emperor of Austria and the King of Hungary.

The monarch was a member of the Hapsburg family and the empire was the vestige of the once powerful Holy Roman Empire which ruled much of Europe for hundreds of years. On June 28, 1914, the heir to the monarchy, the Archduke Francis Ferdinand, was assassinated in Sarajevo by Serb anarchists. Serbia, a nation of slavs, had long posed a threat to the Empire due to its growing boundaries and the separatist effect, real and imagined, of that growth and the advocation of a Greater Serbia upon the many slavs within the boundaries of the faltering Empire.

On July 26, 1914 Austro-Hungary issued an unrealistic ultimatum upon Serbia demanding concessions which were not complied with. As a result a declaration of war was made by the monarch of Austro-Hungary, Francis Joseph I, upon Serbia. Czarist Russia, also a nation of slavs and thus a traditional ally of Serbia, honored a mutual defense treaty by declaring war upon Austro-Hungary. In turn Germany on August 1 honoring its treaty with Austro-Hungary, declared war upon Russia and on August 3 on France, who had a defense treaty with Russia. England, who had a treaty with Belgium declared war on Germany on August 4 when Germany moved through Belgium to flank France.

The forces of France, Russia and England became known as the Allies while Germany and Austro-Hungary were known as the Central Powers. Italy, Turkey Belgium and most other countries of Europe soon joined the fray. Thus it was Austro-Hungary which launched Europe into World War I.

In 1916, Charles I succeeded to the Austro-Hungarian throne. He abdicated from it a short time later on November 11-13, 1918 when the Armistice took effect and the war ended with the surrender of the Central powers to the Allies. He died in 1922. On November 12, 1918 the Republic of Austria was declared and in 1919 the Treaty of St. Germain officially divided the Austro-Hungarian Empire into separate states. Although in later years prior to World War I, a pretender to the monarchy, the Archduke Otto, sought from his exile in Brussells to restore the Hapsburg dynasty, this never came to pass and Charles I remained the last ruler of the Hapsburg line.