Austria-Hungary and the Beginning of the First World War

Published by Hamza Khan on

Official Flag of the Dual Monarchy

Austria-Hungary, an empire on the European Continent was by land the 2nd biggest country just after Russia from 1867 till its dissolution in 1918. It incorporated areas of modern-day Austria, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Ukraine, Poland, Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia. The Kingdom of Austria and the Kingdom of Hungary were the two semi-independent halves of the dominion. Christianity was by far the biggest religion, followed by a sizable Jewish and Muslim Community. Being a multinational state, ethnic tensions remained high throughout the life of the empire. Many different languages were spoken throughout the Kingdom, German being one of the largest despite sharing no territory with the country. Capitalist system flourished the realm and railways, which at that time were the heart of transportation and the main driving force of the economy, were expanding rapidly. Germany was its biggest trading partner and its main ally in the times to come.

Map showing the distribution of ethnicities

During the 18th and 19th centuries, Imperialism was at its peak. Colonies were established throughout the globe and wars started without a reason and the method which followed post-war was that the victor could take territory away from the defeated side. Austria-Hungary followed this process none any less. It not only had complications within but also with its neighbors especially Serbia. After the annexation of Bosnia into the Empire, Serbia was next in line for the same. But the problem was not of Serbia but of its main ally Russia. For a possible confrontation with Serbia, the Kingdom needed a powerful ally by its side for which it turned to Germany which at that time was attaining modernization faster than any other country and was the largest economy on the continent.

On 28th June 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand along with his wife was in Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital. A group of Six Nationalist Serbs were waiting to carry out his execution. 5 attempts failed, but the 6th and last one succeeded in which the assassin shot dead both the Duke and his wife. Riots erupted throughout the city in which many ethnic Serbs were killed and thousands were jailed or extradited. This immediately led to a rise in an already tense relationship. Although investigations proved that the Serbian Government had no direct involvement in the terrorist act, Austria-Hungary pressured Serbia in accepting a list of demands, to some extent compensate the empire for the loss. The demands were logically unacceptable and many historians argue were made that way in order to provoke Serbia into a war. Despite the objectionable nature of the demands, Serbia accepted 9 out of the 10 demands but rejected one which gave the empire authority in its judicial system. Exact one month after the assassination, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia which quickly spiraled into a global conflict known as The Great War.


Aretha · January 27, 2020 at 10:25 am

I really liked this. I love history ,and I hope you post more.

    Hamza Khan · January 27, 2020 at 1:18 pm

    Thank you! I’ll be sure to keep up the work.

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