Austro-Hungarian House of Cards I THE GREAT WAR Week 185

The battles have been fought in the field
for 42 months now, back and forth, all over the world. And at home? In the political machines of the warring nations
and empires? It’s maneuver and outmaneuver, not just
against the enemy, but against your own. In fact, by this time in Austria-Hungary,
it very much is a house of cards. I’m Indy Neidell; welcome to the Great War. Last week was a week of aerial bombardment
in the western European skies, there were mutinies in both the Austrian navy and the
Greek army, workers strikes in Germany, political machinations between the German government
and German army command, and other machinations between the British government and British
army command. And that drama continued to develop this week. British Army Chief of Staff Wully Robertson
refused to agree that the British representative on the Allied Supreme War Council at Versailles
should be a deputy Chief of Staff and a member of the British Army Council. That would give that man the right to issue
independent orders to the army. Prime Minister David Lloyd George then offered
Robertson a choice – remain in London as Chief of Staff but with reduced powers, or accept
a “demotion” to the Versailles job. Robertson argued that the Chief of Staff should
himself be the Versailles delegate, or if not, that the delegate should be a subordinate
to the Chief. Lloyd George even apparently attempted to
have Robertson swap jobs with General Herbert Plumer, offering Plumer the job of Chief,
which Plumer refused. If this sounds confusing, don’t worry, it
will only get worse. There was also an Italian change in the War
Council, though. Luigi Cadorna, who had been replaced as Italian
army Chief of Staff in November, is now succeeded on the council by Gaetano Giardino. A few words here in general about Italy. Italy’s postwar outlook had been affected
quite a bit lately. See, there was always the somewhat delicate
question of Italy’s aims on the opposite chore of the Adriatic Sea. After having been routed by the Austro-German
forces at Caporetto in October and November, the prospects of getting a dividend of territory
after the war had dimmed a bit. Allied statesmen didn’t really think about
it as a big deal at the moment, and American President Woodrow Wilson’s 14 points speech
a few weeks ago was a bucket of cold water on Italy. Point number 9 said, “a readjustment of
the frontiers of Italy should be affected on clearly recognizable lines of nationality”. So, going by this, Italy wouldn’t really
have any claim to Istria, Dalmatia, the Isonzo Valley above Gorizia, and certainly not the
Greek Islands or any of Asia Minor. However, the Treaty of London from 1915, signed
between Britain, France, Russia, and Italy, had led to Italy joining the war in the first
place and the main lure was promising Italy chunks of Austria-Hungary and land across
the Adriatic. Thing is, the United States wasn’t bound
by that Treaty, and Wilson had overcome those in the states who favored neutrality by promising
to go to war for a liberal international system that got rid of many traditional causes of
war. The US had, in December, declared war on Austria-Hungary,
sure, even though the Empire had not attacked America or Americans, though Wilson didn’t
intend to fight the Austrians, but this declaration had been requested by the Italians after Caporetto
partly as a morale boost. Mark Thompson writes, “In truth, American
opinion always had misgivings about Italy’s aims, which seemed typical of sneaky European
statecraft, singing with the anti-imperialist chorus while pursuing a quasi-imperialist
role.” Prime Minister Vittorio Orlando denied that
there was any problem here, sort of non specifically summarizing Italy’s aims as, “the completion
of her national unity and the security of her borders on land and sea”, but at the
end of January, Britain and Italy had reaffirmed the Treaty of London. But people questioned the discrepancy between
this formerly secret treaty – since the Bolsheviks had made it public after the Russian November
revolution – and stated anti-imperialistic allied war aims. I mean, you could only implement the treaty
by not implementing any sort of emerging autonomy for nations of the Habsburg Empire. Of course, job one right now was to win the
war, and Italy was keeping 44 Austrian divisions away from the Western Front, so as far as
London or Paris could soothe Italian concerns, they would. Still, if the Austro-Hungarian Empire did
not survive the war, Italy would have to compete for territory with one or even many new nations
in the Eastern Adriatic. This explains why Sidney Sonnino, the Italian
Minister of Foreign Affairs, did not sanction propaganda that would reassure soldiers on
the Isonzo Front that dreamed of an independent south Slavic state, and he blocked the formation
of a Czech and Slovak brigade, wanting the cohesion of the Habsburg Empire to remain
strong. But there was a real threat to that cohesion
in progress. It’ll take a minute to explain. Okay, at the end of the week on the 8th, the
Paris Press alleges that Lenin and Leon Trotsky, heading the Bolshevik government, are receiving
German pay. This is pretty interesting because just now
it’s Trotsky who’s leading the Bolshevik delegation in peace negotiations with the
Central Powers at Brest-Litovsk. And those are becoming a real mess. We’ve seen earlier that the German and Austrian
Foreign Ministers were talking of peace with no annexations and indemnities, while playing
a political game with hopeful satellite states whose “independence” declarations they
could secure. Well, (1914-1918) “When the peace negotiations
resumed, the Central Powers dropped the mask. They rejected demands to evacuate the occupied
territories before plebiscites were held, maintaining that the inhabitants had already
stated their wishes. They stipulated that Russia’s frontier should
run from Brest-Litovsk to the Gulf of Riga.” Okay, this border would suddenly deprive Russia
of most of Poland, Lithuania, and Western Latvia. That’s tons and tons of land and resources. Trotsky was trying to spin out the negotiations,
but German Army High Command was losing patience with all this and wanted “clarity in the
east”. Austrian Foreign Minister Count Ottokar Czernin
was also getting antsy with delays because he wanted Ukrainian grain to stave off what
he saw as near-revolutionary hunger conditions in Imperial cities. Thing is, that food crisis weakened his bargaining
position relative to Germany, since German military might was necessary to defend Ukraine
from Bolshevik invasion, which had actually been going on for weeks. But it also weakened Czernin’s position
relative to the Ukrainian Rada which was demanding the Cholm region of Russian Poland in separate
peace negotiations between Ukraine and the Central Powers, claiming that it had an ethnic
Ukrainian majority. This in turn – big house of cards here – was
a really big deal, because giving that land to Ukraine would infuriate the Poles of the
Austrian Empire, and the Habsburgs could only rule by consent in the Austrian half of the
empire thanks to the Polish parties in the Reichsrat, and conceding to Ukrainian demands
could actually deprive Emperor Karl of his final basis of support. As the week ended, it was all coming to a
head. But the war was still being fought, and it
still had general support. I read this anecdote in Martin Gilbert’s
“The First World War” that I thought was interesting, “Vocal and visible anti-war
feeling in Britain was still confined to a few thousands conscientious objectors.” They were, though, outraged this week when
shoemaker Henry Firth died at the work center for objectors. He had been in prison for 9 months, but became
so sick there that he accepted alternative service at stone quarries on Dartmoor. He collapsed at work and was sent to hospital,
where he died. And on the 9th British philosopher and logician
Bertrand Russell will be sentenced to six months in prison for publicly advocating that
the British government accept a German offer to open peace negotiations. And here are some notes to end the week. On the 4th, Alexei Kaledin reportedly gave
over of his Cossacks to Mikhail Alexeev, who marches on Moscow with 30,000 men. On the 5th, the first duma of Independent
Siberian Republic opens, and also on the 5th the first American troops killed on their
way to Europe die when the British troopship Tuscania is torpedoed off Irish coast. 166 American servicemen and 44 British crewmen
drowned. And we come to the end of the week, with yet
more machinations among the Allied High Commands, and with peace negotiations leading to an
impossible situation for Austria-Hungary. And what could Count Czernin do? If he agrees to give Cholm to Ukraine he’ll
lose Polish support, which might ruin the whole Empire. If he doesn’t, then he might well not get
any Ukrainian grain, which might ruin the empire because the Austrians are starving. He can’t alienate Germany either, because
he’ll need the German army to keep Ukraine free from the Bolsheviks to get the grain
in the first place, but supporting Germany means supporting German territorial demands
from Russia, which again means losing the support of a bunch of minorities in the empire,
which again might destroy the whole empire. But if you think this is a House of Cards,
it’s not – remember the bloody war going on in the field – this is a Game of Thrones. If you want to learn more about Italy’s
story leading up to their entry of the war, you can click right here for our special episode. Our Patreon supporter of the week is Lance
Smallshaw. If you want to see more shiny maps and animations
in our show, consider to support us on Patreon. Don’t forget to subscribe, see you next

Maurice Vega

100 Responses

  1. What if Italy and Romania sided with Central powers? That could made a huge difference on western the eastern front. Once Austria-Hungary annexed Montenegro, Albania and Serbia it would collapse and Poland,Romania, Ukraine would get land back from them. Germany could take over all of Austria and Hungary and Italy would get Slovenia,Crotia and Albania. Bulgaria would get Macedonia lands unless Greece joined the Central powers and get half of it along with Crete and Cyprus back from Ottomans. French colonies in Africa given to Germany and French North Africa given to Italy to start their colonial empire. Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland would side with Germany against Russia after the war and huge a huge buffer between her and Russia and German influence with its huge economy and military would make them all Protectorate states for germany.

  2. Indy, A question for out of the trenches. Did Bulgaria have any naval presence in the black sea and a usable airforce? Great work on this channel.

  3. Considering the American occupation of the Philippines and other Spanish territories after their victory over Spain only 20 years before, their suspicion of Italian motives seem more than a little hypocritical, however well founded they were.

  4. Could you please answer this question on Out of the Trenches? Were there any soldiers on any of the fronts who actually enjoyed the War? I'm thinking along the lines of the like of 'Mad Jack' Churchill of WW2 fame.
    Thanks for the great show. I'm currently watching all your videos and have just arrived at 1916.

  5. Hi Indy and crew, I’ve been a big fan of the show since early 1916 and the show has really cultivated my love for history. However, I have a European history class with friends not as adamant about the war as I am and we are approaching the World War 1 unit. So my question for out of the trenches is this: could you briefly summarize the long lasting social and economic effects of the war on Europe? Thanks, and keep up the great work.

  6. Hello to everyone at 'The Great War'.

    You guys talk of the machinations within both the Austro-Hungarian and the German high commands, and how the conflicting demands risk toppling the entire edifice. Given that this is so, isn't it in the interests of the German high command to try and secure better terms that would allow the Austrians to continue fighting? Or are they simply not aware of how fragile their ally's situation is.

  7. I just want to take a moment and let everyone know that this week Douglas Haig has finally been arrested for his crimes!

  8. Hi Indy, the show is great! Is there a special episode of the traison of Alfre
    d Redl, the colonel of austrian imperial intelligence servire, who sold the austrian mobilization plans to the Russians shortly before the war?

  9. Because the yanks are slowly starting to appear in the war, will you do a special on their uniforms and equipment like you did with the others?

  10. Revisionist historians view the Austro-Hungarian with a sense of praise and awe nowadays.
    Wilson was a bad historian, on top of everything else he was horrible at.

  11. The tuscania is actually only a matter of miles off the shores of islay in Scotland, think its around, 4-6 miles off if I remember right

  12. Finally you've said it: This IS a Game of Thrones! It always has been. But the Starks have never understood that. Until now. Because now Winter (the End) is Coming!

  13. Hey crew, has there been a special episode about conscious objectors during the war yet? Don't quite remember. If not, I'm pretty sure you are going to make one in the future, right? It is an interesting and heavy topic

  14. Nice game of thrones reference at the end there Indy and as usual awesome work to you and the team hope you all are doing well 🙂

  15. I believe "Wully" Robertson was the 1st man in the history of the British army to start as a private and eventually become a Field Marshal

  16. This is Leslie Game of Thrones that are reminder that the Austro-Hungarian throne lay on a foundation of shifting sand. It has barely survived 1848, and its recent growth had merely complicated ethnic issues. The pre-modern empire was being torn apart by nationalism and struggle between the Nobles, bourgeoisie, farmers, and urban poor. Liberalization had Unleashed old hatreds and tension, even as the hungarians, where now Co equals, strive to ensure that no one else would join in that rank.
    I've often thought that is fascination of Franz Ferdinand was a horrendous evil and pointless Act. It was pointless, because the austro-hungarian empire was doomed and would be unlikely to survive another generation even without the war.

  17. Fun fact:
    A survivor of the sinking of the Tuscania later died during the eruption of Mount St. Helens, May 18, 1980. He never left his house near the mountain.

  18. Hey thanks a lot for the show, this episode was awesome as usual 😉 but is there any chance that something is happening in the salonika front. Haven’t heard anything from there in ages ?

  19. Hey Indy Neidell I got a question that is not necessarily related to the war but considering the war is going to end in 1918 (November out of the top of my head) are you going make a different history show or are you going to stop making videos all together? Sorry that this is not really a World War 1 related question but I still would like to know.

  20. One hundred years after America's false whining about imperialism, guess who is still playing the little imperialist in the near and middle east.

  21. Please do something or anything on the Ghurkhas or Kukri on Indi's desk.

    I work with these guys. The Regt with the most Victoria Crosses in British Army. 3 in The Great War.

  22. I love that you said Game of Thrones. That's what I've thought about every episode of the show so far. If people like Game of Thrones so much they should read a history book

  23. Well, I guess this serves to confirm my opinion. The best of Europe left the rest of Europe to fester in their own excrement, and escaped to America. Europeans, without Americans to babysit them, are incapable of self-government, and need America, whereas America can get along just fine without Europe. Two World Wars and the post-war history of Europe prove the premise.

  24. The Bolsheviks destroyed Europe and Asia by spreading Communism
    Th Central Powers wanted to grant nations like Poland and Ukraine autonomy, but the Communists wouldn't have it

    The Allies winning the war lead to the deaths of over 100 million people
    The bad guys won, plain and simple

  25. I just realized while watching " The Ottoman Lieutenant" that "The War to End All Wars" was actually "The War to End All Empires."

  26. The amount of money USA made out of ww 1 is crazy…i guess there they learned that war is a lucrative thing when not fighting on its own land…

  27. Yup. Politics, economy, religion, history, technology, and human emotions and feelings. What a mess. Austria just cornered itself, and the Germans were stretching their thread too. A lot of confidence that, with their Eastern divisions, they could break through and win. Against three countries that are bleeding, angry, resented, and now willing to fight to the end. And the threat of yet another enemy, an intact, huge, industrialized enemy with big human resources and whose territory hasn't been touched at all, meaning their population wasn't starving, their natural resources weren't strecthed thin, and no infrastructure damaged. Those German commanders sure were confident…

  28. Hey Indy and the crew, i live the show it is reslly good and i aleays wanted to know this but did Austro Hungry had their own tanks during WW1 and where did they use them? Keep up the good work love you!!

  29. Great as usual, Indy and Team!
    However,  it would be valuable to remember, that while Germans thought the Russian socialists and the bolsheviks in particular, were just a vessel for the German Cause, the bolsheviks themselves, and Trotsky in particular – as a keen internationalist, thought the Germans served their purpose as a vessel for the Worldwide socialist revolution. And for now bolsheviks are trying hard to get rid of their German sponsors and establish Post-Imerial Russia as a starting pod for Worldwide revolution. Each party at B.-L. was just trying to use the other side as it was intended, not taking into account the wishes of the other side. And that was the root of tensions.

  30. I have been binge watching this series like crazy and have finally caught up! Now to watch all the specials and Out of the Trenches!

  31. The fact that the allies made the promise to Italy then broke it was wrong. But leave it to politicians who are experts in breaking their word.

  32. Hello Indy! When you finish with The Great War series I hope you continue on and do World War II in the same style. I greatly enjoy this series. Especially the chance to follow the war on a week by week bases. Its almost like reading the daily newspaper and i would like to see you do this with WW2 as well!

  33. Question for out of the trenches: What DID the Bolsheviks disclose, with all the secret treaties and agreements going on in Europe, and what impact did that have on the post-war situation? Or maybe even on the war situation itself in the last year of the war?

  34. who i cought up!
    i found this channel while surfing youtube and got hooked, started from year one and here i am, cant wait for the next episode to be uploaded!

  35. How did Henry Moseley die in the Battle of Gallipoli? Moseley’s death has been considered the most significant single death in the Great War.

  36. I have to say that I am glad that the Allies never agreed to Germany's "peace" proposals. I would not be living in Australia. I would still be living in Belgium, sorry, "Ich würde immer noch in Belgien leben, in einem der örtlichen Kohlebergwerke oder Stahlwerke arbeiten und Deutsch sprechen."

  37. An interesting story. Once all Italian claims to the eastern shore of the Adriatic have been refused, they resorted to something like this: If a naval attack would come towards us from future Yugoslavia, it would come at dawn as naval attacks usually do, and since the Sun rises from the East, our ships and coastal guns wouldn't be able to see Yugoslav ships. That's why we need the eastern shore.

  38. With what choice Austria-Hungary has right now in that debacle could still deprive it of it's support anyways.

  39. At the end of the war, Woodrow Wilson has some serious mental problems. He helped give away northern Serbia where my Ethnic German ancestors went to an incompetedt Serb overseerers. They ultimatly died in Serb concentration camps after the next world war.

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