Franz Ferdinand became emperor of Austria-Hungary in 1909?

It shouldn't be too difficult to imagine the aging emperor Franz Joseph I dying around seven years earlier than OTL. He was a very old man by then, already in his late seventies, so it shouldn't be too difficult for him to catch a cold that turns into pneumonia and kills him.

This means that the archduke Franz Ferdinand, whose assassination sparked WWI, would become emperor of Austria Hungary. How would he rule the huge, cumbersome multinational and unstable state that the empire was? Could he take any steps to better prepare its military for ITTL's equivalent of WWI?

Hopefully such a war could be averted altogether, but there were so many points of friction in Europe that any spark could start a war that nobody wanted.

Could he have somehow broken up Hungary and, with it, the power of its magnates?

621px-Austria-Hungary_map.svg.png
 
If it could get outside support, Hungary might try to secede... I'm sure the Russians wouldn't mind seeing A-H getting taken down a peg or two...
But would the other Entente members agree to this? Plus, the other nationalities inside Hungary might side with the emperor. Heck, maybe even the Magyar peasants could do so as a way to reduce the aristocrats' power.
 
1909 is in the middle of the Bosnian Crisis or right after it, and before both the Italo-Turkish War and the Balkan Wars; Russia is still four years out from the Russo Japanese War and the revolution, and thus probably not in a position to intervene militarily. OTOH this is before the Second Moroccan Crisis... do the Germans go to the mattress in 1911 if they think Austria is stronger? Probably not; FF won't stand for it, and can probably talk the Kaiser down. Bigger question is Italy's reaction. FF was a major proponent of the KuK Navy, which probably triggers a serious dreadnought race with Italy. Unlike the Kaiser's contest with Britain I think this race causes a grudging rapprochement between Italy and Austria, as the rapid expansion of their navy (coming probably from funds of the army) increase their reliance on the German army, and makes the Triple Alliance a serious threat to the Entente position in the Mediterranean... it would probably also require a modus vivendi in the Balkans, probably some token border concessions (Gorizia+Trento, maybe a Danzig style deal for Trieste) and a split of spheres of interest vis a vis Albania, Montenegro and Serbia. OTOH if the diplomacy is bungled it could drive Italy more firmly into Britain and France's arms. I'd say that by 1914 Italy would be leaning Entente, but by 1920 as Russia strengthens and Britain presumably swings back towards Germany the pendulum swings back. Really hard to predict the knock on effects too far out.

All things considered this undoubtedly averts WWI as we know it. Austria has a brief window to commit to reforms before Russia strengthens herself or the Serbs feel confident enough to confront Vienna openly. I have to wonder if Franz Ferdinand would intervene more forcefully in the Balkan Crises; my gut says no, given he was generally (and sensibly) opposed to hairbrained adventurism. Absent the assassination of himself or his wife (which could still happen) by Serbs it's unlikely that the empire engages in the same sort of brinkmanship. If the probable Hungarian revolt doesn't trigger a world war then in the long run the war probably is delayed long enough for the alliance networks to be unrecognizable. I suspect we'd still get multiple wars over the Ottoman decline, any one of which could plausibly set the powder keg off; assuming complete butterfly genocide there would probably be a Third Balkan War circa 1914 between an Ottoman-Bulgarian alliance and Serbia and Greece, which almost certainly triggers a foreign intervention by Russia and then either a world war or a Berlin Congress to partition the empire for good.
 
This means that the archduke Franz Ferdinand, whose assassination sparked WWI, would become emperor of Austria Hungary. How would he rule the huge, cumbersome multinational and unstable state that the empire was? Could he take any steps to better prepare its military for ITTL's equivalent of WWI?

Hopefully such a war could be averted altogether, but there were so many points of friction in Europe that any spark could start a war that nobody wanted.

Could he have somehow broken up Hungary and, with it, the power of its magnates?
FF was waiting for Ausgleich 1917 for his plans so.

1909 is in the middle of the Bosnian Crisis or right after it, and before both the Italo-Turkish War and the Balkan Wars; Russia is still four years out from the Russo Japanese War and the revolution, and thus probably not in a position to intervene militarily. OTOH this is before the Second Moroccan Crisis... do the Germans go to the mattress in 1911 if they think Austria is stronger? Probably not; FF won't stand for it, and can probably talk the Kaiser down. Bigger question is Italy's reaction. FF was a major proponent of the KuK Navy, which probably triggers a serious dreadnought race with Italy. Unlike the Kaiser's contest with Britain I think this race causes a grudging rapprochement between Italy and Austria, as the rapid expansion of their navy (coming probably from funds of the army) increase their reliance on the German army, and makes the Triple Alliance a serious threat to the Entente position in the Mediterranean... it would probably also require a modus vivendi in the Balkans, probably some token border concessions (Gorizia+Trento, maybe a Danzig style deal for Trieste) and a split of spheres of interest vis a vis Albania, Montenegro and Serbia. OTOH if the diplomacy is bungled it could drive Italy more firmly into Britain and France's arms. I'd say that by 1914 Italy would be leaning Entente, but by 1920 as Russia strengthens and Britain presumably swings back towards Germany the pendulum swings back. Really hard to predict the knock on effects too far out.

All things considered this undoubtedly averts WWI as we know it. Austria has a brief window to commit to reforms before Russia strengthens herself or the Serbs feel confident enough to confront Vienna openly. I have to wonder if Franz Ferdinand would intervene more forcefully in the Balkan Crises; my gut says no, given he was generally (and sensibly) opposed to hairbrained adventurism. Absent the assassination of himself or his wife (which could still happen) by Serbs it's unlikely that the empire engages in the same sort of brinkmanship. If the probable Hungarian revolt doesn't trigger a world war then in the long run the war probably is delayed long enough for the alliance networks to be unrecognizable. I suspect we'd still get multiple wars over the Ottoman decline, any one of which could plausibly set the powder keg off; assuming complete butterfly genocide there would probably be a Third Balkan War circa 1914 between an Ottoman-Bulgarian alliance and Serbia and Greece, which almost certainly triggers a foreign intervention by Russia and then either a world war or a Berlin Congress to partition the empire for good.
THIS WAS BUTTERFLY AWAY TOO
 
How would he rule the huge, cumbersome multinational and unstable state that the empire was?

I think he would've attempted to reform the empire along federalist lines ala the United States of Greater Austria, but he would have to be careful with how he goes about it, because aside from the Hungarians potentially not liking the idea of them losing Transylvania to a Romanian-majority state, but by advocating for this sort of reform, he has the potential to bring the Empire crashing down by giving the states too much independence from Vienna.


1602748181823.png


Looking at this map from 1910, there seem to be a lot of Germans within Hungary and Transylvania. I don't think they would like the idea of being under the authority of a non-German province within the Empire.

Could he take any steps to better prepare its military for ITTL's equivalent of WWI?

Two things about this. Each point will lead into each other.

First off, let's focus on the civilian population.

Austria was self-sufficient... as long as there were plenty of trains available for the civilian population.

In 1914, they had so few locomotives to feed the local population that piles of grain were left unattended because the locomotives and when dozens of farmers became soldiers, agricultural production collapsed, In 1915, Viennans got half the calories they got in 1913. By 1918, it was half of 1915. By 1916, there were hunger riots in the midst of 500,000 people lining up daily for food. That same year, Germany made the situation worse for the Austrians by demanding that they double the output of military production. By 1917-18, riots and strikes were commonplace.

Austria's situation so annoyed Hungary that when when Ottokar Czernin, the Austro-Hungarian foreign minister, pleaded with the Hungarian Minister of Agriculture, Bela Serenyi, to send food transports to Austria, Serenyi's response was quite blunt.

"If Austria is starving, then it shouldn't fight a war",

By 1918, the Austrian economy had shrunken by 40%, leading to 700,000 workers at a time engaging in strikes. After the signing of the Treaty of Brest Litovsk, the Austrians were so desperate for food that they were pinching food shipments that were going to Germany. In 1919, 10% of civilian deaths were due to hunger and 20% from malnutrition.

Going away from the issue of food to the issue of trains, Austria-Hungary had a serious infrastructure issue when it came to the railways. Austro-Hungary never used the same gauge throughout the Empire. Railway gauges depended on the region that gauge was in. At the start of World War I, they solved this issue... by ordering the trains to move at the speed of a bicycle which was 10 miles per hour.
 
Last edited:
Franz Ferdinand believed in good relations with Russia. He opposed the annexation of Bosnia and in the 1890s favored partitioning the Balkans with Russia- Russia would get Romania and Bulgaria while Austria got Serbia, Albania and Montenegro.

I'm not sure if this was still possible in 1909 but it's what he would have tried.

He never would have pursued the insane anti-Russia, anti-Serb, anti-Romanian and anti-Italy policy of his Uncle

Domesticly, he would have confronted the Magyar nobles. Franz Joseph always got them to back down with the threat of universal manhood sufferage.
 
I do wonder would the Hungarian elites push too far, and in return F.F goes for Universal Male Suffrage. That may force the Hungarian Elites to rebel, but the 1909 is not 1848, and considering that Honved is going to have split loyalities, I do not see this going all to well for the rebels.

I mean, the moment they rise up, the Honved is going to fracture, as I sincerely doubt that every Hungarian is going to follow blindly. Add in various minorities that I doubt would be willing to fight for Hungarian Independence.

Then we should also consider the curious animal that is Horvát-szlavon Honvédség, also known as Croatian-Slavonian Homeguard. That is 3 infantry divisions and 1 cavalry regiment, almost entirely Croatian, who will be more then willing to avenge the humiliations of 1848/1867 and prove their loyalty to the Habsburgs. Oh, and there are two River Monitors of Temes class, Croatian crews and Austrian officers, who will be "shaking the rats nest" with their 2 120mm guns and 1 120mm howitzer.

In short, everybody (including Hungarians) jumps on Hungarians, to get better position within Empire for themselves. For some it may be simply a bit more autonomy, while Czechs and Croatians are a bit more ambitious, aiming to become the third Crown. Though, Croatians are going to want unification of the Triune Kingdom de-facto, possibly getting Bosnia and Herzegovina as well.
---------
Presuming that Hungarian Rebellion 2.0 is crushed fast enough, this would level the playing field quite a bit, and A-H could be set on the path to proper Federalization, and I do think that purse strings could get loosened too, so we see A-H military starting up its modernization process earlier.
 
I think he would've attempted to reform the empire along federalist lines ala the United States of Greater Austria, but he would have to be careful with how he goes about it, because aside from the Hungarians potentially not liking the idea of them losing Transylvania to a Romanian-majority state, but by advocating for this sort of reform, he has the potential to bring the Empire crashing down by giving the states too much independence from Vienna.
How much power would the Austrian Emperor have to reform the state in such a manner? Most of the time when this is brought up, it's assumed that the Austrian government would do the Emperor's bidding without any protest and that regional officials would unanimously accept such far-reaching changes in administration. I imagine this would not be very popular among other members of the Austrian government and military.
 
How much power would the Austrian Emperor have to reform the state in such a manner? Most of the time when this is brought up, it's assumed that the Austrian government would do the Emperor's bidding without any protest and that regional officials would unanimously accept such far-reaching changes in administration. I imagine this would not be very popular among other members of the Austrian government and military.
The Thing is...A lot of Officers where exhausted with the Ausgleich too, some wanted to get back the old time of a single unitary state as that means more and more powerful burocracy in Vienna...and that is what FF wanted too, he wanted to created an Habsburg indentity, one trump over all other petite ones
 
Top