Well looking at american presidents...
but rules are one thing here the other is that the government would have to have that money available on a bank account first.
 

Ficboy

Banned
Coming tomorrow: Hungary Is No Longer The Favourite Child...
It looks like the tables have turned and Hungary is no longer being treated fairly. Hungary might just break away from Austria and thus lead to the collapse of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. The Ottoman Empire still has the Arabs who won't stop until they win their independence.
 
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Chapter 16- The King of Three Peoples
Chapter Sixteen- The King of Three Peoples
“The Croatian nation has made its firm desire for territorial and legal representation commensurate with its sense of national identity known. As the imperial father, the great shared aspect of the lives of all my peoples, I would be derelict in my duty if I did not pay this fact proper heed… Now, speaking as King of Hungary and absolute master of the Lands of the Crown of St. Stephen I, Karl IV, do hereby recognise the declaration of independence of the Triune Kingdom of Croatia, Slavonia, and Dalmatia... I assume its historic royal mantle, in continuance with my predecessors, as King Karlo IV… May our heavenly Father bless this Kingdom and its people.”
-
Emperor Karl I recognising Croatia-Slavonia

"This is an insult! What claim does this emperor have, if he pays no heed to the fabric of our union? He is playing with fire and had best be careful..."
-Istvan Tisza, upon hearing of Karl's desire to reform the empire regardless of Hungary's wishes.


The Austro-Hungarian Empire’s roots dated back to the thirteenth century. It had experienced a painful transition to the modern age, which had culminated in alignment with Germany and compromise with the Hungarians. What felt like a lifetime ago, pride had led it to declare war on Serbia, throwing Europe into the fire. Yet, its planned revenge had gone awry; Serbian arms had repulsed the Dual Monarchy not once but twice, and Germans and Bulgarians had had to step in to ensure victory. Diplomatically, Austria-Hungary had been humiliated in its own capital city, forced to give up territory to the puny Italians. Galicia had spent several months under Russian occupation before German troops came in to pull their chestnuts out of the fire. While Germany’s Sturmtruppenkorps had achieved glory in the last weeks of the Eastern war, Austro-Hungarian forces had been thrown forward in diversionary attacks in western Ukraine, or worse still, wasted on garrison duty in Poland. And the Dual Monarchy’s only reward was occupation duty in half of Serbia. National consciousness in the empire’s minorities was at its highest since the revolutions of 1848, and the economy was tottering. The empire had only one real advantage; a steady hand rested on the rudder in the form of Emperor Franz Joseph. The octogenarian ruler had sat atop the throne since he was eighteen years old, and his court knew its business. True, his health was fading, but surely he’d just stick around for a little while when he was most needed… surely?

Evidently not.

Franz Joseph died on 7 November 1916, four days before the peace treaty with Russia. His successor Archduke Karl was a 29-year-old with plenty of idealism and little experience. What could go wrong?


Emperor Karl I
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Karl was immediately confronted by the fallout of the war. Domestically, the Austro-Hungarians had suffered the most of any of the Central Powers. Before the war, the backbone of the empire had been the exchange between Austria and Hungary; Austrian industrial goods kept rural Hungary modernised, Hungarian grain kept the cities of the west fed. The war had fatally disrupted this symbiosis. For the past three years, Hungarian grain had gone primarily to the army and the remainder had mostly stayed at home, leaving Vienna hungry. (1) To Budapest, this was perfectly reasonable- they were making their own sacrifices and needed to look after their own people first. But from the perspective of Viennese bureaucrats, their Hungarian cousins were jealously hoarding resources the entire empire needed, forcing them to drift further under humiliating German control. Every time Vienna approached Budapest to resolve the issue, they were met with smooth oratory worth its weight in gold. Thus, relations between the two halves of the empire had become bitter by the time of Franz Joseph’s death. However, that was not the only ethnic problem facing the new Emperor. The other peoples of the empire- the Czechs, South Slavs, Poles, and Ukrainians (amongst others) had all fought and died for Vienna, and in the process had re-discovered themselves, in a way. Czechs had fought alongside Czechs, Ukrainians alongside Ukrainians, etc. They had survived by fighting alongside their countrymen, sharing a language and culture. Bonds had been formed that would never break, and these bonds were often stronger than loyalty to an unknown emperor.

Beyond that, there was the fact that Serbia now lay under imperial military occupation. Slavic nationalism, one of the causes of the war, had been put on pause as the Croats and Bosnians went off to the front, but now it had received a shot in the arm. Although the old Black Hand had been hunted to extinction, successors had risen, and these had one advantage their predecessors had lacked: all of their operations were now conducted in the same country. For a Bosnian, say, to slip into Serbia, all he needed was the appropriate papers; Serbs had a harder time leaving their respective military districts, but it could be done. And if one of those Bosnians just so happened to be carrying a pistol or a bomb… Small wonder that officials in occupied Serbia all drew hazardous-duty pay. A growing South Slavic consciousness was awakening within the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Some postwar nationalists felt that change within the system was possible, others saw a war of independence as the only solution.

All this to say: the empire’s framework was tottering.

Fate gave Karl a unique opportunity to address these challenges. The Compromise of 1867 was to be renewed every ten years; managing this would be Karl’s first task as emperor. Like the late Franz Ferdinand, he held the liberal position that every nationality within the empire deserved greater representation. His coronation speech praised the empire’s quasi-independent Croatian polity (2)- the Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia- and he clearly wanted to give it full equality. Imperial minorities had long held a unique identity as “Czech Habsburgs” or “Croatian Habsburgs”, identifying with their nationality within the larger imperial framework. Intellectuals in Prague and Zagreb put their pens at the service of Karl, hoping that he’d fulfill the dreams of their people. This line of thought fell into two categories.
The trialists, as best exemplified by the late Franz Ferdinand, advocated creating a third Kingdom within the empire on the same terms as Hungary. As it had been in the empire the longest, Croatia was the centre of trialist vision. While no two ideas were identical, most trialists advocated removing Croatia-Slavonia from Hungarian influence and making it a truly equal part of the empire. The acquisitions of Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1908 and Serbia and Montenegro in 1916 had only furthered trialist sentiment. Uniting these regions with Croatia-Slavonia under the Imperial banner could please both the empire and Slavic nationalists: the former would see its power extended south and hopefully a reduction in Pan-Slav terrorism; the latter would finally have a united state, fulfilling decades of aspiration. However, two problems ailed the trialist cause. As Magyar intellectuals pointed out, Croatia-Slavonia had belonged to Hungary for nine hundred years; the present ‘sub-kingdom’ was very much controlled by Budapest. Asking Hungary to relinquish control over the region would be to uproot one of Europe’s oldest borders. One satirist pointed out that more time had elapsed between Hungary’s acquisition of Croatia and the present than Hungary’s acquisition of Croatia and the fall of the Roman Empire. (3) There was another issue facing trialism which Hungarian pride had nothing to do with: Serbia. If the Empire now declared that it was going to make a place for Slavic nationalists the imperial system, surely the peoples of Serbia would want to join. After all, pan-Slavism had been one of the factors leading Gavrilo Princip to pull the trigger that fateful June day. If the Serbs were given co-equal status in the empire, wouldn’t that just be rewarding Princip’s actions? The irony that Franz Ferdinand himself had been a trialist was conveniently papered over, but these assaults harmed the cause.

The second proposal for reorganising the empire was federalism. Federalists were a more diverse group than the mostly South Slavic trialists, both in terms of geography and ideology. Essentially, their theory revolved around taking each of the major ethnic groups of the empire and making them co-equals. Just as the Empire of Austria and the Kingdom of Hungary existed under the same roof in personal union, so too would the Kingdom of Bohemia, the Kingdom of Transylvania, and such. One significant advantage federalism enjoyed was that it wasn’t mutually exclusive with trialism. A South Slavic kingdom, proponents of federalism stressed time and time again, was possible under their system. The other, obvious, advantage was that all the minorities had a stake in its implementation, not just South Slavs; the flip side of this coin was that opponents of reform could still point to Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia to attack federalism with. However, the idea was simply too radical. If trialism suffered from a dispute about Hungarian sovereignty in Croatia, the federalists had to discern the existence of whole nationalities. For example, the concept of a “Czech” identity was clearly defined and broadly accepted. But what about the Sudeten Germans? They lived side-by-side with Czechs yet had no cultural links with Prague; should they be hung out to dry? The Czech example was fairly clear-cut because everyone agreed that a ‘Czech’ identity existed- this wasn’t universally true. Did the Slovaks exist? While some identified as such, plenty of Slovak speakers considered themselves Hungarian subjects. Still others believed their fate lay with the Czechs rather than as an independent state. What was to be done in Galicia? While self-identifying Poles and Ukrainians lived there, fully matching a border to ethnicity would be impossible without population transfers. Furthermore, the great mass of the Polish and Ukrainian peoples lived outside imperial control. If Polish and Ukrainian nationalism received imperial recognition, might they not try to break away and unite with their brothers on the other side of the border? Added to this were conservative howls. Few in Budapest were eager to cede Slovakia, theirs since before Columbus discovered America, and few Viennese wanted to end four centuries of rule over Bohemia. Taken together, this left federalisation dead in the water.

When the time came to renegotiate the Compromise, Karl knew what he wanted to achieve.

The Compromise Session was scheduled for 1 May 1917. A genuine spirit of reform hung in the air that spring. With the war won and a new man on the throne, people of all races felt their aspirations to be within weeks of finally coming true. Some wanted autonomy for Transylvania, some wanted Bohemia to be elevated to the status of a co-equal kingdom, some wanted a separate Polish kingdom in Galicia in personal union with the King of Poland… the ideas went on and on. As Stefan Zweig wrote in his Die Welt von Morgen, “there seemed in those months a great spirit of civic pride and energy scarcely seen before or since…” Sudeten Germans and their Czech brethren united in a shared imperial spirit, bitter acrimonies in Transylvania died down, and even the Slav terrorists in Bosnia-Herzegovina quieted somewhat. Forgetting the nationalist rhetoric they’d spouted only weeks before, people now thought what difference does it make what language we speak, or if we are Catholic or Orthodox? We are all subjects of His Imperial Majesty, after all. The last days of April saw drinking and dancing in the streets, and a gaiety in the air not felt since long before the war. As the mythical first of May approached, everyone was happy and excited, with one exception.

Hungary’s Prime Minister was not amused. Istvan Tisza saw his political mission as defending Hungary’s place in the system by any means necessary, even opposing the occupation of Serbia for fear of adding more Slavs into the empire. Karl’s rhetoric had already alienated Tisza from his new monarch, and he was determined that Hungary would walk away from the renegotiation with the prewar status quo- nothing more, nothing less.

The first day of negotiations saw Karl hammer hard on trialism. He wanted Hungary to relinquish all its claims to Croatia-Slavonia and render the Croatian-Hungarian Settlement null and void. An inch of frost in his voice, Tisza replied that “perhaps His Imperial and Royal Apostolic Majesty should remember that he is the king of two peoples, and that he is the monarch of Hungary in addition to Austria, and not of one state to be treated and divided according to whim.” Tisza had a liberal history on Croatia, but Hungary was an independent nation, and Karl had no more right to force it to cede territory than Tisza had to strip Bohemia from Vienna. Furthermore, he added, this meeting was supposed to have been over economic issues. The text of the 1867 Compromise specifically stated that economic matters were subject to a ten-year review, and made no mention of political ones. Karl’s protest that the Compromise text didn’t forbid discussion of politics at these sessions sounded hollow even to him. Debate over the legality of this consumed the entire first day, after which both sides frustratedly retreated to their luxury quarters.



Austro-Hungarian internal divisions; Croatia-Slavonia was number 17, and would later be expanded to include 7, 4, 5, and 18 (Bosnia-Herzegovina)
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Emperor Karl saw his desire to do the right thing crumble in the face of cold hard facts. The nature of the 1867 Compromise meant that Hungary had to agree to all changes made, and Tisza’s obstinance could kill everything. Yet, Karl saw ruin in the current structure. If conservatives refused to grant minority rights, the tension in the empire would reach lethal levels. The fate of the union was at stake.


Hungarian Prime Minister Istvan Tisza, the man who tried to walk a tightrope to save his country from war.
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Istvan Tisza saw the same issues. He may have been a Magyar nationalist, but he was also a patriot. If the 1867 Compromise collapsed, his people would be no freer than any of Austria’s subjects. Furthermore, he was a wily man who saw a way to turn this to his advantage. If he could get Karl to put his radical ideas on paper, Tisza could take that to the Budapest Parliament as a symbol of the new emperor’s madness. Negotiation would make him appear reasonable in front of his countrymen, and Karl would appear in the wrong. Thus, Istvan Tisza and his colleagues returned to the negotiating table on 2 May with a new strategy.

The day opened with a conciliatory note at breakfast. Tisza requested that both sides abstain from discussing Croatia for the moment. They were here to discuss economics, not nationalities. If they failed, he reminded everyone, the union which they all so cherished (4) would die. Karl was visibly touched by this, and reached across the table to shake Tisza’s hand. “Thank you”, he said, “for doing what must be done and placing your fealty to the union above your fealty to your nation.” Tisza’s thoughts must have been dark and unprintable. With that out of the way, both sides moved on to Great War debt. Tisza proposed that “only those entities which were under His Imperial and Royal Apostolic Majesty’s rule during the Great War be made to pay for its conduct.” This was a roundabout way of saying since no Croat state currently existed, debt should be proportioned between Austria and Hungary. This, in turn, set the default of the Croatian question to ‘no’. Reconciliation demanded that no one call out Tisza’s diplomatic sleight of hand. In the end, it was agreed that urban Austria would pay two-thirds of the debt and rural Hungary one-third. Conversation then moved onto equally non-controversial points. When the session adjourned on 4 May, a decade of Austro-Hungarian burden-sharing was set in stone. Both sides had set their differences aside to form a working agreement. Emperor Karl had proved that his raison d’etre wasn’t to parcel out the Lands of the Crown of St. Stephen to a dozen different ethnicities, while Istvan Tisza had proven less intractable than feared. Karl and Tisza had compromised on the Compromise...
...but no one was happy. Tisza still felt threatened by Karl’s liberal instincts, while the emperor still believed in reform. With the economic compromise finished, the nationalities debate was ready to rear its ugly head. Least satisfied of all, though, were the Croatians. They’d looked to Karl as their saviour, and he’d let them down. Protests began in the second week of May across Croatia-Slavonia. “King Karl, Serve your People!”, “Tisza Return to Vienna!”, and “Be the King of Three Peoples!” were the favoured chants. Several incidents of violence took place against Hungarians in Croatia, though fortunately these were few and far between. Croatian intellectuals castigated the emperor’s decision, but noted that Karl could change it easily. Pamphlets crisscrossed Croatia calling for trialism to be implemented. “What have the Croatian people fought for”, Viceroy Ivan Skerlecz asked, “if not that, having served our imperial father with great distinction, we might be awarded a territorial state for our nation?” Frederic Penfield, US ambassador to the Dual Monarchy, poured gasoline on the fire. “The United States is home to many thousands of Croatians, and on behalf of these people who are privileged to call both lands home, President Hughes calls for a peaceful resolution to the Croatian question which leaves that nationally conscious people with a proper homeland.”

Istvan Tisza was livid. What was happening in Croatia, he thundered, was nothing less than armed rebellion. On 16 May, he declared the Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia to be in rebellion. Hungarian troops crushed protests in Zagreb, Osijek, Rijeka, and Zadar. Tisza then composed a long letter to Karl, telling him that “Your Imperial Majesty’s territory as King of Hungary in the land of Croatia-Slavonia has been safeguarded.” Hungarian territorial integrity appeared to have won over Croat nationalism. However, Tisza couldn’t have predicted what Karl would do next.

On 18 May 1917, Karl declared his intention to travel to Budapest. The “Croatian crisis”- his words- had gotten so out of hand that only by intervening as King of Hungary could he help measures. Tisza was deeply suspicious, but agreed, hoping that if Karl saw how deeply opposed the Hungarian people were to Croat independence, he’d finally drop the matter. Thus, all due pomp and ceremony greeted King Karl IV as he stepped off the train in Budapest, in the Lands of the Crown of St. Stephen. Like most conservatives, Istvan Tisza simply wanted to keep the status quo without any upset. He didn’t object to the semi-autonomous Croatia-Slavonia- in fact, he’d helped construct it- but his basic line was that Hungary could not be forced to do anything by Karl. It was that, and not Croatia itself, he found offensive. Thus, Karl began the negotiations in a very poor way. After exchanging pleasantries in Tisza’s office, he pulled out a three-by-six map of the empire’s eighteen crownlands. (5) Doubtless trying to soothe Tisza, he prefaced his argument by professing his “utmost respect” for Hungary’s territorial integrity. Nothing that was “truly Hungarian” would be touched. Karl’s proposal was twofold. On the one hand, Croatia-Slavonia would be granted co-equal status as the Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia, with all the provisions of the Compromise of 1867. Second, joint rule over Bosnia-Herzegovina would be abolished; this would be given to Croatia-Slavonia. Karl emphasised that this would entail a concession from Austria, too. Finally, Serbia and Montenegro would pass from military rule to Croatia-Slavonia. Tisza sat agape at his monarch, at this young man for whom idealism seemed to outstrip reality, who sat atop half a millennium of history, before telling him that the Hungarian Parliament would never vote to approve such a thing. Nevertheless, Karl was determined to go ahead, and Tisza could not stop him.

When Karl staggered out of the Hungarian Diet (Parliament) building at the end of 7 June, nursing his broken reputation, he could not claim he hadn’t been warned. Though the Croats had universally approved his programme, the Magyars had rejected it. Not a single member of either group had crossed the line. When he visited the emperor that night, Istvan Tisza was magnanimous. It was time for both to move forward for the sake of the union. This wasn’t enough for Karl, who still saw nothing but doom for his empire. He was determined to bypass the deadlock and implement trialism, come what may.

This is where historians turn on Karl. He was aware of the history he was part of, and of the problems his state faced. His youth gave him a fresher perspective on the empire’s issues than the grey bureaucrats and politicians in the twin capitals- first of whom was Istvan Tisza. The young emperor’s goals were both prudent and moral, but unfortunately the time had not yet come. A consensus exists that Karl erred in placing his eminently reasonable goals above respect for the current institutions even though those institutions were obstacles to what needed doing. Istvan Tisza, a conservative who believed in the Compromise of 1867 and genuinely wanted to work with the emperor, was alienated by Karl’s distorted priorities. So were many others. Karl was a good man, but his idealism did lasting harm to the Habsburg Monarchy.
Unbeknownst to anyone, Austria-Hungary was now on the path to war.

The Croatian people were stunned to hear the news. They shouldn’t have been, of course- it was simply the nature of imperial politics- but they’d assumed that if he made the appropriate effort, Karl could achieve the desired outcome. Finding out that this wasn’t true was a terrible shock. Furthermore, the presence of Hungarian troops in the major cities was seen as an insult. There was only one thing for it, the Croatian people decided.

9 June saw renewed protests against Hungarian rule. These were strongest in the major cities, where the Hungarian presence was most felt. The goal was unchanged: for Karl to use his imperial power to achieve trialism. “With the promise of a better future dangling before our eyes”, one historian wrote years ex post facto, “suddenly the status quo of the past fifty years seemed grossly inadequate.” The protests were about Hungarian colonisation, not imperial rule, as they went out of their way to emphasise. Croat nationalists simply wanted a governing share in the empire- independence from the Habsburg crown was unthinkable. The culmination came on the 18th, when at a hastily convened emergency session, the Parliament of Croatia-Slavonia declared its independence from the Kingdom of Hungary. The newly declared Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia’s first act was to telephone Karl and request his presence in Zagreb.

This audacity caught the empire by surprise. Croatia and Hungary had been joined, as mentioned above, for nearly a thousand years. While Parliament expected that Karl’s trialism would lead him to accept their fait accompli, they also acknowledged the possibility that under Hungarian pressure, Karl would punish them for their iconoclasm. Istvan Tisza certainly hoped for the latter. Six hours after the declaration of sovereignty, Tisza declared Croatia-Slavonia in rebellion. Hungarian reinforcements attempted to arrest Parliament, but were beaten back by Croatian Home Guard units. Confusion reigned. News of the fighting was slow to spread throughout the empire- the inhabitants of Lemberg, for instance, only read about the Croat-Slavonic declaration of independence on the 21st. This was an issue in more substantial ways than newspaper sales. Conflicting and delayed intelligence reports were no basis for a stable strategy. Finally, after a week of confusion Karl stepped in. As “the master of all the nations of this empire”- he pondered every word like a footstep in a minefield- he would take it upon himself to mediate.
A postwar conspiracy theory postulated that Istvan Tisza was planning to have Karl suffer an accident on his peace trip to Zagreb. The notion originated as an officially sanctioned rumour in the coming civil war, and was immensely popular amongst those who suffered because of the fighting. However, it is flatly untrue. By the middle of June, Tisza was coming to view himself as a foe of Karl’s, but he was a patriotic gentleman. Attempting a political assassination- much less the assassination of a sitting monarch- would have been unthinkable. The upcoming war would damage the Hungarian people’s image, and dispelling this falsehood helps to set right the score.

That said, after what Karl did next one imagines Tisza may have fantasised about murder.

When he entered Zagreb on 25 June 1917, Karl I of Austria-Hungary conferred with a Croatian Home Guard commander. The city was currently in Croat hands, but that could change at any moment. The colonel advised Karl to keep his presence secret. With the spectre of chaos hanging in the air like a toxin, some madman might well try and take a shot at him. The last thing Austria-Hungary needed was for another Gavrilo Princip to decapitate the empire. Karl stroked his chin for a moment before shaking his head. Croats and Hungarians alike needed to be reminded of their common fealty to him personally, and the only way they could do that was to see him speak unafraid. A colonel’s better judgement counted for very little against an emperor’s will, and part of the 25th Home Guard Regiment found themselves protecting the Zagreb parliament house. A message was sent to the Hungarian forces in the area that since Karl was negotiating in Zagreb, they were to refrain from moving in. (As an aside, the willingness of Croat troops to obey imperial authority gives the lie to Hungarian stories of “chaotic rebellion in Croatia.”) Six hours after getting off the train, a platoon of guards accompanied Karl onto the floor of the Croatian-Slavonian Parliament. There, in front of the men who’d voted for Croat independence two weeks previous, he extended recognition to the Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia. “The Croatian nation has made its firm desire for territorial and legal representation commensurate with its sense of national identity known. As the imperial father, the great shared aspect of the lives of all my peoples, I would be derelict in my duty if I did not pay this fact proper heed… Now, speaking as King of Hungary and absolute master of the Lands of the Crown of St. Stephen I, Karl IV, do hereby recognise the declaration of independence of the Triune Kingdom of Croatia, Slavonia, and Dalmatia... I assume its historic royal mantle, in continuance with my predecessors, as King Karlo IV… May our heavenly Father bless this Kingdom and its people.”

Istvan Tisza’s initial remarks are best left untranslated.

His recognising Croatia-Slavonia’s independence is a fine example of how Karl’s idealism outstripped reality. The existing framework of Austria-Hungary meant that Budapest had to agree to any constitutional changes- Karl’s writ as “King of Hungary” only went so far. In simply declaring Croatia-Slavonia’s rule legitimate, he had shoved the traditional power structures of the empire aside, and that was deeply offensive to Istvan Tisza. “It was in that moment”, the Hungarian Prime Minister wrote years later, “that I realised that the emperor was not a man with whom I could work. It was not the Croat issue I objected to per se, but rather the utter disregard shown for our institutions. I would have been derelict in my duty if I allowed the great and noble Magyar race to accept the status of a colony.” Few men have stood at so painful a crossroads in their lives. The two things he loved most- Magyar nationalism on one hand, and the Austro-Hungarian union on the other- were now diametrically opposed. “It is well that so few men seek power in their lives”, he wrote in his diary on the 27th, “for this world would be a far darker place if all men were forced to make the decisions which confront me.”

In his state of weakness, Tisza fell prey to a man whom the Twentieth Century has painted as a villain par excellence.


Mihaly Karolyi lambasts Emperor Karl's reform policies to a crowd, June 1917
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Mihaly Karolyi had been born in 1875 to a wealthy Budapest family. (6) Much like Kaiser Wilhelm II, backlash against a physical defect had shaped his personality- just as the Kaiser had struggled to overcome his damaged left arm, so too did Karolyi face torment for having been born with a cleft palate. Psychologists have suggested that a desire to ‘prove himself’ against his handicap gave Karolyi an impulsive, adventurous personality- his early years of thrill-seeking, car-racing, and dabbling in radical politics (7) lend weight to this. Time dulled Karolyi’s appetite for the first two, but he was still a radical in 1914. Whereas most Hungarians viewed Magyar nationalism within a Habsburg context, Karolyi dreamt of an independent Hungary. When the time came to vote for war credits, Karolyi and his clique of supporters refused; in 1915 he dabbled in treason by talking about Hungarian secession from the union with Entente diplomats in Switzerland. One wonders what would’ve happened had he been caught. Karolyi was just as offended as Tisza about Karl’s actions in Croatia, but unlike the Prime Minister he was unencumbered by scruples.
On 28 June 1917- three years to the day after Franz Ferdinand’s death had set the world ablaze- Karolyi paid a call to Istvan Tisza in the latter’s office. Mindful of the acrimony between the two (8), Karolyi was conciliatory. “Are you not offended by the same things as I, Prime Minister? Surely, in spite of our myriad differences we can agree on a love of these Lands of the Crown of St. Stephen?” Tisza stroked his beard. Fatigue and stress had weakened him over the past few days, and though the rational part of his brain protested, what Karolyi was saying sounded right. “Go on.” Playing the tired Prime Minister like a violin, Mihaly Karolyi explained. Karl was manifestly unfit to rule, he said. Clearly, Hungary’s historic rights counted for nothing under his rule. If something didn’t change, Karolyi said, soon Vienna- he went out of his way to mention the German capital- would strip the Burgenland, Slovakia, and Transylvania. Pulling a folded map from his breast pocket, Karolyi shaded in what would be left. “Is this what you want to be remembered for? Do you want generations of Magyars to remember you, Prime Minister, as the man who stood aside as half of Hungary was shorn away?” The unspoken answer hung in the air. “Prime Minister, I do wish I was not here. I do wish circumstance had not made this necessary. Yet the world is as we find it, not as we wish it. You know what needs doing.”

Tisza turned very pale. “I… I cannot!” Tears formed beneath his spectacles. Smiling, Karolyi left the coloured map on his desk. “Prime Minister.” He obsequiously left.
Istvan Tisza now found himself trapped between Scylla and Charybidis. If he accepted Karl’s fait accompli, well, the map on his desk told him what the end-game would be. Yet from his tired perspective, the only way out was secession. If Hungary could exit the union, Karl’s writ would no more extend to Budapest than into British India. But Tisza had spent his whole life supporting that union; secession would be a betrayal of everything he’d ever worked for. But, declared the cynic in the back of his head, isn’t letting Karl ignore our rights within the union a betrayal as well? Tisza couldn’t tell the cynical voice no. He chewed the matter over all night, pacing his office like a caged animal, hardly noticing that he was chewing on his cigar. At four AM on the 29th, he reached his decision. No matter what injustices Karl had committed against the system, Tisza could not stomach secession. He called for an emergency session of the Hungarian Diet to discuss the crisis the next day. Pens, not swords, would see Hungary through this.

When the Hungarian Diet convened at nine AM on 30 June, there was a very visible symbol of the crisis. The seats belonging to Croatia-Slavonia’s MPs were all vacant; those men were seated in Zagreb, in what Tisza considered an illegal assembly. Only the steel and cordite of the Croat Home Guard kept them there. Tisza realised what was at stake. This was not just about refusing to recognise Croatia-Slavonia- what happened here would decide the future of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The proceedings opened with a vote on whether or not to recognise Croatia-Slavonia’s internal secession. In what is surely one of the more memorable scenes from the grey, stiff world of 20th century parliamentary politics, the chorus of boos lasted for a full fifteen minutes, and several gentlemen were warned for the use of ‘un-Parliamentary language’. One man went so far as to throw his bowler hat across the room. Once everyone had worked that out of their system, Tisza thought he was on safe ground. The Austro-Hungarian Compromise insisted that Budapest confirm all changes made to the system; Budapest had refused to do so. He could take this to Emperor Karl and insist on Hungarian troops reoccupying Croatia-Slavonia, and that would hopefully be the end of that. A few formalities later, Parliament adjourned.
Tisza’s letter to Karl on 5 July was polite yet curt. The Hungarian parliament had rejected his changes to the system, thus they were illegitimate. Croatia-Slavonia was not an equal kingdom within the empire; it was a region in revolt against Hungary. Hungarian troops would be entering the province to restore order. Moments after sending the letter off, Prime Minister Tisza declared Croatia-Slavonia to be in revolt and sent troops in. Tisza knew he was playing with fire by marching up the escalation ladder, but he had no choice. If Tisza acquiesced to what he saw as a rebellion, his government would collapse and his nation disrespected. By the end of the week, three Hungarian divisions were sitting in Zagreb, and the Parliament of Croatia-Slavonia were sitting in prison, awaiting trial for treason.
This was unacceptable for Karl. In his eyes, Croatia-Slavonia was as legitimate a part of the empire as Austria or Hungary. He, the King of Hungary, had declared it so! It was Istvan Tisza, in mounting an unprovoked attack on another imperial kingdom, who was the traitor. Though he prayed for a peaceful outcome, Karl saw war clouds on the horizon. Shortly after reading Tisza’s letter- which he described as “unverschämt”, “impertinent”- he conferred with his military supremo Franz Conrad von Hotzendorf (9). There was a very real chance, the emperor said, that the present crisis could spill over into war, and von Hotzendorf needed to be ready for that. In the meantime, he was dispatching forces to Croatia-Slavonia. The goal wasn’t to provoke a war with Hungary, but rather to prove how serious Karl was about protecting Croatia-Slavonia. Marching up the escalation ladder was risky, but preferable to accepting a snub from Tisza.

The first shots of the Austro-Hungarian Civil War were fired four days later though they wouldn’t be recognised as such for another week. Karlovac was a middle-sized town in northwestern Croatia under the control of a Home Guard regiment; another regiment of Austrian soldiers was stationed there. The regiment’s colonel had been thoroughly briefed on rules of engagement; while these men were to announce their presence to the Hungarians and make clear that they’d fight back if threatened, they were not to fire first under any circumstances. At eleven AM, with Hungarian and Croat forces clashing, the colonel announced his presence to his Hungarian opposite number. “In the name of our shared ruler and the lives of the men under us”, he said, “we ask that you withdraw.” A brief interlude followed, during which the Hungarian commander telephoned his superiors. Fifteen minutes later, the silence was broken by an artillery shell. One trigger-happy gunner had thought he heard something and pre-empted an attack which existed only in his mind. The shell exploded dead on target, though, and seven Austrians were killed. Rules of engagement went out the window as the Austrian battery commander observed a simple rule: if fired upon, fire back. Within moments, a full-fledged firestorm had erupted, with both commanders powerless to control events. Half an hour later, Karlovac lay in Hungarian hands, at a cost of 180 men and all hopes of peace dead.
The reactions of Karl and Istvan Tisza to the battle were nearly identical. Both, receiving jaded reports from commanders, believed the other to have struck first unjustly. Both realised that what was going on in Croatia looked more like a war and less like a political crisis every day. Finally, both recognised that in killing one another’s men they had crossed the Rubicon. Neither side wanted war, but neither were willing to back down now. Even approaching the other would’ve been too much- both sides knew exactly how the other would react to their demands. So the drama carried on, whipping through the last few scenes en route to the inevitable yet fatal conclusion.

8 July 1917 saw another terse missive cross from Vienna to Budapest. In it, Emperor Karl and the Austrian parliament had a simple message. If Hungarian forces did not evacuate the “Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia” within forty-eight hours, he would declare Hungary in rebellion.

Istvan Tisza wept when he read the ultimatum, for it took away the last of his room to manoeuvre. It was as much a fact that in two days time, he would have gravely wounded his career as it was that in that same period, the sun would rise in the east and set in the west twice. If he pulled all forces out of Croatia, the nationalists would slaughter him while Hungarian prestige would suffer. The folded map Karolyi had given him told him what the end-game would be. Yet, being declared a rebel would undo his entire life’s work. All he’d advocated for ever since this crisis began was for a return to the 1914 status quo. Now, he was faced with a war of rebellion or an end to his political career.

That night, Istvan Tisza chose to die for Hungary so that others wouldn’t have to.

Parliament reconvened on 9 July 1917. This time, the fevered energy was replaced by a grim hush. Even though Karl’s ultimatum hadn’t been published, people knew something was very wrong. The same fearful energy which had hung over Europe three years ago had returned. War hung in their air like a stench. Voice quaking, Istvan Tisza read out Karl’s ultimatum before announcing that he would be pulling troops from Croatia. Rhetorically asking if the delegates wanted to go to war with “our own king, with our Austrian and yes, I shall say it, with our Croat” brothers, he declared dishonour the “penultimate calamity this nation can suffer- only war exceeds it.” Publicly wiping tears from his spectacles, Tisza requested the delegates vote to ratify Karl’s proposal and accept Croatia-Slavonia.

The only sound was the chirping of a bird stuck in the rafters.

The hall exploded with boos. “Traitor!” and “Sell-Out!” were some of the favoured insults, as well as several which have yet to make it into phrasebooks and probably never shall. The idea that Istvan Tisza, the godfather of Hungarian politics for the past fourteen years, could suddenly abandon the nation was staggering. These men hadn’t thought it through as well as the Prime Minister. They saw Karl as a madman whose liberalising instincts posed a mortal threat to their way of life. Tisza was supposed to be their champion, the man who fought to keep historic Hungary under Magyar rule. Now he seemed to have deserted them. A cry from one of the opposition benches was heard three times, and echoed all across the hall till it formed a tsunami ready to sweep Istvan Tisza off of his feet and into the dustbin of history. “Vote of No Confidence!” Istvan Tisza could do nothing as the formalities commenced and men who’d been his allies thirty minutes ago voted him out of office. His government, and the National Party of Work, were no more.

Mihaly Karolyi now ascended the podium. Tisza was nothing less than a traitor to the nation! He had tried to reason with him, Karolyi said, but Tisza had refused to see reason. Now, “Emperor Karl of Austria” posed a mortal threat to Hungarian territorial integrity, and had “attacked Hungarian soldiers maintaining order in Croatia.” Only granting him the reins of state could save Hungary from “foreign humiliation.” Referring to his King as the ruler of a foreign nation and Austria as a foreign country, as well as his falsification of the Battle of Karlovac, made Karolyi’s positions clear. His government, Karolyi promised, would defend Hungary’s territorial integrity to the death! He received a standing ovation as even National Party of Work parliamentarians cheered him and voted in an ‘emergency government.’ King Karol IV’s ratification was not sought after. “So this is how Hungary dies”, Tisza muttered. “With thunderous applause.”

On 13 July 1917, Prime Minister Karolyi declared the independence of the Hungarian Republic, with a claim to the country’s 1914 borders. When Emperor Karl heard the news, he is said to have got down on his knees and crossed himself three times. “God preserve me”, he said, “for I have failed to keep my realm together. It could have ended so perfectly, but no.” Prominent Hungarians across the empire were informed that they would be protected, and that Emperor Karl wanted to talk to Karolyi. Their reactions varied from startled at Karolyi’s audacity and fully cooperative (even if they couldn’t contact Budapest), to cheekily asking if they could present their credentials as ambassadors of the Hungarian Republic to Vienna. Istvan Tisza, meanwhile, knew that Karolyi couldn’t win and wanted no part of his treason. The former Prime Minister fled Hungary for Romania; he would subsequently sail with his family to the United States. Heartbroken at the fracturing of his empire, Karl went to the Cathedral of Saint Stephen and prayed for four hours that God would grant him the wisdom to keep the empire intact.
Time would tell if He would answer Karl’s petition...


Comments?

  1. Yes, dreadful pun.
  2. This. And his mentioning them in the speech was OTL.
  3. For the record, it happened in 1102.
  4. Actually, many of them didn’t cherish it very much, but that’s neither here nor there.
  5. This map, except nicer-looking
  6. Technically, Budapest hadn’t been formed yet- “Buda” and “Pest” were still two separate things and Karolyi was born in Pest.
  7. All OTL. The really interesting bit is this: Sigmund Freud lived in Austria-Hungary during this time period, and I’ll bet in TTL he becomes famous for writing a paper on how Karolyi’s cleft palate shaped his ‘unconscious’ and thus led to the Austro-Hungarian Civil War! (oops, spoiler!)
  8. Basically, in OTL Tisza was very turned off by Karolyi’s radicalism, and Karolyi had walked away from Tisza’s National Party of Work. Also: Tisza was a duellist, and he and Karolyi had traded shots on the field of honour in 1913! So yeah, this meeting must’ve been just a tad awkward…
  9. Described by some as the greatest Entente asset of the war. ;)
 
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Ficboy

Banned
Chapter Sixteen- Gott Erhalte Karl den Kaiser, Unsern Guten Kaiser Karl
"Today, I announce the freedom and liberation of all my peoples. For too long, you have suffered and been neglected; your needs unanswered, your empire aloof. I say: no more! From now on, as citizens of the United Empire of Danubia, all of us shall be equal under my rule!"
-
Emperor Karl I, announcing the Constitution of 1917

"This is an insult! We are made to rule- but we are treated as subservient, no more important than the Balkan rabble!"
-
Hungarian Prime Minister Károly Khuen-Héderváry, upon hearing of the new Constitution's passage.


The Austro-Hungarian Empire was an ancient state, with roots dating back to the thirteenth century. It had experienced a painful transition to the modern age, which had culminated in alignment with Germany and compromise with the Hungarians. What felt like a lifetime ago, its pride had led it to declare war on Serbia, throwing Europe into the fire. Yet, its planned revenge had gone awry; Serbian arms had repulsed the Dual Monarchy not once but twice, and Germans and Bulgarians had had to step in to ensure victory. German and Italian diplomats had humiliated her in her own capital, forcing her to cede territory to the puny Italians, who had been a collection of petty states when the signatories were boys. Galicia had spent several months under Russian occupation before German troops came in to pull their chestnuts out of the fire. While Germany’s Sturmtruppenkorps had achieved glory in the last weeks of the Eastern war, marching all the way to the gates of Petrograd, Austro-Hungarian forces had undertaken only diversionary attacks in western Ukraine, or worse still, wasted on garrison duty in Poland. And the Dual Monarchy’s only reward was occupation duty in half of Serbia. National consciousness in the empire’s minorities was at its highest since the revolutions of 1848, and the economy was tottering. The empire had only one real advantage; a steady hand rested on the rudder in the form of Emperor Franz Joseph. The octogenarian ruler had sat atop the throne since he was eighteen years old, and his court knew its business. True, his health was fading, but surely he’d just stick around for a little while when he was most needed… surely?

Evidently not.

Franz Joseph died on 7 November 1916, four days before the peace treaty with Russia. His successor Archduke Karl was a 29-year-old with plenty of idealism and little substantial experience in the political field. What could go wrong?

The fallout of the war- which Franz Joseph had died before he could attend to- immediately confronted Karl. Domestically, the Austro-Hungarians had suffered the most of the Central Powers. Before the war, the backbone of the empire had been the exchange between Austria and Hungary; Austrian industrial goods kept rural Hungary modernised, Hungarian grain kept the cities of the west fed. The war had fatally disrupted this symbiosis. For the past three years, Hungarian grain had gone primarily to the army and the rest had mostly remained at home, leaving Vienna hungry. (1) To Budapest, this was perfectly reasonable- they were making their own sacrifices and needed to look after their own people first. But from the perspective of Viennese bureaucrats, their Hungarian cousins were jealously hoarding resources the entire empire needed, forcing them to drift further apart. Every time they attempted to discuss this, the Hungarians gave them smooth oratory worth its weight in gold. Thus, relations between the two halves of the empire had become bitter by the time of Franz Joseph’s death. However, that was not the only ethnic problem facing the new Emperor. The other peoples of the empire- the Czechs, South Slavs, Poles, and Ukrainians (amongst others) had all fought and died for Vienna, and in the process had re-discovered themselves, in a way. Czechs had fought alongside Czechs, Ukrainians alongside Ukrainians, etc. They had survived by fighting alongside their countrymen, sharing a language and culture. Men had formed bonds that would never break, and these bonds were often stronger than loyalty to an unknown emperor of a different nationality.

Beyond that, there was the fact that Serbia now lay under imperial military occupation. One cause of the war, Slavic nationalism, had been put on pause as the Croats and Bosnians went off to the front, but now it had received a shot in the arm of sorts. Although the occupying forces had hunted the Black Hand to extinction, successors had risen, and these successors had one advantage their predecessors had lacked: they now conducted all of their operations in the same country. For a Bosnian, say, to slip into Serbia, all he needed was the appropriate papers; Serbs had a harder time leaving their respective military districts, but it could be done. And if one of those Bosnians just so happened to be carrying a pistol or a bomb… Small wonder that officials in occupied Serbia all drew hazardous-duty pay. A growing South Slavic consciousness was awakening within the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Some postwar nationalists felt that change within the system was possible, others saw a violent war of independence as the only solution.

All this to say, the system devised in 1867 direly needed an update. Emperor Karl was a young visionary who had shared plenty of correspondence with none other than Franz Ferdinand on this issue. And in his New Years Day 1917 address, the young sovereign dropped a bombshell. He was going to hold a constitutional convention to reform the empire in six months’ time. Anyone with suggestions was welcome to submit them to the imperial government.

Emperor Charles I of Austria-Hungary
View attachment 587822

The first six months of 1917 saw the job market for postmen explode. People of all walks of life from every corner of the empire wrote to Vienna with their ideas. Some wanted autonomy for Transylvania, some wanted Bohemia elevated to the status of a co-equal kingdom, some wanted a separate Polish kingdom in Galicia in personal union with the King of Poland… the ideas went on and on. As Stefan Zweig wrote in his Die Welt von Morgen, “there seemed in those months a great spirit of civic pride and energy scarcely seen before or since…” Sudeten Germans and their Czech brethren united in a shared imperial spirit, bitter acrimonies in Transylvania died down, and even the Slav terrorists in Bosnia-Herzegovina quietened down somewhat. Forgetting the nationalist rhetoric they’d spouted only weeks before, people now thought what difference does it make what language we speak, or if we are Catholic or Orthodox? We are all subjects of His Imperial Majesty, after all. The last days of May saw drinking and dancing in the streets, and a gaiety in the air not felt since long before the war. As the mythical date, the first of June, approached, everyone was happy and excited, with one exception.

The Hungarians were not at all pleased about what was being done. They were special, better than the other imperial minorities! If popular rumour was even halfway true, the boy emperor in Vienna was planning to make the Czechs and Poles, peoples who hadn’t had nations of their own for centuries, into co-equal partners! It wasn’t just insensitive, it was downright offensive. Nevertheless, the Hungarians sent a delegation to the Imperial Constitutional Convention.

The glorious moment arrived at 9 AM on 1 June 1917 in the Imperial Palace. After a High Mass presided over by the Archbishop of Vienna, Emperor Karl declared the Imperial Constitutional Convention to be in session. Every nationality within the empire had sent a delegation. However, these “delegations” were not particularly well-organised, nor did they have unified, coherent plans. In the interests of representing all his subjects, the Emperor declared that “any gentleman of thirty-five years or more, in good and honourable standing, and of firm patriotic convictions with the means to constructively offer practical solutions for the betterment of our realm” would be welcome to attend. Thus, diplomats and politicians attended, but so did professors, writers, clergy of all ranks, and even tradesmen. A total of almost two thousand turned up. The conference, held in an old ballroom, was standing room only; the imperial family sitting in their thrones were the exceptions. It immediately became apparent that Karl had set the bar for attendance too low, as several quite uncouth delegates were ejected for disorderly conduct. Two of these were Austrian nationalists who yelled about how the empire’s minorities were unworthy of equal representation; a third was a Polish workman who assaulted a Hungarian member of parliament and said something quite unprintable about his mother.

Once some of the riffraff had been shown the door, the actual work began. For a start, this was less a constitutional convention than an open forum for discussion; this convention had no power to craft laws or actually create a new constitution. The way the system was designed to work was that any delegate could propose something he wanted in the new constitution, and then all present would then vote upon the issue. If it passed with a three-fourths majority, the emperor’s secretary would record it as an official proposal. Once the convention was done, Parliament and Emperor Karl would then use the official proposals as a framework to actually craft a new constitution. Everyone was grouped together by nationality, but since, say, an impoverished adjunct professor and a landowner with four centuries of family power, both from Upper Austria, were both classified as “Germans”, they were put in the same bloc without consideration for their myriad differences. One case perfectly illustrates the difficulties faced by the convention.

In the first three days, different delegates made no less than thirteen calls for the state to provide a free grain dole or its cash equivalent to all citizens. The argument was that the empire’s industrial, urban proletariat was swelling, and many of these people were spending most of their wages on bread and rent. Unless the government did something to help, thousands of families would forever be living on a knife-edge in squalor. Surely, His Imperial Majesty wanted to take a humane course and do something for these poor souls? Middle-class, petty-bourgeois delegates from Austria and Bohemia, which had gone hungry during the war, applauded these, but their conservative, aristocratic counterparts- many of whom were clumped in ethnically with their rivals- were aghast. That, they thundered, was Marxism! Giving out food to all would not only destroy the market, it would invite the people to clamour for more, and their demands would quickly outstrip the state’s power to provide. Worst of all, the state’s inevitable failure to live up to its promises would lead to revolutionaries like those seen in Petrograd making a bid for power, which would be 1789 all over again! Surely, His Imperial Majesty wanted to keep his head atop his shoulders? The conservatives shot down every attempt for a formal grain-dole proposal, but the proponents fired back that they were speaking in the name of the people too poor to be allowed in, and that although those in favour of a free grain dole couldn’t get a three-fourths majority here, that didn’t mean that three-fourths of the imperial populace opposed such a move. That was as may be, the conservatives replied smoothly, but the rules were on their side here and that was what counted. The frustrated liberals could do nothing but shake their fists, grind their teeth, and sit down. The Hungarians, too, were vehemently opposed to the free-grain idea for very different reasons. They had been the imperial breadbasket for centuries and were happy in that role. If Vienna forced them to distribute their product at a rate determined by fancy German bureaucrats in lavish offices- a rate inevitably set to meet the needs of the consumers, not the producers- their economy would collapse. Everyone argued their point insistently and with fiery passion, but in the end the idea was shot down, causing much bitterness.

This happened thirteen times in three days.

The mess over free grain was parallelled in numerous other quibbles- should Transylvanian schools be permitted to offer introductory classes to the Hungarian language to those students who didn’t speak it? Not if the Romanian-speaking delegates had anything to say about it, by God!- but they were not the central issue facing the Constitutional Convention. That had to do with what the actual federative structure of the empire was to be going forward. On this key question, the delegates broadly came into two camps: the “Trialists” and “Federalists”. The trialists, as best exemplified by the late Franz Ferdinand, advocated creating a third Kingdom within the empire on the same terms as Hungary. The most common name put forth was the “Kingdom of Slavia”, but there were plenty of other proposals. The trialists, who were mostly South Slavs, argued that with Serbia and Montenegro already under imperial rule, uniting them with Bosnia-Herzegovina would give the Slavic nationalists everything they wanted and bring peace to the empire. Bosnian and Herzegovinian delegates, even those who didn’t consider themselves trialists, were broadly amiable to such a plan. However, there were two problems which ailed the trialist cause. For a start, Bosnia-Herzegovina was under a condominium between Vienna and Budapest, and there was no way the Hungarians were giving up their influence in the territory. Besides, pandering to Slavic nationalism would only lead to Croatia’s desire to join “Slavia”, which would leave Hungary not just shorn of territory but without access to the sea. Thus, almost no Hungarians voted to adopt a formal trialist proposal. There was another issue facing trialism which Hungarian pride had nothing to do with: Serbia. If the Empire now declared that it was going to make a place for Slavic nationalists within the confines of the imperial system, surely the peoples of Serbia would want to join. After all, pan-Slavism had been one factor leading Gavrilo Princip to pull the trigger that fateful June day. (2) Giving the Serbs co-equal status would be rewarding Princip’s actions. Those making this argument conveniently papered over the fact that Franz Ferdinand had been a trialist, but these assaults left trialism dead in the water.

The second proposal for reorganising the empire was federalism. Federalists were a more diverse group than the mostly South Slavic trialists, both in terms of geography and ideology. Essentially, their theory revolved around taking each of the major ethnic groups of the empire and making them co-equals. Just as the Empire of Austria and the Kingdom of Hungary existed under the same roof in personal union, so too would the Kingdom of Bohemia, the Kingdom of Transylvania, and such. One significant advantage federalism enjoyed was that it wasn’t mutually exclusive with trialism. A “Kingdom of Slavia”, proponents of federalism stressed time and time again, was compatible with their system. The other obvious advantage was that all the minorities had a stake in its implementation, not just South Slavs; the flip side of this coin was that opponents of reform could still point to Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia to attack federalism with. The movement’s weakness was that it would force both Austria and Hungary to cede plenty of territory, and many conservatives in both countries were loath to do so. It was also not at all clear where to draw borders between these kingdoms, and what ethnicities merited a kingdom of their own. For example, the Czech delegates put up a fierce argument that “Czech” was a national identity, and that the Czech people had reasonably clearly-defined historic borders. But to Viennese conservatives, the Czechs were talking about Austria giving up land it had held since the Middle Ages, land which nearly everyone considered an integral part of Austria. Furthermore, these conservatives argued, what about the Sudeten Germans? They lived deep within this proposed Kingdom of Bohemia, yet had no cultural links with Prague; should they be hung out to dry? When a moderate voice from the Austrian delegation cried out that perhaps Austria ought to keep the Sudetenland as an enclave, the Czechs drowned him in a sea of boos. And all the while, the Hungarians protested that they were special, and that this whole business was offensive to their status within the empire.

Emperor Karl was the one man in the room whom everyone respected, yet as a federalist he couldn’t be all things to all people, and many left the conference exasperated at their sovereign. Conservatives wanted him to do less for the sake of his crown, the petty-bourgeoisie wanted him to do more for the sake of worker’s rights, every nationality within the empire wanted what it perceived to be its share, the Hungarians were deeply offended that they were no longer a unique minority, and no one was interested in speaking in turns. All the while, Clement von Metternich was rolling in his grave, watching what happened when the people were given a voice.

Such was the atmosphere of calm, rational discussion which pervaded the Imperial Constitutional Convention.

The Convention adjourned on 13 June, having passed seventy-four official proposals in twelve chaotic days. These covered a wide sweep of topics and many were contradictory, but that was acceptable to Emperor Karl. His goal had been to get a feel for the opinions of the general public; now it was time to put that information to good use. Since all of Parliament had been present for the first convention, it was the work of a moment for Karl to call a session the next day. They spent two weeks mulling over the various proposals, trying to figure out what was mutually inclusive with what, and attempting to reach good-faith compromises. The differences between liberals and conservatives were still present, and ethnic interests still played a divisive role, but a calmer atmosphere prevailed. This was in part because all the members of Parliament were relatively conservative when compared to the intellectuals and petty-bourgeois at the convention, but also because Emperor Karl took a very active role in shaping the new constitution. At his heart, the sovereign was an idealist. A devout Catholic, he considered his faith and his secular role intertwined. As he commented to the Empress Zita, “as God has given the Poles, the Slovakians, and the Croatians an identity and a self-conception, so I must give these peoples the honour they deserve.” He was determined to do good for all his people, and saw federalism as the best way to accomplish that. Thus, on 28 June 1917, three years to the day after Franz Ferdinand’s assassination, Emperor Karl went to Holy Mass before announcing triumphantly that the Imperial Constitution of 1917 was ratified.

Flag of the United Empire of Danubia
View attachment 587823

The 1917 Constitution brought the empire forward into the modern age while still keeping the best parts of its historic structure. It adopted a federalist proposal, making Karl the constitutional monarch of many different kingdoms. The Constitution abolished the name “Austria-Hungary”, renaming the realm the United Empire of Danubia. (3) Austria was downgraded from an Empire to a Kingdom, and placed on an equal footing with Bohemia, Slovakia, Transylvania, West Galicia, East Galicia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Hungary, all in personal union with one another. Every kingdom had its own parliament and the right to decide all internal affairs, but the empire kept a single currency (4), imperial-level parliament, a united military, and a uniform foreign policy. Emperor Karl and Parliament agreed to keep Serbia under military rule for another ten years, after which it would become a kingdom all its own.

The different Kingdoms of the United Empire of Danubia. Note the Austrian enclave in the Sudetenland and military rule in Serbia/Montenegro.
View attachment 587849

The last days of June brought celebration all over the Empire. All the minorities had struggled for this for years, and now they were receiving their reward. Being allowed to elect their own parliaments and give their own languages pride of place seemed too good to be true, and it was all thanks to their benevolent new ruler! The Emperor travelled to the new capitals, (5) where the local bishop crowned him King at a Solemn High Mass; he was photographed leading five hundred Czechs in a decade of the Rosary at St.Vitus Cathedral in Prague. Of course, celebrations of a more secular kind took place; many a glass of wine was consumed over the next few days, and surviving statistics show that the average wine-seller in the empire made a bigger profit on 29 June 1917 than any day since before the war. The twenty-eighth became Constitution Day, and it is still a public holiday in Austria today. However, one group was decidedly unhappy: the Hungarians.

The 1917 Constitution stripped Hungary of its special status. Having its own parliament, its own monarch, and its own domestic policy were no longer things to boast about; now, everyone within the empire had these. But even more humiliating, the Constitution sheared Hungary of much territory; all the non-Magyar lands were gone, and Hungary was left without so much as access to the sea. In the era of colonialism, Hungarian patriots had held their heads high. They might not’ve been fully independent, and the empire might not control any overseas colonies, but the Hungarians could lord it over the Slovaks, the Croats, and the Romanians of Transylvania. No longer. Hungarian members of the Imperial Parliament had stringently voted against the new constitution, but their Austrian counterparts had overruled them. Now, Budapest was forced to do what it could with what Karl had left it.

Hungary’s prime minister resigned on 4 July, to be replaced with the nationalistic Károly Khuen-Héderváry. An outraged Prime Minister Károly called a special cabinet meeting forty-eight hours after he took office, ostensibly to discuss “Hungary’s place under the new constitutional system.” But if this meeting was merely about constitutional politics, why were two of the most prominent military officials in Hungary- Vilmos Nagy de Nagybaczon and Adalbert Dani von Gyarmata und Magyar-Cséke (6)- present? Why were six meetings held in a week, all discussing the same theme under utmost secrecy, with plenty of Army officers present? And, for that matter, why was Károly remaining awfully silent about the Hungarians rioting in the new Kingdoms of Slovakia, Transylvania, and Croatia? Emperor Karl was suspicious, but didn’t piece it all together until it was too late…

On 13 July 1917, Prime Minister Károly declared the independence of the Hungarian Republic, with a claim to the country’s 1914 borders. When Emperor Karl heard the news, he is said to have got down on his knees and crossed himself three times. “God preserve me”, he said, “for I have failed to keep my realm together. It could have ended so perfectly, but no.” The Hungarians in the Imperial Parliament were informed that they would be protected, and that Emperor Karl wanted to talk to Károly. The scheming Hungarian Prime Minister had already told them about his plans, and they replied that Karl was not their king, and that Károly was leader of the independent Hungarian Republic. One of them then cheekily asked if he could present his credentials to the emperor as Hungarian ambassador to Austria. Heartbroken at the fracturing of his empire, Karl had the men arrested; they would be released and sent home at the end of the war. He then went to the Cathedral of Saint Stephen and prayed for four hours that God would grant him the wisdom to keep the empire intact. (6)

Time would tell if He would answer Karl’s petition...


Comments?

  1. My apologies.
  2. Besides, “Austria-Hungary-Slavia” is an appalling name.
  3. What should I call the state now? Danubia? Austria? Austria-Hungary? Please comment below!
  4. However, notes and coins varied from place to place. As an example, a one-krone bill from Austria and a one-crone bill from East Galicia would both have the same value, and both would be legal tender anywhere in the empire. However, one would be in German; the other Ukrainian. One might have an Austrian landmark on it; the other a local one, and so forth.
  5. Prague, Bratislava, Cluj, Krakow, Lemberg, Zagreb, and Sarajevo, in the order of kingdoms listed above.
  6. Both of those names really roll off the tongue, no?
  7. IOTL, Karl was an extremely devout Catholic.
Hungary is probably going to secede from Austria and cause a conflict. It might lead to a Yugoslavia-esque situation given the different ethnic groups.
 
Hungary is probably going to secede from Austria and cause a conflict. It might lead to a Yugoslavia-esque situation given the different ethnic groups.
Nah if Anything people will fight against Hungary for danubia, when all others are defeated, hungary have not real friend and easily could see a revolution in their border, if Anything Karl do what FF wanted but faster, FF first wanted to rule by decree before creating the USGA
y. Emperor Karl and Parliament agreed to keep Serbia under military rule for another ten years, after which it would become a kingdom all its own.
Nah, no one wanted serbia, no one, if anything once the occupation is over, they will put a loyal monarch house and put serbia back his own business

1917 means another thing, the late FF oldest daugther will become of legal age and next year Max will be of 16...Willy II will push his original plan...Solve the E-L mess and naming both as the Duchess of Eltass and Great Duke of Lothrigen respectly as Willy II wanted, as he considered those two not have a proper noble title a travesty
 
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Damn, I knew the Hungarians would pull something off. Karl is a great leader, and basically everyone in the empire is happy. It would work perfectly to test their new union against the rebelling Hungary, having all the kingdoms pitch in to defeat them. That would cement their unity
 

Ficboy

Banned
Damn, I knew the Hungarians would pull something off. Karl is a great leader, and basically everyone in the empire is happy. It would work perfectly to test their new union against the rebelling Hungary, having all the kingdoms pitch in to defeat them. That would cement their unity
They will try to leave though.
 
No chance Hungary will get any of the lost territory back even if they get independence. And independence means loss of easy access to the sea, tariffs on vital trade that used to be internal, and in general massive economic disruption. So sane Hungarians should be against this independence movement. But I'm not an expert on this period of history; while I'm sure there are a few sane Hungarians, I don't know how many. And likely as usual war will harden us vs. them attitudes and make previously indifferent Hungarians into separatists. So this could easily end up with a long and bitter war, and still produce an independent and impoverished Hungary in the end. But as long as it does end with an independent Hungary, Karoly is likely to be rewarded for his idiocy by becoming a national hero.
 
They will try to leave though.
The other kingdoms? I doubt it. They're still in the high of having a king that granted all their wishes and listened to all their demands. Unless Hungary is really, really good at sweet-talking, the kingdoms will be 100% behind the austrians
 

Ficboy

Banned
The other kingdoms? I doubt it. They're still in the high of having a king that granted all their wishes and listened to all their demands. Unless Hungary is really, really good at sweet-talking, the kingdoms will be 100% behind the austrians
Hungary probably.
 
Hungary probably.
Ah, I misunderstood your comment. Yeah, even if they lose Hungary might try later on, but I expect people will start to see the benefits of staying and the rebels will lose more and more support with time.
And just because it's funny to think about, if they do it enough times their trying to leave might become a sort of tradition. "It's July, everyone, time to fight the Hungarians again."
 
The other kingdoms? I doubt it. They're still in the high of having a king that granted all their wishes and listened to all their demands. Unless Hungary is really, really good at sweet-talking, the kingdoms will be 100% behind the austrians

Agreed; the Hungarians moved too soon. Maybe if they waited a year and the fragility of the new empire dampened things down with the realization of how so much still needs to be done, they might have succeeded in secession. But right now, Karl is riding high on a wave of popular support from all his subjects from across his various kingdoms (sans Hungary). And Hungary seceded explicitly because they opposed the Emperor giving a voice to all his subjects in their shared empire's governance.

An Imperial response to crush the Hungarian secession would receive popular support. And I doubt Germany won't help, the Habsburgs are too vital as an ally to just watch as their empire crumbles.
 
Hungarians: We are the only ethnic group seceding, Emperor Karl has the popular support of the other minorities and we're completely surrounded geographically with no foreign allies. What could possibly go wrong?

*Always Sunny In Philadelphia music plays*
"Hungary Gets Curbstomped"
 
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With regard to the name, Danubia sounds a bit awkward. You could just go for Danube Federation, or if you want to keep a monarchial reference in the name, United Empire/Kingdoms of the Danube. That last, I think has a bit more weight, referencing the multicultural union of the Habsburg realm.
 
Agreed; the Hungarians moved too soon. Maybe if they waited a year and the fragility of the new empire dampened things down with the realization of how so much still needs to be done, they might have succeeded in secession. But right now, Karl is riding high on a wave of popular support from all his subjects from across his various kingdoms (sans Hungary). And Hungary seceded explicitly because they opposed the Emperor giving a voice to all his subjects in their shared empire's governance.

An Imperial response to crush the Hungarian secession would receive popular support. And I doubt Germany won't help, the Habsburgs are too vital as an ally to just watch as their empire crumbles.
It's made even worse by the fact that Hungary explicitly claims its 1914 borders, meaning that they make it clear that they will try to reclaim their territories from the new states, thus they have insured, that said new states will have to fight together with Austria lest they be picked off one by one.
 
The issue of Hungary aside, this is definitely the best possible outcome for the Austro-Hungarian empire. I only hope it survives whatever Hungary decides to throw at it - politically or militarily.
 
The different Kingdoms of the United Empire of Danubia. Note the Austrian enclave in the Sudetenland and military rule in Serbia/Montenegro.
View attachment 587849

Some thoughts on what this map show. First off making maps is hard! So I want to give some constructive feedback.

  • West and East Galicia. It was called the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria. So why not call the Polish half Galicia, and the Ukrainian half Lodomeria. Further, the border follows the modern border, but it doesn't match the ethnic border at the time. So why did you choose that border?
  • Tirol. I had thought that Austria had ceded Trento and Istrian not South Tirol? I imagine it is just map making difficulties?
  • Sudetenland. Your Sudeten enclave doesn't match where the Sudeten Germans lived. Your enclave stretches to far into central Bohemia. Rather they stretched more along the border with Germany westwards. That does not include the Sudetens in the NE and South of Bohemia.
  • Slovakia. What made you use the post WW1 border? It means that lots of Southern Slovakia are majority Hungarian regions, that have very small Slovak populations. While I imagine it is the easy border to use I don't think it is particularly realistic.
  • Slavonia. Why if you are breaking off Croatia from Hungary, are you leaving them with the Serbo-Croat region of Slavonia? It is a Serbo-Croat region that was considered part of Hungarian controlled Croatia.
  • Transylvania. This place is always a awful place to draw a border. Just important to be very aware that the borders you have drawn there mean there are a great many Hungarians there.
I would be more than happy to help out assisting you make a new map if you like. Hope this is useful feedback.
 

NoMommsen

Donor
erhmmm ... may I ask what happened ITTL to the G O D F A T H E R of hungarian politics of OTL ? In the first half of 1917 he was IOTL still THE hungarian master-of-everything.
The one who (almost) couldn't run fast enough to Vienna after the the death of Franz Joseph to make wee Charly-boy HIS puppy ? ... what he IOTL - at least in the beginning - managed ?

edit :
Also a ... "wee" comment on the last chapter :
Karl or any Habsburg monarch had the power to decret, enact and definitly not to 'ratify' any laws not to speak of a whole constitution embracing all of the Double Monarchy.
It was a conglomerate of officially souverign and destinct states most of them constitutional monarchies or statly entities tied together by a damn awful lot of treaties.
Any change of law and esp constitutiobn would have to be approved by all the single and local parliament explicitly and sinly ... and above all very importantly by the hungarian parliament.

Sry, but ... IMHO the last chapter is at least bordering ASB.
 
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