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Haha! :)
Yes, most definitely. Right now, Germany has too many things going on at the same time to dominate and project power as fully as Kaiser Wilhelm might like- this will save Sorel's bacon despite German opposition to him...

At the very least, though, he'll have to respond to the unrest in the Habsburg Empire. And while there are pro-Magyar elements in Germany, they'll probably be shutting up in the face of general German ethno-nationalist anger at the Rape of Vienna, and not just Willy but every last one of his royal vassals would be going up in flames over the murder of Emperor Karl.

That's before we factor in Germany's geopolitical goals too, the Habsburg Empire not only securing Germany's flank but also eases the requirements to finally begin work on their long-dreamed Berlin-Baghdad Railway.
 
At the very least, though, he'll have to respond to the unrest in the Habsburg Empire. And while there are pro-Magyar elements in Germany, they'll probably be shutting up in the face of general German ethno-nationalist anger at the Rape of Vienna, and not just Willy but every last one of his royal vassals would be going up in flames over the murder of Emperor Karl.

That's before we factor in Germany's geopolitical goals too, the Habsburg Empire not only securing Germany's flank but also eases the requirements to finally begin work on their long-dreamed Berlin-Baghdad Railway.
It's precisely because Germany will be preoccupied in Danubia that it won't be able to crush Sorel like a bug
 
Well, French logistics are in rough shape, but simple knocking out a length of rail isn't as effective as you think, it can be repaired quickly. You have to destroy trestles.
Anything short of destroying big bridges or, better yet, collapsing any available tunnels, can be repaired quickly. Even many bridges can be replaced quickly.
 
Does anyone know of any prominent Transylvanians during WWI? Wikipedia doesn't want to tell me...
I found an article on Wikipedia under the name of "Romanian National Party" (a Transylvanian political party). This article led to three Transylvanian-Romanian individuals prominent in the Hungarian half of the Dual Monarchy ..... "Iuliu Maniu" , "Alexandru Vaida-Voevod" and "Gheorghe Pop de Basesti". If this is not exactly what you are looking for, maybe it will lead to other people.
 
I found an article on Wikipedia under the name of "Romanian National Party" (a Transylvanian political party). This article led to three Transylvanian-Romanian individuals prominent in the Hungarian half of the Dual Monarchy ..... "Iuliu Maniu" , "Alexandru Vaida-Voevod" and "Gheorghe Pop de Basesti". If this is not exactly what you are looking for, maybe it will lead to other people.
Brilliant, thanks! :)
 
I went to the Romanian wikipedia and found Ștefan Cicio Pop, Vasile Goldiș, Aurel Lazăr, Theodor Mihali, Alexandru Vaida-Voievod and Aurel Vlad, who were members of the OTL Executive Committee of the Romanian National Party. Iuliu Maniu, Ion Bordea, Iosif Jumanca, Romul Boilă, Ioan Suciu, Victor Bontescu, Solomon Haliță, Aurel Lazăr, Emil Hațieganu, and Ion Flueraș, in addition to some of the people before, were members of The Governing Council of Transylvania, Banat and the Romanian lands in Hungary. I figure you can keep putting around on Romanian wikipedia and find some more names.
 
I went to the Romanian wikipedia and found Ștefan Cicio Pop, Vasile Goldiș, Aurel Lazăr, Theodor Mihali, Alexandru Vaida-Voievod and Aurel Vlad, who were members of the OTL Executive Committee of the Romanian National Party. Iuliu Maniu, Ion Bordea, Iosif Jumanca, Romul Boilă, Ioan Suciu, Victor Bontescu, Solomon Haliță, Aurel Lazăr, Emil Hațieganu, and Ion Flueraș, in addition to some of the people before, were members of The Governing Council of Transylvania, Banat and the Romanian lands in Hungary. I figure you can keep putting around on Romanian wikipedia and find some more names.
That's more than enough! Perfect, thanks ever so. :)
 
That's more than enough! Perfect, thanks ever so. :)
Arthur Arz von Straußenburg, who you got to finally accept the role of KuK supreme commander, was born in Sibiu (which probably in this timeline is still primarily known as Hermannstadt), so you might technically consider him a Transylvanian. OTL, the Transylvanian Saxons actively worked with the Rumanians against the Hungarians, the latter being seen as the lesser of two evils. ITTL, I guess even more so.

Anyway, thank you for writing a great timeline, which should be noted for going into much detail about how post-WW1 unrest actually happens rather than the "and France went communist."-line common to many CP-victory timelines (and I guess it is still not given that the unrest will succeed in the same way as the Bolshevik revolution did)
 
Arthur Arz von Straußenburg, who you got to finally accept the role of KuK supreme commander, was born in Sibiu (which probably in this timeline is still primarily known as Hermannstadt), so you might technically consider him a Transylvanian. OTL, the Transylvanian Saxons actively worked with the Rumanians against the Hungarians, the latter being seen as the lesser of two evils. ITTL, I guess even more so.

Anyway, thank you for writing a great timeline, which should be noted for going into much detail about how post-WW1 unrest actually happens rather than the "and France went communist."-line common to many CP-victory timelines (and I guess it is still not given that the unrest will succeed in the same way as the Bolshevik revolution did)
Thank you; it's my pleasure! I hope to continue to the standard I've set myself.
As for von Straussenberg, I didn't know that! I'm writing an update at this very minute about Transylvania and will certainly work that information in; thank you!
 
Regardless of who would win in France and in the Danubian basin, or eventually in Russia (not counting what is assuming to happen in Britain soon), it seems Germany's European hegemony is assured for a generation if not even more - especially if the second great European power is going to be Italy (oh, I am not saying this to make fun of my same country, but it is evident that Italy's capacities at the time are surely inferior than Germany, while France, A-H, Russia and Britain are burning out or going to burn like wax candles in the meanwhile...)
 
Regardless of who would win in France and in the Danubian basin, or eventually in Russia (not counting what is assuming to happen in Britain soon), it seems Germany's European hegemony is assured for a generation if not even more - especially if the second great European power is going to be Italy (oh, I am not saying this to make fun of my same country, but it is evident that Italy's capacities at the time are surely inferior than Germany, while France, A-H, Russia and Britain are burning out or going to burn like wax candles in the meanwhile...)
Well, I'm Italian too and to be fair we DO have a reputation for messing up... expecially with the political class we have ITTL. I hope they're a bit more competent than OTL... can't wait to see what's in store for us.
 
Chapter 24: Danubia Weakening
Chapter Twenty-Four: Danubia Weakening

"Valiant Serbs, take up your arms! The cause is a glorious one, one which we must strive for with every fibre of our being! You know all too well the sufferings which the cruel northerners have inflicted upon you- now take up your own destiny and free yourselves! Serbia will not forget such a deed..."
-
Serbian rebel leader Stepana Stepanovic

"We all knew something was amiss when the Romanians came back alone, without the hostages, but we said nothing. Everything seemed amiss for the next few days, as though there was a great secret which no one had told us about. Something evil hung in the air... A few nights later, we watched the Romanians and the Saxons be taken away from us. No one knew why, but we all knew in our bones that it was not for a good reason... That night, the flames awoke us all. Fire whipped through the streets, I could hear the cries of my family as they burned to death... I was terribly singed as I crept away under cover of darkness, hoping, praying that the soldiers would not catch me... I fled, living rough, and finally made my way to Hungary shortly after the New Year. Even now, I cannot bear to think of what my people went through during that period, it brings tears to my eyes..."
-
Maria Tothia, a Transylvanian Hungarian who was nine years old during the National Homogenisation Policy, recounting her own survival. Her account would subsequently be published in the 1939 book Grim Precedent: An Account of the Lesser Transylvanian Cleansing by Russian author Sergei Anatolikin, and she herself would be adopted by a Hungarian-American family in New York City in 1919.


Salzburg is a beautiful city. Seventeenth-century townhouses painted in vibrant and varied colours are surrounded by vast, stately mansions. Well-trimmed hedges and lush urban gardens provide a dash of green to offset the urban scenery, as though an artist had placed them there with a few much-needed brushstrokes. A thousand little stories take place in the city’s maze of backstreets, where children play, women sit and gossip, and vendors hawk their wares. The city is built on rolling hills, meaning that if one stands on a high vantage point, one can gaze at all this urban splendour and take it in as though it were a rich and sumptuous meal. The vast Austrian Alps rise in the distance, their grey majesty offset by lush vineyards and farms. Truly, today as in autumn 1917, the western Austrian city is gorgeous.

It was a pity that the Imperial Family wasn’t in a mood to appreciate scenery during their stay.

That the Habsburg Empire lived to see 1918 was a miracle. Following the sacking of Vienna by Hungarian rebels in late October, the empire was truly at rock bottom. Emperor Karl was dead, and his son Otto was merely five years old. Karl’s brother Maximilian had been crowned as regent; Regent-Emperor Maximilian was hiding in Salzburg. Word was spread to the different corners of the realm after a few days that the imperial seat remained occupied and that the war was far from over, but the fact that Maximilian was speaking from a capital-in-exile only highlights the poor position the regime found itself in.

Austria was militarily defensible. The Alps blanketed the entire country, making the terrain extremely difficult to move an army across. If the Hungarians tried to lunge across almost two hundred and fifty kilometres of such rugged terrain, they would find a stiff response waiting. Landwehr- local militias- could be raised and troops pulled in from other theatres to defend the provisional capital if need be. Of course, the Hungarians still possessed an immediate numerical superiority in the Vienna area: some 400,000 Hungarian troops had been committed to the attack and the defenders had made only a fraction casualties. In the short term attacking the rebel army to liberate Vienna would be suicide, but a longer-term view showed some promise for the empire. No, the problem was not an immediate military threat per se- it was a political one.

Danubia threatened to come apart at the seams. When, what felt like a lifetime ago, Emperor Karl had begun the process of reform, a new spirit had entered the air. He was a breath of fresh air, something different from the grey men in Vienna and Budapest. A new era seemed to be dawning. That attitude was now dying. Events had shown the central government to be militarily incompetent and not equal to the task of subduing their foe. If the Imperial throne couldn’t hold its realm together in a proper fashion, at what point did it lose its mandate? At what point did the other peoples of the empire have a right to secure their own futures and go their own ways? No one had definitive answers, but these questions were spreading through word of mouth and secret letter in the first half of November 1917. No open riots took place in the major cities, but there was plenty of grumbling to be had, most of it in the vein of I frankly don’t care whether or not Hungary stays with us; I want my boy home safe and sound! The deterioration in living conditions reminded far too many of the Great War- as Hungary was the breadbasket of the empire, Danubia grew increasingly dependent on food imports and was forced to increase rationing. Nobody starved, but no one enjoyed being told that they would have to go another two weeks before they could get more coal or potatoes. In sum, while the governments in the regional capitals never formally wavered in their loyalty to Maximilian and no attempts at secession were made, the war had dealt a mortal blow to the unity of Danubia, one from which it was never to recover.

As blood in the water attracts a shark, so the empire’s enemies were attracted to its weakness, and they all came out of the woodwork after the sack of Vienna. With Danubia fighting to quell Hungary and save the union, it could no longer spare energy for foreign affairs, and the empire’s geopolitical situation was irrevocably changed during the last weeks of 1917.

Nowhere was this more true than in the Balkans.

The region had always been unstable, with the Great Powers jockeying for position and newly independent states having their own smaller- but no less bitter- rivalries. For two years now, ever since autumn 1915, Danubian troops had occupied Montenegro and northern Serbia, while Bulgaria had annexed Macedonia and some surrounding territory. Albania- never the most stable of nations- had cautiously sat out the war, as had Greece; realism had forced both states to adopt pro-German policies.

The Danubian-occupied portion of Serbia was on the verge of erupting. Occupation duty in the Balkans had been a coveted task during the war, and Serbia had become something of a rest area for imperial forces throughout the war- veteran units which had distinguished themselves in combat went there for a rest and to be built up before heading back to the Russian front. When Emperor Karl announced the creation of the new constitution, many Serbians had had hopes that they could join the empire under his rule- if not as good as independence, it would at least mean that their culture would be preserved and an end to military occupation. Karl was personally sympathetic, but nationalists in the government had pitched a fit and he eventually agreed that the Serbs would have to wait ten years. This had left them furious and seething with revolt. As soon as the news came of Hungary’s secession, plots and plans were hatched, and autumn 1917 saw a number of “incidents.” Car bombs went off all across Serbia, riots and strikes took place in all the major cities, and in one charming incident, the brigadier in charge of Belgrade found that someone had put cyanide in his morning biscuits... he only survived because his porky adjutant nicked one beforehand and fell over dead shortly thereafter. As the war dragged on, the Imperial General Staff came to view the several divisions on occupation duty as an essential military asset… they were, after all, seasoned veterans. Thus, the men were shipped north to fight and replaced by fresh-faced conscripts just out of training camp who hardly knew one end of a rifle from another and had never heard a shot in anger.

The conditions were ripe for revolt.

Danubia understandably censored its papers heavily during the war. Reporters operated under considerable scrutiny, their every written word monitored by government officials. This censorship was even tighter in occupied Serbia, as no one wanted to give their occupied subjects the impression that the master was weak. However, the net of censorship was not infallible, and a message appeared in the papers from Maximilian on 6 November, proclaiming a “fight to the death.” While the article specifically referred to him as Archduke Maximilian and neglected to mention that he was speaking from Salzburg, people nonetheless put two and two together quickly. Why was Maximilian- heretofore a quiet nobleman who shied from the limelight- speaking if Karl was alive? And if Karl was dead, something had to have gone seriously wrong. Couple that with the inevitable rumours flying around and it didn’t take long for people to realise that Vienna had fallen. Elated by the news, several hundred Serbs marched in a protest down one of Belgrade’s major boulevards three days later, demanding an end to the occupation. The young conscripts, not knowing how to react, replied with CS gas and bayonets, and in the ensuing chaos twenty people died.

From then on, both sides took the gloves off.

The people of occupied Serbia took this as a sign that the empire was intent on holding them down forever, and that since Danubia was at its weakest ebb, if they were going to make a play for independence, it was now or never. As such, they acted with the desperation of men who have nothing to lose. Riots broke out in Belgrade, Sabac, and the other great cities. At this stage, there was no central direction for the uprisings, each of which operated on their own. In some ways, that only made the imperial forces more nervous; it showed the level of popular revulsion with their rule and that they couldn’t trust anyone. The situation was only exacerbated when handfuls of imperial troops of South Slavic stock defected to the enemy. Only a miniscule number of men did this, but their defections were widely publicised. Unfortunately, this led to several shocking acts of racism- in one infamous episode, a garrison of German Tyroleans lynched three ethnic Serb soldiers in their ranks. Atrocities against civilians occurred with appalling frequency- even today, the bodies of Serbian civilians executed en masse by Danubian troops are still being dug up.

Danubian troops oversee the hanging of Serbian civilians suspected of harbouring rebels, December 1917
serbianhanging.jpg



Emperor Karl would've been disgusted at how this war was being fought.

However, neither side possessed the resources for a crippling blow. The Serbian rebels were disunited, with varying goals and ideologies- some were monarchist, others republican, still others far-leftists. Rebel cells from the cities had very different outlooks on where Serbia ought to go than did their rural counterparts. The uprising was fairly weak and disorganised, and its success can be attributed less to its own power than to the weakness of its foe. As for the Danubians, losing Vienna and the pressing need to defeat Hungary meant that Serbia was nothing more than a sideshow, and they would have to pay the price of not giving it enough attention. However, the Serbs were about to get a boost from an unexpected quarter- the very nation which had stabbed them in the back and made their subjugation possible.

The situation regarding Bulgaria was complicated. The Bulgarians had joined the war in September 1915, stabbing Serbia in the back and grabbing half the country. They had a reasonably tranquil time controlling their new acquisitions, and Tsar Ferdinand’s government hoped that military occupation could be lifted and the area given full civilian status in the not-too-distant future. His task was made easier by the fact that there was no Macedonian identity as such- the division between Macedonia and Bulgaria was seen as an artificial one. Serbs were far from a majority and thus were the only ones not to profit from the new regime.

The Bulgarians had never enjoyed especially good relations with the Central Powers. Like all the newly independent Balkan states, they loathed the Ottoman Empire, remembering the half a millennium for which they’d been subject to the Turkish yoke; their partnership in the Great War had been one of convenience. Likewise, the men in Sofia viewed their alliances with Romania and Italy as short-term ones forged by a common enemy- the former had a long border on the Danube and many ethnic Bulgarian subjects while the latter was a potential rival for influence in Albania. Not even the Germans were an intimate ally- Erich von Falkenhayn had openly stated that he regarded the pact with Bulgaria as a temporary measure, and that Berlin and Sofia would likely find themselves in opposing camps before long. (2) Weakening Danubia by supporting a weak Serbia looked to be an excellent step towards the Bulgarian dream of making themselves the premiere Balkan state.

Bulgarian arms began crossing the border in the second week of November. Of course, Tsar Ferdinand’s government knew that the Danubians- and more importantly, their German patrons- would be livid if they found out; thus, subtlety was the order of the day. Many weapons were Serbian arms captured either in 1915 or in the Balkan Wars, while currency shipments were often in Danubian krone dating from before the new constitution. They also permitted volunteers to go to Serbia; many of these were Serbs whose village had been occupied by the Bulgarians, and consequently found themselves under Sofia’s rule as opposed to Vienna’s. This was a highly convenient safety valve, as it got potentially rebellious subjects out of the country while enabling Bulgaria to claim that it was merely conducting “deportations.” However, plenty of Serbian-speaking Bulgarians crossed the border and assisted the rebels. The Serbs were a long way from content at this. Bulgaria had stabbed them in the back and crushed their dreams of independence, and few had anything left to say to it. Surely, Bulgaria was only doing this out of selfish geo-political goals, and not altruism?

Time would tell...

Ultimately, the Serbs were successful in their goal of ejecting the Danubians. By the middle of December, the imperial occupation zone and Montenegro were free of enemy troops. This was a tremendous accomplishment, but the question remained: where to go from here? The rebels lacked the strength to push northwards into Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the Danubians were much more focussed on Hungary; thus, a stalemate ensued which would last until the end of the war. Serbian general Stepa Stepanovic, who had gone into hiding in the mountains of Kosovo when the Central Powers overran his native land, was tapped to head a “Provisional Council of Free Serbia”. With the great foe to the north distracted, Bulgaria quietly offering support, and the other regional powers turning a blind eye, Serbia’s future seemed more secure than it had in a long while. We shall leave the Serbs there for now, but they will be discussed soon…

While the Serbs battled for independence, a strange dynamic was occurring between Danubia and Romania. The two had never enjoyed good relations, their pact in the Great War having been a partnership of convenience as opposed to a genuine alliance. Bucharest had always coveted ethnically Romanian Transylvania, which had belonged to the Hungarian half of the empire. Many Transylvanians had desired unification with their “motherland” for decades, and the empire had had to spend a great deal of time repressing calls for autonomy or independence. The region had rebelled against Hungarian rule in August, not wanting to die for the people they hated. This was one of the few glimmers of light for the empire during an otherwise bleak time, and they welcomed Transylvania back under the fold, hoping that it would eagerly fight its Magyar rivals.

Events soon proved them wrong.

The rather hastily-convened Transylvanian rebel administration, while declaring their absolute loyalty, was oddly hesitant to enact many of the steps the other lands were taking. In the latter half of July 1917, while the other imperial regions called their young men to the colours and prepared for war at a frenzied pace, eager to win a quick victory over their Hungarian foes, Transylvania- ironically, given its historic animosity towards the Hungarians- moved at a slower pace. The government concentrated force on the Hungarian border to prevent their nascent revolt from being crushed but made no attempt to cross it. During the war, in an attempted symbol of good faith, Vienna had permitted Transylvanians to form a special volunteer unit in the Romanian military- the Transylvanian Legion. The members of this force had since returned to their home country, and could’ve been reactivated at the drop of a hat. Instead, they remained at home, plying their peacetime trades and watching the empire tear itself to shreds.

Why was Transylvania a de facto neutral in the war despite its loathing for Hungary?

The answer lies in that the men in Cluj were looking not west, but east. As mentioned above, many of the region’s Great War veterans had fought under Romanian command, and the region was ethnically identical to its eastern neighbour. The war had only increased the Romanian identity amongst Transylvania’s people. They had revolted without imperial aid, and this left them de facto their own masters. In effect, Transylvania had given itself the apparatus of a functioning state, and they hoped to use the war as an excuse to draw closer to Romania.

With Budapest distracted and Vienna… incapacitated, the Transylvanian government was free to chart its own course and conduct internal policy as it saw fit. And it was in Transylvania that one of the nastiest episodes of the Danubian Civil War took place: the “National Homogenisation Policy”. The syllable-rich name is a euphemism for an extremely vile bit of ethnic cleansing. As of 1917, well over a quarter of the region’s population- approximately half a million people- were of Magyar stock. During the period of Hungarian rule, they had enjoyed considerable power within the area; the prospect of becoming minorities in their own homeland did not endear them to the new constitution. Fighting had broken out between Transylvanian soldiers and these Hungarians in July, and dragged on well into the autumn before finally being suppressed. Ironically, the two counties where Magyars formed an absolute majority- Hargica and Koviszra- were in the eastern part of Transylvania, bordering Romania. Now, those regions lay under martial law. Gheorghe Pop de Basesti (2) had a vile plan. As part of his dream of integrating Transylvania into the mother country, he wanted to “eliminate” those Hungarians.

Gheorghe Pop de Basesti, the elderly Romanian nationalist behind the ethnic cleansing of Transylvanian Hungarians. He would be sacked postwar, but would die before he could face trial for his actions.
Gheorghepopdebasesti.jpeg


By November 1917, conditions were perfect for such a thing. The Hungarian rebels were preoccupied in the west in the wake of their conquest of Vienna, while imperial troops continued to tie large numbers of their men down in the north- in other words, there was no chance of a rebel offensive into Transylvania. The internal situation was quite clear, meaning that no serious unrest big enough to topple the government could take place. And most importantly, Emperor Karl- who, being a devout and moral Catholic, would’ve been furious had he found out what de Basesti was planning- was dead, and his successor was not only in exile in Salzburg, he appeared to have the energy and power of a dead fish.

The National Homogenisation Policy formally commenced on 7 November 1917. On that date, two Hungarian youths in the town of Borsec mugged a Romanian girl and took her by force. Her screams attracted a local soldier on patrol (3), who quickly rushed to her rescue. She was taken to hospital, but the boys got away.

Of course, this was no mere crime- the “boys” were in fact convicted criminals ordered to do this to provide a pretext for what came next; not that that saved them from hanging for rape.

The local military authorities went to great lengths to rub the story in the faces of the local Hungarian population, hoping to provoke them into revolt. They succeeded better than they could’ve hoped: some five hundred people turned up to protest at the hangings three days later. The two criminals still died, but not before a full-scale battle had broken out between the locals and the military authorities. The major in charge of Borsec pleaded that he needed more men to control the town; the government granted him an additional hundred men and told to “make any changes to the composition of (his) district deemed necessary…” Of course, the major had had a call from a high-up in Cluj, who had given him some stomach-churning and precise instructions: half of Borsec’s Hungarian males between 18 and 39 were to be dispensed with. Declaring that hostages needed to be taken to prevent further unrest, Transylvanian soldiers gathered up some four hundred seventy-five men on the tenth and marched them to a gorge four miles away. There, the first massacre of the National Homogenisation Policy occurred. Within minutes, the young lads were all dead. The Bloody Borsec Gorge, as it is known, remains preserved to the present day as a symbol of the attempted ethnic cleansing of 1917. Although the bodies have long since decayed, a plaque and statue remain above where the killing trenches were dug, surrounded by four hundred and seventy-five pairs of silver-plated hands. Of course, events such as the Borsec massacre would be vastly overshadowed by what was to occur fifteen years later- but we shall cover those grisly events in due course.

Transylvanian troops executing ethnic Magyars at Bloody Borsec Gorge.
bloodyborsecgorge.jpg


When the soldiers returned to Borsec late that day without the town’s young men, stony, hate-filled glares greeted them. People knew in their bones what had happened to their friends and family, but they couldn’t prove it- and besides, since the soldiers had the guns, arguing with them would be ill-advised.

Two days later, on the thirteenth, some three hundred inhabitants of Borsec- most of the town’s Romanian and Saxon population- were ordered to evacuate. They gave no explanation, just sharp orders from the men holding the guns that they were to move to the larger village of Toplita several miles to the west. They were given lorries to ride in and were permitted to take all of their money and whatever they could carry, along with a promise that the military authorities would give them a stipend once they arrived at the new village. The official explanation was that the recent violence had made Borsec unsafe, and that since Transylvania was run by its Romanian inhabitants for its Romanian inhabitants, the government was evacuating them for their own safety. Perplexed but unwilling to argue, the three hundred people- including the girl whose assault had ostensibly started all this- boarded the lorries… and were promptly given cash or land once they reached their new village.

The next day, Borsec burned to the ground.

This picture of Borsec aflame was taken by an unnamed Danubian soldier. Note the German-style caps the officers are wearing.
burningvillage.jpg
The government refrained from conducting a formal investigation, but the evidence clearly points to arson. The most obvious evidence of this is that someone started multiple fires in exactly the same way- in two separate locations, they found a charred container of gasoline next to the thatched cottages of Hungarian peasants. Soldiers stood on the outskirts of town to ensure nobody escaped. They were not entirely successful in this, as several Magyar women and children would escape and tell the horrible tale, but the fire completed the process of reducing a two-thousand-strong Hungarian population to nothingness. In Cluj, de Basesti was deeply pleased and took the success of what he referred to as the “Borsec operation” as a green light to pursue ethnic cleansing. Of course, there were over three hundred thousand Hungarians in Transylvania and they couldn’t all be killed, but the hope was to kill some and deport the rest. Throughout November and December 1917, deeply traumatic violence wracked Transylvania. While there were no further massacres on the scale of Borsec, there were plenty of instances of soldiers surrounding a town, executing its young, potentially dangerous, Hungarian men and deporting the women and children to concentration camps.

These atrocities would claim approximately 50,000 lives in the last two months of 1917 before de Basesti called a halt to them. Despite his best efforts, word of the atrocities leaked out to the wider world. Some Magyars fled to rebel Hungary and told Budapest their story; the rebel propaganda machine then loudly began yelling about the empire’s “massacre of innocents.” Such stories had been told before, of course- the Entente had spoken of the “Rape of Belgium” in 1914, the Russians had publicised the Armenian Genocide, and the British had yelled about the Herero Genocide to the four winds after their conquest of Namibia during the Great War. None of these atrocity stories had made much difference in the grand scheme of things. People- a horrified Emperor Maximilian included- initially suspected that the Hungarians were lying, perhaps seeking to dissuade Germany from backing Danubia, but the stories kept coming, and only gained traction after a Bulgarian newspaper printed a front-page story with images of the Bloody Borsec Gorge. Shortly after the New Year, Maximilian ordered de Basesti sacked and replaced with a less bloody-minded figure- but the empire’s position was quite different by then.

The National Homogenisation Policy was not the only way de Basesti exploited the war to further Transylvanian autonomy. Citing the fact that Vienna lay under enemy rule and that the Hungarian revolt had severed much of Transylvania’s links with the rest of the empire, de Basesti took measures to establish a Transylvanian administration with tremendous autonomy. Much of this was unofficial, of course. Officially, Transylvania had been part of Hungary for the past sixty years, and before that had fluctuated between being a province ruled from Vienna and one ruled from Budapest. While on paper, it would simply revert to the former, in practise de Basesti was building on the unique opportunities for autonomy. Since Transylvania had rebelled against Hungarian rule, and de Basesti had been the leader of that revolt, the administration was staffed by people loyal to him. With Vienna occupied, surely Maximilian would not notice if the self-appointed provincial governor changed a few things? By New Year’s Day 1918, then, Transylvania was not only without much of its Hungarian minority, it had a fully functioning governmental apparatus- all the while ignoring the war raging to its west and adopting a position of de facto neutrality. Why, then, didn’t de Basesti take the step he’d always wanted to- secede from the empire and join Romania?

One can find the answer in Berlin.

During the war, Austria-Hungary- as it was back then- had been an indispensable junior partner for Germany. Yes, the men in Berlin had been profoundly irritated by the need to mend the damage done by Franz Conrad von Hotzendorf’s blunders, but everyone at least grudgingly admitted that Vienna was essential for victory. That still held true in peacetime- Kaiser Wilhelm II and his cabinet had no interest in seeing the United Empire of the Danube collapse. Like everyone else, they recognised that something was afoot in Transylvania (even if they didn’t know what yet) and that the region was moving towards independence. One didn’t have to be a genius to see that if the area broke off from Danubia, it would at the very least become a staunch ally of Romania.

Bucharest had to be encouraged not to back Transylvanian independence.

Following a telephone call from Foreign Minister von Bethmann-Hollweg, the German ambassador to Romania visited that country’s foreign minister, a bearded man by the name of Ion Bratianu, on the last day of November. He had a simple message: the German Empire would “take it amiss” (to cloak the threat in smooth diplomatic language) if Romania recognised “any change in the status quo regarding the Danubian Kingdom of Transylvania.” Bratinau understood clearly enough and maintained his decorum during the meeting. Once the German ambassador had left his office, however, he let loose with a few choice epithets. He had discussed unification with de Basesti and both men had gotten their hopes up; furthermore, he knew significantly more about the National Homogenisation Policy than most. Bratinau had hoped to go down in history as one of the men responsible for uniting all the Romanian people under one flag; now, the Germans had made that impossible. The Germans, the Foreign Minister thundered to himself, had set the Romanian nationalist cause back by decades- they were just as bad as their Ottoman allies! After he’d calmed down a bit, he reluctantly telephoned the Prime Minister and King Ferdinand with the bad news; they had the decency not to let their disappointment slip into undiplomatic language. As Danubia and Romania remained officially at peace with full diplomatic relations, mail and telegraph cables travelled freely from Bucharest to Cluj. Thus, a wire reached Gheorghe Pop de Basesti’s office in the small hours of 1 December from Romania. It was cast in diplomatic language, but the message was clear: no Romanian support would be forthcoming if Transylvania moved towards independence, and Bucharest would never agree to absorb the region, regardless of whether the people voted for it. Coincidentally, the National Homogenisation Policy drew to a close within weeks of that cable’s reception. Transylvania would continue to sit on the sidelines and watch Danubia fight Hungary, taking no active part, but the Germans had nipped its nascent nationalist movement in the bud.

In conclusion, as 1917 drew to a close, the United Empire of the Danube position was critical. Serbia was gone for the foreseeable future, relations with Romania were shot, Transylvania’s fealty to the union was doubtful, the Italians were being extremely belligerent (4), and the inexperienced Maximilian sat on the throne. However, as they say, the night is always darkest before the storm. Help disembarked at the Salzburg train station on Christmas Day 1917…

...the Germans had arrived. Hungary’s days were numbered, and the empire’s vengeance was about to begin.

Comments?



  1. This is actually OTL
  2. Many thanks to @Rattenfänger von Memphis for giving me a link to this gentleman.
  3. Harghita and Covasna Counties, with Magyar populations in excess of 50%, were under martial law.
  4. More to come in another update! I was originally planning to combine the Italian stuff with this, but I think it’s better on its own...
 
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