Conflict in Europe | Germany loses Diplomatically, to 1902 | Steps toward War, to 1907 | Franz Joseph Annexes Bosnia-Herzegovina
In Vienna, the man most responsible for the evil war of 1914-18, Franz Joseph, being fawned over by fun loving high society ladies
Emperor Franz Joseph, Vienna, circa 1910. Despite his sense of propriety, he was the foremost villain in bringing the worst war yet to the world. As a youth he had developed a love of uniforms and the military. To the end he was devoted to his duties, his empire and to his Catholic faith.
Europe's first great war of the twentieth century had roots deep in history: conquerors holding that they had the right to rule people without their consent and that the gods approved or had directed the conquest. It was a heritage that belonged to much of Europe.
From Vienna the Habsburg monarch, Franz Joseph I (Francis-Joseph I), ruled by right of birth. Like other monarchs the Habsburgs had extended their rule where they could and called themselves emperors. Franz Joseph and other monarchs thought this right and proper. Most of them did it, which reinforced the rightness of it for each of them, and there was the approval by the monarch's patriotic and loyal subjects, who were awed by the tradition and grandeur. Some of whom looked upon their king as a father figure. And helping Franz Joseph in seeing himself as right and good was support by his church, which blessed and dignified him and saw him as defending and spreading the faith.
The imperialism of emperors conflicted with nationalism – with people wishing to be rid of foreign rule – which was especially strong in the late 1800s and early 1900s. This conflict extended into the twentieth century. It was this conflict that sparked the Great War that began in 1914. And the Great War became the foundation of World War II and marked political and social developments for the entire century – to be called the century of hate.
Peace benefited trade and a nation or empire's economy, but emperors were not dominated by the idea of maintaining peace for the sake of economic well being. That was hardly a traditional among autocratic imperialists. Neither was refraining from war because a lot of people would be killed. The imperial tradition glorified warfare, and at this point in history a lot of influential people still saw warfare as providing their fellow countrymen with the manly spirit necessary for success.
Tsar Nicholas II of Russia had an empire that extended to Germany's border and included Turkic peoples. The Habsburg monarch Franz Joseph I ruled over an empire called Austria-Hungary that included Germans, Hungarians, Czechs, Slovaks, Slovenes, Croats, some Poles, Ukrainians and Serbs. And Turkey controlled an empire – the Ottoman Empire – which included Arabia, Palestine, what is now Israel, and North Africa.
As men of power by accident of birth, monarchs were not always the brightest of men – which was to make its contribution to the outbreak of World War I. He had always worked diligently, rising to attend to his duties before dawn. He was courteous and kind to those around him. He loved his wife and was fervently devout. The Habsburgs had ruled since the tenth century, and Franz Joseph believed that rule by the head of his family was ordained by God. As he saw it he ruled by divine right rather than by accident and opportune marriages as some critics suggested.
Franz Joseph had ruled since 1848 – when he was eighteen. In the 1860s, after a short and bloody war against Italians and the French, Franz Joseph was forced to give up rule in northern Italy, but he never accepted the loss of his Italian lands. He believed that it was his duty to leave to his heir an empire as big as it was when he inherited it, and to compensate for the loss of territory in Italy he decided to extend his rule into Bosnia and Herzegovina (Hercegovina).
Bosnia and Herzegovina had been a part of Turkey's Empire. Militarily weak vis-à-vis Europe, Turkey felt compelled to submit to the decisions that Europe's imperial powers made at an international conference in 1878 – the Congress of Berlin – a conference to settle a war between Russia and Turkey. It was agreed that Russia would take control of the Turkish lands Ardahan, Kars and Batoum; that Serbia would be freed from rule by the Turks; and that temporary control over Bosnia and Herzegovina would be given to Franz Joseph, while it remained nominally a part of Turkey's empire.
Franz Joseph sent an army of 200,000 men into Bosnia and Herzegovina, believing that he was subduing an inferior people. The Catholic minority in Bosnia welcomed Franz Joseph's army, while Muslims and Orthodox Christians fought the invasion. In Sarajevo the fighting was from house to house and hand to hand. After two months of fighting, Franz Joseph's army overwhelmed its opponents, while suffering more than 5,200 killed in action – sacrifices for the glory of God and the Habsburg Empire.
Franz Joseph had succeeded in extending his empire to what he saw as its rightful size. He had pushed into an area where for centuries Roman Catholicism had been in bitter rivalry with Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Expanding into Bosnia and Herzegovina, Franz Joseph exacerbated these old antagonisms and inspired the nationalism of Bosnia and Herzegovina's Serb majority. Franz Joseph had not only won Bosnia and Herzegovina, he had won unending conflict with the Serbs – including the nation of Serbia, where people believed that the Serbs of Bosnia and Herzegovina should be allowed to be a part of a greater Serb nation.
But the conflict between Franz Joseph and the Serbs was only one ingredient in making of Europe's first great war of the twentieth century. The other ingredients turned the conflict between the Serbs and Franz Joseph into a war between a Europe divided into two opposing sides.
Copyright © 1998-2013 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.