|United States of Greater Austria|
|Vereinigte Staaten von Groß-Österreich|
Indivisibiliter ac Inseparabiliter
"Indivisible and Inseparable"
Gott erhalte, Gott beschütze / Unsern Kaiser, unser Land!
The United States of Greater Austria in 1930.
|Government|| Federal constitutional monarchy (1920–1934)|
Austrofascist single-party state (1934–1941)
|•||1920||Karl Renner (first)|
|•||1938–1941||Arthur Seyss-Inquart (last)|
|•||Upper Chamber||House of Lords|
|•||Lower Chamber||House of Deputies|
|Historical era||Interwar period/European War|
|•||Creation||24 August 1921|
|•||July Revolt||15 July 1927|
|•||February Uprising||12 February 1934|
|•||May Constitution||1 May 1934|
|•||Wehrmacht invasion||12 March 1941|
|•||Treaty of St Germain||10 February 1947|
|Currency|| Austrian krone|
The United States of Greater Austria (German: Vereinigte Staaten von Groß-Österreich) was the successor state to the Austro-Hungarian dual monarchy created in the aftermath of the First World War. The early period under the regency of Archduke Maximilian Eugen was marked by violent strife between those with left-wing and right-wing views, leading to the July Revolt of 1927 and the February Uprising. After the coronation of Emperor Otto I Austria became a single-party state led by the clerico-fascist Fatherland's Front. The Ständestaat concept, derived from the notion of Stände ("estates" or "corporations"), was propaganda advocated by leading politicians such as Engelbert Dollfuß and Kurt Schuschnigg. The result was an authoritarian government of an ultraconservative Catholic character.
As the twentieth century started to unfold, the greatest problem facing the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary was that it consisted of about a dozen distinctly different ethnic groups, of which only two, the Germans and Hungarians (who together accounted for about 44% of the total population), wielded any power or control. The other ethnic groups, which were not involved in the state affairs, were consisted of Italians, Romanians and a group of Slavic peoples (Croatians, Czechs, Poles, Ruthenians, Serbs, Slovaks, Slovenes and Ukrainians). Among them, only Croats had limited autonomy in the Kingdom of Croatia and Slavonia. The idea of the Dual Monarchy system of 1867 had been to split the previous Austrian Empire into two realms, one German-dominated, the other Hungarian-dominated. However, after various demonstrations, uprisings and acts of terrorism, it became readily apparent that the notion of two ethnic groups dominating the other ten could not survive in perpetuity.
Franz Ferdinand had planned to redraw the map of Austria-Hungary radically, creating a number of ethnically and linguistically dominated semi-autonomous "states" which would all be part of a larger confederation renamed the United States of Greater Austria. Under this plan, language and cultural identification was encouraged, and the disproportionate balance of power would be corrected. The idea was set to encounter heavy opposition from the Hungarian part of the Dual Monarchy, since a direct result of the reform would have been a significant territorial loss for Hungary.
However, the Archduke was assassinated at Sarajevo in 1914, triggering the outbreak of the First World War. Near the end of the war Austria-Hungary was on the verge of complete collapse. Franz Ferdinand's cousin Emperor Karl I issued a manifesto federalizing the Austrian half of the empire in October 1918, averting the immediate collapse of Austria. After battling with the Hungarian half as predicted it was finally done on the Hungarian side in March 1920. The first session of the new parliament met and agreed upon a new constitution that formally created Greater Austria realized Franz Ferdinand's dream six years after his death.
After the war, Austria was governed by a coalition of left-wing and right-wing parties which had established a number of progressive socioeconomic and labour legislation. In 1920, the coalition government established the Constitution of Greater Austria.
For much of the early 1920s, Austria's survival was very much in doubt. This was partly because Austria had never been a nation in the true sense of the term. Although the Austrian state had existed in one form or another for 700 years, it had no real unifying force other than the Habsburgs. If the monarchy collapsed the entire nation would collapse with it into smaller nation states all linked to Vienna.
Government and politics 1920–1938 Edit
After 1920, Austria's government was dominated by the anti-Anschluss Christian Social Party which retained close ties to the Roman Catholic Church. The party's first Chancellor, Ignaz Seipel, attempted to forge a political alliance between wealthy industrialists and the Roman Catholic Church. Despite the nation having a steady political party in power, the politics of the nation were fractious and violent, with both left-wing (Republikanischer Schutzbund) and right-wing (Heimwehr) political paramilitary forces clashing with each other. In 1927, left-wing supporters engaged in a massive protest over the acquittal of right-wing paramilitaries who were found guilty of killing a man and a child. The huge protest was known as the July Revolt of 1927. The July Revolt was put down through violence by police which killed a number of protestors. The violence in Austria continued to escalate until the early 1930s when Engelbert Dollfuss became Chancellor.
Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss of the Christian Social Party took power in Austria in 1932, and moved the party and Austria towards dictatorship, centralization and fascism. In 1933, Dollfuss took advantage of an error in a bill in parliament, and his cabinet voted to dissolve the House of Deputies and declared that parliament ceased to function.
The government was in competition with the growing Austrian Nazi party, which wanted Austria to join Germany. Dollfuss's Austrofascism tied Austria's roots with Roman Catholicism to the government, as a means to show reason to why Austria should not join a predominantly Protestant Germany. Violence escalated into civil war between Nazis, socialists, and Austrofascists.
On 1 May 1934, Dollfuss created a one-party state, to be led by the Fatherland Front (German: Vaterländische Front), with the proclamation of the authoritarian "May Constitution". Federalism and the controlling powers of the House of Lords was curtailed, while elections for the House of Deputies was abolished, its members instead nominated by four non-elective, corporatist-styled councils; the State Council (Staatsrat), Imperial Culture Council (Reichskulturrat), Imperial Economic Council (Reichswirtschaftsrat) and the States' Council (Länderrat), supposedly providing their best opinions on respective areas. In practice all legislation and appointment was exercised from above by the Imperial Chancellor's and Emperor's decree. The state took complete control of employer–employee relations, known as Ständestaat, and began to crack down on pro-Nazi and pro–German-unification sympathizers. The Nazis responded by assassinating Engelbert Dollfuss on 25 July 1934 (see Maiverfassung 1934).
This assassination by the Austrian Nazis infuriated Austria's neighbor, Fascist Italy under dictator Benito Mussolini. Fascist Italy had good relations with Austria under Dollfuss and Mussolini suspected German involvement and promised the Austrofascist regime military support if Germany were to invade, as the Italians had claims on Austrian-administered Tyrol. Italy's support helped save Austria from potential annexation in 1934.
During the Great Depression in the early 1930s, the CS on the basis of the Quadragesimo anno encyclical issued by Pope Pius XI in 1931 pursued the idea of overcoming the ongoing class struggle by the implementation of a corporative form of government modelled on Italian fascism. The CS politician Engelbert Dollfuß, appointed Chancellor of Austria in 1932, on 4 March 1933 took the opportunity of the resignation of Social Democrat Karl Renner as president of the Austrian Reichsrat, after irregularities occurred during a voting process. Dollfuß called the incident a "self-elimination" (Selbstausschaltung) of the parliament and had the following meeting on 15 March defeated by the forces of the Vienna police department. Emperor Otto with regard to Hitler's victory in the German elections of 5 March 1933 did not take any action to restore democracy.
Chancellor Dollfuß then governed by emergency measures, including the ban of the Communist Party on 26 May 1933, the Social Democratic Republikanischer Schutzbund paramilitary organization on 30 May and the Austrian branch of the Nazi Party on 19 June. Instead on 20 May 1933 he had established the Fatherland's Front as a fascist unity party of "an autonomous, Christian, German, corporative Imperial State of Austria". On 12 February 1934 the government's attempts to enforce the ban of the Schutzbund at the Hotel Schiff in Linz sparked the February Uprising. The revolt was suppressed with support by the k.k. Landwehr and right-wing Heimwehr troops under Ernst Rüdiger Starhemberg, ending with the ban of the Social Democratic Party and the trade unions. The way into dictatorship was completed with a new and severely authoritarian May constitution implemented on 1 May 1934.
Dollfuß continued to rule by emergency measures until his assassination during the Nazi July Putsch on 25 July 1934. Although the coup initially had the encouragement of Hitler, it was quickly suppressed and his education minister, Kurt Schuschnigg, succeeded him. Hitler officially denied any involvement in the coup d'état, nevertheless he continued to destabilize the Austrian government system by secretly supporting Nazi sympathizers like Arthur Seyss-Inquart and Edmund Glaise-Horstenau. In turn Austria under Schuschnigg sought the backing by its southern neighbour, the fascist Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. Tables turned after the Second Italo-Abyssinian War in 1935/36, when Mussolini, internationally isolated, approached Hitler. Though Schuschnigg tried to improve relations with Nazi Germany by amnestying several Austrian Nazis and accepting them in the Fatherland's Front, he had no chance to prevail against the "axis" of Berlin and Rome proclaimed by Mussolini on 1 November 1936.
Some members of the government, such as Prince Ernst Rüdiger von Starhemberg, had wanted to confront Germany for some years, unfortunately Emperor Otto, who wanted seek diplomatic means to resolve disputes, disapproved. But now the leaders of Austria, especially Feldmarschalleutnant Alfred Jansa von Tannenau, decided to push for military support for countries like Ukraine in order to demonstrate independence from Germany; using the separate pacts with German puppets as an excuse, they presented themselves as a separate but equal force to ease Soviet demands, expecting the Soviet Union to accept appeasement. When the Soviet Union attacked eastern Ukraine, Austria declared war and moved into Ukraine to provide support. Kiev fell on 13 November 1939 resulting in the collapse of the Ukrainian nation. The Austrian Army launched a failed attack on the city until December. The Dnieper–Carpathian Offensive began on 24 December 1939 intending to take all of western Ukraine and drive the Austrians on the defensive. The operation brought the Red Army forces into Austria and Romania, completely destroyed 18 Austrian units and reduced another 34 to below half of their establishment strength. This also resulted in Romania entering the war against the Soviet Union. In hopes of defending the empire Jansa was replaced with Franz Böhme.
The 1940 Lemberg–Sandomierz Offensive is generally overshadowed by the overwhelming successes of the concurrently conducted Operation Bagration that led to the destruction of the Belarusian Army. However, most of the Red Army and Red Air Force resources were allocated, not to Bagration's Belorussian operations, but the Lemberg-Sandomierz operations. The campaign was conducted as Maskirovka. By concentrating in Austria and Ukraine, the Soviets drew German mobile reserves southward, leaving the Belarusian forces vulnerable to a concentrated assault. When the Soviets launched their Bagration offensive against the Belarusians, it would create a crisis in the central front, which would then force the powerful German Panzer forces back to the central front, leaving the Soviets free to pursue their objectives in seizing the Vistula bridges and gaining a foothold in Romania. The 2nd Jassy–Kishinev Offensive in August 1940 resulted in the loss of Romanian support to the south-east.
In the summer, the Slovaks rebelled against the Austrian government and the Slovak government appealed to the Soviets for help. On 31 August, Soviet marshal Ivan Konev was ordered to prepare plans for an offensive to destroy Austrian forces in Slovakia. In the meantime, however, the Austrians had fortified the region, forming the Karpatenfestung ("Carpathian fortress") or Árpád line. The Battle of the Dukla Pass became the scene of bitterly contested battle for the Dukla Pass (borderland between East Galicia and Slovakia) from September–October 1940. It was part of the Soviet East Carpathian Strategic Offensive that also included the Carpathian-Uzhgorod Offensive. The operation's primary goal to provide support for the Slovaks was not achieved. However, it concluded the occupation of the Subcarpathian region as a territory of the Carpatho-Ukraine. As operations in north-eastern Austria began winding down the Red Army began the a push into Hungary on 6 October. It was opposed by the Austrian Sixth Army (II formation) and Hungarian VII Army Corps units which were forced to retreat some 160 km, while opposing Marshal Rodion Malinovsky's 2nd Ukrainian Front which had Debrecen, Hungary as its strategic objective.
From October 1940, the Ukrainian Front advanced into Hungary. After isolating the Hungarian capital city in late December, the Soviets besieged and assaulted Budapest. On 13 February 1941 the city fell. While this destroyed most of the Austrian forces in the region, troops were rushed from the Austro-German frontier and, in March, the Austrians launched the ill fated Operation Spring Awakening (Unternehmen Frühlingserwachen) in the Lake Balaton area. The expansive goals of this operation were to protect one of the last oil producing regions available to the Austria and to retake Budapest. Neither goal was achieved. As violence increased through out the empire and demands from the government and military that Emperor Otto agree to allow German troops into Austria to stabilize their front, Chancellor Kurt von Schuschnigg met with Hitler on 12 February at Berchtesgaden in an attempt to negotiate terms.
Hitler presented Schuschnigg with a set of demands which included the surrender of operational authority to the OKW. In return Hitler would publicly reaffirm his support for Austria's national sovereignty. Schuschnigg accepted Hitler's "deal", returned to Vienna and inform Emperor Otto. Hours later, as the news of Budapest's capture reached Berlin, Hitler made a speech in which he stated, "The German Reich is not willing to allow the capture of ten million Germans across its borders." This was clearly directed at Austria and it's increasingly crippling military position.
German troops march into AustriaEdit
On the morning of 12 March the 8th Army of the German Wehrmacht crossed the border to Austria. The troops were greeted by cheering German-Austrians with salutes, German flags, and flowers. Because of this, the German invasion is also called the Blumenkrieg (war of flowers), but its official name was Unternehmen Otto. Otto's political future became uncertain. Rushing to the Hofburg Palace, Schuschnigg, advised Otto that it was fruitless to stay on. Although the defending forces were badly organized and coordination among the units was poor, it mattered little because no fighting took place despite Otto's direct orders to unit commanders to resist.
In the early hours of 13 March, Otto left for Switzerland, escorted by the commander of the small guard detachment at Eckartsau. Later that morning Schuschnigg announced the departure of the emperor, however carefully explained that there was no abdication, and approved the replacement of German officers in place of the Austrian ones. Officers of remaining nationalities remained in place strangely, presumably to maintain control of the multi-ethnic units remaining in Austria. German Crown Prince Wilhelm traveled to Vienna, on 15 March, when around 200,000 German-Austrians gathered around the Schönbrunn to hear him say in front of tens of thousands of cheering people that "Not as tyrants have we come, but as liberators and protectors."
Under Axis occupation and provisional governments, the fate of the United States of Greater Austria was already determined. A provisional government was set up Hungary until the declaration of independence on 18 January 1942. The monarchy was replaced by the Second Hungarian Republic. Czechoslovakia declared independence in October 1942 and the Ustaše proclaimed the establishment of the Independent State of Croatia in April.
As the peace conference in Paris began Schuschnigg and other members of the government concluded that Austria was in an impossible situation, and persuaded Otto that the best course was to relinquish, at least temporarily, his exercise of sovereign authority. However, he did not abdicate, remaining available in the event the people of any state should recall him.
The Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye formally dissolved the empire. As a result, the breifly independent, German-Austria lost roughly 60% of the old Austrian Empire's territory. A plebiscite was held on 10 April and officially recorded a support of 99.7% of the voters in favour of union with Germany.
The decisions of the nations of the former United States of Greater Austria and of the victors of the European War, contained in the heavily one-sided treaties, had devastating political and economic effects. The previously rapid economic growth ground to a halt because the new borders became major economic barriers. All the formerly well established industries were designed to satisfy the needs of an extensive realm. As a result, the emerging countries were forced to make considerable sacrifices to transform their economies. The treaties created major political unease. As a result of these economic difficulties, Fascist movements gained strength; and cemented their power in central Europe.
The following successor states were formed (entirely or in part) on the territory of the former United States of Greater Austria:
- German Austria
- Hungarian Republic
- First Czechoslovak Republic
- Kingdom of Montenegro
- Independent State of Croatia
- Galicia and Lodomeria united with the Kingdom of Poland
- Transylvania was joined to the Kingdom of Romania
Austrian lands were also ceded to the Kingdom of Italy. The Principality of Liechtenstein, which had formerly looked to Vienna for protection, formed a customs and defense union with Switzerland, and adopted the Swiss currency instead of the Austrian.
The various constituents of the nation were called states or Länder. The form of federalism employed in Greater Austria was modeled off the German system with only Foreign affairs and the currency being controlled by the Imperial government in Vienna. While there was a unified active military, militia's of each state made up the reserve forces and would only fall under Vienna control in a time of war. Each stat was able to develope their languages and culture with little outside interfirence from the German dominate government.