A lesser known, but equally important, member of the Central Powers was the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The assassination of its archduke sparked World War I.
The empire came into existence in 1867 when the Kingdom of Hungary and the Empire of Austria entered into a dual monarchy. The following year, the Kingdom of Croatia and Slavonia joined the union. A decade later, so did Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The dual monarchy meant there was one royal family, military and currency, but there were two governments. People were citizens of one nation or the other.
Archduke Franz Ferdinand was visiting Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, with his wife Sophie. The timing of his visit coincided with the anniversary of the 1389 Battle of Kosovo, a matter of national pride for Serbs.
The government received threats of assassination but ignored them.
As the archduke and his wife traveled through the city, a bomb was thrown at their vehicle. It bounced off the car and exploded in the crowd.
Later in the day, Franz Ferdinand decided to visit an injured policeman in the hospital. This unscheduled detour cost him and his wife their lives. Both were shot by Serbian Gavrillo Princip.
Thanks to a series of political alliances, the assassination led to the First World War starting a month later.
Involvement in World War I
The empire had limited manufacturing capabilities, so it added to the war effort with troops.
Troops fought on the Serbian, Italian and Eastern Fronts. The casualty rate was high with the death toll surpassing 1 million.
Life on the home front was far from easy. Morale was low while starvation was rampant.
The Astro-Hungarian Empire broke apart in late 1918. Today its territory is part of nearly a dozen nations.
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Updated: 21 October 2020
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