WW I The Changes in the Balance of Power • By Fall 1917, the German and Austro-Hungarian governments were determined to continue the war until final victory. Berlin had refused to make any concessions regarding Alsace-Lorraine and the Austro-Hungarian Empire was faithful to Germany in spite of the personal opinion of the new Emperor Charles. The reason for this hard position was the worsening situation of the Russian provisional government and the disintegration of Russia’s armed forces. • As soon as Lenin seized power in November 1917, he announced he wanted an immediate peace. • Four months later Russia was out of the war and the Central Powers hoped they could win a decisive victory on the western front before the arrival of the American troops. • They tried in Spring 1918 but in July 1918 the fourth German offensive in France was broken and 27 American divisions arrived on the western front. The balance of forces turned in favour of the Entente. • Austria-Hungary had entered into war in 1914 thinking only a military victory could stop the disintegration of the Habsburg Empire. The old empire fought with energy until November 1916 while Emperor Francis-Joseph (who ruled 68 years!) was alive. But war was not supported by a major part of the population and signs of crisis appeared in early 1917. The new emperor Charles was worried and nervous, and faced economic difficulties. The demands of the Polish minority in Galicia were given new impetus by the defeat of the tsarist regime in Russia. • There was a serious shortage of foodstuffs in Austria in Fall 1917, strikes occured in Vienna in January 1918 as well as a fear of a revolution. The peace with Russia and Romania gave only temporary relief. In summer 1918, French marshall Foch took the offensive against the German forces on the Western Front with numerical superiority provided by the US troops. In September, the Austro-Hungarian army was exhausted on the Italian Front and on 15 September a French-Serbian offensive broke the Bulgarian defences on the Macedonian Front. On 19 September the British armies broke through the Ottoman Front in Palestine. • The same day, Bulgaria signed a ceasefire, from then on, Istanbul, the capital of the Ottoman Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s southern flank were threatened. • On September 29, 1918, the German generals told the Kaiser that the German troops could no longer fight effectively and that Germany had to ask for peace to avoid a catastrophe. It was the military which imposed this decision on the Kaiser. • When Wilson stated that the Allies would not negotiate with the wartime leaders of Germany, the German government asked Wilhelm II to resign on October 31. • His refusal started a revolutionary movement and the German republic was proclaimed on November 9 while the army did not intervene helping the success of the revolution which was bloodless. Attention The German army was not defeated completely nor collapsed. There was no crisis in armaments but only in foodstuffs, even if the morale was hurt by the blockade. The fear of an Entente occupation of the Germany’s own soil determined the decision of the German government. The Signature of Armistices ending the First World War • Bulgaria on September 19, 1918. • the Ottoman Empire on October 30, 1918. • the Austro-Hungarian Empire on November 3, 1918. • Germany on November 11, 1918.
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