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11-08-2015, 17:13

THE AUSTRO-HUNGARIAN MILITARY FORCES

One of the great surprises of the war was the stability of the Austro-Hungarian army. In Crankshaw's words, "The army was at first wholly loyal, and the greater part of it was to remain loyal, in the teeth of fearful punishment, for the next four years, justifying all the claims that had been made for its supranational quality." i'* Together, Austro-German and Hungarian troops—representing the two dominant ethnic groups in the empire— composed only 26.7 and 22.3 percent, respectively, of the army's total strength. 15 Nonetheless, Hungarians, Czechs, Slovenes, Croats, and other nationalities fought side by side. In one famous case of desertion, the Czech 28th Infantry Regiment abandoned its position in the Carpathian Mountains and went over to the Russians in April 1915; but it was an isolated event in this early stage of the war. For Hungarians, traditional enmity toward the Russians helped hold them loyally in place. For most of the south Slav nationalities, the campaigns defending the empire against the Italians proved a popular effort. The army likewise remained a force for stability within the empire. In January 1918, for example, reliable troops still stood ready to put down workers' unrest in Vienna. The mutiny of naval crews at the Gulf of Kotor in early February 1918 was a sign of danger, "the first serious disturbance among the Austro-Hungarian armed forces." It was in part the result of prolonged inactivity on vessels that had been pinned to shore by the Allied blockade of the Adriatic. But it reflected both nationalist sentiments and the sailors' awareness of the recent revolutions in Russia. Military authorities were able to put it down without difficulty. 16 Only in midsummer 1918 did mutinies, refusals to go into combat, and desertion en masse become common.

 

 

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