In the late XIX - early XX century, the Austro-Hungarian Empire had significant economic, political and military potential. As is known, the beginning of the century is characterized by a tense international situation, in which central place belonged to Austria-Hungary, to the extent that it included the territories of the Balkan Peninsula. And as you know, the Balkans are the “powder keg” of Europe. World War I will start here. Its preconditions and contradictions were born not only in Germany, Britain, but by and large in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which was destined not only to become an ally of the Tripartite Union, but also to fight against the Russian Empire.
Internal political position in the empire
To better understand the state of affairs in Austria-Hungary at the beginning of the 20th century, we will try to compare countries that fought in the First World War from different military-political blocs. Perhaps the most appropriate comparison will be the Austro-Hungarian and Russian empires.
The similarity of the situation is amazing. Like the Russian Empire, Austria-Hungary was a large continental state, which in terms of its development was not inferior (and in some aspects exceeded) the advanced countries of Europe. Austria-Hungary, like Russia, was literally torn by internal contradictions, primarily national ones.
The structure of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy included many nationalities and peoples. The struggle of these small nations (Poles, Croats, Romanians, Serbs, Slovenes, Ukrainians, Czechs, Slovaks) for self-determination, the expansion of administrative and cultural rights very strongly swayed the stability of the empire from within. It is necessary to take into account the aspect that Austria-Hungary claimed for a unique structure of state administration, which was built on the authority of two monarchs. And this greatly aggravated the domestic political situation.
State foreign policy
The geopolitical interest of the empire was concentrated in the Balkan Peninsula, and Russia claimed this territory. They were inhabited by Slavic peoples, who at the beginning of the century were under the yoke of the Ottoman Empire, the eternal enemy of both Austria-Hungary and Russia. But with a fair division of the Balkans, both empires did not agree, therefore the conflict of great powers deepened every year, and it was not only Austria-Hungary that aggravated it. The Empire and Russia fanned this conflict equally.
Serbia has become the apple of inevitable contention between states. Strengthened in the two Balkan wars of 1912–1913. The Slavic kingdom created serious problems for Austria-Hungary, expressing ideas about independence. This policy of the King of Serbia, Peter Karageorgievich, was promoted by Russia, the longtime brother of the Serbian people. Given this state of affairs, the Austro-Hungarian government could only count on a forceful solution to the problem.
Army and its structure
The foreign policy task of such a level of complexity was assigned to the imperial and royal army of Austria-Hungary. That was the name of the armed forces of the empire. The army, like the entire state, was heterogeneous. It consisted of Austrians, Hungarians, Croats, Bosnians and representatives of other nations that are part of the country. The Austro-Hungarian troops were divided into four components: the imperial and royal army landwehr, the Bosnian-Herzegovina army, the royal Hungarian forces and the imperial royal forces. All of them, respectively, had bodies of military and territorial administration. The territorial aspect in the army gave rise to a lot of contradictions, since the governments of Austria and Hungary contributed to the development of Honved and Landwehr and, on the contrary, tried to deprive the rest of the troops.
Many flaws and contradictions were in the officer corps. Military academies educated officers in the spirit of old, already obsolete traditions. The military were bureaucratic and were able to carry out only maneuvers, and in no way hostilities. There was no theoretical, living military thought in the army. Anyway, many officers were nationalist-minded and ardent anti-monarchists.
But to speak only about the negative state of the Austro-Hungarian army is not necessary, of course, there were strengths. The imperial and royal army was distinguished by particularly high mobility. A small territory of the empire and a developed network of railways allowed the troops to move faster than all the armies of the continent. Austria-Hungary was second only to Germany in terms of technological equipment for the army. The industry of the state, by virtue of its development, could allow a very good supply of the army, even in military conditions. But if the war had a protracted nature, all the advantages would have been lost. A lot of European states were in a similar position, and Austria-Hungary is no exception. The First World War, which is about to begin, will put everything in its place.
Empire in the early twentieth century
Thus, you can state the fact that at the beginning of the 20th century the Austro-Hungarian Empire was in crisis, both external and internal. Austria-Hungary in the 19th century consolidated on the map of Europe, but it failed to hold the leading position, which led to an increase in contradictions in the national question, in the armed forces and geopolitical strategies.