Central Powers

Summary

The Central Powers (German Mittelmächte, Hungarian Központi hatalmak, Turkish Ιτιφάκ Ντεβλετλερί Μπαγκσλαμά Ντεβλετλερί, Bulgarian Централни сили=Τσέντραлνι σίλι, consisting of Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria-hence known as the Quadruple Alliance (German Vierbund)-was one of the two coalitions that fought in World War I (1914-18).

It was confronted and defeated by the Allied Powers that had formed around the Triple Entente. The beginning of the Powers was the alliance of Germany and Austria-Hungary in 1879. Despite joining the alliance, Italy refused to participate in World War I on the side of the Central Powers. The Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria did not join until after the start of the World War, although the Ottoman Empire had maintained close relations with both Germany and Austria-Hungary since the early 20th century.

The Central Powers consisted of the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires at the beginning of the war. The Ottoman Empire joined the Central Powers later in 1914. In 1915 the Kingdom of Bulgaria joined the alliance. The name “Central Powers” comes from the location of these countries. All four (including the other supporting powers except Finland and Lithuania) were located between the Russian Empire to the east and France and the United Kingdom to the west. Finland, Azerbaijan and Lithuania joined them in 1918 before the war ended and after the collapse of the Russian Empire.

The Central Powers consisted of the following states:

Germany

In early July 1914, after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary and the imminent possibility of war between Austria-Hungary and Serbia, Kaiser Wilhelm II and the German government informed the Austro-Hungarian government that Germany would support their alliance and defend it from possible Russian intervention if a war broke out between Austria-Hungary and Serbia. When Russia declared a general mobilization, Germany considered its action aggressive. The Russian government promised Germany that its general mobilization did not mean preparation for war with Germany, but was a reaction to the events between Austria-Hungary and Serbia. The German government regarded the Russian promise of no war with Germany as meaningless in the light of its general conscription, and Germany in turn was conscripted for war. On August 1, Germany sent an ultimatum to Russia, stating that since both Germany and Russia were in a state of conscription, there was in fact a state of war between the two countries. Later that day France, an ally of Russia, declared a state of general conscription.

In August 1914 Germany started a war against Russia. The German government justified military action against Russia as necessary because of Russian aggression, as evidenced by the conscription of the Russian army which resulted in Germany”s conscription in response.

After Germany declared war on Russia, France, because of its alliance with Russia, prepared a general mobilisation in anticipation of war. On 3 August 1914 Germany responded to this action by declaring war on France. Faced with war on two fronts, Germany put into action the so-called Schlieffen Plan, which involved the movement of German armed forces through Belgium and from there the invasion of France towards the French capital of Paris. It was hoped that this plan would achieve a quick victory over the French and allow German forces to concentrate on the Eastern Front. Belgium was a neutral country and would not allow German forces to cross its territory. Germany violated Belgian neutrality and invaded the country to launch an attack on Paris. This caused Great Britain to declare war on the German Empire, as its action violated the Treaty of London signed by the two states in 1839, ensuring Belgian neutrality and the defense of the kingdom if a state violated it.

Subsequently, several states declared war on Germany in late August 1914, with Italy declaring war on Austria-Hungary in 1915 and on Germany on 27 August 1916. The United States declared war on Germany on 6 April 1917 and Greece in July 1917.

At its foundation in 1871, the German Empire controlled Alsace-Lorraine as “imperial territory” taken from France after the Franco-Prussian War. It was occupied as part of Germany”s sovereign territory.

Germany held many African colonies when World War I began. All of Germany”s African colonies were attacked and occupied by Allied forces during the war.

Cameroon, German East Africa and German Southwest Africa were German colonies in Africa. Togoland was a German protectorate in Africa.

The Kiauchu Bay concession was a German dependency in East Asia leased from China in 1898. It was occupied by Japanese forces after the Siege of Qingdao.

German New Guinea was a German protectorate in the Pacific. It was occupied by Australian forces in 1914.

German Samoa has been a German protectorate since 1899. It was occupied by the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in 1914.

Austria-Hungary

Austria-Hungary believed that the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand had been orchestrated with the help of Serbia. The country saw the assassination as a dangerous precedent for encouraging the South Slavic population of the country to revolt and threaten to secede from the multi-ethnic state. Austria-Hungary formally sent an ultimatum to Serbia, demanding a full investigation into the Serbian government”s complicity in the assassination and Serbia”s full compliance with the conditions demanded by Austria-Hungary. Serbia accepted most of the demands, but Austria-Hungary found this insufficient and used this lack of full compliance to justify military intervention. These demands have been seen as a diplomatic cover for Austria-Hungary”s inevitable declaration of war on Serbia.

Austria-Hungary had been warned by Russia that the Russian government would not tolerate its attack on Serbia. However, with Germany supporting Austria-Hungary”s actions, the Austro-Hungarian government hoped that Russia would not intervene and that the conflict with Serbia would be a regional conflict.

Austria-Hungary”s invasion of Serbia caused Russia to declare war on the country and Germany in turn declared war on Russia, starting the clash of alliances that resulted in World War II.

Austria-Hungary was internally divided into two states with their own governments, united through the Habsburg throne. The Austrian Empire contained several duchies and principalities and the Kingdom of Bohemia, the Kingdom of Dalmatia and the Kingdom of Galicia and Lombardy. The Kingdom of Hungary also included the Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, sovereignty was shared between Austria and Hungary.

Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire entered the war on the side of the Central Powers in November 1914. The Ottoman Empire had established strong economic ties with Germany through the Berlin-Baghdad Railway project, which was still incomplete at the time. The Ottoman Empire entered into a formal alliance with Germany, signed on 2 August 1914. The treaty of alliance stipulated that the Ottoman Empire would be involved in the conflict at short notice. However, in the early months of the war, the Ottoman Empire remained neutral, although it did allow a German naval squadron to enter and remain near the Bosphorus Straits. Ottoman officials informed the German government that the country needed time to prepare for the conflict. Germany provided financial aid and arms shipments to the Ottoman Empire.

After the escalation of pressure from the German government, which demanded that the Ottoman Empire fulfill its obligations under the treaty or else Germany would expel the country from the alliance and terminate economic and military aid, the Ottoman government entered the war with the newly acquired speedboats from Germany, the Yavuz Sultan Selim (formerly SMS Goeben) and the Midili (formerly SMS Breslau) conducting a naval raid on the Russian port of Odessa, thus exercising military action in accordance with the alliance”s obligations to Germany. Russia and the Triple Entente declared war on the Ottoman Empire.

Bulgaria

Bulgaria was still unhappy after its defeat in July 1913 by Serbia, Greece and Romania. It signed a treaty of defensive alliance with the Ottoman Empire on 19 August 1914. It was the last country to join the Central Powers, declaring war on Serbia in October 1915. It invaded Serbia in conjunction with the German and Austro-Hungarian forces. Bulgaria claimed the region of Vardar Macedonia, then held by Serbia after the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913 and the painful Treaty of Bucharest (1913), which was painful for Bulgaria. In return for entering the war on the side of the Central Powers, Bulgaria was given the right to demand the recovery of this territory.

Bulgaria”s declaration of war on Serbia on 14 October 1915 was followed by the declaration of war on Bulgaria by the United Kingdom and Montenegro (15 October), by France (16 October) and by Italy and Russia (19 October). Bulgaria declared war on Romania on 1 September 1916 and finally Greece declared war on Bulgaria on 2 July 1917.

State of Derby

The State of Dervish was a revolutionary state in Somalia that sought independence for that country. Its forces fought against Italian and British forces in Italian and British Somalia in World War I during the Somali campaign. The State of Derbyshire received support from Germany and the Ottoman Empire. It also briefly received support from the Ethiopian Empire in 1915-1916.

South African Republic

Unlike the South African Union, which participated in the war, the Boer rebels established the South African Republic in 1914 with the Marich Revolution. Germany assisted the rebels, who were active in and out of the German colony of German South West Africa, but were defeated by British imperial forces.

Sultanate of Darfur

The forces of the Sultanate of Darfur fought against British forces in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan during World War I in the Anglo-Egyptian Operation Darfur.

During 1917 and 1918, the Finns under Karl Gustav Emil Mannerheim and the Lithuanian nationalists fought Russia for a common cause. With the Bolshevik offensive in late 1917, the exiled Ukrainian government sought military protection first from the Central Powers and later from the armed forces of the Entente.

The Ottoman Empire also had its own allies in Azerbaijan and the North Caucasus. The three states fought together in the Army of Islam at the Battle of Baku.

Germany”s dependent states

The Belarusian People”s Republic was a dependent state of Germany created in 1918.

The Duchy of Courland and Semigallia was a dependent state of Germany created in 1918.

The Regional Government of Crimea was a dependent state of Germany created in 1918.

The Don Republic was closely linked to the German Empire and fought against the Bolsheviks.

The Kingdom of Finland was a dependent state of Germany created in 1918. Before the declaration of the kingdom Finland was an autonomous Grand Duchy of Russia since 1809.

The People”s Republic of Kuban was a dependent state of Germany created in 1918.

The Kingdom of Lithuania was a dependent state of Germany created in 1918.

The Mountainous Republic of the North Caucasus was linked to the Central Powers.

The People”s Republic of Georgia declared independence in 1918, which subsequently led to border conflicts between the newly established republic and the Ottoman Empire. Shortly afterwards, the Ottoman Empire invaded the republic and quickly reached Boriomi. This forced Georgia to ask for help from Germany, which it received. Germany forced the Ottomans to withdraw from Georgia”s territories and recognize its sovereignty over its borders. Germany, Georgia and the Ottomans signed a peace treaty, the Treaty of Batum, which ended the conflict with the latter two. In return, Georgia became an “ally” of Germany. This period of Georgian-German friendship was known as the German Caucasus Mission.

The Kingdom of Poland was a dependent state of Germany created in 1916; this government was recognized by the emperors of Germany and Austria-Hungary in November 1916 and adopted a constitution in 1917. The decision to create a state of Poland was taken by Germany to try to legitimize its military occupation among the Polish inhabitants, following German propaganda to the Polish inhabitants in 1915 that German soldiers were arriving as liberators to free Poland from its subjugation to Russia. The state was used by the German government along with punitive threats to persuade Polish landowners living in the Baltic occupied territories to move to that state and sell their Baltic properties to the Germans in exchange for their transfer to Poland, and efforts were made to induce a similar migration of Poles from Prussia to that state.

The Ukrainian State was a dependent state of Germany under Pavlo Skoropadsk, who overthrew the government of the Ukrainian People”s Republic.

The United Baltic Duchy was a dependent state of Germany in 1918.

Ottoman dependent states

In 1918 the Azerbaijan People”s Republic, facing a Bolshevik revolution and opposition from the Muslim Musavat Party, was subsequently occupied by the Ottoman Empire, which expelled the Bolsheviks while supporting the Musavat Party.The Ottoman Empire maintained a presence in Azerbaijan until the end of the war in November 1918.

Jabal Samar was an Arab state in the Middle East, closely linked to the Ottoman Empire.

Other movements supported the efforts of the Central Powers for their own reasons, such as the radical Irish Nationalists who, during the Easter Rising in Dublin in April 1916, referred to their “bronze allies in Europe”. Yet the majority of Irish nationalists supported the British and Allied war effort until 1916, when the Irish political landscape changed. In 1914, Germany and Austria-Hungary allowed Josef Piłsudski to form the independent Polish Legions. Pilsudski wanted his legions to help the Central Powers defeat Russia and then support France and the United Kingdom and win the war with them.

Bulgaria signed an armistice with the Allies on 29 September 1918, following a successful Allied advance into Macedonia. The Ottoman Empire followed suit on 30 October 1918 after British and Arab successes in Palestine and Syria. Austria and Hungary agreed to separate ceasefires in the first week of November after the breakup of Austria-Hungary and the Italian attack on Vittorio Veneto. Germany signed the armistice that ended the war on the morning of 11 November 1918 after the Hundred Days Offensive and a series of advances by New Zealand, Australian, Canadian, Belgian, British, French and US forces into northeastern France and Belgium. There was no single treaty ending the war. The Central Powers were treated under separate treaties.

Sources

  1. Κεντρικές Δυνάμεις
  2. Central Powers