Outbreak of the war
End of the war

Losing Southern Styria

A dictated peace without a plebiscite

With the proclamation of German-Austria on 12 November 1918 the former Duchy of Styria became a disputed frontier area in the new republic.


On 22 November 1918 the Provisional National Assembly of German-Austria decided that Styria, too, with the exception of the areas of compact Slovene settlement, should belong to the territory of the new state. Consequently the mixed language areas including Marburg/Maribor and Pettau/Ptuj should remain with German-Austria. However, as the former south of Styria had a majority Slovene population (420,000 Slovenes and 76,000 Germans), the area south of the river Mur was also claimed by State of the Slovenes, Croats and Serbs (SHS state), which had been founded in Zagreb/Agram on 29 October 1918. 

Even before the frontier question could be resolved by means of diplomacy, troops led by Major Rudolf Majster tried to create facts on the ground by occupying Lower Styria in November 1918. Because of the catastrophic situation regarding the supply of food and the lack of military forces, Styria restricted itself to a political protest to the SHS state. This was also in line with the policies of the Council of State in Vienna headed by Chancellor Karl Renner. In order to feed its population, Austria was dependent on deliveries of food from the SHS state, which is why it did not want to jeopardize good relations. Nevertheless there were minor clashes, including the escalation known as ‘Marburg’s Bloody Sunday’ on 27 January 1919 and the uprising in Radkersburg/Radgona on 4 February 1919.

The peace negotiations in Paris did nothing to alter this situation. The Austrian delegation voted for the South Styrian districts (although the majority of the population was Slovene-speaking) to remain with German-Austria and hoped there would be a plebiscite, but neither wish was fulfilled. The Treaty of Saint-Germain awarded Lower Styria to the SHS state, Radkersburg/Radgona was divided and the surrounding communities on the left bank of the river Mur were given to the republic of Austria/German-Austria. The plebiscite which the Austrians wanted in the districts of Marburg/Maribor, Pettau/Ptuj and Luttenberg/Ljutomer was not carried out. 


Translation: Leigh Bailey


Fräss-Ehrfeld, Claudia: Geschichte Kärntens. Bd. 3/2 – Kärnten 1918-1920. Abwehrkampf – Volksabstimmung – Identitätssuche, Klagenfurt am Wörthersee 2000

Goldinger, Walter/Binder, Dieter A.: Geschichte der Republik Österreich 1918-1938, München 1992

Karner, Stefan: Die Steiermark im 20. Jahrhundert. Politik – Wirtschaft – Gesellschaft – Kultur, 2. Auflage, Graz 2005

Karner, Stefan: Steiermark. Vom Ersten Weltkrieg bis zur Gegenwart, Innsbruck/Wien 2012

Karner, Stefan: Die Abtrennung der Untersteiermark von Österreich 1918/19. Ökonomische Aspekte und Relevanz für Kärnten und die Steiermark, in: Rumpler, Helmut (Hrsg.): Kärntens Volkabstimmung 1920. Wissenschaftliche Kontroversen und historisch-politische Diskussionen anlässlich des internationalen Symposions Klagenfurt 1980, Klagenfurt 1981, 254-296

Schaffer, Roland: Die Volkswehr in der Steiermark 1918-1920, Salzburg 2012

Scheuch, Manfred: Historischer Atlas Österreich, 2. Auflage, Wien 1994

Vocelka, Karl: Geschichte Österreichs. Kultur – Gesellschaft – Politik, 3. Auflage, Graz/Wien/Köln 2002

Contents related to this chapter


  • Aspect

    After the war

    The First World War marked the end of the “long nineteenth century”. The monarchic empires were replaced by new political players. The Austro-Hungarian Monarchy disintegrated into separate nation states. The Republic of German Austria was proclaimed in November 1918, and Austria was established as a federal state in October 1920. The years after the war were highly agitated ­– in a conflicting atmosphere of revolution and defeat, and political, economic, social and cultural achievements and setbacks.


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