Outbreak of the war
End of the war

‘To My faithful Austrian peoples’ – Emperor Karl’s manifesto

On 16 October 1918, after it had become clear that the negotiations conducted by the imperial government with the deputies of the Reichsrat and the representatives of the nationalities would be unsuccessful, Emperor Karl published an appeal with an invitation to his peoples to take part in a complete restructuring of the Austrian Monarchy.

‘To My faithful Austrian peoples!

Since I ascended the throne, I have constantly endeavoured to achieve for all my peoples the peace they long for and to show to the peoples of Austria the paths along which they may, unhindered by obstacles and conflict, bring their powerful national identities to richly beneficial fruition. The terrible struggle of the world war has hitherto impeded the work of peace. (...) In accordance with the will of its peoples, Austria is to become a federal state in which each nationality shall form its own polity on the territory on which it lives. (...) This reshaping, which shall in no way affect the integrity of the lands of the holy Hungarian crown, is intended to give each individual national state its independence.’

This initiative, which came to be known as Karl’s ‘Manifesto to the Peoples’, emphasized the Emperor’s intention to transform the Austrian half of the Monarchy into a federal state with far-reaching autonomy for the national groups. His offer, however, came far too late. In addition, he categorically excluded the Hungarian half of the Monarchy, where the problem of the nationalities had been made particularly serious by the Hungarian government’s relentless policy of Magyarization.

The representatives of the nationalities saw the belated offer of federalization not as an invitation to take part in a reform programme but as a chance to determine their own future independently, with the option of leaving the Monarchy becoming an ever more realistic possibility. With his Manifesto Karl thus unwittingly accelerated the disintegration of the Monarchy as a political entity. 

Translation: Peter John Nicholson


Bihl, Wolfdieter: Der Erste Weltkrieg 1914–1918. Chronik – Daten – Fakten, Wien/Köln/Weimar 2010

Gottsmann, Andreas (Hrsg.): Karl I. (IV.), der Erste Weltkrieg und das Ende der Donaumonarchie, Wien 2007  

Leidinger, Hannes/Moritz, Verena/Schippler, Bernd: Schwarzbuch der Habsburger. Die unrühmliche Geschichte eines Herrscherhauses (2. Auflage, ungekürzte Taschenbuchausgabe), Innsbruck [u.a.]  2010


'To my fatihful Austrian peoples ...', Kaiser Karl I., quoted from: Bihl, Wolfdieter: Der Erste Weltkrieg 1914–1918. Chronik – Daten – Fakten, Wien/Köln/Weimar 2010, 230 (translation)

Contents related to this chapter


  • Aspect

    “Viribus unitis” or prison of nations?

    The multi-ethnic Austria-Hungary formed a relatively stable environment for the co-existence of the many ethnic communities. The much-vaunted “unity in diversity” was in fact overshadowed by numerous inequalities. This was illustrated above all in the differing weight of the various language groups involved in political and economic rule. These inequalities were increasingly challenged by the disadvantaged nationalities. As a result, the nationality issue dominated political affairs, leading to destabilisation of the Monarchy.

Persons, Objects & Events

  • Person

    Karl I.

    The last Emperor acceded to the throne in 1916 and reigned until the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy in November 1918.


  • Development

    National attitudes to the war

    The Habsburg Monarchy as a state framework for the smaller nationalities of Central Europe was not seriously questioned before 1914, either internally or externally. With the outbreak of war, representatives of the nationalities initially emphasised their loyalty to the Monarchy’s war aims.