Outbreak of the war
End of the war

"Wartime absolutism" – and the revocation of civic rights

The new military mobilisation led to a system of political coercion in Austria Hungary, which is referred to in the historical literature as "wartime absolutism". This was made possible by several emergency regulations that had already been laid down in the 1867 "December Constitution" in the form of the Emperor's powers to issue emergency decrees, as well as in the right to suspend selected basic rights.

Until the outbreak of the First World War, Austrian parliamentary affairs were dominated by the resistance and conflicts between and within the individual nationalities of the Empire. This impaired the function of the Austrian Reichsrat, which repeatedly led to its proverbial ‘paralysis’, as also happened on 16 March 1914 when the Stürgkh government once again suspended it indefinitely. The war and emergency provisions were therefore issued via what was known as the dictatorship paragraph (Joseph Redlich), Section 14 of the 1867 Staatsgrundgesetz über die Reichsvertretung (Constitution Law on Representation in the Imperial Diet).

On 26 July 1914, i.e. two days before the official declaration of war on Serbia, a special regulation for the state of war entered into effect, the preparation of which dated back to the second half of the 19th century as well as to 1912 (Enactment of emergency provisions in the event of war). Through these special provisions the right to personal freedom and the rights of assembly and association were suspended. In addition, postal secrecy, the inviolability of the home as well as the freedom of speech and of the press were suspended. At the same time, the jury courts in all the countries of the Austrian half of the Empire were abolished, civil persons in certain areas and certain cases subjected to the jurisdiction of the military courts and all industrial enterprises of importance to the war in the Austrian half of the Empire placed under the "War Effort Act" of 1912. In this way, they were subordinated to military leadership and their employees placed under military disciplinary and penal jurisdiction.

According to historian Hans Hautmann, the emergency provisions of the Habsburg Monarchy went furthest amongst those of the warring nations. For the population, the state of emergency meant above all considerable restrictions of their personal rights and general civic rights, which were subordinated to military objectives.

Translation: David Wright


Ehrenpreis, Petronilla: Kriegs- und Friedensziele im Diskurs. Regierung und deutschsprachige Öffentlichkeit Österreich-Ungarns während des Ersten Weltkriegs, Innsbruck/Wien/Bozen 2005

Hautmann, Hans: Kriegsgesetze und Militärjustiz in der österreichischen Reichshälfte 1914-1918, in: Weinzierl, Erika/Stadler, Karl R. (Hrsg.): Justiz und Zeitgeschichte, Wien 1977, 101-122

Kuprian, Hermann J.W.: Warfare–Welfare. Gesellschaft, Politik und Militarisierung in Österreich während des Ersten Weltkrieges. In: Brigitte Mazohl-Wallnig/Hermann J.W. Kuprian/Gunda Barth-Scalmani (Hrsg.): Ein Krieg–zwei Schützengräben. Österreich–Italien und der Erste Weltkrieg in den Dolomiten 1915-1918, Innsbruck/Bozen 2005, 165-177

Rebhan-Glück, Ines: „Wenn wir nur glücklich wieder beisammen wären …“ Der Krieg, der Frieden und die Liebe am Beispiel der Feldpostkorrespondenz von Mathilde und Ottokar Hanzel (1917/18), Unveröffentlichte Diplomarbeit, Wien 2010

Spann, Gustav: Zensur in Österreich während des Ersten Weltkrieges 1914-1918, Unveröffentlichte Dissertation, Universität Wien 1972



„dictatorship paragraph“: Joseph Redlich: Österreichische Regierung und Verwaltung im Weltkriege, Wien 1928, 113, zitiert nach: Hautmann, Hans: Kriegsgesetze und Militärjustiz in der österreichischen Reichshälfte 1914-1918, in: Weinzierl, Erika/Stadler, Karl R. (Hrsg.): Justiz und Zeitgeschichte, Wien 1977, 102

„[...] went furthest amongst those …“: Hautmann, Hans: Kriegsgesetze und Militärjustiz in der österreichischen Reichshälfte 1914-1918, in: Weinzierl, Erika/Stadler, Karl R. (Hrsg.): Justiz und Zeitgeschichte, Wien 1977, 105

Contents related to this chapter


  • Aspect

    On the eve of war

    The last decade of the nineteenth century and the first of the twentieth were a time of modernisation, mechanisation and speed. In 1910, Vienna, capital of the Habsburg empire, had 2.1 million inhabitants and had grown to become an international metropolis. New technologies changed working life and leisure. Railways increased mobility, as did the bicycle, motor vehicle and aeroplane. How did this development manifest itself and what other trends emerged in the last years before the outbreak of the First World War?

  • Aspect

    Guiding the masses

    Guiding the mood of the masses was an important aspect of warfare during the First World War. Considerable information and communication work was carried out to persuade the population of the “true facts”. All areas of life were influenced by propaganda in a way that had not been seen hitherto: reports in the newspapers, posters on the walls, even teaching material in schools now communicated controlled information. What methods and media were used? How did the various warring nations attempt to influence public opinion? What was communicated and how effective was the propaganda?

Persons, Objects & Events

  • Object

    Monitoring & control

    Everyday life in the Habsburg Monarchy was characterised by propaganda, monitoring and control, as can be seen by the many blank spaces in the daily newspapers and deletions in private correspondence and telegrams. At the same time an attempt was made in texts and audio-visual media to whip up general enthusiasm for the war. Not even the youngest inhabitants of the empire remained untouched, and the influence of the state was also felt in the schools of the Monarchy.