For it was ever so, when on the dial of fate
The hand to history’s great hour pointed,
That this people of dancers and of fiddlers stood
Like God’s angels before paradise.
(Anton Wildgans, ‘A Prayer for Austria’s People and Warriors’, August 1914)
At the end of the nineteenth century distinct fault-lines began to appear in the traditional system of great powers that had been established at the Congress of Vienna (1814/15) to promote the balance of power. Significant shifts were taking place in the European power structure.