Austria-Hungary had an extremely diverse state structure. At the start of the First World War it was a major power in decline. Social and political problems and the dominant nationality conflicts shook the empire to its foundations. At the same time, the Monarchy represented an enormous cultural region in which the Habsburg empire flourished in spite of the political stagnation.
On the eve of the First World War Austria-Hungary was the European state with the second-largest area after Russia. In spite of its enormous size, however, the Habsburg empire was falling behind the major European powers in many respects.