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World War I - Central Powers

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World War I - Central Powers

Central Powers

Germany

Austria-Hungary

Ottoman Empire

Bulgaria (1915–18)

The Central Powers (German: Mittelmächte; Hungarian: Központi hatalmak; Turkish: İttifak Devletleri or Bağlaşma Devletleri; Bulgarian: Централни сили Tsentralni sili), consisting of Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria – hence also known as the Quadruple Alliance[1] (German: Vierbund) – was one of the two main factions during World War I (1914–18). It faced and was defeated by the Allied Powers that had formed around the Triple Entente, after which it was dissolved.

The Powers' origin was the alliance of Germany and Austria-Hungary in 1879. The Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria did not join until after World War I had begun.

Member states

The Central Powers consisted of the German Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the beginning of the war. The Ottoman Empire joined the Central Powers later in 1914. In 1915, the Kingdom of Bulgaria joined the alliance. The name "Central Powers" is derived from the location of these countries; all four (including the other groups that supported them except for Finland and Lithuania) were located between the Russian Empire in the east and France and the United Kingdom in the west. Finland, Azerbaijan, and Lithuania joined them in 1918 before the war ended and after the Russian Empire collapsed.

The Central Powers were composed of the following nations:[2]

Nation Entered WWI

Austria-Hungary 28 July 1914

German Empire 1 August 1914

Ottoman Empire 2 August 1914 (secret) 29 October 1914 (public)

Kingdom of Bulgaria 14 October 1915

Combatants

Germany

War justifications

In early July 1914, in the aftermath of the assassination of Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and the immediate likelihood of war between Austria-Hungary and Serbia, Kaiser Wilhelm II and the German government informed the Austro-Hungarian government that Germany would uphold its alliance with Austria-Hungary and defend it from possible Russia intervention if a war between Austria-Hungary and Serbia took place.[5] When Russia enacted a general mobilization, Germany viewed the act as provocative.[6] The Russian government promised Germany that its general mobilization did not mean preparation for war with Germany but was a reaction to the events between Austria-Hungary and Serbia.[6] The German government regarded the Russian promise of no war with Germany to be nonsense in light of its general mobilization, and Germany in turn mobilized for war.[6] On August 1, Germany sent an ultimatum to Russia stating that since both Germany and Russia were in a state of military mobilization, an effective state of war existed between the two countries.[7] Later that day, France, an ally of Russia, declared a state of general mobilization,[7]

In August 1914, Germany waged war on Russia, the German government justified military action against Russia as necessary because of Russian aggression as demonstrated by the mobilization of the Russian army that had resulted in Germany mobilizing in response.[8]

After Germany declared war on Russia, France with its alliance with Russia prepared a general mobilization in expectation of war. On 3 August 1914, Germany responded to this action by declaring war on France.[9] Germany facing a two-front war enacted what was known as the Schlieffen Plan, that involved German armed forces needing to move through Belgium and swing south into France and towards the French capital of Paris. This plan was hoped to quickly gain victory against the French and allow German forces to concentrate on the Eastern Front. Belgium was a neutral country and would not accept German forces crossing its territory. Germany disregarded Belgian neutrality and invaded the country to launch an offensive towards Paris. This caused Great Britain to declare war against the German Empire, as the action violated the Treaty of London that both nations signed in 1839 guaranteeing Belgian neutrality and defense of the kingdom if a nation reneged.

Subsequently several states declared war on Germany, including: Japan declaring war on Germany in late August 1914; Italy declaring war on Austria-Hungary in 1915 and Germany on August 27, 1916; the United States declaring war on Germany on April 6, 1917 and Greece declaring war on Germany in July 1917.

Colonies and dependencies

Europe

Upon its founding in 1871, the German Empire controlled Alsace-Lorraine as an "imperial territory" incorporated from France after the Franco-Prussian War. It was held as part of Germany's sovereign territory.

Africa

Germany held multiple African colonies at the time of World War I. All of Germany's African colonies were invaded and occupied by Allied forces during the war.

Cameroon, German East Africa, and German Southwest Africa were German colonies in Africa. Togoland was a German protectorate in Africa.

Asia

German New Guinea was a German protectorate in the Pacific. It was occupied by Australian forces in 1914.

The Kiautschou Bay concession was a German dependency in East Asia leased from China in 1898. It was occupied by Japanese forces following the Siege of Tsingtao.

Austria-Hungary

War justifications

Austria-Hungary regarded the assassination of Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand as being orchestrated with the assistance of Serbia.[5] The country viewed the assassination as setting a dangerous precedent of encouraging the country's South Slav population to rebel and threaten to tear apart the multinational country.[6] Austria-Hungary formally sent an ultimatum to Serbia demanding a full-scale investigation of Serbian government complicity in the assassination, and complete compliance by Serbia in agreeing to the terms demanded by Austria-Hungary.[5] Serbia submitted to accept most of the demands, however Austria-Hungary viewed this as insufficient and used this lack of full compliance to justify military intervention.[10] These demands have been viewed as a diplomatic cover for what was going to be an inevitable Austro-Hungarian declaration of war on Serbia.[10]

Austria-Hungary had been warned by Russia that the Russian government would not tolerate Austria-Hungary crushing Serbia.[10] However with Germany supporting Austria-Hungary's actions, the Austro-Hungarian government hoped that Russia would not intervene and that the conflict with Serbia would be a regional conflict.[5]

Austria-Hungary's invasion of Serbia resulted in Russia declaring war on the country and Germany in turn declared war on Russia, setting off the beginning of the clash of alliances that resulted in the World War.

Territory Austria-Hungary was internally divided into two states with their own governments, joined in communion through the Habsburg throne. Austrian Cisleithania contained various duchies and principalities but also the Kingdom of Bohemia, the Kingdom of Dalmatia, the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria. Hungarian Transleithania comprised the Kingdom of Hungary and the Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia. In Bosnia and Herzegovina sovereign authority was shared by both Austria and Hungary.

Ottoman Empire

War justifications

The Ottoman Empire joined the war on the side of the Central Powers in November 1914. The Ottoman Empire had gained strong economic connections with Germany through the Berlin-to-Baghdad railway project that was still incomplete at the time.[11] The Ottoman Empire made a formal alliance with Germany signed on 2 August 1914.[12] The alliance treaty expected that the Ottoman Empire would become involved in the conflict in a short amount of time.[12] However, for the first several months of the war the Ottoman Empire maintained neutrality though it allowed a German naval squadron to enter and stay near the strait of Bosphorus.[13] Ottoman officials informed the German government that the country needed time to prepare for conflict.[13] Germany provided financial aid and weapons shipments to the Ottoman Empire.[12]

After pressure escalated from the German government demanding that the Ottoman Empire fulfill its treaty obligations, or else Germany would expel the country from the alliance and terminate economic and military assistance, the Ottoman government entered the war with the recently acquired cruisers from Germany, the Yavuz Sultan Selim (formerly SMS Goeben) and the Midilli (formerly SMS Breslau) launching a naval raid on the Russian port of Odessa, thus engaging in a military action in accordance with its alliance obligations with Germany. Russia and the Triple Entente declared war on the Ottoman Empire.[14]

Bulgaria

War justifications

Central Powers leaders

...and others