|Historical era||World War I|
• Dual Alliance
|7 October 1879|
|28 June 1914|
|2 August 1914|
|11 November 1969|
The Central Powers, also known as the Central Empires,was one of the two main coalitions that fought World War I (1914–18). It consisted of Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria; hence it is also known as the Quadruple Alliance. Colonies of these countries also fought on the Central Powers' side such as German New Guinea and German East Africa, until almost all of their colonies were occupied by the Allies.
The Central Powers faced and were defeated by the Allied Powers that had formed around the Triple Entente. The Central Powers' origin was the alliance of Germany and Austria-Hungary in 1879. Despite having nominally joined the Triple Alliance before, Italy did not take part in World War I on the side of the Central Powers. The Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria did not join until after World War I had begun, even though the Ottoman Empire had retained close relations with both Germany and Austria-Hungary since the beginning of the 20th century.
The Central Powers consisted of the German Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the beginning of the war. The Ottoman Empire joined later in 1914, followed by the Kingdom of Bulgaria in 1915. 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 right before the war ended and after the Russian Empire collapsed.
The Central Powers were composed of the following nations:
|Austria-Hungary||28 July 1914|
|Germany||1 August 1914|
|Ottoman Empire||2 August 1914 (secret)|
29 October 1914 (public)
|Bulgaria||14 October 1915|
|GDP per capita|
|Ottoman Empire (1914)||23.0||1.8||25.3||1,100|
|Mobilized||Killed in action||Wounded||Missing in action||Total casualties||Percentage casualties of total force mobilized|
|Ottoman Empire||2,998,321||325,000 (10.84%)||400,000||250,000||975,000||34%|
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 Russian intervention if a war between Austria-Hungary and Serbia took place.When Russia enacted a general mobilization, Germany viewed the act as provocative. 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. 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. On 1 August, 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. Later that day, France, an ally of Russia, declared a state of general mobilization.
In August 1914, Germany waged war on Russia, citing Russian aggression as demonstrated by the mobilization of the Russian army, which had resulted in Germany mobilizing in response.
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.Germany, facing a two-front war, enacted what was known as the Schlieffen Plan, which 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 in late August 1914, with Italy declaring war on Austria-Hungary in 1915 and Germany on 27 August 1916, the United States declaring war on Germany on 6 April 1917 and Greece declaring war on Germany in July 1917.
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.
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.
Kamerun, German East Africa, and German Southwest Africa were German colonies in Africa. Togoland was a German protectorate in Africa.
The Kiautschou Bay concession was a German dependency in East Asia leased from China in 1898. Japanese forces occupied it following the Siege of Tsingtao.
German New Guinea was a German protectorate in the Pacific. It was occupied by Australian forces in 1914.
German Samoa was a German protectorate following the Tripartite Convention. It was occupied by the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in 1914.
Austria-Hungary regarded the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand as being orchestrated with the assistance of Serbia.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. 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. 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. These demands have been viewed as a diplomatic cover for what was going to be an inevitable Austro-Hungarian declaration of war on Serbia.
Russia had warned Austria-Hungary that the Russian government would not tolerate Austria-Hungary invading Serbia.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 remain a regional conflict.
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.
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.
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.The Ottoman Empire made a formal alliance with Germany signed on 2 August 1914. The alliance treaty expected that the Ottoman Empire would become involved in the conflict in a short amount of time. 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. Ottoman officials informed the German government that the country needed time to prepare for conflict. Germany provided financial aid and weapons shipments to the Ottoman Empire.
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 military action in accordance with its alliance obligations with Germany. Russia and the Triple Entente declared war on the Ottoman Empire.
Bulgaria was still resentful after its defeat in July 1913 at the hands of Serbia, Greece and Romania. It signed a treaty of defensive alliance with the Ottoman Empire on 19 August 1914. It was the last country to join the Central Powers, which Bulgaria did in October 1915 by declaring war on Serbia. It invaded Serbia in conjunction with German and Austro-Hungarian forces. Bulgaria held claims on the region of Vardar Macedonia then held by Serbia following the Balkan Wars of 1912–1913 and the Treaty of Bucharest (1913).As a condition of entering WW1 on the side of the Central Powers, Bulgaria was granted the right to reclaim that territory.
|Date||Declared by||Declared against|
|15 October|| United Kingdom|
|19 October|| Italy|
In opposition to offensive operations by Union of South Africa, which had joined the war, Boer army officers of what is now known as the Maritz Rebellion "refounded" the South African Republic in September 1914. Germany assisted the rebels, some rebels operating in and out of the German colony of German South-West Africa. The rebels were all defeated or captured by South African government forces by 4 February 1915.
The Senussi Order was a Muslim political-religious tariqa (Sufi order) and clan in Libya, previously under Ottoman control, which had been lost to Italy in 1912. In 1915, they were courted by the Ottoman Empire and Germany, and Grand Senussi Ahmed Sharif as-Senussi declared jihad and attacked the Italians in Libya and British controlled Egypt in the Senussi Campaign.
In 1915 the Sultanate of Darfur renounced allegiance to the Sudan government and aligned with the Ottomans. The Anglo-Egyptian Darfur Expedition preemptively in March 1916 to prevent an attack on Sudan and took control of the Sultanate by November 1916.
During 1917 and 1918, the Finns under Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim and Lithuanian nationalists fought Russia for a common cause. With the Bolshevik attack of late 1917, the General Secretariat of Ukraine sought military protection first from the Central Powers and later from the armed forces of the Entente.
The Ottoman Empire also had its own allies in Azerbaijan and the Northern Caucasus. The three nations fought alongside each other under the Army of Islam in the Battle of Baku.
The Kingdom of Poland was a client state of Germany proclaimed in 1916 and established on 14 January 1917.This government was recognized by the emperors of Germany and Austria-Hungary in November 1916, and it adopted a constitution in 1917. The decision to create a Polish State was taken by Germany in order to attempt to legitimize its military occupation amongst the Polish inhabitants, following upon German propaganda sent to Polish inhabitants in 1915 that German soldiers were arriving as liberators to free Poland from subjugation by Russia. The German government utilized the state alongside punitive threats to induce Polish landowners living in the German-occupied Baltic territories to move to the state and sell their Baltic property to Germans in exchange for moving to Poland. Efforts were made to induce similar emigration of Poles from Prussia to the state.
The Kingdom of Lithuania was a client state of Germany created on 16 February 1918.
The Belarusian People's Republic was a client state of Germany created on 9 March 1918.
The Ukrainian State was a client state of Germany led by Hetman Pavlo Skoropadskyi from 29 April 1918, after the government of the Ukrainian People's Republic was overthrown.
The Duchy of Courland and Semigallia was a client state of Germany created on 8 March 1918.
The Baltic State also known as the "United Baltic Duchy", was proclaimed on 22 September 1918 by the Baltic German ruling class. It was to encompass the former Estonian governorates and incorporate the recently established Courland and Semigallia into a unified state. An armed force in the form of the Baltische Landeswehr was created in November 1918, just before the surrender of Germany, which would participate in the Russian Civil War in the Baltics.
Finland had existed as an autonomous Grand Duchy of Russia since 1809, and the collapse of the Russian Empire in 1917 gave it its independence. Following the end of the Finnish Civil War, in which Germany supported the "White" against the Soviet-backed labour movement, in May 1918, there were moves to create a Kingdom of Finland. A German prince was elected, but the Armistice intervened.
The Crimean Regional Government was a client state of Germany created on 25 June 1918.
The Democratic Republic of Georgia declared independence in 1918 which then led to border conflicts between the newly formed republic and Ottoman Empire. Soon after Ottoman Empire invaded the republic and quickly reached Borjomi. This forced Georgia to ask for help from Germany, which they were granted. Germany forced the Ottomans to withdraw from Georgian territories and recognize Georgian sovereignty. Germany, Georgia and the Ottomans signed a peace treaty, the Treaty of Batum which ended the conflict with the last two. In return, Georgia became a German "ally". This time period of Georgian-German friendship was known as German Caucasus expedition.
Jabal Shammar was an Arab state in the Middle East that was closely associated with the Ottoman Empire.
In 1918, the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, facing Bolshevik revolution and opposition from the Muslim Musavat Party, was then occupied by the Ottoman Empire, which expelled the Bolsheviks while supporting the Musavat Party.The Ottoman Empire maintained a presence in Azerbaijan until the end of the war in November 1918.
The Mountainous Republic of the Northern Caucasus was associated with the Central Powers.
States listed in this section were not officially members of the Central Powers. Still, during the war, they cooperated with one or more Central Powers members on a level that makes their neutrality disputable.
The Ethiopian Empire was officially neutral throughout World War I but widely suspected of sympathy for the Central Powers between 1915 and 1916. At the time, Ethiopia was one of the few independent states in Africa and a major power in the Horn of Africa. Its ruler, Lij Iyasu, was widely suspected of harbouring pro-Islamic sentiments and being sympathetic to the Ottoman Empire. The German Empire also attempted to reach out to Iyasu, dispatching several unsuccessful expeditions to the region to attempt to encourage it to collaborate in an Arab Revolt-style uprising in East Africa. One of the unsuccessful expeditions was led by Leo Frobenius, a celebrated ethnographer and personal friend of Kaiser Wilhelm II. Under Iyasu's directions, Ethiopia probably supplied weapons to the Muslim Dervish rebels during the Somaliland Campaign of 1915 to 1916, indirectly helping the Central Powers' cause.
Fearing the rising influence of Iyasu and the Ottoman Empire, the Christian nobles of Ethiopia conspired against Iyasu over 1915. Iyasu was first excommunicated by the Ethiopian Orthodox Patriarch and eventually deposed in a coup d'état on 27 September 1916. A less pro-Ottoman regent, Ras Tafari Makonnen, was installed on the throne.
Other movements supported the efforts of the Central Powers for their own reasons, such as the radical Irish Nationalists who launched the Easter Rising in Dublin in April 1916; they referred to their "gallant allies in Europe". However, most Irish Nationalists supported the British and allied war effort up until 1916, when the Irish political landscape was changing. In 1914, Józef Piłsudski was permitted by Germany and Austria-Hungary to form independent Polish legions. Piłsudski wanted his legions to help the Central Powers defeat Russia and then side with France and the UK and win the war with them.
Bulgaria signed an armistice with the Allies on 29 September 1918, following a successful Allied advance in Macedonia. The Ottoman Empire followed suit on 30 October 1918 in the face of British and Arab gains in Palestine and Syria. Austria and Hungary concluded ceasefires separately during the first week of November following the disintegration of the Habsburg Empire and the Italian offensive at Vittorio Veneto; Germany signed the armistice ending the war on the morning of 11 November 1918 after the Hundred Days Offensive, and a succession of advances by New Zealand, Australian, Canadian, Belgian, British, French and US forces in north-eastern France and Belgium. There was no unified treaty ending the war; the Central Powers were dealt with in separate treaties.
The Balkan Wars consisted of two conflicts that took place in the Balkan Peninsula in 1912 and 1913. Four Balkan states defeated the Ottoman Empire in the First Balkan War. In the Second Balkan War, Bulgaria fought against all four original combatants of the first war. It also faced an attack from Romania from the north. The Ottoman Empire lost the bulk of its territory in Europe. Although not involved as a combatant, Austria-Hungary became relatively weaker as a much enlarged Serbia pushed for union of the South Slavic peoples. The war set the stage for the Balkan crisis of 1914 and thus served as a "prelude to the First World War".
The Triple Alliance was an agreement between Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy. It was formed on 20 May 1882 and renewed periodically until it expired in 1915 during World War I. Germany and Austria-Hungary had been closely allied since 1879. Italy was looking for support against France shortly after it lost North African ambitions to the French. Each member promised mutual support in the event of an attack by any other great power. The treaty provided that Germany and Austria-Hungary were to assist Italy if it was attacked by France without provocation. In turn, Italy would assist Germany if attacked by France. In the event of a war between Austria-Hungary and Russia, Italy promised to remain neutral. The existence and membership of the treaty were well known, but its exact provisions were kept secret until 1919.
The Congress of Berlin was a diplomatic conference to reorganise the states in the Balkan Peninsula after the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78, which had been won by Russia against the Ottoman Empire. Represented at the meeting were Europe's then six great powers: Russia, Great Britain, France, Austria-Hungary, Italy and Germany; the Ottomans; and four Balkan states: Greece, Serbia, Romania and Montenegro. The congress concluded with the signing of the Treaty of Berlin, replacing the preliminary Treaty of San Stefano that had been signed three months earlier.
The Eastern Front or Eastern Theater of World War I was a theater of operations that encompassed at its greatest extent the entire frontier between the Russian Empire and Romania on one side and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Bulgaria, the Ottoman Empire and the German Empire on the other. It stretched from the Baltic Sea in the north to the Black Sea in the south, involved most of Eastern Europe, and stretched deep into Central Europe as well. The term contrasts with "Western Front", which was being fought in Belgium and France.
In diplomatic history, the Eastern Question was the issue of the political and economic instability in the Ottoman Empire from the late 18th to early 20th centuries and the subsequent strategic competition and political considerations of the European great powers in light of this. Characterized as the "sick man of Europe", the relative weakening of the empire's military strength in the second half of the eighteenth century threatened to undermine the fragile balance of power system largely shaped by the Concert of Europe. The Eastern Question encompassed myriad interrelated elements: Ottoman military defeats, Ottoman institutional insolvency, the ongoing Ottoman political and economic modernization programme, the rise of ethno-religious nationalism in its provinces, and Great Power rivalries.
The identification of the causes of World War I remains controversial. World War I began in the Balkans on July 28, 1914 and hostilities ended on November 11, 1918, leaving 17 million dead and 25 million wounded.
The Bosnian Crisis, also known as the Annexation Crisis or the First Balkan Crisis, erupted on 5 October 1908 when Austria-Hungary announced the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, territories formerly within the sovereignty of the Ottoman Empire but under Austro-Hungarian administration since 1878.
The Allies of World War I or Entente Powers were a coalition of countries led by France, Britain, Russia, Italy, Japan, and the United States against the Central Powers of Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, Bulgaria, and their colonies during the First World War (1914–1918).
The Kingdom of Serbia was a country located in the Balkans which was created when the ruler of the Principality of Serbia, Milan I, was proclaimed king in 1882. Since 1817, the Principality was ruled by the Obrenović dynasty. The Principality, suzerainty of the Ottoman Empire, de facto achieved full independence when the last Ottoman troops left Belgrade in 1867. The Congress of Berlin in 1878 recognized the formal independence of the Principality of Serbia, and in its composition Nišava, Pirot, Toplica and Vranje districts entered the South part of Serbia.
The Balkans theatre, or Balkan campaign, of World War I was fought between the Central Powers and the Allies.
The Serbian campaign was the series of campaigns launched against Serbia at the beginning of the First World War. The first campaign began after Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia on 28 July 1914. The campaign to "punish" Serbia, under the command of Austrian Oskar Potiorek, ended after three unsuccessful Austro-Hungarian invasion attempts were repelled by the Serbians and their Montenegrin allies. Serbia's defeat of the Austro-Hungarian invasion of 1914 ranks as one of the great upsets of modern military history.
World War I or the First World War, often abbreviated as WWI or WW1, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously known as the Great War or "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history, and also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated 8.5 million combatant deaths and 13 million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war. Resulting genocides and the related 1918 Spanish flu pandemic caused many millions of deaths worldwide.
The Germany-Ottoman alliance was ratified by the German and Ottoman Empires on August 2, 1914, shortly following the outbreak of World War I. It was created as part of a joint effort to strengthen and modernize the weak Ottoman military and to provide Germany with safe passage into the neighbouring British colonies.
The Kingdom of Bulgaria participated in World War I on the side of the Central Powers from 14 October 1915, when the country declared war on Serbia, until 30 September 1918, when the Armistice of Thessalonica came into effect.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to World War I:
Albania during World War I was an independent state, having gained independence from the Ottoman Empire, on 28 November 1912, following the First Balkan War. It was recognised by the Great Powers as the Principality of Albania, after Turkey officially renounced all its rights in May 1913. Being a flailing new country, it quickly unravelled and just a few months after taking power, its ruler, German aristocrat, Prince William of Wied, was forced to flee. After World War I broke out, anarchy took hold of the country as tribes and regions rebelled against central rule. To protect the Greek minority, Greek control was established in the southern districts replacing the Northern Epirote units beginning in October 1914. In response to this, Italy, although officially neutral, also sent troops into the port of Vlorë, while Serbia and Montenegro took control of northern regions. In 1915 Serbia was overrun by combined German, Austro-Hungarian, and Bulgarian forces; the Serbian army retreated across the mountain passes of northern Albania, towards the Adriatic. Italian troops drove the Greeks from southern Albania and brought almost all Albanian territory under their control. Austrian forces invaded in June 1916, Austro-Hungarian forces remained in Albania until the end of the war when a multinational Allied force broke through and pushed them out in 1918.
History of modern Serbia or modern history of Serbia covers the history of Serbia since national awakening in the early 19th century from the Ottoman Empire, then Yugoslavia, to the present day Republic of Serbia. The era follows the early modern history of Serbia.
The leaders of the Central Powers of World War I were the political or military figures who commanded or supported the Central Powers during World War I.
The diplomatic history of World War I covers the non-military interactions among the major players during World War I. For the domestic histories of participants see home front during World War I. For a longer-term perspective see international relations of the Great Powers (1814–1919) and causes of World War I. For the following (post-war) era see international relations (1919–1939). The major "Allies" grouping included Great Britain and its empire, France, Russia, Italy and the United States. Opposing the Allies, the major Central Powers included Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) and Bulgaria. Other countries also joined the Allies. For a detailed chronology see timeline of World War I.
Germany entered into World War I on August 1, 1914, when it declared war on Russia. In accordance with its war plan, it ignored Russia and moved first against France–declaring war on August 3 and sending its main armies through Belgium to capture Paris from the north. The German invasion of Belgium caused Britain to declare war on Germany on August 4. Most of the main parties were now at war. In October 1914, Turkey joined the war on Germany's side, becoming part of the Central Powers. Italy, which was allied with Germany and Austria-Hungary before World War I, was neutral in 1914 before switching to the Allied side in May 1915.