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Alex de Campi @alexdecampi
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I’m almost, but not quite, drunk enough to talk about how World War I could have been avoided if Rudolf of Austria wasn’t an emo goth who liked to bang teenagers and also if Franz Ferdinand’s driver had a decent map of Sarajevo #AlexDrunkHistory
I mean, to be fair, there would have been war anyway. Nobody in Austria actually gave a shit about Franz Ferdinand. Viennese headlines the evening of June 28, 1914:
World War I actually started because Russia was doing the Russia Thing of being all “we were FORCED to invade this other Slavic country, it ASKED for our help against internal dissidents”
Russia had gone over and kicked the Ottoman Empire’s ass quite thoroughly in the Russo-Turkish War of 1878, gaining most of Bulgaria...
...and then Austria-Hungary looked at the pretty solid line of ethnically Slavic countries (eg potential Russian allies / sock puppets) along its southern and eastern borders and went,
Then Austria basically went “Bosnia is ours now” and sent troops in because YOLO and also tbh Austria was a bit shit then and a small Balkan state was all they could manage to invade

They also called up Germany like
This is a lot easier to understand if you get pan-Slavism and also the ethnic groupings of Eastern Europe, so we’re gonna go on a quick detour here of who liked each other (and Russia) in the Warsaw Pact. Quick answer:
Slavs: Russia, Poland, Czech/Slovaks, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Serbia, Croatia.

Non-Slavs: Romania, Hungary

Bosnia are Slavic but Muslim and yes people are STILL mad about forced conversion in the 15th century
(By the Cold War, the Soviet Union had managed to piss off ALL the other Slavs for solid cause — tanks, usually the cause was tanks — except Bulgaria, and Bulgaria thought the Markov assasination was a solid plan so uh, sure, great allies)
(Hungary: yep, tanks again)

(Romania: hated the Hungarians, and vice versa, also hated the Russians and vice versa, but no tanks, mountain ranges are useful, yay mountains, also Gheorgiu-Dej was a cunning mofo)
So anyway, 1878, Austria-Hungary goes marching into Bosnia like “we got you, sort of semi-Slavic bros” and the Bosnians are all
Then in 1912-1913 everyone’s super big fear of a pan-Slavic southeast Europe kicked off when Bulgaria and Serbia basically slam-dunked the Ottoman Empire “bye-bye, thanks for all the Tuekish delight!”
Bosnia: hey, can we be free now?

So Austria-Hungary sends the equivalent of Prince Charles to Sarajevo for a little “aren’t you thrilled to be part of our glorious empire” tour and there’s an assassination attempt

it fails
No, really, they lob a grenade at Franz Ferdinand and Sophie’s car AND MISS, because these dudes have less skill and aim than Ted Cruz with a basketball

You know how they say “close only counts with horseshoes and hand grenades”?

these motherfuckers didn’t even scratch the car
So then later that afternoon they keep on with the royal tour and Franzie’s driver takes a wrong turn on the way back from hospital ribbon-cutting and Gavrilo Princip looks up and THERE’S THE CROWN PRINCE and your man Princip has a pistol and bang bang
So, tl;dr Austria-Hungary, Italy, the Ottoman Empire and Germany — all the countries bordering Slavic nations — have a class-A freakout and band together

France, STILL MAD about the Franco-Prussian war, calls up Russia and is like
Central Europe was losing its shit about the Slavs all joining together

but Western Europe was losing its shit about Germans all joining together

(italy was losing its shit over both)
BUT ANYWAY half the reason Austria-Hungary was such a crappy basket case at that point was that the original heir to the thrown, Smiths aficionado Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria, started an extramarital affair with a teenage nouveau riche girl, Baroness Mary Vetsera
it was OK, though, she had an “old soul”
She was either 15 or 17 when they met

ofc Rudolf was already married
So Mary was 1) not his wife, 2) very underage, and 3) in Austrian terms her money was so new it wasn’t even out of the plastic bags yet
Oh and at the same time as the wife and the teenager, Rudolf was also banging a 24-year-old actress, Mitzi Kaspar. He was 31.

Rudolf was also a big ol’ depressive goth, and Vienna was a weird place in those years with super-high suicide rates
Rudolf’s father, Daddy Emperor Franz Joseph, was super oldskool and conservative and liked none of this

Rudolf spends six months trying to convince Mitzi to enter into a suicide pact with him. Her:
So he tries to convince the teenager, and she was like
Thus at the end of January 1889 Rudolf and Mary go to the family hunting lodge aka country palace in Mayerling and he shoots her, then himself
Not really, tho. The family quickly dump Vetsera in an unmarked grave and are like *cough cough* our son had a heart attack

no shit, lead does a pretty good job of clogging arteries
It stays secret for AGES. Franz Joseph’s wife, the very popular Empress Sisi, has Emotions and basically moves to Italy and starts singing Sondheim:
Franz Joseph is like “well I no longer have an heir, my wife is gone, I have nothing left to do but drive my empire into the ditch”

well my dude, it took you 25 years but
Note: Franz Ferdinand was Franz Joseph’s nephew. The position of crown prince passed to FJ’s brother Karl Ludwig (IIRC) but he was like “fuck that” and passed the hot potato to his son, Franz Ferdinand

Also if you’re like “wow, FJ reigned for a LONG TIME,” yes he did: 1848-1916
Generally, in between reading Livejournal poetry and DMing Suicide Girls, Rudolf was considered a liberal, or at least a modernist, and had therapy and SSRIs existed in 1889 he might have kept the Austro-Hungarian empire from stagnating its way into war.
So a couple more sober clarifications and expansions on last night’s #AlexDrunkHistory, as I was a bit more slapdash than usual:
* Rudolf’s murder-suicide: the Viennese court was like “maybe if we just don’t talk about this...”, forgetting that the rest of the world exists and LOVES Royal gossip so foreign journalists descended on them like locusts. It even made the Scottish papers within 24 hours
* Reasons for the suicide, other than an excess of depression: everyone tried pin blame on an argument with Franz Joseph (Emperor Daddy).

And by “everyone”, I mean actually only the German chancellor and his agents, because Rudolf was far less a friend of Germany than Daddy was.
* Why occupy Bosnia? As you can see below, it was useful padding against a pan-Slavic coalition along the whole Balkan coast. Bar Romania, every other country surrounding Austro-Hungary to south, East and North were Slavs. Yikes. (map, 1914)
(It might be useful at this time to note that Austria’s military spending was minimal, while Germany, France and Russia basically quadrupled their military budgets since 1870)
* What happened after Franz Ferdinand (crown prince for 25 years, poor bastard) was killed? Austria blames Serbia and Russia, saying Bosnian terrorist attacks were instigated by them. But! It blames them at the speed of empire:
A WHOLE MONTH LATER, to the day, Austria finally bombs Belgrade (Serbian capital) in retaliation. Nobody saw that coming!

LOL, everybody saw that coming. Russia:
So: 28 June 1914: Franz’ driver takes wrog turn, gives incompetent Bosnian freedom fighters second chance

28 July 1914: Austria bombs Belgrade, in a whole-ass different country, in retaliation
3 August 1914: Germany sends its armies into Belgium with the plan to quickly whip France’s ass and then turn around and take care of Russia, which it viewed as the real problem

Let’s just sit for a moment on how Germany was TOTALLY READY, like they had their shit ORGANIZED, on a month’s notice from Franz Ferdinand biting it to full invasion of France

They expected everything to be over in six months, like the Franco-Prussian war was. Oh well.
tl;dr this war we always think of in the West as this awful meat-grinder in France was actually supposed to mostly be a war against Russia, but the Germans badly underestimated France, the UK and America.
And then Russia more or less defeats itself with the October Revolution in 1917.
A sidebar on Austro-Hungarian paranoia in 1914, due to the nature of Hungary:

Now, Hungary is a BEAUTIFUL country, with a complex and wonderful cultural heritage

but it is FLAT AS FUCK

If you are going to roll into Europe from the East you ABSOLUTELY do it through Hungary
So why, if you’re a crumbling old empire with a fraction of the standing army of everyone surrounding you, do you go and poke Medved’* with a sharp stick?

Well, maybe because you’re super-old and a bit delusional about how awesome you still are

Or maybe Kaiser Wilhelm is eyeing you up like a giant sachertorte baked just for him, and whispering:
Another sidebar: Hungary and Romania have really cool linguisitic origins for their (very different) languages

Hungarian comes from Ural mountains tribes and (aside from Turkish and Slavic loan words) has its closest European linguistic relatives in Finnish and Estonian
Romanian is a Latin / Romance language (again, heavily modified with Slavic and Turkic loan words) but allegedly it’s descended from martial Latin because basically when you retired from the Legion you moved to a farm in Dacia

(Trajan’s Dacian campaign was super interesting, I’ll talk about it someday)

Oh yeah here is my book, you should buy it if you like thrillers that make historical periods (in this case, medieval England) accessible and interesting:…
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