Kaiser Karl's Manifesto of 17 October 1918

In a bold attempt to placate the many nationalities of his disintegrating empire (and to retain his throne), on 17 October 1918 Karl issued a Manifesto explaining his ideas for a federal Austria. This would not include Hungary, of course, nor retain the Polish territories should they wish to join the nascent independent Polish state. Exactly how he had ascertained the Will of the People was undisclosed. The general view of the Manifesto, especially in Bohemia, Moravia and similar areas was "too little, too late, and overtaken by events". The Manifesto was published in several newspapers. The Wiener Zeitung's formatting is here and a translation is below. Other papers also ran it, eg the Wiener Allgemeine Zeitung, as far as I can see with the same text.

Extra edition of the Wiener Zeitung.

No. 240 Thursday October 17, 1918.    His Imperial and Royal Apostolic Majesty has graciously deigned to issue the following Most High Manifesto:

To my faithful Austrian peoples!

Ever since I ascended the throne, it has been my constant endeavor to achieve the longed-for peace for all my peoples, as well as to show the peoples of Austria the paths along which they can bring the strength of their people, unhindered by obstacles and friction, to a beneficial development and can successfully utilize for their intellectual and economic well-being.

The terrible struggles of the world war have so far hampered the work of peace. Heroic courage and loyalty - the willingness to make sacrifices to endure misery and deprivation gloriously defended the fatherland in these difficult times. The hard victims of the war had to secure the honourable peace for us, on the threshold of which we stand today, with God's help.

Now the reconstruction of the fatherland must be tackled without delay on its natural and therefore most reliable foundations. The wishes of the Austrian peoples are to be carefully reconciled and fulfilled. I am resolved to carry out this work with the free cooperation of My peoples in the spirit of those principles which the allied monarchs have adopted in their peace offer. According to the will of its people, Austria is to become a federal state (Bundestaat) in which each tribe forms its own state community in its settlement areas. This in no way prejudges the unification of the Polish territories of Austria with the independent Polish state. The town of Triest and its area are given a special status in accordance with the wishes of their population.

This reorganization, which in no way affects the integrity of the lands of the Holy Hungarian Crown, is intended to guarantee the independence of each national state; but it will also effectively protect common interests and bring them to bear wherever common ground is a vital need of the individual state. In particular, it will be necessary to unite all forces in order to successfully solve the major tasks arising from the repercussions of the war in a just and equitable manner.

Until this transformation is completed by law, the existing facilities to protect the general interest remain unchanged from right. My government has been commissioned to prepare all work for the rebuilding of Austria without delay. My call goes out to the peoples, on whose self-determination the new kingdom will be based, to participate in the great work through national councils, which - formed from the Reichsrat deputies of each nation - are to bring the interests of the peoples to one another and in dealings with my government to bear.

So may our fatherland, strengthened by the unity of the nations that surround it, emerge from the storms of war as a union of free peoples. May the blessings of the Almighty be upon our work, so that the great work of peace that we are building may mean the happiness of all My peoples.

© Andy Taylor. Last updated 13 April 2023.