Could Austria-Hungary Have Deterred Russian Mobilization in 1914?


The Russian mobilization is highly thought as being one of the most important issues that caused the outbreak of the World War I. Without the presence of the Russian mobilization there could not have been any general mobilization in Austria and Hungary. Moreover, without the German mobilization or ultimatum there would have been no World War. This issue of the Russian mobilization has always been obscure due to general chaos associated with the outbreak of war. Nevertheless, the Russian government is known to bear the most responsibility for the war since it instigated it with the decision of partially mobilizing their troops. A study of the events that took place in the early 1890s shows that some historical information has obviously been distorted or hidden. This essay will discuss whether Austria-Hungary played a part in deterring the Russian mobilization in 1914 and analyze both the reasons behind the mobilization and the relationship between Austria-Hungary and Russia.  



One of the reasons of the outbreak of the World War is the fact that the Russian government mobilized its troops to deter Austria-Hungary from invading Serbia. This invasion took place due to the fact that the Serbian government had failed to meet some demands given by Austria-Hungary. Once the German government heard about partial mobilization of the Russians, they decided to generally mobilize their troops and be prepared for the war. The war therefore was propelled due to the series of alliances that were made by the countries involved. An order from the Tsar was taken as a proposal from the Kaiser, while the cancellation of the order led to partial mobilization of the Russian army against Austria-Hungary. The Sukhomlinov trial came to the conclusion that all the reasons for the Russian mobilization were pretexts. The major motivation for Austria-Hungary to declare war against Serbia was the mind-set of the foreign minister of Russia. For the military, the decisions were made in July just before the breaking of diplomatic relations between Austria-Hungary and Serbia.

Types of Mobilizations

The mobilization of a country’s army is a very significant and unique process. One of the factors that are least used or required is the personal will of the leader. It is therefore very simple to change standing army, as it can be done simply by right methods and ways. There exist three types of mobilization. The first type is general mobilization, which happens throughout the state and every skilled service is called upon in the navy or army to reinforce it. In this form of mobilization untrained reserves may also be used. Gradual mobilization is another type of mobilization, which is quite similar to the first one, but there is also division into districts and provinces. This type of mobilization may be used in case of a remote neighbor attack whereby the army can be built up gradually due to the lack of sufficient rail. There is also partial mobilization that is carried out when the rival is weak. This therefore means that the whole strength of the army is not paramount in achieving the aim of the war.

General mobilization means the use of the entire war machine to the fullest; all people who are fit to participate in war are called upon. This type of mobilization embraces the concepts of general and gradual mobilization. The law that was in power in 1912 allowed calling up for the able men aged 20-43. This would translate to about 12 million of people not counting those who are not permitted to participate by law. In the Russian Empire around 700,000 people were exempted from service. It was also not possible for the Russian army to call upon the citizens so fast.. 

The Russian general army was put into use during the course of the war. Therefore, general mobilization only supported the mobilization of the standing army through the process of calling upon the reservists and ordering vehicles, horses, and other transport means. It also entailed formation of troops and formation of reserve troops from the peacetime cadres. Moreover, general mobilization entailed formation of effective second line units. Those who had been effective in military service would then be moved to the first line of the field army. 

Structure of the Conflict

On July, 24, the situation escalated and Austria-Hungary even sent an ultimatum to Serbia. There was also a decision made that the Russki invalids newspaper was to warn Russian people to watch over the Austrian-Serbian dealings. Russia was not to be indifferent in case Serbian people were endangered. It is clear that the conventional system was right in making the assumption that there were systems of interlocks between the mobilization plans in 1914. This type of strategy was put in place to ensure slow development of the Russian mobilization. Germany used this slow mobilization to their advantage since it meant that as Russia was mobilizing their army they could go ahead and defeat France first. According to the Germans, mobilization was a sign of the preparation for war. The arguments that ensued between different countries took place due to the failure of their political leaders to understand the military plans of other countries. 

These misunderstandings then resulted into the leaders making moves to prepare their Armies’ mobilization in a moderate manner since they thought that it was just a political tactic meant to stop their enemies. However, once the mobilization began, no matter how small the forces unleashed were, it was progressively becoming harder to maintain and control them. The fact that the politicians did not understand the military issues became the main source of the conflicts. The war therefore was mainly caused by the political leader’s misunderstanding and ignorance of what military mobilization meant and the dangers that it posed. 

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Institutional Instability

The politicians were not in a position to realize that fractional Russian mobilization aimed at Austria-Hungary was in reality leading to the World War. They perceived that due to the fact it was only partial and not a general mobilization, it was not dangerous. On the other hand, the Russian state was clearly aware of the mobilization as well as its repercussions. According to the Russian document, the mobilization of the army took place because the government believed that there would be an inevitable breakout of war. According to Krivoshein’s diary and his negotiations with the Tsar, they completely relied on the army’s mobilization. Krivoshein was an essential authority in the Russian administration. The mobilization was therefore a result of the conflict between Austria-Hungary and Serbia. Thus, Austria-Hungary could not be considered to deter the mobilization.

Anticipation of inevitable war between Russia and Germany led the Russian government to begin a mobilization of its army. The Russian government went ahead to put away all fears connected with the fact that their warlike preparations would in turn lead to the war and proceeded with the preparations carefully. This was a tactic to ensure that the war would not take them by surprise. Sazonov announced that the mobilization of the Russian army would undoubtedly bring about war. However, the Tsar denied these allegations by Sazonov since he believed that the mobilization of the Russian army also meant that he did not want the war to erupt. The realization of His majesty of the heavy responsibilities, which he then proceeded to take up on his own by exploring every tactic or strategy, would ensure they averted the war. Although the mobilization decision was aimed at ensuring that the war between Austria-Hungary and Serbia was evaded, it only made matters worse, which again demonstrates that it was Austria-Hungary which caused Russian mobilization.

For a long time, the Tsar refused to agree to the measures that would lead to the full blown war eruption. However, from the military point of view, the Tsar saw that the war was indeed fast approaching and he in turn hastened in making a decision. Finally, Nicholas agreed that it would have been suicide not to commence with the preparations for the inevitable war. This realization, therefore, led him to order an immediate general mobilization of the army in order to avoid the war and settle for peace. The Russian regime undoubtedly denied the fact that that the mobilization predestined the war and, therefore, the notion that they ordered the mobilization of the army to deter their enemies from war is false. It could be seen that although the intentions behind Russia’s mobilization were pure, they still managed to start the war because of trying to stop Austria-Hungary from invading Serbia. 

In late July Austria-Hungary found that the Serbian government made an unsatisfactory reply to the demands having made by them and, therefore, the Austrian government declared war on the Serbians. Later there was a decision by the Russian government to partially mobilize the army due to Austria. However, neither of the moves was made due to the military reasons. The Russian decision of mobilizing the army was not a military decision, but a political one. The reason for this decision was to show their earnestness in compelling Austria-Hungary to consent to negotiate while under pressure of the military demonstration.  The political leaders of Russia in 1914 made a hasty decision to mobilize the troops since they did not understand the military issues and their effects. 

The Russian government wanted the Austrian-Hungarian government to find a settlement with the Serbian government. However, it was not sensible for the Russian government to mobilize the military against Austria-Hungary. It could be seen that Russia would have waited to ensure that the Austrian-Hungarian government had begun military operations against the Serbian government. This would have in turn made Austria-Hungary to concentrate its military to the south making them vulnerable in the north, which would have made it easy for the Russian partial mobilization to be effective. Austria-Hungary, therefore, was to blame for Russia’s mobilization and on a wider scale for the war that followed. They caused the Russian mobilization and did not deter it. From the information it is clear that Austria-Hungary could not have stopped the Russian mobilization once it had started. This is because once the process of mobilization had started it arouse suspicions of the German government that Russia was ready for the war. This in turn led the German army to begin mobilization as well. In order for Russia not to be taken by surprise, it had to move on to fully mobilize its troops.

The original plan of the Russian government was to wait until Austria- Hungary had invaded Serbia so that they could order for a partial mobilization. The blunder was completed by Sazonov, who resorted to direct mobilization of the Russian army. In the past, the declaration of war was a political step. For the Russian government, the mobilization order was also a maneuver or a political step. Once the process had been set in motion it could neither be slowed down nor stopped without causing havoc and ensuring that the nation was defeated at the mercy of its enemies. The political leaders involved in making the decision of partial mobilization did not believe that this decision could bring about a war. The fact that the political leaders were ignorant enough to make a decision without understanding the dangers behind that decision shows that the political leaders are the real cause of the war. They established some managerial procedures leading to the war, which could not be upturned anymore. 

Partial mobilization against Austria-Hungary would have led the Austrian to generally mobilize, therefore leading Germany to mobilize as well. Germany could perhaps not stand by and witness even the fractional mobilization of Russia. Therefore, the above information supports the notion that in fact Austria-Hungary prompted Russia to mobilize since they wanted to stop the invasion of Serbia. Austria however would have deterred the mobilization by Russia if they had tried to come up with an amicable solution on Serbia. The fact that the Russians had already begun their mobilization ensured that Austria-Hungary could not do anything to deter the mobilization since a process that was irreversible had begun and it would lead to the ultimate war.


Austria-Hungary did not try to deter the mobilization of the Russian army because the conflict between Austria-Hungary and Serbia was in fact the cause of the partial mobilization. The fact that Russia partially mobilized its army to be able to stop the war between Austria and Serbia shows that this was actually the cause of the mobilization and not a deterring factor. Looking at the decisions made by Russia it is clear that the leaders were also quite ignorant since they did not understand the military ways. Their decision of partially mobilizing the troops would only have brought more chaos since it was the beginning of some administrative processes which could not be stopped. The partial mobilization led to the full mobilization of the Austrian-Hungarian army and ensured that the Germans mobilized their army as well. The political leaders of Russia failed to realize the fact that the mobilization meant war. The fact that they partially mobilized their army set the course towards the eruption of the World War. It finally becomes clear that the Russian government realized that the war could not be avoided since the factors that propelled the enmity between the countries had been already set in motion.

Oct 7, 2020 in Socioligy
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