Conrad von Hötzendorf, Franz
(1852–1925)
   A military leader of the late Habsburg Empire bearing significant responsibility for Vienna’s policy in the crisis of July 1914. Conrad was born in November 1925 in Penzing in Lower Austria. Like his father, he joined the Austrian officer corps. In 1878–1879 and in 1882, he took part in military operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Dalmatia, gaining battlefield experience. A general staff officer and teacher at the War Academy in Vienna, Conrad became known for his publications on battle- field tactics. As commander of an infantry brigade in Trieste and of an infantry division in the Tyrol, he became interested in war preparations against Italy. In 1906, on the behest of Archduke Francis Ferdinand, Conrad was chosen to succeed Friedrich von Beck-Rzikowsky as chief of the general staff of the Austro-Hungarian armed forces.
   He launched a rigorous reform of the general staff and the system of maneuvers and training. War planning became more professional and war preparations were taken more seriously than before. With Italy and Romania being unreliable allies, and with Russia, Serbia, and Montenegro as probable enemies in a future war, the strategic situation looked bleak to Conrad. A social Darwinist afraid of the dismemberment of the multiethnic Habsburg Empire in an age of nationalism, Conrad propagated preventive war as the only viable solution to Austria-Hungary’s security problems. In 1911, he provoked a clash with the Foreign Office and lost his position by calling for a preventive war against Italy. After the First Balkan War, Conrad was reinstalled as Chief of the general staff in 1912, but the heir to the throne, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, was pondering a replacement when the assassination plot in Sarajevo changed the political landscape.
   In 1914, Conrad did not have to persuade foreign minister Berchtold or the Emperor to risk a Great Power war. Relying on his agreement with the German general staff, Conrad ordered an offensive against Russia’s armies. Russian victories brought the Austro-Hungarian army close to a complete collapse in 1914–1915 and again in 1916, but with German, and partly Bulgarian, support Habsburg armies scored victories over Russian, Serbian, and Romanian armies in 1915–1916. The Italian offensive, on the other hand, could be contained but not beaten. Conrad’s leadership was shaped by overambitious operational plans and a striking disregard of the numbers and the morale of his troops. He lost his post again in 1917, served as commander of an army, and was sent into early retirement in 1918. After the war, Conrad started publishing his memoirs. He died in Bad Mergentheim in Germany in August 1925.
   See also <>.
   FURTHER READING:
    Rothenberg, Gunther. The Army of Franz Joseph. West Lafayette: Indiana University Press, 1976.
   GUENTHER KRONENBITTER

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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