The internal weakness of the empire became immediately obvious. Czech regiments deserted wholesale from the beginning; Italy and Romania, eying their respective minorities in Austria and Hungary, joined the Allies; Croats and Slovenes, won by Serbian propaganda, joined (1917) in agreement with the Serbs to found a South Slavic state (see Yugoslavia). Abroad, the Czechs under Thomas Masaryk were the best known of several legions fighting on the Allied side, and in Oct., 1918, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary proclaimed their independence.
The Austrian defeat at Vittorio Veneto was followed by unconditional surrender; on Nov. 11, Emperor Charles I abdicated; on Nov. 12, German Austria was proclaimed a republic. The treaties of Versailles, Trianon, and Saint-Germain fixed the boundaries of the successor states. The breakup of the Dual Monarchy fulfilled the 19th-century liberal ideal of national self-determination. At the same time, the creation of small, strongly nationalist states, cut off from each other by tariff walls, has been criticized as representing a "Balkanization of Europe."
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.