Skip to main content Accessibility help

Treason in an Era of Regime Change: The Case of the Habsburg Monarchy

  • Mark Cornwall


Whatever we call “treason”Hochverrat, trahison, velezrada, veleizdaja, felségsértés—it has been a constant phenomenon in human history. The “traitor,” the individual who breaks a major bond of trust, has emerged in every era and is usually treated as a pariah in society. At the most significant treason trial of the late Habsburg monarchy, that of fifty-three Serbs in Zagreb in 1909, the main defense lawyer Hinko Hinković began his concluding speech with a typical legal adage: that treason was “the most loathsome thing” imaginable. Down the centuries, he said, humanity had singled out two types of traitors. First, there were those who betrayed God, best personified in Judas Iscariot. Second, there were traitors to the nation such as the Spartan Ephialtes who, according to Herodotus, fatally betrayed his homeland to the Persians at Thermopylae in 480 BCE. While both types were “repulsive and terrible,” Hinković quickly opined that the latter—the national traitor—was really the most terrible. However, with an eye on the Serbs he was defending, he added that some national treasons were not actually directed against the nation. For where national aspirations did not mesh with state aspirations, or where the state was not the same as the homeland (otačbina)—there, a deed that the state might consider treasonous could be viewed as a heroic, patriotic act by the nation. In other words, treason could be interpreted as liberation from oppression, and numerous examples might be cited in this regard from recent Habsburg history, not least the way that the Magyars were now able to celebrate and memorialize the traitor-liberator Lajos Kossuth.


Corresponding author


Hide All

This article emerges from my current research project titled Treason in the Age of Francis Joseph. A draft paper was delivered in spring 2018 at the universities of Jena and Zagreb: my thanks to Joachim von Puttkamer and Iskra Iveljić for these opportunities. I would also like to thank the anonymous Austrian History Yearbook reviewers for their very useful recommendations.



Hide All

1 Speech by Hinko Hinković on 14 Sept. 1909, published in Govori branitelja u kaznenoj parnici protiv Adam Pribićevića i petdeset dvojice drugova radi zločinstva veleizdaje [The speeches for the defense in the lawsuit against Adam Pribićević and fifty-two others for the crime of treason] (Zagreb, 1909), 3. For the Zagreb treason trial, which is surprisingly underresearched, see Cornwall, Mark, “Loyalty and Treason in Late Habsburg Croatia: A Violent Political Discourse before the First World War,” in Exploring Loyalty, eds. Osterkamp, Jana and Schulze-Wessel, Martin (Göttingen, 2017), 97120; and Mislav Gabelica, “Zagrebačka veleizdajnička parnica 1909. godine” [The Zagreb treason trial of 1909], Časopis za suvremenu povijest [Journal of Contemporary History] 46 (2014): 131–57. A classic study is to be found in Seton-Watson, R. W., The Southern Slav Question (London, 1911), but it is highly subjective and not based on the official transcript of the trial.

2 Govori branitelja, 4.

3 Ibid., 6.

4 Bogićević, Vojislav, ed., Sarajevski atentat. Stenogram glavne rasprave protiv Gavrila Principa i drugova [The Sarajevo assassination. Transcript of the main trial against Gavrilo Princip and others] (Sarajevo, 1954), 368.

5 “Šest mjesici tamnice” [Six months of prison], Hrvatski pokret [Croatian Movement], 30 May 1911, 1–2; Rudolf Zistler, Kako sam branio Principa i drugove 1914. godine [How I defended Princip and others in 1914] (Ljubljana 1937), 15.

6 Equally, there have been few attempts to conceptualize modern European treason (and thereby place “Habsburg treason” in context). For some useful theorization of treason, see Ben-Yehuda, Nachman, Betrayal and Treason: Violations of Trust and Loyalty (Boulder, 2001); Noetzel, Thomas, Die Faszination des Verrats. Eine Studie zur Dekadenz im Ost-West-Konflikt (Hamburg, 1989); Flores, Marcello, Traditori. Una storia politica e culturale (Bologna, 2015); and the recent overarching study by Krischer, André, ed., Verräter. Geschichte eines Deutungsmuster (Vienna, 2019). Other popular studies are limited by their author's conservative agenda: Boveri, Margaret, Der Verrat im 20. Jahrhundert (Reinbek, 1976) or Pincher, Chapman, Traitors: The Labyrinths of Treason (London, 1987).

7 For example, Moll, Martin, Kein Burgfrieden. Der deutsch-slowenische Nationalitätenkonflikt in der Steiermark 1900–1918 (Innsbruck, 2007); Lein, Richard, Pflichterfüllung oder Hochverrat? Die tschechischen Soldaten Österreich-Ungarns im Ersten Weltkrieg (Vienna, 2011); Überegger, Oswald, Der andere Krieg. Die Tiroler Militärgerichtsbarkeit im Ersten Weltkrieg (Innsbruck, 2002); Wiggermann, Frank, K.u.k. Kriegsmarine und Politik. Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der italienischen Nationalbewegung in Istrien (Vienna, 2004); Gumz, Jonathan E., The Resurrection and Collapse of Empire in Habsburg Serbia, 1914–1918 (Cambridge, 2009). A kindred and broader study, though not in fact about Hochverrat, is Czech, Philip, Der Kaiser ist ein Lump und Spitzbuben: Majestätsbeleidigung unter Kaiser Franz Joseph (Vienna, 2010).

8 Bellamy, John, The Tudor Law of Treason: An Introduction (London, 1979); Steffen, Lisa, Defining a British State: Treason and National Identity, 1608–1820 (Basingstoke, 2001); Orr, Alan, Treason and the State: Law, Politics and Ideology in the English Civil War (Cambridge, 2002); Barrell, John, Imagining the King's Death: Figurative Treason, Fantasies of Regicide (Oxford, 2000); and most recently, on evolving legal procedure, the excellent work of Krischer, André, Die Macht des Verfahrens. Englische Hochverratsprozesse 1554–1848 (Münster, 2017).

9 See for example, Unowsky, Daniel, The Pomp and Politics of Patriotism: Imperial Celebrations in Habsburg Austria, 1848–1916 (Lafayette, 2005); Cole, Laurence and Unowsky, Daniel, eds., The Limits of Loyalty: Imperial Symbolism, Popular Allegiances, and State Patriotism in the Late Habsburg Monarchy (New York, 2007); Cole, Laurence, Military Culture and Popular Patriotism in Late Imperial Austria (Oxford, 2014); Osterkamp, Jana, ed., Kooperatives Imperium. Politische Zusammenarbeit in der späten Habsburgermonarchie (Göttingen, 2018).

10 Henry Wickham Steed, The Hapsburg Monarchy (London, 1913), ix. The leading overall synthesis of this approach is now Judson, Pieter M., The Habsburg Empire: A New History (Cambridge, MA, 2016).

11 See most recently Laurence Cole's incisive and critical review of Judson's work: “Visions and Revisions of Empire: Reflections on a New History of the Habsburg Monarchy,” Austrian History Yearbook 49 (2018): 261–80, esp. 276–79.

12 As I indicate in the following text, this focus should not, however, obscure the fact that, well before 1914, there were signs of “regime crisis”: witness the increased sighting of “traitors,” and in turn increasing complaints about a dysfunctional Habsburg Rechtsstaat (notably in Croatia). For prewar imperial insecurities, see especially Kronenbitter, Günther, Krieg im Frieden. Die Führung der k.u.k. Armee und die Großmachtpolitik Österreich-Ungarns 1906–1914 (Munich, 2003).

13 Amidst a growing literature, see Judson, The Habsburg Monarchy; Gerwarth, Robert, The Vanquished: Why the First World War Failed to End, 1917–23 (London, 2016); Miller, Paul and Morelon, Claire, eds., Embers of Empire: Continuity and Rupture in the Habsburg Successor States after 1918 (New York, 2018).

14 See Róbert Hermann, Megtorlás az 1848–49-es forradalom és szabadsághharc után [Revenge after the revolution and war of independence of 1848–49] (Budapest, 1999); and Róbert Hermann, “I. Ferenc József és a megtorlás” [Francis Joseph I and revenge], Századok [Centuries] 141 (2007): 635–81.

15 Ágnes Deák, From Habsburg Neo-Absolutism to the Compromise (New York, 2008), 73–85. For the aspiration of “normal conditions,” see for example, Bach's comments on 13 Mar. 1853, in Die Protokolle des Österreichischen Ministerrates 1848–1867. III Abteilung. Das Ministerium Buol-Schauenstein. Band 1: 14 April 1852–13. März 1853, ed. Waltraud Heindl (Vienna, 1975), 518.

16 Otto Kirchheimer, Political Justice: The Use of Legal Procedure for Political Ends (Princeton, 1961), 76.

17 Any discourse about treason always has moral dimensions, stereotyping the other (the traitor) as violating the moral universe of the imperial or national collective. See Ben-Yehuda, Betrayal and Treason, 125.

18 For an overview of wartime treason in the Habsburg monarchy, see Mark Cornwall, “Traitors and the Meaning of Treason in Austria-Hungary's Great War,” Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 25 (2015): 113–34. Generally the subject has not been researched for other European belligerents. But for the most notorious British case in 1916, see Trial of Roger Casement, ed. H. Montgomery Hyde (London, 1960). For Russian traitors, see William C. Fuller Jr., The Foe Within: Fantasies of Treason and the End of Imperial Russia (Ithaca, 2006); and the useful case studies in Eric Lohr, Nationalizing the Russian Empire: The Campaign against Enemy Aliens during World War I (Cambridge MA, 2003).

19 See Josip Šilović, Kazneno pravo [Criminal law] (Zagreb, 1893), 298–301. Šilović, one of the leading Croatian jurists of his generation, notes here how, from a Croatian law of 1870, an attack on the state union of Hungary, Croatia, and Slavonia was also considered to be “treason.”

20 The fact that it occurred, however, is shown by the case of Professor Vaso Stajić, who in late 1915 was convicted of treason by a Szeged court and sentenced to seven years for being a member of Narodna Odbrana: see Hrvatski Državni Arhiv [HDA: Croatian State Archives, Zagreb], fond 397, Državno nadodvjetništvo [DNO: Chief state attorney] Zagreb 1875–1945, kutija 81, K81/1916. In Dec. 1915, the Hungarian Minister of the Interior had suggested that the Croat politician Frano Supilo also should be prosecuted for treason in absentia under §127 (which covered detaching Hungarian territory by force): HDA, Središnja dojava i defenzivna služba [SDDS: Central intelligence and defense service], kutija 5691(5), 136/1915, Hungarian Ministry of Interior to Ban Skerlecz (6633. szám), 13 Dec. 1915.

21 The crime of felségsértés (Hochverrat) under §126–38 and of hütlenség (Staatsverrat) under §142–51. For a German translation, see Das ungarische Strafgesetzbuch über Verbrechen und Vergehen, trans. Gustav Steinbach (Budapest, 1878), 30–37.

22 The evolution of Austrian treason law is the subject of Wolfgang Pfeifer, Der Hochverrat im österreichischen Strafrecht vom 18.Jahrhundert bis zur Gegenwart (PhD diss., University of Graz, 2008), here esp. 120–30.

23 For a very useful comparative discussion, see Fritz van Calker, “Hochverrat und Landesverrat,” in Vergleichende Darstellung des deutschen und ausländischen Strafrechts. Vorarbeiten zur deutschen Strafrechtsreform, eds. Karl Birkmeyer, Fritz van Calker, Reinhard Frank et al., Besonderer Teil. I Band (Berlin, 1906), 2–71.

24 By “construction,” I mean the subtle interpretation or manipulation of treason law to achieve the political objective. Very common in treason trials in early modern England, it is also highly applicable to the practices used in late Habsburg treason trials. See for example, the 1869 case of Jindřich Kejval and Josef Hüber who spread leaflets in Prague, vaguely implying death to the emperor; they were tried under §58a but found guilty under the lesser crime of disturbing public order (§65): Státní oblastní archiv v Praze [SOAP: State Regional Archive, Prague], Krajský (zemský) soud trestní Praha [District Criminal Court], karton 551, C-576/69.

25 Pfeifer, Der Hochverrat im österreichischen Strafrecht, 55–61; Czech, Der Kaiser ist ein Lump.

26 Der Wiener Hochverratsprozeß, ed. Heinrich Scheu (Vienna, 1911).

27 According to Fritz van Calker, Austrian law—unlike German or French—did not really know the concept of Landesverrat: it was subsumed under Hochverrat in §58c. However, other paragraphs in the Austrian penal code effectively dealt with a wide range of threats to the external security of the state: see Van Calker, “Hochverrat und Landesverrat,” 55–65.

28 For the most important contemporary commentary, see Anton Hye, Das österreichische Strafgesetz uber Verbrechen, Vergehen und Uebertretungen, und die Preßordnung vom 27. Mai 1852, Band 1 (Vienna, 1855), 672–735.

29 For one interpretation of the ways that §58c and §67 fused together, see Eduard Herbst, Handbuch des allgemeinen österreichischen Strafrechts. Mit Rücksicht auf die Bedürfnisse des Studiums und der Anwendung, Band 1: Von den Verbrechen, 7th ed. (Vienna, 1882), 208–9.

30 Jaroslav Hašek, The Good Soldier Švejk, trans. Cecil Parrott (London, 1974), 13. As one small example, see the case of Adam Dragojlović and Dušan Blagajić, investigated because of the treasonable remarks they made against the monarchy and the army when traveling on a Brod-Zagreb train in Croatia: HDA, SDDS, kutija 5690(4), 936/1914, Militärkommando [military command] Zagreb to SDDS, 30 Dec. 1914.

31 For this framework, see most recently John Deak and Jonathan E. Gumz, “How to Break a State: The Habsburg Monarchy's Internal War, 1914–1918,” American Historical Review 122, no. 4 (Oct. 2017): 1105–36. An older but still useful study is Christoph Führ, Das k.u.k. Armeeoberkommando und die Innenpolitik in Österreich 1914–1917 (Graz, 1968).

32 For Bosnia, see Gumz, The Resurrection and Collapse, 105–6, 112–13. For Galicia (although the figure given of 30,000 Ruthene civilians executed is taken from later propaganda and unbelievable), see Alexander Watson, Ring of Steel: Germany and Austria-Hungary at War, 1914–1918 (London, 2014), 154–56. See also Karl Platzer, Standrechtliche Todesurteile im Ersten Weltkrieg (Berlin, 2004), 51–67.

33 Platzer, Standrechtliche Todesurteile, 161.

34 Gumz, The Resurrection and Collapse, 126–28, 140–41.

35 See Hermann, Megtorlás, 19–23, for General Julius Haynau's guidelines on reprisals in 1849.

36 For the substantial legacy of Austrian law in the successor states, see Helmut Slapnicka, Österreichs Recht ausserhalb Österreichs. Der Untergang des österreichischen Rechtsraums (Munich, 1973).

37 Martin F. Polaschek, Die Rechtsentwicklung in der Ersten Republik. Die Gesetzgebung im Verfassungs- und Strafrecht von 1918–1933 (PhD diss., University of Graz, 1992), 178–81. Publicly, a legal break with the past was best symbolized by the abolition of the death penalty, judged by the justice committee of the National Assembly to be the “symbol of a system founded on tyranny” (149). See also Pfeifer, Der Hochverrat, 194–99.

38 Eduard Vlček, Pavel Mates, and Karel Schelle, Československé dějiny státu a práva (1918–1960) [Czechoslovak history of the state and law (1918–1960)] (Brno, 1988), 16.

39 See especially, Václav Šmidrkal, “Fyzické násilí, státní autorita a trestní právo v českých zemích 1918–1923” [Physical violence, state authority and criminal law in the Bohemian Lands 1918–1923], Český časopis historický [Czech Historical Journal] 114, no. 1 (2016): 89–114; and Rudolf Kučera, “Exploiting Victory, Sinking into Defeat: Uniformed Violence in the Creation of the New Order in Czechoslovakia and Austria, 1918–1922,” The Journal of Modern History 88 (Dec. 2016): 827–55. Most recently, see Ota Konrád and Rudolf Kučera, Cesty z apokalypsy. Fyzické násilí v pádu a obnově střední Evropy 1914–1922 [Paths out of the apocalypse. Physical violence in the fall and renewal of central Europe 1914–1922] (Prague, 2018).

40 The early state of the criminal code in the Bohemian Lands was summarized in Jaroslav Kallab and Vílem Herrnritt, eds., Trestní zákony československé platen v Čechách, na Moravě a ve Slezsku [Czechoslovak criminal laws valid in Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia] (Prague, 1923).

41 A useful article by Giovanni Capoccia is otherwise problematic in theorizing always from a baseline of “democratic Czechoslovakia”: “Legislative Responses against Extremism: The ‘Protection of Democracy’ in the First Czechoslovak Republic (1920–1938),” East European Politics and Societies 16, no. 3 (2003): 691–738. Older Czech Marxist interpretations have of course suggested that the 1923 law had a hidden class agenda and was designed to “preserve the external mask of bourgeois democracy”: Vlček, Československé dějiny státu, 76.

42 Karl Jadrníček, Die tschechoslowakische Strafgesetzgebung in den Ländern Böhmen und Mähren-Schlesien (Vienna, 1931), 75–94.

43 Paragraph 6 covered military treason during wartime: serving in a foreign army, betraying information to the enemy, or “knowingly endangering the defense of the republic.” Later paragraphs (§22–24) specified other actions that could benefit a foreign power to the detriment of Czechoslovakia. See Jadrníček, Die tschechoslowakische Strafgesetzgebung, 77, 82–83. The clause on disturbing public order was now much more precise in criminalizing actions that incited violence against groups of the population because of their nationality, language, race, or religion: ibid., 80.

44 The crime of physically damaging the president or members of the government, or seeking by force to take over their powers, was set out in more detail under §8 and §10. The old Majestätsbeleidigung against the emperor was duly converted in §11 into “insulting the president” (with a punishment of up to six months), but to this was added (§20) the vague crime of “coarse impertinence” against the president or other institutions of the republic.

45 Cf. Capoccia, “Legislative Responses,” 708–9, who is contradictory on this issue.

46 Germany's Law for the Protection of the Republic (July 1922). For the special Yugoslav legislation of Aug. 1921 see below.

47 The six codes were Serbian, Montenegrin, Croatian, Bosnian, Hungarian, and Austrian (covering the south Slav regions of former Cisleithania). See Arhiv Jugoslavije Belgrade [AJ: Archive of Yugoslavia], Ministarstvo Pravde Kraljevine Jugoslavije [Ministry of Justice of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia], fasc. 34 (opis 102): Projekat kaznenog zakonika za Kraljevinu Srba, Hrvata i Slovenaca [Draft criminal code for the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes] (Belgrade, 1922), 81. This is the draft for a new criminal code with a short commentary (kratsko objašnjenje).

48 Neda Engelsfeld, Prvi parlament Kraljevstva Srba, Hrvata i Slovenaca [The first parliament of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes] (Zagreb, 1989), 123, 125–26.

49 Ministarstvo Pravde Kraljevstva Srba, Hrvata i Srba, Glava IX i X Kriminalnog (kaznitelnog) zakona za Kraljevinu Srbiju [Chapters IX and X of the criminal (penal) law of the Kingdom of Serbia] (Belgrade, 1919).

50 Projekat kaznenog zakonika, 82, 96. Further paragraphs dealt with incitement to commit these crimes: thus the proposed §92 covered entering into discussions over such crimes with a foreign government.

51 Ibid., 97.

52 For the critical reports see AJ, Ministry of Justice, fasc. 34 (opis 103) for 1922. While one leading Croatian expert, Professor Ernest Miler, had few comments to make on the treason clauses, the Croatian chamber of lawyers in Zagreb was mainly vexed about retention of the death penalty in the criminal code and vainly recommended a maximum penalty of life imprisonment (even for killing the king): see Dragutin Katušić to Ministry of Justice, 13 Nov. 1922, enclosing their views.

53 AJ, Ministry of Justice, fasc. 34 (opis 103), Predsjednik kr. sudbeni stol [President of the royal court table] (Zagreb) to Ministry of Justice, 26 Dec. 1922, 18.

54 Ivan Avakumovic, History of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, vol.1 (Aberdeen, 1964), 49–56.

55 Bosiljka Janjatović, Politički teror u Hrvatskoj 1918.1935. [Political terror in Croatia 1918–1935] (Zagreb 2002), 230–36. It never came to trial, but the charges prepared against Radić were akin to treason: for example, supposedly plotting with Hungary to secede Croatia from the Yugoslav state and allying with “communist” organizations abroad.

56 Stenographisches Protokoll. Herrenhaus. XXI Session. 29 Sitzung, 26 June 1913, Beilage 167, 2, 11. This report, accompanying the debate on the draft law for reforming the penal code, noted how the laws protecting the territory and constitution of the state lacked the precision that alone could confront especially dangerous attacks. A “deep reworking of this chapter of the penal code was particularly necessary.”

57 H. Gordon Skilling, T. G. Masaryk: Against the Current 1882–1914 (University Park, 1994), 164–71.

58 Hinko Hinković, Les Persécutions des Yougoslaves: Procès politiques (1906–1918) (Paris, 1916). See also Le Matin, 4 May 1915, reporting Hinković’s lecture in Paris where he claimed 19,000 Croats had been executed since the start of the war.

59 HDA, SDDS, kutija 5712 (26), Ad 1244/17, “Verzeichnis der in der hochverräterischen Bewegung der Südslaven beteiligten und im Auslande tätigen Personen” [compiled by Gericht des k.u.k. Militärkommandos Graz, Landwehrgruppe], dated end of Jan. 1917.

60 For Masaryk, see Milada Paulová, Dějiny Maffie: Odboj Čechů a Jihoslovanů za světové války 1914–1918 [History of the Maffie: The resistance of the Czechs and Yugoslavs in the world war 1914–1918], 2 vols. (Prague, 1937), 1:623–28; and for a full analysis of how he was investigated, see Eduard Kubů and Jiří Šouša, T. G. Masaryk a jeho c.k. protivníci. Československá zahraniční akce ženevského období v zápase s rakousko-uherskou diplomacií, zpravodajskými službami a propagandou (1915–1916) [T. G. Masaryk and his imperial adversaries. The Czechoslovak foreign campaign in the Geneva phase of the struggle with Austro-Hungarian diplomacy, intelligence services and propaganda (1915–1916)] (Prague, 2015). For Vošnjak: HDA, SDDS, kutija 5697 (11), file on Vošnjak: 5134/16, Odjel za bogoštovlje i nastavu [Department for religious affairs and education] to Dekant pravo- i državnoslovnoga fakulteta kr.sveučilišta Franje Josipa I [Dean's office of the faculty of law and government of the royal university of Francis Joseph I] (Zagreb), 16 Dec. 1916.

61 Državni Arhiv u Zagrebu [DAZG: State Archives of Zagreb], Alfred Makanec MSS, kutija 22, 22/28/11, Viktor Aleksander to sudbeni stol, 2 June 1915.

62 The Graz Landwehr court's documentation on individuals like Vošnjak, Ante Trumbić, and other Yugoslav émigrés has not yet been located and was probably destroyed. However, much can be deduced about the court's methodical investigations using material in the Makanec papers at the DAZG.

63 Überegger, Der andere Krieg, 384–86.

64 Deak and Gumz, “How to Break a State,” 1126.

65 Cornwall, “Traitors and the Meaning of Treason in Austria-Hungary's Great War,” 123–24.

66 Most decisive in its impact was the Zagreb trial, not the subsequent Friedjung trial; cf. Cole, “Visions and Revisions of Empire,” 278. R. W. Seton-Watson called it “one of the grossest travesties of justice in modern times”, rivaling France's Dreyfus affair: Seton-Watson, The Southern Slav Question, 184, 208.

67 See the exaggerated underlying claims in Deak and Gumz, “How to Break a State”: “the empire's deep attachment to the rule of law, within a relatively well-functioning political system” (1117); the prewar empire as “plodding but inherently calm and predictable” (1118); and “the orderly Habsburg Rechtsstaat” (1125). Cf. also Judson, The Habsburg Empire, 106–7 and 393: that wartime was “a radical departure from the normal functioning of the Rechtsstaat.”

68 For the hysteria and mass arrests, see Moll, Kein Burgfrieden, 172ff; Wiggermann, K.u.k. Kriegsmarine, 315ff; and for a small case study, see Martin Moll, “Hochverrat und ‘serbophile Umtriebe’: Der Kriminalfall Maria-Rast als Beispiel der Verfolgung slowenischer Steirer zu Beginn des Ersten Weltkrieges,” Blätter für Heimatkunde 74, nos. 1–2 (2000): 39–73.

69 See HDA, fond 397, DNO Zagreb 1875–1945, kutija 74, K174/1914. Details of the trial were published later as Sokolski Veleizdajnički proces iz 1915.1916. god. [The Sokol treason trial of 1915–1916] (Zagreb, 1927). For good context—notably the links to the Sarajevo investigation—see Arnold Suppan, “Zur Verfolgung der grossserbischen Propaganda in Kroatien-Slawonien während des Ersten Weltrkrieges,” in Veleizdajnički proces u Banjaluci. Zbornik radova s Medjunarodnog naučnog skupa ‘Veleizdajnički proces u Banjaluci 1915–16’ [The Banjaluka treason trial. Proceedings of the international conference about the ‘treason trial in Banjaluka 1915–16’], ed. Galib Šljivo (Banjaluka, 1987), 357–68.

70 This, therefore, encompassed all twenty-five of the accused who could all receive the death penalty. For the Sarajevo trial, the best source is the critical edition of Vojislav Bogićević, recently republished: Sarajevski atentat. Izvorne stenogramske bilješke sa glavne rasprave protiv Gavrila Principa i drugove, održane u Sarajevu 1914. godine [The Sarajevo assassination. Original transcript notes from the main trial of Gavrilo Princip and others, held in Sarajevo in 1914] (Banja Luka, 2015). For further analysis, see Cornwall, “Traitors and the Meaning of Treason,” 125–27; and Vladimir Dedijer, The Road to Sarajevo (London, 1966), 328–46. For recent Serbian legal assessments, praising Zistler's heroism and condemning the “unfair” trial, see Srdjan Djordjević and Srdjan Vladetić, “Rudolf Cistler—viva vox Serbiae! Sudski proces i odbrana učesnika Sarajevskog atentata 1914. godine” [Rudolf Zistler—Serbia's mouthpiece! The trial and defense of the participants in the Sarajevo assassination of 1914], Srpska politička misao [Serbian Political Thought] 2 (2014): 93–110; and Veljko Turanjanin and Dragana Čvorović, “Sarajevo 1914: Trial Process against Young Bosnia—Illusion of the Fair Process,” Zbornik radova Pravnog Fakulteta [Proceedings of the Law Faculty] 50, no. 1 (Novi Sad, 2016): 183–99.

71 Zistler, Kako sam branio Principa, 15–17.

72 See Milorad Ekmečić, “‘Žalosna baština iz godine 1914’ (Političke namjene sudskih procesa u Bosni i Hercegovini za vrijeme prvog svjetskog rata)” [‘The pitiful inheritance of 1914’ (The political aims of the court trials in Bosnia and Hercegovina during the First World War)] in Veleizdajnički proces u Banjaluci, ed. Galib Šljivo (Banjaluka, 1987), 13–41. This volume of essays is the best introduction to the wartime treason trials across Bosnia-Hercegovina.

73 Ibid., 28–29, 31.

74 This was a common trope in treason trials through the ages, for example, in the speech of Edward Coke at the trial of the English Gunpowder plotters in 1606.

75 The indictment was based particularly on captured Serbian documents that supposedly proved a network of treacherous agents of Narodna Odbrana around Bosnia: see Horst Haselsteiner, “Prozess Banja Luka 1916: Das Militärgutachen,” in Veleizdajnički proces u Banjaluci, ed. Galib Šljivo (Banjaluka, 1987), 145–54.

76 Ekmečić, “Žalosna baština iz godine 1914,” 35, 40.

77 Ibid., 35.

78 For the military, Ruthenes/Ukrainians and later Italians were also, of course, stereotypical traitors and suffered mass internment (or execution in the war zone of Galicia). However, there were no major political trials to equate with those of leading Czech or Serbs. The exception perhaps was the case of the Ukrainian politician Dimitrij Markov, arrested in July 1914. In Aug. 1915 he was convicted of treason at a trial in Vienna, the prosecution attempting to link his case to that of Karel Kramář. See Milada Paulová, Dějiny Maffie: Odboj Čechů a Jihoslovanů za světové války 1914–1918, 2 vols. (Prague, 1939), 2/1:154–55. It has not yet been possible to locate the papers of this trial and there was no press reporting, but Markov was interned in Vienna for three years.

79 See Lein, Pflichterfüllung oder Hochverrat? And the early analysis by Richard Plaschka, “Zur Vorgeschichte des Übergang von Einheiten des Infanterieregiment Nr.28,” Österreich und Europa. Festgabe für Hugo Hantsch (Vienna, 1965), 455–64.

80 Cf. the claim by Deak and Gumz (“How to Break a State,” 1107, note 8) that the standard narrative about Czech wartime treason has been completely overturned by recent findings.

81 In Cleveland and New York, he had given lectures attacking Habsburg behavior during the Balkan Wars and claiming that the monarchy's peoples were now opposing a government that was leading them to destruction. See Archiv Narodního Muzea, Prague [ANM: Archive of the National Museum], HN, karton 77, Václav Klofáč papers: Dst 119/14 42, Ministry of Foreign Affairs to Landwehrdivisionsgericht, 20 Oct. 1914; and for the background to his arrest: Paulová, Dějiny Maffie, 1:27ff, 113–15.

82 For the draft indictment with a useful introduction: Zdeněk Tobolka, ed., Obžalovací spis proti Václav Klofáčovi a Rudolfu Giuniovi pro zločin [velezrády] dle §58c tr. z [Indictment against Václav Klofáč and Rudolf Giunio for the crime of treason according to §58c of the penal code] (Prague, 1919). Also the material in ANM, karton 77, Klofáč papers. For example, Preminger informed the AOK on 11 July 1916 that the investigation into Klofáč’s links to Great Serb leaders had thrown up numerous examples of espionage, “staatsfeindliche Wühlarbeiten und hochverräterrischen Unternehmungen” (A 1473/16 180).

83 For more detail on the following, see Cornwall, “Traitors and the Meaning of Treason,” 128–32; Gustav Müller, Der Hochverratsprozeß gegen Dr. Karel Kramar (PhD diss., University of Vienna, 1971).

84 Archiv Ústavu TGM [Archive of the TGM Institute] (Prague), fond Maffie, karton 44, Militäranwalt des Militärkommandanten in Wien (Preminger) to AOK via Evidenzbüro, A 2162/15, 31 May 1915.

85 Militäranwalt des Militärkommandanten in Wien (A 2162/15 / 960), Anklageschrift (Vienna, 1915), 111.

86 Kubů and Šouša, T.G. Masaryk a jeho c.k. protivníci, 288.

87 Charles later justified his move, for it included both Czechs and Germans: Erich Feigl, ed., Kaiser Karl. Persönliche Aufzeichnungen, Zeugnisse und Dokumente (Vienna, 1984), 206–7. Although it did not include those convicted in the Banjaluka trial, seventy of them were subsequently pardoned by imperial decree in September 1917: Dženana Čaušević, “‘Veleizdajnici’ na sudskom procesu u Banjaluci i u zatvorima” [‘Traitors’ at the Banjaluka trial and in prison], in Veleizdajnički proces u Banjaluci, ed. Galib Šljivo (Banjaluka, 1987), 383–85.

88 Cornwall, “Traitors and the Meaning of Treason,” 133.

89 For the German deputies’ protest of Dec. 1917, see Zdeněk Tobolka, ed., Dotaz německých poslanců o chování se českého národa za války [Inquiry of German deputies into the behavior of the Czech nation during the war], 2 vols. (Prague, 1918). Czech deputies especially reacted in Apr. 1918 to the tactless warning by the Habsburg Foreign Minister, Count Czernin, that there might be traitors like Masaryk concealed among the Czechs at home. See the coverage in Národní listy [National Pages], 4 Apr. 1918, p. 1.

90 Felix J. Bister, “Majestät, es ist zu spat…”. Anton Korošec und die slovenische Politik im Wiener Reichsrat bis 1918 (Vienna, 1995), 233. In June 1918, in an alternative Slovenian discourse on treason, the newspaper of the pro-Habsburg politician Ivan Šušteršič publicly lambasted those Yugoslavs agitating abroad as “traitors who bear the guilt for so much spilt blood”: see Mark Cornwall, The Undermining of Austria-Hungary: The Battle for Hearts and Minds (New York, 2018), 265–66.

91 SOAP, Krajský (zemský) soud trestní Praha, Vr-XV 7873/18—case of Antonín Pařízek.

92 Speech to national parliament on 22 Dec. 1918: Masaryk, T. G., Cesta demokracie. Soubor projevů za republiky. Svazek první, 1918–1920 [The course of democracy. Collected speeches in the republic. First volume, 1918–1920] (Prague, 1939), 24.

93 In the case of the court-martial of Nicolae and Elena Ceauşescu, both they and their prosecutors attacked each other as traitors to the nation.

94 Šmidrkal, “Fyzické násilí autorita,” 96ff.

95 For example, the moral crusade of Pál Prónay amidst the turmoil in Hungary: see Bodó, Béla, Pál Prónay: Paramilitary Violence and Anti-Semitism in Hungary, 1919–1921 (Pittsburgh, 2011). For Czech soldiers’ behavior in Slovakia, see Kučera, “Exploiting Victory,” 847–48.

96 On postwar Italian trials, see Giuliano Casagrande, “Resistenza e resilienza di una città invasa: il caso Troyer, Vittorio 1917–18,” Venetica 24 (2016): 79–105. Many thanks to the author for sending me this article. In Romania, for the 1919 trial of journalists, see Dimitrie Vatamaniuc, Ioan Slavici și lumea prin care a trecut [Ioan Slavici and the world he passed through] (Bucharest, 1968), 472–82. And for the 1920 trial of sixty soldiers, see Mihai Chiper, “‘Onoarea trădătorilor’: Cazurile General Alexandru Văitoianu și Al. Tzigara-Samurcaș” [The traitors’ honor: The cases of General Alexandru Văitoianu and Al. Tzigara-Samurcaș], Anuarul Institutului de Istorie “A. D. Xenopol” [Yearbook of the “A.D. Xenopol” Institute of History] (Iași, 2013): 329–30. I am most grateful to Vlad Popovici of the University of Cluj for sending me information about these trials. For the most recent general study, see Gheorghe Vlad, O istorie a trădării la români [A history of treason among the Romanians], vol. 2 (Bucharest, 2010).

97 Interpellation of Mehmed Spaho in the 22nd session, 16 May 1919: Stenografske beleške privremenog narodnog predstavništva Kraljevine Srba, Hrvata i Slovenaca od 20.–40. sastanka. II sveska [Stenographic transcript of the provisional national assembly of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croat and Slovenes, 20th–40th meetings. Second volume] (Zagreb, 1920), 517. Similarly in postwar Romania, there was no official retribution against supporters of the pro-Hungarian Metropolitan of Transylvania, Vasile Mangra, who in 1916 had “treacherously” spoken out against Romania and had died in office just as the war ended. See Eppel, Marius, Un mitropolit şi epoca sa [A Metropolitian and his times] (Cluj-Napoca, 2006); and for Mangra's “exposure” as a traitor in wartime Allied propaganda: Cornwall, The Undermining of Austria-Hungary, 357.

98 Šmidrkal, “Fyzické násilí autorita,” 109–10.

99 Hungary may be the exception. The chaotic regime changes of 1919 resulted in some treason trials of those previously in power; in 1921 the former president Mihály Károlyi was tried for high treason in absentia: Pál Schönwald, A Károlyi-per [The Károlyi trial] (Budapest, 1985).

100 SOAP, Krajský (zemský) soud trestní Praha, Vr-XXIV 9573/18—case of Walter Reinhard and Josef Heinz. Most of the substantial evidence about this case has not survived.

101 Ferdinand Peroutka, Budování státu. Československá politika v letech popřevratových: rok 1919 [Building a state. Czechoslovak politics in the post-revolutionary years: The year 1919], 2 vols. (Prague, 1934), 2:1295–96; Masaryk, Cesta demokracie, 1:243: conversation with Prager Tagblatt, 20 Dec. 1919.

102 Peroutka, Budování státu, 2:1243.

103 Hlinka's behavior in 1919 has been studied in detail. See for example, Ladislav Deák, “Cesta A. Hlinku do Paríža roku 1919” [The journey of A. Hlinka to Paris in 1919], in Andrej Hlinka a jeho miesto v slovenských dejinách [Andrej Hlinka and his place in Slovak history], eds. František Bielik and Štefan Borovský (Bratislava, 1991), 68–83; Martin Holák, “Cesta Andreja Hlinku do Paríža a jej vplyv na slovenskú politiku v rokoch 1919–20” [Andrej Hlinka's journey to Paris and his impact on Slovak politics in 1919–20], Historický zborník [Historical Journal] 17, no. 1 (Martin, 2007): 52–69.

104 Peroutka, Budování státu, 2:1241, 1251–53.

105 For a good critical assessment, see Lorman, Thomas, “For God and which Nation? The Ideology of František Jehlička, Priest, Politician and Pariah of the Slovak National Movement,” The Slavonic & East European Review 96, no. 3 (2018): 507–40. An interview with Jehlička, which particularly attracted Prague's attention, appeared already in Uj Nemzedék [New Generation] on 20 Nov. 1919, pp. 1–2: “A tótok el akarnak szakadni a csehektől” [The Slovaks want to be free from the Czechs].

106 Deák, “Cesta A. Hlinku do Paríža,” 79–80. See Šrobár's assessment of Jehlička in his memoirs: Vavro Šrobár, Z môjho života [From my life] (Prague, 1946), 403: “something constantly compelled him towards treason.”

107 Národní archiv [NA: Czech National Archives, Prague], Ministerstvo spravedlnosti [Ministry of Justice] 1918–1945, karton 903: typed copy of Hlinka's declaration of 29 Sept., “Hlinka vlastizrádca?” [Hlinka a traitor?], 8. This was published in the Prague newspaper Čech [Czech], č.281 (přiloha), 1 Oct. 1919, 1–3; and is reproduced in Letz, Róbert, ed., Andrej Hlinka vo svetle dokumentov [Andrej Hlinka in the light of documents] (Bratislava, 2014), 122–29. A month later Hlinka again predicted that history or an impartial court would exonerate him: Holák, “Cesta Andreja Hlinku,” 67.

108 NA, karton 903, 24784/19, Ministry of Justice to Generální prokurator [general prosecutor] Prague, 13 Oct. 1919.

109 Ibid., 25051/19, Generální prokurator Prague to Ministry of Justice, 16 Oct. 1919; 4343/20, Generální prokurator Brno to Ministry of Justice, 4 Feb. 1920.

110 Peroutka, Budování státu, 2:1255–57. Peroutka highlights political considerations as the reason that proceedings were halted.

111 For it could be argued that Hlinka had not approached a foreign power but had sought to influence a conglomerate of powers charged (in Paris) with agreeing the formation of new states in Europe.

112 NA, karton 903, 10401/20, Chief state prosecutor Brno to Ministry of Justice, 28 Mar. 1920. See also Deák, “Cesta A. Hlinku,” 80–82.

113 NA, karton 903, 10401/20: Ministry of Justice comments of 19 Apr. 1920, sent to Ministry of Interior and the chief state prosecutor in Brno. These emphasized the problems with §142, but also queried any chance of convicting Hlinka on charges of inciting civil disobedience or attacking the constitution of the state (§171–73). Using §173 was problematic because a permanent Czechoslovak constitution had not been passed into law when Hlinka went to Paris in 1919.

114 Ibid., 18437/20, Chief state prosecutor Brno to Ministry of Justice, 1 June 1920.

115 See the documents in NA, Ministerstvo spravedlnosti 1918–1945, karton 908 on the trial of Alois Muna, Antonín Zápotocký and others (charged under §58b and c). For an account of the trial, 31 Mar. to 13 Apr. 1921: Velezrádný proces Kladenský [The Kladno treason trial] (Kladno, 1921). Muna had already long been publicly branded a traitor by Czechoslovak legionnaires because of his Bolshevik credentials: Zinner, Paul E., Communist Strategy and Tactics in Czechoslovakia, 1918–1948 (London, 1963), 2627.

116 Engelsfeld, Prvi parlament Kraljestva, 140.

117 See for example, the activity of the Croatian lawyer Radivoj Walter, who defended clients charged with different types of treason in pre- and post-1918 Croatia: HDA, fond 417, Odvjetnička kancelarija Walter Radivoje [The lawyer's office of Radivoj Walter]. These included cases of “treason” and espionage, but also many vaguely interpreted as being against “the war power of the state.”

118 Banac, Ivo, The National Question in Yugoslavia: Origins, History, Politics (Ithaca, 1984), 226–48.

119 Biondich, Mark, Stjepan Radić, The Croat Peasant Party and the Politics of Mass Mobilization 1904–1928 (Toronto, 2000), 155, 164–68.

120 Janjatović, Politički teror u Hrvatskoj, 139–44.

121 Here, for example, the deputy ban (governor) of Croatia, Franko Potočnjak, was at odds with the ban Matko Laginja. Potočnjak was intent on uncovering Radić’s state betrayal because for him Yugoslav loyalty was the priority: see Franko Potočnjak, Malo istine iz naše nedavne prošlosti [Small truths from our recent past] (Zagreb, 1921). Earlier in his (legal) career, Potočnjak in 1895 had stood up for Croatian students when they were prosecuted for national demonstrations against Hungarian rule.

122 Janjatović, Politički teror u Hrvatskoj, 159–60. Interestingly, it was Hinko Hinković who, as one of Radić’s lawyers in the early stages of the investigation, questioned the “legal force” of Serbia's penal code in Croatia.

123 Maček, Vladko, In the Struggle for Freedom (University Park, 1957), 88.

124 Janjatović, Politički teror, 166–72. For material from the defense case, see HDA, fond 417, Odvjetnička kancelarija Walter Radivoje, kutija 179; and Walter's article in Jutarnji list [Morning Paper], 24 June 1920, 3.

125 Janjatović, Politički teror, 177.

126 Maček, In the Struggle for Freedom, 104: “It is interesting to note the special manner in which legality was mixed with obvious breaking of the law in Yugoslavia in those days.”

127 On regime dilemmas over granting political amnesties, see Kirchheimer, Political Justice, 389–419.

128 Govori branitelja, 3.

129 See Cole, “Visions and Revisions of Empire,” 279: “the wartime ‘dictatorship’ in Austria did not come out of nowhere.”

130 A comparative example is the trial of Sir Roger Casement, which took place in a charged political atmosphere in London in June 1916. Although Casement's treason against Great Britain seemed fairly obvious in law (his collusion with the German enemy), the prosecution deliberately massaged the evidence to obscure Casement's Irish idealism and foreground his depravity. A guilty verdict was then never in doubt, for the prosecutor, Attorney General F. E. Smith, was notoriously hostile to any notion of Irish home rule or independence. Casement in turn was resigned to martyrdom, stating in his final speech to the courtroom: “If it be treason to fight against such an unnatural fate as this, then I am proud to be a rebel” (Trial of Roger Casement, 204).

131 On this subject, see the incisive discussion in Kirchheimer, Political Justice, 46, 105–14.

This article emerges from my current research project titled Treason in the Age of Francis Joseph. A draft paper was delivered in spring 2018 at the universities of Jena and Zagreb: my thanks to Joachim von Puttkamer and Iskra Iveljić for these opportunities. I would also like to thank the anonymous Austrian History Yearbook reviewers for their very useful recommendations.

Treason in an Era of Regime Change: The Case of the Habsburg Monarchy

  • Mark Cornwall


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed