The Central Powers consisted of the German Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the beginning of the war. The Ottoman Empire joined the Central Powers later in 1914. In 1915, the Kingdom of Bulgaria joined the alliance. The name "Central Powers" is derived from the location of these countries; all four (including the other groups that supported them except for Finland and Lithuania) were located between the Russian Empire in the east and France and the United Kingdom in the west. Finland, Azerbaijan, and Lithuania joined them in 1918 before the war ended and after the Russian Empire collapsed.
The Central Powers were composed of the following nations:
In early July 1914, in the aftermath of the assassination of Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and the immediate likelihood of war between Austria-Hungary and Serbia, Kaiser Wilhelm II and the German government informed the Austro-Hungarian government that Germany would uphold its alliance with Austria-Hungary and defend it from possible Russian intervention if a war between Austria-Hungary and Serbia took place. When Russia enacted a general mobilization, Germany viewed the act as provocative. The Russian government promised Germany that its general mobilization did not mean preparation for war with Germany but was a reaction to the events between Austria-Hungary and Serbia. The German government regarded the Russian promise of no war with Germany to be nonsense in light of its general mobilization, and Germany, in turn, mobilized for war. On August 1, Germany sent an ultimatum to Russia stating that since both Germany and Russia were in a state of military mobilization, an effective state of war existed between the two countries. Later that day, France, an ally of Russia, declared a state of general mobilization,
In August 1914, Germany waged war on Russia, the German government justified military action against Russia as necessary because of Russian aggression as demonstrated by the mobilization of the Russian army that had resulted in Germany mobilizing in response.
After Germany declared war on Russia, France with its alliance with Russia prepared a general mobilization in expectation of war. On 3 August 1914, Germany responded to this action by declaring war on France. Germany, facing a two-front war, enacted what was known as the Schlieffen Plan, that involved German armed forces needing to move through Belgium and swing south into France and towards the French capital of Paris. This plan was hoped to quickly gain victory against the French and allow German forces to concentrate on the Eastern Front. Belgium was a neutral country and would not accept German forces crossing its territory. Germany disregarded Belgian neutrality and invaded the country to launch an offensive towards Paris. This caused Great Britain to declare war against the German Empire, as the action violated the Treaty of London that both nations signed in 1839 guaranteeing Belgian neutrality and defense of the kingdom if a nation reneged.
Subsequently, several states declared war on Germany in late August 1914, with Italy declaring war on Austria-Hungary in 1915 and Germany on August 27, 1916, the United States declaring war on Germany on April 6, 1917 and Greece declaring war on Germany in July 1917.Europe
Upon its founding in 1871, the German Empire controlled Alsace-Lorraine as an "imperial territory" incorporated from France after the Franco-Prussian War. It was held as part of Germany's sovereign territory.Africa
Germany held multiple African colonies at the time of World War I. All of Germany's African colonies were invaded and occupied by Allied forces during the war.
Cameroon, German East Africa, and German Southwest Africa were German colonies in Africa. Togoland was a German protectorate in Africa.Asia
The Kiautschou Bay concession was a German dependency in East Asia leased from China in 1898. It was occupied by Japanese forces following the Siege of Tsingtao.Pacific
German New Guinea was a German protectorate in the Pacific. It was occupied by Australian forces in 1914.
German Samoa was a German protectorate following the Tripartite Convention. It was occuiped by the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in 1914.
Austria-Hungary regarded the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand as being orchestrated with the assistance of Serbia. The country viewed the assassination as setting a dangerous precedent of encouraging the country's South Slav population to rebel and threaten to tear apart the multinational country. Austria-Hungary formally sent an ultimatum to Serbia demanding a full-scale investigation of Serbian government complicity in the assassination, and complete compliance by Serbia in agreeing to the terms demanded by Austria-Hungary. Serbia submitted to accept most of the demands, however Austria-Hungary viewed this as insufficient and used this lack of full compliance to justify military intervention. These demands have been viewed as a diplomatic cover for what was going to be an inevitable Austro-Hungarian declaration of war on Serbia.
Austria-Hungary had been warned by Russia that the Russian government would not tolerate Austria-Hungary crushing Serbia. However, with Germany supporting Austria-Hungary's actions, the Austro-Hungarian government hoped that Russia would not intervene and that the conflict with Serbia would be a regional conflict.
Austria-Hungary's invasion of Serbia resulted in Russia declaring war on the country and Germany in turn declared war on Russia, setting off the beginning of the clash of alliances that resulted in the World War.Territory
Austria-Hungary was internally divided into two states with their own governments, joined in communion through the Habsburg throne. Austrian Cisleithania contained various duchies and principalities but also the Kingdom of Bohemia, the Kingdom of Dalmatia, the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria. Hungarian Transleithania comprised the Kingdom of Hungary and the Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia. In Bosnia and Herzegovina sovereign authority was shared by both Austria and Hungary.
The Ottoman Empire joined the war on the side of the Central Powers in November 1914. The Ottoman Empire had gained strong economic connections with Germany through the Berlin-to-Baghdad railway project that was still incomplete at the time. The Ottoman Empire made a formal alliance with Germany signed on 2 August 1914. The alliance treaty expected that the Ottoman Empire would become involved in the conflict in a short amount of time. However, for the first several months of the war the Ottoman Empire maintained neutrality though it allowed a German naval squadron to enter and stay near the strait of Bosphorus. Ottoman officials informed the German government that the country needed time to prepare for conflict. Germany provided financial aid and weapons shipments to the Ottoman Empire.
After pressure escalated from the German government demanding that the Ottoman Empire fulfill its treaty obligations, or else Germany would expel the country from the alliance and terminate economic and military assistance, the Ottoman government entered the war with the recently acquired cruisers from Germany, the Yavuz Sultan Selim (formerly SMS Goeben) and the Midilli (formerly SMS Breslau) launching a naval raid on the Russian port of Odessa, thus engaging in a military action in accordance with its alliance obligations with Germany. Russia and the Triple Entente declared war on the Ottoman Empire.
Bulgaria was still resentful after its defeat in July 1913 at the hands of Serbia, Greece and Romania. It signed a treaty of defensive alliance with the Ottoman Empire on 19 August 1914. It was the last country to join the Central Powers, which Bulgaria did in October 1915 by declaring war on Serbia. It invaded Serbia in conjunction with German and Austro-Hungarian forces. Bulgaria held irredentist aims on the region of Vardar Macedonia held by Serbia.
The Dervish State was a rebel Somali state seeking independence of Somali territories. Dervish forces fought against Italian and British forces in Italian Somaliland and British Somaliland during World War I in the Somaliland Campaign. The Dervish State received support from Germany and the Ottoman Empire. It also briefly received support by the Ethiopian Empire from 1915-1916.
In opposition to the Union of South Africa, which had joined the war, Boer rebels founded the South African Republic in 1914 and engaged in the Maritz Rebellion. Germany assisted the rebels, and the rebels operated in and out of the German colony of German South-West Africa. The rebels were defeated by British imperial forces.
The Sultanate of Darfur forces fought against British forces in Anglo-Egyptian Sudan during World War I in the Anglo-Egyptian Darfur Expedition.
During 1917 and 1918, the Finns under Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim and Lithuanian nationalists fought Russia for a common cause. With the Bolshevik attack of late 1917, the General Secretariat of Ukraine sought military protection first from the Central Powers and later from the armed forces of the Entente.
The Ottoman Empire also had its own allies in Azerbaijan and the Northern Caucasus. The three nations fought alongside each other under the Army of Islam in the Battle of Baku.Belarus (Belarusian People's Republic)
The Belarusian People's Republic was a client state of Germany created in 1918.
Courland and Semigallia
The Duchy of Courland and Semigallia was a client state of Germany created in 1918.
Crim (Crimean Regional Government)
The Crimean Regional Government was a client state of Germany created in 1918
Don (Don Republic)
The Don Republic was closely associated with the German Empire and fought against the Bolsheviks.
Finland (Kingdom of Finland)
The Kingdom of Finland was a client state of Germany created in 1918
Kuban (Kuban People's Republic)
The Kuban People's Republic was a client state of Germany created in 1918
Lithuania (Kingdom of Lithuania)
The Kingdom of Lithuania was a client state of Germany created in 1918.
Northern Caucasus (Mountainous Republic of the Northern Caucasus)
The Mountainous Republic of the Northern Caucasus was associated with the Central Powers.
Poland (Kingdom of Poland)
The Kingdom of Poland was a client state of Germany created in 1916. This government was recognized by the emperors of Germany and Austria-Hungary in November 1916, and it adopted a constitution in 1917. The decision to create a state of Poland was taken by Germany in order to attempt to legitimize its military occupation amongst the Polish inhabitants, following upon German propaganda sent to Polish inhabitants in 1915 that German soldiers were arriving as liberators to free Poland from subjugation by Russia.
The state was utilized by the German government alongside punitive threats to induce Polish landowners living in the German-occupied Baltic territories to move to the state and sell their Baltic property to Germans in exchange for moving to Poland, and efforts were made to induce similar emigration of Poles from Prussia to the state.
Ukraine (Ukrainian State)
The Ukrainian State was a client state of Germany led by Pavlo Skoropadskyi, who overthrew the government of the Ukrainian People's Republic.
United Baltic Duchy
The United Baltic Duchy was a proposed client state of Germany created in 1918
Azerbaijan (Azerbaijan Democratic Republic)
In 1918, the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, facing Bolshevik revolution and opposition from the Muslim Musavat Party, was then occupied by the Ottoman Empire, which expelled the Bolsheviks while supporting the Musavat Party. The Ottoman Empire maintained a presence in Azerbaijan until the end of the war in November 1918.
Jabal Shammar was an Arab state in the Middle East that was closely associated with the Ottoman Empire.
Other movements supported the efforts of the Central Powers for their own reasons, such as the Irish Nationalists who launched the Easter Rising in Dublin in April 1916; they referred to their "gallant allies in Europe". In 1914, Józef Piłsudski was permitted by Germany and Austria-Hungary to form independent Polish legions. Piłsudski wanted his legions to help the Central Powers defeat Russia and then side with France and the UK and win the war with them.
Bulgaria signed an armistice with the Allies on 29 September 1918, following a successful Allied advance in Macedonia. The Ottoman Empire followed suit on 30 October 1918 in the face of British and Arab gains in Palestine and Syria. Austria and Hungary concluded ceasefires separately during the first week of November following the disintegration of the Habsburg Empire and the Italian offensive at Vittorio Veneto; Germany signed the armistice ending the war on the morning of 11 November 1918 after the Hundred Days Offensive, and a succession of advances by New Zealand, Australian, Canadian, Belgian, British, French and US forces in north-eastern France and Belgium. There was no unified treaty ending the war; the Central Powers were dealt with in separate treaties.