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2010 | 53 | 1 | 55-75

Article title

THE AUSTRO-HUNGARIAN INTELLIGENCE SERVICES AND THE 'POLISH QUESTION' AT THE TIME OF WORLD WAR I (Sluzby informacyjne Austro-Wegier wobec sprawy polskiej w latach pierwszej wojny swiatowej)


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This article reassesses the problem of the attitude of the Austrian intelligence service towards the 'Polish question' - the Polish legions and the independence movement in 1914 -1918, especially in the period August 1914 - April 1917, when Austrian policy was largely influenced by Generalmajor Oskar Hranilovic-Czvetassin, chief of the Military Intelligence Service. In the early phases of the war, when Austria could still rely on the full potential of its combat troops and reserves, the Military Intelligence Service (Nachrichtenabteilung Armeeoberkommando) sought co-operation with Józef Pilsudski and the Polish nationalists within a limited range of facilitating Austrian military operations. The Polish Riflemen (Strzelcy), a paramilitary organization founded in 1910, were to be deployed in the auxiliary tasks of reconnaissance and sabotage. When the Polish Legions were created in 1914, Hranilovic kept an eye on them (especially Pilsudski's First Brigade) to ensure that they would make the maximum contribution to the Austrian war effort. At first Hranilovic tried to keep Pilsudski in his military post and get him involved in some form of Austrian-backed Polish administration. Eventually, however, gave up on his plans as it became clear that Pilsudski's sole aim was to work for Poland's independence and to transform the Legions into an embryo Polish army. The distrust of the Austrian intelligence also hampered the activities of the clandestine Polish Military Organization. In the late phase of the war the suspicion of all Polish nationalist groups grew so much that co-operation with even the extreme loyalists of Polish National Committee was undermined. It seems that the Austrian intelligence under Major Maximiliar Ronge (who replaced Hranilovic on 12 April 1917) carried on with their routine operations and, in spite of the steady flow of intelligence and political soundings from the German-occupied Kingdom of Poland, they failed to see the challenge and confront the Polish question in all its complexity. In effect the Austro-Hungarian policy was always late in reacting to developments whose accelerating speed eventually brought down the Habsburg monarchy in November 1918.









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  • Jerzy Gaul, no address given, contact the journal editor


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Publication order reference


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