Romania Declares War on Austria-Hungary

The Romanian people rather inclined toward the side of the Allies from the beginning of the War, but they were prevented from following their inclinations by reason of the treacherous attitude of King Carol, a Hohenzollern by birth, who strove in vain to commit his nation to Germany's cause. The King died a few weeks after the Great War began, and his nephew Ferdinand ascended the throne on October 11, 1914.

Ferdinand's sympathies were plainly with the Allies, but before enlisting his army, he required a pledge from Russia that the provinces of Transylvania, Bukowina and Barat in Hungary, which were then peopled by 3,000,000 Romanians, should revert to Romania in event of Austria's defeat in the War. He also exacted as his reward that part of Bessarabia in Russia which was occupied chiefly by Romanians. These demands were the subject of lengthy negotiations, Russia being unwilling to accede all the terms.

Later, in 1915, when Russia met with disaster in the Carpathians, and victory seemed to be in the grasp of the Huns, Romania preferred to adopt a policy of neutrality. Nevertheless, King Ferdinand was nothing loathe to accept a loan of several million dollars from England, which he devoted to the uses of his army, already partly mobilized

Austria Tries to Bribe Romania

So matters stood until July 8, 1915, when Austria made overtures to Romania. In the first Austrian proposal, Romania was promised all of Bukowina south of the Sereth River; the establishment of a Romanian university in Brasso; large admissions of Romanians into the public service of Hungary, and greater liberty of administration to the Romanian churches in Austria, if she would continue her friendly neutrality.

The second proposal specified that Romania should put five army corps and two cavalry divisions at the disposal of the Austrian General Staff to operate against Russia. In return, Romania should receive all of Bukowina as far as the Pruth River, all the territory along the north bank of the Danube up to the "Iron Gate," complete autonomy for the Romanians in Transylvania, and as much territory in Bessarabia as the Romanians should succeed in wresting from the Russians.

King Ferdinand refused to commit himself. But later, when Prince Hohenlohe of Austria asked consent to transport war munitions through Romania to Turkey, he refused the concession. He did, however, close a bargain with Germany to supply that nation with provisions and oil. In fact, during the period of Romania's neutrality she had profited greatly from the sale of grain, meat and oil to all the belligerent nations.

Russian Treachery Towards Romania

When victory was perching on the banners of the Allies in 1916, King Ferdinand thought the time propitious for Romania's entrance into the War. The victorious Russian offensive was then in progress; Austria had been driven out of Bukowina after losing half of Galicia; the Italian Army had sent the Austrians reeling back from Gorizia; the German campaign at Verdun had failed, and the French and English had damaged the German line on the Western front.

But King Ferdinand was really coerced into entering the war. The pro-German bureaucracy in control of Russia's Government, at the instigation of Premier Sturmer, had issued an ultimatum to Romania, demanding that she join the Allies or else abandon all hope of gaining territorial advantages at the close of the war. Romania had been led to expect strong Russian aid, an army of 500,000 at least, if she enlisted in the War. These with her own 600,000 troops would give her a force sufficient to defeat Austria and Bulgaria combined.

King Ferdinand never once surmised that Sturmer and other Russian bureaucrats intended Romania's betrayal and destruction, as a preliminary to Russia's base acceptance of Germany's recent peace terms. Nor did he know that the forces of anarchy and treachery were already in virtual control of Russia and had decreed the doom of the Russian Army by preventing the manufacture of munitions in sufficient quantities to insure a victory of Russian arms over the Teutons. Inspired only by the vision of a greater Romania, and the redemption of his subjects from the iron rule of Hungary, King Ferdinand declared war on Austria-Hungary and Germany, August 27, 1916.

On August 27, three Romanian armies launched attacks through the Southern Carpathians and into Transylvania. The attacks were initially successful in pushing weak units of the Austro-Hungarian First Army out of the mountains, but the Austro-Hungarians sent four divisions to reinforce their lines, and by the middle of September, the Romanian offensive was halted. The Russians loaned them three divisions for operations in the north of Romania but very few supplies.