Central Powers

Central Powers
Mittelmächte  (German)
Központi hatalmak  (Hungarian)
İttifak Devletleri  (Turkish)
Централни сили (Bulgarian)
Military alliance
  •      Allied Powers (and their colonies)
  •      Central Powers (and their colonies)
  •      Neutral Powers
Political structure Military alliance
Historical era World War I
  Dual Alliance
(Germany / Austria-Hungary)
7 October 1879
   Established 28 June 1914
  Ottoman–German Alliance 2 August 1914
  Bulgaria–Germany treaty
  • 6 September 1915 (secret)
  • 14 October 1915 (public)
   Dissolved 11 November 1918

The Central Powers (German: Mittelmächte; Hungarian: Központi hatalmak; Turkish: İttifak Devletleri or Bağlaşma Devletleri; Bulgarian: Централни сили Tsentralni sili), consisting of Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria – hence also known as the Quadruple Alliance[1] (German: Vierbund) – was one of the two main factions during World War I (1914–18). It faced and was defeated by the Allied Powers that had formed around the Triple Entente, after which it was dissolved.

The Powers' origin was the alliance of Germany and Austria-Hungary in 1879. The Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria did not join until after World War I had begun.

Member states

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.

  • Allied and Central Powers during World War I
  •      Allied Powers
  •      Allied colonies, dominions, territories or occupations
  •      Central Powers
  •      Central Powers' colonies or occupations
  •      Neutral countries
Europe in 1914.

The Central Powers were composed of the following nations:[2]

Nation Entered WWI
 Austria-Hungary 28 July 1914
 German Empire 1 August 1914
 Ottoman Empire 2 August 1914 (secret)
29 October 1914 (public)
 Kingdom of Bulgaria 14 October 1915
Economic statistics of the Central Powers [notes 1][3]
(million km2)
($ billion)
GDP per capita
 German Empire (1914) Germany 67.0 0.5 244.3 3,646
Colonies 10.7 3.0 6.4 601
Total 77.7 3.5 250.7 3,227
 Austria–Hungary (1914) 50.6 0.6 100.5 1,986
 Ottoman Empire (1914) 23.0 1.8 25.3 1,100
 Kingdom of Bulgaria (1915) 4.8 0.1 7.4 1,527
Total 156.1 6.0 383.9 2,459
Military statistics of the Central Powers [4]
Mobilized Killed in action Wounded Missing in action Total casualties Percentage casualties of total force mobilized
 German Empire 13,250,000 1,808,546 4,247,143 1,152,800 7,208,489 66%
 Austria–Hungary 7,800,000 922,500 3,620,000 2,200,000 6,742,500 86%
 Ottoman Empire 2,998,321 325,000 400,000 250,000 975,000 34%
 Kingdom of Bulgaria 1,200,000 75,844 153,390 27,029 255,263 21%
Total 25,257,321 3,131,890 8,419,533 3,629,829 15,181,252 66%



Main article: German Empire

War justifications

German soldiers in the battlefield in August 1914 on the Western Front shortly after the outbreak of war.
German cavalry entering Warsaw in 1915.
German battlecruiser SMS Seydlitz heavily damaged after the Battle of Jutland.
German Fokker Dr.I fighter aircraft of Jasta 26 at Erchin in German-occupied territory of France.

In early July 1914, in the aftermath of the assassination of Austro-Hungarian 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 Russia intervention if a war between Austria-Hungary and Serbia took place.[5] When Russia enacted a general mobilization, Germany viewed the act as provocative.[6] 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.[6] 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.[6] 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.[7] Later that day, France, an ally of Russia, declared a state of general mobilization,[7]

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.[8]

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.[9] 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; 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.

Colonies and dependencies


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.


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.


German New Guinea was a German protectorate in the Pacific. It was occupied by Australian forces in 1914.

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.


Main article: Austria-Hungary
Austro-Hungarian soldiers in trench on the Italian front during World War I.
Austro-Hungarian soldiers marching up Mount Zion in Jerusalem in the Ottoman Empire, during the Middle Eastern campaign.

War justifications

Austria-Hungary regarded the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand as being orchestrated with the assistance of Serbia.[5] 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.[6] 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.[5] 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.[10] These demands have been viewed as a diplomatic cover for what was going to be an inevitable Austro-Hungarian declaration of war on Serbia.[10]

Austria-Hungary had been warned by Russia that the Russian government would not tolerate Austria-Hungary crushing Serbia.[10] 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.[5]

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.


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.

Ottoman Empire

Main article: Ottoman Empire
Ottoman soldiers in military preparations for an assault on the Suez Canal in 1914.
Kaiser Wilhelm II visiting the Turkish cruiser Yavuz Sultan Selim during his stay in Istanbul in October 1917 as a guest of Sultan Mehmed V.

War justifications

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.[11] The Ottoman Empire made a formal alliance with Germany signed on 2 August 1914.[12] The alliance treaty expected that the Ottoman Empire would become involved in the conflict in a short amount of time.[12] 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.[13] Ottoman officials informed the German government that the country needed time to prepare for conflict.[13] Germany provided financial aid and weapons shipments to the Ottoman Empire.[12]

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.[14]


Main article: Kingdom of Bulgaria

War justifications

Bulgarian soldiers firing at an incoming aircraft.

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.

Declarations of war

Date Declared by Declared against
October 14 Kingdom of Bulgaria Bulgaria Kingdom of Serbia Serbia
October 15 United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland United Kingdom
Kingdom of Montenegro Montenegro
Kingdom of Bulgaria Bulgaria
October 16 France France Kingdom of Bulgaria Bulgaria
October 19 Kingdom of Italy Italy
Russian Empire Russia
Kingdom of Bulgaria Bulgaria
September 1 Kingdom of Bulgaria Bulgaria Kingdom of Romania Romania
July 2 Kingdom of Greece Greece Kingdom of Bulgaria Bulgaria


Emirate of Jabal Shammar

The Emirate of Jabal Shammar fought in the Middle Eastern theatre.

Dervish State

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.

South African Republic

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.

Sultanate of Darfur

The Sultanate of Darfur forces fought against British forces in Anglo-Egyptian Sudan during World War I in the Anglo-Egyptian Darfur Expedition.

Client states

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.

German client states

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
Georgia (Democratic Republic of Georgia)
In 1918, the Democratic Republic of Georgia, facing Bolshevik revolution and opposition from the Georgian Mensheviks and nationalists, was occupied by the German Empire, which expelled the Bolsheviks and supported the Mensheviks.
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.[15] This government was recognized by the emperors of Germany and Austria-Hungary in November 1916, and it adopted a constitution in 1917.[16] 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.[17]
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.[18]
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.[19]
United Baltic Duchy
The United Baltic Duchy was a proposed client state of Germany created in 1918

Ottoman client states

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.[20] The Ottoman Empire maintained a presence in Azerbaijan until the end of the war in November 1918.[20]
Jabal Shammar
Jabal Shammar was an Arab state in the Middle East that was closely associated with the Ottoman Empire.[21]

Non-state combatants

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.

Armistice and treaties

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.[22]

Central Powers by date of armistice
Flag Name Date
Bulgaria Bulgaria 29 September 1918
Ottoman Empire Ottoman Empire 30 October 1918
Austria-Hungary Austria-Hungary 4 November 1918
German Empire German Empire 11 November 1918
Central Powers treaties
Flag Name Treaty of
Austria Austria Saint-Germain
Kingdom of Bulgaria Bulgaria Neuilly
Weimar Republic Germany Versailles
Hungary Hungary Trianon
Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire


See also


  1. All figures presented are for the year 1913.


  1. Hindenburg, Paul von. "Out of my life". Internet Archive. p. 113.
  2. Meyer, G.J. (2007). A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914 to 1918. Delta Trade Paperback. ISBN 0-553-38240-3.
  3. S.N. Broadberry, Mark Harrison. The Economics of World War I. illustrated ed. Cambridge University Press, 2005, pp. 9-10.
  4. Spencer Tucker (1996). "The European Powers in the First World War". p. 173.
  5. 1 2 3 4 Cashman, Greg; Robinson, Leonard C. An Introduction to the Causes of War: Patterns of Interstate Conflict from World War I to Iraq. Rowman & Littlefield. 2007. P57
  6. 1 2 3 4 Meyer, G.J. A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914 to 1918. Delta Book. 2006. P39.
  7. 1 2 Meyer, G.J. A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914 to 1918. Delta Book. 2006. P95.
  8. Hagen, William W. German History in Modern Times: Four Lives of the Nation. P228.
  9. Tucker, Spencer C. A Global Chronology of Conflict: From the Ancient World to the Modern Middle East: From the Ancient World to the Modern Middle East. ABC-CLIO. 2009. P1556.
  10. 1 2 3 Cashman, Greg; Robinson, Leonard C. An Introduction to the Causes of War: Patterns of Interstate Conflict from World War I to Iraq. Rowman & Littlefield. 2007. P61
  11. Hickey, Michael. The First World War: Volume 4 The Mediterranean Front 1914-1923. P31.
  12. 1 2 3 Afflerbach, Holger; David Stevenson, David. An Improbable War: The Outbreak of World War 1 and European Political Culture. Berghan Books. 2012. P. 292.
  13. 1 2 Kent, Mary. The Great Powers and the End of the Ottoman Empire. end ed. Frank Cass. 1998. P119
  14. Afflerbach, Holger; David Stevenson, David. An Improbable War: The Outbreak of World War I and European Political Culture. Berghan Books. 2012. P. 293.
  15. The Regency Kingdom has been referred to as a puppet state by Norman Davies in Europe: A history (Google Print, p. 910); by Jerzy Lukowski and Hubert Zawadzki in A Concise History of Poland (Google Print, p. 218); by Piotr J. Wroblel in Chronology of Polish History and Nation and History (Google Print, p. 454); and by Raymond Leslie Buell in Poland: Key to Europe (Google Print, p. 68: "The Polish Kingdom... was merely a pawn [of Germany]").
  16. J. M. Roberts. Europe 1880-1945. P. 232.
  17. Aviel Roshwald. Ethnic Nationalism and the Fall of Empires: Central Europe, the Middle East and Russia, 1914-23. Routledge, 2002. P. 117.
  18. Annemarie Sammartino. The Impossible Border: Germany and the East, 1914-1922. Cornell University, 2010. P. 36-37.
  19. Kataryna Wolczuk. The Moulding of Ukraine: The Constitutional Politics of State Formation. P37.
  20. 1 2 Zvi Lerman, David Sedik. Rural Transition in Azerbaijan. P12.
  21. Hala Mundhir Fattah. The Politics of Regional Trade in Iraq, Arabia, and the Gulf, 1745-1900. P121.
  22. Davis, Robert T., ed. (2010). U.S. Foreign Policy and National Security: Chronology and Index for the 20th Century. 1. Santa Barbara, California: Praeger Security International. p. 49. ISBN 978-0-313-38385-4.
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