The Emperor and the Peasant: Two Men at the Start of the Great War and the End of the Habsburg Empire

Kenneth Janda
Mcfarland & Co Inc Pub
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There was more to World War I than the Western Front. This history, presented as two intertwined narratives in alternating chapters, juxtaposes the experiences of a monarch and a peasant on the Eastern Front. Franz Joseph I, emperor of Austria-Hungary, was the first European leader to declare war in 1914 and the first to commence firing. Samuel Mozolak was a Slovak laborer who sailed to New York--where he fathered twins who were taken as babies (and U.S. citizens) to his home village--before being drafted into the army and killed in combat. The author interprets Franz Joseph's view of the war from the perspective of the emperor and his contemporaries, Kaiser Wilhelm II and Tsar Nicolas II. Mozolak's story depicts the life of a peasant conscript in an army staffed by aristocratic officers, and illustrates the pattern of East European immigration to America. Both stories are enlivened with references to the art and culture of the period.