ORDER AND DISCIPLINE IN THE ARMY

Being a soldier is so easy. Get an order, carry it out. The only thing required of you is to lay down the complexities of civilian life upon laying down your civilian clothes. It is all so simple in the army. But not if the same heart that beats under your normal shirt beats under your military dress.
Andrej Zlobec

The elementary framework of the military apparatus is based on hierarchy and discipline. Upon conscription, each soldier is assigned a post with unambiguously defined duties, benefits and rights, along with how much power they wield and how much freedom in their decisions they will have. Maintaining such a military organisation would not be possible without strict discipline, which had to be accepted by soldiers quickly despite hesitations and objections. Punishment for the violation of rules was namely very severe and, even more so during the time of war, based on the autocracy and wantonness of commanding officers. In the Austrian regions of the dual monarchy, officers were derived mainly from German lands, and thus were unfamiliar with the languages of the assigned troops. As a result, every military command and official communication was given in German, and was actually also commonly used by foot soldiers in everyday conversations.

Military drills, typical of training in the barracks, suddenly became insufficient after arriving at the front lines, as the sterile training scenarios could not even begin to compare to actual combat situations. Accordingly, during the first months of the war, many soldiers died due to irrational self-delusions and their unreasonable confidence in themselves and the dated doctrines of self-infatuated officers leading the charge from a safe distance with an utter disregard for battlefield conditions or the morale of their subordinate troops. Soldiers would often hold grudges against officers and accuse them of greed and indifferently sacrificing human lives in exchange for personal gain and commendations. The most intolerable and ruthless was the tyranny of certain officers, who during wartime wielded absolute authority and were able to, without reprimand, based solely on personal judgement and complete arrogance, have any subordinate soldier disciplined as desired or even executed by firing squad or hanging. The well-being of soldiers and individual units of the Austro-Hungarian Army was often also conditioned by the nationalities of the individual soldiers. The front lines were often reserved for troops hailing from Slavic countries, and who were often delegated the most tedious tasks at the military rear.

Despite the endless assaults and offensive during the four years of combat, there would occasionally be periods of relative calm, which too many were almost as cumbersome as direct combat. Waiting idly in ditches, strenuous patrols and the surveillance of enemy movements, all the while awaiting a new attack or shot, is what started to badger soldiers, also seeding turmoil and apathy. Officers would attempt to control the situation by requiring soldiers to carry out various trivial tasks. Not only were the soldiers occupied but also tired out. As a result, they did not possess neither the will nor the energy to resist, engage in arguments or give in to depression.

Nonetheless, individual or organised mutinies or disregard of commands did occur. This opposition became even more pronounced after 1916 when the initial eagerness surrounding war dwindled and doubts started to appear regarding the sense and expediency of fighting. Frustrations were made even worse due to the general shortage of food and other living necessities, nostalgia and the increasing national confrontations and chicanery. The numerous shortcomings of the glorious empire and its military became increasingly more apparent. On a daily basis, the dual monarchy lost more and more support, sympathy and credibility, which is why neither strict military discipline nor dictatorship, and not even patriotic slogans or ambitious promises could have saved it from its inevitable and final downfall.