Why Austria-Hungary? Why I.R. 61?
Despite the fact that the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Habsburg Empire, was the event that ignited the First World War, Austria-Hungary is the most overlooked and least understood of the principle beligerents. Already an anachronism by the dawn of the 20th century, the Alte Monarchie presents fascinating study in the promises and perils of multi-culturalism. With its many languages, ethnic and and religous groups and its staggeringly complex bureaucracy, Austria-Hungary holds many surprises and delights for the student of history and provides valuable insights into the development of Central Europe.
I.R. 61 was a virtual microcosm of Austria-Hungary in the First World War. With its recruiting area in the Banat region, centered around the city of Temesvár (now Timisoara, Romania), the 61st drew roughly equal numbers of ethnic Germans, Magyars and Romanians, with a dash of Poles, Ruthenes, Serbs and Croats. Soldiers of the 61st served in most of the major theaters of operations, including the Balkans, the Eastern Front, the Italian Front and even spent the final months of the war on the Western Front. The men of the 61st fought bravely and well until the empire they had sworn to defend had ceased to exist.