100 YEARS SINCE WWI – JULY 23, 1914 – AUSTRIA-HUNGARY DELIVERS ITS ULTIMATUM

On July 19th, the leaders of Austria-Hungary had finalized a set of demands to Serbia in consequence for the assassination of Austrian archduke (and heir to the Austria-Hungarian throne) Franz Ferdinand almost a month earlier, on June 28.

Some historians believe that the ultimate intention of these demands was simply to present a legitimate excuse for war. While on their face the demands may have seemed just, Austria-Hungarian leaders crafted them with the intention and expectation that at least one of them would be rejected. This was the demand that Austrian authorities be allowed to actively participate in and direct the inquiry into the assassination. While to the world this might seem reasonable, political authorities knew that this would be a breach of international and domestic law, and Serbia would almost certainly reject it.

The Austrians waited to deliver the ultimatum until after the departure of French President Raymond Poincaré from St. Petersburg, Russia, in order to deny Serbia’s allies (France and Russia) the unique opportunity for their heads of state to coordinate a response to the ultimatum.

When Serbian Prime Minister Nikola Pasic learned that an Austrian communication was on its way, he departed Belgrade, the capitol, on an electioneering trip . . . perhaps merely a coincidence. Thus, when the Austria-Hungarian ambassador Giesl von Gieslingen arrived at the Serbian capital at 6 PM, the Serbian foreign ambassador tried to contact Pasic by telegram, and received no response.

The foreign minister spoke neither French nor German, and an interpreter was required. Giesl began to deliver the message, pausing frequently for the benefit of the interpreter. [the text of the ultimatum is included below] The foreign minister interrupted more and more as the gravity of the message became clear, arguing that only Pasic could receive a message this important. Giesl finally gave up, saying that he would leave the message and depart, and a response was required no later than 6 PM two days later (Saturday, July 25). “In departing, he said that no response other than unconditional acceptance would satisfy Austria.” ~G.J. Meyer, A WORLD UNDONE (New York: Delacorte Press, 2006), 36.

In St. Petersburg, the Russian foreign minister was outraged, and he complained the Russia couldn’t possibly stand by while its Orthodox brethren, the Serbs, were being threatened. “You are setting fire to Europe!” He said the Austrian ambassador. The Prince Regent of Serbia began sending wires to Tsar Nicholas asking for help.

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(English translation of the official ultimatum to Serbia)

Vienna, July 22, 1914

Your Excellency will present the following note to the Royal Government on the afternoon of Thursday, July 23: On the 31st of March, 1909, the Royal Serbian Minister at the Court of Vienna made, in the name of his Government, the following declaration to the Imperial and Royal Government:

Serbia recognizes that her rights were not affected by the state of affairs created in Bosnia, and states that she will accordingly accommodate herself to the decisions to be reached by the Powers in connection with Article 25 of the Treaty of Berlin. Serbia, in accepting the advice of the Great Powers, binds herself to desist from the attitude of protest and opposition which she has assumed with regard to the annexation since October last, and she furthermore binds herself to alter the tendency of her present policy toward Austria-Hungary, and to live on the footing of friendly and neighborly relations with the latter in the future.

Now the history of the past few years, and particularly the painful events of the 28th of June, have proved the existence of a subversive movement in Serbia, whose object it is to separate certain portions of its territory from the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. This movement, which came into being under the very eyes of the Serbian Government, subsequently found expression outside of the territory of the Kingdom in acts of terrorism, in a number of attempts at assassination, and in murders.

Far from fulfilling the formal obligations contained in its declaration of the 31st of March, 1909, the Royal Serbian Government has done nothing to suppress this movement. It has tolerated the criminal activities of the various unions and associations directed against the Monarchy, the unchecked utterances of the press, the glorification of the authors of assassinations, the participation of officers and officials in subversive intrigues; it has tolerated an unhealthy propaganda in its public instruction; and it has tolerated, finally, every manifestation which could betray the people of Serbia into hatred of the Monarchy and contempt for its institutions.

This toleration of which the Royal Serbian Government was guilty, was still in evidence at that moment when the events of the twenty-eighth of June exhibited to the whole world the dreadful consequences of such tolerance.

It is clear from the statements and confessions of the criminal authors of the assassination of the twenty-eighth of June, that the murder at Sarajevo was conceived at Belgrade, that the murderers received the weapons and the bombs with which they were equipped from Serbian officers and officials who belonged to the Narodna Odbrana, and, finally, that the dispatch of the criminals and of their weapons to Bosnia was arranged and effected under the conduct of Serbian frontier authorities.

The results brought out by the inquiry no longer permit the Imperial and Royal Government to maintain the attitude of patient tolerance which it has observed for years toward those agitations which center at Belgrade and are spread thence into the territories of the Monarchy. Instead, these results impose upon the Imperial and Royal Government the obligation to put an end to those intrigues, which constitute a standing menace to the peace of the Monarchy.

In order to attain this end, the Imperial and Royal Government finds itself compelled to demand that the Serbian Government give official assurance that it will condemn the propaganda directed against Austria-Hungary, that is to say, the whole body of the efforts whose ultimate object it is to separate from the Monarchy territories that belong to it; and that it will obligate itself to suppress with all the means at its command this criminal and terroristic propaganda. In order to give these assurances a character of solemnity, the Royal Serbian Government will publish on the first page of its official organ of July 26/13, the following declaration:

“The Royal Serbian Government condemns the propaganda directed against Austria-Hungary, that is to say, the whole body of the efforts whose ultimate object it is to separate from the Austro- Hungarian Monarchy territories that belong to it, and it most sincerely regrets the dreadful consequences of these criminal transactions.

“The Royal Serbian Government regrets that Serbian officers and officials should have taken part in the above-mentioned propaganda and thus have endangered the friendly and neighborly relations, to the cultivation of which the Royal Government had most solemnly pledged itself by its declarations of March 31, 1909.

“The Royal Government, which disapproves and repels every idea and every attempt to interfere in the destinies of the population of whatever portion of Austria-Hungary, regards it as its duty most expressly to call attention of the officers, officials, and the whole population of the kingdom to the fact that for the future it will proceed with the utmost rigor against any persons who shall become guilty of any such activities, activities to prevent and to suppress which, the Government will bend every effort.”

This declaration shall be brought to the attention of the Royal army simultaneously by an order of the day from His Majesty the King, and by publication in the official organ of the army.

The Royal Serbian Government will furthermore pledge itself:

1. to suppress every publication which shall incite to hatred and contempt of the Monarchy, and the general tendency of which shall be directed against the territorial integrity of the latter;

2. to proceed at once to the dissolution of the Narodna Odbrana to confiscate all of its means of propaganda, and in the same manner to proceed against the other unions and associations in Serbia which occupy themselves with propaganda against Austria-Hungary; the Royal Government will take such measures as are necessary to make sure that the dissolved associations may not continue their activities under other names or in other forms;

3. to eliminate without delay from public instruction in Serbia, everything, whether connected with the teaching corps or with the methods of teaching, that serves or may serve to nourish the propaganda against Austria-Hungary;

4. to remove from the military and administrative service in general all officers and officials who have been guilty of carrying on the propaganda against Austria-Hungary, whose names the Imperial and Royal Government reserves the right to make known to the Royal Government when communicating the material evidence now in its possession;

5. to agree to the cooperation in Serbia of the organs of the Imperial and Royal Government in the suppression of the subversive movement directed against the integrity of the Monarchy;

6. to institute a judicial inquiry against every participant in the conspiracy of the twenty-eighth of June who may be found in Serbian territory; the organs of the Imperial and Royal Government delegated for this purpose will take part in the proceedings held for this purpose;

7. to undertake with all haste the arrest of Major Voislav Tankosic and of one Milan Ciganovitch, a Serbian official, who have been compromised by the results of the inquiry;

8. by efficient measures to prevent the participation of Serbian authorities in the smuggling of weapons and explosives across the frontier; to dismiss from the service and to punish severely those members of the Frontier Service at Schabats and Losnitza who assisted the authors of the crime of Sarajevo to cross the frontier;

9. to make explanations to the Imperial and Royal Government concerning the unjustifiable utterances of high Serbian functionaries in Serbia and abroad, who, without regard for their official position, have not hesitated to express themselves in a manner hostile toward Austria-Hungary since the assassination of the twenty-eighth of June;

10. to inform the Imperial and Royal Government without delay of the execution of the measures comprised in the foregoing points.

The Imperial and Royal Government awaits the reply of the Royal Government by Saturday, the twenty-fifth instant, at 6 p.m., at the latest.

A reminder of the results of the investigation about Sarajevo, to the extent they relate to the functionaries named in points 7 and 8 [above], is appended to this note.

Appendix:

«The crime investigation undertaken at court in Sarajevo against Gavrilo Princip and his comrades on account of the assassination committed on the 28th of June this year, along with the guilt of accomplices, has up until now led to the following conclusions:

1. The plan of murdering Archduke Franz Ferdinand during his stay in Sarajevo was concocted in Belgrade by Gavrilo Princip, Nedeljko Cabrinovic, a certain Milan Ciganovic, and Trifko Grabesch with the assistance of Major Voija Takosic.

2. The six bombs and four Browning pistols along with ammunition — used as tools by the criminals — were procured and given to Princip, Cabrinovic and Grabesch in Belgrade by a certain Milan Ciganovic and Major Voija Takosic.

3. The bombs are hand grenades originating from the weapons depot of the Serbian army in Kragujevatz.

4. To guarantee the success of the assassination, Ciganovic instructed Princip, Cabrinovic and Grabesch in the use of the grenades and gave lessons on shooting Browning pistols to Princip and Grabesch in a forest next to the shooting range at Topschider.

5. To make possible Princip, Cabrinovic und Grabesch’s passage across the Bosnia-Herzegovina border and the smuggling of their weapons, an entire secretive transportation system was organized by Ciganovic. The entry of the criminals and their weapons into Bosnia and Herzegovina was carried out by the main border officials of Shabatz (Rade Popovic) and Losnitza as well as by the customs agent Budivoj Grbic of Losnitza, with the complicity of several others.«

On the occasion of handing over this note, would Your Excellency please also add orally that — in the event that no unconditionally positive answer of the Royal government might be received in the meantime — after the course of the 48-hour deadline referred to in this note, as measured from the day and hour of your announcing it, you are commissioned to leave the I. and R. Embassy of Belgrade together with your personnel.

100 years since WWI – MID JULY, 1914

Resulting from interest sparked by the 100th anniversary of the assassination of the Austrian arch-duke Franz Ferdinand, I began reading “A WORLD UNDONE: THE STORY OF THE GREAT WAR, 1914 TO 1918” by G.J. Meyer. Just in the first fifty pages, I have learned a number of fascinating factoids about the prelude to war:

-Franz Ferdinand wasn’t just an archduke, he was also heir to the Autria-Hungarian throne. The only son of emperor Franz Joseph (Rudolf) had murdered his lover and shot himself at the age of thirty, in 1889.

-The assassination of Franz Ferdinand (on June 28, 1914) was a bit of a relief to Austria-Hungarian emperor Franz Joseph. Ferdinand had deeply annoyed the emperor with his desire to marry a woman named Sophie Chotek, a mere lady-in-waiting to an Austrian archduchess. It became quite a scandal when it was discovered that Ferdinand wasn’t visiting the archduchess for her daughter. The emperor long forbade Ferdinand to marry Sophie, and only finally gave his consent after over two years and with the condition that the marriage be morganatic: neither Sophie nor their children would be eligible to ascend to the throne.

-The assassination was the second one attempted that day. Earlier, a small bomb had been thrown at Ferdinand’s vehicle as it passed, and he had deflected it away. Ferdinand later insisted on driving the same route later that day en-route to visit the victims injured in the event, and while it was during this drive that he and his wife were shot, the two of them had passed by at least four other conspirators that day who had simply failed to act.

-Nobody in the larger world political schema expected the assassination to spark a war, nor did they take particular interest, for assassinations were not uncommon: “in the two decades before 1914, presidents of the United States, France, Mexico, Guatemala, Uruguay, and the Dominican Republic had been murdered. So had prime ministers of Russia, Spain, Greece, Bulgaria, Persia, and Egypt, and kings, queens, and empresses of Austria, Italy, Serbia, Portugal, and Greece.”

-Essentially three men were closest to emperor Franz Joseph’s political decisions: Leopold von Berchtold, Franz Conrad, and Franz Ferdinand. Conrad was obsessively aggressive, having made 25 proposals for war against Serbia during 1913 alone. Berchtold had gained a reputation for passivity, and saw action against Serbia as a way in which both he and Austria could appear stronger. Those closest to Ferdinand, on the other hand, were convinced that he wanted to give Serbia greater sovereignty. Currently an occupied and administrative territory of Austria-Hungary (since 1908), Ferdinand wished to make it an equal partner in a tri-cornered monarchy with its own autonomous government. The Serbs assassinated the one man who might have treated them more fairly.

-Serbia had been involved in wars in the two previous years as well, and each time the conflict had exacerbated larger problems: Austria had been too slow to engage Serbia and had missed its opportunities to weaken them. Russia had each time failed to support its Orthodox friends, the Serbs. Germany had each time failed to support its ally and junior partner, Austria. Each party saw 1914 as a time when it could not fail again.

-Though the world had grown less sympathetic to Austria in the near four week delay between the assassination and the Austrians’ ultimatum, there were good reasons for waiting this long: Austria-Hungary had to get both of its governments on-board with the decision, and the French President would be visiting the Russian Capitol of St. Petersburg from July 20-23. If Austria delivered a disturbing ultimatum before or during that time, it would give its enemies (France and Russia) a unique opportunity to coordinate their response.

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100 years since WWI – July 5, 1914

Following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Austria-Hungarian authorities managed to obtain information from three conspirators which seemed to implicate members of the Serbian military in the assassination. Both Austria-Hungary and Germany requested that Serbia open a judicial inquiry into the matter . . . these requests were refused.

On July 5, one week since the assassination, letters were delivered to Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, requesting assurance of his support if Austria-Hungary sought military satisfaction from Serbia. He gave his assurance almost immediately, and Austria-Hungary began preparations for its ultimatum to Serbia.

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100 years since WWI – Early July

Having passed the 100th year anniversary of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, we now enter a period commemorating 100 years since the events of World War I. The Great War.

Previous to this war, the U.S. Civil War, about 50 years previous, represented one of the more recent conflicts of bloody proportions, with about 3,000,000 participating and about 600,000 killed.

About 68,000,000 participated in the First World War, and over 39,000,000 never made it home.

Coincidentally, I highly recommend “Valiant Hearts: The Great War.” Having seen a portion of the game, I am struck by the focus of the game.

Too often, war narratives follow the strategy and tactics of leaders, the exploits of heroes to turned the tide . . . stories which tend to idealize or romanticize the conflict.

In “Valiant Hearts,” the close survival stories (or lack thereof) of a few participants in the war emphasizes that the conflict was not about winning or losing. It was about valiant hearts for whom the war itself was the only true enemy.

I will definitely purchase this game some time in the future. Be sure to watch the attached video!

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