Sunday, July 6, 2014

World War I Begins: The Austro-Hungarian Ultimatum

Kaiser Wilhelm I
Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany was a long time friend and supporter of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, so it's probably not surprising he'd be shocked and angered at the assassination which took place in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914. Nearly immediately he offered support to Austria-Hungary in the effort to destroy the Black Hand and those who aided in the plot against the Archduke, by which he meant Serbia. But, in this moment of angst, Wilhelm allowed himself to be persuaded to go on his annual cruse of the North Sea and he departed Berlin on July 6th. Once shipboard the Kaiser attempted to manage affairs by telegram, hurriedly returning to Berlin on the 28th of July when the Austro-Hungarian ultimatum was delivered.

The ultimatum that Austria-Hungary delivered to Serbia was intended to be untenable, a list of demands that the Serbian leadership never could stomach. The list of conditions went as follows:

  1. Serbia would formally and publicly denounce the "dangerous propaganda" against Austria-Hungary and Belgrade should "suppress by every means this criminal and terrorist propaganda."
  2. Suppress all publications which "incite hatred and contempt of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy" and are "directed against its territorial integrity", which essentially meant self-rule.
  3. Dissolve the Serbian nationalist organization Narodna Odbrana (The People's Defense) and all other such societies in Serbia.
  4. Immediately eliminate anything deemed  "propaganda against Austria-Hungary" from all school books and public documents.
  5. Remove a list of officers and functionaries from the Serbian military and civil administration, the list to be provided by the Austro-Hungarian Government.
  6. Install Austro-Hungarian agents within Serbia whose responsibility was the "suppression of subversive movements".
  7. Try all accessories to the Archduke's assassination and allow "Austro-Hungarian delegates" to take part in the investigations.
  8. Arrest Major Vojislav Tankosić and civil servant Milan Ciganović who had been named by the captured assassins as participants in the plot against the Archduke.
  9. End the cooperation of Serbian authorities in the "traffic in arms and explosives across the frontier" and dismiss and punish officials in the Šabac and Loznica frontier service who Austria-Hungary deemed "guilty of having assisted the perpetrators of the Sarajevo crime".
  10. Provide "explanations" to the Austro-Hungarian Government regarding "Serbian officials" who have expressed themselves in interviews "in terms of hostility to the Austro-Hungarian Government".
  11. Notify the Austro-Hungarian Government "without delay" of the execution of the measures comprised in the ultimatum.

Wilhelm's reaction was enthusiastic:
"A brilliant solution—and in barely 48 hours! This is more than could have been expected. A great moral victory for Vienna; but with it every pretext for war falls to the ground, and Giesl had better have stayed quietly at Belgrade. On this document, I should never have given orders for mobilization."
What the Kaiser didn't know was that by the time he penned his endorsement of the ultimatum, the 84 year old Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria-Hungary had already signed a declaration of war against Serbia and Russia had began mobilizing her troops to attack Austria in defense of the Serbians.

No comments: