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The Ultimatum
The Ultimatum

Text of the declaration of war in the Viennese newspaper "Wiener Zeitung":

"On the basis of the highest decision of His Imperial and Royal Apostolic Majesty, of July 28th, 1914, a declaration of war has been addressed to the royal Serbian government, in the French language, the translation of which is as follows:

'Since the royal Serbian government did not reply in a satisfactory manner to the Note handed over by the Austro-Hungarian Ambassador in Belgrade on the 23rd of July, 1914, the Imperial and Royal government finds it necessary to concern itself with preserving its rights and interests, and to resort to the force of arms for this end.  Austria-Hungary considers itself from this moment on to be in a state of war with Serbia.

 (Signed) Foreign Minister of Austria-Hungary Count Berchtold'" 

The Ultimatum

Erika Papp Faber

In 1914, Wladimir Baron  Giesl von Gieslingen was the Austro-Hungarian Minister to Belgrade (the Serbian capital).  Following the assassination of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie at Sarajevo, Baron Giesl, on July 22nd, 1914,  received orders from Vienna, detailing the demands of the ultimatum he was to deliver to the Serbian government the following day.  

The Serbian government was to be given 48 hours to respond –unconditionally!  Should he not receive an ”unconditionally positive answer” within that time, he was commissioned to leave the embassy, together with all personnel. 

The Austrian members of the Ministerial Council (see the February issue of Magyar News Online), itching to go to war with Serbia, and encouraged by German Emperor Wilhelm, wanted to present terms which that country could not possibly accept. So they drew up an ultimatum which demanded that Serbia publicly ”condemn the propaganda directed against Austria-Hungary, that is to say, the whole body of the efforts whose ultimate object is to separate from the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy territories that belong to it; and that it will obligate itself to suppress by every means this criminal and terrorist propaganda”.

To understand this stipulation better, it must be explained that the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy had unilaterally annexed Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1908-09, which had a heavy concentration of Serbs.   This gave rise to the nationalist organization called Narodna Odbrana, ”People’s – or National –  Defense”.  Its aim was training guerrilla fighters, using anti-Austrian propaganda and organizing spies and saboteurs to liberate the ethnic Serbs in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy.  They were supported by a secret organization called ”Unification or Death”, better known as the ”Black Hand”.

Further, the ultimatum demanded that the Serbian government

- eliminate from schoolbooks and public documents all ”propaganda against Austria-Hungary”;

- remove from the Serbian military and civil administration all officers and functionaries named by the Austro-Hungarian government;

- accept in Serbia ”representatives of the Austro-Hungarian government for the suppression of subversive movements”; 

- bring to trial all accessories to the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and allow Austro-Hungarian law enforcement officers to take part in the investigations;

- arrest the military officer and the civil servant named as participants in the assassination plot;

- end the cooperation of Serbian authorities with the ”traffic in arms and explosives across the frontier”, and punish the frontier service officials who assisted the perpetrators of the assassination;

- provide ”explanations” regarding Serbian officials who have expressed hostitlity to the Austro-Hungarian government;

- notify the Austro-Hungarian government ”without delay” of the execution of these measures.

The Serbian government accepted all points except one:  it would not accept the participation of Austria-Hungary in any internal inquiry, since this would violate their constitution and the law of criminal procedure, and they were already investigating the crime.

German Emperor Wilhelm, on reading the reply, declared that ”with it all reason for war is gone... I would never have recommended mobilization on this basis.”  

The Serbian answer was provided to Baron Giesl five minutes before the deadline of 6 PM, July 25th, 1914.   Anticipating the response, he had already packed his bags, and was ready to leave, as per his instructions from Vienna. 

The die was cast!

So, on July 28th. 1914, the Austro -Hungarian Monarchy declared war on Serbia. 




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