The First World War Part 3

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The First World War Part 3

The First World War Part 3

The Almost First World War.

As we have seen the Bosnian Crisis of 1908-09 and the Balkan War, are often seen as a precursor to what spilled over into the assassination of Franz Ferdinand at Sarajevo in June 1914. But that it was the Habsburgs’ expansion to the south-east what made their concern about the ambitions of the small Slavonic neighbors a self-inflicted strategic predicament.

But Serbian thinking in 1912 about ditching Russia and the Triple Entente has hardly figured in the voluminous literature on the Balkan Wars. But then, the prevalent assumption among historians continues to be that Serbia was a Russian client state.192 This assumption flies in the face of the fact that ill-disposed Russian diplomacy made such a Serbian alignment with Russia and the Triple Entente impossible. For little had changed since 1908-1909. At the end of September 1912, Sazonov flew into a hysterical rage at a meeting in London with Grujic, the Serbian Minister. The Russian Minister repeatedly described as ‘mindless’ the intentions of Serbia and Bulgaria to attack Turkey; warning that Austria would ‘immediately’ attack Serbia. He added for good measure that Serbia and Bulgaria wanted to ‘hoodwink’ Russia with their Alliance, insisting that Russia needed ‘at least ten years’ to complete its economic, financial and military renaissance.193 His unambiguous message was that the South Slavs had no basis on which to ask for help from St Petersburg – nor any basis on which to expect it. In the British Foreign Office, the view was expressed that the Russians ‘have got themselves into an equivocal position in the Balkans, for, having made the marriage, they are compelled to urge divorce for fear of its first fruits’.194

In Sofia, the Serbian Minister Spalajkovic, appalled by Russia’s pressure to prevent the outbreak of war against Turkey; told his British colleague that the Serbs and Bulgarians were thoroughly ’embittered’ by Russia and the Triple Alliance. 195 In St Petersburg, Popovic concluded: ‘It seems to me that current Russian diplomacy; out of weakness and fear of war, takes greater care about the interests of other states than about its own and that of Slavonic states.’196 In Paris, Russia’s great friend and ally the French Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Raymond Poincare tried to intimidate the Serbian Minister of Justice Milenko Vesnić by pointing out the danger from Austria. The Serbian Minister calmly suggested that, since Europe was so convinced of Austria-Hungary’s omnipotence, it should not be surprised if Serbia were someday to seek an arrangement with Vienna.Vesnić added, for good measure, that the Triple Entente would never achieve anything if it worked only to avoid war.197

In fact, there was initially no danger whatsoever that Austria-Hungary would attack because it was anticipating that Turkey would easily defeat Serbia. Austria-Hungary, according to the Vienna correspondent of The Times, ‘welcomed the prospect of a Balkan war in which the Turks were expected to smash Greece and, particularly, Serbia, however successful the Bulgarians might be’.198 But it is also true that the Austrians had been caught napping: their Military Attaches in Belgrade and Constantinople were on holiday as the war approached.199 And so was Stephan von Ugron, the Austro-Hungarian Minister in Belgrade. A messenger reached him in Hungary where he was shooting and gave him the news: ‘There is a mobilization in Serbia. Belgrade is full of soldiers.’ Whereupon Ugron protested: ‘That is not possible. For I would have known something about it.’200

He was soon to know much more. Keen to be the first in the field, tiny Montenegro declared war on Turkey on 8 October 1912 – King Nicholas had apparently sensed that he could make money by ‘bearing’ the Viennese and other stock markets.201 Serbia, Bulgaria, and Greece declared war on 17 October. Most observers had expected the German-organized Turkish Army to defeat the forces of the Balkan states. But the latter recorded one stunning victory after another over the Turkish adversary. ‘To no class’, Winston Churchill wrote, ‘had the crushing Turkish defeats come with more surprise than to the military experts. The Bulgarian Army, having smashed the Turks in Thrace, soon stood at the gates of Constantinople. Meanwhile, the Serbian Army, having brushed aside the Turks in Macedonia, stood on the shores of the Adriatic Sea. The Russians were appalled at the prospect of the Bulgarians taking Constantinople. Sazonov had previously asserted that Russia’s only interest in the Balkans was to ensure that the Straits remained in the Turkish hands.203 But in Vienna, they were equally horrified at the sight of the Serbian Army in the port of Durazzo. Supported by Italy, Austria-Hungary led a sustained drive to force Serbia away from the Albanian coast. The London Conference of the Ambassadors was set up, the main aim of which was to bring into existence an independent state of Albania, which duly took place at the end of July 1913.

The First Balkan War had experienced a temporary standstill from 3 December 1912, the date an armistice was declared on all the fronts, with the Turks still holding Edirne, besieged by the Bulgarians, Yanina, besieged by the Greeks, and Scutari, besieged by the Montenegrins. Hostilities resumed following the Young Turk coup in January 1913. Yanina and Edirne surrendered in March, but Scutari held on. The Montenegrins finally took the town late in April, but an Austrian-led international action coerced them to withdraw early in May. Earlier, in January 1913, Austria-Hungary had undertaken a series of mobilization measures designed to put pressure on the Serbs to withdraw from Northern Albania. The First Balkan War was finally ended by the so-called London Settlement on 30 May 1913. But the Second Balkan War quickly followed only a month later. Forced away from the Adriatic by Austria-Hungary, the Serbs decided they should keep most of their gains in Macedonia instead, proposing to the Bulgarians a revision of their treaty concerning the division of this land. While it is true that the Serbian Army had helped the Bulgarians to take the city of Edirne, that the Bulgarians had made massive gains in the east, and that they had done nothing to help the Serbs in Macedonia, the Serbian position constituted a clear-cut breach of the Serbo-Bulgarian Treaty of 1912. Without waiting for any arbitration by the Russian Tsar, at the end of June 1913, the Bulgarians attacked the Serbs as well as the Greeks who, for their part, had in the previous campaign taken the contested port of Salonika. The attack was repelled, however, and now both Romania and Turkey joined this war against Bulgaria, ensuring its complete defeat. The Treaty of Bucharest (August 1913), while excluding Turkey as a participant, was an all-Balkan affair which formalized the new order on the peninsula without the patronage of the Great Powers. Serbia emerged from these conflicts with its territory almost doubled. At the same time, it was bitterly antagonized by the Austro-Hungarian action which had denied it its principal war aim of a port on the Adriatic.

This was indeed Austria’s objective. Once it was understood in Vienna that Serbia would emerge victorious from the Balkan conflict, the chief concern was to keep it away from the Adriatic Sea. The official reason that Austro-Hungarian diplomacy put forward for objecting to the Serbian presence in northern Albania was that it was inhabited by Albanians. Borrowing the slogan that had been current in the Balkans for several decades, Vienna argued for ‘The Balkans to the Balkan peoples!’ This was of course somewhat cynical coming from a Power that had, back in 1878, conquered Bosnia-Herzegovina with blood and iron and which, thirty years later, annexed the provinces against the wishes of four-fifths of the local population. Besides, the nationality principle was not exactly a holy precept in the Habsburg Monarchy. To the official argument was added a kind of semi-official one opposing a Serbian port on the Adriatic. Such a port, it was suggested, could be turned into a stronghold of the Russian Navy. This, however, was a fanciful fable dreamt up at the Ballhausplatz. Russia’s naval construction programme was proceeding very slowly before 1914. In the Baltic Sea, the Russians faced the vastly superior German Navy; while any meaningful operations from the Black Sea required the physical possession of at least one side of the Straits. Any kind of Russian naval threat in the Mediterranean was years away.204

The real reasons for wishing to throw the Serbs out of the Adriatic area in Albania were the old ones, those formulated by Goluchowski: building a Vienna-controlled Albanian entity as a non-Slav barrier to Serbia’s expansion; preventing Serbia from securing its commercial independence by denying it an Adriatic port; and generally keeping Serbia as small and as weak as possible so that it would lack any power of attraction for the South Slavs of the Monarchy. Admittedly; there were those in the Habsburg elite who took a somewhat different view: Thus General Moritz von Auffenberg, who was until December 1912 the Joint War Minister, believed that it would have been better to leave the Serbs with the Albanians, for ‘the Albanian morsel’ was quite tough and it might take Serbia ten to twenty years to digest it.205 Interestingly; Aehrenthal’s successor Count Berchtold did initially want to talk to the Serbs. Early in November 1912, he sent Professor Josef Redlich to Belgrade to explore the possibility of an Austro-Serbian customs union – which would, of course, coupled perhaps with a military convention, have been the easiest way to control Serbia. General Oskar Potiorek, who in 1911 became the Landeschefin Bosnia-Herzegovina, was to advocate similar ideas. But Berchtold made clear in advance to Redlich that the Albanian region had to be preserved and that the Serbs would not receive a port, that is to say; would be getting nothing from Berchtold. Redlich was thus predictably unsuccessful in Belgrade. Pasic thought a customs union achievable at some point in future, but he insisted on the Adriatic port. Significantly; however, he offered to Redlich that Serbia would not trespass the Bosnian line. Conditions, he said, could be different in a hundred years’ time when perhaps the whole of Europe would constitute a ‘single realm’.206 This was not the first time that Pasic had promised the Austrians Serbia’s passivity towards Bosnia, and it would not be the last time, either. But no one was impressed in Vienna.

In Budapest, on the other hand, they did not even want to hear about a customs union with Serbia. As he stopped in the Hungarian capital on his way back from Belgrade, Redlich found that no less a person than Tisza was against it.207 This Austro- Hungarian comedy about an accommodation with Serbia then quickly gave way to war planning against Serbia. For quite apart from the Serbian Army’s march towards the Adriatic, the impermissible joining of the Serbian and Montenegrin forces in the Sanjak had already taken place. Decades of Austro-Hungarian policy towards Serbia had been shattered in just a few weeks. To the Austro- Hungarian military; according to Germany’s Military Attache in Vienna, it was now a question of maintaining one’s prestige as a Great Power. ‘We are ashamed’, is what the officers were saying at the General Staff Headquarters. ‘We have begun to feel ashamed of ourselves’, was how the mandarins felt at the Ballhausplatz.208

Inevitably; however, there existed a degree of concern in Vienna about a possible Russian intervention in the event of a war against an otherwise completely unprotected Serbia.209 Such fears were unfounded. Although a vocal military party existed at St Petersburg, Russia was in fact not ready or willing to fight. On 8 November Sazonov informed Popovic that Russia and France would not go to war over Serbia’s port on the Adriatic. And he was furious when he heard that Milos Bogicevic, the Serbian Charge d’Affaires in Berlin, had talked to diplomats there about the certainty of  Russian military support for Serbia.110 On 23 November, when the Tsar wanted the precautionary measures of reinforcing Russia’s frontier against Austria-Hungary to be considered, the Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Kokovtsov famously disagreed even with this, for ‘mobilization remained a mobilization, to be countered by our adversaries with actual war’. Sazonov, also present at this meeting, fully backed Kokovtsov.211 Christopher Clark’s assertion that in the winter crisis of 19I2-1913 ‘Sazonov supported a policy of confrontation with Austria’ is a most puzzling endeavor to ignore evidence to the contrary.212 At the height of the Albanian crisis in December 1912 Sazonov told Popovic that, if it were up to him, he would give Serbia the whole of Albania, but that if Serbia wanted to go to war with Austria-Hungary on the matter, it alone would have to bear the consequences as Russia would not help it.213 Early in January 1913, the Russian Foreign Minister declared point blank to an amazed Popovic that ‘Russia has no interests in the Balkans’.214

On the other hand, the Austro-Hungarian Chief of General Staff Feldmarschalleutnant Blasius Schemua (in fact Blaz Zemva, a Slovene name) was demanding war against Serbia and assessing, on 9 November, that the chances of success were not unfavorable even if the Monarchy had to go to war alone.t” But as his incognito visit to Berlin on 22 November testifies, it was still important to him to know what the German ally would do. And although both the Kaiser and the Chief of the General Staff Helmuth von Moltke promised him Germany’s support ‘under any circumstances’, this pledge proved to be quite misleading. As in 1909, Kiderlen- Wiichter , who had in the meantime become Foreign Secretary; once again acted decisively in the European arena. Upset at this time that the Ballhausplatz had been giving him almost no information about its intentions, and keen also to maintain good relations with Britain, he arranged for the publication in a semi-official German newspaper of an article whose main message was that the Serbian-Albanian question would be tackled jointly by the Great Powers. In Vienna, this had the effect of a ‘cold shower’.216

Very soon, however, Serbia definitively reconsidered its own position on Albania. On 1 December 1912 Pasic called a meeting of leaders of all political parties to tell them that, in the light of advice from St Petersburg, Serbia could no longer insist on a direct outlet to the Adriatic. 217 The absence of Russian support had indeed led to this climb-down. Meeting with Foreign Secretary Grey, the French Ambassador Paul Cambon commented that this was good news, showing that ‘Russia had been acting energetically’.218 The Serbian Government’s decision, however, was not made public in order to avoid a humiliating capitulation. The crisis thus continued, but Pasic had found an exit strategy in accepting the mediation of the Great Powers.219 On 20 December the Serbian Charge d’Affaires handed to Grey an aide-memoire in which the Serbian Government formally consented to the question of its access to the sea being decided by the Ambassadors’ Conference convening in London.220 The focus of the wrangle between Austria-Hungary and Serbia now shifted to the question of Albania’s northern frontiers. In particular, the Serbs were keen to retain the town of Dakovica in Kosovo which Vienna wanted to allocate to the future autonomous Albania. Once again, Belgrade found little support in St Petersburg. ‘We are not’, Sazonov told Popovic, ‘going to war over Dakovica’. Pasic was appalled, and minuted: ‘We now realize, with horror, that Russia cannot defend us.’221

Franz Ferdinand in the Fighting Camp

Meanwhile, in Austria-Hungary during this period, one of the chief advocates of the war option was Franz Ferdinand. On 18 November 1912, he instructed Colonel Bardolff, the head of his military chancellery, to hand the Chief of Staff Schemua a most warlike memorandum calling for an immediate reinforcement of the Galician front against Russia and the sending of a ‘sharp protest note’ to Serbia and Montenegro, demanding, inter alia, that their troops clear out of the Albanian region. Should the protest note be ignored after forty-eight hours, the memorandum demanded an ‘ultimatum’ and ‘mobilization’222 Franz Ferdinand, too, was in Germany around the time of Schemua’s visit (on 22 and 23 November) and spoke to Wilhelm II who assured him that, ‘if the prestige of Austria-Hungary was at stake’, he would ‘not be afraid of a world war’ and was ready to enter into a conflict with the Triple Entente. For his part the Archduke insisted that Austria-Hungary would ‘under no circumstances’ allow Serbia an Adriatic port. After the meeting, a rather delighted Archduke sent a telegram back to Vienna about the ‘splendid’ meeting he had had with the Kaiser.223

Soon thereafter, on 24 November, the Archduke received some counsel that must have dampened his enthusiasm for war somewhat. His trusted adviser Heinrich Lammasch had submitted to him a memorandum on Balkan affairs which, as Lammasch himself knew, ‘did not at that time correspond to the disposition of the Heir to the Throne’. The memorandum argued that a fully independent Albania was not in Austria- Hungary’s interest as it would actually gravitate to Italy; that a Serbian port at Durazzo presented ‘no particular danger’; that a war against Serbia would turn the South Slav population against the Monarchy; and that an annexation of Serbia would simply add a further two million hostile South Slavs to those already in the Monarchy, creating thereby ‘a new Lombardy’.224

It would appear that Lammasch was successful at least in slowly persuading Franz Ferdinand that annexing Serbia would probably be a blunder. For by February 1913 the Archduke was declaring that he did not wish to take ‘a single plum tree’ from Serbia.225 This statement has been endlessly paraded by those historians wishing to present the Archduke as a man of peace. The problem with their presentations is that the context is always lacking. When Russia did not look particularly threatening, he would invariably leave open the possibility of military action against Serbia in order, as he put it to Conrad towards the end of that same month of February 1913, ‘to chastise it’.226 And in November-December 1912, despite Lammasch’s memorandum, he was certainly still hoping for a military solution to the crisis. For this reason, he was at that point intent on bringing back Conrad to replace Schemua as Chief of General Staff Conrad had previously fallen out with Aehrenthal for advocating a preventive war against Italy. This got him the sack early in December 1911.227 In addition, his affair with Gina von Reininghaus, a married woman, and mother of six, did not exactly endear him to the Kaiser. But in the crisis atmosphere prevailing in Austria-Hungary towards the end of 1912, Franz Ferdinand managed to restore him to his old post on 12 December: if there were to be a war effort, it had better be led by the man who had talked so much about it.

A day before, in the Belvedere Palace, Berchtold had an audience with the Archduke who told him that things did ‘not look good in the Balkans’ and that timely military preparations with regard to Serbia and Montenegro had to be made instead of waiting until it was ‘too late’. There was a danger, he continued, not only of losing influence in Albania but also of losing ‘our South Slav lands’. As things stood, Austria-Hungary could count on Germany, and Russia would not move in any case because it was ‘not fully prepared’. In vain did Berchtold point out that the German Government did not share Kaiser Wilhelm’s fighting elan and, moreover, that it had stated pretty clearly it would not participate in an aggressive policy. The two men were then chauffeured off to a crisis meeting called by Franz Joseph at Sch6nbrunn Palace. Among others, the Joint Finance Minister Bilinski and the Austrian Prime Minister Count Karl Sti.irgkh were also there. The Emperor spoke in favor of keeping the peace, the Archduke in favor of making military preparations, and Berchtold to express his misgivings about adopting a combative policy at a time when the London Ambassadors’ Conference was about to start its work. The other ministers supported Berchtold. Franz Ferdinand was ‘obviously not a little taken aback’ at being overruled.228

The Archduke again showed his bellicose inclination a few months later, at the height of the Scutari crisis in April 1913. The Montenegrins had shown gross inefficiency in their previous attempts to take the town. The Serbian Army was now helping them – with artillery, troops and even aircraft.229 To Austria-Hungary, Scutari was hugely important not only as a vital part of a future Albania but also as its main Catholic stronghold. In March the Russians agreed that the city should go to Albania. The forces of Montenegro and Serbia nevertheless kept up the siege. Early in April, a naval demonstration arranged by the Great Powers took place off the coast of Montenegro: three Austro-Hungarian warships, two Italian, and one each from France, Britain, and Germany. Sazonov could not quite bring himself to send a Russian warship. At this time, a demonstration in St Petersburg, numbering some 50,000, demanded: ‘Scutari to Montenegro, the Holy Cross on St Sophia’.230 On 10 April Pasic decided, ‘with wrath and pain in the soul’, to withdraw the Serbian forces.231 The Montenegrins, however, continued the fight defiantly. By this time starvation and disease had considerably weakened the defenders inside the city. It finally surrendered on 24 April after King Nicholas and Essad Pasha, the Albanian commander of the Turkish forces, had made an inglorious arrangement involving money.

A Serbian intelligence report from Vienna passed on an assessment from circles hostile to Franz Ferdinand that the fall of Scutari was primarily his defeat.v” Certainly, as General von Auffenberg recalled, the Archduke had been a leading force behind the Albanian project.233 On 26 April, immediately after the Montenegrins had entered Scutari, he went to see Franz Joseph  to  argue in favor of ‘the great action’ because what was at stake now was ‘the prestige of the Throne’. Significantly, the Russians had in March agreed with the Austrians that Scutari should not go to Montenegro. Against the background of this Great Power consensus, Franz Ferdinand felt quite free to advocate war. In those days after the fall of the city, he was ‘constantly conferring’ with Conrad and War Minister Krobatin.r”

Berchtold, too, was in a warlike mood. At a Joint Ministerial Council meeting on 2 May he told those present that Montenegro would probably be giving Serbia the nearby port of San Giovanni di Medua, and then went so far as to state that Scutari was the ‘key to our Balkan programme’ – there could be no viable Albania without it.236 Given that the fall of Scutari was being taken so tragically at the highest levels of Habsburg hierarchy, there was now no doubt that Austria-Hungary would intervene militarily. The only dilemma faced by Vienna’s decision-makers was whether such an oper¬ation would be restricted to ejecting the Montenegrins from Scutari, or whether it should be a much wider one, aimed at both Montenegro and Serbia. The latter course was unsurprisingly favored by Conrad.237 It seems, however, that this view was widely shared at the time. According to Bilinski, there had existed in Vienna, in April and May 1913, a firm resolve to make the proposed campaign against Montenegro the starting point for a final reckoning with Serbia.238 The only reason that nothing came of these Austro-Hungarian war plans was that the Montenegrins, under tremendous pressure, announced their withdrawal on 5 May.

The Scutari commotion demonstrated once again Franz Ferdinand’s readiness to back military action. Significantly for July 1914, this was also true of Berchtold. For all his caution and hesitancy, the Foreign Minister was in the last analysis a closet advocate of violent solutions. His many conversations with Conrad, recorded in the latter’s extensive memoirs, reveal a frustrated figure who, for example, complained in March 1913 that he had support only in military circles.239 Nor had Berchtold’s diplomacy sought to exploit opportunities to improve relations with Serbia. When, for example, the Czech politician Tomas Masaryk, a member of the Austrian Parliament, visited Belgrade and talked to Pasic on 10 December about Austro-Serbian relations, Pasic begged him to convey to Berchtold that, while Serbia wished to retain economic and political independence, it also wished ‘most friendly’ relations with Austria; that Serbia would accept an autonomous Albania, but wished a harbour and a connecting strip of territory to it, even the narrowest one; that the harbour would never be fortified and ‘all possible guarantees’ could be given, including the Serbian Government’s commitment not to place the harbour at the disposal of any other Power; and that, finally, Serbia was ready to extend to Austria-Hungary first consideration in all economic matters, including railway materials and all the necessary loans to be obtained exclusively from Austria-Hungary. To indicate his seriousness, Pasic offered to come to Vienna and discuss these questions with Berchtold.240 The young Czech deputy Tomáš Masaryk duly informed Berchtold, but the latter ‘would not hear of a reconciliation’. The Czech statesman later recalled: ‘More than ever did I become convinced of the superficiality and worthlessness of the Viennese Balkan policy.’241

Important figures in Vienna, such as Joseph Baernreither and Ottokar Czernin, were highly disappointed by Berchtold’s refusal to talk to Pasic, and they told him so. 242 Joint Finance Minister Bilinski, responsible for Bosnia-Herzegovina, soon adopted a similar view and took up the matter with the Foreign Minister. To his astonishment, the latter told him that Masaryk’s motive in mediating had been to ‘earn a provision’.243 Berchtold’s biographer Hugo Hantsch has defended the Count’s decision to ignore the overture by Pasic on the grounds that Serbia was offering ‘no concrete concessions’ and that Pasic was hardly a reliable partner.244But Pasic’s suggestions could hardly have been more conciliatory and indeed concrete given that Austria-Hungary had since 1906 been doing its best to strangulate Serbia economically. Also, if Pasic was such an unreliable partner, why had Berchtold only recently sent Professor Redlich to Belgrade to offer a far-reaching customs union which would tie Serbia economically to the Monarchy? This proposal had not been accepted by Pasic, The truth was, as Berchtold himself told the German Ambassador on 6 December, Serbia was not willingly going to make itself economically dependent on Austria.245 In that sense, there was indeed nothing that Berchtold could discuss with Pasic.

The Strange Case of the Disappearing Consul

Equally foreboding was the behavior of the Ballhausplatz in the so-called ‘Prochaska Affair’ of November-December 1912. This, in fact, is perhaps the most famous episode in Austro-Serbian relations during the Balkan Wars, a protracted incident that contributed enormously to the war psychosis in Vienna. Oskar Prochaska was a Czech and a Habsburg loyalist in the Austro-Hungarian Consular service. At the outbreak of the First Balkan War, he was serving in Turkey as Consul in the town of Prizren, Kosovo. Late October saw the town captured by the Serbian 3rd Army. On 6 November Crown Prince Alexander, who was commanding the first Army, sent a telegram to Pasic, informing him that the Austro-Hungarian Consul in Prizren had been inciting the Turks and Albanians against the Serbian troops, encouraging them not to surrender. The Crown Prince requested that the Consul should leave Prizren, otherwise he might find himself in difficulties. Pasic then contacted Minister Simic in Vienna, to suggest that the Ballhausplatz recall its Consul so as to avoid ‘unpleasant incidents’.246 On 8 November Simic duly acted at the Ballhausplatz on the basis of this instruction.247

Prochaska, for sure, was no Serbophile. In one of his reports, which the Serbian Army seized at a local post office, he wrote of the Serbs as ‘savages’. His job, according to the Belgrade correspondent of the Viennese Telegrapben-Korrespondenz Burau, was to organize and set the Muslim and Catholic Albanians against the Serbian population.248 It also happened that he was on very bad terms with the Russian Consul in Prizren, Nicholas Emilianov. The latter may have painted a very negative picture of the Austro-Hungarian Consul to General Bozidar Jankovic, the Commander of the third Army. Jankovic, in turn, was quite upset at the fact that Prochaska was ignoring his presence in town and being ‘openly hostile’.249 The General posted sentries at the Austro-Hungarian Consulate – which really irritated Prochaska, though it should be mentioned that the Consul’s freedom of movement was in no way restricted by this, and nor had people been prevented from entering and leaving the Consulate. Finally, on 17 November Prochaska actually visited the General to announce that he wanted to leave for Skopje because, he alleged, restrictions had been placed on him. His wish was granted. On 24 November, the Consul, his mistress, and the personnel of the Consulate left the town.v” As his carriage drove out, flanked by a military escort, some children ran behind him, he later reported, throwing ‘ tin  pots, copper kettles, sticks, stones, cabbages and similar’r'” It would appear that the son of the Russian Consul was the ringleader.252

However, apart from ‘ dieser Skandal’, as Prochaska wrote, he had not been subjected to any mishandling or physical abuse. Yet in the meantime, he had been pronounced probably dead by the Austrian and Hungarian press. How had this come about? Being in the middle of the war zone, the town of Prizren found its communications with the rest of the world cut off during those days in November, so Prochaska was unable to report to Vienna. Following Simic’s demand for the Consul’s recall, the Ballhausplatz wanted to send its own man to investigate the matter. A consular official, Theodor Edl, was picked and permission requested from the Serbian Government for his journey to Prizren. Belgrade agreed straight away, but because the matter also involved the military authorities, it took five days before the formalities were cleared.v’ It was during this period, when all contact with Prochaska had been broken, that the press in Austria-Hungary engaged in an orgy of anti-Serb hysteria. Depending on which newspaper one read, Prochaska had been abducted, castrated or even killed by the Serbs. The Reichspost, which often reflected the views of Franz Ferdinand’s circle, claimed on 19 November that Prochaska, while not dead, had suffered ‘bayonet stabs’. In its leading article (entitled ‘How much longer…’) the paper commented: ‘If the Monarchy now allows its patience to be perceived as weakness, then soon every goat herder in the whole of the Balkans will have the audacity to preach war against Austria-Hungary.’254

Prochaska reached Skopje on 25 November – the Ballhausplatz was immediately informed by its Consul in the city.255 In his brilliant short study of the Prochaska affair, Robert Kann draws attention to 26 November as a rather important date in the whole story – for that was the day when, at the very latest, the Ballhausplatz found out that Prochaska was alive and well. And yet, it was not until 17 December that the Foreign Ministry’s Press Bureau finally issued a communique declaring the whole matter to be closed as all the rumors about Prochaska’s fate were ‘completely unfounded’. The statement even praised the Serbian Government for having been ‘perfectly accommodating’ towards the emissary Theodor Edp56 General astonishment greeted this announcement. For three weeks the Ballhausplatz had kept the great Austro- Hungarian public – and the world at large – in complete ignorance of the true facts in the affair of the Consul Prochaska. Admittedly, on 6 December Berchtold did ‘confidentially’ inform the German Ambassador that there was ‘nothing very incriminating’ for Serbia in the Prochaska case. But the same German Ambassador found it necessary to complain to Berchtold a full week later about the continued warmongering in the Austrian and Hungarian press. Germany, of course, had a vital interest in being fully acquainted with the Balkan aims of its Austro-Hungarian ally. Yet shortly before his death at the end of December 1912, Kiderlen-Wachter protested that Vienna had kept Berlin in the dark about what exactly it knew and intended to do in the Prochaska affair.257

There can be no doubt that a kind of war fever was being encouraged and promoted by Habsburg official circles. Robert Kann points to Kalman von Kanya, the head of the Press Bureau at the Ballhausplatz, as the direct instigator of the Prochaska-related press campaign.258 When the Austro-Hungarian diplomat Baron Julius Szilassy expressed his misgivings to von Kanya about the effective concealment of the facts of the Prochaska affair, he was told that ‘the whole country wants war’.259 It is almost certain, however, that Conrad too, as well as the circle around Franz Ferdinand, had also made patriotic contributions to this exercise.260 Berchtold’s role remains unclear. His biographer Hugo Hantsch absolutely glosses over the whole episode. The Foreign Minister made no reply when he was asked, later, whether the Prochaska affair had been manipulated so as to serve eventually ‘as the excuse for a conflict with Serbia’. And he tried to justify not clearing things up on the implausible grounds that ‘the matter had been overlooked, in the pressure of other business’.261

Christopher Clark describes the Prochaska affair as ‘a modest but inept exercise in media manipulation’.263 In fact, it was neither modest nor inept: for weeks it kept the whole of Europe on edge. It was a highly successful ploy to precipitate war, which only turned into a farce in December 1912 when, lacking German support, Vienna finally decided against the military solution. Clark also writes that Prochaska had been ‘illegally detained’ by the Serbs. Yet the Consul had not been detained at any point. Had he been, he would most certainly have mentioned it in his exhaustive report to Vienna of 26 November.264Such details, surely, are easier to check today than they were in 1912. In the immediate aftermath of the admission by the Ballhausplatz on 17 December that no harm had come to Prochaska, the witty, sarcastic Viennese provided their own assessment of the whole affair. Because so much had in the previous weeks been made of the Consul’s testicles, they would now go to restaurants and enthusiastically order ‘omelette ala Prochaska’.265

The myth of the Serbian secret plan:

Another pertinent myth long in circulation concerns the Serbian origins of the First World War. Serbia has been seen as Austria-Hungary’s docile satellite until the 1903 murder of King Alexander Obrenovic. Thereafter, according to conventional interpretations, a sharp change, of course, took place with the arrival of a supposedly Russophile Karadordevic dynasty, bringing an increasingly assertive Serbia into collision with the Dual Monarchy Stereo typically pejorative depictions of Serbia have gone hand in hand with these accounts. Recently, Serbia has been described as ‘a turbulent and intermittently violent state’ – as if other states did not experience political turbulence and occasionally resort to the use of force. 4 Another recent description of Serbia, typically jaundiced while analytically unhelpful, is that it was the Habsburg Empire’s ‘troublesome neighbor’. The assassination of Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo is normally portrayed in non-Serbian literature as the culmination of Serbia’s relentless – indeed programmed – anti-Habsburg orientation.

Little if anything in this picture corresponds to the historical truth. The basis of Serbia’s presumed programme of expansion, the Nacertanije of 1844, was a document inspired, and largely written, by a Paris-based Polish emigre organization scheming plots and building allies against Russia and Austria. Few in Serbia had read it, let alone followed it. It goes without saying that Belgrade wished to incorporate the Serbian-inhabited territories outside Serbia, but this was neither a systematically conducted enterprise, nor, with regard to Austria-Hungary; viewed as a very realistic aim or pursued at all. As for the 1903 regicide, its import has been vastly exaggerated. Almost all relevant historiography treats the subsequent clashes ‘ between Belgrade and Vienna as flowing from it, in effect endowing this event with a world-historical significance. But those clashes were also happening before the regicide, and therefore did not derive from it. Austro-Serbian relations had during the reign of Alexander Obrenovic left much to be desired, as evidenced by a series of ‘pig wars’ launched by Vienna in order to keep Serbia economically weak. Serbia’s 1881 secret convention with Austria-Hungary; which had placed the country in such a subservient position vis-ii-vis its large neighbor, expired at the end of 1895 and would not be renewed. The 1903 conspiracy against King Alexander and Queen Draga was itself entirely divorced from any foreign policy agenda, although it so happened that its civilian organizers were Austrophiles who made sure of obtaining Vienna’s backing before proceeding with the putsch.

Charges of subversive Serb activities before the annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina actually emerged not in Bosnia but rather in Croatia. There, the new Ban (Viceroy) since the beginning of 1908 was Baron Rauch, a determined opponent of the Serbs. When the Croat politician Iso Krsnjavi put it to him that the Serbs of Croatia should be made politically harmless, he agreed. ‘Yes’, he said, ‘we cannot exterminate 700,000 Serbs’. Rauch’s main task in Croatia, as we have seen, was to destroy the Croato-Serb Coalition. The latter had in the February elections gained a majority in the Sabor, whereas the Rauch (i.e., government) party failed to win a single seat. The aims of Budapest and Vienna happened to coincide for once: the Hungarians were worried about the Croato-Serb Coalition as a force driving towards Trialism, with the Serb Independent Party being the main prop of the Coalition. Meanwhile, Aehrenthal, by now already pursuing a forward policy in the Balkans, was keen to promote the image of subversive Serb activities within the Empire.

And so, in July 1908, the Austro-Hungarian agent Borde Nastić, of the above Montenegrin ‘Bombs Affair’ fame, suddenly re-emerged in Budapest where he published a pamphlet entitled Finale. Here, Nastić named prominent Serbs of Croatia, connecting them to Slovenski jug (The Slav South), an allegedly Pan Serbian organization in Belgrade, suggesting they were planning terrorist activities on Austro- Hungarian territory. The whole pamphlet is riddled with contradictions and unlikely constructions. Slovenski jug, which also published a journal under the same name, had indeed existed and Nastić had known the people around it from his agent provocateur days in Serbia. But judging by the articles in its journal, Slovenski jug was a platform for the idealist, Yugoslav-oriented young intellectuals advocating ‘a union of Serbia, Bulgaria, and Montenegro’ which would then be joined by ‘all South Slavs’. This was no Pan Serbian agency. Interestingly, the journal was frequently attacked by Samouprava, the mouthpiece of Pasic’s Radical Party, and even had to close down on one occasion.The whole outfit existed on a town council subsidy. At any rate, soon after the publication of Nastic’s Finale, many leading Croatian Serbs from the Croato-Serb Coalition were locked up and held for months before being tried for high treason in 1909. At the court in Zagreb (Agram) the pamphlet was used as cardinal evidence against fifty-three accused Serbs, thirty-one of whom received sentences. Political bias on the part of the court at the expense of the accused was clearly visible. Europe was scandalized, and eventually, the Emperor was to pardon all those who had been imprisoned. But the Ballhausplatz likewise used Nastić ‘s material: only days before the annexation, the prestigious Oesterreichische Rundschau published an article about ‘King Peter and the Great Serbian Movement’, basing itself on Nastic. In the absence of better material, Nastić ‘s pamphlet would have to do.

Thus the subject of Serbia’s pre-1914 plans to expand its borders has generated perhaps the most enduring furor in the historiography of south-eastern Europe. Moreover, it seems that no discussion of this theme is possible without going back in time to an alleged Serbian secret plan from 1844, the Nacertanije (‘outline’ or ‘draft’), which supposedly contained a blueprint for sweeping expansion, and which is normally attributed to Ilija Garasanin, at the time the country’s Interior Minister. The controversy regarding Nacertanije began seventy years later, in the aftermath of the Great War when Serbia’s role in the events leading up to the war was placed under scrutiny. Similarly, at the time of Yugoslavia’s wars in the 1990s, which were themselves to attract considerable attention around the world and produce an army of instant experts on the country, a trend emerged seeking to explain Serbia’s foreign policy in terms of a grand design. Today, a broad academic and journalistic consensus exists outside Serbia that Belgrade had ever since Nacertanije pursued aggressive policies against neighboring states, and against non-Serbs, designed to bring about a ‘Great Serbia’. The historic significance of Nacertanije is thus rarely questioned. On the contrary: ‘It would be difficult to overstate’, Christopher Clark writes, ‘the influence of this document on generations of Serb politicians and patriots; in time it became the Magna Carta of Serb nationalism’35 266

In fact, the importance of Naiertani]« has not only been grossly overstated, but its content has been and is routinely misrepresented. Firstly, one should note that this document originally lacked any Serbian input. Nacertanije was actually a diluted version of a Balkan political project initially dreamt up by a Paris-based Polish exile, Prince Adam Czartoryski. The latter, working for the restoration of Poland, had created in his headquarters at the Hotel Lambert a kind of foreign office in exile. Backed by France and Britain, his organization was not without importance. An indefatigable opponent of Russia, he had played quite a role in Serbian politics: in 1843 his agents had persuaded the Serbs to elect as their Prince the pro-Western, that is, the pro-French and pro-British, Alexander Karadordevic. In 1844, Tsar Nicholas I complained that all the difficulties he had in Serbia were due to Czartoryski.267 The British diplomat David Urquhart, a most illustrious figure and a friend of Karl Marx, had apparently stimulated Czartoryski’s interest in the affairs of Serbia which Urquhart had visited several times in the 1830s. Prince Milos Obrenovic, the country’s ruler at the time, had told him about his wish to get rid of Russian influence. Urquhart shared with Czartoryski a general obsession with Russia.268 Serbia’s attraction for Czartoryski was as the nucleus of a future big Balkan state that would be pro-Western and anti-Russian – as well as anti-Austrian. In January 1843 he wrote and sent to the Serbian leaders his ‘ Conseifs sur fa conduite a  suivre par la Serbie’ in which he advocated Serbia’s territorial expansion and urged that it should take a lively interest in its fellow Slavs in the Turkish and Austrian Empires. He was as hostile to Austria as he was to Russia, warning the Serbs that Austria intended to swallow up their country He even recommended to them that they try to get on with the Hungarians in order to weaken Austria.269

‘Where a Serb dwells, that is Serbia’

In 1844 Czartoryski’s agent in Belgrade Frantisek Zach, a Czech, decided to use this memorandum to make Serbian-language proposals of his own. The ‘Zach Plan’, as it became known’, could actually in many ways be seen as a blueprint for a Great Serbia. It opens with the idea that the medieval Serbian Empire of Tsar Dusan which had been destroyed by the Turks could see a ‘renaissance’, now that the power of Turkey was on the wane, something that ‘the other South Slavs’ would welcome ‘with joy’, for nowhere else in Europe was remembrance of glorious past so strong as with the Slavs of Turkey Zach then specifically mentions a ‘new South Slav, Serbian state [nova  juinoslavenska, srbska  driava]’ and repeatedly points to the old Serbian Empire as the foundation on which to build it. In the section on Serbia’s relations with Croatia, he considered Serbs and Croats ‘one and the same people, speaking the same language’, with the Croat literary language ‘becoming increasingly Serbian’. He even suggests that the ‘Illyrian’ movement in Croatia was given its name because, under Austrian rule, the Croats would not have been allowed ‘to raise the flag of the Serbian name and Empire’. So while Zach may have been imagining a state of the South Slavs, it would clearly have been one in which the Serbs and their history towered above the rest. A key concept contained in his Plan is that of historic right. ‘You Serbs’, Zach wrote, ‘will appear before the world as the rightful inheritors of a glorious past, as the sons of great fathers, who are merely reclaiming ancestral lands … and so Serbdom, its nation and the affairs of its state stand under the protection of holy historic right’. It is simply not the case, as Christopher Clark maintains, that Zach had in his plan ‘envisaged a federal organization of the South Slav peoples’. On the contrary, in his discussion of Bosnia, Zach recommends that awareness be spread among the people of Bosnia of ‘all the fundamental laws, the constitution and all the main regulations of the Principality of Serbia’s’.270 But then, Clark does seem anxious to fashion out of nothing ‘Zach’s cosmopolitan vision’ – as he describes it – in order to contrast it with ‘a more narrowly focused Serbian nationalist manifesto’.271

Such a manifesto is supposed to have been penned in 1844 by Ilija Garasanin, the Serbian statesman with whom Zach maintained contact in Belgrade. But interestingly, Garasanin, who is often accused of having transformed the Zach Plan into a master plan for a ‘Great Serbia’ (Nacertanije), did precisely the opposite: the change he made was to replace the megalomaniac ideas of Czartoryski and Zach with something more realistic. In this vein, Garasanin cut out in its entirety Zach’s section on relations with the Croats, for he was interested in the Turkish, not the Habsburg Empire. Where Zach had written ‘new South Slav, Serbian state’, Garasanin replaced this with ‘new Serbian state in the South’ [nova  srbska  država  na  jugu]’.272 The territories to which he paid attention in the Nacertanije, apart from Montenegro, were Bosnia, Herzegovina and ‘Northern Albania’, i.e., Kosovo and Metohija or ‘Old Serbia’. At this time, of course, these were all part of the Ottoman Empire and Serbia itself was still its vassal state. It must have been clear to Garasanin that what in Zach’s plan amounted to a Great Serbia, envisaged to incorporate Habsburg as well as Ottoman territories, was an objective hopelessly beyond the means of the tiny Serbian Principality. Garasanin’s vision was that of a future Serbian state made up basically of the Serbs of Turkey. His programme was ‘Serbian, not Great Serbian’.273 He nevertheless retained Zach’s suggestions about Serbia’s possible South Slav cooperation with the Serbs and Croats in the Habsburg Empire, and the Bulgarians outside it. Clearly, though, this was to him of secondary importance, a project perhaps for some distant future.

A hypothetical court case on authorial rights between Garasanin the politician and Zach, Czartoryski’s agent, would have no difficulty in deciding that descriptions of Garasanin as the author of Nacertanije are entirely exaggerated: most of the time, he copied Zach’s Plan word by word, sentence by sentence, passage by passage. All the key inputs by Zach, and especially the references to the medieval Empire of Tsar Dusan and the Serbs’ historic rights arising from it, were left untouched by Garasanin. The often cited message of Nacertanije that Austria must be seen as a ‘permanent enemy’ is also Zach’s. Garasanin’s few original additions were insubstantial. It would be much more accurate to describe him as Nacertanije’s editor. His cuts and modifications, however, were significant in that they reduced the Zach Plan to a more realistic scope. Charles and Barbara Jelavich, the noted authorities on Balkan history, described Garasanin’s programme as laying emphasis ‘on the acquisition of lands that were Serbian and Orthodox in population’.274

But Garasanin did not write, and nor did Zach, that ‘Where a Serb dwells, that is Serbia’. Those words are simply not there. Such non-existent content, bewilderingly supplied in this case complete with quotation marks (but without a reference) by Christopher Clark, might leave an erroneous impression in the minds of non-specialist readers who are hardly likely to have the text of Nacertanije lying around.275 Persistent attempts to present it as a toxic instrumentality at the heart of Serbia’s foreign policy have necessitated here a closer scrutiny of this otherwise inconsequential mid-nineteenth century piece of work. For Nacertanije is neither a bona fide Serbian document nor has anyone been able to demonstrate its impact on Serbian policy after 1844- It is, in fact, a classic example of a historiographical straw man argument. Ivo Pilar, the Bosnian Croat nationalist who under the pseudonym von Sudland published in 1918 Die  sudslavische Frage, one of the most sustained attacks ever on what he saw as plans for a ‘Great Serbia’, says nothing about it and does not even mention Ilija Garasanin, The Serbian historian Andrija Radenic has drawn attention to the fact that the importance of Nacertanije has – retrospectively – been vastly exaggerated. According to Radenic, no one among the rulers and leading personalities in Serbia had used it for guidance; it had got no mention in the programmes of political parties; not a single word had been uttered about it in the sessions of the National Assembly or at the meetings of other state and social institutions; only historians and later, publicists, took a great interest in it.276 To this may be added that Nacer:  tanije , first published in Belgrade in 1906, had not been particularly ‘secret’, either: in 1893, in his famous study of Serbia’s Balkan policies, Vladislav Karic paid it a warm tribute. But contrary to the mythology about Nacer:  tanije supposedly illuminating Serbia’s path, Karic complained bitterly that Serbian statesmen had actually been ignoring it.277  Načertanije

Just what exactly Serbia’s foreign policy amounted to was at times not clear even to those in charge of it. Two years after the 1903 coup, the lack of direction was so conspicuous that the acting Foreign Minister Jovan Zujovic felt the need for a brainstorming event. In August 1905 he staged a conference of Serbia’s diplomatic representatives abroad, attended also by several political figures, to discuss the priorities of the country’s foreign policy. In the first session of the three-day conference the complaint was heard that ‘our foreign policy has no clearly formulated direction.’ Another view expressed was that, since the Congress of Berlin, ‘we have been drifting, trying to find a path’. No one brought up Načertanije. Czartoryski, Zach and Garasanin must have been turning in their graves. What is quite striking – in the light of so much cock-sure modern historiography about Serbia’s purported expansionist drive after 1903 – is that the conference very nearly failed to discuss Bosnia-Herzegovina at all. The matter was only addressed belatedly when General Sava Grujic noted that a record about the work of the conference would survive in the Foreign Ministry, and that ‘it would not look good’ if Bosnia-Herzegovina were not to have been mentioned. So the participants then addressed this question, but merely agreed that Serbia’s work should steer the various religious groups in Bosnia-Herzegovina towards getting ready to put forward a demand for autonomy ‘at an opportune moment’.278

It is therefore odd that things are now presented as having been exactly the opposite. ‘After the regicide of 1903,’ writes Christopher Clark, ‘Belgrade stepped up the pace of irredentist activity within the empire, focusing in particular on Bosnia-Herzegovina’.279 Just what this ‘irredentist activity’ consisted of Clark does not clarify. In reality, in December 1906 Burian stated in the Austrian Delegation as the minister responsible for Bosnia-Herzegovina that he was not aware of any centrifugal tendencies among the Serbs (or the Muslims) of Bosnia.280 As late as December 1907 he was explaining to his fellow ministers in the Joint Ministerial Council that the Serbian autonomist endeavours in Bosnia-Herzegovina were occurring ‘only in the framework of the Occupation concept’ (i.e., within Habsburg rule), that a tendency towards outside (i.e., towards Serbia) did not exist, and that the danger of a revolutionary movement among Serbs or any other population group in Bosnia-Herzegovina was likewise  non -existent.281

After 1903 Serbia did stage significant, albeit sporadic, cross-border activities, but they related to Macedonia, not Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Serbian Army, certainly, did not think that the country was implementing some lofty national project. In his confidential report of November 1906, criticising the weakness of the Serbian Army, Colonel Masin wrote: ‘In the last decades we have lived, and still live today, without a national programme. We have talked a great deal and felt the need for a grand national policy, for the unification of dispersed Serbs, for the creation of Great Serbia. Such a policy can only be realized by relying on an Army as ready and as large as possible, but we have not achieved that.’282


Aehrenthal’s move to establish Habsburg sovereignty over Bosnia- Herzegovina may have related to plans for internally consolidating the Empire and even restructuring it, but he was at the same time signaling that Austria-Hungary was not especially interested in supporting the Balkan status quo. In any case, strange as it may sound, the storm caused by his act of annexation really concerned a peripheral issue in relations between Vienna and Belgrade. In steering Bosnia-Herzegovina towards the calm waters of Habsburg-controlled quasi-constitutionalism, Burian had managed to obtain the political cooperation of all the national groups. There had been no Great Serbianu-Hungarian ‘Drang nach Saloniki’. The primary aim of the Serbian Government before the annexation was to counter Aehrenthal’s Sanjak railway with its own Danube-Adriatic project. After the annexation, Austro-Serbian wrangles again had nothing to do with Bosnia-Herzegovina: the issue of the Serbian Army’s presence on the coast of Albania in winter 1912-1913; Scutari in spring of 1913; and Albania again in October 1913. At no point was Serbia threatening, or in a position to threaten, the integrity of the Habsburg Empire. Vienna’s Balkan imperialism, by contrast, was relentlessly stifling Serbia’s at every turn. At times, both Milovanovic and Pasic, unable to whip up external support, toyed with the idea that Serbia should give up altogether as an independent state and submit to the Monarchy.

References upon request.

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