Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Just 105 Years Ago: Austria-Hungary Declares War on Serbia

Arguably, this was the day the Great War really started.  At 105 years distant it's one of those dates that might soon be forgotten and, never again taught in our schools.  So maybe for the last time, here's what went on on 28 July 1914.

On 28 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the Hapsburg presumptive heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and his wife Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg, were assassinated in the city of Sarajevo by Gavrilo Princip, a member of a Serbian backed secret para-military organization.  This event followed several years of tension between the governments of Austria-Hungary and Serbia after the former’s annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1908.

As a result of the shootings the government of Austria-Hungary communicated a list of demands to the government of Serbia.  The Serbian government agreed to comply wholly with most of the ultimatum, but after obtaining guarantees from the Russian government that it would receive support against Austria-Hungary, it rejected the last demand that would have resulted in a major infringement of its sovereignty. The government in Vienna broke diplomatic relations and announced a mobilization of the army against Serbia.  On 28 July 1914, after a report of an unverified incident involving Hapsburg and Serbian troops, the government of Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia.

This image is taken from a 28 July 1914 extra edition of the Wiener Zeitung, the official newspaper of the Austrian government, announcing that a state of war exists with Serbia. It is printed in both German and French.  A similar announcement was published on 6 August 1914, the day that war was declared on Russia.  The Wiener Zeitung is one of the oldest official newspapers published.

Princip was tried by Haspburg authorities for his role in the assassinations.  He was convicted of the crimes, but due to his age at the time of their commission he escaped the death penalty and was instead sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. He died in prison in 1918 of complications from tuberculosis.

Source: Jim Martin, Library of Congress Blog

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