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Copyright © 2016 by Charles Oman
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THE SERAJEVO CRIME, JUNE 28, 1914
THE WEEKS OF WAITING
TEXT OF THE AUSTRIAN ULTIMATUM, AND COMMENTS THEREON, JULY 23, 1914
IMMEDIATE RESULTS OF THE AUSTRIAN ULTIMATUM, JULY 23-25, 1914
THE SERBIAN REPLY, AND THE AUSTRIAN DECLARATION OF WAR, JULY 25
SIR EDWARD GREY’S FIRST PROJECT OF MEDIATION, JULY 26-29
RUSSIAN MOBILIZATION. JULY 25-30
GERMAN MOBILIZATION THREATENED, JULY 30
THE GERMAN ULTIMATUM TO RUSSIA, JULY 31-AUGUST 1
SOME SIDE ISSUES, JULY 30-31. THE ROYAL AND IMPERIAL TELEGRAMS OF JULY31-AUGUST 1. M. PAUL CAMBON AND THE “ENTENTE”
THE GERMAN DECLARATION OF WAR ON FRANCE, AUGUST 3, 1914
THE QUESTION OF THE NEUTRALITY OF BELGIUM
THE BRITISH DECLARATION OF WAR ON GERMANY, AUGUST 4, 1914
AT 10.45 IN THE morning of June 28th, 1914, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the nephew and heir of the Emperor Francis Joseph, and his consort, Sophia, Duchess of Hohenberg, were assassinated in the streets of Serajevo, the capital of Bosnia The Archduke had left Vienna on the 23rd June, to carry out, in his capacity of Inspector-General, a series of reviews of the Bosnian garrisons, and to attend their summer maneuvers. He embarked at Trieste on the 24th, upon the new battleship Viribus Unitis, and proceeded on Thursday the 25th in a smaller vessel to Metkovitch in Dalmatia, from whence he took train for Mostar and Hidje; at the latter place he was met by his wife, who intended to accompany him during the rest of his tour of inspection. On Friday and Saturday the 26th and 27th June they witnessed the mountain exercises of some battalions of the XV and XVI Army Corps not far from Serajevo. On Sunday the 28th they took train for that city, for the purpose of visiting it and receiving addresses of welcome from the local authorities.
Sunday the 28th June was the feast of St. Vitus, better known as Kossovo Day, the anniversary of the annihilation of the mediaeval Serbian Kingdom by Sultan Murad I in 1389. It had been kept for more than five centuries as a day of public mourning by the Serbians, and by many of their kinsfolk within the limits of the Hapsburg Empire. But in 1914 it was being celebrated at Belgrade and many other places as a national fete for the first time; for the results of Kossovo had just been undone by the victorious Balkan Wars of 1912-13, which had restored Old Serbia and Kossovo itself to the Serbian Kingdom, and had also placed the greater part of Macedonia in the possession of King Peter Karageorgevitch. Many Austrian subjects from Croatia and Bosnia had gone to Belgrade to join in the celebrations. The visit of the Archduke to Serajevo on this particular day was considered inopportune by many the local Serbian paper Narod published a leading article on Kossovo that morning, instead of the obligatory polite tribute to the illustrious visitors. But there was no idea abroad that St. Vitus’ Day 1914 was destined to be as disastrous for the Serbian nation as St. Vitus’ Day 1389. The tour of the Archduke had, up to this moment, been not unsuccessful from the point of view of popularity. Many of the South Slavs among whom he had been moving were not ill-disposed to a prince who, first among his house, posed as a “trialist,” or an advocate of granting equality among the subjects of the Hapsburg Empire to the Slav element as opposed to the Austrian and the Hungarian. It was a new move for a Hapsburg to make himself the advocate of the South Slavs, and a move which had brought him great unpopularity in Hungary, whose national predominance rested upon the suppression of the Slavs and Romanians within her limits.
The Archduke, indeed, was a great innovator upon Hapsburg traditions, and it was no secret that he was not well liked either by the aged monarch of whom he was the destined heir, or by the numerous tribe of cousins who stood below him in the succession to the Crown. He had been at open war with the family traditions for the last fourteen years, since on the 1st July, 1900, he had morganatically married at Reichstadt, in Bohemia, a lady of Slavonic blood, the Countess Sophia Chotek. From that day onward he had been carrying out a slow campaign against his relatives, for the purpose of getting a further recognition for his wife and her status than Hapsburg family law prescribed. Irritated at the ignominious position which she occupied in Court ceremonial, he had, in 1905, obtained for her and the children whom she had borne him the title of “Durchlaut” (serene highness), and in 1909 the loftier rank of “Highness” ("Hoheit,” but not Imperial highness), and the title of Duchess of Hohenberg. Since then the lady had often accompanied him on state occasions and had visited foreign Courts with him. It was known that the best way of enlisting his goodwill was to give her royal honors, and this had been done of late even by the German Emperor. For this and other reasons the Archduke and the Kaiser were notoriously on the best of terms, and no long time had passed since their last interview at the Castle of Konopischt, where they were reported to have arrived at many joint resolves on high political questions. Whether two such confederates could have worked long in unison is a doubtful point, but the experiment was never to be made.
Meanwhile, speculation in Austria-Hungary had been much exercised over one point of the Archduke’s future policy. In the bargain made with his uncle, when the Duchess of Hohenberg had been granted her last advance in rank and title, the Archduke had been obliged to make formal recognition of the fact that his children gained thereby no rights to the Hapsburg succession, and would be mere dukes of Hohenberg after his death, while the Imperial Crown would pass to his cousin the young Archduke Charles. Now, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was a good father, and possessed of a strong will there were ideas abroad that on the death of his aged uncle it would be found that the succession question had not been so completely settled as his cousins of the junior branch believed. Whatever might be the case with Hapsburg family law, there were plenty of instances where mediaeval Kings of Hungary had married non-royal brides. does family law in a royal house override constitutional usage in the State? And what of Pragmatic Sanctions, even in Hapsburg family history? The Emperor Charles VI had certainly succeeded in the eighteenth century in passing on his inheritance to his daughter Maria Theresa, despite of the old ancestral rules which only contemplated a male succession. Had Francis Joseph died soon after the normal “three score years and ten,” these were problems which would have cropped up with a new sovereign who was an innovator, a “trialist” with avowed Slav sympathies, and a father with technically disinherited children. But the old Emperor saw his eighty-fifth birthday, and survived his destined successor, whose accession had been so long looked forward to with doubt or expectation by various sections of his subjects.
But to resume the narrative of the 28th June, 1914. On arriving at Serajevo railway station, the Archduke and his consort were received with due state, and, entering a motor-car, set out for the Town Hall, where the deputations and addresses were to be presented. Officers belonging to the Archduke’s staff preceded and followed in other motors. Between the station and the town, in a street running by the River Miliaca, a young man stepped out of the crowd and threw a bomb at the second car. The Archduke had the presence of mind to strike it aside; it fell behind him and in front of the next motor, where it burst, slightly wounding two of his suite. The assassin sprang into the river to avoid pursuit, but he was seized, dragged out, and handed over to the police. The cortege of motors resumed its way after a short delay, and the Archduke was duly received at the Town Hall, where Count Potiorek, Governor of Bosnia, presented to him the Burgomaster of Sarajevo, and other local notables, who made without any contretemps the loyal speeches that had been arranged. The Duchess of Hohenberg also received a deputation of ladies.
After the ceremony was over, the Archduke proposed to drive to the town hospital, to enquire about the condition of his two aides-de-camp who had been injured by the bomb. No special precautions were taken to safeguard his person; it is said that Count Potiorek remarked (when it was suggested to him that the events of the morning should act as a warning) that he knew the Bosnians well, and that nothing was more unlikely than two attempts at assassination on the same day. At any rate, the Archducal pair started, as in the morning, to motor through the narrow streets of Serajevo. Count Potiorek occupied the seat opposite them in the second car; other officers followed behind. They had not gone far when a young man thrust himself into the front rank of the crowd on the sidewalk, and emptied the contents of a Browning pistol into the Archduke’s motor. The prince himself was hit in the jugular vein and died immediately his consort, who had received a bullet in her side, only survived a few minutes, and expired in the Government House to which she was carried. Count Potiorek escaped unhurt. The assassin, wedged in the throng, was arrested without difficulty, and made no resistance. When the police cleared the street, an unexploded bomb was found on the pavement at some distance from the actual spot of the murder; a fact which proved that at least one other conspirator had been waiting on the route, ready to act if the man with the Browning pistol had failed.
So much for the crime of Serajevo. The consequences of that detestable deed must be dealt with elsewhere. Its antecedents need some explanation. The two arrested conspirators were soon identified; they were both local men and Austrian subjects. The young man who had thrown the ineffective bomb before the ceremony at the Town Hall was named Nedelko Gabrinovitch, a printer by trade; the actual murderer of the Archduke was Gabrilo Prinzip, a student. Each was about twenty years of age, and they were old friends and associates both had been living at Belgrade for some months before the crime, and were well known in the colony of Bosnian exiles there resident. They were reputed to be Socialists or Anarchists who made no secret of their opinions; Gabrinovitch is described as a restless spirit-Prinzip as a nervous, silent, hardworking student. “Shortly after their arrest on the scene of their criminal acts, they were joined in prison by three other young men all Austrian subjects like themselves: Trefko Grabetz,” Vaso Cubrilovitch and Cveko Popovitch, were accused of having been their md accomplices in the plot certainly been seen in their company of late. Several additional arrests were made within the next few days.
Assassination plots, successful and unsuccessful, had played a prominent part in the history of the South Slavonic provinces of the Hapsburg Empire for some years before 1914. They were a domestic product of the unhappy internal conditions of Croatia-Slavonia and Bosnia under the dual monarchy. The trouble in this region went far back, dating from the “Great Betrayal” of 1849. Down to that date the South Slavs had been loyal subjects of the Hapsburgs, looking on them as the power which had saved Croatia and its neighboring regions from the Turk, in the days of old Ottoman aggressions. In 1848 when the great Hungarian insurrection under Kossuth threatened to break up the Empire, the dynasty was saved by the South Slavs, who, under the famous Ban Jellachich, took arms, attacked Hungary in flank, and prevented the victorious march on Vienna which must otherwise have ,taken place. It was as much owing to the loyalty of the Austrian Slavs as to the intervention of Russia that the Hungarians were finally beaten and the Hapsburgs saved. But the moment that danger was over Jellachich was disgraced, and the demands for provincial autonomy that had been made were refused. A time of blind and intolerable German bureaucratic centralization set in. This became only varied in shape, and remained equally intolerable in fact, when in 1867 the Hapsburgs made the great experiment of Austro-Hungarian “dualism,” and admitted the Magyar oligarchy to a partnership in the rule of their Empire. For this arrangement involved a splitting up of the South Slav races; the Dalmatians and Slovenes remaining under Austrian rule and being administered from Vienna, while the Croats, the Slavonians, and the Serbs of the Banat passed under the control of the Magyar Ministry and Parliament at Buda-Pest. Thus a political boundary line was drawn through the middle of this group of homogeneous Slavonic peoples; one section becoming a minority governed by the Germans, the other a minority governed with a much harder hand by the Magyars. Croatia had a certain simulacrum of local administration, under a Ban appointed by the Hungarian Government, and a provincial diet. But the Serbs of South Hungary and the Banat had a much worse fate, being governed directly from Buda-Pest, and subjected to all the irritating regime of “forcible Magyarisation,” which involved countless petty racial and ecclesiastical invasions of old rights. In 1878, at the Congress of Berlin, the Hapsburgs acquired the administrative military possession of Bosnia and Herzegovina, though not their formal sovereignty. Thus a third group of Slavonic peoples came under their sway. But Bosnia was neither united to the Austrian Slavs of Dalmatia nor to the Hungarian Slavs of Croatia, but administered as a separate government, every possible precaution being taken to keep it isolated. Thus the great mass of South Slavs subjected to the Hapsburgs were cut up into three groups, each under a different alien governance, and jealously prevented from intercourse with each other.
The South Slavs for two generations lived in a mood of constantly increasing irritation against their masters, but their irritation was particularist and provincial till comparatively recent times. The desire for political unity between them, founded on racial affinity, was not conceived till the nineteenth century was far spent, and had for many years no great number of followers. The educated classes in which it arose were a smaller proportion of the whole population than in most European countries, and there was an old and fatal schism between the Roman Catholic Slavs of the north and the Greek Orthodox of the south, which took many years to die down. Such tendencies towards national union as first arose were rather literary and cultural than political: for many years Slavonic idealists would have been contented with “trialism” as it was afterwards called, a union of all the South Slav races of the Hapsburg Empire in a third realm, equal in political right to Austria or Hungary. It was only when such ideals showed no signs of getting practical satisfaction in the interminable reign of Francis Joseph, that a new theory began to crop up, that of a union independent of the Hapsburgs, which should include not only all the Slavs under their rule, but also the independent Slavs of the Balkan Peninsula.
The Pan-Serb or Jugo-Slav solution of the problem presented no attractions so long as the kingdom of Serbia was ruled by the two last sovereigns of the Obrenovitch dynasty, the selfish and disreputable Milan (1868-1889), and his equally unamiable son Alexander (1889-1903). The Kingdom of Serbia was obscure, poor, and faction ridden of its kings the first-named was a humble vassal of Austria, whose favorite abode was Vienna; the second a morose and ill-natured lad who had started on a career of coups d’etat before he had reached the age of eighteen, and was hated by all his subjects. The Obrenoyitches were the surest guarantee against the growth of the Pan-Serb idea, and wise Austrian statesmen were content to leave them alone in their unpopularity. The dynasty ended with a crime which shocked all Europe, the murder of Alexander and his wife, Queen Draga, at Belgrade, on the 10th June, 1903. The victims were worthless; but the manner of their taking off was atrocious; the political assassination of a woman, whatever her reputation and antecedents, was felt to put Serbia out of the comity of nations, and years passed before Great Britain sent a new Minister to Belgrade.
Nevertheless the end of the Obrenovitch dynasty opened a new and a better epoch in Serbia. Whatever the personal faults of some of the Karageorgevitch family, who replaced their rivals after an exile of fifty years, they were much better rulers for Serbia; they observed constitutional principles, and they chose Ministers who were capable and patriotic. Especially since the advent of M. Pasitch to power in 1906, the internal condition of the kingdom made steady and continuous progress. It is probable that Serbia advanced more in civilization and prosperity during the ten years 1903-1913 than in the fifty years preceding.
It was practically only after the change of dynasty at Belgrade that the existing particularist discontents within the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy became linked up with the idea of the creation of a South Slav kingdom or federation, which should include Serbia. But within a few years the Jugo-Slav ideal made great headway, and, as was natural, it roused intense sympathy in Serbia. That state was a fractional part of a homogeneous group of peoples, which had achieved independence while the rest remained subject to alien rulers. The analogy to the position of the state of Savoy-Sardinia in the history of the union of Italy was in the mind of every educated man one of the popular papers in Belgrade was called the Piemonte from a wish to punctuate the idea. The internal troubles of the Austrian Slavs had taken a more acute form since 1905, when the last attempts to find a modus vivendi between the peoples and their alien rulers came to an end. The start of a new movement, which looked to something more than local autonomy under the Hapsburg rule, and took into consideration union with the independent Serbian state beyond the Save, may be traced to that year; its first strong symptom was a meeting of Croatian, Dalmatian, and Istrian Parliamentary representatives at Fiume, who drew up a program for the restoration of the old triune Jugo-Slav kingdom of Croatia, Slavonia, and Dalmatia, and invited the co-operation of the Serbs of Belgrade in the movement. This was on the 2nd October; a fortnight later twenty-six Serbian deputies met at Zara in Dalmatia, and conferred with their brethren as to co-operation. From that time dates the Serbo-Croat or Pan-Serb propaganda, which continued steadily to progress in strength.
The movement did not affect equally all the sections of the Austrian Slavs, but was especially strong in what may be called the “directing classes,” or the “intelligenzia,” as they have been styled in other Slav countries, i.e., professional men, journalists, merchants, students, and schoolmasters. The small surviving remnants of the old Illyrian “nobility were not much affected; they were largely Germanized, and loyal to the dynasty; nor, naturally, did the bureaucracy sympathize. But the “intelligenzia” gradually got hold of the peasantry, playing on old national memories and traditions. And the long-standing breach between the Roman and Greek Orthodox Slavs of Austria did not prove the hindrance to union that the Government had expected. Roman Catholic priests were soon found among the advocates of Pan-Serb propaganda. Nevertheless, there still remained a large section m all the regions which looked to Trialism as the solution of every trouble. By 1907 the South Slav deputies in the Buda-Pest Parliament were at open war with the Hungarian Government: they seceded, and refused to sit in that assembly. When, on the other hand, they got complete control of the Agram Diet, for what that control was worth, a new Ban was sent to Croatia and prorogued the Diet indefinitely.
So bitter was the discontent caused by the annexation of Bosnia that it seemed for a moment as if Serbia would make armed protest against it, and risk everything by setting on foot insurrectionary movements against the Hapsburg rule, both in Bosnia itself and in the Austrian provinces beyond. If .Russia had given the least sign of support, there might have been a great European War in 1909 instead of in 1914. But Russia contented herself with a protest against the violation of the Treaty of Berlin, and refused to stir. The South Slavs were obliged to swallow their wrath and submit the only result of the business was to exacerbate the already existing quarrel. The years between 1908 and 1912 were full of acts of violence, inexcusable oppression backed by forgery and perjury on the part of the Austrian authorities, deeds of bloody revenge carried out by fanatical Jugo-Slavs.
The strife started just before the annexation of Bosnia, with the arrest of fifty five members of the Croatian “intelligenzia,” and their trial for high treason at Agram; the proceedings dragged on till October 1909. The celebrated “Agram Trial” was a scandal, whose details gradually became known throughout Europe, and fixed the notions of all impartial observers as to Hungarian .justice for ever and a day. The arrests had taken place in consequence of the delegations of a well-known Austrian police spy and agent provocateur named Nastich, who had persuaded his superiors that there was an organized plot, of which the King and Ministers at Belgrade were the principals and the arrested Croatians the agents. Nastich was discovered to be a person of infamous antecedents he had been prosecuted for stealing opera glasses from Vienna theatres and his evidence, written and oral, was proved to be a tissue of falsehoods. The few outside documents which were produced to help out his tale were found to have been tampered with and falsified. During the proceedings the police took the extraordinary step of seizing the papers of the counsel engaged for the defense, and utilizing them as evidence to their own small profit. Among the charges formally brought against some of the accused were
“tendentious acts,” such as using the Cyrillic instead of the Italian alphabet, calling themselves members of the “Serb Orthodox” religious community, or possessing a portrait of King Peter Karageorgevitch. In October 1909 sentences of surprising severity were pronounced on thirty-one of the prisoners, who were sentenced to terms of imprisonment varying from five to twelve years. An appeal was made to the Supreme Court, which, after much deliberation, quashed the whole trial, “because of considerable doubts as to the truth of the facts on which the judgment had been based.” Lest this decision should give too favorable an idea of “Imperial-Royal” justice, we have to add that the prisoners were not released till September 1910, when they had been nearly two years in confinement. Also that the President of the Supreme Court was promptly dismissed, and replaced by a more subservient judge.
The quashing of the Agram judgments was largely due to the evidence that had come out during a separate trial, which ran parallel as to time with the later months of the original case. This was the “Friedjung Trial” of December 1909. Dr. Friedjung is a well-known Austrian historian of orthodox views: he published in the Neue Freie Presse a sensational article, which asserted that leading Croatian politicians had received large sums of money from King Peter of Serbia, and were his paid agents; he added that he possessed documentary evidence which absolutely proved his thesis. A number of the Croatian deputies brought against him a charge of libel in the Vienna Courts. Thereupon the professor produced his incriminating documents, which he said that he had received from an “exalted and confidential source.” They purported to be photographs of documents stolen from the Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and of minutes of a Pan-Serb club called Slovensky Jug (the Slavonic South). Unfortunately for Dr. Friedjung, it was proved that the alleged official documents were written in bad Serbian, and contained many phrases and terms of speech which were literal translations from the German. In the end it was discovered that they had been turned into Serbian by a journalist named Vasitch, who was in the employ of the Austrian Secretary of Legation at Belgrade. M. Spalaykovitch, the Serbian Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, came in person to Vienna and deposed that the documents over which his name appeared were forgeries.
The open warfare against the Croatian and Bosnian Pan-Serbs, which had started in 1908 with the Agram Trial, had a not unnatural result in the outbreak of political crimes of violence against the local Austrian and Hungarian officials, of which the most notable were an attempt at Serajevo in 1910 to assassinate General Varesanin, Governor of Bosnia; a second at Agram in 1912 directed against Baron Cuvaj, Royal Commissary for Croatia; and a third and fourth in the same place against his successor in office, Baron Skerlecz. In all four plots the murderer was foiled; but in the second an official seated next Baron Cuvaj was mortally wounded. The assassins were in each case Austrian subjects one of them had just returned from America. All were declared, and probably with truth, to be members of Jugo-Slav secret societies. The Austrian Government maintained that the central nucleus of political crime was a Belgrade patriotic association called the Narodna Odbrana ("National Defense"), which had been established in Serbia at the time of the Bosnian annexation, when open war with Austria had seemed probable. The society was not governmental or official, but many prominent Serbian soldiers and functionaries were members of it. Its heads have always declared that it had no connection with political crime; it was founded in 1908 as an organization to train volunteers and organize auxiliary services during the expected war with Austria. But when that danger passed over, it was reorganized as a permanent patriotic association, for cultural and educational purposes in time of peace. There was no doubt that it was Pan-Serb in its program, and that many Austro-Hungarian subjects belonged to it. But it was not a secret society, and worked openly (and not always very prudently) by means of lectures, meetings, and pamphlet propaganda. The Austrian contention, as set forth at great length in the Red Book and other official documents, is that the Narodna Odbrana, in addition to its obvious activities, had a secret terrorist organization, which worked across the frontier and helped or subsidized the Croatian and Bosnian activists. It would appear to be rather the fact that while the association as a body and its responsible chiefs confined themselves to their averred program, there were certain members, both native Serbs and Austrian subjects, who were cognizant of the various deeds of violence which took place in Croatia and Bosnia. This could hardly be avoided enthusiasts and fanatics join associations in all countries, but the associations are not responsible for their private doings. That the crimes were a local product, and the natural result of ruthless oppression by the Austro-Hungarian police and bureaucracy, is sufficiently shown by the fact that the criminals were invariably Austrian subjects, and not Serbs of the Kingdom.
At the same time it is easy to realize the irritation and anger of the Austro-Hungarian bureaucracy, faced with an epidemic of violence, and convinced that the violence was due not to their own policy, but to intangible and malignant influences working from across the Save and the Drina. Discontented Croats or Bosnians always betook themselves to Belgrade, and were regarded there as martyrs. Dismissed Jugo-Slav officers and cadets sometimes got commissions in the Serbian army. Exiled teachers joined the Serbian education department; students “sent down” for disloyalty took degrees at Belgrade, and so forth. The friction was inevitable when an obstinate bureaucracy set to work to dragoon a discontented population, while there was a free state of allied blood just across the border. It might be possible to imagine some parallel for ourselves if Galway had happened to be only fifty miles from New York, and if in the time of some Irish crisis the Hibernian Associations of the United States passed their usual resolutions from across a river instead of across an ocean.
With regard to the Serajevo crime, we must regard it as a normal and logical successor of the various attempts made against Bosnian and Croatian governors and commissaries between 1908 and 1913. On the principle of cui bono, the existing Serbian Government could get no possible advantage from it. The last thing that King Peter Karageorgevitch or M. Pasitch could desire would be a breach with Austria, in which the latter would have a plausible casus belli founded on an atrocious crime. The Serajevo murders caused such a moral shock all over Europe that Austria, if she had shown moderation and restraint, could have reckoned on being hampered by no hindrance from outside. But she chose, as we shall see, to make them an excuse for the practical annexation of Serbia, and produced no evidence that Serbia was responsible. It is ludicrous to find the Kingdom impeached for the alleged complicity of a Vojamir Tankositch or a Milan Tziganovitch in a Bosnian crime. Great Britain, on similar lines, might have administered ultimatums and declared war on the United States half a dozen times during the last forty years, over the sayings and doings of O’Donovan Rossa and his acolytes.
We are violating the rules of time when we detail in this place the trial of the Serajevo conspirators. It took place between the 12th and the 24th October, 1914, while Austria had declared war on Serbia in the end of July. The accused were twenty-five in number, including the two actual assassins, Prinzip and Gabrinovitch; they were all Austrian subjects and nearly all in extreme youth one of them was only sixteen years of age; another was the wife of one of the minor accused. The large majority of them were students, or training-college and commercial-school pupils one was the son of a rich merchant, five were peasants, two artisans.
The story developed by the Austrian authorities, and supported by alleged evidence extracted from the accused, was that an assassination plot had been hatched in Belgrade by the leaders of the Narodna Odbrana, and that the three young men, Gabrinovitch, Prinzip, and Grabetz, had been furnished with bombs and pistols by a Serbian major named Tankositch and a Croatian exile named Tziganovitch, who was a temporary clerk on the Serbian railway. They had crossed the Austrian frontier by secret ways, and with the collusion of certain officials of the Serbian domain service, and had been passed on to Serajevo by various Bosnian friends. In Serajevo they had recruited several local sympathizers, who were ready to join in their plot; and beside the actual assassins who were arrested at the moment, there had been four other young men posted at various points of the Archduke’s route, who would have acted if Prinzip had failed. The other accused were persons who had sheltered the three adventurers from Belgrade at various stages of their route, or had hidden them and their weapons during their stay in Serajevo before the murder.
But if we are dealing with young fanatics, is it credible that they should, after avowing their exalted principles, proceed to give away all their friends and accomplices, arrested and un-arrested, and by detailed accounts of who had helped them at each place and at each hour, ensure the death or lifelong imprisonment of all their most faithful allies? This is not the way in which such political criminals behave in any country, or at any time of the world’s history. They may make high-flown harangues, or they may refuse to speak at all; but they do not go out of their way to betray all their accomplices. There are only three hypotheses on which the alleged evidence of the leaders of the plot can be explained. Either:
(1.) The whole evidence is falsified, and the depositions edited by the Austrian police; or
(2.) One or all of the principal criminals had been secretly promised their lives if they gave such evidence as was desired, i.e., had turned King’s Evidence; or
(3.) They had been dealt with in the good old mediaeval fashion still not unknown in Balkanic countries like Bosnia, and would say anything rather than face more of the dose that had been their lot in prison.
In any of the three cases all the evidence printed would be equally untrustworthy and worthless. We lean to the first hypothesis, and believe that the record of the trial has been so much tampered with that no confidence can be placed in any word of it.
The second main observation that has to be made upon the whole official Austrian record is that, even taking at their face value the alleged avowals of the criminals, there is nothing to implicate the Narodna Odbrana, still less the Serbian Government. The record of the trial shows that the presiding magistrates caused selections of publications of the Narodna Odbrana to be read, as well as long screeds of Jugo-Slav propaganda from Serbian newspapers. They rehearsed a quantity of evidence as to the organization of the Narodna Odbrana in 1908, when war with Austria over the Bosnian annexation had been expected. But they did not pretend to bring the conspirators into personal touch with any of the responsible leaders of the society, high Serbian officials, and military officers, but only with two persons: Major Vojamir Tankositch, and the railway clerk, Milan Tziganovitch. Who were these people?
Major Tankositch was a Komitadji chief, who had won himself a certain celebrity by his guerrilla exploits in Macedonia, both before and during the Balkan wars of 1912-13. He was a bold, reckless, indiscreet person, who loved notoriety. Some very doubtful actions in Macedonia were remembered against him as was the case with many others of his class. More especially his lack of restraint was him he was against notoriously noisy in his cups. But he had done some bold things and was during the Macedonian guerrilla warfare something of a local hero hence his military promotion to the rank of major. He was the last person to whom any responsible Serbian politician or commander would have trusted a secret But he was a well-known figure in Belgrade cafes, where Bosnian exiles and Serbian ex-Komitadjis most did congregate. He died fighting during the unlucky Serbian campaign of 1915, and the Austrian official publications are wrong in stating that he was killed in September 1914.
Milan Tziganovitch was a much more obscure person. He was a Croatian, not a Serbian, and had been for some time an employee of the Austrian Inland Revenue at Bihacs. He had moved into Serbia some years back, had served as a Komitadji in the Balkan Wars of 1912-13, and was in 1914 a temporary clerk in the Belgrade railway station. He is said to have frequented the company of Bosnian and Croatian exiles in Belgrade, which is likely enough, since he was one himself, and to have been both a member of the Narayana Odbrana and a correspondent of the Bosnian Jugo-Slav societies, such as the Prosveta of Serajevo. Some responsible Serbian informants declare that they had never heard of him, and his insignificance seems vouched for by the obscurity of his position. He has to figure in all Austrian narratives as a “Serbian State official” whether a temporary railway clerk can be accurately so described may be a matter of opinion; certainly the phrase does not give a fair notion of his position.
According to the alleged evidence of the criminals, they had separately, and on their own inspiration, conceived the idea of murdering the Archduke; they broached the idea to Tziganovitch, who favored it, and introduced them to Major Tankositch. The latter promised to provide them with arms, and, in fact, Tziganovitch soon after brought them some pistols and bombs of the Serbian regulation pattern. He also furnished them with a private letter to a captain of the Serbian frontier domane service, asking him to facilitate their passage into Bosnia. They crossed the Drina secretly, and were passed on to Serajevo separately by various Bosnian peasants, who were members of dis-loyalist associations.
It would be hazardous to deny that Tziganovitch or Major Tankositch were cognizant of the plot, though we should prefer better evidence than that said to have been extracted from the young criminals who were engaged in the murder. But how does their complicity, if granted, affect the Narodna Odbrana, or the Serbian Government?