The Causes of the Great War

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

The causes of World War I, which began in central Europe in late July 1914, included intertwined factors, such as the conflicts and hostility of the four decades leading up to the war. Militarism, alliances, imperialism, and nationalism played major roles in the conflict as well.
The immediate origins of the war, however, lay in the decisions taken by statesmen and generals during the Crisis of 1914, 'casus belli' for which was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife by Gavrilo Princip, an irredentist Serb.
The crisis came after a long and difficult series of diplomatic clashes between the Great Powers (Italy, France, Germany, the British Empire, the Austria-Hungarian Empire and Russia) over European and colonial issues in the decade before 1914 that had left tensions high.
In turn these diplomatic clashes can be traced to changes in the balance of power in Europe since 1867.
The more immediate cause for the war was tensions over territory in the Balkans.
Austria-Hungary competed with Serbia and Russia for territory and influence in the region, and they pulled the rest of the Great Powers into the conflict through their various alliances and treaties.

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

In November 1912, Russia was humiliated because of its inability to support Serbia during the Bosnian crisis of 1908 - also known as the 'First Balkan War', and announced a major reconstruction of its military.
On November 28, German Foreign Secretary Gottlieb von Jagow told the Reichstag, that "If Austria is forced, for whatever reason, to fight for its position as a Great Power, then we must stand by her."
As a result, British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey responded by warning Prince Karl Lichnowsky, the Germany Ambassador in London, that if Germany offered Austria a "blank cheque" for war in the Balkans, then "the consequences of such a policy would be incalculable."
To reinforce this point, R. B. Haldane, the Germanophile Lord Chancellor, met with Prince Lichnowsky to offer an explicit warning that if Germany were to attack France, Britain would intervene in France's favor.
With the recently announced Russian military reconstruction and certain British communications, the possibility of war was a leading topic at the German Imperial War Council of 8 December 1912 in Berlin, an informal meeting of some of Germany's top military leadership called on short notice by the Kaiser.
Attending the conference were Kaiser Wilhelm II, Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz – the Naval State Secretary, Admiral Georg Alexander von Müller, the Chief of the German Imperial Naval Cabinet (Marinekabinett), General von Moltke – the Army’s Chief of Staff, Admiral August von Heeringen - the Chief of the Naval General Staff and General Moriz von Lyncker, the Chief of the German Imperial Military Cabinet.
The presence of the leaders of both the German Army and Navy at this War Council attests to its importance, however, Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg and General Josias von Heeringen, the Prussian Minister of War, were not invited.
Wilhelm II called British 'balance of power' concept "idiocy," but agreed that Haldane’s statement was a "desirable clarification" of British policy.
His opinion was that Austria should attack that December and/ if "Russia supports the Serbs, which she evidently does…then war would be unavoidable for us, too," and that would be better than going to war after Russia completed the massive modernization and expansion of their army that they had just begun. Moltke agreed.
In his professional military opinion "a war is unavoidable and the sooner the better".
Moltke "wanted to launch an immediate attack".
Both Wilhelm II and the Army leadership agreed that if a war were necessary it were best launched soon. Admiral Tirpitz, however, asked for a "postponement of the great fight for one and a half years" because the Navy was not ready for a general war that included Britain as an opponent.
He insisted that the completion of the construction of the U-boat base at Heligoland and the widening of the Kiel Canal were the Navy’s prerequisites for war.
The date for completion of the widening of the Kiel Canal was the summer of 1914.
Though Moltke objected to the postponement of the war as unacceptable, Wilhelm sided with Tirpitz. Moltke "agreed to a postponement only reluctantly."
It should be noted that this War Council only showed the thinking and recommendations of those present, with no decisions taken.
Admiral Müller’s diary states: "That was the end of the conference. The result amounted to nothing." Certainly the only decision taken was to do nothing.
With the November 1912 announcement of the Russian 'Great Military Programme', the leadership of the German Army began clamoring even more strongly for a "preventive war" against Russia.
Moltke declared that Germany could not win the arms race with France, Britain and Russia, which she herself had begun in 1911, because the financial structure of the German state, which gave the Reich government little power to tax, meant Germany would bankrupt herself in an arms race.
As such, Moltke from late 1912 onward was the leading advocate for a general war, and the sooner the better.
Throughout May and June 1914, Moltke engaged in an "almost ultimative" demand for a German "preventive war" against Russia in 1914.
The German Foreign Secretary, Gottlieb von Jagow, reported on a discussion with Moltke at the end of May 1914:
"Moltke described to me his opinion of our military situation. The prospects of the future oppressed him heavily. In two or three years Russia would have completed her armaments. The military superiority of our enemies would then be so great that he did not know how he could overcome them. Today we would still be a match for them. In his opinion there was no alternative to making preventive war in order to defeat the enemy while we still had a chance of victory. The Chief of the General Staff therefore proposed that I should conduct a policy with the aim of provoking a war in the near future."
The new French President Raymond Poincaré, who took office in 1913, was favourable to improving relations with Germany.
In January 1914 Poincaré became the first French President to dine at the German Embassy in Paris.
Poincaré was more interested in the idea of French expansion in the Middle East than a war of revenge to regain Alsace-Lorraine.
Had the Reich been interested in improved relations with France before August 1914, the opportunity was available, but the leadership of the Reich lacked such interests, and preferred a policy of war to destroy France.
Because of France’s smaller economy and population, by 1913 French leaders had largely accepted that France by itself could never defeat Germany.
In May 1914, Serbian politics were polarized between two factions, one headed by the Prime Minister Nikola Pašić, and the other by the radical nationalist chief of Military Intelligence, Colonel Dragutin Dimitrijević, known by his codename Apis.
In that month, due to Colonel Dimitrigjevic’s intrigues, King Peter dismissed Pašić’s government.
The Russian Minister in Belgrade intervened to have Pašić’s government restored.
Pašić, though he often talked tough in public, knew that Serbia was near-bankrupt and, having suffered heavy casualties in the Balkan Wars and in the suppression of a December 1913 Albanian revolt in Kosovo, needed peace.
Since Russia also favoured peace in the Balkans, from the Russian viewpoint it was desirable to keep Pašić in power.
It was in the midst of this political crisis that politically powerful members of the Serbian military armed and trained three Bosnian students as assassins and sent them into Austria-Hungary.

Domestic Political Factors

German Domestic Politics  -  Left-wing parties, especially the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) made large gains in the 1912 German election.
German government at the time was still dominated by the Prussian Junkers who feared the rise of these left-wing parties.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, Junker was an often pejorative designation for a member of the landed nobility in Prussia and eastern Germany.
Supporting monarchism and military traditions, they were seen as reactionary, anti-democratic and protectionist. This political class held tremendous power over industrial classes and government alike.

It is possible that the Junkers deliberately sought an external war to distract the population and whip up patriotic support for the government.
Russia was in the midst of a large-scale military build-up and reform that they completed in 1916–17.
It is also argued, however, that German conservatives were ambivalent about a war, worrying that losing a war would have disastrous consequences, and even a successful war might alienate the population if it were lengthy or difficult.

French Domestic Politics  -  The situation in France was quite different from that in Germany as going to war appeared to the majority of political and military leaders to be a potentially costly gamble.
It is undeniable that forty years after the loss of Alsace-Lorraine a vast number of French were still angered by the territorial loss, as well as by the humiliation of being compelled to pay a large reparation to Germany in 1870.
The diplomatic alienation of France orchestrated by Germany prior to World War I caused further resentment in France.
Nevertheless, the leaders of France recognized Germany's strong military advantage against them, as Germany had nearly twice as much population and a better equipped army.
At the same time, the episodes of the Tangier Crisis in 1905 and the Agadir Crisis in 1911 had given France a strong indication that war with Germany could be inevitable if Germany continued to oppose French colonial expansionism.
More than a century after the French Revolution, there was still a fierce struggle between the left-wing French government and its right-wing opponents.


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In 1867, the Austrian Empire fundamentally changed its governmental structure, becoming the 'Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary'.
For hundreds of years, the empire had been run in an essentially feudal manner, with a German-speaking aristocracy at its head, however, with the threat represented by an emergence of nationalism within the empire's many component ethnicities, some elements, including Emperor Franz Joseph, decided that a compromise was required to preserve the power of the German aristocracy.
In 1867, the Ausgleich was agreed on, which made the Magyar (Hungarian) elite in Hungary almost equal partners in the government of Austria-Hungary.
This arrangement fostered a tremendous degree of dissatisfaction among many in the traditional German ruling classes.
Some of them considered the Ausgleich to have been a calamity, because it often frustrated their intentions in the governance of Austria-Hungary.
For example, it was extremely difficult for Austria-Hungary to form a coherent foreign policy that suited the interests of both the German and Magyar elite.
Throughout the fifty years from 1867 to 1914, it proved difficult to reach adequate compromises in the governance of Austria-Hungary.
At the same time, a form of social Darwinism became popular among many in the Austrian half of the government.
This thinking emphasised the primacy of armed struggle between nations, and the need for nations to arm themselves for an ultimate struggle for survival.
As a result, at least two distinct strains of thought advocated war with Serbia, often unified in the same people.
Some reasoned that dealing with political deadlock required that more Slavs be brought into Austria-Hungary to dilute the power of the Magyar elite.
With more Slavs, the South Slavs of Austria-Hungary could force a new political compromise in which the Germans could play the Magyars against the South Slavs.
Another fear was that the South Slavs, primarily under the leadership of Serbia, were organizing for a war against Austria-Hungary, and even all of Germanic civilization.
Some leaders, such as Conrad von Hötzendorf, argued that Serbia must be dealt with before it became too powerful to defeat militarily.
A powerful contingent within the Austro-Hungarian government was motivated by these thoughts and advocated war with Serbia long before the war began.
Prominent members of this group included Leopold von Berchtold, Alexander von Hoyos, and Johann von Forgách.
Although many other members of the government, notably Franz Ferdinand, Franz Joseph, and many Hungarian politicians did not believe that a violent struggle with Serbia would necessarily solve any of Austria-Hungary's problems, the hawkish elements did exert a strong influence on government policy, holding key positions.
It is important to understand the central role of Austria-Hungary in starting the war.
Convinced Serbian nationalism and Russian Balkan ambitions were disintegrating the Empire, Austria-Hungary hoped for a limited war against Serbia and that strong German support would force Russia to keep out of the war and weaken its Balkan prestige.


Some attribute the start of the war to imperialism.
Countries such as the United Kingdom and France accumulated great wealth in the late 19th century through their control of trade in foreign resources, markets, territories, and people.
Other empires, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Italy, and Russia all hoped to do so as well in economic advantage.
Their frustrated ambitions, and British policies of strategic exclusion created tensions.
In addition, the limits of natural resources in many European nations began to slowly alter trade balance, and make national industries seek new territories rich in natural resources.
Commercial interests contributed substantially to Anglo-German rivalry during the scramble for tropical Africa.
This was the scene of sharpest conflict between certain German and British commercial interests.
There have been two partitions of Africa.
One involved the actual imposition of political boundaries across the continent during the last quarter of the 19th century; the other, which actually commenced in the mid-19th century, consisted of the so-called 'business' partition.
In southern Africa the latter partition followed rapidly upon the discoveries of diamonds and gold in 1867 and 1886 respectively.
An integral part of this second partition was the expansion in the interior of British capital interests, primarily the British South Africa Company and mining companies such as De Beers.
After 1886 the Witwatersrand goldfields prompted feverish activity among European as well as British capitalists.
It was soon felt in Whitehall that German commercial penetration in particular constituted a direct threat to Britain's continued economic and political hegemony south of the Limpopo.
Amid the expanding web of German business on the Rand, the most contentious operations were those of the German-financed N.Z.A.S.M. or Netherlands South African Railway Company, which possessed a railway monopoly in the Transvaal.
Rivalries for not just colonies, but colonial trade and trade routes developed between the emerging economic powers and the incumbent great powers.

Berlin-Baghdad Railway
This rivalry was illustrated in the Berlin-Baghdad Railway, which would have given German industry access to Iraqi oil, and German trade a southern port in the Persian Gulf.
A history of this railroad in the context of World War I has arrived to describe the German interests in countering the British Empire at a global level, and Turkey's interest in countering their Russian rivals at a regional level.
'It was felt in England that if, as Napoleon is said to have remarked, Antwerp in the hands of a great continental power was a pistol leveled at the English coast, Bagdad and the Persian Gulf in the hands of Germany (or any other strong power) would be a 42-centimetre gun pointed at India.'
On the other side, "Public opinion in Germany was feasting on visions of Cairo, Baghdad, and Tehran, and the possibility of evading the British blockade through outlets to the Indian Ocean."
Britain's initial strategic exclusion of others from northern access to a Persian Gulf port in the creation of Kuwait by treaty as a protected, subsidized client state showed political recognition of the importance of the issue.
If outcome is revealing, by the close of the war this political recognition was re-emphasized in the military effort to capture the railway itself, recounted with perspective in a contemporary history: "On the 26th Aleppo fell, and on the 28th we reached Muslimieh, that junction on the Baghdad railway on which longing eyes had been cast as the nodal point in the conflict of German and other ambitions in the East."
The Treaty of Versailles explicitly removed all German ownership thereafter, which without Ottoman rule left access to Mesopotamian and Persian oil, and northern access to a southern port in British hands alone.

Otto von Bismarck
Rivalries among the great powers were exacerbated starting in the 1880s by the scramble for colonies, which brought much of Africa and Asia under European rule in the following quarter-century.
It also created great Anglo-French and Anglo-Russian tensions and crises that prevented a British alliance with either until the early 20th century.
Otto von Bismarck disliked the idea of an overseas empire, but pursued a colonial policy to court domestic political support.
This started Anglo-German tensions since German acquisitions in Africa and the Pacific threatened to impinge upon British strategic and commercial interests.
Bismarck supported French colonization in Africa because it diverted government attention and resources away from continental Europe and revanchism.
In spite of all of Bismarck's deft diplomatic maneuvering, in 1890 he was forced to resign by the new Kaiser (Wilhelm II).
His successor, Leo von Caprivi, was the last German Chancellor who was successful in calming Anglo-German tensions.
Leo von Caprivi
After his loss of office in 1894, German policy led to greater conflicts with the other colonial powers.
The status of Morocco had been guaranteed by international agreement, and when France attempted to greatly expand its influence there without the assent of all the other signatories Germany opposed it prompting the 'Moroccan Crise's, the 'Tangier Crisis' of 1905 and the 'Agadir Crisis' of 1911.
The intent of German policy was to drive a wedge between the British and French, but in both cases produced the opposite effect, and Germany was isolated diplomatically, most notably lacking the support of Italy despite Italian membership in the Triple Alliance.
The French protectorate over Morocco was established officially in 1912.
In 1914, there were no outstanding colonial conflicts, Africa essentially having been claimed fully, apart from Ethiopia, for several years, however, the competitive mentality, as well as a fear of "being left behind" in the competition for the world's resources may have played a role in the decisions to begin the conflict.

The Arms Race

A self-reinforcing cycle of heightened military preparedness…was an essential element in the conjuncture that led to disaster…The armaments race…was a necessary precondition for the outbreak of hostilities.
If Archduke Franz Ferdinand had been assassinated in 1904 or even in 1911, there might have been no war. It was…the armaments race…and the speculation about imminent or preventive wars  that made his death in 1914 the trigger for war.
Some historians see the German naval build-up as the principal cause of deteriorating Anglo-German relations.
The overwhelming British response, however, proved to Germany that its efforts were unlikely to equal the Royal Navy.
In 1900, the British had a 3.7:1 tonnage advantage over Germany; in 1910 the ratio was 2.3:1 and in 1914, 2.1:1.
So decisive was the British victory in the naval arms race that it is hard to regard it as in any meaningful sense a cause of the First World War.
This ignores the fact that the Kaiserliche Marine had narrowed the gap by nearly half, and that the Royal Navy had long intended to be stronger than any two potential opponents; the United States Navy was in a period of growth, making the German gains very ominous.
Technological changes, with oil- rather than coal-fuelled ships, decreasing refuelling time while increasing speed and range, and with superior armour and guns also would favour the growing, and newer, German fleet.
One of the aims of the 'First Hague Conference' of 1899, held at the suggestion of Russian Emperor Nicholas II, was to discuss disarmament.
The 'Second Hague Conference' was held in 1907.
All the signatories except for Germany supported disarmament.
Germany also did not want to agree to binding arbitration and mediation.
The Kaiser was concerned that the United States would propose disarmament measures, which he opposed.

Russian interests in Balkans and Ottoman Empire
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The main Russian goals included strengthening its role as the protector of Eastern Christians in the Balkans (such as the Serbians).
Although Russia enjoyed a booming economy, growing population, and large armed forces, its strategic position was threatened by an expanding Turkish military trained by German experts using the latest technology.
The start of the war renewed attention of old goals: expelling the Turks from Constantinople, extending Russian dominion into eastern Anatolia and Persian Azerbaijan, and annexing Galicia.
These conquests would assure Russian predominance in the Black Sea.

Over by Christmas

Field Marshal Lord
Horatio Herbert Kitchener 
Both sides believed, and publicly stated, that the war would end soon.
The Kaiser told his troops that they would be, "…home before the leaves have fallen from the trees," and one German officer said he expected to be in Paris by Sedantag, about six weeks away.
Germany only stockpiled enough potassium nitrate for gunpowder for six months.
Russian officers similarly expected to be in Berlin in six weeks, and those who suggested that the war would last for six months were considered pessimists.
Von Moltke and his French counterpart Joseph Joffre were among the few who expected a long war, but neither adjusted his nation's military plans accordingly.
The new British Secretary of State for War, Lord Kitchener, was the only leading official on either side to both expect a long war ("three years" or longer, he told an amazed colleague) and act accordingly, immediately building an army of millions of soldiers who would fight for years.

Schlieffen Plan

Alfred Graf von Schlieffen 
Germany's strategic vulnerability, sandwiched between its allied rivals, led to the development of the audacious (and incredibly expensive) Schlieffen Plan.
It aimed to knock France instantly out of contention, before Russia had time to mobilize its gigantic human reserves.
It aimed to accomplish this task within 6 weeks.
Germany could then turn her full resources to meeting the Russian threat.
Although Count Alfred von Schlieffen initially conceived the plan before his retirement in 1906, Japan's defeat of Russia in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904 exposed Russia's organizational weakness and added greatly to the plan's credibility.
The plan called for a rapid German mobilization, sweeping through the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Belgium, into France.
Schlieffen called for overwhelming numbers on the far right flank, the northernmost spearhead of the force with only minimum troops making up the arm and axis of the formation as well as a minimum force stationed on the Russian eastern front.
Helmuth von Moltke
Schlieffen was replaced by Helmuth von Moltke, and in 1907–08 Moltke adjusted the plan, reducing the proportional distribution of the forces, lessening the crucial right wing in favor of a slightly more defensive strategy.
Also, judging Holland unlikely to grant permission to cross its borders, the plan was revised to make a direct move through Belgium, and an artillery assault on the Belgian city of Liège.
With the rail lines and the unprecedented firepower the German army brought, Moltke did not expect any significant defense of the fortress.
The significance of the Schlieffen Plan is that it forced German military planners to prepare for a pre-emptive strike when war was deemed unavoidable.
Otherwise Russia would have time to mobilize and crush Germany with its massive army.
On August 1, Kaiser Wilhelm II briefly became convinced that it might be possible to ensure French and British neutrality, and cancelled the plan despite the objections of the Chief of Staff that this could not be done, and resuming it only when the offer of a neutral France and Britain was withdrawn.
It appears that no war planners in any country had prepared effectively for the Schlieffen Plan.
The French were not concerned about such a move. They were confident their offensive (Plan XVII) would break the German center and cut off the German right wing moving through Belgium.
They also expected that an early Russian offensive in East Prussia would tie down German forces.

Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria

Erzherzog Franz Ferdinand 
On 28 June 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife, Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg, were shot dead in Sarajevo, by Gavrilo Princip, one of a group of six Bosnian Serb assassins coordinated by Danilo Ilić.

Franz Ferdinand, eldest son of Carl Ludwig, the brother of Emperor Franz Josef, was born in 1863. Educated by private tutors, he joined the Austro-Hungarian Army in 1883.
His military career included service with an infantry regiment in Prague and with the hussars in Hungary.
While in the army Ferdinand received several promotions: captain (1885), major (1888), colonel (1890) and general (1896). 

Crown Prince Rupert
In 1889, Rudolf (21 August 1858 – 30 January 1889), Erzherzog von Österreich (Archduke of Austria) and Kronprinz von Österreich, Ungarn und Böhmen, (Crown Prince of Austria, Hungary and Bohemia,) the son of Franz Josef, shot himself at his hunting lodge.
The succession now passed to Franz Ferdinand's father, Carl Ludwig.
When he died in 1896, Franz Ferdinand became the new heir to the throne.

Sophie von Chotkovato 
After attending the official reception at the City Hall, Franz Ferdinand and Sophie von Chotkovato were driven through the city.
Gavrilo Princip, the assassin, stepped forward, drew his gun, and at a distance of about five feet, fired several times into the car.
Franz Ferdinand was hit in the neck and Sophie von Chotkovato in the abdomen. Princip's bullet had pierced the archduke's jugular vein but before losing consciousness, he pleaded "Sophie dear! Sophie dear! Don't die! Stay alive for our children!" Franz Urban drove the royal couple to Konak, the governor's residence, but although both were still alive when they arrived, they died from their wounds soon afterwards.

The political objective of the assassination was to break off Austria-Hungary's south-Slav provinces so they could be combined into a Greater Serbia or a Yugoslavia.
The assassins' motives were consistent with the movement that later became known as 'Young Bosnia'. Serbian military officers stood behind the attack.
At the top of these Serbian military conspirators was Chief of Serbian Military Intelligence, Dragutin Dimitrijević, his righthand man Major Vojislav Tankosić, and Masterspy Rade Malobabić. Major Tankosić armed (with bombs and pistols) and trained the assassins, and the assassins were given access to the same clandestine tunnel of safe-houses and agents that Rade Malobabić used for the infiltration of weapons and operatives into Austria-Hungary.
The assassins, the key members of the clandestine tunnel, and the key Serbian military conspirators who were still alive were arrested, tried, convicted and punished.
Those who were arrested in Bosnia were tried in Sarajevo in October 1914.
The other conspirators were arrested and tried before a Serbian kangaroo court on the French-controlled Salonika Front in 1916–1917 on unrelated false charges; Serbia executed three of the top military conspirators.
Much of what is known about the assassinations comes from these two trials and related records.
Assignment of responsibility for the bombing and murders of 28 June is highly controversial because the attack led to the outbreak of World War I one month later.


The murder of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire and his wife produced widespread shock across Europe, and there was initially much sympathy for the Austrian position.
Within two days of the assassination, Austria-Hungary and Germany advised Serbia that it should open an investigation, but Secretary General to the Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Slavko Gruic, replied "Nothing had been done so far and the matter did not concern the Serbian Government."
An angry exchange followed between the Austrian Chargé d'Affaires at Belgrade and Gruic.
After conducting a criminal investigation, verifying that Germany would honor its military alliance, and persuading the skeptical Hungarian Count Tisza, Austria-Hungary issued a formal letter to the government of Serbia.

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Serbia was a state in the Balkans that came into existence as a result of the Serbian Revolution which lasted between 1804 and 1817. Despite serious and extremely brutal oppression and revenge by the Ottoman authorities, the revolutionary leaders, first Karađorđe Petrović and then Miloš Obrenović I, succeeded in their goal to liberate Serbia after centuries of Ottoman rule.

The letter reminded Serbia of its commitment to respect the Great Powers' decision regarding Bosnia-Herzegovina, and to maintain good neighborly relations with Austria-Hungary.

The letter contained specific demands aimed at preventing the publication of propaganda advocating the violent destruction of Austria-Hungary, removing the people behind this propaganda from the Serbian Military, arresting the people on Serbian soil who were involved in the assassination plot and preventing the clandestine shipment of arms and explosives from Serbia to Austria-Hungary.
This letter became known as the 'July Ultimatum', and Austria-Hungary stated that if Serbia did not accept all of the demands in total within 48 hours, it would recall its ambassador from Serbia.
After receiving a telegram of support from Russia, Serbia mobilized its army and responded to the letter by completely accepting point #8 demanding an end to the smuggling of weapons and punishment of the frontier officers who had assisted the assassins and completely accepting point #10 which demanded Serbia report the execution of the required measures as they were completed.
Serbia partially accepted, finessed, disingenuously answered or politely rejected elements of the preamble and enumerated demands #1–7 and #9.
The shortcomings of Serbia's response were published by Austria-Hungary and can be seen beginning on page 364 of Origins of the War, Vol. II by Albertini, with the Austrian complaints placed side-by-side against Serbia's response.
Austria-Hungary responded by breaking diplomatic relations.
The next day, Serbian reservists being transported on tramp steamers on the Danube crossed onto the Austro-Hungarian side of the river at Temes-Kubin and Austro-Hungarian soldiers fired into the air to warn them off.
The report of this incident was initially sketchy and reported to Emperor Franz-Joseph as “a considerable skirmish”.
Austria-Hungary then declared war and mobilized the portion of its army that would face the (already mobilized) Serbian Army on 28 July 1914.
Erzherzog Franz Ferdinand von Österreich
Under the Secret Treaty of 1892 Russia and France were obliged to mobilize their armies if any of the Triple Alliance mobilized.
Russia's mobilization set off full Austro-Hungarian and German mobilizations.
Soon all the Great Powers except Italy had chosen sides and gone to war.
A review of the consequences of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria shows that it was the initial actions of the Serbian Government (see above - Serbian military officers stood behind the attack - probably members of the Black Hand - an organisation  formed on 6 September 1901 by members of the Serbian Army).

Dragutin Dimitrijević Apis (right) and his associates
Chief of Serbian Military Intelligence Dragutin Dimitrijević Apis stated that he had organized the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914 -
(the assassin was Гаврило Принцип - (Gavrilo Princip) - who was an athiest. 

Гаврило Принцип - (Gavrilo Princip)
Gavrilo Princip was born in the remote village of Obljaj near Bosansko Grahovo, at the time de jure part of Bosnia Vilayet within the Ottoman Empire, however the province had since 1878 been occupied by Austria-Hungary which governed it as its condominium, a de facto part of Austria-Hungary. Princip was too young to receive the death penalty, being only twenty-seven days short of his twentieth birthday at the time of the assassination. Instead, he received the maximum sentence of twenty years in prison. He was held in harsh conditions which were worsened by the war. He contracted tuberculosis,[3] and had one of his arms amputated in 1917 when the disease infected an arm bone (probably because of a badly performed procedure to repair a bone broken during his capture).[10] He died on 28 April 1918 at Terezín 3 years and 10 months after he assassinated the Archduke and Duchess. At the time of his death, Princip weighed around 40 kilograms (88 lb), weakened by malnutrition, blood loss from his amputated arm, and disease.

His politics are unclear. Some of his associates were Muslims. ).

- in the process, Dragutin Dimitrijević Apis used not only his power over elements of the Serbian military, but also the Black Hand.

Dragutin Dimitrijević was born in Belgrade in 1876. At sixteen Dimitrijević went to the Belgrade Military Academy. A brilliant student, Dimitrijević was recruited into the General Staff of the Serbian Army immediately after his graduation.
Captain Dimitrijević and a group of junior officers planned the assassination of the autocratic and unpopular king of Serbia. On 11 June 1903, the group stormed the royal palace and killed both King Alexander and his wife Queen Draga. During the attack Dimitrijević was badly wounded, and, although he eventually recovered, the three bullets from the encounter were never removed from his body. When Dimitrijević heard that Archduke Franz Ferdinand was planning to visit Sarajevo in June 1914, he sent three members of the Young Bosnia group, Gavrilo Princip, Nedeljko Čabrinović, Trifko Grabež and four others from Serbia to assassinate him. At this time, Dimitrijević was Chief of Serbian Military Intelligence.

Leaders of the Black Hand in turn had penetrated Narodna Obrana and used the Narodna organization to infiltrate the arms and assassins into Sarajevo.

So it can be categorically stated that responsibility for the 'Great War' lies with the actions of the Serbian Government.

Subsequently Serbian reservists were mobilized and moved into Austro-Hungarian territory.
In response to this invasion of their territory (combined with the assassination of the heir to the Austrian throne by agents of the Serbian military, Austria-Hungary, in justified self-defense, declared war on Serbia.
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Russia then mobilised in order to attack Austria.

Realising that Russian mobilisation threatened their Eastern borders, German mobilised against Russia, and Russia's ally, France.
To prempt a French invasion of their Western borders, Germany, in accordance with the revised Schlieffen plan, sent her armies through Belgium.
In accordance with her treat obligations with regard to Belgium, Great Britain declared war on Germany.

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Bismarck's emphasis on military force amplified the voice of the officer corps, which combined advanced modernization of military technology with reactionary politics.
The rising upper-middle-class elites, in the business, financial, and professional worlds, tended to accept the values of the old traditional elites.
The German Empire was a strange mixture of highly successful capitalist industrialization and socio-economic modernization on the one hand, and of surviving pre-industrial institutions, power relations and traditional cultures on the other, which produced a high degree of internal tension, which led on the one hand to the suppression of socialists, Catholics, and reformers, and on the other hand to a highly aggressive foreign policy.
The origins of Germany's path to disaster lie in the 1860s–1870s, when economic modernization took place, but political modernization did not happen and the old Prussian rural elite remained in firm control of the army, diplomacy and the civil service.
The historiographical concept of a German Sonderweg has had a turbulent history.
Nineteenth century scholars, who emphasized a separate German path to modernity, saw it as a positive factor that differentiated Germany from the "western path" typified by Great Britain.
They stressed the strong bureaucratic state, reforms initiated by Bismarck and other strong leaders, the Prussian service ethos, the high culture of philosophy and music, and Germany's pioneering of a social welfare state.
Traditional, aristocratic, pre-modern society battled an emerging capitalist, bourgeois, modernizing society. Recognizing the importance of modernizing forces in industry and the economy and in the cultural realm,  reactionary traditionalism dominated the political hierarchy of power in Germany, as well as social mentalities and in class relations (Klassenhabitus).
The catastrophic German politics between 1914 and 1918 may be interpreted in terms of a delayed modernization of its political structures.

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

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