Austro-Hungarian Red Book: Count Tisza’s Letter to Emperor Franz Joseph, 1 July 1914

On 1 July 1914, the Hungarian Prime Minister István Tisza (pictured) wrote a letter to the Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Joseph. In it, Tisza calls for a more careful response to the Sarajevo assassinations. He warns that a poorly thought out response might lead to war.

Istvan Tisza


Count Tisza to Emperor Franz Joseph. Budapest, 1 July 1914.

Gracious Majesty,

Much as I am anxious to avoid disturbing Your Majesty these days, it is still my duty to make the following brief statement in customary devotion.

The first opportunity which I had to speak with Count Berchtold was after my audience with Your Majesty, and I did not till then learn of his intention to make the horrible deed of Sarajevo the occasion of a reckoning with Servia.

I have not concealed from Count Berchtold that I should consider this a fatal mistake and would certainly not share the responsibility. In the first place we have not sufficient proofs to be able to put the responsibility of the crime upon Servia and to evoke a war, if the Servian government gave satisfactory explanations. We should have the worst locus standi imaginable and would be considered by all the world as the disturbers of peace, besides beginning a great war under the most unfavourable circumstances.

In the second place I consider the present moment, when we have as good as lost Roumania, without having been able to replace it, whilst the only state on which we can rely, to wit Bulgaria, is completely exhausted, as most unpropitious.

The present situation of the Balkans would make it easy to find a casus belli if one were wanted. When the right time will have come for declaring war, anyone of the different questions could be used for a pretext. But first we must create a diplomatic constellation, which will change the proportions of military power in our favour.

The definite annexation of Bulgaria, in such a way as not to offend Roumania, and to leave the possibility of an understanding with this state and with Greece, is becoming a more urgent necessity every day. A last attempt must be made to induce Germany to find a way of making Roumania join the Triple Alliance openly. If Germany cannot or will not undertake this mission, it must be satisfied if we make sure of Bulgaria for the Triple Alliance.

If we delay much longer to please Roumania, it will be our fault if Bulgaria—left in the lurch by us—one fine day joins the league founded against us and helps to rob us because it will have been promised a piece of Macedonian territory. As to Roumania I believe that the only chance of getting it back will be our alliance with Bulgaria. With all its mania of aggrandisement, the motive power in the soul of the Roumanian people is fear of Bulgaria. If they see that nothing will keep us from an alliance with Bulgaria, they will perhaps offer to join us, so as to be safe from Bulgarian aggression.

These are the principal points of view, which according to my belief, make an energetic action on our part necessary and as the forthcoming visit of Emperor William may offer an opportunity, I considered it my duty to approach Your Majesty with the submissive request to graciously make use of Emperor Williams’ presence in Vienna, for combating that Monarch’s preference for Servia, a thing that should not be difficult in view of the recent, revolting events and to induce him to support us energetically in our intended Balkan policy.

(signed) Stefan Count Tisza


Source: 1919, Austro-Hungarian Red Book with minor edits


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