Austro-Hungarian Red Book: Count Berchtold to Baron Giesl, 20 July 1914

On 20 July 1914, the Austro-Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs Count Leopold Berchtold sent a telegram to Wladimir Giesl von Gieslingen, the Austro-Hungarian Ambassador to Serbia (pictured). In it, Berchtold asks Giesl to present an ultimatum to Serbia on 23 July 1914. The following contains the text of the Austro-Hungarian ultimatum to Serbia.

Baron von Giesl

Baron von Giesl

Count Berchtold to Baron von Giesl. Vienna, 20 July 1914.

You are asked to present the following note to the Royal government on the afternoon of the 23rd of July, not later than between four and five o’clock.

On 31 March 1909 the Royal Servian Minister at the court of Vienna by order of his government made the following declaration before the Imperial and Royal government:

“Servia acknowledges that none of its rights have been affected by the situation created in Bosnia and Herzegovina and that it will therefore accomodate itself to the decisions which the powers will resolve with regard to the article XXV of the Treaty of Berlin. Servia, in following the advice of the Great Powers, pledges itself to give up the attitude of protest and resistance which it adopted since last October with regard to the annexation, and it pledges itself furthermore to change the course of its present policy towards Austria-Hungary and to live in future on terms of friendly and neighbourly relations.”

The history of latter years and especially the grievous events of the 28th of June have given proofs of a subversive movement in Servia, whose ultimate aim it is to disjoin certain portions from the territory of Austria-Hungary. This movement, which has developed under the eyes of the Servian government, has resulted in acts of terrorism outside the borders of the kingdom, in a series of attempts at murder and in murders.

Far from keeping the formal promises given in the declaration of the 31rst of March 1909, the Royal Servian government has done nothing to suppress this movement. It tolerated the criminal doings of the diverse societies and associations directed against the monarchy, the outrageous language of the press, the glorification of the instigators of plots; it allowed officers and officials to take part in subversive plans, tolerated a most unhealthy propaganda in public instruction and gave permission for manifestations, which caused the Servian population to hate the monarchy and despise its organisation.

The toleration, of which the Servian government was guilty, lasted until the very moment when the events of the 28th of June showed all the world the horrible consequences of such toleration.

The depositions and confessions of the criminal perpetrators of the plot of the 28th of June prove, that the murder of Sarajevo was prepared in Belgrade, that the murderers had received the weapons and bombs, with which they were armed, from officers and officials, belonging to the Narodna Odbrana [e.i. The Black Hand] and that the conveyance of criminals and weapons to Bosnia had been prepared and carried through by Servian frontier organs.

The above-quoted results of the judicial inquiry do not permit the Imperial and Royal government to keep up its attitude of patient observation, maintained for years in the face of criminal dealings, which emanate from Belgrade and thence spread to the territory of the monarchy. These results make it the duty of the Imperial and Royal government to put an end to such doings, which are constantly threatening the peace of the monarchy.

To attain this end, the Imperial and Royal government finds itself obliged to demand from the Servian government an official assurance that it condemns the propaganda directed against Austria-Hungary and in their entirety the dealings whose ultimate aim it is to disjoin parts of the territory belonging to the monarchy and that it pledges itself to suppress with all the means in its power this criminal and terrorist propaganda.

With a view to giving these assurances a solemn character, the royal Servian government will publish the following declaration on the first page of its official press-organ of the 26th of July:

‘The Royal Servian government condemns the propaganda directed against Austria-Hungary, that is the entirety of the ambitions, whose ultimate aim it is to disjoin parts of the territory belonging to the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy and regrets sincerely the horrible consequences of these criminal ambitions.

The Royal Servian government regrets that Servian officers and officials have taken part in the propaganda above-mentioned and thereby imperiled the friendly and neighbourly relations, which the Royal government had solemnly promised to cultivate in its declaration of the 31rst of March 1909.

The Royal government, which condemns and rejects every thought and every attempt to interfere in behalf of the inhabitants of any part of Austria-Hungary, considers it a duty to warn officers, officials and indeed all the inhabitants of the kingdom, that it will in future use great severity against such persons, as will be found guilty of similar doings, which the government will make every effort to suppress.’

This declaration will at the same time be communicated to the Royal army by an order of His Majesty the King, and will besides be published in the official organ of the army.

The Royal Servian government will moreover pledge itself to the following:

1. To suppress every publication likely to inspire hatred and contempt against the monarchy or whose general tendencies are directed against the integrity of the latter;

2. To begin immediately dissolving the society called: Narodna Odbrana to seize all its means of propaganda and to act in the same way against all the societies and associations in Servia, which are busy with the propaganda against Austria-Hungary; the Royal government will take the necessary measures to prevent these societies continuing their efforts under another name or in another form;

3. To eliminate without delay from public instruction everything that serves or might serve the propaganda against Austria-Hungary, both where teachers or books are concerned;

4. To remove from military service and from the administration all officers and officials who are guilty of having taken part in the propaganda against Austria-Hungary, whose names and the proofs of whose guilt the Imperial and Royal government will communicate to the Royal government;

5. To consent that Imperial and Royal officials assist in Servia in the suppressing of the subversive movement directed against the territorial integrity of the monarchy;

6. To have a judicial inquiry instituted against all those, who took part in the plot of the 28th of June, if they are to be found on Servian territory; the Imperial and Royal government will delegate organs who will take an active part in these inquiries;

7. To arrest without delay major Volja Tankosic and a certain Milan Ciganovic, a Servian government official, both compromised by the results of the inquiry;

8. To take effective measures so as to prevent the Servian authorities from taking part in the smuggling of weapons and explosives across the border; to dismiss from service and severely punish those organs of the border service at Schabatz and Loznica, who helped the perpetrators of the crime of Sarajevo to reach Bosnia in safety;

9. To give the Imperial and Royal government an explanation of the unjustified remarks of high Servian functionaries in Servia as well as in foreign countries, who, notwithstanding their official positions, did not hesitate to speak in hostile terms of Austria-Hungary in interviews given just after the event of the 28th of June;

10. To inform the Imperial and Royal government without delay that the measures summed up in the above points have been carried out.

The Imperial and Royal government expects the answer of the Royal government to reach it not later than Saturday, the 25th at five in the afternoon.

A memorandum on the results of the investigation of Sarajevo, inasmuch as they refer to the functionaries mentioned in points 7. and 8. will be found enclosed.”


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


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