Austro-Hungarian Red Book: Szapary to Berchtold, 21 July 1914

On 21 July 1914, the Austro-Hungarian Ambassador to Russia Frigyes Count Szapary (pictured) sent a private coded telegram to the Austro-Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs Leopold Count Berchtold. In his message, Szapary details his conversation with the French President Raymond Poincaré, who was on a state visit to Russia with his prime minister.


Frigyes Count Szapary

Count Szapary to Count Berchtold. St. Petersburg, 21 July 1914.


[French] President Poincaré today received the diplomatic corps, every ambassador separately in the presence of the [French] Minister of Foreign Affairs Viviani and the French Ambassador Paléologue.

To me the President expressed his sympathy regarding the plot of Sarajevo in warm words and then passed on to political subjects, asking after the situation in Albania, on which the conversation dwelt for some time. Then he inquired after the relations between Austria-Hungary and Servia, remarking that in Servia disquiet was felt, and asking what the opinions were in our country? I said that we were regarding the situation with equanimity, because we were convinced that Servia would not refuse what we thought right to ask. The next question was, what the demands we intended to address to Servia were, and to this I answered that the inquiry was still being carried on, and that I was not informed with regards to the results.

Monsieur Poincaré then delivered a kind of lecture, using all his oratorical powers, and explained that to make a government responsible for anything was only admissible when there were concrete proofs against it, otherwise a démarche [i.e. measure] of this kind would be a mere pretext, and this he could not suppose Austria-Hungary to be guilty of, in the case of such a small country. At any rate one must not forget that Servia has friends and that a situation might be created, which might become dangerous to peace. I confined myself to a quiet and precise answer, remarking that up to a certain degree every government is responsible for everything that happens on its territory. The president sought to refute this thesis, by constituting analogous cases between other states, so that I could not but say that all depended upon circumstances and that analogies and generalisations did not serve us well. In the course of the conversation, Monsieur Poincaré made a concealed allusion to the alleged “Prohaska case” to which I made a fitting reply.

He closed the conversation by expressing the wish that the results of the inquiry might be such as not to give cause for disquiet.

If we consider that this tactless behaviour, which was almost threatening, was observed by the head of a foreign state, staying here on a visit, and if we compare it to the reserved, cautious attitude of [the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs] Herr Sazonov, we cannot certainly expect that the French president used any calming influence in this country. It is certainly remarkable that the juridical deductions of Monsieur Poincaré bear some similarity to the excursions of [the Serbian Prime Minister] Herr Pasic in the Leipziger Neueste Nachrichten. Herr Spalajkovic, whom Herr Sasonov quite recently qualified as “déséquilibré” [unbalanced] probably had a hand in this.

My colleagues of the Triple Alliance did not mention whether Monsieur Poincaré spoke to them of Servia.


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


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