Austro-Hungarian Red Book: Count Szapary to Count Berchtold, 24 July 1914

On 24 July 1914, the Austro-Hungarian Ambassador to Russia, Frigyes Count Szapary (pictured), sent a coded telegram to the Austro-Hunarian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Leopold Count Berchtold. In his telegram, Szapary informs Berchtold of his conversation with the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs on the subject of the ultimatum to Serbia.

Frigyes Count Szapary

Frigyes Count Szapary

Count Szapary to Count Berchtold. Saint-Petersburg, 24 July 1914


The instructions contained in your telegrams have been carried out this morning.

I take the liberty of stating, in few words, that the [Russian] Minister [of Foreign Affairs Sergey Sazonov] from the very first said that he would not take sides with regard to the démarche [i.e. the Austro-Hungarian ultimatum to Serbia], and although he is not generally averse to lively discussion, he listened to my reading of the note and to my comments in relative silence.

He avoided saying anything that could be construed into an understanding of what Russia would do, but from time to time he said: “I know what it is. You want to go to war with Servia! I can see what is going on, the German papers are adding fuel to the fire! You are setting fire to Europe! It is a great responsibility you are assuming, you will see what sort of an impression you will make in London and in Paris and perhaps elsewhere. It will be considered as an unjustified aggression.” But he never mentioned Russia directly …. [note: cypher is illegible].

When we came to the use of arguments, he tried to deny any responsibility on Servia’s part, called our demands simply unacceptable, and referring to the dissolution of the ”Narodna odbrana”  [i.e. the “Black Hand”, the Serbian organisation believed to be responsible for the assassinations at Sarajevo] said that Servia never would allow this. He found fault with the form of an ultimatum, which prevented Servia from justifying herself, and finally repeated that he was not taking anybody’s side, and would venture no answer. As a last word, he added that a grave situation had certainly been created.

However, an inevitable discussion followed, in the course of which, he asserted that it was all Count Forgach’s [the Second Section Chief at the Austro-Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs] doing, and tried to depreciate our evidence into the assassinations, by saying he doubted it. To my repeated warnings, that all monarchical interests were at stake, he lent a deaf ear. The personal impression I received was that the Minister was more saddened and depressed than excited; the tactics he followed were not to inspire any prejudice with regard to Russia’s future attitude. A detailed telegraphic report will follow.


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


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