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.

Cyphered.

My telegram of today continued (see post).

The [Russian] Minister [of Foreign Affairs Sergey Sazonov] received me with the words that he already knew what brought me, and he must declare from the very beginning that he would not take sides in the démarche [i.e. the Austro-Hungarian Ultimatum to Serbia] I was about to lay before him.

I began by reading the decree to him as instructed. He first interrupted me, when the series of attempted murders was mentioned, and asked if there was any evidence that these originated in Belgrade? I answered that they were certainly the result of Servian agitation.

During the course of the reading he said he knew how it was we wanted to make war with Servia and here was the pretext. I replied rather sharply, that our attitude during the last years was a sufficient proof, that with regard to Servia, we neither sought nor required pretexts. Strange to say, the Minister had nothing to say against the demanded solemn enunciations, only he repeatedly asserted that [the Serbian Prime Minister Nikola] Pasic had already said things to the same effect and of course I contradicted this.

“He [Pasic] will repeat that twenty five times if you wish to hear it as often!” he said. When the publications were mentioned, he asked if this would be reciprocal. I told him that in our country, no one was doing anything against Servian integrity or the Servian dynasty. To my surprise, Herr Sazonov protested most vividly against the dissolution of the society “Narodna odbrana”, a condition Servia would never accept. The minister was also very much against Imperial and Royal functionaries taking an active part in the suppression of the subversive movement. “Servia would no longer be its own master in its own house! You will always be want to interfere, and what sort of a life will you make Europe lead!” I answered it will be a more quiet life than in the past, if only Servia shows good will.

Herr Sazonov then tried to pull to pieces the appendix with the results of the inquiry, and to throw doubt on the correctness of the conclusions drawn. Why did one not allow the Servians to speak for themselves? Why this form of an ultimatum? Perhaps Servia could prove the falseness of the accusations? I protested in fitting form.

The Minister listened pretty quietly to the comments accompanying the communication of the Note; but when I came to the words, that we know that our feelings are shared by all civilised nations, he said: that was a mistake. To this I replied, as impressively as I could, that it would be sad indeed, if in what we hold most sacred, and whatever he might say, was held sacred in Russia as well, we found no sympathy in that country. The Minister tried to make little of the monarchical part of the whole affair, saying: “the monarchical idea has nothing to do with this affair at all”.

Will be continued.

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

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