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.

Continued from yesterday’s telegram (see post).

As to the dossier, which the government is prepared to provide to the Powers, [the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs] Herr [Sergey] Sazonov remarked that we need not have given ourselves the trouble, when we had sent out an ultimatum. This fact alone proves that we were not anxious for an impartial judgment on our case. I told him that in this affair, which exclusively concerned Austria-Hungary and Servia, the results achieved by our inquiry must be sufficient to justify our action, but that we were prepared to give the Powers full explanations, if these interested them, because we had nothing to conceal.

Herr Sazonov said that after the ultimatum he felt no curiosity about the case. “What you want is war, and you have burnt your bridges behind you.”

I answered that we were the most pacific power in the world; what we wanted was to preserve our territory from revolution and our dynasty from bombs.

“One can see how pacific you are, since you are setting fire to Europe!” said Sazonov.

What we wish, I replied, is to be left in peace, and my government has taken the necessary measures for obtaining this result.

The comments I was instructed to give by word of mouth, he listened to without protesting, only refuting the last sentence, that concerned the murder of Royal persons.

A protracted discussion followed the execution of my instructions, during which Herr Sazonov attempted to attribute our policy entirely to Count Forgach [the Second Section Chief at the Austro-Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs]. I seized the opportunity to vindicate the conciliatory part played by that functionary while he was minister at Belgrade [i.e. Ambassador to Serbia]. I also tried to convince the Minister of the truth, with regard to the Friedjung trial [i.e. the libel trial against Austro-Hungarian historian Heinrich Friedung, that showed that Friedjung has used forged documents provided by Austro-Hungarian authorities in an article during the 1909 Bosnian Crisis], which has lately been again brought forward here.

During the course of conversation Sazonov once more remarked that we had most certainly created a serious situation. He never once mentioned Russia, Slavdom, orthodoxy; but he was continually referring to England, France, Europe and the impression which our step would make in these parts of the world and elsewhere.

Notwithstanding the comparative serenity of the Minister, his whole attitude, as was to be expected, was from first to last noncompliant and hostile. The conversation had lasted an hour and a half, when I left the Minister’s study.

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

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