The Austro-Hungarian Red Book: the Serbian Reply to the Austro-Hungarian Ultimtum, 25 July 1914

On 25 July 1914, Austro-Hungarian officials received the answer to their 23 July ultimatum to Serbia. This is one of the key documents of the 1914 July Crisis. To my knowledge, this is the first time the Serbian response to the Austro-Hungarian ultimatum has been published on a blog in full.

Serbia in 1914

Serbia in 1914

The Serbian Reply to the Austro-Hungarian Ultimatum. Belgrade, 25 July 1914.

The Royal Serbian Government has received the communication of the Imperial and Royal government [i.e. Austria-Hungary] of 23 July 1914, and is convinced, that by its answer, it will remove every misunderstanding that threatens to disturb the friendly and neighbourly relations that exist between the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy and the Kingdom of Serbia.

The Royal Government is conscious that nowhere have been renewed protests against the great neighbourly monarchy like those which at one time were expressed in the Skuptschina [i.e. the Serbian Parliament], as well as in the declaration and actions of the responsible representatives of the state at that time, and which were terminated by the Serbian declaration of 31 March 1909; furthermore, since that time neither the different corporations of the Kingdom, nor the officials, have made an attempt to alter the political and judicial condition created in Bosnia and the Herzegovina.

The Royal Government states that the Imperial and Royal Government has made no protestation in this sense except in the case of a textbook, in regard to which the Imperial and Royal Government  has received an entirely satisfactory explanation. Serbia has given, during the time of the Balkan Crisis, in numerous cases, evidence of its pacific and moderate policy, and it is only owing to Serbia and the sacrifices which it has brought in the interest of the peace of Europe, that this peace has been preserved.

The Royal Government cannot be made responsible for expressions of a private character, as for instance in newspaper articles and the peaceable work of societies, expressions which are of very common appearance in other countries, and which ordinarily are not under the control of the state. This, all the more, as the Royal Government has shown great courtesy in the solution of a whole series of questions which have arisen between Serbia and Austria-Hungary, whereby it has succeeded to solve the greater number thereof, in favour of the progress of both countries.

According to the wishes of the Imperial and Royal Government, the Royal Government is prepared to surrender to court, without regard to position and rank, every Serbian citizen for whose participation in the crime of Sarajevo it should have received proof for. It binds itself particularly, on the first page of the official state newspaper of 26 July, to publish the following announcement:

“The Royal Serbian Government condemns every propaganda which directed against Austria-Hungary, i.e., the entirety of such activities as aim towards the separation of certain territories from the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, and it regrets sincerely the lamentable consequences of these criminal machinations.

The Royal Government regrets, that according to a communication of the Imperial and Serbian Government, certain Serbian officers and functionaries have participated in the propaganda just referred to, and that these have therefore endangered the amicable relations for the observation of which the Royal Government had solemnly obliged itself through the declaration of 31 March 1909.

The Government, which disapproves and repudiates all ideas of attempted interference in the destinies of people of any part of Austria-Hungary whatsoever, considers it its duty to formally warn the officers, officials, and all the people of the Kingdom, that henceforth, it will proceed with rigor against the people who are guilty of such actions, and it will make every effort to prevent further action, and repress any compromising actions.”

The Royal Army will be informed of the above by an order by the Crown Prince in the name of His Majesty the King, and it will be published in the Army’s next official bulletin.

Furthermore, the Royal Government binds itself to the following:

  1. During the next regular meeting of the Skuptschina, to embody in the press laws a clause, by which, the incitement to hatred of, and contempt for, the Monarchy is to be most severely punished, as well as every publication whose general tendency is directed against the territorial integrity of Austria-Hungary.The Royal Government, takes it upon itself, during the next revision of the Constitution, to introduce in article XXII of the Constitution, an amendment so that publications mentioned above may be confiscated, which is at present, under the terms of Article XII of the Constitution is impossible.
  2. The Government possesses no proof, and the note of the Imperial and Royal Government did not submit proof, that the “Narodna Odbrana” society, and other similar societies have committed, up to the present, any criminal actions of this manner through any one of their members. Notwithstanding this, the Royal Government will accept the demand of the Imperial and Royal Government and dissolve the society “Narodna Odbrana” society, as well as every society which should set against Austria-Hungary.
  3. The Royal Serbian Government binds itself without delay to eliminate from the public instruction in Serbia anything which might further the propaganda directed against Austria-Hungary, provided the Imperial and Royal Government furnishes actual proofs of this propaganda.
  4. The Royal Government is also ready to dismiss those officers and officials from the military and civil services, in regard to whom it has been proved by judicial investigation, that they have been guilty of actions against the territorial integrity of the Monarchy; it expects that Imperial and Royal Government communicate, for the purpose of starting the investigation, the names of these officers and officials, and the actions with which they have been charged.
  5. The Royal Government confesses that it is not clear about the sense and the scope of the demand of the Imperial and Royal Government which concerns the obligation on the part of the Royal Serbian Government to permit the cooperation of officials of the Imperial and Royal Government on Serbian territory, but it declares that it is willing to accept every cooperation which does not run counter to international law and criminal law, as well as to friendly and neighbourly relations.
  6. The Royal Government considers it its duty as a matter of course to begin an investigation against all those persons who have participated in the outrage of 28 June and who are in its territory. As far as the cooperation in this investigation of specially delegated officials of the Imperial and Royal Government is concerned, this cannot be accepted, as this is a violation of the constitution and of criminal procedure. Yet, in some cases, the result of the investigation might be communicated to the Austro-Hungarian officials.
  7. The Royal Government had ordered, on the evening of the day on which the note was received, the arrest of Major Voislar Tankosic. However, as far as Milan Ciganovitch, who is a citizen of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy and who has been employed until 28 June with the Railroad Department, is concerned, it has as yet been impossible to locate him, therefore a warrant has been issued against him.The Imperial and Royal Government is asked to make known, as soon as possible for the purpose of conducting the investigation, the existing grounds for suspicion and the proofs of guilt, obtained in the investigation at Sarajevo.
  8. The Serbian Government will amplify and render more severe the existing measures against the suppression of smuggling of arms and explosives. It is a matter of course that it will proceed at once against, and punish severely, those officials of the frontier service on the Shabatz-Loznica line who violated their duty and who have permitted the perpetrators of the crime to cross the frontier.
  9. The Royal Government is ready to give explanations about the expressions which its officials in Serbia and abroad have made in interviews after the outrage and which, according to the assertion of the Imperial and Royal Government, were hostile to the Monarchy. As soon as the Imperial and Royal Government points out in detail where those expressions were made, and succeeds in proving that those expressions have actually been made by the functionaries concerned, the Royal Government itself will take care that the necessary evidences and proofs are collected.
  10. The Royal Government will notify the Imperial and Royal Government, so far as this has not been already done by the present note, of the execution of the measures in question as soon as one of those measures has been ordered and put into action.

The Royal Serbian Government believes it to be in the common interest not to rush the solution of this affair, and it is therefore, ready, as ever, in case the Imperial and Royal Government should not consider itself satisfied with this answer, to accept a peaceable solution, be it by referring the decision of this question to the International Court at The Hague, or by leaving it to the decision of the Great Powers who have participated in the working out of the declaration given by the Serbian Government on 31 March 1909.

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

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