Austro-Hungarian Red Book: Count Szapary to Count Berchtold, 26 July 1914.

On 26 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 telegram, Szapary informs Berchtold of Russia’s impending general mobilisation and military measures. His telegram reveals close collaboration with Austria-Hungary’s German ally.

Frigyes Count Szapary

Frigyes Count Szapary

Count Szapary to Count Berchtold. St-Petersburg, 26 July 1914.

Cypher —Private.

I intentionally refrained from mentioning the rumours of Russian mobilisation measures to [the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs] Herr Sazonov today to allow my German colleague to be the first to do so. Immediately after my visit, [the German Ambassador to Russia] Count Pourtalès very gravely called the Russian minister’s attention to the fact that in our times mobilisation measures were a very dangerous diplomatic weapon. In such cases the purely military reasons of the General Staff prevail and if for instance Germany takes offence, there is no stopping things. Herr Sazonov gave his word of honour to the German Ambassador that the rumours of a mobilisation were false, that up to that moment not a horse and not a reserve had been called to service, that what was going on were preparatory measures in the military districts of Kiev and Odessa, perhaps also in Kasan and Moscow.

Immediately afterwards the Imperial German Military Attaché received an invitation through a courier, from the War Minister Sukhomlinov, who had heard that Count Pourtalès had spoken to the Minister of Foreign Affairs on the subject of Russian armaments, and as he might have misunderstood some military details, the War Minister was anxious to give detailed information. [The German Military Attaché] Major von Eggeling compiled this information and the impressions he received, in a telegram to Berlin, of which he allowed me to take a copy.

The Military Attaché reports on his conversation with the War Minister as follows:

Herr Sazonov requested him to explain the military situation to me. The War Minister gave me his word of honour that no order for the mobilisation had as yet been given. At present preparatory measures were being taken; not a horse and not a reserve had been called into service. If Austria crosses the Serbian frontier, the military districts in the direction of Austria—Kiev, Odessa, Moscow and Kasan— will be mobilised. But under no circumstances will any of those along the German front—Warsaw, Wilna, Petersburg. It is the urgent desire of Russia to remain at peace with Germany. My question as to what the mobilisation against Austria was for was answered by a shrug of the shoulders and some words about diplomats.

I explained to the Minister that the friendly intentions towards us would certainly be highly valued, but that even the mobilisation against Austria would be regarded as seriously threatening. The Minister several times repeated in the most impressive way Russia’s wish and also its necessity to maintain the peace. He impressed me as being excessively nervous and disquieted. I believe the wish for peace to be sincere, the military information so far true, and that a complete mobilisation has not as yet been ordered, but that very extensive measures are in course of preparation. Efforts are being made to gain time for further negotiations and for completing armaments. There can be no doubt that the interior situation is a source of grave apprehension, and probably the cause of general feeling. Hopes are placed in Germany and in His Majesty [Kaiser Wilhelm] as mediator.

Although the speedy information of the German Military Attaché proves the excessive nervousness of Sazonov, and the mobilisation against Austria alone, if it crosses the Serbian frontier, may be due to diplomatic influence, still the want of sincerity in Russian assurances, the absence of a perfect understanding between Russian diplomatic and military persons, and above all, the importance of gaining time for the mobilisation, must be taken into account.

The character of the military measures, which are being taken, is especially well-suited to the dissembler Tsar Nicholas, since warlike measures, which he detests, are avoided and at the same time, eventualities are prepared for. On the other hand, future military passivity is counted upon, a game which should in good time be spoiled by Germany’s consistent attitude.

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

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