Austro-Hungarian Red Book: Count Berchtold to Herr Otto, 27 July 1914

On 27 July 1914, the Austro-Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs Leopold Count Berchtold (pictured) sent a coded telegram to the Austro-Hungarian Minister to Montenegro Herr Otto. In his telegram, Berchtold refers to the severing of diplomatic relations between Austria-Hungary and Serbia.

Leopold Count Berchtold

Leopold Count Berchtold

Count Berchtold to Herr Otto. Vienna, 27 July 1914.

Ciphered telegram. —Private.

Having refused to comply with our demands, we have broken off diplomatic relations with Serbia.

I request you to inform His Majesty the King [Nicholas of Montenegro] personally of the above, and at the same time remark that the endurance and love of peace we had shown in our past policy must be considered an argument in our favour and must prove that we had no other alternative.

You will also say that the Serbian government, having refused to comply with the demands we were forced to address to Serbia to safeguard our most vital interests, proves that it will not give up the subversive aims by which it threatens some of our border provinces, and would ultimately disjoin them from the body of the Monarchy. To our sincere regret and very much against our will, we are compelled to take the severest measures to make Serbia thoroughly change its past hostile attitude towards us.

We hope that His Majesty the King will understand that after the results of the inquiry, which showed that the assassination of Sarajevo was plotted in Belgrade and accomplished by agents sent from there, our patience was exhausted and we must now use every means in our power to put a stop to the continuance of the unbearable doings on our border with Serbia.

We fully acknowledge that His Majesty is in a delicate position on account of the similarity of the races which inhabit his kingdom and that of Serbia. But as we have no intention whatever of acquiring Serbian territory and are only defending the integrity of our monarchy against Serbia, we trust that we may expect from the wisdom of King Nicholas that His Majesty will not by a rash deed imperil the friendly feelings nurtured by us towards his country and hinder our action which is, after all, only undertaken in defense against aggression and will ultimately serve his country and his dynasty. One cannot foresee how events will develop, but His Majesty may be very sure that at the right moment we should guard the interests of Montenegro, whose existence and progress as an independent state we have very much at heart.

We beg you to express yourself in a similar way towards the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

If, in the meantime, a hostile action on the part of Montenegro has been observed, you will change some of the above and adapt it to the circumstances.

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

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