Austro-Hungarian Red Book: Count Berchtold to Count Szapary, 28 July 1914

On 28 July 1914, the Austro-Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Leopold Count Berchtold (pictured), sent a private telegram to the Austro-Hungarian Ambassador to Russia, Frigyes Count Szapary. In his telegram, Berchtold reminds Szapary that Austria-Hungary will not come to a negotiated settlement with Serbia despite Russian diplomatic overtures. Berchtold also describes his conversation with the Russian Ambassador to Austria-Hungary.

Leopold Count Berchtold

Leopold Count Berchtold

Count Berchtold to Count Szapary. Vienna, 28 July 1914.


The Russian Ambassador came to me on 28 July, to inform me that he had returned from his short leave of absence in Russia, and at the same time in obedience to a telegram from [the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs] Herr Sazonov. The latter told him that he had had a long and very friendly interview with your Excellency, during the course of which you had with great kindness discussed the single points of Serbia’s answer to our Note [i.e. the Austro-Hungarian ultimatum to Serbia]. It is Herr Sazonov’s opinion that Serbia had in a very great measure agreed to our demands, but that some of the demands seemed to him quite unacceptable, and that he had made no secret of this to you. All circumstances considered, he thought that the Serbian answer might well be used as a basis on which one might come to an understanding, the Russian government offering to act as mediator. Herr Sazonov therefore proposed that the exchange of ideas and opinions, so happily begun, might be continued through your Excellency, and that instructions should be forth with sent to your Excellency.

In my answer I explained that I could not accede to such a proposal. There could be no negotiations on the text of an answer, which we had found unacceptable. No one in our country would understand or approve. There can be no question of negotiations, when as the ambassador must be aware, public opinion was already a prey to terrible excitement in Hungary as well as in Austria—and besides we had today declared war to Serbia.

The ambassador spent considerable eloquence to persuade me that Serbian hostile feelings towards us, which he did not attempt to deny, would not be improved by a war, but grow worse than ever. After this I gave him some details of our relations with Serbia, which makes it absolutely imperative, though much against our will, and with no egotism on our part, that we should show Serbia that we are in earnest and will stop the movement which is directed against the future existence of the [Austro-Hungary] monarchy. Serbia’s attitude after receiving our Note was not such that a peaceful arrangement could be hoped for. Before it presented its unsatisfactory answer, it gave orders for the mobilisation [of its armed forces], which is a hostile act directed against us. Notwithstanding this we should have waited three more days, before beginning hostilities. But yesterday the Serbians began firing at our soldiers on the Hungarian border. This necessarily put an end to the patience we have shown so long. It is impossible from this moment to bring about a lasting peaceful arrangement and we are forced to meet Serbian provocations in the only form, which under these circumstances, corresponds to the dignity of the monarchy.

The above is for your information and to guide you in what you have to say.

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

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