Austria-Hungary Declares War on Serbia

28 July 2014

Monday


A Century of Industrialized Warfare:

The declaration of war against Serbia came across Bucharest with regular mail in the form of an open telegram. Written in French (which was the official language at the time), it was handed over to Nikola Pašić who had withdrawn to Niš with the entire goverment the previous day. On July 28th, at one o’clock in the afternoon, in the garden of the Hotel “Orijent,” Nikola Pašić received a dispatch by which Austria-Hungary had declared war on Serbia. (from Serbia.com)

The declaration of war against Serbia came across Bucharest with regular mail in the form of an open telegram. Written in French (which was the official language at the time), it was handed over to Nikola Pašić who had withdrawn to Niš with the entire goverment the previous day. On July 28th, at one o’clock in the afternoon, in the garden of the Hotel “Orijent,” Nikola Pašić received a dispatch by which Austria-Hungary had declared war on Serbia. (from Serbia.com)

Austria-Hungary’s Declaration of War on Serbia


Tuesday 28 July 1914

Three days after Serbia ordered a general mobilization, and Austria-Hungary authorized mobilization by the signature of Emperor Franz Josef, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. Two days before, Russia had entered a state of pre-mobilization, and the day before France issued standby mobilization orders. Also the day before, the Kaiser finally cut short his yachting vacation and returned to Germany. Now Europe was poised and quivering on the brink of war, with the largest military powers beginning their mobilization.

Just as modern technologies meant that there were headlines around the world the day after Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, modern communications technology again made a unique appearance on the diplomatic scene: Austria-Hungary’s declaration of war on Serbia came as a telegram exactly one month after the assassination of Franz Ferdinand. Some thought the message was a hoax, but that it was in deadly earnest was made plain later the same day when Austrian artillery shelled Belgrade from across the Danube.

A declaration of war by telegram in 1914 would be something like a declaration of war in 2014 by Twitter or Facebook or by text message. Given the number of armed conflicts in the world today, I would not be at all surprised to hear that one or another of them had been declared via some social media platform. We already know that social media has played a significant role in wars, revolutions, and social unrest over the past few years. A telegram was the social media of 1914, and Austria-Hungary used this innovative technology to declare war on Serbia.

The shooting war that had now begun in the Balkans between Austria-Hungary and Serbia, ostensibly to punish Serbia for the action of the Black Hand terrorist organization for its assassination of Franz Ferdinand, would be the first dominoes to fall in the global conflict to come, which would in turn trigger the participation of the larger powers, already in the process of mobilization, due to the network of alliances, ironically constructed for the purpose of maintaining the balance of power.

One of the problems with balance of power politics is that, when you get it wrong, there is a politically-charged imbalance in the international system, and when others pile into the conflict they escalate rather than calm the crisis. But at this point, although the July Crisis had erupted into a hot war, it was still of the same scope as the Balkan wars of 1912 and 1913. Further events and escalation would be required to transform this local Balkan war into a global industrialized war.

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A map of Belgrade from 1905, showing the city bounded by the Danube and Sava rivers.

A map of Belgrade from 1905, showing the city bounded by the Danube and Sava rivers.

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1914 to 2014

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A Century of Industrialized Warfare

0. A Century of Industrialized Warfare

1. Assassination in Sarajevo

2. Headlines around the World

3. The July Crisis

4. A Blank Check for Austria-Hungary

5. Serbia and Austria-Hungary Mobilize

6. Austria-Hungary Declares War on Serbia

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twentieth century war collage

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signature

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Grand Strategy Annex

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