THE murder of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his morganatic consort at Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, was merely the spark that fired the powder magazine of Europe. The Southern Slav Question, of which it was a symptom, was one of the most burning of pre-war problems, and must take rank with Franco-German, Anglo-German and Austro-Russian rivalry as a fundamental cause of the war. Though overlooked till very recently by Western opinion, it was by no means a new problem: for its origin and explanation are to be sought in the Turkish conquest of Serbia and Hungary, followed by the long struggle of Hapsburg Imperialism to eject the invader from its dominions and in turn to establish its hegemony over the Balkan Peninsula. It must not be forgotten that for over a century before Serbia first rose against the Turks in 1804, the main centers of Serbian culture had been in Hapsburg territory, that the Serbs and Croats of the "Military Frontiers" were the spearhead of the Austrian fighting machine, and that it was not till Vienna had rejected the overtures and appeals of Kara George that the nation began to turn more and more to Russia for help. In the nineteenth century Serbia became a pawn in the diplomatic contest of Austria and Russia for influence in the Balkans.

But while the powers were watching the sickbed of the Turk in hope of dividing his inheritance, the problem was still further complicated by the growth of national feeling. Serbs from Hapsburg territory played a notable part in the first organization of the young principality: Serbs from Serbia flocked to the aid of their kinsmen in the racial war of 1848 against Hungary. The Illyrian idea, kindled by Napoleon's brief experiment in state-building on the Eastern Adriatic, was formulated afresh by Jelatchitch and Strossmayer, as a conscious effort for the union of all branches of the Southern Slav race: while the reforms of Vuk and Gaj prepared that linguistic unity which had to precede the political.

It was the long Eastern Crisis of 1875-8 which first brought Austria-Hungary and Serbia into a real conflict of principle, for it ended in the two purely Serbo-Croat provinces of Bosnia-Herzegovina (to achieve whose liberty Serbia and Montenegro had waged two unsuccessful wars) being handed over to the Emperor Francis Joseph under an European mandate. The new régime introduced material order, but it utterly failed to win the hearts of the people, and both they and their kinsmen in Serbia clung desperately and against all reason to the thesis that the occupation was only provisional.

The twenty-five years following the Berlin settlement are the most disheartening in Jugoslav history. Serbia, abandoned by Russia, and governed by a corrupt and unprincipled neurasthenic, King Milan, became the abject vassal of Viennese policy and at its dictation made a treacherous attack upon Bulgaria which not only failed, but poisoned the whole future development of the Peninsula: while Croatia under Khuen Héderváry was reduced to a satrapy of Budapest.

But in 1903 a change came all along the line. The corrupt Obrenovitch régime was overthrown in Serbia, a new era of Serbo-Croat coöperation opened in Croatia, the Kállay régime ended in Bosnia, and everywhere a younger generation was rising, inspired by the dream of national unity.

Real statesmanship in Vienna could still perhaps have solved the problem in a Hapsburg sense, but neither Francis Joseph nor his entourage showed any such quality, and the mad policy of Magyarization by now in vogue in Budapest envenomed the situation still further. The tariff war of 1907, due especially to the Magyar agrarian influence, hit the ex-Serb peasant in his material interests, while the annexation of Bosnia in 1908 touched his national sentiment to the quick; and the scandals connected with the Zagreb and Friedjung trials revealed a sinister design on the part of Austria-Hungary, based upon wholesale espionage and forgery and directed equally against Serbia and the Serbs and Croats of the Dual Monarchy. Magyar policy culminated in 1912 in the suspension of the Croatian constitution and the appointment of a dictator. It was small wonder if the contrast between this situation and the victories of Serbia and her Balkan allies in the same year kindled public opinion among the Jugoslavs to white heat and convinced them that Serbia was destined to play the part of a new Balkan Piedmont against the old Austrian oppressor. In particular the university and public school youth throughout the Jugoslav provinces was restless, excitable and out of hand. Those who could escape volunteered for the Serbian army, those who remained dabbled increasingly in revolutionary ideas. Such was the atmosphere which produced the crime of Sarajevo.

In Austria-Hungary meanwhile there was no constructive policy. The Emperor, always addicted to half-measures, was more negative than ever in his old age. The Heir Apparent, Francis Ferdinand, entertained grandiose designs of a "Great Austrian" state, meting out justice to the subject races at the expense of the Magyar oligarchy: but his uncle distrusted and detested him, and he was powerless. The Magyars and the military party under Conrad, little though they had otherwise in common, combined to oppose all idea of conciliation, and Berchtold's policy, though weak and easily deflected, rested on the assumption that war with Serbia was inevitable both for internal and external reasons, and was already desperately searching for a pretext when Sarajevo came to supply it.

In March, 1909, an Austro-Serbian war was averted at the last moment by Russia's capitulation to Berlin; only an accident revealed the forged documents by which the Ballplatz was preparing to justify drastic action against the Jugoslavs. In November, 1912, the imaginary Prochaska incident was invented to prepare opinion for a war which the sudden Balkan victories made it advisable again to postpone. In the spring of 1913 Austria-Hungary was again only held back from war by the powers consenting to an international naval blockade of Montenegro. In June she tried to attain her end indirectly by inciting Bulgaria to her famous attack upon Serbia and Greece, but the result was to strengthen Serbia still further and to loosen the ties between Rumania and the Triple Alliance. In August, therefore, Austria-Hungary was preparing to attack Serbia and overthrow the Bucharest settlement, but was reluctantly deterred by the opposition of her own allies, Italy and Germany, and by the depressing effect of the Redl espionage scandals upon the old Emperor. In the following winter he again tried to pick quarrels with Serbia over the Albanian frontier and the Orient Railway, but was disarmed by Serbia's definite surrender. None-the-less, the diplomatic correspondence published since the war and such memoirs as those of Conrad von Hötzendorf abundantly show that early in 1914 Austria-Hungary was trying to convince Berlin of the need for drastic action against Serbia, when the murder at last provided an adequate excuse.

On the other side of the account may be placed the triple offer of Serbia to refer her dispute with Austria-Hungary to the arbitration of the Hague--during the Bosnian crisis of 1909, at the Friedjung Trial of the following winter, and at the crisis of July, 1914--and also the offer made by Pashitch to Berchtold through Masaryk as intermediary during the winter of 1912, to negotiate an Austro-Serbian agreement, an offer to which Berchtold did not even deign to reply.

In a word, the murder was due to the internal unrest in Austria-Hungary produced by misgovernment and lack of statesmanship. Under such circumstances Serbia's very existence as an independent and progressive state was obviously a challenge. But for that it is hardly possible to blame Serbia.


Limitations of space make it impossible to deal with the dramatic details of the murder itself: and I propose to concentrate upon two main points--one, why the Archduke went to Bosnia; and, two, what was the real motive force of the crime.

The decision of the Archduke to visit Serbia was taken as early as January, 1914, and was made by him in his capacity as Inspector-General of the Army, in consultation with the military chiefs. It would seem only natural that he should at least have invited the opinion of Dr. von Bilinski, the Joint Finance Minister, within whose competence the two annexed provinces lay. But in point of fact the latter was altogether ignored and first learned of the proposed visit from the Governor, General Potiorek, who notified him of the Archduke's desire that it should follow exclusively military lines. Bilinski recounts in his memoirs that about this time anonymous letters, threatening murder and revolution, were being fairly frequently received both by the ministers and by the Archduke, and that he himself, while not taking very seriously persons who advertised their intentions beforehand, thought it none the less advisable to discuss precautionary measures. He therefore instructed Sarajevo to sound the local authorities as to their views on such a visit--with the result that practically all of them declined responsibility for the consequences. These reports were duly transmitted to Vienna and to the Court, but brought down upon Sarajevo a sharp reprimand: the responsibility of the civil authorities, they were told, was neither desired nor needed.

The result was actually to strengthen the Archduke in his resolve to visit Bosnia, not merely because he was exceedingly headstrong and resented anything that might seem a reflection upon his personal courage, but also because he regarded Bilinski with dislike and suspicion, as a close confidant of the Emperor and as the chief exponent of a more moderate régime in Bosnia, as against the more drastic methods favored by Potiorek and the military chiefs. Bilinski was therefore pointedly ignored in all the arrangements of the visit. So far was this carried, that a printed program of the visit was circulated to all the ministries, but not to the Joint Ministry of Finance! During the visit a state ball was given at Ilidzhe (the health resort outside Sarajevo, at which the Archduke and his wife stayed), but by the express orders of Francis Ferdinand himself no invitations were issued to any officials of the Finance Ministry--an affront so amazing and so subversive of prestige and discipline as to suggest that its author contemplated in the near future some drastic transference of authority in Bosnia, as part of his general design for a "Great Austrian" state. Moreover, the details regarding the journey of the Duchess and her official reception at Sarajevo were not referred to Bilinski as Minister, and he claims to have read them for the first time when he opened his paper on the fatal Sunday morning. For this, it is true, there was a further explanation in the fact that for the first time on Hapsburg territory royal honors were to be paid to the Duchess of Hohenberg, and that by eliminating the civil authorities from all say in the matter Francis Ferdinand had found it easier to force the hand of the Emperor and win his passive consent to a precedent which but for the tragedy would have had important consequences at Court.

All arrangements, then, were in the hands of Potiorek, and at his door must be laid the failure to provide adequate protection. Not merely was the police force of the Bosnian capital hardly strengthened for the occasion, but though 70,000 troops were concentrated within no great distance for purposes of the manoeuvres, there was none the less no proper lining of the streets. Indeed we can safely endorse the words of that tried servant of Francis Joseph, Baron Margutti, who declares that the inadequacy of the precautions "baffled every description." The best proof of this is to compare them with those adopted on the very similar occasion of the Emperor's state visit to Sarajevo as recently as 1910. Every street along which he passed was lined with a double cordon of troops, the town swarmed with special police and detectives from headquarters in Vienna and Budapest, who tested the minutest details of the already elaborate system of espionage and control established by the Bosnian police. Strangers were not tolerated except after close inquiry, and hundreds of individuals in Sarajevo were forbidden to leave their houses during the Emperor's stay. The contrast between 1910 and 1914 amply justifies us in speaking of criminal negligence on the part of those Austro-Hungarian authorities with whom the care of the Archduke lay.

Nor can Potiorek plead in excuse his failure to realize the gravity of the situation. For it was he who, as Governor of Bosnia, had over a year before introduced repressive measures against the Serbian population, and had since then continued to urge the need for their extension and to denounce to Vienna the folly of Bilinski's more conciliatory policy. He was fully aware that Bosnia was seething with discontent which needed no stirring from the outside in order to boil over; that the choice of Bosnia for the scene of manoeuvres was widely regarded as a menace, or at least a warning, to Serbia; and still more that the choice of "Vidovdan" for the Archduke's official visit would be especially resented as a direct challenge to the Serbian national idea. After a lapse of five centuries, Kosovo had been avenged and could be celebrated freely for the first time since the liberation.[i] And on that very day the representative of an alien dynasty seemed by his presence to be reaffirming the enslavement of provinces for whose delivery Serbia and Montenegro had twice gone to war in vain. There is little doubt that Potiorek regarded this sentimental factor as an added reason for the state visit, just as he and Conrad and the whole military hierarchy held a speedy reckoning with Serbia to be inevitable and desirable.

Small wonder, then, if in many circles, both at home and abroad, there should have been a disinclination to accept mere negligence as an explanation of the crime, and if the theory of official complicity on the part of Vienna or Budapest gained considerable credence. Moreover, the ill-concealed relief, sometimes bordering upon delight, at the ill-fated couple's removal, which was displayed by more than one member of the Imperial family, by high court dignitaries and by many prominent figures in the political and journalistic world, seemed to lend plausibility to the theory when it was publicly advanced early in the World War. But nothing which even remotely deserves the name of evidence has ever been adduced in proof, and each of the many suspicious details is susceptible of a simpler and less sensational explanation. There seems to be little doubt that more than one attempt was made to dissuade Francis Ferdinand from the journey, and also that on the eve of departure he had strong presentiments of coming evil. In this connection it is worth quoting a remark which he himself let fall after the reception at the Town Hall and which was overheard by Mr. Tchokorilo, the local representative of the Times--"Now I understand why Tisza advised me to postpone my journey." In point of fact, both a defiance of danger and a disregard of warnings on the part of royal personages belong to the commonplaces of history, from Caesar to Henri Quatre and Alexander Obrenovitch. But in this case the main cause, apart from his own headstrong behavior, was the conflict between the military and civil authority, already described. It was a final and classic example of the boundless "Schlamperei"[ii] (no English word can fully render the idea of incurably bungling and haphazard methods which this conveys) characteristic of the old régime in Austria.

If the tragedy was very largely due to the incompetence of the authorities in Sarajevo, their conduct during the next forty-eight hours was even more astonishing. On the morning of June 29 the riff-raff of the bazaar, supplemented by a handful of Croat clerical students, began to demonstrate before the leading Serb centers in the town; and as no steps were taken to disperse them, shouts and insults were soon followed by acts of violence, and from mere window-smashing the crowd passed to wholesale destruction and pillage. Thus the Serbian school, the Prosvjeta Society, the offices of the two Serb newspapers, Narod and Srpska Rijetch, the Hotel Europa and quite a number of shops and private houses belonging to prominent Serbs were systematically sacked, with the almost open connivance of the authorities. After the rioting had continued for some hours, General Potiorek proclaimed a state of siege: but though the damage was estimated at K5,000,000 ($1,000,000), no attempt was made to bring the ringleaders to justice or to indemnify the victims. On the contrary, even the most reputable and conservative Serbs in the two provinces were held up to obloquy in the press of the Dual Monarchy, and fantastic stories circulated about their alleged treason. Similar excesses on a smaller scale occurred in most towns of Bosnia-Herzegovina. These incidents appear to have provoked a strong protest from the Joint Finance Minister, Dr. Bilinski, but the Governor's position remained unshaken, and neither he nor any of his subordinates was punished for their failure to maintain order. Indeed Potiorek replied in quite unrepentant tones, denying any shortcomings on the part of police or gendarmerie, but admitting that "very abnormal conditions" prevailed in the two provinces and that "the ground was being undermined more and more from day to day," and insisting that the only remedies were to close the Bosnian Diet and to take up Serbia's challenge.[iii]


A survey of the press feud which raged between the two capitals of the Dual Monarchy and Belgrade in the weeks following the crime would throw much valuable light upon the respective methods and aims of Austria-Hungary and Serbia. But it is necessary to turn to the question of responsibility for the murder, and here we find that there are four possible channels of investigation.

First and foremost stands the charge of complicity which public opinion in the neighboring Monarchy leveled against the Serbian Government and which underlay the formidable ultimatum of July 23. On the other hand, the Serbian historian, Professor Stanojevitch, in his sensational pamphlet[iv] ascribes the outrage to three distinct groups--the nationalist students in Bosnia, the military conspirators in Belgrade and certain unspecified "Austro-Hungarian politicians." The first and third of these groups he dismisses in a few phrases, hinting that the rôle of the former is well enough known already, and is in any case "a question of technical nature," while that of the latter is never likely to be fully known, and he then concentrates upon the "Black Hand," whose importance is thus exalted out of all proportion to the true facts.

I have already given my reasons for limiting the charge against Austria-Hungary to one of culpable negligence. Let me examine the other three possibilities.

It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the Serbian Government was in a position of very great embarrassment, in which foreign complications were specially unwelcome to it. Only four days before the murder (June 24) King Peter, incapacitated by ill-health, had appointed as Regent his son, Prince Alexander, till then without direct political experience. On the same day the Pashitch administration, which had already in April committed itself to elections for a "Great Skupshtina" and a revision of the Constitution, had dissolved Parliament and embarked upon a desperate struggle with the opposition parties. That the Government should have chosen the opening of an electoral campaign for sharing in a foreign murder plot which was likely to produce war is grotesquely improbable: but there are many other reasons for doubting official complicity. The country was exhausted by two wars. The finances, carefully husbanded by Mr. Patchu, were not equal to further strain. The Albanian campaign in the previous autumn had shown the reluctance of the peasant soldiers to return to the colors, and it was now the eve of harvest. Military stocks were alarmingly low, as the next winter was to show. The Concordat with the Vatican had only just been signed, and delicate negotiations with Montenegro for the customs and military union and perhaps even a dynastic arrangement, were still pending. The position in the new Macedonian territories was far from consolidated, the civil administration was notoriously bad there, and there was extreme friction between the civil and military authorities.

The Serbian Government was, however, guilty of a grave blunder in not immediately forestalling Vienna's demands by instituting a searching inquiry of its own. This omission is only very partially explained by absorption in the electoral campaign. The complicity of Major Tankositch and Tsiganovitch became known at a very early stage, and it would at least have been good tactics, if nothing else, to take some action against two notoriously suspect characters. Inaction was all the more inexcusable, in view of the frank warning administered by Herr von Zimmermann, the German Foreign Under-Secretary, to the Serbian Chargé d'Affaires in Berlin as early as July 1. He emphasized the grave consequences of any failure of Serbia "to do her duty" by proceeding against suspect persons: in that case "one could not tell what would happen."[v] It is indeed impossible to deny Herr von Jagow's plea[vi] that the Belgrade Government, though giving official expression to its horror at the crime, took no serious steps either to search for its authors or to check propagandist excesses. Disregarding the advice of its Minister in Vienna, Jovan Jovanovitch,[vii] it remained inactive for three weeks, and when at last on July 20 it presented at Berlin a note formally inviting the German Government to use its good offices at the Ballplatz, and affirming a desire to meet Austria's demands wherever possible, it was already far too late to produce any effect either in Berlin or Vienna, and in point of fact merely brought down a severe snub from Jagow upon the head of the Chargé d'Affaires. The note was unexceptional in tone and concluded by promising compliance on every point save only where Serbia's "dignity and independence" might be threatened. Reading the ultimatum in the light of this document, one is instantly reminded of Berchtold's secretly expressed resolve to frame it in such a manner as would make acceptance impossible.[viii] Moreover, unless the German Government had already identified itself with Berchtold's views, such a document would have provided ample ground for a peaceful settlement, for its terms could easily have been interpreted as committing Serbia to as stringent an inquiry as European opinion might desire. The only obscure point which it contains is the assertion that the Serbian Government had "at once declared its readiness to take legal proceedings" against any Serbian subject who might be implicated. It is quite true that the Samouprava, the official Government organ, gave abstract expression to such a view, when deploring the murder; but there is no evidence, either in the Serbian Blue Book or elsewhere, of any official action having been taken from Belgrade in this sense.

In point of fact, this passive attitude was entirely in keeping with the character and political tactics of the Serbian Premier. Mr. Pashitch has always preferred to wait upon events, rather than commit himself to a definite line of action, and he has also always shown a truly Oriental indifference to public opinion both about himself and about his country. The repeated failure to make the most of Serbia's case before Europe, even when it most lent itself to favorable presentment and when its enemies were active in misstatement, must be ascribed in large part to this indifference. Of all the subsequent collections of diplomatic documents the Serbian Blue Book holds a record for paucity of material and inadequacy.

Energetic action by Mr. Pashitch during the week or even fortnight following the murder would not of course have led the war party in Vienna to renounce its aims, but it would undoubtedly have deprived it of its tactical position and increased the chances of friendly mediation from the outside. To this extent, then, the Pashitch Cabinet must share the responsibility for what befell. It could no doubt plead absorption in an electoral campaign which threatened the whole future of the Radical Party, but a true grasp of European realities should have shown that infinitely more was at stake. Yet Pashitch remained passive, took no steps to put himself in the right at Vienna, and on the other hand allowed the reservists to be dismissed, took no measures for the defense of Belgrade and left the Commander-in-Chief, Voivode Putnik, to pursue his cure unwarned in an Austrian watering-place. All this serves to show that Pashitch was not preparing for war or even expecting it till the very end, but it convicts him of great remissness and lack of judgment.

There was, however, a further reason for the Serbian Government's inaction at this critical time, namely the rôle played by the "Black Hand." This secret society had been founded in 1911 by survivors from the group of officers which had assassinated King Alexander and Queen Draga in 1903 and which had been broken up very largely by British diplomatic intervention. Its real name was "Union or Death" (Ujedinjenje ili Smrt), and its adherents were drawn from those who frankly accepted murder and terrorism as the best propagandist weapons and were not content with the more open and respectable methods of social and educational agitation for which the Narodna Odbrana (or Society of National Defence) had been founded in 1909, after the Bosnian crisis. It may be pointed out in passing --as a proof of the unreliability of the Austrian Secret Service--that both before and after the Sarajevo outrage Vienna completely failed to distinguish between the two organizations, though anyone at all closely acquainted with conditions at Belgrade knew them to be not merely distinct, but directly antagonistic to one another and to be conducted by persons who were poles apart in outlook and policy. The Narodna Odbrana was founded on the initiative of the dramatist Nusitch, with the blessing of such tried statesmen as Milovanovitch and Ljuba Stojanovitch and the active coöperation of young idealists, and existed to combat illiteracy and encourage popular education, and hygiene, to establish village libraries, clubs and lectures, and above all to spread information and interest regarding national questions and all sections of the Slav race. This brought it inevitably into conflict with the Austro-Hungarian authorities, but there was nothing secret or subversive in its program or tactics, except in so far as all national movements are bound to be subversive in a mixed state.

Very different was the Black Hand. It was founded in the first instance as a kind of protest against the Government's refusal to authorize an active terrorist campaign in Macedonia, and its members were avowedly conspirators who ignored scruples and did not stick at crime. This tendency was increased by the melodramatic method of admission to membership. The candidate had to appear in a darkened room before a table draped in black, and take a high-sounding oath by the sun and earth, by God, honor and life, while the symbol of the conspirators was a rude representation of a death's head, banner, dagger, bomb, and poison-glass, surmounted by the motto "Union or Death."[ix] The life and soul of this society was Dragutin Dimitrijevitch, a man of good education and attractive personality, brave, energetic and a fiery patriot, and possessing real powers of organization, but entirely lacking in balance or common sense and ruthless in his ambition. Personal vanity and a love of adventure also seem to have played their part, and he possessed sufficient magnetism and plausibility to rally round him some of the more unruly and reckless of the younger officers. These were troublous times for Serbia, and quite a number of the group distinguished themselves in the two Balkan Wars and came to play an increasing part in military circles. In 1913 Dimitrijevitch himself, now a colonel, became head of the Intelligence Bureau of the General Staff, and all matters of espionage passed through his hands. How much the Government knew of the Black Hand's real organization and aims, it is very difficult to determine. But for every possible reason--moral, political and purely tactical--they looked upon it with disfavor and suspicion, and there was already acute friction between them early in 1913 because Dimitrijevitch and his friends, being primarily interested in Bosnia, favored concessions to Bulgaria. This friction developed after the Second War into a quarrel between the civil administration and the army commanders in Macedonia. The new officials appointed from Belgrade were quite unequal to an admittedly difficult task, and as the Serbian Constitution was not at first extended to the new territories, there was a virtual interregnum in which all kinds of sharp practice were tolerated. The dispute sometimes assumed most petty forms, and early in 1914 a number of officers associated with the Black Hand demanded that a ministerial order giving precedence to the civil authorities should be rescinded. By this time the Government was thoroughly alarmed by the aggressive tactics of the Black Hand, and though now seemingly near the end of its resources, made a last effort to reassert its authority. In the spring Protitch, the masterful Minister of the Interior, seized the club's premises--a step virtually equivalent to a declaration of war. Dimitrijevitch appears to have wished to accept the challenge and to attempt a sort of military coup d'état: and only the intervention of the Russian Minister, M. Hartwig, who induced the Government to withdraw the objectionable order, averted more serious trouble. Protitch's action, however, deserves special emphasis, as one of the many proofs that the Serbian authorities, so far from being in league with the terrorists, were in acute and open conflict with them.

On the other hand it is necessary to bear in mind that "Union or Death" had the support of many officers who were not terrorists, and that Dimitrijevitch only revealed his real aims and secrets to a small inner ring of tried conspirators. It has been alleged[x] that as early as 1911 he had sent an emissary to Vienna, with instructions to attempt the life of Francis Joseph or Francis Ferdinand, but the individual selected was in a highly consumptive state, and was never heard of again by the plotters in Belgrade. Hence, though widely known for his love of intrigue and reckless patriotism, "Apis," as Dimitrijevitch was popularly called, had not yet embarked upon terrorist action, save for the encouragement given to komitadji bands during the Balkan campaigns; and this of course falls rather under the category of guerilla warfare. It was among these band leaders that "Apis" found his chief lieutenant, a certain Voya Tankositch, who as a young lieutenant had taken part in the murder plot of 1903. Tankositch was not a man of high ability, but an ideal instrument; for he could keep his own counsel, and behind a calm and even insignificant exterior hid a savage and ill-disciplined nature.[xi] His adventures in Macedonia had brought him a certain notoriety and attracted to him some of the wilder students in Belgrade. Among these were two young Bosnians, Printsip and Tchabrinovitch, who were already deeply infected by revolutionary doctrine and whose abnormal state of health rendered them apt pupils in terrorism. Tankositch therefore provided them with weapons and trained them secretly in their use. In the meantime Dimitrijevitch had received through his secret intelligence information which convinced him that Austria-Hungary was preparing for aggressive action against Serbia and that the manoeuvres in Bosnia were simply the rehearsal for an attack. This gave him the idea of forestalling the enemy by a sensational act of terrorism. He can hardly have been so mad as to expect (though this has been seriously alleged) that its success would render Austria-Hungary incapable of action and avert war altogether. It is more probable that like many Serbs he regarded the Archduke as the soul of the war party and as specially hostile to the Southern Slavs, and calculated that his removal would create such confusion and discouragement as to increase Serbia's chances when war came.[xii] In this mood he called a meeting of the inner committee of the Black Hand on June 15 and announced his intention of sending Tankositch's two pupils into Bosnia with the definite mission of removing the Archduke. It is a striking fact that even in such a ruthless company "Apis" and Tankositch should have found themselves in a minority of two, and that the opposition was so general that he had to promise to abandon the design. It is not quite clear whether he genuinely tried to undo the arrangements already made, but found that it was already too late, or whether he simply disregarded his promise and took no steps to hold back the would-be assassins. Probably both theories are partially true, and in any case, as we shall see, it is practically certain that short of forcibly detaining them in Serbia, even he could not have held back the young men from their purpose. According to Professor Stanojevitch, Dimitrijevitch regarded himself as "the chief organizer of the murder."[xiii] But though there is no doubt of his connection through Tankositch with two of the murderers, that is very far from proving that the main initiative rested with him; and many who knew him hold that however unscrupulous he may have been, he was much too intelligent to have nursed any such illusion.

The whole question is bound up with the sinister affair of the Saloniki Trial. Of this it must suffice to state that Colonel Dimitrijevitch and other prominent officers were sentenced to death in the spring of 1917 on the charge of arranging an alleged attempt on the Serbian Prince Regent's life; and that when the friends of Serbia in the West, and among others the British War Office, urged the inexpediency of executions and pled for a reprieve, they received the answer that in the case of Dimitrijevitch at any rate this was impossible, since his responsibility for the Sarajevo murder had been established. It is obvious that such a reply was quite irrelevant, for to establish a man's guilt in one crime is no reason for condemning him on an entirely different count. But it was calculated that London or Paris would show less zeal on behalf of Dimitrijevitch if he was implicated in so grave an affair as Sarajevo. In the interval Dimitrijevitch and two others were put out of the way, and the Prince Regent was prevented by the most drastic pressure from exercising his prerogative of mercy. Whether such a document as Dimitrijevitch's confession exists, and if so how it was extracted from him, must still be regarded as an open question; but even if it does exist, it would merely prove that Dimitrijevitch ascribed to himself the chief "credit" for the deed.

Eighteen months later, in answer to an article of the present writer criticizing the executions,[xiv] Mr. Protitch, then acting Foreign Minister at Corfu, stated that there existed "a written document which of itself made Dimitrijevitch's pardon out of the question."[xv] In 1922 Protitch stated in his own newspaper[xvi] that Dimitrijevitch had signed a paper accepting the whole responsibility for Sarajevo; but no such document has ever been made public. The Radical Government, having used the story to rid itself of its most dangerous opponents, had an interest in maintaining it long after the war, especially on the periodical occasions when an inquiry was demanded on behalf of the numerous officers implicated, more or less arbitrarily, in the Saloniki affair. The story also provided useful capital for the rival military clique of the "White Hand," which had become the mainstay of the Radical Party. It is quite clear that Professor Stanojevitch's pamphlet reflects this attitude and that his facts and theories, being only a fragment of the whole truth, are a most misleading guide. He has thrown valuable new light upon an ugly corner of Serbian life, but his entire focus is wrong.


The real initiative for the crime came from within Bosnia itself; and one of the survivors from the original group of conspirators is in no way exaggerating when he declares that it was "not the work of an isolated individual in national exaltation, but of the entire youth of Bosnia."[xvii] It cannot be too strongly emphasized that the great majority of the young men in Bosnia, and to a lesser degree even in Croatia and Dalmatia, had--as a result of the repressive Austro-Magyar régime in the Southern Slav provinces and of the remarkable contrast presented by Serbia's Balkan victories--virtually repudiated the national leaders and their party tactics, and fallen under the spell of revolutionary and terrorist action. How widespread was the unrest among the rising generation was shown by the political school strikes organized in Zagreb and other towns as a protest against the Cuvaj dictatorship, and again by the appearance of numerous Jugoslav student newspapers in Prague, Vienna and elsewhere. How grave was the danger was shown by the series of outrages of which that in Sarajevo was the sixth in under four years.[xviii] All these were the work of Croats or Serbs from the Dual Monarchy, of whom not one had had any connection with Serbia, while one had come all the way from America for the purpose.

No one who knew anything of conditions in the South could fail to realize that the atmosphere was surcharged with electricity and that an explosion might occur at any moment. Personally, I am glad to remember that after four months spent in southeast Europe from March to July, 1913, I gave such frank expression to my alarm in talking with my Viennese friends that one of them took me to Bilinski himself and asked me to repeat my plea for a change of policy if a revolutionary outbreak was to be averted. In a word, the official world of Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Zagreb, and Sarajevo alike, and thousands like myself besides, knew that the Archduke was courting danger by his visit.

But it is only since the war that the conspiracy has become known in all its ramifications. Groups of students had been formed in all the towns of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the moving spirits being as a rule youths who had contrived at one time or another to join some komitadji band in the Balkan Wars. But by way of precaution, one group was as a rule not known to the other, though most threads centered with Danilo Ilitch, an ex-teacher in Sarajevo. When manoeuvres in Bosnia, under the Archduke's own command, were first announced in the press, Mlada Bosna ("Young Bosnia") decided that an attempt should be made on his life, and Ilitch at once began collecting recruits for the deed.[xix] A message was also sent to Tchabrinovitch, a young Bosnian student in Belgrade, and he it was who won over his comrades Printsip and Grabezh. All three were consumptive and neurasthenic, found it hard to make ends meet, and were ready for any devilry. Tsiganovitch, who helped them, was a Bosnian like themselves, and was a subordinate railway official in Serbia. Printsip already knew Tankositch, having tried to enlist in his komitadji band during the Balkan Wars, but having been rejected as physically unfit. Tankositch then supplied the three with revolvers and hand-grenades, which were still very easy to obtain in Serbia, as they had been widely distributed in the guerilla bands which accompanied the army into Macedonia in 1912. That he told his own chief, Dimitrijevitch, of the young men's intentions, and met with full approval, may be taken for granted; but all the evidence available goes to prove their claim that the entire initiative came from Bosnia. The most that can be said is that but for Major Tankositch they might not have been able to obtain bombs; but after all it was a "Browning" that did the mischief, and there were plenty of Brownings available without importing from Serbia.

After the crime no less a person than Archbishop Stadler of Sarajevo declared publicly that, quite apart from Printsip, the Archduke could hardly have hoped to escape, as he would have had to run the gauntlet through "a regular avenue of assassins." And yet the fact which stands out most strikingly from an impartial survey of all the circumstances is the part played by the element of blind chance. Had the Archduke's car not been driven by a chauffeur ignorant of the town, it would have passed the point where Printsip stood at a high rate of speed, and he would probably never even have tried to shoot. As it was, the driver, seeing the police car ahead of him turn into a narrow side street, slacked down, followed it and then, at General Potiorek's orders, had to back slowly, within perhaps twenty yards of Printsip's revolver. Indeed the latter killed his victim at a spot where, according to the program, the cars should never have passed at all. But for this it may be affirmed that the Archduke would either have escaped altogether or have fallen to one of the conspirators who had not been armed in Serbia. Certain it is that a large number of other youths were sworn to attempt his life, and that similar groups existed in Dalmatia and Croatia, eager to emulate their example.[xx]


It remains to consider the highly important question whether the Serbian Government had any inkling of what was on foot, and could have prevented the crime by timely warning. In view of its acute conflict with the Black Hand, it clearly could have learnt nothing from that quarter, still less have had any share in the plot. But there is reason to believe that Tchabrinovitch talked indiscreetly when still in Belgrade,[xxi] and that something came to the ears of the police. In any case the question has been raised afresh by an extraordinary article written on the tenth anniversary of the war by Ljuba Jovanovitch, today President of the Skupshtina and at that time Minister of Education in the Pashitch Cabinet.[xxii] "I do not remember whether it was at the end of May or the beginning of June," he tells us, "that one day Mr. Pashitch said to us that certain persons (neki) were preparing to go to Sarajevo and murder Francis Ferdinand, who was about to go there and be solemnly received on St. Vitus's Day." He adds that the criminals belonged to a secretly organized group of Bosnian students in Belgrade, that the Minister of the Interior, Mr. Protitch, with the approval of his colleagues, gave orders to the frontier authorities on the Drina to prevent the young men from crossing, but that the "authorities" (the inverted commas are his), being themselves in the plot, passed them over and told Belgrade that it was too late. Later on he describes his alarm and horror on receiving by telephone the first news from Sarajevo--"though I knew what was being prepared there, yet, as I held the receiver, it was as though someone had unexpectedly dealt me a heavy blow." The whole article is written in a careless, naive and reminiscent vein, and its author seems to be blissfully unaware how damning are his admissions if they are to be taken literally--and we are surely entitled to take literally what a politician of real prominence writes on a subject which vitally concerns his country's honor and his own.

The reader is at once tempted to inquire whether Belgrade may not have taken steps to have warned Vienna of the projected plot, in which case Serbia would be fully absolved from all blame; and it may be remembered that rumors of such a warning were circulated immediately after the murder.[xxiii] It is indeed true that Jovan Jovanovitch, the Serbian Minister in Vienna, who was too well informed not to be alarmed at the situation in the Southern provinces, went on his own initiative to Bilinski in the first week of June and urged upon him the inadvisibility of the Archduke's visit to Sarajevo on "Vidovdan," since it would inevitably be regarded by all Serbs on both sides of the frontier as an act of provocation. It has sometimes been asserted that Jovanovitch on June 18 received official instructions from Pashitch to convey a warning to the Ballplatz,[xxiv] but I have the most explicit assurances on the part of Mr. Jovanovitch himself that no such instructions were ever received or acted upon.[xxv] There thus rests upon Belgrade the onus of proving, either that the information at its disposal was much more vague than Ljuba Jovanovitch would have us believe, or that it conveyed an adequate warning of the danger in some way of which no record has yet reached us.

The matter can hardly rest here. Public opinion in Europe and America is more interested than ever in the problem of responsibility for the Great War, and is entitled to demand a full and detailed explanation from Ljuba Jovanovitch and from his chief, Mr. Pashitch. Failing that, it will henceforth be necessary for the historian, while exposing the aggressive Balkan policy of the Ballplatz and emphasizing the criminal negligence of the Austro-Hungarian authorities in Bosnia, to convict the Serbian Government of the calculation that the assassination might serve their national ends and in oblivion of the fact that "murder will out."

The crime of Sarajevo is an indelible blot upon the movement for Jugoslav unity. But unless we are to lose all sense of proportion we must assign the main guilt to Austria-Hungary, who by a policy of repression at home and aggression abroad had antagonized all sections of the Jugoslav race. Murder or no murder, the seething pot would have continued to boil until Austria-Hungary could evolve a policy compatible with Jugoslav interests, or alternatively, until the Jugoslavs of the Dual Monarchy could shake off her yoke.

[i] In 1913 "Vidovdan" (St. Vitus's Day), the anniversary of the battle of Kosovo, came at the height of tension between Serbia and Bulgaria--the very day before the latter's treacherous night attack started the second Balkan War.

[ii] I remember discussing the whole affair more than once with Professor Masaryk in the early days of his exile, and this was the word which he also found most adequate to describe the situation in Sarajevo.

[iii] Potiorek to Bilinski, July 6, in Conrad, "Aus Meiner Kriegszeit," IV, pp. 64-6.

[iv] "Ubistvo Austriskog Prestolonaslednika Ferdinanda" (German ed.), "Die Ermordung des Erzherzogs," Frankfurt, 1923.

[v] Lerchenfeld to Munich, July 2. D.D. IV, Anhang IV, No. 1.

[vi] "Ursachen und Ausbruch des Weltkrieges," p. 96.

[vii] See Serbian Blue Book, Nos. 23, 25, 31.

[viii] See especially "Deutsche Dokumente," I, No. 29, p. 50, but also Austrian post-war Red Book, I, No. 8, p. 35.

[ix] For a full account of the Black Hand see S. Stanojevitch, "Die Ermordung des Erzherzogs" (1923), pp. 46-56; H. Wendel, "Die Habsburger und die Südslaven" (1924); D. R. Lazarevitch, "Die Schwarze Hand" (Lausanne, 1917); and my own article, "Serbia's Choice," in The New Europe for August 22, 1918.

[x] Stanojevitch, p. 50. Unfortunately Prof. Stanojevitch never adduces any proof for this and similar statements, so that we are left entirely in doubt as to the source.

[xi]Ibid, p. 52. This was confirmed to me from private information.

[xii] In this connection Professor Stanojevitch states, but again without giving any evidence, that as Chief of the Intelligence Bureau, Dimitrijevitch had received confidential warning from the Russian General Staff regarding an anti-Serbian design propounded by Francis Ferdinand and accepted by William II, at their meeting at Konopischt on June 12. It is, however, obviously impossible that Dimitrijevitch could have received any such information from any source whatever (least of all from St. Petersburg) before June 15, which is given by Stanojevitch himself as the day on which Dimitrijevitch called his Committee and decided to launch the murder plot. According to reliable information in my possession, no such warning came through the Russian representatives in Belgrade. If it ever was given, it must have come from Mr. Spalaikovitch, the Serbian Minister in St. Petersburg, or his Military Attaché.

[xiii] "Die Ermordung," p. 9.

[xiv]New Europe, August 22, 1918, "Serbia's Choice."

[xv]Ibid, September 26, 1918, "A Serbian Protest."

[xvi]Radikal (Belgrade daily), No. 294 (1922).

[xvii] Borivoje Jevtitch, "Sarajevski Atentat" (Sarajevo, 1924).

[xviii] Zherajitch on General Vareshanin, Governor of Bosnia (June, 1910); Jukitch (June, 1912) and Planinshtchak (November) on Cuvaj; Dojtchitch (August, 1913) and Schäfer (May, 1914) on Baron Skerlecz.

[xix] For instance, Mehmedbashitch, Pushara, Patezhanin, Jevtitch, none of whom were caught; Dzhukitch and Tsvetko Popovitch, who were condemned in absence; Tchubrilovitch, who was hanged; Krantchevitch, who got ten years; Perina and Zagorats, who got three years each; and Kalember, who was acquitted. See Jevtitch, op. cit., p. 29, and Pharos, "Der Prozess gegen die Attentater von Sarajevo," pp. 163-4. Twenty-three persons were brought to trial, five being sentenced to death and nine being acquitted. The two actual murderers and Grabezh were sentenced to twenty years, the death penalty not being applicable to persons under the age of twenty.

[xx] Since the war I have learnt of one place in Dalmatia where the Archduke was expected to spend the night on his way to Bosnia, and where several youths, entirely unconnected with any Bosnian organization, at once resolved that he should not leave it alive. This is by no means an isolated instance.

[xxi] Jevtitch, op. cit., p. 30. Tchabrinovitch was the son of an Austrian police agent, and when the Belgrade police wished to expel him because his papers were not in order, the Austro-Hungarian Consulate is alleged to have protested. This was stated in Balkan of July 1, 1914, and reproduced in the Austrian press without denial. On this basis a theory was evolved during the war that Tchabrinovitch and Printsip had no connection with each other, and that the former was an Austrian agent provocateur, or even planning murder in the interests of Vienna. This theory, however, was finally exploded by Jevtitch's pamphlet. The two youths carefully avoided each other on the eve of the murder, but simply as an additional precaution.

But the fact that Tchabrinovitch's father was an Austrian agent is true and serves as proof in quite another direction: for it shows that nationalist and revolutionary sentiments had struck deep root even in the most doubtful soil.

Potiorek, with a view to discrediting Bilinski, asserted in his first report to Vienna, that Tchabrinovitch had been expelled from Bosnia, but returned there in 1913, thanks to Bilinski's intervention. In his memoirs Bilinski indignantly denies this, and it appears to be a sheer invention.

[xxii] "Krv Slovenstva" (Blood of Slavdom), Belgrade, 1924.

[xxiii] It first occurs in an interview given by Mr. Spalaikovitch to Novoje Vremja (June 30 or July 1, 1914). It was officially denied by the Ballplatz on July 3.

[xxiv] The statement first occurs in Ernest Denis, "La Grande Serbie" (1916), which he must have got from some Serbian official source. It is given in full detail by George Josimovitch, a former subordinate of Jovanovitch in the Vienna Legation at the time, in the Wiener Sonnund Montags-Zeitung of July 23, 1914. But both versions are entirely inaccurate.

[xxv] Jovan Jovanovitch's denial is still further confirmed by the fact that Bilinski is silent in his memoirs as to any such warning. Baron Rummerskirch, then master of the Archduke's household, has also denied that Bilinski ever came to him with such a story, and, though there is an obvious motive for such a denial, it is probably true.

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  • R. W. SETON-WATSON, Masaryk Professor of Central European History in the University of London, founder and Editor of The New Europe, 1916-1920, author of "Racial Problems in Hungary," "The Southern Slav Question," and other works.
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