Gavrilo Princip and Serbian nationalism

If any of you subscribe to Google’s Alerts for “Ungarn,” you will encounter absolutely hundreds of articles in the German and Austrian press on World War I. Austria-Hungary’s role in the events that followed the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the Dual Monarchy, naturally looms large in these writings.

One hundred years after the event there are still deep divisions about how to interpret the assassination itself, especially in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia.  A few days ago The New York Times reported that scholars from the United States and 25 other countries gathered in Sarajevo to mark the centennial of World War I. The conference “set off an ethnic firestorm in the Balkans that reached the highest political circles.” There were several points of serious disagreement and, in the end, no research papers were submitted from Serbia proper or from the so-called Republik Srpska, the Serb-dominated area of Bosnia-Herzegovina.  Serb politicians accused the conference of bias against their country, and the president of Republik Srpska called the conference “a new propaganda attack against the Serbs.”  In general, the Serbian view is that no revision of history that would put any blame on Serbia is acceptable. To them Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian Serb, is a hero and German, Austrian, and Hungarian historians, “the losers of the war,” refuse to afford Princip the honor he deserves.

The book that really inflamed Serbian historians and politicians was Christopher M. Clark’s The Sleepwalkers, which became an international success of late. In it Clark argues that Princip was an arm of Serbia’s intelligence services, not just some Bosnian teenager acting on his own. Clark puts a greater emphasis on the responsibility of Serbia than most historians had done previously. According to other, non-Serbian historians, the Serbs misunderstood Clark’s conclusion, which places the blame on all the great powers, including Great Britain and France. In any case, the effort to organize a civilized international conference on World War I failed due to nationalistic passions.

The population of Bosnia-Herzegovina is deeply divided over the very person of Gavrilo Princip. In the Serb-controlled East-Sarajevo the Serbs erected up a full-size statue of Princip, who is considered to be a hero of Serbia. The Muslims and the Croats, on the other hand, do not consider Princip a hero at all. On the contrary, they view him as a terrorist who killed a politician and his pregnant wife. More than that, they look upon him as the man who put an end to a prosperous period in the life of Bosnia-Herzegovina, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. The Bosniaks, the Muslim Serbs of Bosnia-Herzegovina, fought on the side of Austria-Hungary throughout the war and apparently suffered huge losses fighting against the Serbs. Eighty years later Serbs and Muslims were again on opposite sides.

Emir Kusturica, Serbian filmmaker, and Gavrilo Princip's statue at Tovarisevo Source:

Emir Kusturica, a Serbian filmmaker, and Gavrilo Princip’s new statue at Tovarisevo

As for Gavrilo Princip, Serb politicians and historians can argue that they were not responsible for the outbreak of World War I. Indeed, when Princip aimed his revolver at the Archduke and his wife he didn’t think in terms of such far-reaching consequences. But Serbian nationalism had reached such heights that it was bound to end in some kind of conflict. In fact, two serious wars had already broken out in the Balkans. It was clear that the goal of Serbian nationalists after 1878, when Austria-Hungary was allowed to occupy Bosnia-Herzegovina, was the gathering of all Southern Slavs into one country, naturally under Serbian leadership. Originally the Serb nationalists envisaged a “Yugoslavia” that even included Bulgaria. It was natural that Slovenia, under Austria and Croatia under the Hungarian Crown, would have been part of this new state. But there was another area that was an integral part of Greater Hungary, not like Croatia that had limited home rule, that was in danger as far as the Hungarians were concerned. That was the Bánát-Bácska (Vojvodina) area, just south of  Szeged and Makó all the way to the Danube in the south. In this area lived about 500,000 people who declared themselves to be Serbs in the 1910 census.

How did these people end up north of the Danube river? Most of them came as a result of what is described in historical literature as the Great Serb Migrations. The first occurred in 1690 during the Great Turkish War when Leopold I allowed Serbian refugees to settle in Hungarian territories. The second migration took place after 1739. How many people are we talking about? There are different estimates, but the most often cited is 37,000 families. The majority of these people stayed in the Vojvodia region, but some of them went as far as Szentendre, just north of Budapest, and even Komarno in Slovakia.

In closing, let’s look briefly at the attitude of Prime Minister István Tisza toward the Austro-Hungarian declaration of war in 1914. According to the structure of the Dual Monarchy as it was set up in 1867, the assent of both the Austrian and the Hungarian prime ministers was necessary for a declaration of war. The Austrians enthusiastically supported the punishment of Serbia, but Tisza was reluctant. His reluctance can easily be explained by the large presence of Serbs in Bánát-Bácska (Vojvodina) and also in Croatia. If the conflict between Serbia and Austria-Hungary were to escalate into a larger war and Austria-Hungary were to go down in defeat, these territories would be lost to a victorious Serbia. In the end, however, he changed his mind, mainly because Austria-Hungary received a so-called “blank check” from the German Emperor that promised military support in case of a larger war. He believed that the presence of a strong German army behind Austria-Hungary was a guarantee that Hungarian territories would be safe. But what seemed impossible for Tisza and fellow politicians in Germany and Austria-Hungary became a reality four years later: they lost the war and the territories.

Finally, an interesting bit of news I picked up the other day: some relatives of Princip have over the years become Hungarians. A strange part of the world.


  1. Serbia of 1914 was different from Serbia of 1944, or of 1994, or 2014.
    Serbs like Hungarians set delusional goals, and executed them with the same mistakes.
    Serbs could borrow our schmidt marias.

    Forget the Slav or Turul memes.
    Try this time the Europe of Kant, Schiller, Goethe, Balzac, Dickens,Hardy…

  2. What an interesting, insightful piece! Thank you, Éva. Until now I have never understood the Serb stubbornness and their nationalistic noises. Now I begin to understand them a little better. For me, your key sentences were:

    “In general, the Serbian view is that no revision of history that would put any blame on Serbia is acceptable.” And:

    “Serbian nationalism had reached such heights that it was bound to end in some kind of conflict.” Both statements seem to be still valid.

    It’s a pity that pan-slavism and gross overestimation of their own influence made the Serbs lose touch with reality. If they had left the Kosovarians in peace with their autonomy they wouldn’t have lost it. If they had treated Croation refugees the same as Croatia treated Serbian refugees after the war in the 90s, they would have much better neighbours.

    The Princip monument is so backward-oriented. They will have a very, very long way into the EU.

    What makes people so myopic?

  3. “If they had left the Kosovarians in peace”

    Uh, there is no such thing as “Kosovarians” – what you mean are ethnic Albanians. Also, it was they who started the violence and war.
    They formed the KLA – the Kosovo Liberation Army – (the acronym is UCK in German language), and started kidnapping and killing Serbs – both police and civilians. They also killed ethnic Albanians who worked for the (Serbian) government in any capacity, and those which didn’t support it (the KLA) or they suspected as collaborators.

    The Kosovo Albanian KLA had torture camps all over Kosovo and stong-holds which the west prevented Serbia from attacking.

    The Serbian police was after the KLA. Only just prior to NATO bombing (and due to build up of the U.S. army and other forces on the border with Macedonia) did Serbia send in its army (because there were expecting and invasion).

    The entire 1990’s Balkan wars were set up and it is no coincidence they started after the re-unification of Germany.
    Austria and Germany were working with Slovenia for secession for over a decade before the wars started.
    Slovenian companies were taking loans as part of Yugoslavia, squirreling away the money in German and Austrian banks, then declaring bankruptcy. Then Slovenia left and never paid back that money. The central Slovenian bank also kept the deposits of all non-Slovenes and to this day never gave that money back. (Even Croatia tried to sue on behalf of their depositors). It is said Slovenia used that money to finance its war/secession.

    Austria was financing weapons for the Bosnian war. Weapons were pouring in despite the much-hyped weapons embargo – most were coming in under cover of “humanitarian aid”. Banks in Vienna to this day are financing Muslim terrorism in Syria.
    Vienna also serves as a hub to Islamic recruiting for wars and terrorism.

    Just recently 2 teen aged Bosnian Muslim girls who were born and living in Vienna left for the Syrian war to serve terrorist fighters there.
    They were recruited by an imam at a mosque in Vienna.

    As for WWI, fact is that Austria didn’t even morn the Archduke and he and his morgantic wife were DISLIKED by most of the leadership in Austria.
    He actually stood in the way of a war wanted by hardliners. So having him killed and blaming Serbia killed two birds with one stone.
    Many in Austrian military and government leadership were wanting a war to destroy Serbia for once and for all.

    Germany also wanted to attack a rising/strengthening Russia.

    Other arguments point to Germany’s unification as causing a great imbalance of power leading to the World Wars.

    You had the Franco-Prussian war in which Germany took some of France’s very important territory (Alsace-Lorraine), and France did want that land back.

    Also Germany’s winning the war alarmed all the other “Great Powers” as to its strength and fueled more arms-races as well as more entangling alliances/pacts which set up WWI.

  4. “It was natural that Slovenia, under Austria and Croatia under the Hungarian Crown, would have been part of this new state.”

    You leave out that it was a Croat who first came up with the idea of a “Yugoslavia”. Croats were complaining about the Empire too and there were some Croat assassinations or attempts at assassinations of Austrian-Hungarian diplomats.

    Furthermore, Croatia gained so much extra land (which had never been part of Croatia before) by joining up with Serbia.

    Croats got Dalmatia – which was independent of Croatia proper as well as controlled by Italians. It was the Serbian soldiers who drove the Italians out at the end of WWI.
    Croatia got Slavonia, which was not part of Croatia in those times, and Slavonia had a large Serbian population.
    The fact that so many Serbs got drawn into “Croatia” instead of it being an independent province or divided between Croatia and Serbia led to their genocide.
    The ethnic Serbian population of Slavonia/Dalmatia/Croatia is down multi-fold over what it was before WWI.

    Also, Istria and other land was gained by Croatia and Slovenia by being part of the Kingdom.

    So those countries which were poor and smaller beforehand became larger and relatively richer by joining with Serbia.

    But no sooner than they got what they wanted they started causing problems for Serbia and Serbs.

    And foreign countries, such as Italy, Germany, Bulgaria, and Austria were supporting terrorism against Serbs and Serbs by their proxies in the Balkans between WWI and WWII.

  5. @jj

    Go home “jj”. You are drunk and oozing disconnected, anti-German, ahistorical nonsense. Huge picture you are painting. Worthy of the Tea Party.

  6. Interesting to read a Hungarian (or American?) view of the origins of WW1. In the UK it is usually explained as the inevitable consequence of the ‘balance of powers, and in particular the weakness of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the aggressiveness/expansionism of the Germans. The Serbian role is almost neglected as a minor sideshow – the theory being that something else would have started the war, even if this hadn’t.

    The blame is usually put on Austria and Germany. Austria for using the assination as an excuse to declare war on Serbia and thereby achieve their expansionist aims, and Germany for being so eager for a war that they would take any excuse to start one. Serbia is seen as an innocent victim – the students were acting on their own, not on behalf of the Serbian authorities, and Serbia immediately did everything it could to stop the Austrians declaring war, agreeing to every one of their demands.

    Britain (of course!) was also an innocent victim, doing its best to maintain the balance of power, ‘allowing’ Germany to have colonies in Africa, to assuage its desire for an empire, and finally, and only reluctantly, going to the aid of ‘poor little Belgium’.

    The war is seen entirely in terms of Britain v Germany (just as, even more bizarrely, the second war is – at England v Germany games, English football fans chant “2 world wars, one world cup”). Serbia’s involvement is entirely ignored (just seen as part of the everlasting problem of ‘the Balkans’), and little or no mention is made of Austria-Hungary (hardly any Brits are aware of Trianon, or the disastrous Hungarian military involvement on the Eastern Front). In fact the whole Eastern Front is pretty much neglected by popular British histories of WW1 (the Russians were in the war at the beginning, but had their revolution and sued for peace – end of story). The war was between Britain and France and Germany, and was entirely fought on the Western Front. Oh, and the Americans helped out a bit.

    I’m not putting any of this forward as serious argument, I’m just illustrating how biased and incomplete history can be, especially where wars are concerned – even in a country like Britain, which thinks of itself as unbiased on such matters and is proud of the neutrality and veracity of its historians.

    One last point re the British view that this war was the fault of the Germans – anti-German feelings ran far higher in 14-18 than they ever did in 39-45, despite the fact that Germany shared the same royal family as us and our Continental enemies had traditionally been France, Spain and The Netherlands, but never Germany. Feelings ran so high that even the royal family was affected, changing its name from Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to Windsor – even before the war had begun.

  7. I needn’t have bothered – whilst I was writing that ‘jj’ proved my point comprehensively!

  8. Also, Serbs were settled north of the Danube before the Great Migrations. For instance the town of Backa Topola in north Serbia near the border with Hungary was mentioned as having a Serb population in Ottoman documents in the 1500’s.
    In the beginning of the 18th century it was destroyed by fighting between Turks and Kurac rebels. 150 years later it was settled by Hungarians and Slovaks.

    There also used to be a much larger populations of Serbs in Hungary. The Serbian population in Pest was larger than the ethnic Hungarians at one time.

  9. “I needn’t have bothered – whilst I was writing that ‘jj’ proved my point comprehensively!”

    Not exactly if you were referring to Serbs. See, I am not the least ethnic Serb at all. I am very, very pro-Serb I admit, but I am completely non-Slav, non-Serb ethnic mix.
    I saw through the lies during the NATO bombing and have studied the situation since. It is horrible – so many lies. I am good seeing through the manipulations and “false advertising”.

    For example, the west had the Bosnian Muslim wartime President Alija Izetbegovic as a moderate, yet he has an Islamic-fascist background.
    He was a pro-Nazi youth during WWII.
    He wrote “Islamic Declarations” in which is said that the Muslim religion couldn’t co-exist with other religions within a state.
    He was arrested, tried and jailed with several other Bosnian Muslims, back in the early 1980’s for seeking help from Islamic states and even terrorist/radical groups for an independent Bosnian state under Muslim rule.
    This was BEFORE Milosevic and several years before the war.
    He was let out several years early and he and the other formed the party, SDA, which took Bosnia and Hercegovina to war.

  10. Begrüß den Balkan

    The Pannonian patriots need look no further afield for their glorious roots than their local habitat…

  11. Paul: “One last point re the British view that this war was the fault of the Germans – anti-German feelings ran far higher in 14-18 than they ever did in 39-45, despite the fact that Germany shared the same royal family as us ”

    My impression is (and I am far from being a historian) that most European royal families are related to each other through various marriages. On a recent trip to Germany I found out that the territory of Schleswig-Holstein used to belong to Denmark for about a hundred years, because the prince of Schleswig Holstein was also the King of Denmark. Also, the king of Romania was imported from the Hohenzollern family, from Germany, and the Russian Tsar and the Greek king was also related to the same. With so much inbreeding it is surprising that these monarchs did not have more cases of genetic disorders.

  12. @jj

    Re-read what “EsteZene” wrote (1st comment). It is beyond all fanatism and points to what Europe should be all about: learned humanism.

    You claim not to be ethnically involved in the Serbian question. However, by way of example, we now have lots of converts to fundamentalist Islam from Europe who are hoping to blow up our train stations – and did. What type of convert are you? You also mention Muslims. The Kosovars (they do exist!) are also Muslims, and I happen to know several of them. Their Islamic practice is mostly like the one of most Christians: Big feasts, weddings, burials, and that’s it. So far, I have never met a fundamentalist Kosovar Muslim.

    So what is your point of departure and what are you aiming at? What are the Serbs for you?

    And, regarding your many factoids: What is your book of books?

  13. The Balkan never ceases to amaze me …

    Starting in 1970 my family and I spent many summers in Yugoslavia (it was much cheaper than Spain or Italy and the same Mediterranean Sea), the late eighties and the nineties (before I bought my “summer house” in Hungary) we had a caravan near Porec (Istria) and we got to know the locals which had become an ethnic mix because of tourism:

    The proprietor of one restaurant was a Kosovar Muslim married to a blond girl from Slovenia, the other a Serb with a Croat wife etc …

    But in 1989 hell broke loose, really sad. I never understood that hate that broke out – had it been hidden somehow?

    And re the English and the Germans:

    I read somewhere that they even changed the name of the German shepherd dogs to “Alsatians” some time …

    In a way WW1 was a kind of civil war/family war between the members of the ruling European family – many or even most of them descendants of Queen Victoria – and everybody knows that civil wars are worse than others – like the wars between the Balkan Slavs.

    And I’m still hoping that the EU will help with solving all those problems …


    Please ignore those trolls!

  14. Wolfi,

    German Shepards and Alsatians are distinct breeds, though they resemble each other and are closely related.

    You wrote: “Please ignore those trolls!”

    Is it okay if I refute their claims obliquely? It would bother me to think that some impressionable reader might see those posts and the lack of response and think that the troll is correct.

  15. @googly

    Wikipedia – by no means an omniscient bible – doesn’t agree with you. According to their entry, Alsatians and German Shepherd dogs are the same breed, dating from 1899.

    Ceterum censeo: Don’t feed the trolls!

  16. Just a general comment, not directed at anyone:

    Kosovars (or Kosovans) are either ethnic Albanians from Kosovo (or Kosova) or any person from Kosovo, which is an independent country recognized by the majority of the nations in the United Nations, the vast majority of the EU nations, and all of its neighbors except Serbia (Bosnia and Hercegovina being the only other part of the former Yugoslavia that does not recognize it). There are also ethnic Albanians still living in Serbia, and they constitute a majority in parts of the Pčinja district, next to Kosovo. Anyone who claims that there are no Kosovars is intentionally ignoring the reality of the situation, for nationalistic propaganda reasons, and would gladly dispossess those people of their nationality, their homes, and probably their lives, if they could. Therefore, they could be considered genocidaires.

    Kosovars were among the many victims of the genocidal Serbian-started wars that aimed to create a “Greater Serbia”, instigated in large part by the nationalist war criminal Slobodan Milosevic. He was the one who revoked the autonomy enjoyed by Kosovo for decades, and he was responsible for the crackdown that led to the large numbers of ethnic Albanian refugees who left Kosovo before the NATO bombing campaign.

    There were certainly atrocities committed on all sides of the many related conflicts that were started by the Serbs in the 1990’s, but to say that Kosovo should still be part of Serbia is ridiculous. If a group of people who constitute at least 80% of the population of a region of Europe want to be independent, there’s no reason to deny them that option. In my opinion, Mitrovica and any other Serb-majority part of Kosovo should be split off from Kosovo, as Kosovo was from Serbia, and rejoined with Serbia. Concurrently, majority-Albanian parts of Serbia should be allowed to decide, in a free and fair referendum, which country they want to be part of. The only countries that disagree with that notion are the ones which control areas that want independence, such as Spain (Catalonia, Basque region), Romania (Transylvania), and Slovakia (Felvidék). If you are Hungarian, you probably agree, at least in principle, that areas of neighboring countries which are almost entirely Hungarian, ethnically, should at the very least be allowed to enjoy a strong degree of autonomy, if not secession. The same principle applies to Kosovo, and there’s a chance that something similar will happen in Transylvania to what happened in Kosovo.

  17. @googly: “If a group of people who constitute at least 80% of the population of a region of Europe want to be independent, there’s no reason to deny them that option.”

    The Serbs lay claim to Kosovo on historical grounds. But on ethnic grounds they have not much to stand on. In 1920 Hungarians tried to do the same and naturally failed. Almost a 100 years later the Serbian position is clearly untenable.

    Mind you, there was Edvard Benes who laid claim to the Sudetenland on historic grounds and to Upper Hungary (Felvidék) on ethnic grounds and he managed to get both territories. There are people who are luckier than others.

  18. Alsatians and German Shepards even look different, though I guess I must be wrong about them being different breeds.

  19. I just checked, and I mixed up the Alsatian with the Malinois. I guess it was the French/Belgian similarities that threw me off. There was a recent article about how the Malinois is replacing the illness-prone German Shepherd in many police and military roles, so I thought this was an extension of that topic.

  20. Eva,

    You wrote: “Mind you, there was Edvard Benes who laid claim to the Sudetenland on historic grounds and to Upper Hungary (Felvidék) on ethnic grounds and he managed to get both territories. There are people who are luckier than others.”

    I like to think that the international community has changed greatly in the intervening years, though Iraq is a prime example of how wrong I might (again) be. Before World War II, the ethnic question did not have as much bearing on which lands were ruled by which state, but the problems that arose afterwards showed how ethnicity has become very important. If Trianon, Sykes-Picot and other post-World War I travesties had taken ethnicity and self-determination into greater account, perhaps there would have been a lot less bloodshed since then. Maybe Hungary wouldn’t have been so willing to do whatever Germany wanted if there were no Magyar-majority lands to take back. Certainly there wouldn’t be Sunni versus Shiite civil wars happening in Syria and Iraq right now.

    The fact that Kosovo is independent and Scotland might soon be, too, gives me hope that wars like those that the Yugoslav breakup created might no longer happen. Ukraine, Iraq, Syria, and South Kordofan, on the other hand, make me think that the international community is either very weak or doesn’t care as much about self-determination as I think.

  21. I have a German question. I have an adjective in the sentence I can’t have a good English equivalent. It is about Agnes Heller who is talking to the reporter:

    Sie haben es schon recht satt”, sagt sie in ihrem kantigen Deutsch, das die österreichisch-ungarische Kaffeehauskultur der Jahrhundertwende heraufbeschwört.

    How could one translate “in ihrem kantigen Deutsch”?

  22. OT re shepherd dogs on a lighter note:

    Yes, Malinois aka Belgian shepherd dogs are beautiful, nice and intelligent – I must know, because I own a (Hungarian born!) cross breed between Malinois and Alsatian. The mother in the village near Hévíz is a German shepherd – so the father probably was a Belgian tourist, I usually tell people …

    And the dog is very intelligent, because when I first met my “new Hungarian wife” she didn’t know that I had this dog, nobody had told her. So when I opened the passenger door of my car for her the first time she immediately got a wet kiss from the dog and everything was alright …

    Now you can imagine how differently the first encounter might have been:

    The dog might have barked or growled or she might have exclaimed: What a dirty animal, trying to kiss me, take it away from me!

    But they became friends in that first moment – sometimes I even got a bit jealous …

  23. Re “kantig”:

    Various translations might be applied: Rough, chiseled, edgy, coarse, raw, unpolished …

  24. If not for WWI much of my family would have not immigrated to the USA. In my dinning room on the wall I have a fully functional Steyr-Mannlicher M1895 rifle built in Budapest. According to the records it was built by FGGY. I also have photos of both my grandfather and great uncle in their uniforms just prior to WWI, they were effectively teenagers. Hungary’s ruling classes opposed greater outlays for the Hungarian units which resulted in a force perennially short of money required for recruits, training and equipment going into WWI.

    The Empire’s occupation of Bosnia and Herzegovina following the Congress of Berlin up to WWI was a disaster for the military, professional Hungarian soldiers carried out what we would call today counter insurgency operations. It is good to reflect on this history so it is never repeated nor glorified for future generations. I thought about the irony of this when I found myself in Vietnam in 1971-72 in the US Army, what we call today post tramatric stress disorder was called then battle fatigue in WWI. There was no understanding that it can last a life time and in the cases of both my grandfather and great uncle I believe it did.

  25. @Éva

    “kantig” is rarely used to describe someone’s language. I just watched her on YouTube where she had a paper in German last year. She has a pleasant voice, but her German is just heavily accented. One could also say she speaks fluent German with a heavy Hungarian accent. As she has a large vocabulary I wouldn’t use “unpolished”.

  26. Back to “katig.” I like Jen P.’s idea of “quaint.” especially since there is a reference to Austro-Hungarian coffee house culture. Agree everybody?

  27. Not totally, as it would give Heller’s German a very special quality. But she speaks German like my Hungarian girlfriend’s 100 year-old father. It is a typical Hungarian accent, the language is a little flowery, the grammar suffers, but Agnes Heller’s German is like that of many other Hungarians I know, only she speaks faster. Her language is very lively. I agree, though, that you may find it quaint if you hear it for the first time.

    The Kaffeehaus bit is an unnecessary (and in the case of Heller: unfitting) cliché. Daniela Weingärtner who normally writes for the “taz” newspaper got other nuances wrong, too. For example: The Budapester Zeitung whose editor I know personally(he is an East German) has only recently added the occasional critical word about Hungarian politics. Until quite recently he was apologetic like Hefti (FAZ) or Piesskalla (Hungarian Voice). Or the statue on the Gellert hill with the palm twig: It was actually a fish she held, and the statue was ready before the war. The Russian governor only had the fish changed and the monument erected.

  28. “You leave out that it was a Croat who first came up with the idea of a “Yugoslavia”. Croats were complaining about the Empire too and there were some Croat assassinations or attempts at assassinations of Austrian-Hungarian diplomats.”

    Yes, this is true. It didn’t take long for the Croats, Slovenes, Bosnian Muslims and Precani Serbs to realize that they had simply exchanged one imperial master for a new one. The Vidovdan Constitution is what destroyed any pro-Yugoslav sentiment amongst Croats and Slovenes and bankrupted those parties that pushed for union with Serbia.

    “Furthermore, Croatia gained so much extra land (which had never been part of Croatia before) by joining up with Serbia.

    Croats got Dalmatia – which was independent of Croatia proper as well as controlled by Italians. It was the Serbian soldiers who drove the Italians out at the end of WWI.
    Croatia got Slavonia, which was not part of Croatia in those times, and Slavonia had a large Serbian population.”

    Slavonia had already been part of the Kingdom of Croatia before WW1 (its official name was the Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia). Dalmatia only became part of Croatia in 1938 as part of the Cvetković–Maček Agreement.

    The formation of the Banovina in 1938 was done because the Serbs felt threatened by the Germans who had just swallowed Austria and were threatening to destroy the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. After almost a decade of royalist dicatorship, the Serbs panicked and had to strike a deal with Croatians to keep the kingdom together.

    And even with that deal, the Serbs still formed the majority in six of the nine banovinas, including the Drinska and Vrbaska which formed the majority (roughly two-thirds) of the land area of Bosna and Herzegovina.

    You also fail to mention that after WW1 Serbia gained the large and rich province of Vojvodina, even though it was not historically Serbian and did not have an ethnic Serb majority before the Second World War. Serbia also gained the large areas of Kosovo and Macedonia, even though neither had an ethnic-Serb majority. Serbia also forcibly incorporated Montenegro into the Kingdom of Serbia, in violation of Montenegro’s constitutional system and state traditions.

  29. An interesting article. I should make it clear that I view the Hapsburg side as more responsible for the outbreak of WW1 than the Serbian side. The Sarajevo assassination was engineered by leaders of the extreme-nationalist, terrorist Serbian organisation ‘Unification or Death’, also which must bear responsibility for provoking the Austro-Hungarian declaration of war on Serbia. However, the assassination did not reflect the policy of the Serbian government, and Vienna’s decision to go to war against Serbia was an expression of long-standing Austro-Hungarian imperialist plans. Austria-Hungary and Serbia each had predatory, expansionist designs against each other; it’s true that Serbia had expansionist designs against Austria-Hungary, especially Bosnia-Herzegovina, but it is also true Serbia has been subjected to years of bullying by Austria-Hungary which had tried, at all times, to subordinate it to its imperialist interests.

  30. Suada: “You also fail to mention that after WW1 Serbia gained the large and rich province of Vojvodina, even though it was not historically Serbian and did not have an ethnic Serb majority before the Second World War.”

    Thank you for your informative note. As far as Vojvodina goes.Ethnically it was a really mixed area: Serbs, Germans, Hungarians. One village was German, the next Serb, the third Hungarian. It was really pretty close to impossible to divide it fairly. By the way, the Germans in this area came mostly from Hessen in the 1720s and were settled there, just like a few years earlier the Serbs were settled in this territory that was liberated from the Turks.

  31. To Suada’s second note. As far as Hungary went, indeed there were a few crazy ones who were dreaming of a Hungarian Empire (Birodalom), but István Tisza certainly did not want any more Slavs within the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. As it was Franz Ferdinand and his circle were already contemplating the reorganizing the monarchy more along ethnic lines. He was especially eager to have a third, Slavic component and naturally Tisza was dead against such a reorganization. The Hungarians as a result had a rather ambivalent attitude toward the demise of the Archduke. Perhaps they didn’t mind so much that he no longer was to be the successor to Franz Joseph.

  32. London Calling!

    Allan Little tries to find the definitive analysis on the BBC World Service.

    He is visiting all 10 countries involved in WW1.

    And of course the Imperial British view is the only true analysis.

    (Princip and his teenager gang were assisted by the Serbian secret service and WW1 was almost the third war in the Balkans!)

    Anyway it is a compelling listen!



  33. Eva S Balogh: Indeed, I’m aware of the interplay between the Hungarian and Austrian parts of the Duel Monarchy, and you mentioned it in your article. Ironically, Hungarian resistance to a Habsburg war against Serbia helped to delay its outbreak, so that Vienna lost the chance to occupy Serbia quickly and present the other Great Powers with a fait accompli.

    The assassination of the reformist Franz Ferdinand enjoyed no general support or democratic sanction among the Bosnian population – not even among the Serb population. There had been a movement for Bosnian autonomy within the Hapsburg Empire, but it was a long way away from this to seeking annexation to Serbia or supporting the assassination. The actions of Gavrilo Princip and his fellow assassins were those of an extremist fringe, and were condemned by mainstream Bosnian Serb political and religious figures.

    These differning currents in some ways were mirrored in Serbia. Whenever it first became independent, Serbia was a virtual satellite of the Hapsburg Empire and there was a considerable pro-Hapsburg current of opinion, especially among the elites. Bosnia had formed a key goal of Serbian expansionist plans ever since Ilija Garasanin’s infamous ‘Plan’ in 1844. But after the Austro-Hungarian occupation of Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1878, those Serbian statesmen who favored collaboration with Vienna chose to disregard Bosnia-Herzegovina and concentrate on southward expansion.

    But after the coup in Serbia in 1903, when King Aleksandar Obrenovic was murdered and replaced by Petar Karadjordjevic by Serbian nationalist army officers, pro-Russian currents took power in Serbia and Serbia drifted away from Vienna’s sphere of influence. When Austria-Hungary annexed Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1908, the leader of the People’s Radical Party Nikola Pasic called for preparations for war, and something of a war psychosis gripped Serbia. However, when he subsequently became prime minister in 1912, Pasic pursued a more moderate policy toward Austria-Hungary, since he was focused on Serbia’s southward expansion against the Ottomans. After the Balkan Wars, Pasic wanted a period of peace to enable Serbia to assimilate the territory in Kosovo and Macedonia. It was the Black Hand, whose leading officers Dragutin Dimitrijevic-Apis and Vojislav Tankosic were behind the assassination, who were the real war-mongers on the Serbian side: they supported terrorism and aggression in Bosnia-Herzegovina, against Montenegro’s King Nikola, against Bulgaria, etc., as part of a consistent policy.

  34. I was walking about the Castle district and I’ve noted that *all* of signs of the horrific battle on the palota just across from the theatre have just been completely obliterated off off the building. No more shell marks! A real loss IMHO. Further to that, it appears as if the citadel is next as it was completely blocked off and there is of course talk about the casino being built inside. The citadel was obviously poorly pieced back together but it too still bears the scars of the battle to liberate if from the Germans. This is where it gets interesting. There plaque outside the citadel explaining the history states that Hungarian and Soviet troops staged the assault on the citadel. It is my understanding that the Hungarians were still fighting along side the Germans at that time as I believe this was before the attempted breakout that failed. My question is; is there truth in the plaque or is this another attempt to distance the Hungarian army from the Germans?

  35. The first occurred in 1690 during the Great Turkish War when Leopold II allowed Serbian refugees to settle : Leopold I would be correct. Reign of emperor Leopold I : 1657 – 1705. Reign of emperor Leopold II : 1790 – 1792.
    Kind regards from the Flanders, Belgium

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