(Toward WORLD WAR, 1901-08 – continued)

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Toward WORLD WAR, 1901-08 (4 of 4)

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Franz Joseph annexes Bosnia-Herzegovina

Now came trouble between Russia and Germany's ally, Austria-Hungary. Both were empires opposed to nationalism – the Russians opposed to the nationalism of Poles and Ukrainians among others. Russia and Franz Joseph's Austria-Hungary had been cooperating in matters concerning the Balkans, but this changed in 1908 when Austria-Hungary shocked Europe by annexing Bosnia and Herzegovina, violating the agreement made in Berlin in 1878. The annexation at least partially satisfied Franz Joseph's desire for an empire as big as it was when he took power back in December 1848, but it angered Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as in Serbia, and a wave of indignation swept through Russia. Russia's leaders saw their state as the protector of their Orthodox Christian Serbian brothers and sisters.

Turkey, still nominally the ruler of Bosnia and Herzegovina, protested Franz Joseph's annexation, and Turkey offered the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina representation in a new Turkish parliament. Serbia called up its reservists, and it refused to recognize the annexation. Austria-Hungary declared that unless Serbia recognized the annexation there would be war. Russia supported Serbia. Germany did its duty regarding its alliance and massed its troops on Russia's border – to demonstrate its support for Austria-Hungary and to discourage a Russian invasion against its ally. Russia felt unprepared for war and did not want to fight. Wilhelm also did not want war, and he convinced Austria-Hungary to hold back from attacking Serbia.

There was no Great War in Europe in 1908. But Russia's long-standing agreement with Austria-Hungary concerning the Balkans was at an end. And despite Wilhelm's efforts at peace, the nearness of war led some Russians in high places to begin viewing Germany as an enemy, and Russia began increasing its defense expenditures.

Meanwhile, just two days after the annexation, a secret society had formed in Serbia that called itself Narodna Oderana (National Defense) – also known as the Black Hand. It was dedicated to the liberation of Bosnia and Herzegovina from Habsburg rule.

The annexation had also altered the attitude of young Serbians in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Students there had been influenced by the Czech nationalist intellectual Thomas Masaryk, whose strategy for liberation from Habsburg rule was gradualist and peaceful. With the annexation, Bosnian students were rejecting Masaryk's approach as too slow. There had been a tradition derived from struggle against invasion by the Turks, and it included respect for those who had martyred themselves trying to assassinate the Turkish conqueror. And now In Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia, youths were considering assassination as one of the tools for liberation.


The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914, by Christopher Clark, 2012 (begins with the Serbs)

The Road to Sarajevo, by Vladimir Dedijer, Simon & Schuster Inc., 1966

The Struggle for the Mastery of Europe, by A J P Taylor, 1954 (narrative starts in mid-1800s)

Twilight of the Habsburgs: the Life and Times of Emperor Francis Joseph, by Alan Palmer, 1997

Kaiser Wilhelm II, by Christopher M. Clark, 2000

The Proud Tower, by Barbara Tuchman, MacMillan, 1966

A History of Africa, by J.D. Fage, 1996 (prehistory to post-independence)

Africa, by Sanford J. Ungar, Simon & Schuster Inc., 1986

Victorian Web (online), by George Landow – the British Empire, an Overview

Modern History Sourcebook, Gustave Freensen, "In the German South African Army, 1903-1904,"

Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, Chapter 5 "The coming Bipolar World and the Crisis of the 'Middle Powers': Part One, 1885-1918," Paul Kennedy, 1987

Copyright © 1998-2014 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.