A Plea for Russian Support: The Serbian Response To The Austro-Hungarian Ultimatum

The Serbian Crown Prince Alexander articulates his distaste and frustration at the Austro-Hungarian ultimatum of 24 July in this correspondence with the Emperor of Russia. On the night of 23 July , the Serbian Regent to gauge their support. Russian support was refused. Tsar Nicholas told the Serbs to simply accept the ultimatum, and hope that international opinion would force the Austrians to change their minds.

From: His Royal Highness the Crown Prince Alexander

To: His Imperial Majesty the Emperor of Russia

Belgrade, July 11/24, 1914.

The Austro-Hungarian Government yesterday evening presented to the Servian Government a note respecting the outrage at Serajevo. Servia, aware of her international obligation, has declared, ever since the horrible crime was committed, that she condemned it, and that she was ready to open an enquiry in Servia if the complicity of certain of her subjects were proved at the trial instituted by the Austro-Hungarian authorities.

The demand, contained in the Austro-Hungarian note are, however, unnecessarily humiliating for Servia, and incompatible with her dignity as an independent state.

For instance, we are peremptorily called upon to insert a declaration by the Government in the ” Official Journal,” and for an order from the Sovereign to the army, in which we are to check the spirit of hostility toward Austria and to blame ourselves for criminal weakness as regards our treacherous intrigue.

We are further required to admit Austro Hungarian officials into Servia to take part with our officials at the trial and to superintend the carrying out of the other conditions laid down in the note. W e are required to accept these demands in their entirety within forty-eight hours, failing which the Austro-Hungarian Legation will leave Belgrade.

We are prepared to accept those of the Austro-Hungarian conditions which are compatible with the position of an independent State, as well as those to which your Majesty may advise us to agree, and all those persons whose complicity in the crime may be proved will be severely punished by us.

Certain of the demands, could not be carried out without changes in our legislation, which would need time. We have been allowed too short a time limit.

We may be attacked at the expiration of the time limit by the Austro-Hungarian army which is concentrating upon our frontier. We are unable to defend ourselves and we beg your Majesty to come to our aid as soon as possible.

The much appreciated goodwill which your Majesty has so often shown towards us inspires us with the firm belief that once again our appeal to your noble Slav heart will not pass unheeded.

At this critical moment I echo the feelings of the Servian people in praying your Majesty to be pleased to interest yourself in the fate of the Kingdom of Servia.

Alex Browne studied History at Kings College London and is an Assistant Editor at Made From History. He specializes in post-war history in the USA and Central America.