The Ultimatum of 1914 in German and Austrian Interpretations of the Guilt Question Cover Image

Ултиматум из 1914. у немачком и аустријском тумачењу кривице за Први светски рат
The Ultimatum of 1914 in German and Austrian Interpretations of the Guilt Question

Author(s): Velibor Buha
Subject(s): Diplomatic history, Military history, Political history, International relations/trade, Pre-WW I & WW I (1900 -1919), Peace and Conflict Studies
Published by: Centar za unapređivanje pravnih studija
Keywords: Ultimatum; Great War; Austria-Hungary; Germany; Serbia; War Guilt; Responsibility; Crisis; Demands; Interpretation;

Summary/Abstract: The nature of the Austro-Hungarian ultimatum submitted in July 1914 to Serbia was one of relevant topics in debates on war guilt for the First World War that took place upon its completion. Already at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, in the context of perpetrators of the war, it was concluded that the Ultimatum was made in such a way to be rejected and therefore to serve as an excuse for an already prepared war of Austria-Hungary with her neighbor. It was also concluded that in these intentions Austria-Hungary had the full support of Berlin. In post-war Germany and Austria various activities were undertaken aiming at denying own responsibility for the war and its transfer to other countries of the former Entante. Interpretations of the Ultimatum were developed with an aim to weaken this accusation of Versailles. Many have written on this controversial documents: historians as w ell as participants of key events in the period prior to the war. They endeavored to prove that formulated demands were politically and legally well grounded and acceptable, and that Serbian rejection did not represent a desirable outcome of the undertaken action. Serbian reply was simultaneously the subject of their attention, particularly the rejection of the two most delicate points of the Ultimatum. In this decision they saw influence of Russia and in line with that her key role in provoking the war. Unreserved German support in the attitude to Serbia in 1914 was interpreted by convictions of the Emperor and the government that this was a question of vital interest for Austria-Hungary and that potential war conflict would not go beyond Balkan frontiers. These interpretations were not supported by many sources in contemporary archives, and were also rejected by some relevant voices from Germany who assessed Serbian reply as satisfactory and criticized an accelerated Austrian breaking of diplomatic relations with Serbia immediately upon its reception. Overall efforts to improve historical judgement of the Ultimatum have therefore not given proper results.

  • Issue Year: 2015
  • Issue No: 1-2
  • Page Range: 335-356
  • Page Count: 22
  • Language: Serbian