Tag Archives: WWI Liveblogging

WWI: The Beginning of the Rest of the War

Today is Hiroshima Day. On 6th August 1945, a nuclear bomb was dropped on an inhabited city as an act of war for the first time in human history.

On 6th August 1914, Austria-Hungary declared war on Russia, and Serbia declared war on Germany.

The Royal Serbian Ministry for Foreign Affairs wrote to the German legation at Niš:

The Royal Serbian Ministry for Foreign Affairs has the honour to inform the Imperial Legation that, in view of the state of war which now exists between Serbia and Austria-Hungary, and of that between Russia and Germany, the ally of Austria-Hungary, the Royal Serbian Government, in view of the solidarity of her interests with Russia and her allies, considers the mission of Baron Gieslingen, the Imperial German Minister Plenipotentiary and Envoy Extraordinary, to be at an end. The Royal Serbian Government requests His Excellency to leave Serbian territory with the staff of the Legations. The necessary passports are enclosed herewith.

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WWI: Belgium telegraphs

Count Charles de Lalang, Belgian Minister at London, telegraphed to Julien Davignon:

Germany, having rejected the British proposals, Great Britain has informed her that a state of war existed between the two countries as from 11 o’clock.

Julien Davignon, Belgium Minister for Foreign Affairs to the Belgian Ministers at Paris, London, and St. Petersburg:

After the violation of Belgian territory at Gemmenich, Belgium appealed to Great Britain, France, and Russia through their representatives at Brussels, to co-operate as guaranteeing Powers in the defence of her territory.

Belgium undertakes the defence of her fortified places.

Julien Davignon wrote to the Belgian Ministers at Paris, London, and St. Petersburg:

In my dispatch of August 4 I had the honour to inform you of the sequence of events which had attended the international relations of Belgium from July 31st to August 4th. I added that the Cabinet was considering the question whether Belgium, whose territory had been invaded since the morning, should appeal to the guarantee of the Powers.

The Cabinet had decided in the affirmative when the British Minister informed me that the proposal which he had communicated to me, and according to which the British Government were disposed to respond favourably to our appeal to her as a guaranteeing Power, was cancelled for the time being.

A telegram from London made it clear that this change of attitude was caused by an ultimatum from Great Britain giving Germany a time limit of ten hours within which to evacuate Belgian territory and to respect Belgian neutrality. During the evening, the Belgian Government addressed to France, Great Britain, and Russia, through their respective representatives at Brussels, a note, of which a copy is enclosed herewith.

As you will observe, Belgium appeals to Great Britain, France, and Russia to co-operate as guaranteeing Powers in the defence of her territory and in the maintenance for the future of the independence and integrity of her territory. She will herself undertake the defence of her fortified places.

As yet we are not aware how our appeal has been received.

No. 44.

M. Davignon, Belgian Minister for Foreign Affairs, to the Belgian Heads of Missions in all Countries having Diplomatic Relations with Belgium.
Brussels, August 5, 1914.


By the treaty of April 18th, 1839, Prussia, France, Great Britain, Austria, and Russia declared themselves guarantors of the treaty concluded on the same day between His Majesty the King of the Belgians and His Majesty the King of the Netherlands. The treaty runs: “Belgium shall form a State independent and perpetually neutral.” Belgium has fulfilled all her international obligations, she has accomplished her duty in a spirit of loyal impartiality, she has neglected no effort to maintain her neutrality and to cause that neutrality to be respected.

In these circumstances the Belaian Government have learnt with deep pain that the armed forces of Germany, a Power guaranteeing Belgian neutrality, have entered Belgian territory in violation of the obligations undertaken by treaty.

It is our duty to protest with indignation against an outrage against international law provoked by no act of ours.

The Belgian Government are firmly determined to repel by all the means in their power the attack thus made upon their neutrality, and they recall the fact that, in virtue of article 10 of The Hague Convention of 1907 respecting the rights and duties of neutral Powers and persons in the case of war by land, if a neutral Power repels, even by force, attacks on her neutrality such action cannot be considered as a hostile act.

I have to request that you will ask at once for an audience with the Minister for Foreign Affairs and read this despatch to his Excellency, handing him a copy. If the interview cannot be granted at once you should make the communication in question in writing.

No. 45.
Baron Beyens, Belgian Minister at Berlin, to M. Davignon, Belgian Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Berlin, August 5, 1914.

I have received my passports and shall leave Berlin to-morrow morning for Holland with the staff of the legation.

No. 46.

Baron Guillaume, Belgian Minister at Madrid, to M. Davignon, Belgian Minister for Foreign Affairs.
St. Sebastian, August 5, 1914.

THE Spanish Government undertake the custody of Belgian interests in Germany, and are to-day sending telegraphic instructions to their Ambassador at Berlin.

(See No. 33.)
No. 47.

Baron Guillaume, Belgian Minister at Paris, to M. Davignon, Belgian Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Paris, August 5, 1914.


I have the honour to enclose herewith a copy of the notification of a state of war between France and Germany, which has been communicated to me to-day.

Enclosure in No. 47.
(See No. 157 of French Book, page 252.)
No. 48.

Communication of August 5, from Sir Francis Villiers, British Minister at Brussels, to M. Davignon, Belgian Minister for Foreign Affairs.

I am instructed to inform the Belgian Government that His Britannic Majesty’s Government consider joint action with a view to resisting Germany to be in force and to be justfied by the Treaty of 1839.

No. 49.

Count de Lalaing, Belgian Minister at London, to M. Davignon, Belgian Minister for Foreign Affairs.
London, August 5, 1914.

Great Britain agrees to take joint action in her capacity of guaranteeing Power for the defence of Belgian territory. The British fleet will ensure the free passage of the Scheldt for the provisioning of Antwerp.

No. 50.

Baron Fallon, Belgian Minister at The Hague, to M. Davignon, Belgian Minister for Foreign Affairs.
The Hague, August 5, 1914.

The war buoying is about to be established.

Julien Davignon to Baron Grenier, Belgian Minister at Madrid:

Please express to the Spanish Government the sincere thanks of the Belgian Government.

Julien Davignon telegraphed to the Belgian Ministers at Paris, London, and St. Petersburg:

I have the honour to inform you that the French and Russian Ministers made a communication to me this morning informing me of the willingness of their Governments to respond to our appeal, and to co-operate with Great Britain in the defence of Belgian territory.

Count von Berchtold telegraphed to Count Szápáry at St. Petersburg:

I ask Your Excellency to hand over the following note to the Minister for Foreign Affairs:—

“On the instructions of his Government, the undersigned, the Austro-Hungarian Ambassador, has the honour to inform His Excellency the Russian Minister for Foreign Aflairs as follows:—

” In view of the threatening attitude adopted by Russia in the conflict between the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy and Servia; and of the fact that, according to a communication from the Berlin Cabinet, Russia has seen fit, as a result of that conflict, to open hostilities against Germany; and whereas Germany is consequently at war with Russia; Austria-Hungary therefore considers herself also at war with Russia from the present moment.”

After handing over this note Your Excellency will ask that passports may be prepared, and you will leave without delay with the entire staff of the Embassy with the exception of any members who are to be left behind. At the same time M. Schebeko is being furnished with his passport by us.

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WWI: 1st August

Germany declares war on Russia.

No. 13.

Count de Lalaing, Belgian Minister at London, to M. Davignon, Belgian Minister for Foreign Affairs.
London, August 1, 1914.
(Telegram.) .

Great Britain has asked France and Germany separately if they intend to respect Belgian territory in the event of its not being violated by their adversary. Germany’s reply is awaited. France has replied in the affirmative.
No. 14.

Baron Beyerns, Belgian Minister at Berlin, to M. Davignon, Belgian Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Berlin, August 1, 1914.

The British Ambassador has been instructed to inquire of the Minister for Foreign Affairs whether, in the event of war, Germany would respect Belgian neutrality, and I understand that the Minister replied that he was unable to answer the question.
No. 15.

M. Davignon, Belgian Minister for Foreign Affairs, to the Belgian Ministers at Berlin, Paris, and London.
Brussels, August 1, 1914.

I have the honour to inform you that the French Minister has made the following verbal communication to me:-

“Je suis autorisé à déclarer qu’en cas de conflit international, le Gouvernement de la République, ainsi qu’il l’a toujours déclaré, respectera la neutralité de la Belgique. Dans l’hypothèse on celte neutralité ne serait pas respectée par une autre Puissance, le Gouvernement français, pour assurer sa propre défense, pourrait être amené à modifier son attitude.” (Translation.)

“I am authorised to declare that, in the event of an international war, the French Government, in accordance with the declarations they have always made will respect the neutrality of Belgium. In the event of this neutrality not being respected by another Power, the French Government, to secure their own defence, might find it necessary to modify their attitude.”

I thanked his Excellency and added that we on our side had taken without delay all the measures necessary, to ensure that our independence and our frontiers should be respected.
No. 16.

M. Davignon, Belgian Minister for Foreign Affairs to Belgian Ministers at Paris, Berlin, London, Vienna, and St. Petersburg. Brussels, August 1, 1914. (Telegram.)

Carry out instructions contained in my despatch of the 24th July.

(See No. 2.)
No. 17.

M. Davignon, Belgian Minister for Foreign Affairs to Belgian Ministers at Rome, The Hague, Luxemburg.
Brussels, August 1, 1914. (Telegram.)

Carry out instructions contained in my despatch of the 20th July.
(See No. 3.)

No. 70.
Secret Telegram to Russian Representatives abroad.
July 19 (August 1), 1914.

AT midnight the German Ambassador announced to me, on the instruction of his Government, that if within 12 hours, that is by midnight on Saturday, we had not begun to demobilise, not only against Germany, but also against Austria, the German Government would be compelled to give the order for mobilisation. To my enquiry whether this meant war, the Ambassador replied in the negative, but added that we were very near it.

No. 71.
Russian Ambassador at London Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs.
London, July 19 (August 1), 1914.

GREY tells me that he has telegraphed to Berlin that in his opinion the last formula accepted by the Russian Government offers the best prospect as a basis of negotiations for a peaceful settlement of the dispute. At the same time he expressed the hope that no Great Power would open hostilities before this formula had been considered.

No. 72.
Russian Ambassador at London Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs.
London. July 19 (August 1), 1914.

THE British Government have enquired of the French and German Governments whether they will respect the neutrality of Belgium.

France answered in the affirmative, but the German Government stated that they could not give any definite answer to the question.

No. 73.
Russian Ambassador at Paris Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs
Paris, July 19 (August 1), 1914.

THE Austrian Ambassador yesterday visited Viviani and declared to him that Austria, far from harbouring any designs against the integrity of Servia, was in fact ready to discuss the grounds of her grievances against Servia with the other Powers. The French Government are much exercised at Germany’s extraordinary military activity on the French frontier, for they are convinced that, under the guise of Kreigszustand, mobilisation is in reality being carried out.

No. 74.
Russian Ambassador at Paris to Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Paris, July 19 (August 1), 1914.

ON the receipt in Paris of the telegram from the French Ambassador at St. Petersburg, reporting the communication made to you by the German Ambassador respecting Germany’s decision to order general mobilisation to-day, the President of the French Republic signed the order for mobilisation. Lists of the reservists recalled to the colours are being posted up in the streets. The German Ambassador has just visited Viviani, but told him nothing fresh, alleging the impossibility of decyphering the telegrams he has received. Viviani informed him of the signature of the order for mobilisation issued in reply to that of Germany, and expressed to him his amazement that Germany should have taken such a step at a moment when a friendly exchange of views was still in progress between Russia, Austria, and the Powers. He added that mobilisation did not necessarily entail war, and that the German Ambassador might stay in Paris as the Russian Ambassador had remained in Vienna and the Austrian Ambassador in St. Petersburg.

No. 75.
Russian Ambassador at Paris to Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Paris, July 19 (August 1), 1914.

I HEAR from the President that during the last few days the Austrian Ambassador emphatically assured both the President of the Council of Ministers and him that Austria had declared to Russia that she was ready to respect both the territorial integrity of Servia and also her sovereign rights, but that Russia had intentionally received this declaration in silence. I contradicted this flatly.

No. 76.
Note presented by the German Ambassador at St. Petersburg on July 19 (August 1), at 7.10 P.M.

LE Gouvernement Impérial s’est efforcé dès les débuts de la crise de la mener à une solution pacifique. Se rendant &agrave un désir qui lui en avait été exprimé par Sa Majesté l’Empereur de Russie, Sa Majest‚ I’Empereur d’Allemagne d’accord avec l’Angleterre s’etait appliqué à accomplir un rôle médiateur auprès des Cabinets de Vienne et de Saint-Pétersbourg, lorsque la Russie, sans en attendre le résultat, procéda &agrave la mobilisation de la totalité de ses forces de terre et de mer. A la suite de cette mesure menaçante ne motivée par aucun presage militaire de la part de l’Allemagne, l’Empire allemand s’est trouvé vis-à-vis d’un danger grave et imminent. Si le Gouvernement Impérial eût manquè de parer à ce péril, il aurait compromis la sécurit‚ et l’existence même de l’Allemagne. Par conséquent le Gouvernement allemand se vit forcé de s’adresser au Gouvernement de Sa Majesté l’Empereur de Toutes les Russies en insistant sur la cessation desdits actes militaires.

La Russie avant refusé de faire droit à (n’ayant pas cru devoir répondre à*) cette demande et ayant manifesté par ce refils (cette attitude*) que son action était dirigée contre l’AIlemagne, j’ai l’honneur, d’ordre de mon Gouvernement, de faire savoir à votre Excellence ce qui suit:

Sa Majesté l’Empereur, mon auguste Souverain. au nom de l’Empire, relevant le défié se considère en état de guerre avec la Russie.

* Les mots placés entre parenthèses se trouvent dans l’ original. Il faut supposer que deus variantes avaient été préparees d’avanee et que par erreur elles ont été insérées toutes les deux dans la note.

THE Imperial German Government have used every effort since the beginning of the crisis to bring about a peaceful settlement. In compliance with a wish expressed to him by His Majesty the Emperor of Russia, the German Emperor had undertaken, in concert with Great Britain, the part of mediator between the Cabinets of Vienna and St. Petersburg; but Russia, without waiting for any result, proceeded to a general mobilisation of her forces both on land and sea. Ill consequence of this threatening step, which was not justified by any military proceedings on the part of Germany, the German Empire was faced by a grave and imminent danger. If the German Government had failed to guard against this peril, they would have compromised the safety and the very existence of Germany. The German Government were, therefore, obliged to make representations to the Government of His Majesty the Emperor of All the Russias and to insist upon a cessation of the aforesaid military acts. Russia having refused to comply with (not having considered it necessary to answer*) this demand. and having shown by this refusal (this attitude*) that her action was directed against Germany, have the honour, on the instructions of my Government, to inform y our Excellency as follows:

His Majesty the Emperor, my august Sovereign, in the name of the German Empire, accepts the challenge, and considers himself at war with Russia.

* The words in brackets occur in the original. It must be supposed that two variations had been prepared in advance, and that, by mistake, they were both inserted in the note.

No. 56.
Count Szápáry to Count Berchtold.
(Telegraphic.) St. Petersburgh, August 1, 1914.

I visited M. Sazonof to-day, and told him that I had received instructions, but that I must premise that I was entirely ignorant of the present condition of affairs created in Vienna, by the general Russian mobilisation, and that in interpreting the instructions which I had received previously, I must leave this condition out of account. I said that the two instructions of Your Excellency dealt with the misunderstanding that we had declined further negotiations with Russia. This was a mistake, as I had already, without instructions, assured him. Your Excellency was not only quite prepared to deal with Russia on the broadest basis possible, but was also especially inclined to subject the text of our note to a discussion so far as its interpretation was concerned.

I emphasized how much the instructions of Your Excellency afforded me a further proof of goodwill, although I had to remind him that the situation created since then bv the general mobilisation was unknown to me; but I could only hope that the course of events had not already taken us too far; in any case, I regarded it as my duty in the present moment of extreme anxiety to prove once again the goodwill of the Imperial and Royal Government. M. Sazonof replied that he took note with satisfaction of this proof of goodwill but he desired to draw my attention to the fact that negotiations at St. Petersburgh for obvious reasons appeared to promise less prospect of success than negotiations on the neutral terratn of London. I replied that Your Excellency, as I had already observed, started from the point of view that direct contact should be maintained at St. Petersburgh, so that I was not in a position to commit myself with regard to his suggestion as to London, but I would communicate on the subject with your Excellency.

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WWI: Letter of ultimatum

Thursday 23rd July 1914 was the day the Austro-Hungarian ministers had decided on for delivering their ultimatum to Serbia – with 48 hours to reply. On that day, Count von Berchtold, the Austro-Hungarian foreign minister, telegraphed to Count Albert von Mensdorff-Pouilly-Dietrichstein, the Austro-Hungarian ambassador at London:

As among the Entente Powers, Great Britain might be most easily led to form an impartial judgment on the step which we are to-day taking at Belgrade, I request Your Excellency in the conversation which you will have on the 24th instant on the occasion when you hand in our circular note at the Foreign Office, to point out among other matters that it would have been within the power of Servia to render less acute the serious steps which she must expect from us, by spontaneously doing what is necessary in order to start an inquiry on Servian soil against the Servian accomplices in the crime of 28th June, and by bringing to light the threads, which, as has. been proved, lead from Belgrade to Servia.

Up to the present time, although a number of notorious indications point to Belgrade, the Servian Government have not taken any steps in this direction; on the contrary, they have attempted to wipe out the existing traces.

Milan CiganovicThus, from a telegraphic despatch from our Legation at Belgrade, it is to be gathered that the Servian civil servant Ciganovic, who is compromised by the independent testimony of the affidavits of both criminals, on the day of the outrage was still in Belgrade, and three days afterwards, when his name was mentioned in the papers, had already left the town. As is well known also, the director of the Servian press declared that Ciganovic is completely unknown in Belgrade.

With regard to the short time-limit attached to our demand, this must be attributed to our long experience of the dilatory arts of Servia.

The requirements which we demand that Servia should fulfil, and which indeed contain nothing which is not a matter of course in the intercourse between States which are to live in peace and friendship, cannot be made the subject of negotiations and compromise; and, having regard to our economic interests, we cannot take the risk of a method of political action by which it would be open to Servia at pleasure to prolong the crisis which has arisen.

At six in the evening, Baron Giesl von Gieslingen, the Austro-Hungarian Minister at Belgrade, handed this note – attached to the Austro-Hungarian ultimatum to Serbia – to Doctor Laza Patchou, the Acting Prime Minister of Serbia and Minister for Foreign Affairs:


I have the honour to transmit to Your Excellency herewith the enclosed Note which I have received from my Government, addressed to the Royal Serbian Government.

Doctor Laza Patchou then telegraphed all the Serbian Legations abroad:

The Austro-Hungarian Minister handed me this afternoon at 6 p.m. a note in regard to the Serajevo outrage embodying the demands of the Austro-Hungarian Government, and insisting on a reply from the Serbian Government within two days, i.e., by Saturday, at 6 p.m. He informed me orally that he and his staff would leave Belgrade unless a favourable answer were forthcoming within the stipulated time.

Some of the Ministers being absent from Belgrade the Serbian Government have not as yet come to any decision, but I am in a position to state now that the demands are such that no Serbian Government could accept them in their entirety.

On that day the Russian Chargé d’Affaires at Belgrade telegraphed to Sergei Sazonov, the Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs:

The Austrian Minister, at 6 o’clock this evening, presented an ultimatum from his Government to the Minister of Finance, Patchou, in the absence of Pashitch [Nikola Pašić, the Serbian Prime Minister], requiring the acceptance of the demands contained therein within forty-eight hours. Giesl added verbally that, in the event of failure to accept the note integrally within forty-eight hours, he was under instructions to leave Belgrade with the staff of the legation. Pashitch and the other Ministers, who are away electioneering, have been recalled and are expected at Belgrade to-morrow, Friday, at 10 A.M. Patchou, who communicated to me the contents of the note, solicits the help of Russia and declares that no Servian Government could accept the demands of Austria.

The Russian Chargé d’Affaires at Belgrade sent the Serbian Letter of Ultimatum to Sergei Sazonov, the Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs, with this header:

TEXT of the note presented to the Servian Government by the Austro-Hungarian Minister to-day. [Here follows the text of the note]

Jean-Baptist Bienvenu-Martin, Minister for Justice and Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs, wrote to London, Berlin, St. Petersburgh, and Rome that evening:

According to information collected by the French Ambassador at Vienna, the first intention of the Austro-Hungarian Government been to proceed with the greatest severity against Servia while keeping eight army corps ready to start operations.

The disposition at this moment was more conciliatory; in answer to a question put to him by M. Dumaine, whom I instructed to call the attention of the Austro-Hungarian Government to the anxiety aroused in Europe, Baron Macchio stated to our Ambassador that the tone of the Austrian note, and the demands which would be formulated in it, allow us to count on a peaceful result. In view of the customary procedure of the Imperial Chancery I do not know what confidence ought to be placed in these assurances.
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WWI: a military expedition to be concluded by a speedy occupation

Serbian troops retreat through Albania, 1915In the House of Commons on 20th July, the Conservative MP for Plymouth, Shirley Benn, asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, “whether the Servians are now advancing upon Elbasan“?

The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Sir Francis Dyke Acland, Liberal MP for Camborne, replied:

A report has reached me that they have crossed the Albanian frontier, but I have no confirmation of it.

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WWI: the idea of a conflict of widespread dimensions

Alfred Dumaine - authorAlfred Dumaine, the French Ambassador at Vienna, wrote to René Viviani, the French Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, on 19th July 1914:

The Chancellor of the Consulate, who has sent me his half-yearly report, in which he sums up the various economic facts which have been the subject of his study since the beginning of the year, has added a section containing political information emanating from a trustworthy source.

I asked him briefly to sum up the information which he has obtained regarding the impending presentation of the Austrian note to Servia, which the papers have for some days been persistently announcing.

You will find the text of this memorandum interesting on account of the accurate information which it contains.

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WWI: Aviation section

On 18th July 2014, Dr. M. Spalaikovitch, the Serbian Minister at St Petersburg, telegraphed to: Nikola Pašić, Serbian Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs (presumably, in response to the Prime Minister’s long telegram to all the legations abroad on 14th July):

I have spoken to the Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs on the subject of the provocative attitude of the Korrespondenzbureau and the Vienna press.

M. Sazonof told me a few days ago that he wondered why the Austrian Government were doing nothing to put a stop to the futile agitation on the part of the press in Vienna which, after all, frightened nobody, and was only doing harm to Austria herself.

On 18th July 1914, the U.S. Congress formed the Aviation Section, U.S. Signal Corps, giving official status to aircraft within the U.S. Army for the first time.

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WWI: Italy neutral, London silent

On Friday 17th July 1914, M. M. S. Boskovitch, the Serbian Minister at London, telegraphed to Nikola Pašić, Serbian Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs:

The Austrian Embassy is making very great efforts to win over the English press against us, and to induce it to favour the idea that Austria must give a good lesson to Serbia. The Embassy is submitting to the news editors cuttings from our newspapers as a proof of the views expressed in our press. The situation may become more acute during the next few weeks. No reliance should be placed in the ostensibly peaceable statements of Austro-Hungarian official circles, as the way is being prepared for diplomatic pressure upon Serbia, which may develop into an armed attack. It is probable that as soon as Austria-Hungary has taken action at Belgrade she will change her attitude and will seek to humiliate Serbia.

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WII: “Energetically suppressed”

On Thursday 16th July 1914, Dr. M. Yovanovitch, Serbian Chargé d’Affaires at Berlin, telegraphed to Nikola Pašić, Serbian Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs:

The Secretary of State has informed me that the reports of the German Minister at Belgrade point to the existence of a Great Serbian propaganda, which should be energetically suppressed by the [Serbian] Government in the interest of good relations with Austria-Hungary.

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WWI: Four letters from Vienna

M. Yov. M. Yovanovitch, the Serbian Minister at Vienna, wrote three letters to Nikola Pašić, the Prime Minister of Serbia and Minister for Foreign Affairs from Vienna on 15th July 1914.


The most important question for us is, what, if any, are the intentions of the Austro-Hungarian Government as regards the Serajevo outrage. Until now I have been unable to find this out, and my other colleagues are in a similar position. The word has now been passed round here not to tell anybody anything.
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