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What is it about nice people that attract total idiots?Nice people are martyrs. Idiots are evangelists.


Monday, July 7, 2014

This week in WWI:round and round in circles

On the 6th of July, Kaiser Willie went on his summer yacht trip into the Baltic as if nothing was going on.  And in England, Sir Edward Grey was telling German ambassador Lichnowsky that "well, we've had talks with the Russians on naval issues, but it's nothing for YOU to worry about."  A line that Grey may well have believed and Lichnowsky was more than happy to believe.  But for the realists involved, things were a might different.

In Bosnia, all those who were going to get arrested for the murder of Franz Ferdinand and Sophie were in custody.  In addition to the main players, whose fates have been discussed earlier, late recruits Vaso Cubrilovic and Cuijetko Popvic were arrested and sentenced.  They were released on the fall of the empire in 1918-8;  Cubrilovic became a university professor and later, Tito's Minister of Forests; Popovic became a curator at the Sarajevo museum.  Now the token Muslim, Mohammed Mehmedbasic, was another story.  He slipped into Montenegro, and not quietly.  Because of his bragging, the Montenegran police had to pick him up, but his disposition would cause a problem.  Montenegro had extradition agreements with Austria, but turning him over would cause mucho problemas with the mostly Serb population.  Thus, he was conveniently allowed to escape, and this time stayed quiet- until 1917, when Serbian Prime Minister Pasic decided to get rid of Apis once and for all, and Mehmetbasic was one of the group hauled in with the Black Hand leader and military chief.  Mehmetbasic was the only one to escape execution; and when finally pardoned in 1919, he took up the far quieter life of a gardener and handyman.

Mehmedbasic, gentleman gardiner and former terrorist

Meanwhile, the powers that be in Austria met on the seventh, trying to work out a "battle plan" to present to Franz Joseph that would meet the German hopes for a blitzkrieg attack on Belgrade.  Standing in the way, of course, was Tisza, now ready to get his pound of flesh from Berchtold for letting Hoyos slip off to Germany last week.  Tisza, presented with more evidence of Serbian involvement in the assassination, gave a little bit; but he demanded that it go through diplomatic channels first.  A fair ultimatum had to be issued, with evidence to back it up; and Hungary had to be assured that agreeing to this wouldn't bring the Romanians to war on Serbia's side.  (As events unfolded in 1915-17, Tisza needn't have worried about the Romanian "Army".)  And actually, this delay was just fine with War chief Conrad;  he'd just discovered that due to the "harvest leave" bill he'd signed off on in the spring, nearly half of his standing army had just been furloughed, with most of them not coming back until the 19th of the month.

The next day found Berchtold sending Tisza's good friend, Baron Stephan Burian von Rejacz, a war supporter, to talk Tisza over to the dark side; while in St Pete, Russian Foreign Minister Sazonov, long thought wishy washy, was telling Austrian Charge d' Affairs Czernin that Austria had better consider their moves carefully "lest they set their foot upon a dangerous path."On the 9th, while Berchtold was trying to convince FJ that Germany had their backs and "Concrete demands could be leveled" against the Serbs, a little comic opera was going on in Belgrade.  The Austrian ambassador, Baron Gisel von Gieslingen, had just returned to his post after extended time in Vienna, and Russian ambassador Nicolai Hartwig was ready to jump him about the situation.  But first, he had to clear the air about some "rumors" going around.  First, it was NOT true that he had been playing bridge the night of the assassination, and second it was NOT true that the Russian embassy refused to fly their flag at half-staff for FF's death, and third it WAS true that he sent his most sincere condolences.

Gieslingen... not a fan of bridge after this.

Gieslingen was perfectly willing to go along with this and work towards a peaceful solution, but once again a dark puppet master pulled his strings.  Just 20 minutes after arriving at the Austrian embassy, Hartwig had a heart attack and dropped dead.  Immediately the Serbs started spreading rumors of foul play; and the next morning, the Italian charge d' affairs dropped  in on Gieslingen and told him there HAD been a bridge party, the Russian flag HAD NOT been lowered, and everything the dearly departed told the gullible ambassador was a lie.

In the meantime, Conrad told Berchtold that with his troops all picking the cotton (or whatever), the earliest that they could possibly send an ultimatum to Serbia and be able to back it up was the 22nd.  Berchtold was given a gift here- he could get his ducks in a row, possibly even bring Tisza over by then.  Maybe even sound out the Russian intentions.  The one thing he wouldn't do in this time frame was what German Secretary of State Jagow asked him on the 11th (after missing all the previous fun on his honeymoon):  Gather more evidence before confronting the Serbs, and working a deal with their Italian "allies" to keep them at least neutral in the coming storm.

The funny thing is, Berchtold wouldn't end up being forced to be the one to talk to the Italians.  Berchtold would be fired after the early defeats in Galicia, and Baron von Burian would have the job.  Burian would tell the Italians to piss off, and when Italy entered the war, he would be replaced by Czernin.  Czernin, in turn, would get canned when new Emperor Karl was exposed as negotiating with the French in March 1917, and after trying to blame everything on the Emperor (even trying to get him to abdicate), the job would go back to Burian, who resigned in 1918 when he saw no hope of keeping the Empire together; and he would be replaced by Count Julius Andrassy, whose father had had the job 40 years before!


  1. Thanks, perfesser! I'm learning a lot!

  2. Chris:
    Ahh, well I think I know NOW, why I never see ANY board games pertaining to WW1...who could possibly keep track of ALL those "players"?
    (actually there was ONE...called DOGFIGHT - aerial combat made by MB back in the 1960s...but NO games with political intrigue...and who could blame them?)
    "round and round in circles"...sounds about right with all these European rulers, politicians, etc.
    One would have thought they'd politicize one another to an end, rather than wage actual WAR.
    Talk about being convoluted...geez!

    Good chapter.
    stay safe up there.