Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Countdown to War. Day 4, 1 July: so there weren't just Serbs in Bosnia. Who would have guessed?

One hundred years ago today, Wednesday 1 July 1914, our young Mancunian railwayman and his friends, leafing through their Manchester Guardian, would have read that the bodies of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie, brought to the coast from Sarajevo, had been picked up by a battleship of the Austrian navy.
Austria has a navy? Martin might have asked. How does a country without a coastline get an Empire that stretches to the sea?

Inland, the assassinations had sparked trouble:

Violent demonstrations have been made in many parts of Bosnia by Catholics and Moslems against the Orthodox Serbs. Many shops and houses have been looted and several persons injured. The disorders, in part no doubt genuine proofs of devotion to the Hapsburgs [the imperial family], would be more important than they are were they not largely due to an old political animosity.

Curious. So there were three communities in Bosnia, not just the Serbs. And they didn’t like each other very much. Nor were the problems limited to Bosnia: in the Diet (parliament) of the Austrian province of Croatia, “an angry quarrel between the Croatian Nationalists and the Croat-Servian coalition caused a suspension of the sitting.”

More internal dissension, then. 

That chap, Princip, the student who shot the Archduke and his wife, was a Serb nationalist, but in the province next door it seemed there were Croats who were just as nationalist in their own cause. Always a recipe for trouble, that kind of thing. Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia were none of his business, of course, but he couldnt help feeling it would be a good idea to sort out those tensions before they became really nasty.

Sir Edward Grey, Foreign Secretary
He had plenty on his plate.
Long before Martin or his mates knew it
In another piece, the Manchester Guardian turned its attention to Sir Edward Grey, the British Foreign Secretary. Not in connection with Austria or Serbia, but with the other end of the Balkans altogether, where Turks and Greeks were being thoroughly vile to each other, and leaving a trail of bodies behind them. Challenged by his critics, Grey had one of his officials reply:

...as regards your proposal that his Majesty’s Government should suggest to the Greek and Turkish Governments their acceptance of an international commission to regulate the reciprocal emigration of their Christian and Moslem subjects, and the adjustment of losses thereby incurred, I am to state that Sir E. Grey considers that these objects should be attainable by the Turco-Greek Commission already designed for the purpose and, further, it is his experience that offers of mediation are seldom acceptable to Powers at variance unless they can be made at the desire of both of them.

Yes. If there was too much bad blood between them for the parties to agree among themselves, mediation was never going to work. The idea of swapping populations, on the other hand, was a good one. It made no sense to have Christians living in Muslim countries or Muslims in Christendom. The faiths weren’t designed to get on with each other.

How could there ever be peace between them?


Anonymous said...

Enjoying it. And learning. Thanks


David Beeson said...

Good. delighted to know it