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Austria-Hungary’s Policy towards Serbia in terms of Wars of Revenge

Prior to the year 1914, there erupted tensions between countries in Europe. It disrupted the peaceful life as it happened during the summer holiday. The assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand led to high pressure all over Europe. This fateful incidence sparkled wars across Europe. It had negative impact on the Austria-Hungary’s administration as it led to the idea of revenge against Serbia. A Serbian known as Gavrilo Princip carried out the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. Gavrilo was a secret military operative from a group called the Black Hand. The occurrences that led to the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand are complex, and they are linked with the formation of Alliances among key powers in Europe. In fact, these Alliances of countries were partly responsible for the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria.

There were six key powers in Europe, but they were divided into two groups: the Triple Alliance with Austria-Hungary, Italy, and Germany in it and the Triple Entente comprising of Russia, Britain, and France respectively. The formation of these groups was aimed at support and assistance after the assassination. In the event of the assassination, Austria-Hungary took measures that were a way of responding to it and, actually, revenge on the Serbians. They gave Serbia an ultimatum. Policies refer to the simple philosophies by which an administration guided. Thus, this paper seeks to analyse the hard-line policies used by Austria-Hungary towards the Serbs.

The domestic policy of Austria-Hungary was “divide and rule”. This basic strategy was used by the country to attain its economic strength. However, it had a weakness too since it was aimed at treating the minority unequally. In this case, the Serbs were highly affected because even the efforts made by the Taaffe’s ministry to satisfy the minorities failed. The aim of this policy was set in such a manner that the great threats to the monarchy were faced with oppression.

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This fatal policy of the Austrian administration intended to suppress the Serbians due to its strict regulations. The Austrian government issued a declaration that condemned Serbia to be an inland state in Europe even though it was the neighbour of other South Slavs’ countries. This declaration debarred Serbia from owning any seaport. This artificial isolation from the sea was a costly action for the Serbs. Moreover, this debarment meant that the Serbs were entirely denied a chance to interact with the great powers, and, therefore, they were denied appropriate international communication and commercial activities. The activities of Serbia could not be well monitored by other European nations since it lacked an access to the external world. This policy lowered the sovereignty of the Serbians.

Due to the rapid growth of the Serbian state after attaining its sovereign in 1878, the Austrian government tried to minimize the Serbs’ independence as a way of consolidation with the dual monarchy. Earlier, before the killing of the heir to the throne of Austria at Sarajevo, Austria-Hungary in 1908 decided to annex Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was an extremely important region to the Ottoman Empire. This decision by the Austria-Hungary faced opposition from the Serbs since it had significant linkage with their geographical and ethical origins. Hence, annexation meant destroying their culture and families through the pan-Bosnia policy. This annexation instigated much bitterness in Serbia, leading to Serbia ending the crisis after Germany supported the annexation of the two regions. The invasion permanently broke the relation of the Austrians with the Serbs and with their allies the Russians.

In 1903, the state of affairs worsened because of the administration of Hapsburg Empire that used the strategy of weakening Serbia by assassinating its king. King Alexander and his wife were killed in an army coup. As a result, the Karadjordjevic kinfolk were recalled to power, and the successive reopening of the political organization ushered a period of radical cabinets. Serbia’s administration now cooperatively sought other trading associates; when Austria-Hungary applied the old-style economic sanctions, causing a breakdown in trade relationships known as Pig War of 1906-1911, it ruined Austro-Hungarian supremacy over Serbia forever. In addition, after economic liberation came political deviation: no longer reliant on the empire's custom, Serbia gradually gave more free rein to pro-independence, anti-Habsburg Empire policies. The phase set a series of crises that finished in July, 1914.

In the period from 1903 to 1914, Serbia was under the rule of King Peter I who was able to resist external and internal challenges because of the country’s functioning democracy, through the foreign policy and national objective drive. This mode of ruling faced challenges both internal and external because of military rivalries and victory in the Balkan battles. Earlier, the Serbs were under the power of the Austro-Hungarians, but later, they began to pursue the foreign policy that saw them grouping with France and Russia. This policy pushed Austria-Hungary to support Albania in employing terror against the Serbs. This aim was achieved through Viennese propaganda; thus, Austria-Hungary wanted Albania to take control of the whole region. Moreover, the Hungarians wanted to set an assimilation policy that was aimed at subjecting the Serbians in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The adoption of the Croat-Serbian policy was aimed at supporting cooperation between the two sides. The effect of this unification raised more anxiety in Austro-Hungarians than in the Serbs.

The rise of the Balkan League took place after Serbia decided to destabilize the dominance of Austria-Hungary in the Balkans. It disturbed the Austro-Hungarian government since its formation with Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro and Greece as its members meant the strengthening of Serbian country. In addition, the Balkans managed to get back Macedonia, while Austria-Hungary saw the Serbs as a direct threat due to its rise as a core South-Slavic nation. The Austro-Hungarian political leaders tried to take substantial actions to avert further establishment of the Serbs. These actions were a way of humiliating the Serbs by the Austria- Hungary to maintain their status as a great power in Europe; hence, the conquering of Serbia was inevitable.

The use of anti-Serb propaganda was aimed at making the Serbians change their foreign policy that focused on France and Russia. Plans to reorganise the boundaries were initiated with the calls from Vienna pursuing the abolishment of Serbian independence. It made the policy makers of Austria-Hungary believe that it was possible only through dividing and conquering of the Serbs and that making it one of the Hapsburg provinces would make the Serbians follow the instructions of the Austria-Hungary. It was the same it did to the Bosnia-Herzegovina.

In 1914, Austro-Hungarian Empire reinforced by the Germans used the event as a way to invade Serbia with an intention of terminating its existence as a sovereign state. This invasion was seen as a way to have quick peace; thus, Austro-Hungary had to plan the attack quickly to avoid Russia engaging in aiding the Serbian government. For the Austrians, it was a way of reducing the risk of an attack on the Hapsburg Empire. The attack on Serbia was started by Austro-Hungarian government in 1914. The Germany was helping Austria-Hungary, and if any country fought back, Germany was supposed to provide assistance as its ally. Thus, this event became the beginning of the First World War. The Hapsburg Empire feared to attack the Serbs at first since they did not want to appear as the provokers. Hence, they gave Serbia an ultimatum that they had to accept; otherwise, the Austrians would take action against them. The ultimatum was accepted by the Serbian government, but it faced rejection from the Serbs. Their reaction caught the attention of the German kaiser, who supported the war that would punish the Serbs. The war against the Serbs was declared after that, on July 28, 1914.

An inquiry into the killing of Franz Ferdinand was a requirement as stated by the Austrian government in the ultimatum sent to the Serbian regime. In accordance with it, the Austro-Hungarian administration wanted Serbia to allow them to hold investigations of the killing. Serbia insisted that they were conducting their own investigation and would not agree with Austro-Hungarian involvement in any internal investigation, which meant non-cooperation. Austria demanded a response within two days. While Austria and the world waited for the Serbs’ reactions, there was the likelihood of the battle due to the drawn line of war by the allies. This ultimatum forced Serbia to plea for support from the Russian. According to Russia, the death of Franz Ferdinand was used by Germany in its interest of defending its area, and thus, the Russian government called for the deployment of the military. Meanwhile, the Austro-Hungarians were readily preparing for war, and the government of Serbia called for deployment of the military too.

The discriminatory measures commenced by the Austria-Hungary were aimed at raising internal tension. The abolition of civil ad latus was an action undertaken as a way of introducing a post that was hold by the civil governor and the military. This introduction of severe measures was for the Bosnian Serbs a way of trials since there was a threat of war and the crisis after the killing of Franz Ferdinand, involvement in which the Bosnian Serbs were accused of. In fact, after the success of the Montenegro and Serbia in the Balkans, Austria set an operation that aimed to oppress the entire Serbia that was perceived as dangerous to the Empire. This aggression against the Serbs continued with the manoeuvring along the Serbian boundary, which was connected with the visit of Archduke Ferdinand to Sarajevo. This visit was a humiliation to the whole Serbia. Later, the killing of the Archduke escalated tension more, and the situation that the Serbian government was in just from the finished Balkan War became only worse. Serbia was exhausted financially and had limited military personnel; therefore, Serbia sought to prevent the war. However, the ultimatum broke the diplomatic approach to dealing with issues. The warning failed to materialise due to its incompatibility with the sovereignty of the Serbs as it insisted on allowing the Austro-Hungarian specialists into searching for the perpetrators of the killing. This compelling force aimed to lower the esteem and status of the nation.

At an international level, the Austro-Hungarians and the Serbs were about to face marginalization. The Serbs disliked to be treated as a humble nation. Austro-Hungarian government had to remember the involvements of Turkey Empire, the recently ruined of South Eastern Europe Empire. The increasing influence of Serbs led to the formation of the pan-Slavic nationalism that kept being vulnerable to the dual monarchy, and they did not want to share the Turkish fate. The monarchy should have taken an active position to show its influence on survival and to stop unbearable conditions in the southeast. The primary belief was never to encroach on Serbs’ independence and not to act in the summer of 1914 would lead to greater chaos later. The military notably Conrad pushed for a preventive warfare. This policy rose out of the sense that any adjournment would cause a looming loss of military gain. Thus, another considerable factor is that of 1914 both sides believed that they were in a resilient position to win if conflict broke out. The Austrians backed by the Germany while Serbia got support from the Russians. None of the side considered the prospect that the war would spread across Europe and that their differences settled by negotiation. The Austro-Hungarian ambition was a victorious and short, but a confined war against Serbs was aiming at destroying the military prospective of its agitated neighbour. A little war had become nearly usual, a standard feature of foreign affairs. The Balkan had seen so many wars in the pre-1914 that warfare was rare hence; there was insignificant fear of war shared with a significant share of fatalism.

As for the choices made by the Austria-Hungary and the Serbia in that period, one can add some additional explanations why those two countries went in fighting prior to 1914. Indeed, both administrations held to their credibility and prestige were on the track. Now, we know that conflicts are not the only way out of an extreme political war. During the time, it assumed that an Empire according to existing principles could only protect its interests with honour by vigour of arms; to negotiate or give way without a struggle was to invite degradation.

In conclusion, with understanding of the inherent national bitterness within and without the Dual Monarchy, it is appealing to point the completely sorry consequence of Austria-Serbia associations in this period to patriotism alone. Friendly relationships between Austro-Hungarian and Serbian is utterly unbearable, exclusively after the Ausgleich. Nevertheless, even if this is real, the strategy of economic and political supremacy embraced by the Monarchy's political leaders seems equally despondent and destined to failure. One left deliberating at the extraordinary inclination of great powers in imposing on hopeful client countries policies that might undoubtedly intended to aggravate a hostile response.

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