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World War One
In the early 1900’s, there was much stress in Europe. Imperial competition, a strong feeling of nationalism and the fear of war, caused countries to ally with one another. Also, fear of an arms race further increased this tension and contributed to the outburst of war. Although Germany could be held most responsible for causing World War One, she was not alone in setting the wheels of war in motion. Several countries had their own reasons for wanting battle. A Serbian terrorist group, The Black Hand, sparked the match to war by assassinating Archduke Francis Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary. In retaliation, Austria-Hungary purposely sent an absurd and impossible ultimatum to Serbia knowing that she would reject it and hence giving Austria-Hungary justification for declaring war. But the majority of the blame for the first world war could be put on Germany. She pressured Austria-Hungary into declaring war on Serbia because she needed an excuse to fight. Germany wanted to prove that she was supreme. The assassination, the ultimatum and Germany’s quest for power all contributed to the firing of the ultimate war engine.
Considering that Austria-Hungary was responding in a retaliatory way, she nevertheless was a significant factor in ensuring that war was inevitable. On June 28, 1914, a Serbian terrorist group killed Archduke Francis Ferdinand, future ruler of Austria-Hungary, and his wife Sophia while visiting Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina which was a former Serbian state recently annexed by Austria-Hungary. Gravrilo Princip, a nineteen-year old student from Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, was the young man who caused the deaths of Francis Ferdinand and his wife. This event created anger and hatred towards Serbia by Austro-Hungarians. Austria-Hungary discussed her options of retaliation with her ally, Germany. The Germans pressured her to stand firm against the Serbs offering their support in combat. Hence Count Leopold von Berchtold, the Austro-Hungarian Foreign Minister, sent an ultimatum to the Serbs on July 23, 1914. “He insisted that the Serbs punish all those who had taken part in the plot. He demanded that Austrian officials be allowed to go into Serbia to see that this was done.” (Snyder, 08) Von Berchtold knew that the latter part of his demand was outrageous. “To Serbia, this meant giving up her rights as an independent state. No country allows foreign agents to act within its own borders” (Snyder, 08) As predicted the ultimatum was turned down prompting Austria-Hungary to declare war on Serbia. It did not even cross Austria-Hungary’s mind what was going to happen when she started to mobilize her troops into Serbia-she was just defending her imperial rights.
Although Serbia was the one who opened the gates for war, she apparently had no idea that it would result in a world war. The assassination of an heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne was the precipitating factor. Serbia, with her strong feeling of nationalism, felt humiliated when the Archduke, visited her former province. “The Serbs were proud, fierce people, and they were bitterly resentful that the Bosnians should be ruled by foreigners. They claimed that Bosnia should belong to them.” (Musman, 09) In fact, “Berchtold had harried and repeatedly thwarted Serbia during the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913” (Hayes, 359) thereby laying the foundation of hatred among the Serbs. In addition, the Serbian government certainly knew about the conspiracy, yet gave no warning to the Austro-Hungarian government. This in turn made Austria-Hungary furious. But Serbia was not too worried about Austria-Hungary’s and Germany’s reactions. She knew that Russia would support her if war broke out. If Serbia had only known what trouble lay ahead, she might have thought twice about her actions.
If any country was to be held the most responsible for starting this war, it was definitely Germany. They were in it one hundred and ten percent. After the assassination, the German Kaiser, Wilhelm II, agreed with Berchtold that the Serbs needed to be punished. Germany promised to help them (Austro-Hungarians), in fact, it could be said that Germany gave Austria-Hungary a “blank cheque”. “We do know that William (Wilhelm) II definitely pledged Germany’s unqualified support of Austria in any action it might take against Serbia, even if such action involved war with Russia.” (Hayes, 360) Indeed Austria-Hungary called war against the Serbs with Germany’s help. “Without this encouragement
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Europe, Military history by country, Causes of World War I, Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, Austro-Hungarian rule in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Landlocked countries, Member states of the United Nations, Black Hand, Count Leopold Berchtold, Austria-Hungary, Gavrilo Princip, World War I
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