Who is to blame for World War 1? (Poll) Watch

Poll: Which country should be blamed for WW1? (Poll)
Austria-Hungary (5)
20%
Britain (2)
8%
France (1)
4%
Germany (7)
28%
Russia (2)
8%
Serbia (4)
16%
No country desired war, it was more of an accidental slide (4)
16%
zimbo97
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This is quite an interesting topic, there is an argument to be said for all 6 options, although it is undoubtedly stronger for some.

As all of them undertook some action that led to war, it is more asking which country undertook the most actions and actually wanted a general European war.
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BorussiaDortmund
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I actually believe the first world war caused it because it opened up the possibility of another world war in the future
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whorace
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Germany invading Belgium was significant. Before that I think it was largely just an accident in the Balkans that was always going to happen due to tensions between Russia, the Ottomans and Austria-Hungary. I studied Bismarck and have difficulty understanding why he is seen as this great and peaceful diplomat, it seems if anything his legacy required such stability and skill and manipulation that eventually someone was going to lose it and get tired of his crap legacy.
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LaMandarine
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Romania.
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CplSkippy
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Hitler was the spark that lit the bonfire.


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ageshallnot
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It's a subject that is far too complex for a poll or even a simple answer. However, if backed up against a wall and forced to choose I would put up two candidates - Germany and Russia. The case against Germany is well known, so I'll indict Russia...

1) Russia encouraged Serbian nationalism in a deliberate attempt to extend its influence in the Balkans at the expense of Austro-Hungary. These nationalist feelings spawned organisations such as the Black Hand and led ultimately to Sarajevo.

2) It is often accepted that during the crisis Russia 'had' to support its client, Serbia, against Austro-Hungarian threats. This is far too simplistic a view. If Serbia had been crushed then yes, there would have been a huge loss of Russian prestige in the Balkans, but Russia's vital interests were not at stake. This contrasts with Austria, whose very existence was threatened by the the assassination.

Even if Serbia had been emasculated, Russia could possibly have reverted to supporting Bulgarian ambitions in the region, which it had done until the Second Balkan War. In addition, Russia's Great Military Programme of reform and expansion would have tilted the balance of power in its favour by around 1917. It had no 'need' to act precipitately.

3) The step which made European war (as opposed to a local conflict) inevitable was Russian mobilisation. The process began on 26th July when Tsar Nicholas II ordered the 'Period Preparatory to War'. As official Russian documents admit, these preparations were to be carried out in secret - masked by diplomatic obfuscations - in order to lull the enemy into a false sense of optimism that war could be avoided. During this period Russian ministers and diplomats lied brazenly about the military measures which were taking place. Additionally, when Russia published its official documents shortly after war started, the date of mobilisation was changed to come after the Austro-Hungarian mobilisation rather than before - making Russia look innocent.

On the 29th, Nicholas ordered general mobilisation but rescinded this shortly afterwards following confusion over a newly-arrived telegram from the Kaiser appealing for peace to be maintained. When ordering the stand-down, Nicholas stated that 'I will not become responsible for a monstrous slaughter', thus demonstrating that he knew what Russian mobilisation would lead to. Under pressure from his ministers and generals. the Tsar ordered general mobilisation once again on the 30th. Faced with this, Germany had to respond and on the 31st an ultimatum was sent to St Petersburg; when Russia declined to back down Germany declared war on the 1st August.
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Rakas21
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(Original post by zimbo97)
This is quite an interesting topic, there is an argument to be said for all 6 options, although it is undoubtedly stronger for some.

As all of them undertook some action that led to war, it is more asking which country undertook the most actions and actually wanted a general European war.
Most of the blame goes to Serbia, secondary blame goes to Germany.

Serbia gets the blame for killing the Austrian guy (Austria-Hungary declaring war was legitimate). Germany gets part of the blame for essentially getting involved and pulling everybody else in. It could otherwise have been a rather simple and quick victory for Austria-Hungary.

If the above post is correct then it may be Russia which should take Germany's blame.
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ageshallnot
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(Original post by Rakas21)
Most of the blame goes to Serbia, secondary blame goes to Germany.

Serbia gets the blame for killing the Austrian guy (Austria-Hungary declaring war was legitimate). Germany gets part of the blame for essentially getting involved and pulling everybody else in. It could otherwise have been a rather simple and quick victory for Austria-Hungary.

If the above post is correct then it may be Russia which should take Germany's blame.
While various Serbian officials such as Apis (the head of military intelligence) and Tankositch were directly involved in the plot, there is no evidence that the Serbian government was. However, they knew about its existence and failed to make any real effort to prevent it.

I'd be interested to know what you mean by Germany 'getting involved and pulling everyone else in'.
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Rakas21
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(Original post by ageshallnot)
While various Serbian officials such as Apis (the head of military intelligence) and Tankositch were directly involved in the plot, there is no evidence that the Serbian government was. However, they knew about its existence and failed to make any real effort to prevent it.

I'd be interested to know what you mean by Germany 'getting involved and pulling everyone else in'.
In the same way that Afghanistan was legitimately invaded due to Al Qaeda i tend to view the response as legitimate. The Crown prince and only male heir was killed in Serbia, by Serbians and as you say there were people involved from the government. Imagine if one of Queen Victoria's children was killed and what our response would have been.

By backing Austria-Hungary militarily and invading France and Belgium, they escalated a minor conflict to a world war. Your post above though would suggest that actually Russia should take that blame and forced Germany's hand.

Basically, the only legitimate war was Serbia vs Austria-Hungary.
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ageshallnot
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(Original post by Rakas21)
In the same way that Afghanistan was legitimately invaded due to Al Qaeda i tend to view the response as legitimate. The Crown prince and only male heir was killed in Serbia, by Serbians and as you say there were people involved from the government. Imagine if one of Queen Victoria's children was killed and what our response would have been.

By backing Austria-Hungary militarily and invading France and Belgium, they escalated a minor conflict to a world war. Your post above though would suggest that actually Russia should take that blame and forced Germany's hand.

Basically, the only legitimate war was Serbia vs Austria-Hungary.
The people involved were not from the Serbian government, they were officials, although in the case of Apis a senior figure, acting without authority. BTW I'm not disagreeing with your conclusion that Serbia has its share of responsibility, though I don't believe that it deserves the primary blame. The escalation from a local issue to a European (/World) war lies elswewhere.

Your original post about Germany implied that Germany had stuck its nose in, which was why I asked for clarification. It was Austro-Hungary which went to Germany for support, not the other way round. When asked, however, Germany readily agreed to support A-H in whatever action it decided to take against Serbia. This was the infamous 'blank cheque' - one of the three main areas of blame which can be attached to Germany.

As I stated originally, I am in no way exonerating Germany. You correctly point out the invasion of Belgium, which was a result of the rigidity of the German war plan - another key area of blame. This brought Britain into the war, though not for the usually-cited 'honourable' reason of defending poor little Belgium. Whether Britain had decided to fight or not, however, the war would still have been a massive European conflict.Russia too often escapes its huge share of the responsibility. You make a reasonable argument that Austro-Hungary was 'entitled' to take action against Serbia because of the significance of the assassination - a point I also made above. If A-H had been let alone to settle matters with Serbia then it would indeed have been a local conflict and perhaps would have gone down in history as what you term a 'legitimate' war. But which country stopped that happening? Russia had no absolutely vital interests at stake. Its interest in defending Serbia was simple power politics aimed ultimately at weakening Austro-Hungary. Therefore Russia's aggressive actions cannot be justified in the same way and Its concealed mobilisation did most definitely force Germany's hand in the final stages of the crisis.
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zimbo97
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(Original post by ageshallnot)
The people involved were not from the Serbian government, they were officials, although in the case of Apis a senior figure, acting without authority. BTW I'm not disagreeing with your conclusion that Serbia has its share of responsibility, though I don't believe that it deserves the primary blame. The escalation from a local issue to a European (/World) war lies elswewhere.

Your original post about Germany implied that Germany had stuck its nose in, which was why I asked for clarification. It was Austro-Hungary which went to Germany for support, not the other way round. When asked, however, Germany readily agreed to support A-H in whatever action it decided to take against Serbia. This was the infamous 'blank cheque' - one of the three main areas of blame which can be attached to Germany.

As I stated originally, I am in no way exonerating Germany. You correctly point out the invasion of Belgium, which was a result of the rigidity of the German war plan - another key area of blame. This brought Britain into the war, though not for the usually-cited 'honourable' reason of defending poor little Belgium. Whether Britain had decided to fight or not, however, the war would still have been a massive European conflict.Russia too often escapes its huge share of the responsibility. You make a reasonable argument that Austro-Hungary was 'entitled' to take action against Serbia because of the significance of the assassination - a point I also made above. If A-H had been let alone to settle matters with Serbia then it would indeed have been a local conflict and perhaps would have gone down in history as what you term a 'legitimate' war. But which country stopped that happening? Russia had no absolutely vital interests at stake. Its interest in defending Serbia was simple power politics aimed ultimately at weakening Austro-Hungary. Therefore Russia's aggressive actions cannot be justified in the same way and Its concealed mobilisation did most definitely force Germany's hand in the final stages of the crisis.
Interesting and detailed answers.

You focus on the crisis from the assassination in July 1914, but wouldn't you agree that this was just the trigger and that war was almost guaranteed to occur at some point. Any one of the Balkan crises in 1909, 1912 and 1913 could have led to war.

The British-French-Russian entente v. Germany-Austria alliance pitted the two massive power blocs against each other, they had been building up their armies and navies and ratcheting up pressure for the previous decade.
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ageshallnot
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(Original post by zimbo97)
Interesting and detailed answers.

You focus on the crisis from the assassination in July 1914, but wouldn't you agree that this was just the trigger and that war was almost guaranteed to occur at some point. Any one of the Balkan crises in 1909, 1912 and 1913 could have led to war.

The British-French-Russian entente v. Germany-Austria alliance pitted the two massive power blocs against each other, they had been building up their armies and navies and ratcheting up pressure for the previous decade.
Thank you.

To that list, you could add the Morocco crisis of 1911. However, I would turn your argument on its head and argue that the very fact that Europe survived successive crises indicates that there was nothing inevitable about a general war. In each of these criticial periods the politicians pulled back from war; in 1914 they did not so I therefore look to that crisis for the key reasons. If transported back in time and faced with an essay title something like...

'"The division of Europe into two opposing armed camps/The military build-up/Both made a war such as that which broke out in 1914 inevitable/a matter of time." Discuss.'

then I would gleefully attack the concept of 'inevitability' or what was meant by 'a matter of time'. As well as pointing out the crises which did not lead to war, I would argue that an international political situation two massive, opposing power blocs, each building up their military capability, does not necessarily mean outright conflict, e.g. the Cold War. There would be other points, of course, but you get my drift.

I'm not dismissing your points out of hand, btw. For example, I believe that one of the key factors in driving Britain into the welcoming arms of the Franco-Russian Entente was the German naval expansion.
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whorace
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(Original post by ageshallnot)
Thank you.

To that list, you could add the Morocco crisis of 1911. However, I would turn your argument on its head and argue that the very fact that Europe survived successive crises indicates that there was nothing inevitable about a general war. In each of these criticial periods the politicians pulled back from war; in 1914 they did not so I therefore look to that crisis for the key reasons. If transported back in time and faced with an essay title something like...

'"The division of Europe into two opposing armed camps/The military build-up/Both made a war such as that which broke out in 1914 inevitable/a matter of time." Discuss.'

then I would gleefully attack the concept of 'inevitability' or what was meant by 'a matter of time'. As well as pointing out the crises which did not lead to war, I would argue that an international political situation two massive, opposing power blocs, each building up their military capability, does not necessarily mean outright conflict, e.g. the Cold War. There would be other points, of course, but you get my drift.

I'm not dismissing your points out of hand, btw. For example, I believe that one of the key factors in driving Britain into the welcoming arms of the Franco-Russian Entente was the German naval expansion.
"One day the great European War will come out of some damned foolish thing in the Balkans"

Bismarck, 1888

If we look at the alliances, what's interesting is some actually pressed Russia to stay out of it (Witte the former PM and finance minister argued on economic grounds that it would be disastrous) some also thought a German alliance more preferable, but the Russians generally disliked German culture and liked the French. What needs to be remembered is Russia was under pressure from the Ottomans as well who were always expanding into the Balkans. I think if Germany had not invaded Belgium it would have remained an Eastern regional conflict, but since the fear of naval expansion tipped the British it wasn't surprising a war broke out between the two eventually.
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ageshallnot
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(Original post by whorace)
"One day the great European War will come out of some damned foolish thing in the Balkans"

Bismarck, 1888

If we look at the alliances, what's interesting is some actually pressed Russia to stay out of it (Witte the former PM and finance minister argued on economic grounds that it would be disastrous) some also thought a German alliance more preferable, but the Russians generally disliked German culture and liked the French. What needs to be remembered is Russia was under pressure from the Ottomans as well who were always expanding into the Balkans. I think if Germany had not invaded Belgium it would have remained an Eastern regional conflict, but since the fear of naval expansion tipped the British it wasn't surprising a war broke out between the two eventually.
The Bismarck quote is interesting but of course proves nothing. If one looked through his writings one could doubtless find many examples of when he turned out to be wrong.

The most interesting thing about the Franco-Russian alliance is that it was purely for reasons of self-interest - very much 'my enemy's enemy is my friend'. Politically, the extremely repressive, monarchist Russians had nothing in common with the republican, verging on socialist French.

Hmm, I believe you are completely wrong when you say that 'Russia was under pressure from the Ottomans as well who were always expanding into the Balkans'. The Ottomans hadn't 'expanded' in the region for quite some time and in 1878 were decisively beaten by the Russians, resulting in a massive loss of terriitory including the Austro-Hungarian takeover of Bosnia-Herzegovina. More recently, the Ottomans had been defeated in the First Balkan War by the Serbs, Greeks, Bulgarians and Montenegrins - as a result there was very little left of Ottoman territory in the Balkans.

By contrast, the Russians had continuing ambitions against the Ottomans, specifically trying to open up the Dardanelles. For example, when the Austrians annexed Bosnia-Herzegovina formally in 1908 the Russians initially acquiesced because Foreign Minister Izvolsky thought he had a deal with Austria to support Russian naval access to the straits.

I also disagree with your conention that if Germany hadn't invaded Belgium it would have remained an Eastern regional conflict. Russia was not mobilising against Austro-Hungary alone, but also against Germany. This meant war, as admitted by the general in charge of the mobilisation process. If Russia was going to war against both Germany and Austro-Hungary, there was no way France could stand aside and let its ally be defeated - so there would also have been a Western front even without the crass nature of the German military plans.
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zgb1
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(Original post by ageshallnot)
While various Serbian officials such as Apis (the head of military intelligence) and Tankositch were directly involved in the plot, there is no evidence that the Serbian government was. However, they knew about its existence and failed to make any real effort to prevent it.

I'd be interested to know what you mean by Germany 'getting involved and pulling everyone else in'.
Than why did the Serbian government rejected the A-H judical inquiry to investigate the plot in Serbia?
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ageshallnot
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Than why did the Serbian government rejected the A-H judical inquiry to investigate the plot in Serbia?
It is a mistake to assume that the Serb government and those working for it were following the same policies. Apis was extremely radical and was the organiser of the coup which murdered King Alexander in 1903. He also plotted against Prime Minister Pasic on several occasions - the last of them in spring 1914 when Pasic survived only when Russia and France let it be known that their support would only continue if he stayed in power. When Pasic discovered evidence of the plot to assassinate Franz Ferdinand, he arranged for a warning of sorts to be relayed to Vienna - albeit too oblique to be effective.

The rejection of the Austrian demands on the inquiry was partial. One point was accepted conditionally, but the demand for Austrian officials to take part in the inquiry was rejected outright because it was an infringement of Serbian sovereignty. The latter is a perfectly reasonable position; what is the point of being a country if you cannot govern your own affairs? The rest of the response was sufficently accepting that to many observers at the time it was thought to be more than enough to satisfy Vienna. It wasn't.
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zgb1
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(Original post by ageshallnot)
It is a mistake to assume that the Serb government and those working for it were following the same policies. Apis was extremely radical and was the organiser of the coup which murdered King Alexander in 1903. He also plotted against Prime Minister Pasic on several occasions - the last of them in spring 1914 when Pasic survived only when Russia and France let it be known that their support would only continue if he stayed in power. When Pasic discovered evidence of the plot to assassinate Franz Ferdinand, he arranged for a warning of sorts to be relayed to Vienna - albeit too oblique to be effective.

The rejection of the Austrian demands on the inquiry was partial. One point was accepted conditionally, but the demand for Austrian officials to take part in the inquiry was rejected outright because it was an infringement of Serbian sovereignty. The latter is a perfectly reasonable position; what is the point of being a country if you cannot govern your own affairs? The rest of the response was sufficently accepting that to many observers at the time it was thought to be more than enough to satisfy Vienna. It wasn't.
Letting an judical inquiry has nothing to do with a country governing its own affair what so ever. The judical inquiriry from Vienna was about to coperate with the Serbian one. Further more the perpetrators were about to be send to a Serbian court and get a trial in Serbia. So that was not any violation of Serbian souveregnity especially or do you think that the US violated Swiss souveregnity with the newest FIFA scandal?
The only who said at that time it was to much were Serbias Anglo-french allies who were biased against A-H.

For your first paragraph good that you mention that because Apis was the one who replaced the Obrenović dynasty (which was seen as weak by Serbian nationalists) with the new Karađorđević dynasty. S there is a clear connection between the Apis and his crew with the Serbian government.
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ageshallnot
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(Original post by zgb1)
Letting an judical inquiry has nothing to do with a country governing its own affair what so ever. The judical inquiriry from Vienna was about to coperate with the Serbian one. Further more the perpetrators were about to be send to a Serbian court and get a trial in Serbia. So that was not any violation of Serbian souveregnity especially or do you think that the US violated Swiss souveregnity with the newest FIFA scandal?
The only who said at that time it was to much were Serbias Anglo-french allies who were biased against A-H.

For your first paragraph good that you mention that because Apis was the one who replaced the Obrenović dynasty (which was seen as weak by Serbian nationalists) with the new Karađorđević dynasty. S there is a clear connection between the Apis and his crew with the Serbian government.
I have to disagree with you on your first point. It is important to realise that this wasn't going to be a nice, friendly investigation in the context of both sides trying to come to a mutually-beneficial conclusion. This was part of an overt attempt by Austro-Hungary to emasculate Serbia as a political threat. The point about having to accept Austrian officials to oversee the investigation was that it would demonstrate Vienna's authority over another country's internal affairs. Austro-Hungary planned the demands to be unacceptable and therefore be rejected - at which point it would then proceed to military action.

It wasn't just the British and French who interpreted the demands in this way. The Russians also did, of course, but they were even stronger allies of Serbia - you probably just forgot to include them in your argument. Italy was the first country outside A-H to discover the nature of the demands. Its Foreign Minister, San Giuliano, stated that 'they show clearly that Austria wishes to provoke a war'. (Note that although Italy eventually fought on the Entente side, at this point it was allied with the Central Powers.) The Kaiser had been in favour of concrete, unambiguous demands being made of Serbia and when he finally saw the text of the ultimatum, he described it as 'a firm note after all', i.e. he had been expecting the Austrians to be weak but they hadn't.

I understand what you are trying to say regarding the US, Fifa and Switzerland, but I don't think the analogy is a good one. The US is not insisting that its officials take part in an internal Swiss inquiry. Rather, it is conducting its own investigation.

I agree that Apis (and Tankositch et al) were extremists who wanted to destroy Austrian rule and influence in the Slav Balkans, but they didn't dictate Serb policy and were actively opposed by Prime Minister Pasic on many issues.

Overall, I would argue that Serbia most definitely played a part in the outbreak of war in 1914, but others had a more important role in turning what was a regional crisis into a European war.
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Soldieroffortune
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To blame any one country is folly. Anyone who can read a history book can see it was a slide and then a snowball to war, once Russia partially mobilized they had no choice but to fully mobilize and when Germany decided to mobilize it too had no choice in its actions from there on war by clockwork or timetable which ever phrase suits you best. as for Britain and France we had nothing to do with the outbreak of war France was simply part of the German plans and we couldn't stand by in this case.
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zgb1
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(Original post by ageshallnot)
I have to disagree with you on your first point. It is important to realise that this wasn't going to be a nice, friendly investigation in the context of both sides trying to come to a mutually-beneficial conclusion. This was part of an overt attempt by Austro-Hungary to emasculate Serbia as a political threat. The point about having to accept Austrian officials to oversee the investigation was that it would demonstrate Vienna's authority over another country's internal affairs. Austro-Hungary planned the demands to be unacceptable and therefore be rejected - at which point it would then proceed to military action.
You seem to have the impression that Serbia was some kind innocent little country that was bullied by the big Austro-Hungary. Maybe you should be aware that Serbia was figthing the Balkan wars in which its expanded and the expansion over A-H Serbia saw that as a continuation of the project from the Balkan wars.

I would also have remind you that A-H in the years prior to the assasination and after the radical serbian nationalist took over the country in 1903 tried with diplomacy resolve political issues. Serbia was openly enforcing hatred againt A-H in their education system which Serbia aknowledge (the Serbian education system openly promoted that Bosnia is Serbian land and need to be liberated and so on). In 1908 it gave the promisses to change that and other attitudes yet with the assasination of the Archduke Serbia defintly prooved its was a threat to the stability of the A-H.

considering that Serbia was expanding in the Balkans wars, that they comiteed numerous war crimes on albanians in 1913 which even the British press back than reported, that they openly educated its population that Serbia is territorially to small. Therefore who is here in fact the imperialist?

Sending a judical inquiry was a logical step from the Austrian side since they could not trust Serbia and because it had a radical nationalist government. And even that it was not interfereing in the internal affairs since the judical inquiry would have only overseen the investigation with its Serbian collegues.

What would Britain do if prince charles went to the Falklands and got killed by a Argentinian nationalist, yet the Argentinian government at the same time delibaretely played dumb?

And for the last argument the Serbian ambasador in Vienna warned official that there will be assasinations in Sarajevo which is a evidence that the Serb government knew about the plot.

It wasn't just the British and French who interpreted the demands in this way. The Russians also did, of course, but they were even stronger allies of Serbia - you probably just forgot to include them in your argument. Italy was the first country outside A-H to discover the nature of the demands. Its Foreign Minister, San Giuliano, stated that 'they show clearly that Austria wishes to provoke a war'. (Note that although Italy eventually fought on the Entente side, at this point it was allied with the Central Powers.) The Kaiser had been in favour of concrete, unambiguous demands being made of Serbia and when he finally saw the text of the ultimatum, he described it as 'a firm note after all', i.e. he had been expecting the Austrians to be weak but they hadn't.
If you knew better than you should know that Italy just like Serbia had territorial ambigious on the A-H coast, and also wanted annex Istria and Dalmatia. Even if the Kaiser said that it does not mean anything since the issue here was not whether was the note firm or not but whether was justified and accordinf to international standards. Every government that had its throne assasin and had an agressie country on the borders would do the same.



I understand what you are trying to say regarding the US, Fifa and Switzerland, but I don't think the analogy is a good one. The US is not insisting that its officials take part in an internal Swiss inquiry. Rather, it is conducting its own investigation.
Yes, the US did not insisted to send officials but told the Swisss to open a investigation. Unfortunately there was not email back than.


"I agree that Apis (and Tankositch et al) were extremists who wanted to destroy Austrian rule and influence in the Slav Balkans, but they didn't dictate Serb policy and were actively opposed by Prime Minister Pasic on many issues."
They were in good relationships with the Serbian crown and only dishonest and naive politicans would believe in such statement. since the Serbian ambasaddor to Vienna knew about than surely the government should also have known

"Overall, I would argue that Serbia most definitely played a part in the outbreak of war in 1914, but others had a more important role in turning what was a regional crisis into a European war."

I agree. The main acters to blame was the entente (Russiia, France and Britain) who deliberately refused to help stop a terrorist group and did not control its vassals the Serbs to not be agressive toward Austria.

If you were not so imperialist you could even prevent other event like Srebrenica in 1995 or thoose failed experiment called Yugoslavia
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