Serbia, Europe, Historical Profile (1922), #029-Opening of the World War


When Baron Giesl presented the ultimatum, I'asic had been absent electioneering in the provinces; but he at once returned to Belgrade, and on July 25 mobilization was ordered, and the seat of government and the arehives were hastily transferred to Nis. In view of so grave a crisis elections became impossible, and as parliamentary sanction was more than ever necessary, the Government was forced to ignore the fact of dissolution and to call the previous Skupstina once more into existence.

At its first meeting in Nis on Aug. 1, the entire Opposition endorsed the Government's action, and for the moment party life was in abeyance. But after Serbia's early military successes, the enforced evacuation of Belgrade (Nov. 29) brought the latent political crisis to a head. On Dec. 13 the purely Radical cabinet was succeeded by a Coalition Government, in which I'asic remained Premier, but the leaders of all parties save the Liberals received portfolios. It was, however, in this blackest week that the Skupstina unanimously endorsed the Government's declaration that its foremost war aim was "the liberation and union of all our Serb, Croat and Slovene brethren not yet set free." This was the first public step of Serbia in favour of Yugoslav unity.

The brilliant offensive initiated on Dec. 2 by General Misic and the I. Army cleared Serbian soil for the third time from invaders, and an enormous booty was captured. But the enemy left deadly infection behind him. and by the early spring of 1915 exhausted Serbia was immobilized by a typhus epidemic which is estimated to have caused about 300, 000 deaths among the civil population. Serbia's negative role during 1915 was due not only to exhaustion but to considerations of high policy. Meanwhile the Entente was eagerly working for the intervention of Italy and of Bulgaria, neither of whom could receive adequate satisfaction save at the expense of Serbian aspirations. During the winter pressure was repeatedly brought to bear upon Nis to make territorial concessions to Bulgaria in Macedonia; but the one and only condition upon which Serbia could safely have considered this- namely, that the Allies should guarantee Yugoslav unity in the event of victory'-was precluded by their parallel negotiations with Italy, whose official policy it was to prevent, not to further Yugoslav unity, and to whom by the Treaty of London, concluded on April 26, 1915, no less than 700, 000 Yugoslavs were assigned.

The fact that the concealment of this treaty from Serbia was made an absolute condition by Rome did not tend to diminish the reserve of Belgrade, which almost immediately learned the essential facts through St. Petersburg. The Serbs were more conscious than ever of the value to them of the Vardar valley, which would form part of any serious concessions to Bulgaria, whom they also believed lo be tied to Vienna and Berlin by a secret compact.

They were further handicapped by the attitude of Greece, who in the autumn of 1914 exercised her right of veto, under the Serbo-Grcek Treaty, upon any cession of territory to Bulgaria and was prepared to demand Monastir as compensation. After the Dardanelles failure Bulgaria leaned increasingly towards Germany, and the concrete proposals addressed to Sofia by the Entente on May 28, over Serbia's head, came two months too late.

      "Serbia, Europe, Historical Profile (1922), #029-Opening of the World War," The Encyclopedia Britannica. (New York: Encyclopedia Britannica, 1922); digital edition, ( : posted 15 Jan 2013)

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