Monday, April 20, 2015

Meekness Begets Weakness: The British Mediation Effort in the Bosnia-Herzegovina Annexation Crisis of 1908-1909

Well, here it is. My thesis:


The October 1908 annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the simultaneous declaration of independence by Bulgaria may have only formalized two preexisting conditions within the outlying provinces of the once-mighty Ottoman Empire, yet the move by the Austo-Hungarian government to solidify its holdings in Slavic lands sparked a crisis that is comparable to the events of July and August 1914. Yet, this incident did not provide the spark that led to the general European conflagration. Every historian has since looked on the annexation crisis in the context of World War I.
This study will look at the events in question while attempting to break away from the gravitational pull that is the Great War. In particular, it will examine the actions of Great Britain and the genuine, but ineffectual attempt to mediate between Austria-Hungary and Serbia. It will show that the mediation efforts conducted by Lord Grey of Falladon, head of the Foreign Office, were doomed to failure because Britain did not have as much at stake as other participants in the crisis, the efforts were marked by unclear and inconsistent communication with her ally Russia, and were conducted out of a sense of fear of failure.

Table of Contents

Table of Figures


Key Personalities

Von Ährenthal, Count Alois Lexa: Foreign Minister of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Asquith, H. H., 1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith: Prime Minister of the British Empire.
Barrère, Camille: French Ambassador at Rome.
Benckendorff, Alexander Konstantinovich: Russian Ambassador at London.
Berchtold, Count Leopold: Austrian Ambassador at St. Petersburg.
Bertie, Sir Francis, 1st Viscount of Thame: British Ambassador at Paris.
Bompard, Maurice: French Ambassador at St. Petersburg (1902-1908).
Von Bülow, Fürst Bernhard: Chancellor of the German Empire.
Cambon, Jules: French Ambassador at Berlin.
Cambon, Paul: French Ambassador at London.
Cartwright, Sir Fairfax Leighton: British Ambassador at Vienna (1906-1913).
Clemenceau, Georges: Prime Minister of the French Republic.
Constans, Jean Antoine Ernest: French Ambassador at Constantinople.
Crozier, Philippe: French Ambassador at Vienna.
Egerton, Sir Edwin Henry: British Ambassador at Rome (1905-1908).
Forgách, Count Janós: Austrian Ambassador at Belgrade.
Goschen, Sir William Edward, 1st Baronet: British Ambassador at Vienna (1905-1908) and Berlin (1908-1914).
Grey, Sir Edward, Lord Falladon: British Foreign Minister.
Grouitch, Slavko: Serbian Ambassador at London.
Khevenhüller, Count Rudolf: Austrian Ambassador at Paris.
Kiderlen-Wächter, Alfred: Acting German Ambassador at Constantinople (1908), Deputy Foreign Secretary of the German Empire (1908-1910).
Lascelles, Sir Frank Cavendish: British Ambassador at Berlin (1895-1907).
Louis, George: French Ambassador to St. Petersburg (1908-1913).
Lowther, Sir Gerard, 1st Baronet: British Ambassador at Constantinople (1908-1916).
Lützow, Count Heinrich: Austrian Ambassador at Rome.
Marschall, Baron Alfred von Bieberstein: German Ambassador at Constantinople.
Mensdorff, Count Albert: Austrian Ambassador at London.
Metternich, Count Paul Wolff of Gracht: German Ambassador at London.
Monts, Count Anton: German Ambassador at Rome.
Nelidov, Aleksandr: Russian Ambassador at Paris.
Nicolson, Lord Arthur, 1st Lord of Carnock: British Ambassador at St. Petersburg (1906-1910).
O’Conor, Sir Nicholas Roderick: British Ambassador at Constantinople (1898-1908).
Osten-Sacken, Nicolai Dmitrijevitch: Russian Ambassador at Berlin.
Pallavicini, Count Johann: Austrian Ambassador at Constantinople.
Pichon, Stéphen-Jean-Marie: French Foreign Minister.
Popovich: Serbian Ambassador at St. Petersburg.
Pourtalés, Count Friedrich: German Ambassador at St. Petersburg.
Radolin, Prince Hugo of Radolin: German Ambassador at Paris.
Ratibor, Prince Karl Max: German Ambassador at Belgrade.
Rodd, Lord James Rennell, 1st Baron Rennell: British Ambassador at Rome (1908-1919).
Von Schön, Baron Wilhelm: Foreign Secretary of the German Empire.
Sergeyev, B.: Russian Ambassador at Belgrade.
Szögyény, Count László: Austrian Ambassador at Berlin.
Tschirschky, Baron Heinrich Leonhard: German Ambassador at Vienna.
Urusov, Lev Pavlovich: Russian Ambassador at Vienna.
Wesnitch: Serbian Ambassador at Paris.
Whitehead, Sir James Beethom: British Ambassador at Belgrade.
Wuitsch: Serbian Ambassador at Rome.


On October 6 1908, Austria-Hungary announced the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. This act precipitated a Balkan crisis during which the Great Powers of Austria-Hungary, Britain, France, Germany, and Russia nearly came to war. The formal annexation was a violation of the terms of the Berlin treaty of 1875, which the Great Powers established following the Russo-Turkish war of the early 1870s. Austria-Hungary’s interest of maintaining an ethnically diverse Empire was pitted against Russia’s interest in protecting Orthodox Slavs and its ultimate goal of securing the Bosporus straights. This played out on the setting of the once-mighty Ottoman Empire continued crumbling and the emergent nationalism of the Balkan states. The Berlin treaty had commissioned Austria-Hungary to administer the states of Bosnia and Herzegovina whilst they nominally belonged to the Ottoman Empire. The annexation sparked outrage in neighboring Serbia who dreamt of a greater united Slavic state and impugned Austria-Hungary for her creeping incursion upon Slavic lands.
The strong-armed tactics of Baron von Ährenthal, the Austro-Hungarian Foreign Minister and the full support of her strong ally Germany stared down a Russian Empire weakened by revolution and a disastrous war in the Far East. From the October announcement up until mid-February 1909, the governments of Britain and France, new allies of Russia, generally stood to the side, allowing Turkey, Serbia, Russia, and Austria-Hungary to come to terms before calling for a general conference of the powers to amend the Treaty to terms acceptable to all.
In early February 1909, when Baron Isvolsky, the Russian foreign minister remarked of the severity of his concern that Austria-Hungary would attack Serbia, the British Foreign Office, led by Lord Edward Grey, decided to intervene and attempt to mediate the crisis. The arrogance and hubris of the Austro-Hungarian Foreign Minister, the naiveté and paranoia of the Russian Foreign Minister, and unwavering German support for her Austro-Hungarian ally scuttled the attempts by Britain to mediate the crisis successfully. This study will demonstrate that this intervention attempt was conducted out of a sense of fear of losing the Entente with Russia in the Middle and Far East and that it was an anemic attempt distinguished by a lack of both steely resolve and clear, consistent communication.
This study will examine the official diplomatic papers of the participant countries involved to include Britain, France, Germany, Serbia, and Russia. It will also utilize archived issues of the Times of London from the time period, as well as autobiographies of some of the important figures involved to include British Foreign Minister Edward Grey; German Chancellor Bernhard von Bülow; and the Chief of Staff of the Austro-Hungarian Army, Conrad von Hötzendorf.

Literature Review

A historiography of the literature available on the causes and origins of the First World War would, and has, taken up entire volumes. Many historians have written quite authoritatively on the subject of the annexation crisis, but all have viewed it in the context of the road to the war of 1914. The vast majority of authors who do touch on the topic of the annexation crisis, speak only very briefly upon it. Those that do inevitably find apt comparisons to the events of July and August 1914 following the Sarejevo assassination of Franz Ferdinand. Furthermore, those who write on the crisis itself nearly always rely on and cite the scholarship of three authoritative historians from the 1920s to 1950s. Sidney Bradshaw Fay in The Origins of the World War was one of the first historians to take a more measured, analytical approach to the causes of the Great War of 1914.[1] He rejected the conventional, reactionary view of the victors, and cast as much, if not more, blame upon Russia as Germany for the events leading up to 1914. In the case of the annexation crisis, Fay’s description of the events reads like an abstract of conclusions he has already reached regarding their interpretation. Though Fay provides documentary citations for his chief arguments, his account is by no means, meant to be a detailed account of the annexation crisis.
Albertini’s enormous, three-volume The Origins of the War of 1914 is the most comprehensive examination of the events leading up to August 1914. Starting in 1879 at the beginning of the Dual Alliance between Germany and Austria-Hungary, Albertini draws upon the plethora of published diplomatic correspondence that was available following the Second World War. Although Albertini does a masterful job at both organization and detail, he openly acknowledges his accounts of events are not detailed examinations of the events themselves, but narratives presented from the later perspective of the First World War. “It is not proposed here to give a detailed account, on the basis of diplomatic documents, of the crisis caused by the annexation, but only to show its effects on the situation which, in July 1914, was to lead Austria to send Serbia the fatal ultimatum that caused the European conflagration.”[2] Albertini, being an Italian minister of parliament, also understandably dwells far more on the role and perspective of Tittoni during the Bosnian annexation crisis.
Professor Bernadotte Schmitt’s magnificent book on the crisis, The Annexation of Bosnia 1908 – 1909, is the only major work dedicated solely to the events in question itself.[3] Although it would be disingenuous to state Schmitt has blocked out the Great War from his mind whilst writing this book, he takes the most pains to examine the evidence within their contemporary context without tying it to the fallout from the Sarajevo assassination.
Schmitt’s narrative is the best attempt to digest and analyze the complete diplomatic documents published mostly in the 1920s and 1930s. In the immediate aftermath of the war, the belligerent governments scrambled to produce diplomatic papers that corroborated their version of events in an attempt to garner sympathy and support at the Paris Peace Conference. The results were not only one-sided and sorely lacking in completeness; they also only concentrated on the immediate aftermath of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand. After the more complete publication of the British documents, the Austro-Hungarian documents, and the massive German documents that covered the period from 1871 to 1914, Schmitt keyed in on the Bosnia events as pivotal to the underlying antagonisms of the war. His book details the actions and correspondence of all parties during the crisis from start to finish.
In contrast to Fay, Schmitt places a lot of emphasis on the terse message Bülow’s deputy, Kiderlen-Wächter delivers to Isvolsky; the “ultimatum.” Though he hedges in the interpretation for the reasons behind Kiderlen’s wording, the implication clearly places onus upon this action by Germany that humiliated Russia.[4] Schmitt does not provide detailed analysis on the British diplomatic actions, though he does go into detail in the narrative of events.
Though Albertini, Fay, and Schmitt are the most authoritative historians on the subject, and most frequently cited by subsequent authors, other writers have provided some insight to the crisis. David Herrmann’s work looks at the origins of the war from a military perspective. While extensive scholarship has examined the role of the naval armaments race between Germany and Britain, little had previously been devoted upon the land armies of the belligerents of August 1914. Herrmann fills the 1904 to 1914 void by analyzing military attaché reports, appropriations from the various legislatures, technological advances, training and tactics from the period, and the interrelationships between the army chiefs and their political masters.[5] Concerning the Bosnia affair, Herrmann concentrates on the role the political unrest from the 1905 revolution and the weakness of Russia’s military played during the crisis. Herrmann starts his chapter on the annexation with a speech from the Duma in June 1908 in which an Octobrist party leader excoriated the readiness of the Russian military.[6] The humiliation Russia received from the 1905 war with Japan demonstrated the technological, tactical, and numerical inferiority of the Russian Army. Hermmann contends this public speech in combination other sources, among them reports gleaned from military attachés, was a primary buttress for Ährenthal’s offensive pivot in foreign affairs and encouraged Germany’s firm resolve to call Isvolsky’s bluff in March 1909.[7] Hermmann does not provide any unique insight to the British role.
Bobroff looks at the Russian role in Great Power politics during the time period.[8] But his volumes is devoted primarily to the greater Russian ambition towards Turkey and the opening of the Bosphorus straights. He also provides no significant insight to the British mediation of the crisis. Others like Sean McMeekin, Hugh Ragsdale, and Samuel Williamson provide their analytic takes mostly on the subject of war guilt for the Great War.[9] Though they are informative volumes from a lofty perspective, they as well provide little insight into the British mediation efforts.
D. W. Sweet makes the claim that the newly formed liberal British government’s primary concern was the support of the Young Turks and their revolutionary government.[10] While not anymore dependent upon the protection of Turkey against the Russian naval threat against the Mediterranean, they understood that the British protection of what the Muslim world still held to be the caliphate was key in their maintenance of their interests in Egypt, the Middle East, and India. Sweet makes it clear the later squabble between Russian and Austria concerning Serbia’s discontent was of little concern to Grey and the Foreign Office.[11] Grey was content having secured the Austro-Turkish settlement.
Cooper describes Britain’s accidental deterrence in the early months following the annexation as more compelling than the concerted efforts undertaken by the diplomatic corps in February and March 1909. The presence of the British warships in the Aegean near Turkey deterred the Austro-Hungarian navy from disrupting the Turkish boycott of Austrian goods that forced the Dual Monarchy to grant more severe economic concessions than previously planned. Austria-Hungary was convinced Britain had deployed the vessels deliberately to provoke this outcome, when in reality it was to protect Crete from a potential Greek invasion.[12]
This essay will explore the British diplomatic efforts of mediation in detail. This will provide a greater understanding of the British perspective of the crisis. Where some historians have provided a blow-by-blow chronology of events and others a broader panorama, none has adequately explored the British perspective.

Chapter 1 – The Historical Background

The Franco-Prussian War and Bismarck’s Balancing Act

The concert of Europe from 1815 until the outbreak of World War I was a period of nearly unprecedented peace in Europe. Save the war in the Crimea in the 1850s, no great conflict involving three or more of the powers erupted throughout these 100 years. The Metternich system of conference and mediation largely worked. A delicate balance between the powers of Russia, France, Britain, the Hapsburg Empire, and Ottoman Turkey was largely maintained. How the system came crashing down in the early Twentieth Century is still widely debated. Whether one takes a Marxist interpretation of rampant capitalism and imperialism or of governmental failures in realistic diplomacy and ambition, one key fact remains. The latter half of the Nineteenth Century experienced a dramatic shift in balance with the rise and decline of power-players in the halls of European power.
Germany’s rise from mediocrity to continental hegemon was meteoric. Prussia had played a bit part in continental power-politics since the days of Frederick the Great, yet most of Prussia’s role was on a regional level, whether engaging Austria in domination over middle and eastern Europe, or in the struggle to free Europe from Bonaparte’s clutches. Prussia’s limited foreign policy changed when Bismarck came to power in the mid Nineteenth Century. Bismarck exploited the nascent nationalism of the German states and subordinated liberalism in order to shore up the Prussian monarchy. He also provided a solution to the Kleindeutsch/Großdeutsch question through wars with the Habsburgs over the middle and lower German states. Finally, Bismarck opportunistically picked a fight with France in 1870 over the subject of Spanish succession. The victory in the Franco-Prussian war signified an end to Bismarck’s ambitions. The Hohenzollern king, Wilhelm I was offered the crown and title of Kaiser of the new German Empire under Prussian dominance.
This dramatic ascendency severely altered the balance of power in Europe. France remained embittered against Germany, but was severely weakened and politically isolated. Britain maintained her splendid isolation but kept a wary eye on the balance of continental power. Russia and Germany continued their friendship. Satiated, Bismarck’s foreign policy tacked from adventurism to maintaining the course of the status quo. The powers, aside from France, albeit concerned about this upstart newcomer, took Bismarck at his word, accepting his “intent” rather than viewing the Prussian ascendency as a threat to their interests.[13]
Knowing all too well the French desire for revanche, Bismarck concentrated his foreign policy efforts on keeping France politically isolated while holding on to hope for future friendly relations.[14] To that end, the League of the Three Emperors was formed between Germany, Russia, and Austria. Germany kept France politically isolated, a weakened Austria gained a crucial ally, and Russia continued her friendship and advanced her mutual aims of cooperation in Poland with Germany.[15]

Figure 1 - Otto von Bismarck[16]
There was concurrent to this rise of German power, a continued decline of power and control in the Balkans and areas of Ottoman control in southeastern Europe. The foundering Ottoman Empire who had turned to brutal oppression of Orthodox subjects, a weakened Austria, the rise of Slavic nationalism, and overlapping interest with the Russian Empire sowed seeds of discord in the Dreikaiserbund.[17] This culminated in the Russo-Turkish war of 1877 in which Russia brought the Ottomans to terms in less than a year. The Concert of Europe did not accept the subsequent bilateral treaty of San Stefano, and Bismarck forced Russia and Austria to the table at the Congress of Berlin in 1878.[18] The subsequent Treaty of Berlin addressed the areas of dispute the other powers had over the San Stefano accord to include granting occupation and administration rights of Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as the Sanjak of Novibazaar to Austria-Hungary.[19]
Though the treaty secured large concessions for Russia at the expense of the Ottomans, Russia remained embittered that while she had waged the war and negotiated the terms, she only achieved little of the spoils, while Germany openly gifted the Dual Monarchy holdings within the Balkans.[20] This marked a significant turning point in Russian-Austrian relations. The fallout from the Russo-Turkish war ended the Dreikaiserbund in 1878, but ushered in what was to be “the very foundation rock of German policy”: the Dual Alliance between Austria-Hungary and Germany.[21]
Although tensions remained between Austria-Hungary and Russia, the outcome of what could happen should their cooperation turn to belligerence kept the unlikely collaborators tied together. To Bismarck, the prospect of Russia or Austria-Hungary seeking an ally in the form of France was unconscionable to the cornerstone of his foreign policy, and the threat of Britain to Russian interests overrode her regional concerns of Austria-Hungary and Russia. Bismarck’s delicate balancing act therefore continued when Russia agreed to sign a defensive alliance with Germany and Austria-Hungary in 1881.[22] This Alliance of the Three Emperors satisfied the defensive concerns of all parties from perceived threats during its duration. However, the regional tension caused by the continued decline of Ottoman strength and the increasing discontent of the Slavic peoples proved too strong to keep Austria-Hungary and Russia together.[23] The treaty expired in 1887 and was not renewed.
Bismarck’s delicate balance began to crash around him, in part by securing an unlikely ally in Italy with the signing of the 1882 Triple Alliance between Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy.[24] He had hoped to secure allies whose mutual antagonisms and suspicions were only outweighed by fear of others. Italy proved to be an unstable ally as her behavior would prove during periods of crisis. The death of Bismarck’s primary benefactor, the Kaiser Wilhelm I in 1888, followed quickly by the passing of Wilhelm I’s son, Frederick III proved to be a turning point in Great Power relations.

Bismarck’s Dismissal and the European Split

When Wilhelm II ascended to the throne in 1888, Bismarck was already an old man whose influence had begun to wane. With a fresh ear to bend and an ambitious new sovereign, political advisor to the Foreign Office, Baron Friedrich von Holstein pressured Wilhelm II to oppose Bismarck who, sensing the seismic shift in the direction of German foreign policy, resigned in 1890.[25] The Holstein-influenced Wilhelm felt the maintenance of the tenuous relationship between Austria-Hungary, Italy, and Russia was not worth the risk of embarrassment should any of the details of the various secret treaties slip out. Holstein saw it a form of “political bigamy” and urged Wilhelm to adopt a policy of Austria-first in the alliance structure.[26] The dismissal of Bismarck effectively signaled the end of the delicate balance of power in Europe. His efforts had ensured France remained isolated diplomatically, and his maintenance of the status-quo and non-expansionist policies kept Britain relatively comfortable in her splendid isolation. The ambitious governments to follow under Wilhelm II changed this tenor. The Triple Alliance, with special emphasis of supporting Austria-Hungary, became the singular influence in polarizing Europe into separate camps in the run-in to the Great War.
The continued crumble of the Ottoman Empire and the efforts to prop up a declining Austro-Hungarian Empire exacerbated the ever-present tensions between Russia and the Hapsburg monarchy. Added to this, the nationalism that sprang up in the wake of the Ottoman decline threatened to be the spark that ignited this powder keg. As the Ottomans tried to hold on, they ruthlessly squashed all demonstrations of Slavic nationalism in their lands.
Germany having let her reinsurance treaty with Russia lapse in 1890, effectively left Russia completely isolated.[27] With the now-prevalent belief that an alliance with Austria-Hungary was mutually exclusive to one with Russia, Bismarck’s great fear: Russia allied with a France still seeking revanche for Sedan, started to take shape. France, seeing Russia now isolated, sensed an opportunity to ally herself to Russia in order to protect herself. The Entente between the two was worked out in 1891 and 1892.[28]
This Entente seemed at the time to be partially aimed at Britain, as her historical enemy had nearly always been France, and the proximity of Russia to her near-Asian colonial holdings ensured a constant state of heightened tensions. But the change in tenor of Germany’s new foreign policy as announced by Wilhelm and his chancellor, Bülow spoke of an expansionism overseas; one in direct competition with British naval interests. Due to the subsequent naval program of Admiral Tirpitz, Britain’s splendid isolation came to an end.[29] At first Britain looked to ally herself with Germany, yet the talks faltered with both parties seeking to hedge their bets by refusing to fully back the other. Both looked at the alternatives of France and Russia as potential fallback positions. Since Britain fancied herself as the imperial master of Europe, and Germany had ambitions to depose her, both were reluctant to act jointly. This prospect was completely doomed when Britain became entangled in the Boer War in her South Africa colony with Germany very publically and vociferously backing the Teutonic Boers.[30]
Britain thereafter looked to France and Russia as potential suitors. The first protocol, the Entente Cordiale was signed between France and Britain in which the two parties came to an understanding on the subject of overseas colonies, preeminently of them Egypt and Morocco. France agreed not to interfere with British presence in Egypt, which administered the vital Suez Canal, and Britain promised to support the French presence in Morocco. This agreement was signed in 1904, and was soon put to the test during the first Moroccan crisis in 1905.[31] In a foreshadowing of the Bosnian crisis three years later, trilateral agreements between France, Britain, and Italy . . . the latter of which received free reign in Tripoli . . . were signed without any input from Germany, who felt her economic interests within Egypt, and especially Morocco, were negatively impacted by the pact.[32]
Following the agreement, the Kaiser himself steamed into Tangier to meet with the Moroccan sultan in a show of Germany’s interest in maintaining the independent nature of Morocco. This precipitated a crisis in which Germany found herself isolated and the victim of a public relations nightmare that made her look like a war-mongering aggressor. The fallout essentially formalized ties between Britain and France while severely weakening the German and Italian ones.[33]
With an understanding now reached with France, Britain could then look to other areas to buttress her colonial holdings. The relationship with the Ottomans, which had historically been well, had deteriorated in the climate of brutal repression of Christian minorities in the Slavic and Balkan holdings of the formerly prestigious Empire. Germany took advantage of Britain’s disengagement with the Ottomans by heavily pursuing economic interests in the Middle East to include the Baghdad railway. With the combination of mutual interests in countering the German incursion and reforming Ottoman rule, Britain seized the opportunity to create an understanding with Russia; one that was formalized in 1907.[34]
Though Germany still made efforts towards more favorable relationships with Russia and Britain, the polarization of the Great Powers had begun. The Triple Entente was formed as a reaction to Bülow’s abandonment of Bismarckian foreign policy.[35] Britain, France, and Russia now looked warily upon Wilhelm’s ambition.

Buchlau and the Announcement of the Annexation

Following diplomatic postings at the Vatican, Munich, Tokyo, and Copenhagen, Alexander Isvolsky took the position of Foreign Minister of the Russian Empire in May 1906 at the same time as the seating of the first Russian Duma.[36] Isvolsky came “highly recommended” by King Edward VII and had been an opponent of the recent war with Japan.[37] Isvolsky had a goal of refocussing Russian foreign policy on near eastern affairs and restoring the prestige of Russia following the war debacle. He planned an aggressive program with a goal of opening the Bosporus straights to Russian warships.[38] Previously, this end was considered untenable due to unfriendly relations with Britain, but following the Franco-Anglo agreement in 1904, which secured the British interest in Egypt and the Suez, the time seemed ripe for Russia to bring up the question of the Straights with Britain.[39]
Figure 2 - Alexander Isvolsky[40]
According to Harold Nicolson, Ambassador Nicolson’s son and biographer, Isvolsky was a classical Slavic romantic and idealist who was out of touch with the mainstream of contemporary Slavic romanticism. Isvolsky saw Russia’s role as the protector of Slavic Eastern Orthodoxy, and Constantinople as the center of gravity for the church. From his career in foreign diplomacy, however, Isvolsky failed to appreciate the enormity and building inertia of the emergent Slavic nationalism in Russian circles.[41] “The emotions of Russia were no longer centered upon the Church of St. Sophia or upon the revival of the old Byzantine Empire. They were centered upon the Slav races in the Balkans and upon the protection of these races against the oncoming tide of Teutonism.”[42]
Count Alois Lexa von Ährenthal was Isvolsky’s counterpart in Vienna. Ährenthal had previously been posted to St. Petersburg as the Dual Monarchy’s ambassador to the Tsar. He had a reputation for shrewd aggression amongst allies and for unscrupulous behavior in Russian circles. His biographer says his diplomacy, “composed more of hard arrogance and dissolvent intrigue than of prudent reserve and ingratiating souplesse, was a mixture of pretension and subtlety, of force and ruse, of realism and cynicism: his readiness to cheat, to circumvent, to outwit hid a harsh and ruthless will.”[43] The German Foreign Minister von Schön called him “ultra-conservative” and “well acquainted with the aims and practices of Russian policy.”[44] Ährenthal was “one of a group of younger noblemen who deeply resented the subordinate position of the Dual Monarchy in the affairs of Europe, he hoped to conduct an aggressive foreign policy aimed at ending the irritating dependence on Germany.”[45]

Figure 3 – Count Alois Lexa von Ährenthal[46]
Ährenthal’s initial goal was to revive the Dreikaiserbund, to achieve a revival of Austro-Hungarian prestige, and end “the irritating dependence upon Germany.”[47] A clear step toward achieving this end was to expand Austro-Hungarian interest in the Balkans, shoring up their rule in the ethnically diverse areas that she controlled. This hope was shattered by the disclosure of the Anglo-Russian Entente of 1907 and was replaced by a pragmatic policy of diffusing tensions within the Balkans. Due to Ährenthal’s studious knowledge of Russian goals and the timing of the Young Turk revolution, Ährenthal played on Isvolsky’s discussions with him concerning regional affairs, enticing him with a potential quid-pro-quo on the question of the Straights.
In September of 1907, heady with confidence over his securing the British Entente, which had defused Anglo-Russian tensions in the Middle East, Isvolsky went to Vienna to meet Ährenthal. Since 1904, Isvolsky had been trying to force the issue of the Dardanelles with any Great Power that would listen. He unsuccessfully tried to bend the ear of Britain’s Edward VII at Copenhagen when he was the ambassador to Denmark and again unsuccessfully attempted during the Entente negotiations with Britain in 1907.[48] The sticking point with Britain stemmed from questions of the lack of agreements and consultations with all of the powers and later in 1908, the desire not to inject unnecessary agitation into the fledgling Young Turk revolutionary government.[49]
During the informal discussions with Ährenthal, Isvolsky mentioned the question of the Dardanelles. He stated the Russian desire to open them to her war ships was an even higher priority now that she had lost her port to the Pacific at Port Arthur. Ährenthal, quickly recognizing an opportunity to advance his agenda of pulling the southern Slavs under the wing of the Dual Monarchy, responded with the possibility of formally annexing Bosnia-Herzegovina.[50] Isvolsky demonstrated verbal support for this arrangement and the two went their separate ways.
Following the Vienna meeting in November, Ährenthal brought up the subject of annexation to Army Chief of Staff Conrad von Hötzendorf. Hötzendorf saw this as a tremendous opportunity to quell uprising within the province and urged immediacy.[51] Ährenthal wished to use the subject of the Sandžak of Novibazar to sweeten the deal for the Russians. Under the 1885 Treaty of Berlin, Austria-Hungary was charged with not only occupying Bosnia-Herzegovina, but also this small province which was also under titular control of the Ottomans. In this aspect Ährenthal and the Austrian Chief of the General Staff, Conrad von Hötzendorf clashed. Von Hötzendorf viewed the small strip separating Montenegro from Serbia as a defense against pan-Slavic aspirations and as a fail-safe path to the Aegean, while Ährenthal saw the Sandžak as a somewhat meaningless piece of land but withdrawing its military forces as a highly symbolic gesture of Austria’s intentions of no further designs of expansion.[52]

Figure 4 – Map of the Affected Areas as Published in the New York Times[53]
In January 1908, after attaining consent from his home government to pursue the military abandonment of the Sandžak, Ährenthal publically announced designs for a railway transecting the same Sandžak.[54] This sparked the beginning of misunderstandings and conflict. The Russians interpreted this move as duplicitous in intent; signaling an Austrian desire to encircle Serbia. While Albertini opines Ährenthal proposed the line so as “to enhance the value of this renunciation in the eyes of the Great Powers,” the Russian perspective on this point seems more accurate in that one of the intentions of Austria was in fact to isolate Serbia from potential expansion.[55] Foreshadowing of the following year, Isvolsky found in this announcement of the railway project by Ährenthal, which had not been discussed in the negotiations the year previous, that the Austrian “had not acted straightforwardly.”[56] May opines Isvolsky, in a nod to the Slavic furor that could erupt politically within Russia, merely protested as to the nature of Ährenthal’s announcement.[57]
On July 2, 1908 Isvolsky penned a letter to Ährenthal that expressed Russian consent to the annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina in exchange for Austria’s expression of support for the opening of the Dardanelles to Russian war ships.[58] In doing so, Isvolsky committed a diplomatic blunder of an almost unprecedented scale; effectively granting Austria concessions while receiving nothing tangible in return.

Figure 5 - The Awakening of the Question of the East[59]
As Ährenthal’s plans developed, in July 1908 an event happened which threatened to forestall the intentions of both Austria and Russia. The cancer of the sick man of Europe suddenly went into remission in the form of the Young Turk revolution. The accompanying reforms and positive, ambitious outlook of the Committee of Union and Progress worried Ährenthal that the reforming Turks may find renewed support of several of the Great Powers and undermine the design to wrest away Bosnia-Herzegovina and Bulgaria, let alone the topic of the Straights.[60]
On September 16 1908, Isvolsky met with Ährenthal at Buchlau castle in Monrovia to discuss the issues of the annexation, the withdrawal from the Sandžak, and the Bosporus Straights.[61] From here, unfortunately, all that remains is the written account of Ährenthal as Isvolsky did not take notes on the deliberations.
In concert with his plans to annex Bosnia-Herzegovina, Ährenthal also hinted strongly to Sofia to declare her independence from the Turks. Ährenthal believed having Bulgaria proclaim her independence would overshadow the measly matter of annexing a de-facto province of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This being done, the Bulgarians jumped the gun on Ährenthal and proclaimed their independence on October 5. This annoyed Austrian foreign minister greatly, forcing him to move up his timeline by a few days, and made the announcement of the annexation the same day.[62]
This hit the international community unexpectedly, being less than a month after Buchlau, and before Isvolsky had spoken with France and Britain. Stunned by the announcement, Isvolsky suddenly found himself under fire from the British and French, who were not amiable to the bilateral nature of the deal, and especially from the Serbs who viewed the annexation as a threat to their sovereignty.[63]
The conference of Buchlau is one of the mysteries found in history. Precisely what wording was used during the meeting is lost with varying interpretations existing between eminent historians like Albertini, Fay, Fleming, and Schmitt. It is a shame that Isvolsky’s death interrupted his plan to write details of the Bosnia affair that are now hidden to history.[64] Indeed, the lack of documentation of the negotiations between Ährenthal and Isvolsky from the Russian point of view leaves us only with Ährenthal’s version of the story. Though Ährenthal and Isvolsky’s accounts following the conference differ, it is likely that Isvolsky was unaware of the timing of the annexation and was purposefully kept in the dark by Ährenthal.[65]
It is clear that there was a divide in at least the explanation from both sides. Isvolsky maintained the terms negotiated at Buchlau were to be subject to the ratification of the signatories to the Treaty of Berlin as these changes necessitated significant revisions to the document. Ährenthal agreed to the need for a conference of nations to apply revisions but claimed he told Isvolsky the subject of the annexation was to be off the table and a settled matter. It is hard to believe Isvolsky agreed to such a statement or even had the authority from the Tsar to make it but Isvolsky could never produce any documentation presenting his side of the story while Ährenthal could produce his official documentation of the events that took place on September 16.
Ährenthal knew Russia's weakness; her fear of revolution. He correctly assessed the egoism and ambition of Isvolsky. He was aware of the weakness, ineptitude, and the paralyzing indecision of Nicholas II. Furthermore, the German fear of a policy of encirclement fostered by Great Britain had been aroused by the conferences at Algeciras and Reval. Ährenthal gambled that Germany would not abandon her only reliable European ally. It was a safe bet. … Ährenthal duped Isvolsky, humiliated the Russian Empire, and seized from Germany the diplomatic initiative which Bismarck had preserved so jealously.[66]

The Immediate Effects

The October 5 1908 announcement by Francis Joseph of the formal annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina sent shockwaves from Sarajevo to Moscow, from Skopje to London, from Belgrade to Paris. Serbia’s close ally and Jugoslav aspirant Montenegro angrily rejected the land-grab and announced it would no longer abide by Article 29 of the Berlin treaty which limited its sovereignty on its coastline with the Adriatic.[67] Cetinje made its own formal list of demands and delivered them to Isvolsky to be presented at the assumed upcoming European Conference to negotiate the changes. These included a rescinding of the annexation, a deletion of Article 29, and other small territorial changes to Montenegro’s benefit.[68]
France had been forewarned of the announcement by the Austro-Hungarian ambassador. Having assumed Isvolsky had already communicated the agreements reached at Buchlau, Count Khevenhüller, the ambassador, relayed the news of the imminent annexation to the French government. In the relaying of the message, Khevenhüller, allayed French worries by stating the initiative had “the concurrence of the Cabinets of St. Petersburg, Berlin, and Rome.”[69] With this assurance that her allies were satisfied, France, with the exception of Prime Minister Clemenceau reacted in a rather apathetic manner.
Shortly after the French notification, the Quai d’Orsay notified Britain as well.[70] Britain was not so much concerned by the actual event as much as to the damage done to the new Turkish government that it backed. Britain equally did not wish to offend its new partner Russia in the very beginning of their new-found warm relationship. They swiftly issued a demarche to Vienna expressing their concern for the method used in securing this annexation and further concern for the future state of treaties if they could be re-written with secret negotiations of a minority of parties.[71] Yet Britain never considered going to war to protect the egos of the Russians, or the insult upon the Turks. It hoped to keep the peace and the status quo of the understandings developed.
The Germans supported the annexation but the Kaiser was incensed it had been made without consultation with him. Since Bismarck, the hallmark of German foreign policy was to keep France weak and out of alliance with another foreign power. Since Bismarck’s dismissal, the collapse of Austro-Russian relations, and the Triple Entente, the German policy morphed into rupturing these alliances. It is a logical conclusion that severely damaging Russian interests in the Balkans without having an active hand therein would serve to severely strain the ties between London, Paris, and St. Petersburg. Certainly, Bülow and Wilhelm knew the French would not go to war over the Slavic question and saw this as an opportunity to support an ally whilst simultaneously showing France’s unsteady nature as a military ally.
It is a testament to Isvolsky’s amateur handling of the entire affair that official Russian sentiment from St. Petersburg was against the annexation that Isvolsky had reportedly assented to. The Russian Prime Minister Stolypin and Nicholas II both rejected the annexation outright. It was such a rejection that Stolypin threatened resignation.[72] It is unclear if Isvolsky acted on his own accord at Buchlau and negotiated away concessions he had no right to or if Ährenthal had cleverly manipulated statements from Isvolsky he never intended to make. Indeed, the Russian narrative itself is not consistent. There exist conflicting stories about Nicholas II’s foreknowledge and agreement to the affair.[73]
After the announcement, Turkey was understandably miffed. In one fell stroke, she had lost nominal control of the provinces of Bosnia-Herzegovina and of Bulgaria. Yet, she was pragmatic enough to understand that her only recourse lay not in the force of arms, but in appealing to the Great Powers for either redress or compensation. Britain advised as much with Grey instructing Ambassador Lowther to inform the Porte of Britain’s and France’s “moral support” and to await redress at a conference.[74] “After the first feelings of indignation had died down, the Porte took the position that while it was prepared to reconcile itself with the fait accompli in Bosnia . . . it must be compensated for the loss of the Bulgarian tribute.”[75] Faced with this demand and knowing that the subject of Bosnia would likely arise in any European Conference forced by the issue of Bulgaria, the Dual Monarchy along with Bulgaria came to terms of monetary compensation to be paid to Turkey for the territories. The private manner in which the compensation question happened kept the Turkish demand for a conference off the table, further enhancing the status of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s annexation as a fait accompli.
Serbia had the largest outcry. Scores of demonstrators in the streets of Belgrade hurled invective at Vienna. Stuck between the rock of possible revolution and the hard place of unintentionally provoking Austrian military response, the Serbian government mobilized its reserve military to deal with the unrest.[76] The Serbian parliament passed resolutions condemning the action, secured war bonds as insurance, and created something that played a major part in the events of 1914. Schmitt describes it thusly:
In the light of subsequent history, however, the most important incident of these days was the establishment of the society called Narodna Odbrana [“National Defence”], “which should protect and promote our interests in the annexed provinces” … it was to the alleged activities of this organization that the Austro-Hungarian government ascribed the revolutionary ferment in Bosnia-Herzegovina which was mad the basis for the ultimatum of 23 July 1914.[77]
In the months following the announcement, Serbia increased the heated rhetoric, demanding Bosnia be given its independence and demanding territorial compensation for herself. Belgrade continued to make appropriations for war funding and incorporated their new army recruits four months early.[78]
Between November of 1908 and February of 1909, the powers worked diplomatically to find a way to resolve the issues that the annexation and independence of Bulgaria presented to the Treaty of Berlin. Concurrently, tensions between Austria-Hungary and Serbia boiled and reached a critical point in February. Throughout this, Britain, France, and Germany looked upon the crisis with concern but were unwilling to step in themselves to solve the crisis backed by military force. Germany of course, was in favor of the outcome of the announcement while Britain and France were mainly concerned for the continuation of peaceful relations in the region and that Turkey received fair treatment.

Chapter 2 – The British Mediation Effort

As the tensions between Austria and Serbia mounted, and as the pan-Slavic press increased its rancor towards Isvolsky, he began to lose composure. A December article in the St. Petersburg Novoe Vremya disclosed the fact that Isvolsky had informed the Serbian premier Milovanovitch of the impending annexation in September, prior to the official announcement, and advised the Serbian government to do nothing. This incensed the press which pushed for the overthrow of the government.[79] On January 30, the German ambassador to the Court at St. Petersburg Friedrich Pourtalès used the term “hysterical woman” to describe Isvolsky’s temperament and asked Isvolsky not to dwell on the personal issues with Ährenthal. Pourtalès was convinced that the Russian pressure on Serbia to take peaceful measures would successfully mediate the crisis.[80]
The February 9th through 12th visit of King Edward VII, Queen Alexandra, and Sir Charles Hardinge, the permanent undersecretary at the Foreign Ministry, sparked a significant change in Isvolsky’s behavior. The day after the visit the Russian Foreign Minister begged Ambassador Nicolson, for British mediation efforts. Isvolsky, acting upon information “he had received from other sources” stated that Austria-Hungary was preparing to invade Serbia.[81] Isvolsky further believed that Britain had aligned herself to Germany’s and Austria’s views of the Serbian problem with the annexation effectively isolating Russia.[82] It is unknown what specifically was dispatched to Isvolsky from the Tsar’s ambassador to Berlin, Osten-Sacken regarding regarding Hardinge’s meeting, as that record does not exist. The ambassador to London, Benckendorff had, only days before, written Isvolsky passing on Hardinge’s own assurances that Britain was fully supportive of Serbia’s quest for compensation, albeit stating unequivocally that territorial concessions or Bosnian-Herzegovinian independence was impossible without waging war.[83]

Figure 6 - Fürst Bernhard von Bülow[84]
The German account of the meeting between Hardinge and Bülow did not contain any indication consistent in Isvolsky’s interpretation of events. In what seemed a quite congenial meeting, Bülow only noted that he was pleased the English and German governments seemed to be approaching a common understanding on the topic of the settlement between Austria-Hungary and Serbia. Bülow and Hardinge agreed that territorial compensation could not happen without a war, with Hardinge suggesting economic compensation as a possible alternative.[85] Hardinge’s account of the meeting was much more detailed but did not differ from Bülow’s. In his narrative, Bülow claimed territorial compensation would not occur and that it was “a point of honor” with Franz Joseph, as well as stating Bülow was open to discussing economic compensation.[86] Hardinge does note Bülow mentioned concern at the possibility of Austrian military action to defend against irregular Serb incursion.
The Austrian Government [was] becoming exasperated by the provocative attitude of the Servian Government, and that even the Emperor was losing patience. If, in the event of Servian bands crossing the Bosnian frontier, it became necessary for the Austrian Government to undertake punitive measures against Servia, it would be very desirable that Austria should previously declare that she would respect her independence; otherwise the situation created for Russia would be one of extreme difficulty.[87]
In assenting to this potentiality, Hardinge also asked if Germany would be willing to press upon Austria the importance of publically supporting Serbia’s independence and territorial integrity if that were to take place. Bülow’s reply of “it would be difficult for Germany to act alone” must have invited Hardinge to press for British mediation.[88]
Hardinge noted that dealing with this matter would be difficult:
The situation [is] more difficult and complicated [due to] the personal animosity prevailing between Baron Ährenthal and M. Isvolsky, which rendered the position of Germany as the ally of Austria and the traditional friend of Russia a very delicate one. In spite of what M. Isvolsky might now say, there is no doubt that he had compromised himself at Buchlau, and, having miscalculated the attitude of the Russian press, had waived his objections to the annexation in the hope of obtaining definite assurances from Baron Ährenthal on the question of the Dardanelles.[89]
Although Bülow seemed hopeful of an amicable end to the crisis, he did portend Germany’s eventual action in stating that the “Russian Government . . . fully realize that they are quite unprepared for war, and that war could only be to the interest of the revolutionaries in Russia.”[90]
Only a few days before Nicolson’s dispatch to Grey inviting a British mediation effort, the German government seemed open to an Entente power taking the initiative in attempting to lead negotiations. In an internal note on the day of the British royal visit, von Schön, not wishing to be perceived as abandoning her ally, discussed the possibility of this taking place so long as Germany did not take the first step.[91]
The Russian Foreign Ministry sought to quiet the Austrian newspapers’ sensationalism by disclosing a dispatch to the Neue Freie Presse a telegram providing governmental assurances that there were no marauding irregulars in Serbia poised to threaten Austro-Hungarian interests, reiterating that the Serbian Foreign Minister Milovanovitch would continue a peaceful policy, and buttressing the claims of the Dual Monarchy by agreeing that there should be no cause for Serbian unrest as the annexation did not affect the rights of Serbia.[92]
Although Isvolsky’s source is not known, newspapers did corroborate the belief that Austria was weeks away from military action. The February 11 edition of the Viennese Neue Freie Presse had called on the Serbian King Peter to “beware the Ides of March” and that “the time will come when Austria-Hungary will no longer be able to tolerate in her neighborhood conditions such as these prevailing in Serbia.”[93] The paper posited that the crisis presented an “existential question” to the Serbian people.[94] Also supportive of Isvolsky’s fears, on the very day Isvolsky met with Nicolson, the Austro-Hungarian Army Chief of Staff Conrad von Hötzendorff informed Ährenthal that he planned, with the concurrence of the War Minister, planned send 15,000 soldiers to reinforce Dalmatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Though this action was vetoed by Ährenthal, the soldiers were prepared should a contingency necessitating their use arise.[95]
The British Foreign Office felt at this time compelled to intervene. Up until now, they had provided insight and advice to all parties in the affair throughout normal diplomatic discourse, but they had refrained from attempting to direct the parties on opposite sides to a peaceful conclusion. On the 16th, Hardinge wrote Nicolson, “As we feel that we cannot leave things to chance, we are taking the initiative in proposing to act with France as mediators in this conflict. I am not very hopeful as to the result, owing to the inflated demands of Servia and Montenegro and the stinginess of Ährenthal.”[96]
Grey’s immediate goal was to stave off an Austrian invasion of Serbia, whether provoked or not. To this end, he first proposed Germany join with France and Britain to meet in Vienna to forge a peaceful resolution. Since Hardinge had just met with Bülow in Berlin and listened to his assurances that Germany did not wish the dispute to escalate to war, Grey wished to put this desire to a test.[97] Germany’s position as sole benefactor to Austria-Hungary in the position in which she found herself would virtually ensure a peaceful solution.
Figure 7 - Lord Edward Grey of Falladon[98]
On February 19, Grey sent telegrams to the French, German, and Italian governments outlining his proposal for mediation. He expressed his fear . . .  a trait incidentally, that conservatives would highlight for years to come[99] . . . that Austria may attack Serbia and asking for their support in a mediation effort aimed at Vienna. Grey wished to find out “what concessions she is prepared to make” in order to reach an amicable conclusion to the crisis.[100] The Russians agreed to this approach but had no confidence in the efficacy of the plan. Isvolsky was completely convinced that Austria would invade Serbia and any mediation efforts done in Vienna would be futile.[101] And while the French immediately signed on to this course of action Grey’s effort naturally ran afoul with the Italians and Germans.
The Italians refused to go along with the proposal without first consulting their allies Germany.[102] In Germany, upon receipt of Grey’s plan, Bülow had immediately consulted Wilhelm emphasizing the need to stand by their ally, and proposed they inform Britain that although they shared the same goal of avoiding a conflict between Serbia and Austria, they could not agree with Grey’s proposal, and highlighted the belligerent behavior of the Serbians whose “provocations” were responsible for the specter of war.[103] Bülow’s calculation was that Germany was at this moment diplomatically forced to throw support unequivocally behind Austria-Hungary. As in Algeciras, Italy, could not be counted upon if the crisis were submitted to a general conference between the powers.[104] With the Moroccan humiliation still fresh in mind, Bülow was loathe to stray from Ährenthal’s plan to proceed bilaterally with the Serbians.
Ährenthal viewed the annexation matter as strictly between signatories of the original Berlin treaty. While the opinions of periphery powers like Germany, Britain, and Russia mattered, they were not directly affected by the annexation itself. Furthermore, since Serbia was not a signatory to the Berlin treaty, her rights were in no wise infringed. Ährenthal wished to conclude the direct negotiations with Turkey on the indemnities due them from the annexation and independence of Bulgaria and then move on to discuss economic matters directly with Serbia, all the while declaring the Dual Monarchy’s intent to respect Serbia’s sovereignty and borders.[105]
When Goschen passed Grey’s proposal to Foreign Minister von Schön on February 20, while making assurances Germany wished for a peaceful conclusion as much did Britain, von Schön intimated that this plan would probably do more harm than good as Austria-Hungary would interpret a collective attempt to be an effort to bully Austria, placing undue pressure upon her, and that “Germany, Austria’s ally, could not be a party to anything of that nature.”[106]
As to the mood in Austria, it seems Ährenthal was already informed of Grey’s plan prior to Grey receiving an official answer from Germany.[107] Ambassador Cartwright explained the sentiments of the missions posted at Vienna were universally negative and that better results would be achieved should Grey make a similar attempt to Serbia first.[108]
The prospects of Grey’s first course of action looked bleak. Ambassador Goschen, without receiving official word, passed on information from media sources that Germany would decline and press for intervention through Belgrade rather than Vienna.[109] And though there was disagreement between Lord Mallet and Hardinge as to the direction and efficacy of this plan, Grey instructed the office that they must wait on the official word from Germany.[110]
The expected arrived on February 23, with Bülow reading the official Imperial response to Grey’s plan to Ambassador Goschen. “Any action having the object of removing the differences between Austria-Hungary and Servia should, in [his Majesty’s government’s] opinion, be taken at Belgrade rather than at Vienna. Provocation is, in effect, all on the side of Servia.”[111]
The receipt of this anticipated reply prompted sighs of quiet exasperation and dissension within the foreign office as to the direction to take now. Lord Mallet did not believe anything could come from approaching Vienna without the aid of Germany and suspected, as did Isvolsky in St. Petersburg, that the reply was confirmation that Austria-Hungary planned to act militarily against Serbia.[112] Mallet was also not confident that a similar approach made to Belgrade would garner the requisite Russian support to ameliorate Austro-Hungarian concerns referenced in the German communique.[113] Instead, Mallet mused the situation could be submitted to a general conference of the powers, though his tone was not confident in the least. Hardinge took a similar perspective, but expounded that confidential steps should be taken by Britain to directly inquire of Vienna what concessions she would be willing to grant Serbia for a peaceful end of the crisis, and upon failure of this approach, turn to a conference.[114]
On the 24th, Grey gave his reply to the German government. In it, he restated his case as to why an approach should be made directly to Vienna, in that it would give them a forum to explain what specific actions the Serbians have taken which threaten Austria-Hungary, and what concessions Austria would be willing to grant Serbia to arrive at a peaceful conclusion. This, Grey explained, would fulfil the German desire of a mediation effort directed to Belgrade; one that would be more informed and one that had a greater chance of Russian involvement.[115]
Concurrent with the attempt to gain German support for directly approaching Vienna, French Foreign Minister Pichon and Bülow’s deputy Kiderlen were also working with Isvolsky to generate a circular diplomatic notice for Serbia to distribute among the powers. Kiderlin emphasized the difference between the powers first moving on Vienna as opposed to Belgrade as simple but crucial. Kiderlen saw Grey’s plan as an attempt to ask for concessions from Austria, while the German plan would ask Serbia what her demands were.[116] Isvolsky had impressed upon the Serbians the importance and gravity of their predicament; that the clamor for war had been met with grim determination on the part of the Dual Monarchy. He urged the Serbians to express an unequivocal goal of peace and informed them British and Russian support would go so far as economic measures; any aim of territorial concessions would not see support from any of the powers.[117]
With Grey’s first course of action of multi-lateral mediation with German participation aimed at Vienna shot down, Grey and the foreign office moved to cooperate with the French effort and the Kiderlen proposal directed toward Belgrade. Grey’s only stipulation on this matter was the necessity of German assurances that they would mediate on the Austrian side of the equation if Serbia would “renounce their claims for territorial compensation” and make their economic demands known.[118]
On February 26, the direct negotiations between Vienna and Istanbul concluded and the expected Austro-Turkish protocol was signed. Now that Turkey had been placated, this opened the door for Ährenthal to directly deal with the Serbian situation. Ährenthal wasted no time in the matter. On March 2, Austrian ambassador, Count Mensdorff informally discussed the Serbian issue with Grey. Grey informed Mensdorff of the steps that Russia had been taking in conjunction with France and Germany to impress upon Serbia the gravity of the situation and the need to cease the calls for Bosnian-Herzegovinian independence and territorial compensations. Mensdorff was pleased with it and, although unable to speak authoritatively on the subject, intimated that should Serbia provide actual “moral” guarantees of their passive intentions, “direct negotiations” with the Serbian government would commence to discuss matters of economic concessions.[119] This, as Grey pointed out, was a change from the assurances of last fall wherein the Austrians had assured Britain of their desire to open the matter to a general conference of the powers. Grey “despair[ed]” of this direct negotiations achieved on points of form.[120]
Also following the signing of the protocol, on March 1, the German ambassador, Metternich provided Grey with a strange dispatch purportedly providing the very information he had originally wished to receive through German interaction with Vienna: steps taken by Serbia that would satisfy Austria. These steps were:
1.    A “complete change of Serbian Foreign Policy.
2.    “Disarmament.
3.    “Renunciation of compensation (not merely territorial)
4.    “Readiness to accept whatever solution Austria would offer.”[121]
The dispatch went on to explain that the official opinion from members of the British and French Embassies was that “Germany was now completely in lockstep with Ährenthal.”[122] Bülow stated the information had originated in a circular from the British mission in St. Petersburg and based off information Foreign Minister Schön himself provided.[123] Bülow openly doubted the genuineness of this communique, as he was not aware of Schön making this statement to members of the British or French missions in Berlin, nor to Pourtalés, the Germany minister in St. Petersburg. Metternich explained that the Germans were concerned about this sentiment emanating from the Nicolson-led mission and reiterated that the German stance on the matter had not changed and that Germany had limited herself to rejecting Grey’s proposal of approaching Vienna without having first approached Serbia.[124]
After discussions back and forth between Britain, France, Russia, and Serbia, on March 2, the Serbian cabinet agreed to the necessity of renouncing territorial and economic claims.[125] For the next three weeks, Isvolsky, Grey, and Pichon worked with the Serbians in drafting the official declaration. A major sticking point with Serbia and the Powers negotiating on her behalf concerned the subject of her armaments, the size and disposition of her army, and the specific wording of the memorandum that may give offense to Austria.[126]
Though the powers muddled through these various niggling points, the subject of conference remained the most contentious issue. Both Germany and Austria-Hungary were quite aware of the risk they took should they submit to a conference without a settled agenda. Still smarting from the abandonment of Italy at Algeciras, Germany and Austria-Hungary did not wish to open themselves up to further compromise and ensured Britain knew this stating that at a general conference “it would be difficult to exclude discussion of Armenian, Cretan and Egyptian questions,” topics which were contentious from a British perspective.[127] In virtually every discussion of the Serbian note proposed to be handed to Austria, the assurances that Serbia placed her concerns in the hands of the signatory powers of the Treaty of Berlin played a highlighted role, the implication being a conference to determine these concerns.[128] Moreover, with every draft of the Serbian note, futher signals emerged of Ährenthal’s unwillingness to submit to a conference, even with agreements reached upon the protocols.[129] Ährenthal was determined to treat the matter as a fait accompli and deal with Serbia without interference from the other powers.[130] Yet despite Ährenthal’s intransigence, he was very appreciative of Russia’s, France’s, and Britain’s efforts in bringing Serbia to come to terms with the reality of their situation. Knowing that these diplomatic issues take time to resolve, he admitted “patience was required by Austria” and assured Cartwright that “he would make use of no sudden or violent action against Servia.”[131] This statement can be viewed quite skeptically given the sentiment of Hötzendorf and the war party in Vienna.[132]
Following the diplomatic triumph achieved through directly negotiating the Austro-Turkish settlement, Ährenthal was emboldened to continue the course of action of dealing directly with Serbia. While discussions progressed between Russia, France, and Britain concerning the wording of the Serbian circular, all of which assumed a requirement for a conference of the powers to ratify the changes to the Berlin Treaty, Austria continuously dropped hints as to their intentions of dealing directly with Serbia and Montenegro. Mensdorff correctly noted that Grey had tacitly agreed to the route conducted by Austria in solving the Turkish issue of the annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and due to this “[approved] modus procedendi, . . . negotiations with regard to pending questions should in the first place be conducted between the Powers directly interested.”[133]
Once the distractions of the Austro-Turkish negotiations were over, Ährenthal dialed up the pressure on Serbia. Though publically repeating his desires for a peaceful resolution to the impasse, he frequently dropped hints as to the expiration of the commercial treaty governing tariffs between Austria-Hungary and Serbia, indicating an impending tariff war to start in April.[134] Austria’s ambassador at St. Petersburg, Count Berchtold, also suggested an issuance of an ultimatum to Serbia to a French newspaper around March 12.[135]
While Russia, France, and Britain collaborated with Serbia in language of the note, Austria now tried to influence the note by including her demands. Through Forgách, Ährenthal pushed to have Serbia acknowledge the fait acompli of the status of Bosnia-Herzegovina and assume a posture of good-intentions, thus implying a reversal of the current course of events.[136] This was communicated to the Serbians on March 6.
On March 10, the Serbian ambassador Grouitch handed Grey the completed draft of the Serbian note. It read:
Considering that legally, after the proclamation of the annexation of Bosnia and the Herzegovina, the relations of Serbia with Austria-Hungary has remained normal, Serbia has no desire to provoke a war with the neighboring monarchy, nor wishes to change anything in it its legal relationship; and wishes to continue to maintain, on the basis of reciprocity, her duties of neighborliness with Austria-Hungary as in the past. Since the Bosnia-Herzegovina question is a European issue, belonging to the signatory powers of the Treaty of Berlin to fairly decide on the annexation and amendment of Article 25 of the Treaty, Serbia, confident in the wisdom and fairness of the powers, hands them as a competent tribunal, her cause without reservation, nor asking Austria-Hungary for compensation whether territorial, political or economic.[137]
When Germany received this Serbian note, which was intended to signify Serbia’s acceptance of the Bosnia issue and ensure peaceful co-existence with Austria, Goschen, reported to Grey that it had “not made a favorable impression.”[138] Germany and Austria-Hungary took issue with what they described as the ambiguous wording of the note and its provocative potential. Austria-Hungary were upset that instead of recognizing the annexation in a legal way by unilaterally ratifying the Austro-Turkish protocol, Serbia left the matter to be decided by the powers at a conference.[139] Schön particularly derided the use of the word “Tribunal” in the description of a proposed meeting between the powers to decide the legal points of the treaty. Schön and Austrian ambassador to Germany, Szögyény both thought “that the allusion to a ‘Tribunal’ before which Austria-Hungary was practically summoned to appear was most unfortunate and likely to irritate both Baron Ährenthal and Austrian public opinion.”[140] Furthermore, they believed the omission of any reference to disarming was deliberately evasive on the part of Serbia and signified a reluctance to abide by the proposition to live alongside the Dual Monarchy in a peaceful manner.[141] Kiderlen was particularly irate at this note, assuming Russian authorship of the circular. He accused Britain, France, and Italy of being “responsible if war occurred” because “if they had done their duty, [they] would have discouraged, instead of encouraging, [Iswolsky] in his acts of bad faith.”[142] The Kaiser penned “Absolute rubbish! This is Isvolsky’s dictation,” in the margins.[143]
The Austrian reception of the note was communicated more diplomatically to Ambassador Cartwright. Ährenthal considered the note “step in the right direction” but had “no intention of replying to it” until Austria received an official response to the Forgách communication to Serbia delivered on March 6.[144] This communication of March 6 informed Serbia that Austria-Hungary would open direct negotiations with the kingdom on the commerce and tariffs issue provided Serbia accept the issue of the annexation.[145] The reply from Serbia arrived on March 14. An “insolent reply” according to a foreign officer official, the Serbian note deferred to the language of the circular issued to the powers on March 10 concerning the legal standing of the Bosnia-Herzegovina issue and proceeded to discuss potential solutions to the trade treaty expiration of March 31.[146] The Austrians viewed this note similarly interpreting it to mean Serbia would continue to live in a pacific manner with her neighbors, a view not shared by the Austrians, rather than renouncing her military preparations, and “[criticizing] in an offensive manner the action of the Austrian and Hungarian Gov[ernmen]ts in regard to the commercial treaty.”[147] Szögyény further commented on Austrian perceptions. He mentioned that Ährenthal saw the continued arming being conducted by Serbia and Montenegro in contradiction to the note delivered on the 10th. He also stated that unless Serbia delivered some assurances by the evening of the 14th, Austria would follow through with the deployment of 14 battalions into Bosnia-Herzegovina and the frontier with Serbia.[148] It was well understood that the Serbian reply to the Austrian demand would have to meet the approval of the Austrian military party in order stop a military action against Serbia.[149]
Impatient and frustrated with what he considered the impertinence and intransigence of Serbia, and by extension Russia, Ährenthal resorted to a different form of coercion. Against the advice of Germany, on March 14, Ambassador Berchtold informed Isvolsky that Russia must immediately push Serbia’s formal acceptance of the terms of the Turko-Austrian agreement in regarding the legal status of Bosnia-Herzegovina, else Austria would make public the notes from the Buchlau meeting.[150] After the receipt of this, Nicolson noted Isvolsky was visibly shaken. Although the compromised Russian foreign minister did not disclose the details of the black-mail, Nicolson surmised that the “dread of a conflict between Austria and Servia and the position in which Russia would be placed are weighing heavily on [Isvolsky], and that he would leave no stone unturned to prevent hostilities if possible.”[151]
This blackmail attempt of Ährenthal left Isvolsky with the realization that no more diplomatic song nor dance would extricate him from the corner into which he had painted himself. The release of Ährenthal’s notes of the Buchlau meeting would publically demonstrate Isvolsky’s willingness to sell out pan-Slavism by his disdain for the Serbian cause. Neither he, nor the Russian government could likely survive this embarrassment. The very day of the receipt of Berchtold’s threat, a panicked Isvolsky dispatched Ambassador Osten-Sacken to Bülow to plead with him to find a way to defuse this disclosure. Bülow said he would be happy to step in and assist, provided Isvolsky would restrain Serbia.[152] Bülow added another crucial stipulation ensuring Isvolsky agreed not to inform Nicolson of the steps Germany would take.[153]
Pourtalés passed this on to the Russian minister and said his discussions with Isvolsky concerning these directions were very profitable. Isvolsky made certain Pourtalés understood the severity of the domestic situation in which Russia found herself and made sure the possibility of having a general conference to settle matters further was not expressly prohibited in whatever language Germany chose to attempt to settle the impasse. Pourtalés agreed to this and ensured Isvolsky understood that the German intervention was not aimed at a “humiliation of Russia, but rather to find a solution” to the present mess.[154] So, while the Grey foreign office worked slowly, trying to massage the wording of the Serbian note to satisfy Austria-Hungary, and while France worked equally slowly with Austria-Hungary to try to restrain Serbia through Russia, Germany, upon the request of Isvolsky, moved swiftly and decisively to put an end to the impasse.
On March 17, Isvolsky telegrammed Benckendorff, sharing with the British the tentative reply Russia planned to give to Germany’s planned solution of solving the crisis and recognizing the annexation with an exchange of notes.[155] When the German proposal arrived at the British Foreign Office, Grey and his colleagues were crestfallen. It appeared that their insistence for a European Conference would fall by the wayside. Grey signaled his displeasure to Nicolson at this development noting “the reply [was] obscure since it contain[ed] no mention of a Conference to which reference [was] made in the earlier part of the telegram.”[156] Nicolson passed on this concern to Isvolsky, who quickly backtracked and added a clause insisting that acceptance of the German proposal “did not replace the necessity of a Conference.”[157]
Isvolsky made the reply to Germany on March 17, incorporating language suggesting a conference. It promised the “Russian government [would] on its part consider it a duty to meet this procedure with the sincere wish to find in it the elements of a solution which would be equally satisfying to all the signatory powers of the Berlin Treaty.”[158]
It is evident by the exchanges between Isvolsky and Nicolson, and between Isvolsky and Pourtalés, that Isvolsky clearly was keeping Nicolson in the dark on significant aspects of the conversations between Germany and Russia. Isvolsky continued to play the victim in his discourse with the British Foreign Office, as well as publically. Isvolsky maintained the charade of insisting upon a Conference when speaking with Nicolson, but took no steps to demand it from Germany.[159]
Nicolson had a decidedly anti-German bias and encouraged Isvolsky in a reckless path that Grey was loathe to take. In a dispatch to Grey, Nicolson had a decidedly protest-too-much moment in which he addressed this reputation he had of guiding Isvolsky. In it, Nicolson attributed this perception to his “intimate” knowledge of Isvolsky as well as the political circumstances in which he and the other powers’ foreign ministers found themselves with Isvolsky.[160] Nicolson was frequently cited by Pourtalés as one who praised the “statesmanlike wisdom” of Isvolsky “the loudest” amongst the foreign ambassadors at St. Petersburg.[161]
Isvolsky had tried to placate her British friends by signaling an intent to fight for a conference but the evidence suggests Isvolsky had no realistic hopes that a general conference to discuss points tangential to that of the annexation and independence of Bulgaria would be agreed to by Germany or Austria-Hungary. Britain further found her position insisting on a Conference doomed when Paris signaled it would meekly follow whichever path her ally Russia chose as best for her. France did not wish to antagonize her continental neighbors unnecessarily and informed Grey that if Russia no longer insisted upon a Conference, they would not insist either.[162] Grey was now isolated diplomatically.

Figure 8 - Lord Arthur Nicolson of Carnock[163]
The March 17 reply from Russia was not received well in Berlin. Wilhelm himself made annotations throughout the dispatch from Pourtalès accusing Isvolsky of prevaricating and lying.[164] Therefore, on March 21, the infamous Kiderlen ultimatum was given to Isvolsky by Count Pourtalès. Composed by Kiderlen-Wächter, Bülow’s deputy, It informed Isvolsky that Germany tired of hearing tentative responses, and wished to know definitively if Russia accepted the settlement the revocation of Article 25 of the Berlin Treaty, which granted administrative and occupation rights of Bosnia to Austria-Hungary, by an exchange of notes. If Germany did not receive a yes or a no, Kiderlen stated, “Wir würden uns dann zurückziehen und den Dingen ihren Lauf lassen,” implying that Germany would stand by if Austria started an armed intervention within Serbia and potentially Russia.[165]
Thus Isvolsky received what he wished for at the beginning, an escape from the corner in which he had painted himself. The ultimatum and the geopolitical situation of Russia amongst the Great Powers presented no other alternative than to accept the Kiderlen ultimatum, allowing Isvolsky to end the crisis and portray himself as the victim. Isvolsky did a masterful job in manipulating Nicolson, a noted Russophile, in presenting the scenario of a powerful Germany acting in perfect coordination with an ambitious and unscrupulous Austria-Hungary to jump upon the opportunities presented by the crumbling Ottoman Empire. Russia’s capitulation however, was savaged within the pan-Slavic press. The Novoe Vremya alleged Isvolsky’s surrender to be the cause of “the eclipse of Russian influence in the Balkans for the next century.”[166]
Following the Russian capitulation, the Russian government compelled Serbia to adopt extraordinary conciliatory language in accepting Austria’s annexation. This time, the terms were written by the Austrian government. They stated Serbia recognizes that her rights were not violated by the annexation, that she would cease her protestations that had been taking place since October, that she would change her course and conduct herself as a good neighbor to Austria, and that she would de-mobilize her army, and disband her volunteer militias.[167] This text was accepted by Serbia on March 28.[168]
With the Russian acceptance of the Kiderlen ultimatum and the pacification of Serbia now secured, Austria-Hungary moved to pressure Britain and France to endorse the abrogation of Article 25 of the Treaty of Berlin. Ährenthal threatened coercion upon Britain. He stated that should Serbia not follow through with the terms of the note and were forced to use arms upon Serbia, and should Britain leave the question of the annexation open, Austria-Hungary would then be compelled to “delay and complicate payment of indemnity to Turkey.”[169] In Paris, Prime Minister Cambon received similar dispatches.
On April 19, 1909, Great Britain accepted the alteration of the Treaty of Berlin via diplomatic note, thus formally accepting the annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina by Austria-Hungary. The crisis was over.[170]

Chapter 3 – The Immediate Political Postmortem

Mercer rightly contends Russia knew the inevitability of the annexation and essentially sought to get “something for nothing” whilst “exploit[ing] anti-Austrian feelings in the Balkans and capitaliz[ing] on Europe’s dismay over the violation of the Berlin treaty.”[171] This strategy of course, hinged on keeping the negotiations at Buchlau secret. Ährenthal, though, was forced by the events occurring in Turkey and Bulgaria to force the issue quicker than the Russians expected. When Isvolsky expressed buyer’s remorse, the threat of releasing the Ährenthal account of the conference at Buchlau quieted the official Russian stance, forcing her to internalize its grievances.
Throughout the affair, Isvolsky comes across as relatively ignorant, unprepared, and inadequately matched in comparison to Ährenthal. While Ährenthal understood the political as well as military concerns of his government, in dealing with the issue of the Sandžak for example, Isvolsky showed remarkable ignorance in the state of affairs of the Russian military following the disasters in the east. Just two years following the defeat, Isvolsky had “suggested that joint Anglo-Russian military action in Turkey” could have very beneficial consequences for Russian interest in the region.[172] This suggestion was of course made during the period in which all military attachés regularly reported to their governments of the inability of Russia to wage any offensive war. This is in addition to the political realities of post-Revolutionary Russia in which the people had little stomach for more foreign adventures in pursuit of the glory of Imperial Russia.
Isvolsky realized Russia’s impotence and had vastly underestimated the outrage generated by Serbia. She had unwittingly uncovered a seething hot-bed of nationalism in her own sphere of influence that threatened to undermine the partnership, albeit uneasy, it had enjoyed with Austria-Hungary for many years. “In the face of these elemental forces the diplomatic devices of a tiny decision-making elite that had contained Austro-Russian differences … for the past century were swept away.”[173]
At the end of the affair, the Russians found themselves out-maneuvered on all fronts. Her alliance with France was established primarily as a mutual defense against Teutonic aggression, not as a club with which to back up Slavic interests in the Balkans. Despite the underhanded nature of Ährenthal’s diplomacy, France would never come to Russia’s aid militarily solely to avenge offenses done to Serbia. Britain was only in the beginning stages of friendly relations with Russia having sparred with the bear for many years over the Middle East. Neither Grey, nor Clemenceau would back up Russia with military might over this minor regional issue. Grey’s tactics were doomed from the start because he was beholden to an amateur foreign-policy maker with a losing hand.
As has been shown, Serbia was outraged and pushed what most expected to be a minor bump in international relations up to the point of armed conflict between herself and Austria-Hungary. That the Great Powers underestimated the terrific response from Belgrade is understandable given that Russia had already in a conspiratorial manner handed over the provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the Dual Monarchy in 1877 as compensation for remaining neutral in a Russo-Turkish war.[174] The fact that the Serbs flew into an uproar when the provinces were officially handed over speaks volumes to the passion of the flame of Slavic nationalism that had erupted in the intervening thirty years.
Throughout February and March of 1909, Isvolsky repeatedly made errors in diplomacy and allowed his personal and emotional state cloud his judgment and actions. He frequently resorted to threats to burn bridges with the British and the French. As already seen, Isvolsky interpreted Hardinge’s cordial meeting with Bülow as an abandonment of the Anglo-Russo Entente.[175] He also accused Pichon of selling out Russia in Pichon’s negotiations with Bülow’s subordinate Kiderlin.[176] He interpreted normal, cordial diplomatic dialogue between Britain and France with Germany and Austria as signals that the understandings between Russia’s newfound friends were collapsing. Ambassador Nelidov felt it necessary to correct Isvolsky’s interpretation of the Kiderlen proposal calling it a “misunderstanding.”[177] His actions were consistently taken out of a fear of diplomatic isolation. He knew he had overextended himself at the risk of political compromise to the pan-Slav movement at home. He was eviscerated in the press for his advising the Serbians to capitulate to Austrian demands.[178] Isvolsky made promises he could not keep to the Serbians, and when asked what concessions he believed Serbia could gain through negotiations with Serbia, he pleaded ignorance.[179] He assured Milovanovitch that “we, on our part, can only repeat that the act of annexation will in the last resort not receive our signature, knowing full well his inability to keep this promise.”[180]
Isvolsky’s successor, Sergei Sazonov, who had previously served as the Tsar’s ambassador to the Vatican, described Isvolsky’s singular character flaw as taking everything far too personally, and concerning the disagreeable dealings with Ährenthal, “attributed everything . . . to evil intentions and a desire to be unjust to him.”[181]
Grey was at fault too as he frequently prevaricated and neglected to send clear signals to his counterparts in Europe. To wit, in a March 16 cable to Isvolsky, Nelidov passed on the British Foreign Ministry’s assurances that they would “take part in exerting . . . pressure and at all events will support by every possible means every Russian initiative at Belgrade” (emphasis added).[182] Yet in the next sentence, Benckendorff acknowledges Grey’s hedge in that he “believes that this answer must confine itself to assurances of readiness for peace, to the desire for friendly and neighbourly relations, and to the willingness to discuss, by means of direct negotiations, all questions of a purely economic nature affecting the interests of both States.”[183] Though Grey frequently assured Russia that it would do its utmost to pressure Serbia into pacifing Austrian concerns, the next moment Grey would limit the extent of this assurance. This did not help in aiding Isvolsky’s confidence in the ability of Grey to support Russia during the crisis and is testament to Isvolsky’s turning to Bülow for a more decisive mediation. The sentiment in Russia during the crisis was one of dismay; The Entente with France and with England was utterly worthless in contrast to the unwavering support Germany gave to her ally Austria-Hungary.[184]
While Germany acted swiftly and decisively, Grey did not. The five weeks from the time the British government decided to intervene until the Kiderlen ultimatum to Russia were marked by constant indecision and prevarication. If Grey’s motivation was simply to forestall war, he succeeded, but he did in no wise provide leadership or a clear road to a peaceful understanding between the parties. He was the anti-Bismarck. Grey tried to play the game of delicate balance, but in doing so, he sacrificed clarity in expressing goals and priorities, especially to his allies. In contrast, from the outset, the British legation clearly understood where Germany stood on the matter. At almost every encounter between Count Metternich and Grey, Metternich reiterated the full support of Germany for her ally Austria in the matter.[185] And though Bülow and von Schön continuously reiterated their desire for a peaceful outcome, they made it quite clear their ultimate decisions would be subject to supporting the dual Monarchy.[186]
Prior to the Kiderlen ultimatum, Grey had practically resorted to pleading to Isvolsky, repeatedly reminding him of the impossibility of obtaining the concessions really sought after by the pan-Slav Serb nationalists: the independence of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and territorial concessions by Austria.[187] Grey reminded him that these would be unobtainable except by force of arms and British support would be limited to being diplomatic in nature; any venture into war would not find British aid.[188]
Cooper believes a primary reason for the intervention had to do with Britain’s standing in the Near Eastern countries. “If Britain observed neutrality 'we should lose our position in the Near East, and also amongst the Mahometan [sic] communities in Egypt, India and elsewhere.”[189] If this is the case, then it begs the question as to why did Grey not already intervene during the height of the Austro-Turkish tensions immediately following the announcement of the annexation in October of 1908? If the maintenance of the reputation of British diplomacy was the preeminent factor in the Foreign Office’s calculus, Grey’s indecisive approach to “leading” the mediation effort was a curious one indeed.
Grey’s foreign policy was impotent in that there was a distinct incongruity between the British Foreign Office and the court at St. Petersburg. While Isvolsky and Bülow conferred on the nature of the assistance the Germans would render to extricate Isvolsky from his precarious position of being beholden to the Slavic nationalists, Grey and the Foreign Office worried aloud whether the proud Isvolsky would be able politically to swallow the proposed exchange of notes as proffered by Bülow.[190]
The primary reason the British effort did not work was simply that all the other actors had far more to lose than did Britain. Isvolsky had compromised himself, gambling with chips he did not have. His personal fall and humiliation was negligible, however, next to the prospect of a nationalistic, still-revolutionary public discovering his duplicitousness. Russia could not risk a war over a diplomatic error of her making. Germany knew she held the high cards at all times and only shrewdly played them at an opportune time and at the request of her opponent. France could not and would not risk a war over matters completely tangential to her interests. Austria-Hungary knew she had the full backing of Wilhelmine Germany and stretched her trust to the limit. Britain had very little to gain in the affair. Grey was too timid to bluff unconditional support to Russia and this meekness was reflected in the manner in which she conducted the mediation effort in early 1909.Had Grey or Pichon, from the outset, made clear their firm support behind Russia and the necessity for a conference, whether Isvolsky felt the need to request a firmer restraining of Austria from Germany, and whether Kiderlen then issues the ultimatum is at least subject to a healthy dose of skepticism.

Chapter 4 – The Reasons behind the British Mediation Effort

The reasons why Grey chose this particular time frame in which to intervene are two-fold, and somewhat intertwined. First, he truly did fear the outbreak of a regional conflict that could morph into a general European war. Second, he wished to maintain the Entente with Russia. Backing down to German pressure would risk fracturing the new understanding.

The British Fear of a War and its Consequences

Following the Young Turk revolution, British hopes soared for the prospects of improved administration and even closer ties between the Britain and the Porte. A regional war would fling the holdings of the once-mighty Ottoman Empire into abject chaos, with either Austria-Hungary or Russia filling the power vacuum. Strategically, and from a Mediterranean naval perspective, as will be discussed later, Britain did not have very much to lose should her influence wane in Istanbul. However the economic consequences of disruptions of the Baghdad railway project due to a war, let alone the potential unraveling of the progress made with Anglo-Russian understandings in the Subcontinent made the prospect of a regional war untenable to Grey. “I urged that it was not merely a question between Austria and Servia alone, but a question of preserving the peace of Europe,” is what Grey wrote Nicolson at the start of the British efforts to mediate the crisis.[191]
It is clear that Nicolson believed Russia would intervene militarily should Austria invade Serbia regardless of whether the Dual Monarchy was provoked or not. The only thing that could hold Russia back from this eventuality, Nicolson explained, is the fear of a German response and the possibility that France would refuse to come to Russia’s aid over a Balkan matter.[192] Thus far, Russia had no information to suggest Germany would sit on its hands and judging by how Nicolson read Isvolsky’s interpretations of Nelidov’s dispatches from Paris, Russia was terrified that France would sit out as well.[193]

The Desire to Maintain the Entente

Grey and Nicolson both knew how precarious the Russian situation was. The democratic reforms granted in the 1905 revolution introduced an unpredictability to affairs in general in the Russian government. Isvolsky was a product of this increasing liberalization of Russia’s government. He had “advocated a rapproachment with England,” and had “the support of most progressive Russian diplomats and political leaders.”[194] Isvolsky had no aspirations for a pan-Slavic state as evidenced by his willingness to barter with Austria-Hungary. While Isvolsky had nothing personally invested with the pan-Slavic movement, the nascent political groups and newspapers in St. Petersburg did. He further knew he had made an extraordinary gamble in attempting to open the Straights, and with his neck on the line from his fumbled diplomacy with Ährenthal in the summer and fall of the previous year, was in danger of bringing down the government should Serbia’s clamoring for recompense not meet satisfaction.[195]
The Russian pan-Slavic press viciously attacked Isvolsky regularly throughout the five weeks prior to the capitulation prompted by the receipt of the Kiderlen ultimatum. The press saw Isvolsky as having dictated the terms directly from the Austrian government upon Serbia and had “sacrifice[d] the prestige of Russia.”[196]
Hardinge himself had already previously witnessed the precarious Russian politics during and after the disastrous 1905 Russo-Japanese war.[197] Pyotr Stolypin, the Russian Prime Minister, who according to the assistant Foreign Minister Charykov, was the “last and only hope of avoiding for Russia the cataclysm of a revolution,” knew very well the imminent political danger should Russia suffer such a diplomatic defeat in a showdown between the German world and Slav-dom.[198] He made it clear to Nicolson on the February 16, that should Austria move militarily on Serbia, the political climate within Russia necessitated a military response.[199]
The Foreign Office was indeed concerned over the prospects of a revolution breaking out should the Russian government be seen as having forsaken the Slavs to the Austro-Hungarian advance in the Balkans. However, Nicolson prevaricated on this assessment as well, stating privately to Grey that he feared if Russia did go to war in defense of Serbia, that the state of Russian finances could precipitate a revolution as well.[200]
Thus, Britain was confronted with a dilemma that should events take their course, a war, the limits of which could not be adequately predicted, and a revolution would likely take place. Grey hoped that by inserting Britain in an active role in mediating, this equation could have a peaceful result.
If the prospect of an overthrow of the Russian government was not impetus enough, Britain also confronted the prospect of the collapse of the Entente should Russia capitulate to the German ultimatum. Britain already suspected the Kaiser’s bizarre stunt at Tangiers was spurred more by a desire to break up the Anglo-French Entente of 1904 than to secure German commercial interests in Morocco.[201] It was no stretch of the imagination to connect the annexation crisis to insidious Germanic plots to blow up the Anglo-Russian Entente three years later.
Grey’s diplomatic tactics during the mediation were guided not by a desire to aid Serbia, nor necessarily by a desire to avoid war, but by a fear of losing the Entente with Russia. Grey feared that by ceding to the Austrian desires to deal unilaterally with Serbia, Britain would be abandoning Serbia to face Austria alone, a fact Isvolsky made clear to Nicolson.[202] Grey knew the ramifications of this in an unstable Russia with a foreign minister who had seemingly already sold a brother Slavic state down the river.

Chapter 5 – The Foreign Policy Aims of the Powers

To fully appreciate the annexation crisis, it is crucial to understand the foreign policy aims of the nations involved. The personalities in the foreign offices and the policies they developed determined the direction of the discourse throughout the crisis.


To be clear at the outset, British foreign policy had long been chiefly devoted to the expansion and protection of its maritime trade and the security of its far-flung colonial holdings. As such, British naval superiority was the dominant priority of policy-makers.[203] Despite the slow, but steady advance of liberalism and increased democratization within the British government, the realm of foreign policy had generally been the domain of the professional nobility and marked by predictability and continuity. The dramatic shifts in balance of power in the latter half of the Nineteenth Century only served to increase the power of the Cabinet.[204]
The years of 1895 to 1905 in which the Liberals were out of power had seen shifts in British policy concerning relations with Germany, France, and Russia. Britain had actively moved to check Russian activities through the Anglo-Japanese alliance, had passively countered French colonial ambitions through natural overlap of interests, and had reacted to a perception of German expansionism that threatened Britain’s maritime dominance.[205] As already seen, the sudden rise in German power on the continent, Wilhelm’s ambition with the dismissal of Bismarck, and the Tirpitz naval program convinced Britain that her splendid isolation was coming to a close.
In December 1905, in the midst of the Morocco crisis, the Unionist Balfour government suddenly resigned ushering in a new Labor government. Viscount Sir Edward Grey, who had previously cut his teeth in the Foreign Office of the final Gladstone government from 1892 to 1895, was asked by the new Prime Minister Henry Campbell-Bannerman to take leadership within the Foreign Office.[206] Grey remarks in his memoirs of the importance of continuity within the office. “Mr. Gladstone’s Government continued the policy of Lord Salisbury as they found it; when Lord Salisbury returned to the Foreign Office in 1895 he saw no more reason to change that policy than Lord Rosebury or Lord Kimberley had done; he continued it.”[207] Grey’s aim was to continue this practice, in the belief that foreign policy lay “beyond the realm of party political exchanges” and the amplitude of foreign policy swings precipitated by parties would have disastrous effects on the prestige efficacy of British efforts in foreign affairs.[208]
Because Britain’s foreign policy revolved around maritime trade and protective naval capacity, Grey sympathized with and understood Isvolsky’s aim concerning the Straights of the Dardanelles: access to a warm-water port. While many nations had their own ports, “Russia, with the most extensive territory and a huge population, had no outlet under her own control. . . . Was it possible ever to have peace and quiet, or indeed to have anything but recurrent friction with Russia on such terms?”[209]
With the Suez and Gibraltar secure, the oft-cited Defense Committee Paper of 1903 that assured the government the strategic balance of power would remain intact should Russian warships be granted the ability to freely transit the Dardanelles, provided Grey room to maneuver in the diplomatic arena in furthering its Entente with Russia.[210] Grey’s only concern remained the preservation of the Congress of Europe and mutual consent to any treaty modifications.
One of Britain’s purposes for pursuing the Entente with Russia was to hedge against a falling out with the Ottoman Empire. Following the Young Turk Revolution, Britain suddenly found herself loosely allied with both Russia and Turkey, countries with vastly differing interests. The British effort at mediating the annexation crisis cannot be viewed separately from the desire to restore good relations with the reforming Turkish government. Frequently during the crisis, footnotes at the bottom of dispatches penned by Lord Mallet, Hardinge, and Grey referred to how it would affect relations with the Turks.[211] The British press latched onto the relationship with Turkey from the outset of the crisis following the October announcement of the annexation.[212] Frequently as well, the issue of Montenegro arose during the crisis.[213] Prior to the Young Turk Revolution, one of Britain’s goals had been to work jointly with Russia to press reforms on the Ottoman Empire on the Christian minorities in her holdings, particularly in Montenegro.


Germany’s foreign policy was one of imperial ambition and only tempered by an unwavering support for her primary ally, Austria-Hungary. The Dual Alliance founded in 1879 remained the bedrock of German foreign policy. Bülow explained his foreign policy to the Reichstag in 1899 in these terms:
The rapid growth of our population, the unprecedented expansion of our industry, the industriousness of our merchants, in short, the phenomenal vitality of the German people have integrated us into the world economy and drawn us into international politics. If the British speak of Greater Britain, if the French speak of Nouvelle France, if the Russians move into Asia, we too have the right to a Greater Germany.[214]
To further this goal, Germany expanded her commercial interests in Ottoman Turkey, at the same moment Britain began to disengage due to the concerns of Ottoman repression. Germany negotiated with Turkey to construct a railway meant to connect the Persian Gulf to Berlin, to allow overland transport of colonial commerce from German colonies in Africa. This Baghdad railway was secured with the assistance of hefty bank loans to the cash-strapped Ottoman Empire in the early 1900s.[215] Germany also expanded her colonial holdings in Africa into “Damaraland [modern-day Namibia), Cameroon, Togoland, [and] German East Africa [modern day Tanzania]” as well as places in the Pacific.[216] The furtherance of the Wilhelmine strategy of positioning Germany into her rightful place in the sun alongside the other imperial powers of France and Britain inevitably collided with the interests of these colonial powers, most notably Britain.
During the annexation crisis, Germany’s ultimate desire was to forestall war while supporting her ally. Secondarily to that, Germany did not wish to allow Vienna to recklessly pursue her own course without equal input from Germany. A regional war could have disastrous consequences for her as well. Kiderlen stated to Goschen, “We certainly do not want war—as Russia would be sure to get a beating and that would mean a revolution followed by a republic. That would not suit our book at all. Especially as we are not ready for one ourselves yet.”[217]
The two guiding principles of avoiding war and reclaiming the initiative from Austria led to the aggressive and decisive manner with which Germany dealt with the impasse between Serbia and Austria-Hungary. Kiderlen’s frustration with the seemingly inevitable slouch toward war led him to mention the possibility of disclosing Ährenthal’s notes concerning Buchlau to the public, but he advised Szögyény to hold on to it for a little more time, advise that we have seen went unheeded when Berchtold presented this coercive possibility to Isvolsky.[218]
The Kiderlen ultimatum was delivered to accomplish these principles. Germany believed Austria would fully exploit Russia’s military and political weakness in order to deal with the pan-Slavic threat to her borders found in Serbia. To forestall this Kiderlen determined to call out Isvolsky publically, not to humiliate Russia, but to forestall a regional war that would prove Russian impotence rather than merely suggest it.
Germany was well aware of Isvolsky’s compromising position and that his own government was unwilling to back him. Pourtalès reported on the subsiding of the pan-Slavic clamor in the Duma.[219] Reporting on a Duma meeting, the German naval attaché Captain von Hintze noted:
I would like to underline the importance of the Duma meeting on 8 March. For the time being, Russia has broken off her policy of bluffing concerning a war and expressed hope for the future. I do not fear a relapse into that policy; it is final. As for the future, the War Minister has said the creation of an army for 1908 requirements will take fifteen years. Today, three years after the war [with Japan], neither the army nor the fleet is ready for war. No material has been procured, due to lack of funding. . . . My friends’ assessment of a three to five year recovery from the defeat seems to me to be premature.[220]
Assured both from the request initiated by Isvolsky to mediate, and by this confirmation of the nature of Russia’s impotence, Germany decisively acted.


The foreign policy of Russia during this crisis is difficult to pin down. As we have already seen, Isvolsky’s program was disjointed and conflicted with internal Russian policy. The state of affairs in Russia was not compatible with dealing aggressively with Austria-Hungary and her benefactor Germany. The domestic and military functions of her government focused on achieving internal stability and restoring her military preparedness while Isvolsky embarked on a campaign to restore the prestige of the Russian protector of Orthodoxy.
Throughout the Bismarckian period, Russia’s friendly relations with Germany allowed her to focus on her far eastern affairs which would end up embroiling her in the disastrous war with Japan in 1905. The subsequent revolution and Isvolsky’s appointment as foreign minister marked a return to looking toward the west, in particular with an eye to the states under Ottoman rule.[221] This tact back to affairs on her western border coincided with the deteriorating and polarization of the Great Powers in the post-Bismarck realignment. Isolated diplomatically, Russia felt forced to find an ally in France, and later in England.[222]
In the year following his appointment, Isvolsky developed a reputation of accomplishment in fostering peaceful relations, even in Vienna. Viennese papers heralded his securing of the Russo-Anglo Entente and restored relationship with Japan.[223] These successes notwithstanding, it remains highly puzzling as to why Isvolsky chose 1908 as a time to pursue an aggressive course of action in foreign affairs. Isvolsky’s successor Sazonov, described Russia’s condition in dark, somber tones. His picture of a Russia still militarily impotent from the defeats in Manchuria and politically unstable, still battling revolutionary fervor is seemingly incompatible with a nation able to pursue perhaps the single-most sought after foreign policy concession of the Russian Empire.[224]


Ährenthal’s goals were quite simple. With the demise of the Ottoman Empire, he wished to end the dream of a pan-Slavic arising from its ashes on his southern and eastern borders. With Austria-Hungary already containing a very large portion of Slavic peoples under her dominion, an expansionist, nationalist state on her flanks was untenable.
The process of nation building on our southeastern border has naturally been fluid recently through the weakening of Turkey. Because of this, we have had to take a position 30 years ago [through the occupation granted under the Berlin Treaty] and now by the annexation. These two acts mean the destruction of the dream of a greater Serbian state between the Danube, the Sava, and the Adriatic Sea.[225]
Ährenthal’s secondary goal was to divorce Austria’s dependence upon Germany in the conduct of her foreign affairs.[226] Ährenthal saw direct negotiations between Austria and the parties directly affected as the path to these two ends. This method he viewed as his prerogative, and conducted the preliminary negotiations bilaterally between Austria-Hungary and Turkey. Following dealing with Turkey, he wished to then directly deal with Serbia. Once the terms had been ironed out, the issue of the changes to the Treaty of Berlin would be submitted to the powers for consideration with all of the contentious matters taken care of. Because Ährenthal believed he had already achieved an understanding with Russia, Serbia’s primary benefactor, the annexation issue was only an obstacle to Turkey and therefore tangentially to Britain. Ährenthal believed the annexation should not meet any realistic resistance from Serbia as she was not “directly interested,” not being a signatory power to the Treaty of Berlin.[227] Once Ährenthal negotiated the terms of the agreement with Turkey concerning Bosnia-Herzegovina and Bulgaria, he would then move on to dealing likewise with Serbia as he insinuated to Cartwright in February 1909.[228]


France was entirely motivated by a need for security. The fall of Bismarck, who had successfully managed to isolate France diplomatically for twenty years proved to be a turning point for French foreign policy. The cancelling of the reinsurance treaty between Germany and Russia provided an opportunity for France to woo Russia. Russia signed an official treaty with France on January 4, 1894 albeit begrudgingly, as the totalitarian Tsarist government was loath to ally herself with a republican one.[229] This treaty was more than the political ententes that Britain reached with France and Russia later, and became a primary concern for the Triple Alliance. The terms of the treaty compelled France or Russia to support the other with force of arms in case of an attack upon the one.[230] This treaty was entirely defensive in nature and was not enforceable if the actions of one of the parties were aggressive in nature. The goal of both France and Russia was to “end their isolation.”[231]
At the start of the crisis as at the end, France’s motivation was to maintain the peace and avoid general war. Even more motivated than Britain by her neighborly proximity to Germany, France engaged more aggressively with Russia in attempting to talk down Isvolsky’s backing of Serbia. France did not wish to go to war over an issue of Slavic nationalism in the Balkans. In October, following the disclosure of Austria-Hungary’s intentions, Clemenceau had not been opposed to the idea of the annexation and seemed contented to the ultimate end, rather he, like Grey, felt it compulsory to oppose the manner in which Austria-Hungary breached the treaty of Berlin.[232] France’s protestations grew more muted as the rhetoric intensified and war-tensioned escalated. She shifted from a pro-forma opposition into one almost speaking for Germany, expressing the necessity of Russia to reign in Serbia:
The Russian Government will surely agree with the French Government that both must do everything possible to prevent the danger of an armed conflict in a question in which the vital interests of Russia are not involved. French public opinion would be unable to comprehend that such a question could lead to a war in which the French and the Russian army would have to participate.[233]

Chapter 5 – The Reaction in the British Press

Alongside the explosion of general prosperity and power Britain enjoyed, the nineteenth century saw equally dramatic movements in Christian charity and the missionary spirit. The abuses of the Ottoman government upon Christian minorities in the Balkans were issues that remained a constant thorn in the flesh of a Foreign Office whose goal in that region was the support of the Porte as a protector against Russian incursion into the Mediterranean and as an enabler of the securing of Egypt and the Suez. This “humanitarian feeling in Britain and the persisting sympathy for Christian populations under Turkish rule was so strong that British political and material interests were overborne by it.”[234] This was a delicate balancing act in that much of Britain’s colonial holdings were of Muslim populations. Britain had worked diligently to establish herself as an imperial protector of Muslim peoples. She faced a crossroads with the realities reported in the press concerning Ottoman repressions both in the Balkans and in Christian Armenia. At the time of the annexation crisis, the Young Turk revolution and the Entente with Russia were still in their infancy.
Grey’s statements aside, there is not much evidence that the press had any significant impact upon policymaking. Robbins attests to Grey and his predecessors using the concept of the public opinion in defending their policies in speeches and statements to the public and Parliament, but aside from these claims, no clear evidence exists to support the idea that the public at large held power to sway opinion or change course in foreign affairs.[235] The reason for this, Robbins proposes, is that the study of foreign affairs was also in its infancy and it’s “opinion-makers . . . restricted to the editors and journalists of the daily and weekly press, writers on public affairs generally, and specialists in the history of one or other country.”[236]
Robbins assessment is supported by the way the press covered the events of 1908 through 1909. The London papers reacted to unfolding events with much moderation and care . . . for the large part reflecting the tone of the Grey Foreign Office. In October, newspaper articles reporting on the annexation largely echoed the official sentiments of the British government. It recognized the slight done to Turkey, the need for Britain to protect the Porte’s interests, and the inviolability of international treaties.[237] There was not a great outcry in the London press as much as a calm, measured reporting of events. The Times did report how foreign media reacted to it, particularly focusing on the dramatic outcry in Serbia and the calls for war therein.[238]
As the crisis deepened, the coverage grew more concerned. The tone was decidedly anti-Austrian with one correspondent commenting on the “apparent blindness” of Ährenthal concerning his assumed ignorance of the ramifications of his aggressive policy.[239] The foreign correspondents regularly updated their readers with dispatches conveying both the general mood in their various foreign capitals as well as relaying official releases by the various governments.
In February, the tone began to change to one of pessimistic despair. On the February 23, the Times Vienna correspondent remarked that the general feeling in Austrian circles was “war [was] but a question of weeks, perhaps even days.”[240] On the same page, the Berlin correspondent reported on efforts the German government made to defend its decision to not participate in Grey’s proposed approach of Vienna. Germany had made a statement in the Cologne Gazette explaining as such.[241]
Following the Kiderlen ultimatum, the overwhelming response of the British press was one of general relief that a war had not broken out.[242] This relief was augmented by some post-facto analysis of the diplomacy leading up to the exchange of notes. It was accepted that Germany had acted very shrewdly and consistently applied a policy of attempting to separate Russia from France and Britain.[243]
The news of the Russian acceptance of the German proposal drew varied and conflicting reports in the British and foreign press. The Times of London reported the method of the German proposal was a personal letter from Wilhelm to the Tsar in which he urged Nicolas to accept an Austrian proposal to abrogate Article 25 of the Treaty of Berlin; and that this was done primarily to throw all support behind Austria-Hungary in order to repair a strained relationship with the heir to the Hapsburg throne, Archduke Francis Ferdinand.[244] This claim was later retracted just the next day.[245] Rumors were not confined to this however; a story was also printed declaring Isvolsky had resigned due to the affair.[246]
The Times also speculated that Germany’s intervention was primarily influential due to its shifting military posture against Russia. The paper reported that the German army had made pre-mobilization preparations while many Austrian troops moved from an eastward orientation, to one prepared to strike southward in the direction of Serbia.[247]
In England, public perceptions of the crisis were molded against Germany by portraying the end of the crisis as forcing Russia into surrendering. Bülow’s praising the acceptance of Russia of the Kiderlin note was viewed in the most negative light possible.
[Bülow’s] effusive compliment to the Tsar for his services to the cause of peace furnishes a cynical documentary on the circumstances in which they were rendered. The striking parallel between this Serbian crisis and the Morocco difficulty does not escape attention. The reports of M. Isvolsky’s resignation, emenating from pro-German circles, show that, just as in the case of M. Delecassé, one of Germany’s objects was the downfall of the Minister who ventured to conclude an understanding with England.[248]
This perception of German bullying was no doubt influenced by the Russian press who took a similar view. The Novoe Vremya excoriated the Russian government for “[forgetting] even the existence of the Triple Entente and took the decisive step without consulting or even informing England and France.”[249] The press dutifully reported the best outcome for which Isvolsky could hope. Rather than see the downfall of the entire government and possible revolution for the exposure of his reckless and ill-informed foreign policy, he became the scapegoat for the affair.
Overall, the press largely acted as an official purveyor of information for affected governments. The correspondents in the various capitals were dependent upon official interviews with press officers of the courts and their dispatches reflected remarkable similarity with the diplomatic cables surveyed in this study.[250] The writers also relied on foreign newspaper articles on subjects to which the authors did not have first-hand sources. These articles were provided in gist for their domestic audiences in Britain. In the London Times, there was little room for editorial commentary for reasons previously explained.

Chapter 6 – Concluding Thoughts

“There is nothing more futile than a momentary diplomatic score off a Foreign Minister or his country. It is worse than futile; it has later on to be paid for, and it wrecks that confidence which is as essential in permanent relations between Governments as it is between great commercial houses.”[251] Thus spoke Grey upon reflection in his memoirs on the crisis.
Isvolsky and Ährenthal did not set out to destroy a working partnership with each other. They were not intent on building an alliance. They did not wish to poison their relations to the extent that it did six months following the annexation announcement. Both of the foreign ministers believed the peoples being bartered in private talks would simply go along with whatever outcome the powerful elites determined for them. They vastly underestimated the reactions their decisions would make in Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro, and elsewhere. Traditionally, Austria-Hungary gets the majority of the blame for causing the crisis. Certainly, Ährenthal was evasive and duplicitous in his dealings with Russia, but how can he be blamed for accepting a diplomatic gift from an incoherent and incompetent Russian government? Now whether Austria-Hungary should get the blame for setting the ripe conditions for the Great War to take place six years later is another matter.
Russia, of course had fumbled the entire exchange. Nicholas II claimed to have not given permission to Isvolsky to barter away Bosnia-Herzegovina no matter what the price, though Isvolsky’s assistant denies this, stating the Tsar had approved a memorandum detailing the plan prior to Isvolsky’s approach to Ährenthal.[252] When Francis Joseph announced the annexation, Nicholas II decried it, leaving Isvolsky out on his own. How this occurred exactly is unknown. Schmitt speculates it could be attributed to the Tsar’s propensity to go along with whatever the latest aid or advisor said.[253] Whatever happened, Isvolsky was abandoned by his government and left to attempt to force a European Conference to which Austria-Hungary could be brought to heel by France, Britain, and Russia. This, of course, the second Algeciras, never happened and Russia was left smarting to restore her credibility both amongst the Great Powers from a military standpoint, and to the Slavs in the Balkans who rightly wondered if they had been sold down the river by their benefactor. “The Russians themselves were determined at all costs that the humiliation of 1909 must never be repeated.”[254]
While it is clear that the crisis of the annexation did not result in general war, it is an interesting proposal to consider what could have happened had Russia’s military not been so incapable or politics so unsteady. Would Nicholas II have moved upon Austria Hungary because of this offense? It is unlikely given the risk versus reward considerations for such a seemingly minor offense. However, given Nicholas’s ineptitude and instability it is worthy of consideration. However, it is more likely that Ährenthal, astute as he was, would not have so brazenly affronted Russia had Russia possessed the capacity to defend Slavic interests with military might. Equally, it is likely the Germany would have restrained Austria-Hungary in the face of an offended Russia.
Despite the perception of bowing to Slavic interests, during the crisis, Russia was not so much concerned about the nation of Serbia or some of the Slavic peoples in the Balkans, but was mortified by the prospect of losing her status as one of the Great Powers. “Neither [Isvolsky nor Charykov] showed any of the simple-minded and thoroughly sincere solicitude for the little Slav brothers which is so characteristic of [Prime Minister Stolypin].”[255]
The threat of the whole affair was that “of an Austro-Hungarian punitive expedition against Serbia and the blow that this would deal, by exposing Russia’s impotence to prevent it, to her standing as a Great Power, both in the Balkan capitals and in Europe generally.”[256] That Isvolsky and Russia set out on an ambitious foreign policy to repair her damage in the Japanese war is puzzling. Gooch explains Russia’s foreign affairs follies in the years immediately following the humbling in Japan thusly: “Russia … was unfit for war, and should have kept aloof from the quarrels of the Powers. Her initial mistake in tying herself to France and thereby needlessly antagonizing Germany was followed by an endeavor to secure hegemony in the Balkans, which involved the hostility of Austria.”[257]
Why Russia would risk this kind of damage to her standing in the world for only the prospect of opening the Bosporus Straights is also a good question. Isvolsky must have been extremely overconfident in the prospects of achieving this goal, as all it took was the casual mention of Austria’s openness to the idea that led him to pursue it with reckless abandon.
It is important to place the Bosnian annexation crisis in context of what previously happened in the first Moroccan crisis and the subsequent conference that resulted in Germany backing down due to the combined, unwavering pressure of France, Russia, and Britain. Mercer explores how the fallout from that conflict informed how the participants of this Balkan crisis would react not three years later. Following Algeciras, “Germany left … with three lessons: Germany had a reputation for lacking resolve and other states would seek to exploit it; Germany was alone in the world except for Austria and so Vienna must be supported; Germany should avoid conferences when in the minority.”[258] This accounts for how the German position on a European Conference to settle the Bosnian affair was so intransigent. One can extend this logic further to explain how Germany did not believe Russia would mobilize in 1914 to protect Serbia from Austrian attack.
The systems of alliances that developed post-Bismarck were expedient and largely untested prior to the first Moroccan crisis. At Algeciras, the Franco-British Entente Cordiale was put to the test with Germany experiencing a diplomatic defeat and sensing the need to strengthen its own ties to Austria-Hungary. The Bosnian crisis served this purpose fittingly. While Wilhelm was likely furious that he was not consulted by Austria, he had to have been pleased the crisis occurred as it did with the strengthening of Austria and the relationship with her. The overall “result of the crisis was thus to consolidate both alliance systems, to extend the scope of the German-Austrian one, and to increase the level of tension between the two.”[259] “However, by threatening to resist and then backing down, Russia lost far more than a payoff from the Austrians. The situation in 1909 led others to ignore later Russian diplomatic statements.”[260]
The British attempt to mediate was doomed from the outset because she had not nearly as much to gain or to lose as the other participants. While Britain merely hoped to maintain a delicate and nascent understanding with Russia and France, Germany viewed her alliance with Austria-Hungary as an existential one. Germany saw the Triple Entente as an encirclement of Germany which threatened her interests. Britain saw these relationships as an opportunity to check the next would-be continental hegemon.
Both Grey and Cambon of France prevaricated once forced by Ährenthal to call his bluff or fold. Cambon looked to Grey for the first move, and Grey did likewise.[261] Grey could not lead effectually from the rear, as France did not have the willingness to confront Germany’s ally.
To be fair to Grey and the Foreign Office, precisely because there was a great deal less to lose, there was not much more that Grey could have done. The major variables in the equation had already been defined prior to his wading into the crisis. When Isvolsky begged him to step in, having already seen how important it was to Britain to maintain the Entente, there was little Grey could have done but give his ascent to the Russians.
All participants in 1909 walked away with this mentality of a fear of the loss of prestige. Russia was terrified she would never be taken seriously in international affairs. Austria-Hungary sensed its own weakness and susceptibility to being torn apart piece-meal from the inside by nationalists. France felt threatened by Germany’s industrial and military might and had good reason to be due to the lessons of 1871. Germany felt surrounded by large powers, one of which she had offended recently, and the other which had allied militarily with the first one. Britain felt threatened as her main claim to being a Great Power, her navy, was on the cusp of being eclipsed by a new industrial power.

Appendix A – Alliance Structure


Appendix B – Great Powers’ Personalities Visual Aid


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[1] New York: The Free Press, 1928.
[2] Luigi Albertini, The Origins of the War of 1914, trans. and ed. by Isabella M. Massey (London: Oxford University Press, 1952), 273.
[3] New York: Cambridge University Press, 1937.
[4] Schmitt, 195-198.
[5] David G. Herrmann, The Arming of Europe and the Making of the First World War (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996), 1-6.
[6] Ibid., 113.
[7] Ibid., 127-130.
[8] Bobroff, Ronald P, Roads to Glory: Late Imperial Russia and the Turkish Straits (New York: I. B. Tauris, 2006).
[9] Sean McMeekin, The Russian origins of the First World War (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011); Hugh Ragsdale, ed. Imperial Russian Foreign Policy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1933); Samuel R. Williamson, Austria-Hungary and the Origins of the First World War (London: MacMillan, 1991)
[10] D. W. Sweet, “The Bosnian Crisis,” in British Foreign Policy Under Sir Edward Grey, F. H. Hinsley, ed. (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1977.
[11] Ibid., 186, 187.
[12] M. B. Cooper, “British Policy in the Balkans, 1908-9,” The Historical Journal 7, no. 2 (1964), 271, 272. Accessed October 28, 2014.
[13] Stacie E. Goddard, “When Right Makes Might: How Prussia Overturned the European Balance of Power,” International Security 33, no. 3 (Winter, 2008/2009), 117, accessed December 30, 2014,
[14] Fay, 53.
[15] Ibid., 56, 57.
[16] “Otto von Bismarck”, December 31, 1880, German Federal Archives, Bild 146-1990-023-06A, accessed April 3, 2015,
[17] Fay, 64.
[18] Albertini, 18-20; Fay, 66.
[19] Albertini, 21-23; Fay, 67.
[20] Albertini, 31; Fay, 67.
[21] Fay, 69.
[22] Albertini, 36, 37.
[23] Ibid., 46-50.
[24] Bernadotte Schmitt, The Coming of the War: 1914, Volume 1 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1930), 9.
[25] Albertini, 62, 63.
[26] George F. Kenan, The Fateful Alliance: France, Russia, and the Coming of the First World War (New York: Pantheon Books, 1984), 20.
[27] William Langer, “Russia, the Straits Question, and the European Powers, 1904-8,” The English Historical Review 44, no. 173 (January 1929), 59.
[28] Albertini, 76, 77.
[29] Ibid., 96.
[30] R. J. Sontag, “British Foreign Policy, 1898-1912,” The Journal of Modern History 2, no. 3 (September 1930), 475-476, accessed January 4, 2015,, Albertini, 99-102.
[31] Sontag, 475.
[32] Fay, 168-169.
[33] Ibid., 191-192.
[34] William R. Langer, “Russia, the Straits Question, and the European Powers, 1904-8,” The English Historical Review 44, no. 173 (January 1929), 62-65.
[35] Bernadotte E. Schmitt, “Triple Alliance and Triple Entente, 1902-1914,” The American Historical Review 29, no. 3 (April 1924), 452-453.
[36] Alexander Isvolsky, Recollections of a Foreign Minister, Charles L. Seeger, trans. (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Page, & Company, 1921), 3, 4.
[37] Kenneth I. Daily, “Alexander Isvolsky and the Buchlau Conference,” Russian Review 10, no. 1 (January 1951), 55, accessed November 22, 2013,
[38] William L. Langer, “Russia, the Straits Question and the Origins of the Balkan League, 1908-1912,” Political Science Quarterly 43, no. 3 (September 1928), 321.
[39] Edward Grey, Twenty-five Years: 1892-1916, vol. 1 (New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1925), 49.
[40] “Alexander Isvolsky,” Bülow, Bernhard, Fürst von Bülow, Memoirs of Prince von Bülow, Franz von Stockhammern, F. A. Voigt, Geoffrey Dunlop, trans. (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1931-1932).
[41] Harold George Nicolson, Sir Arthur Nicolson Bart., First Lord Carnock – A Study in the Old Diplomacy (London: Constable & Co. Ltd., 1930), 264.
[42] Ibid.
[43] Albertini, 190-191.
[44] Wilhelm E. von Schön, The Memoirs of an Ambassador: The Contribution to the Political History of Modern Times, Constance Vesey, trans. (London: George Allen & Unwin LTD., 1922), 52.
[45] Dailey, 55.
[46] “Von Aehrenthal, cameo portrait, in uniform,” U.S. Library of Congress, accessed January 28, 2015,
[47] Fay, 369. Quote from Daily, 55.
[48] Fay, 367.
[49] Grey to Nicolson, no. 258, G. P. Gooch and Harold Temperley, eds, British Documents on the Origins of the War, 1898-1914, 11 Volumes, vol. IV, (London: H. M. Stationery Office, 1928), 279-280. This citation will hereinafter be referred to as B.D. followed by the volume and page number. Langer, “Russia, the Straits Question and the Origins of the Balkan League, 1908-1912,” 321.
[50] Fay, 369.
[51] Letter to Baron Ährenthal, November 19, 1907, Von Hötzendorf, 516.
[52] Albertini, 194.
[53] “Provinces Annexed by Austria and Balkan Nations Affected,” New York Times, October 8, 1908, accessed April 14, 2015,
[54] Albertini.
[55] Ibid.
[56] Nicolson to Grey, no. 241, B.D., vol. V, 345.
[57] Arthur J. May, “The Novibazar Railway Project,” The Journal of Modern History 10, no. 4 (December 1938), 507-508, accessed November 15, 2013,
[58] Albertini., 195.
[59] “The Awakening of the Question of the East,” Public Domain, Le Petit Journal, October 18, 1908, accessed April 1, 2015,
[60] Ibid., 196, 197.
[61] Dailey, 57.
[62] Albertini, 217-218.
[63] Ibid.
[64] Alexander Isvolsky, Recollections of a Foreign Minister (Memoirs of Alexander Isvolsky), trans. Charles Louis Seeger (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1921), v.
[65] Dailey, 59-61.
[66] Dailey, 61-62.
[67] John D. Treadway, The Falcon & the Eagle: Montenegro and Austria-Hungary, 1908-1914 (West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 1983), 23, 24.
[68] Ibid.
[69] Schmitt, The Annexation of Bosnia 1908-1909, 34.
[70] Ibid.
[71] Ibid.
[72] Ibid., 36.
[73] Ibid., 20.
[74] Grey to Lowther, no. 313, B.D., vol. V, 396.
[75] Schmitt, The Annexation of Bosnia 1908-1909, 100.
[76] Whitehead to Grey, no. 315, B.D., vol. V, 397.
[77] Schmitt, The Annexation of Bosnia 1908-1909, 47.
[78] Ibid., 146
[79] “The Mission of M. Milovanovitsch,” Times of London, December 9, 1908, 5, accessed December 2, 2014,
[80] Pourtalès to Bülow, no. 9370, Germany Auswärtiges Amt, Die Grosse Politik der Europaischen Kabinette, 1871-1914: Sammlung der diplomatischen akten des Auswartigen amtes, im auftrage des Auswartigen amtes. vol. 26, parts 1, 2, Johannes Lepsius, Albrecht Mendelssohn Bartholdy, and Friedrich Thimme eds., (Berlin: Deutsche Verlagsgesellschaft für Politik und Geschichte M.B.H, 1922), 593. This citation will hereinafter be referred to as G.P. followed by the volume and page number.
[81] Nicolson to Grey, no. 570, B.D., vol. 5, 599.
[82] Nicolson to Grey, no. 567, B.D., vol. 5, 596.
[83] Russian Chargé d’Affairs at London to Isvolsky, no. 258, de Siebert, B., trans., Entente Diplomacy and the World: Matrix of the History of Europe, 1909-14, George Abel Schreiner, ed. (New York: The Knickerbocker Press, 1921), 233. This citation will hereinafter be referred to as de Siebert followed by the page number.
[84] "Bernhard von Bülow", December 31, 1894, German Federal Archives, Bild 146-2004-0098A, accessed January 28, 2015,,_Bernhard_von_B%C3%BClow.jpg.
[85] Unsigned Note, Bülow, no. 9330, G.P., vol. 26, part II, 552.
[86] Hardinge, Memorandum, B.D., vol. 5, 609.
[87] Ibid.
[88] Ibid.
[89] Ibid.
[90] Ibid.
[91] Von Schön, G.P., no. 9373, 597.
[92] “The Balkan Problem, Austria-Hungary and Serbia,” Times of London, February 15, 1909, 7, accessed January 6, 2015,
[93] “The Balkan Problem, Austria-Hungary and Serbia,” Times of London, February 12, 1909, 7, accessed January 6, 2015,
[94] “Serbia before the Decision,” Neue Freie Presse,” February 11, 1909, 1, accessed January 5, 2015,
[95] Von Hötzendorff, 144, 145.
[96] Hardinge to Nicolson, no. 567, B.D., vol. 5, 597.
[97] Grey to Nicolson, no. 573, B.D., vol. 5, 601.
[98] “Viscount Grey of Falladon”, The World’s Work, Arthur W. Page, ed. (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1919), 562, accessed January 28, 2015,
[99] “Fear was the key to Grey’s principle of foreign policy. Fear was also the key to the only alteration of the diplomatic landscape that Grey set out to make. This objective was – an agreement with Russia, and that it was inspired by fear of Russia is clear.” Keith M. Wilson, “Grey,” in British Foreign Secretaries and Foreign Policy: From Crimean War to First World War, Keith M. Wilson, ed. (Kent, UK: Croom Helm Ltd., 1987.), 178.
[100] Grey to Cartwright, no. 585, B.D., vol. 5, 611.
[101] Isvolsky to the Russian Embassy in London, no. 288, de Siebert, 244.
[102] Rodd to Grey, no. 593, B.D., vol. 5, 614.
[103] Bülow to Kaiser Wilhelm, no. 9379, G.P., vol. 26, part II, 603.
[104] Oswald H. Wedel, Austro-German Diplomatic Relations: 1908-1914 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1932), 35.
[105] Aerenthal to Bülow, no. 9386, G.P., vol. 26, part II, 613, 614.
[106] Goschen to Grey, no. 615, B.D., vol. 5, 630.
[107] Cartwright to Grey, no. 592, B.D., vol. 5, 613.
[108] Ibid.
[109] Goschen to Grey, no. 596, B.D., vol. 5, 615, 616.
[110] Ibid.
[111] Goschen to Grey, no. 598, B.D., vol. 5, 617.
[112] Ibid., 618.; Nicolson to Grey, no. 600, B.D., vol. 5, 619.;
[113] Goschen to Grey, no. 598, B.D., vol. 5, 618.
[114] Ibid.
[115] Grey to Goschen, no. 599, B.D., vol. 5, 618, 619.
[116] Note by Kiderlen, no. 9397, G.P., vol. 26, part II, 628, 629.
[117] Isvolsky to the Russian Minister at Belgrade, February 27 1909, no. 251, Siebert, 235, 236.
[118] Grey to Bertie, no. 611, B.D., vol. 5, 627.
[119] Grey to Cartwright, no. 643, B.D., vol. 5, 650.
[120] Ibid.
[121] Grey to Nicolson, no. 629, B.D., vol. 5, 643.
[122] Bülow to Metternich, no. 9401, G.P., vol. 26, part II, 632.
[123] Bülow to Metternich, no. 9401, G.P., vol. 26, part II, 632.
[124] Ibid.
[125] Sergeyev to Isvolsky, no. 268, Siebert, 242.
[126] An example includes the first Serbian draft of February 27, the language of which included references to Austrian press campaigns against Serbia, Grey to Whitehead, no. 634, B.D., vol. 5, 646. Also, see Grey to Nicolson, no. 656, B.D., vol. 5, 660, concerning the armaments subject. A further example is the inclusion of references to potential future territorial claims by Serbia, Grey to Whitehead, no. 645, B.D., vol. 5, 651.
[127] Cartwright to Grey, no. 603, B.D., vol. 5, 621.
[128] Sergeyev to Isvolsky, no. 267, Siebert, 242; Sergeyev to Isvolsky, no. 268, ibid., 242; Isvolsky to Sergeyev, no. 273, ibid., 246; Isvolsky to Sergeyev, no. 275, ibid., 247; Isvolsky to Benckendorff, no. 278, ibid., 248; Isvolsky to Benckendorff, no. 282, ibid., 251; Nicolson to Grey, no. 631, B.D., vol. 5, 644.
[129] Isvolsky to Benckendorff, no. 279, Siebert., 249; Cartwright to Grey, no. 636, B.D., vol. 5, 647; Grey to Cartwright, no. 643, B.D., vol. 5, 650; Grey to Cartwright, no. 659, B.D., vol. 5, 664.
[130] Nicholson to Grey, no. 646, B.D., vol. 5, 652.
[131] Cartwright to Grey, no. 649, B.D., vol. 5, 655.
[132] Von Hötzendorff, 567-571.
[133] Grey to Cartwright, no. 652., B.D., vol. 5, 656.
[134] Cartwright to Grey, no. 667, B.D., vol. 5, 669.
[135] Nicolson to Grey, no. 669, B.D., vol. 5, 670.
[136] Grey to Cartwright, no. 659, B.D., vol. 5, 663, 664; Kiderlen, private note, no. 9425, G.P., vol. 26, part II, 652, 653.
[137] Grouitch to Grey, no. 662, B.D., vol. 5, 666.
[138] Goschen to Grey, no. 673, B.D., vol. 5, 672.
[139] Isvolsky to Nelidov, no. 279, Siebert, 249.
[140] Goschen to Grey, no. 673, B.D., vol. 5, 672.
[141] Ibid.
[142] Ibid., 673.
[143] Ratibor to Bülow, no. 9431, G.P., vol. 26, part II, 660.
[144] Cartwright to Grey, no. 667, B.D., vol. 5, 669.
[145] Grey to Cartwright, no. 659, B.B., vol. 5, 664.
[146] Whitehead to Grey, no. 683, B.D., vol. 5, 679, 680.
[147] Whitehead to Grey, no. 686, B.D., vol. 5, 681.
[148] Szögyény to Bülow, no. 9434, G.P., vol. 26, part II, 662.
[149] Cartwright to Grey, no. 681, B.D., vol. 5, 678, 679.
[150] On March 12, Kiderlen told Szögyény that “personally, [he] would hold on to this trump card as long as possible,” Kiderlen, private note, no. 9425, G.P., vol. 26, part II, 652, 653; Pourtalès to Bülow, no. 9436, G.P., vol. 26, part II, 667, 668.
[151] Nicolson to Grey, no. 682., B.D., vol. 5, 679.
[152] Bülow to Pourtalés, no. 9437, G.P., vol. 26, part II, 669, 670.
[153] Bernhard Bülow, Memoirs of Prince von Bülow, vol. 2, Franz von Stockhammern, F. A. Voigt, Geoffrey Dunlop, trans (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1931-1932), 447, 448.
[154] Pourtalés to Bülow, no. 9441, G.P., vol. 26, part II, 673-676.
[155] Isvolsky to the Russian Embassies at London and Paris, no. 287, Siebert, 255, 256.
[156] Grey to Nicolson, no. 714, B.D., vol. 5, 702.
[157] Nicolson to Grey, no. 722, B.D., vol. 5, 708.
[158] Isvolsky to the Russian Embassies at London and Paris, no. 287, de Siebert, 256.
[159] Nicolson to Grey, no. 729, B.D., vol. 5, 711-713.
[160] Nicolson to Grey, no. 660, B.D., vol. 5, 664, 665.
[161] Pourtalés to Bülow, no. 9326, G.P. vol. 26, part II, 546.
[162] Bertie to Grey, no. 724, B.D., vol. 5, 709.
[163] “Arthur Nicolson, 1st Baron Carnock,” December 31, 1920, Public Domain, accessed April 3, 2015,
[164] Pourtalès to Bülow, no. 9458, G.P., vol. 26, part II, 691-692.
[165] Bülow to Pourtalés, no. 9460, G.P., vol. 26, part II, 694.
[166] “The Russian Surrender to Germany,” The Times of London, March 29, 1909, accessed April 13, 2015,
[167] Grey to Nicolson, no. 782, B.D., vol. 5, 747.
[168] Cartwright to Grey, no. 793, B.D., vol. 5, 754.
[169] Cartwright to Grey, no. 785, B.D., vol. 5, 749.
[170] Grey to Count de Bosdari, no. 846, B.D., 789.
[171] Jonathan Mercer, Reputation and International Politics, (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1996), 115.
[172] Fay, 371.
[173] Russian Foreign Ministry, How the War Began in 1914: Being the Diary of the Russian Foreign Office from the 3rd to the 20th (old style) of July, 1914, W. Cyprian Bridge, trans., (London: G. Allen & Unwin, 1925), 23.
[174] Richard F. Hamilton and Holger H. Herwig, Decisions for War, 1914-1917 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 37.
[175] Nicolson to Grey, no. 570, B.D., vol. 5, 599.
[176] De Siebert, no. 250, 234, 235; Ibid., no. 40, 236; Ibid., no. 41, 236, 237; Ibid., Letter, March 3, 1909, 238-241; Nicolson to Grey, no. 612, B.D., vol. 5, 628.
[177] Nelidov to Isvolsky, no. 262, Siebert, 236.
[178] Nicolson to Grey, no. 644, B.D., vol. 5, 651.
[179] Nicolson to Grey, no. 613, B.D., vol. 5, 628, 629.
[180] Isvolsky to Sergeyev, no. 275, Siebert, 247.
[181] Sergei D. Sazonov, Fateful Years 1909-1916: The Reminiscences of Serge Sazonov (New York: F. A. Stokes Company, 1928), 13.
[182] Benckendorff to Isvolsky, no. 283, Siebert, 252.
[183] Ibid.
[184] Nicholson to Grey, no. 701, B.D., vol. 5, 695.
[185] Grey to Goschen, no. 647, B.D., vol. 5, 653. See also Goschen to Grey no. 668, B.D., vol. 5, 669, 670, wherein Goschen intimates German opinion on a draft reply to Austria was shaped only after hearing Vienna’s reaction and once informed, mirrored Ährenthal’s identically.
[186] Goschen to Grey, no. 648, B.D., vol. 5, 654.
[187] Grey to Nicolson, no. 621., B.D., vol. 5, 637, 638.
[188] Ibid.
[189] D. B. Cooper, “British Policy in the Balkans, 1908-9,” The Historical Journal 7, no. 2 (1964), 275, accessed October 28, 2014,
[190] Footnotes to Cartright to Grey, No. 700, B.D., vol. 5, 694.
[191] Grey to Nicolson, no. 647, B.D., vol. 5, 653.
[192] Nicolson to Grey, no. 605, vol. 5, 622, 623.
[193] Nicholson to Grey, no. 701, B.D., vol. 5, 695
[194] Helene Isvolsky, “The Fateful Years: 1906-1911,” Russian Review 28, no. 2 (April, 1969), 199, accessed October 28, 2014,
[195] Nicolson to Grey, no. 571, B.D., vol. 5, 600.
[196] Nicolson to Grey, no. 646, B.D., vol. 5, 652.
[197] Hardinge to Lansdowne, no. 88, B.D., vol. 4, 92; Memorandum by Charles Hardinge on the Possibility of War, Appendix III, B.D., vol. 5, 823; Nicolson to Grey, no. 664, B.D., vol. 5, 667.
[198] Schmitt, The Annexation of Bosnia 1908-1909, 36.
[199] Nicolson to Grey, no. 576, B.D., vol. 5, 603.
[200] Nicolson to Grey, no. 664, B.D., vol. 5, 667.
[201] Grey, 69.
[202] Grey to Bertie, no. 611, B.D., vol. 5, 627; Nicolson to Grey, no. 619, B.D., vol. 5, 636.
[203] Paul G. Halpern, The Mediterranean Naval Situation: 1908-1914 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1971), 1-2.
[204] K. G. Robbins, “The Foreign Secretary, the Cabinet, Parliament and the Parties” in British Foreign Policy Under Sir Edward Grey, F. H. Hinsley, ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977), 3.
[205] Grey, 35, 36.
[206] Ibid., 60.
[207] Ibid., 32.
[208] Robbins, 6.
[209] Grey, 54.
[210] Hardinge, Memorandum, November 16, 1906, B.D., vol. 4, 58; Marian Kent “Constantinople and Asiatic Turkey, 1905-1914” in British Foreign Policy Under Sir Edward Grey, 156;
[211] A good example of this is in Lowther to Grey, no. 708, B.D., 699, in which both Mallet and Grey give their interpretations on the effect of the Bulgarian-Russian agreement of March, 1909, to the relations of Turkey to her neighbors and Britain.
[212] “Policy of Great Britain,” The Times of London, October 6, 1908, 5, accessed December 2, 2014,
[213] Grey to Cartwright, no. 695, B.D., vol. 5, 688; Grey to Nicolson, no. 714, B.D., vol. 5, 702; Cartwright to Grey, no. 735, B.D., vol. 5, 717; Grey to Cartwright, no. 741, 720; Grey to Goschen, no. 768, B.D., vol. 5, 739.
[214] Bernhard von Bülow, “Dynamic Foreign Policy,” Speech to the German Reichstag, 1899, Adam Blauhut, trans., accessed December 1, 2014,
[215] O’Conor to Grey, no. 147, B.D., vol. 5, 174-177.
[216] Eyre Crowe, “Memorandum on the Present State of British Relations with France and Germany,” appendix A, B.D., vol. 3, 405.
[217] Goschen to Grey, no. 680, B.D., vol. 5, 678.
[218] Kiderlen, private note, no. 9426, G.P., vol. 26, part II, 652, 653.
[219] Pourtalès to Bülow, no. 9427, G.P., vol. 26, part II, 654, 655.
[220] Von Hintze to Kaiser Wilhelm, no. 9428, G.P., vol. 26, part II, 657.
[221] Alexander Isvolsky, 3-5.
[222] Langer, “Russia, the Straits Question, and the European Powers, 1904-8,” 59.
[223] Goschen to Grey, no. 168, B.D., 213.
[224] Sazonov, 19-20.
[225] Aerenthal to Bülow, no. 9386, G.P., vol. 26, part II, 612, 613.
[226] Schmitt, The Annexation of Bosnia 1908-1909, 9.
[227] Grey to Cartwright, no. 651, B.D., vol. 5, 656.
[228] Cartwright to Grey, no. 601, 602, B.B., vol. 5, 620, 621.
[229] Albertini, 73-75.
[230] Ibid., 76.
[231] Ibid.
[232] Bertie to Grey, no. 294, B.D., 386-387.
[233] French Embassy at St. Petersburg to Imperial Russian Government, no. 257, de Siebert, 232.
[234] Grey, 166, 167.
[235] K. G. Robbins, “Public Opinion, Press and Pressure Groups” in British Foreign Policy under Sir Edward Grey, 70-73.
[236] Ibid., 73.
[237] “Policy of Great Britain,” The Times of London, October 6, 1908, 5, accessed December 2, 2014,
[238] “The Excitement in Serbia,” The Times of London, October 8, 1908, 5, accessed December 2, 2014,
[239] “The European Situation,” The Times of London, December 8, 1908, 5, accessed December 2, 2014,
[240] “Austro-Serbian Relations,” The Times of London, February 24, 1909, 5, accessed December 2, 2014,
[241] “ German Semi-Official Views,” Ibid.
[242] “The British Efforts for Peace,” The Times of London, March 29, 1909, 7, accessed April 1, 2015,
[243] “The Lesson for France and England,” The Times of London, March 29, 1909, 7, accessed April 1, 2015,
[244] “The Efforts of Germany,” The Times of London, March 26, 1909, 5, accessed March 20, 2015,
[245] “Germany and the Situation,” The Times of London, March 27, 1909, 9, accessed April 1, 2015,
[246] “Reported Resignation of Isvolsky,” The Times of London, March 30, 1909, 5, accessed April 1, 2015,
[247] “Germany’s Intervention”, The Times of London, March 27, 1909, 9, accessed April 1, 2015,
[248] “Russia and the German Intervention,” The Times of London, March 31, 1909, 5, accessed April 1, 2015,
[249] “Russia and the German ‘Coup,’” The Times of London, April 1, 1909, 5, accessed April 1, 2015,
[250] For example, reference Grey to Montenegrin Minister for Foreign Affairs, no. 348, B.D., 418, and “Sir E. Grey’s Reply to Montenegro,” The Times of London, October 12, 1908, 5, accessed December 2, 2014,
[251] Grey, 42, 43.
[252] Schmitt, The Annexation of Bosnia 1908-1909, 20.
[253] Ibid., 36.
[254] Bridge, 25.
[255] William L. Langer, “Russia, the Straits Question and the Origins of the Balkan League, 1908-1912,” Political Science Quarterly 43, no. 3 (September 1928), 324, accessed October 30, 2014,
[256] Bridge, 24.
[257] G. P. Gooch, “Recent Revelations on European Diplomacy,” British Institute of International Affairs 2, no. 1 (January 1923), 21.
[258] Mercer, 130.
[259] Glenn H. Snyder, “The Security Dilemma in Alliance Politics,” World Politics 36, no 4 (July 1984), 478.
[260] Alexandra Guisinger and Alastair Smith, “Honest Threats: The Interaction of Reputation and Political Institutions in International Crises,” The Journal of Conflict Resolution 46, no. 2 (April 2002), 190.
[261] Bertie to Grey, no. 783, B.D., 748; “Should Servia refuse to send the note which we have agreed to join in recommending we should also be prepared to assent to abrogation of Art[icle] 25 if, as I understand is the case, all the other Treaty Powers are prepared to do the same,” Grey to Cartwright, no. 786, B.D., 750.

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