Russia at once notified Austria that it could not permit Servian territory to be invaded. It was then realized in Europe that the great Slav nation would support its little brother. Germany let it be known that no other country must interfere with the Austro-Servian embroglio, which meant that Germany was prepared to back Austria.
An eleventh-hour proposal by the British foreign secretary, Sir Edward Grey, that mediation between Servia and Austria be undertaken by a conference of the Ambassadors in London, was accepted by France and Italy, but declined by Germany and Austria. Then next day, July 28, came Austria’s declaration of war, which soon made Europe the theater of the bloodiest struggle of all the ages.
SERVIA AND ITS ASPIRATIONS
Servians reply to the declaration of war was to concentrate a strong division of its forces in the Sanjak of Novi-Bazar, from which they would be in a position to threaten Bosnia and Herzegovina, the two Balkan provinces that Austria had lately annexed. It was also reported that Servia intended to invade Bosnia with the object of enlisting further support from the Bosnian Serbs, who were said to be on the point of rising against Austria-Hungary.
The country of the Servians being well suited for defense, they were never completely overrun by the Turks, as other Balkan states were, and as a consequence they still retain, like the Greeks, a native aristocracy of culture. Physically, they are fairer than most of the Balkan Slavs and more refined in appearance. By temperament they are light-hearted, joyous, frivolous, and charming to deal with.
In Servia itself, including territory acquired in recent wars, there are about 4,500,000 Serbs. In Austria there are about 3,500,000 Serbs, including Croats who belong to the Servian race.
The Servians have long dreamed and talked and written of a greater Servia, that should take in all the Servian race. They look back to the time of King Stephen Dushan, in the fourteenth century, when Servia was supreme in the Balkans and was nearly as advanced in civilization as the most advanced nations of Europe. The re-establishment of this ancient kingdom had become a passion with the Serbs—not only with those in Servia, but with many in Hungary as well. Hence, their animus against Austria and Austrian rule, while Austria’s fight was, primarily, for the preservation and solidification of her heterogeneous dominions; secondarily, for revenge for the Archduke’s death. Incidentally, it may be mentioned that the Archduke Francis Ferdinand was a close personal friend of the German Kaiser.
THE SERVIAN ARMY
The Servian forces under General Radumil Putnik, consist of ten divisions, divided into four army corps, with a peace footing of 160, and a war strength of over 380,000. Most of the men called to arms against Austria were veterans of the two recent Balkan wars, and hence probably the most seasoned troops in Europe.