In 1908-1909 Austria-Hungary, with the aid of her German ally, enforced her wishes in respect of Bosnia upon a reluctant Europe; but instead of following up this success by a determined effort to solve the Southern Slav question on an Austrian basis, she allowed the confusion to grow yearly worse confounded, and gradually created an intolerable situation from which a peaceful exit was well-nigh impossible. The actual event which precipitated the struggle, the event from which the diplomatic contest of last July, and thus the great war, first proceeded, was the assassination of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his wife at Sarajevo on June 28 and the consequent acute friction between Austria-Hungary and Serbia. But the murder, as will be shown later, was merely made the pretext for Austria’s declaration of war. The real causes lie far deeper, and can only be properly understood on the basis of an historical survey.
My apology for inflicting so many unfamiliar details upon the reader is that the key to the whole situation lies in Austria-Hungary, and that upon the fate of its provinces and races in this war depends to a very great extent the question whether the new Europe which is to issue from this fiery ordeal is to be better than the old Europe which is crumbling in ruins before our eyes. For the moment a thick fog of war obscures this point of view; but the time will assuredly come when it will emerge in its true perspective.
In recent years it had become a cheap journalistic commonplace to refer to the coming “inevitable” struggle between Teuton and Slav, and the present war is no doubt widely regarded as proving the correctness of this theory, despite the fact that the two chief groups of Teutons are ranged on opposite sides, and that the Slavs enjoy the active support of Celts and Latins also. That such a struggle has come, is in the last resort due to the false conceptions of Nationality which underly the policy of the two central Powers, Germany and Austria-Hungary. The freedom from foreign oppression which the Germans so nobly vindicated against Napoleon has not been extended to their own subject races, the Poles, Danes, and Lorrainers; and recent years have seen the accentuation of a conflict the germs of which may be detected as far back as the fatal crime of the Polish Partition in the eighteenth century. The policy of Germanisation in Austria has been gradually undermined by causes which it would take too long to enumerate, but its sting has survived in the maintenance of a foreign policy which treats 26,000,000 Slavs as a mere annexe of militant Germanism and as “gun-fodder” for the designs of Berlin; while in Hungary the parallel policy of Magyarisation has increased in violence from year to year, poisoning the wells of public opinion, creating a gulf of hatred between the Magyars and their subject races (the Slovaks, Roumanians, Croats, Serbs, etc.), and rendering cordial relations with the neighbouring