The Roots of Sarajevo: Austria-Hungary and Serbia, 1867-81

A small, far-away country, but one whose tangled relations with its neighbours, Ian Armour suggests, lead inexorably to the debacle of 1914.

In 1867 Serbia was still a tiny, backward principality of the Ottoman Empire, self-governing but subject; the Prince of Serbia counted as a vassal of the Turkish Sultan. With its Slav population of just over a million, Serbia was dwarfed by the Habsburg Monarchy to the north, a European great power of some thirty-six millions; yet, in 1914, it was Serbia that the Monarchy attacked, driven to desperation by the threat Serb nationalism posed for its survival. An aggressive, often hysterical Serb nationalism was certainly a major ingredient in the breakdown of relations, since Austria-Hungary (as it was called after 1867) included a sizeable Serb minority among its eleven different nationalities, and Serbs on both sides of the frontier regarded Habsburg rule as oppressive. It was a Serb from Bosnia, the Slav province Austria-Hungary took from Turkey in 1878, who shot the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in the streets of Sarajevo in 1914.

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