Woislav M Petrovitch, moj deda
„Serbia Her People History And Aspirations“ by Woislav M Petrovitch
On the eve of the Great War, which would plunge the Balkans into chaos, a Serbia in London, WOISLAV M. PETROVITCH (c. 1885-1934), attaché to the royal Serbian legation to the Court of St. James, published this straightforward and fact-filled valentine to the people of his homeland. With charming devotion, Petrovitch reveals: . the early history of Serbia and its „rise to greatness“ . the reign of King Alexander . the first and second Balkan wars . the ancient beliefs of the Bosnians . the traditional celebrations of Christmas and other holidays . the national epic poetry . and much more. Readers of Eastern European history and students of nationalistic propaganda will find this a fascinating resource –This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
The Story Of Petrovitch
I came back to London in November 1913 after the Second Balkan War. I had previously been attached to the International Correspondence Schools in Kingsway. Now, however, I had come back in a new role, that of attaché to the Serbian Legation. I was not narrowly Serbian in my sympathies, as I was born of Montenegrin stock, and I was therefore not surprised when certain Montenegrin friends asked if I would, whilst at the Serbian Legation, keep an eye open for anything that might be in the interests of little Montenegro, who was too poor to afford a legation of her own.
I had come into the favour of King Nicholas of Montenegro through having translated into English his play The Empress of the Balkans which was eventually published in London by Evelyn Nash in 1913, and which was only stopped from being produced by the machinations of certain other jealous Balkan personalities.
The London affairs of Montenegro had been looked after by the Russian Ambassador, and also by Sir Roper Parkington who, acting in an honorary capacity for love of Montenegro, was Montenegro’s consul-general.
It was to this great gentleman I went when I landed in London, and it was from his lips that I first heard of the real existence of the Black Hand of Serbia. ( Publisher’s Note. We hold irrefutable evidence of Petrovitch’s close association with Sir Roper Parkington Letters in Sir Roper’s own hand- writing are in our possession The last letter, dated 15th August, 1922, and , addressed to Dr. Petrovitch, Secretary, Royal Ministry of Education 81 Kralja Milutina ulica, Belgrade, Serbia, is in absolute accord with Petrovitch’s story. The last paragraph reads : „I have but little sympathy with the Serbians, for they are, I understand, treating the Montenegrins very badly. It is a source of great regret to me to see that Montenegro has been taken over by the Serbians, and is no longer represented on the map of Europe.“)
“ King Peter Kara-Djordjevitch of Serbia,“ said Sir Roper Parkington, “ wishes to annex Montenegro to his realm, and to realise his ambition he wants to eliminate King Nicholas at any price. Do you remember the bomb affair of 1907? “ “ You need say no more,“ I said to Sir Roper, for at the time of the 1907 outrage I had just been appointed Vice- Consul of the United States in Belgrade, and it fell to my lot to make a report to Washington of that ghastly outrage against the King of Montenegro. I, therefore, remembered the “ bomb affair of 1907 “ very well. My American chiefs, Mr. Moorhead and Mr. Knowles, were at first unwilling to send my report back to Washington. For it was proved by the admissions and the depositions of the witnesses, and by technical experts, that the plot had been hatched at Belgrade, and the perpetrators, whose duty it was to go to Cettinge (Centinje) and assassinate King Nicholas and his entire family, were selected from among some malcontent students at the University of Belgrade, and that the bombs they carried were made at Kragujeva (Kragujevac) in the Serbian Government munition factory.
“ Do you believe there is a new plot against King Nicholas?“ I asked.
“ No, not a new one,“ he replied. “ It is an old plot, as old as the organisation called Ujedindenje (Ujedinjenje) ili Smrt, or Unification or Death. This society is more commonly known under the name of Crna Ruka or Black Hand, whose programme includes the murder of many other rulers besides the King of Montenegro, and whose final aim is the extension of Serbian rule.“
I was astonished by the news, though, of course, I knew that there was a secret society of army officers under the vulgar name of Black Hand, which in 1903 had assassinated King Alexander Obrenovitch and Queen Draga of Serbia. Sir Roper warned me to keep my eyes open in my new task, and told me that if I did so I should find two governments operating in Serbia-the official one operating on the surface, and the other working under the surface, unseen and often unsuspected. This unseen government was the Black Hand.
Sir Roper gave me a copy of the constitution of the Serbian Black Hand, and of this constitution ( Petrovitch’s translation of this document is reproduced at the end) I have kept careful record..
I was soon to find out a good deal more of this strange organisation, however-this “ State within a State “ as Nikola Pasitch( Prime Minister of Serbia in 1914) once called it. But I found nothing in it half so strange and enigmatic as was its spiritus rector, its supreme commander, Colonel Dragutin Dimitrijevitch, nick- named Apis (Serbian for Bee), on account of his bee-like qualities. Four- winged in his patriotic élan, Colonel Dimitrijevitch always knew the bee-line from conception to execution. Furthermore, he was not without the industrious insect’s sting. Animated by the most genuine love of his native land and race, gifted in a high degree with all the qualities necessary for a successful leader of men, endowed by nature with the intelligence of a superman, Colonel Dimitrijevitch possessed at the same time a magnetism and an indefinable secret power of over-lordship, so that whenever he gave an order he would give it in a tone that admitted of as little contradiction as one of the ill-famed decrees of Minos. His commands impelled both his sub- ordinates and his superiors to blind obedience, to gigantic enterprise, to death-involving deeds or misdeeds. This able Serbian officer was the chief of the Intelligence Service in the Belgrade War Office, and it was his duty to know as much as possible of the secret preparations directed against Serbia, both in the country and abroad. Weird was this man, with his double nature-the weirdest I ever met in my life. In his ardent patriotism, which was not questioned even by his bitterest enemies, he never shrank before any means, however gruesome they might be, provided he considered them necessary for carrying into effect what he sincerely believed to be “ noble ends.“ It was Colonel Dragutin T. Dimitrijevitch-Apis who, as a comparatively young officer, organised and perpetrated the assassination of King Alexander Obrenovitch and Queen Draga in June 1903. He it was also who brought to the blood-stained throne of Serbia the Pretender Peter Kara- Djardjevitch-grandson of a swineherd, Kara- Djordje Petrovitch of the village of Topola. Of all who ever held sway in Serbia, Colonel Dimitrijevitch had the most wonderful way of issuing orders by representing the most formidable things in the simplest possible manner, so that his agent would carry them out to perfection without realising what an important good or evil action he had accomplished. Thanks to an army of confidential informers whom he had recruited from all social classes, Apis was the best-informed man in the kingdom. He knew well what was taking place in every State Department or foreign Legation and Consulate, nor was he ignorant of the intrigues going on at the Serbian Royal Court and even some of the foreign Courts and Chancelleries. The ante-chamber of his offices in the headquarters of the Serbian Grand General Staff was one big bee-hive of callers : army officers of all ranks, komitadjis, diplomats and domestic servants, bishops in disguise and actresses in deep veils, highly placed government officials and nondescript persons of no fixed abode. Some were there to report some- thing which they considered important enough to justify their calls ; others to crave a favour or lodge a complaint ; others again to give Apis some suggestion or to exhibit to him some secret plan, but all to make friends with the “ omnipotent Apis,“ as he was generally called. And mighty he really was, for apart from the power which he derived from his official position and his high place at King Peter’s Court, Colonel Dimitrijevitch had a singular faculty of making friends even of his sworn enemies. In the course of one short conversation (he never spoke much) he could convert some paid agent of his bitter foes, the Radicals, into either a devoted friend or a terrified servant. Not seldom did he make of his would-be assassin a member of his secret organisation. How Apis contrived to do this will remain his and only his secret. As Rasputin hypnotised a Russian Court, so Apis hypnotised the whole Serbian nation-or, at least, as much of it as he came in contact with.
In the famous restaurant “ Kolorac “ in Belgrade there was a long corner table which was either occupied by a number of army officers and a few civilians or else remained vacant even when the rest of the room was packed with guests. Frequent diners could notice that there were almost always the same persons sitting at it. Whenever I wished to entertain some foreign colleague or friend I took him to the “ Kolorac,“ as the food there was prepared in the most typically Serbian manner. Our table was often in the immediate vicinity of that famous corner table, for it was the table at which Colonel Dimitrijevitch-Apis, with his permanent smile and his ever-burning cigarette, presided over a select crowd of army officers, diplomats, merchants, bankers, journalists, and other classes of the intelligentsia. Most of the conversation came from Apis, while others listened attentively, devouring as it were every word that fell from his lips. And there were not many to fall, for Apis was a man of few words. Therefore, as very seldom anybody else would venture to speak, there usually reigned a queer silence at the “ long table.“ One evening an unknown diner, sitting with a rather riotous crowd at a neighbouring table, rose and pointed at Colonel Dimitrijevitch’s table and shouted, “ There is the executive power of the Kingdom of Serbia! “ All the guests who heard it at once exclaimed in unison, “ Long Live Apis! “ just to show that not the “ long table“ but Apis alone was the supreme executive power. Apis and his friends, however, pretended they did not hear the remark.
How deep was the influence which Colonel Dimitrijevitch- Apis exercised upon the hostile Serbian Government itself may be shown by the fact that, while at a meeting of the Black Hand, Apis only half jokingly suggested that one of the founders of the organisation, a certain ex-priest and later Vice-Consul, Bogdan Radenkovitch, should be appointed Archbishop of Serbia. The Royal Government, to please Apis, at once accepted the suggestion and recommended Radenkovitch as its own candidate for the high post, provoking thereby a storm of indignation in the ecclesiastical hierarchy in Serbia, Montenegro, and even in the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Apis, however, was not one of the founders of the Black Hand. The Black Hand was founded by certain young chauvinists, amongst whom a journalist, Ljubomir Jovanovitch-Cupa, and the already mentioned Vice-Consul Bogdan Radenkovitch, played the principal roles. Apis was approached only after the adoption of the Black Hand’s constitution and was asked to join the movement. This invitation he accepted, for he realised that the organisation would serve his own end, which was the realisation of the national ideals which Prince Mihailo Obrenovitch of Serbia (1860-1868) and Prince Nikola of Montenegro had declared to the entire Yugoslav world. Serbia was to be regarded by all as the “ Piemont “ for the unification into one powerful political State of all the Serbians, Montenegrins, Croatians, Bulgarians, and Slovenes.
It was Apis who first conceived and effected the secret military conventions between Serbia, Bulgaria, Montenegro, and Greece. It was Apis who immediately after the conclusion of these military conventions forced the hesitant Serbian Government to take the initiative in forming the Balkan Alliance which, in 1912, to the astonishment of official Western Europe, all but threw the Turks out of Europe. Apis was the only brave officer of all the brave Serbian Army who had the pluck to go incognito to the Albanian mountains and meet the redoubtable Issa Boljetinac, the national hero of the Albanians (excelled only by Skender Beg) and conclude even with the Albanians a military alliance against the Turks.
It is true that Apis captained the conspiracy of officers which slew Alexander and his queen in 1903, but even in this Apis acted from the highest motives. He saw in the person of King Alexander an obstacle to the free progress of the Serbian people, and removed him. But let the nation which has never in its history rid itself by violent means of at least one of its good or bad rulers throw the first stone at Serbia and her Apis ! The May tragedy of 1903 represents a revolution in the Serbian history, and there have not been many bloodless revolutions in general history. How grateful, how- ever, the Prince Regent, Alexander Kara-Djordjevitch of Serbia, has shown himself to be towards Apis, and what reward the Serbian Government has given to this national hero, history has since shown.
Prince Alexander was at first very much in favour of the Black Hand for he gave from his private purse 26,000 dinars (about, 1,000 pounds) in support of the organisation’s official organ Piemont. A well-informed person told me that Prince Alexander, either because he sympathised with the movement, or because he dreaded its ever-increasing power, eventually did his utmost to seize its reins and become its supreme chief. But I knew equally well that the Central Executive Committee of the Black Hand politely, but firmly, declined the honour of having for its chief the Heir-Apparent to the throne of Serbia. Infuriated with this humiliation, and at the same time sickened with fear lest his own name should some day figure on the “ black list “ of the Black Hand, Prince Alexander forthwith founded a counter-conspiracy which he called the White Hand, and placed at its head Lieutenant- Colonel Petar Zivkovitch. The object of this practically public organisation was exclusively to counteract and, if possible, crush the action of the “ Unification or Death.“ For years the White Hand was waiting for the opportune time for an open battle against Apis, for the latter had followers and members in almost every corner of the country and also in the Yugoslav provinces of the late Austro-Hungarian monarchy. The number of these was rumoured to have reached in the first part of 1914 close on 150,000. As according to the statutes of the organisation the vast majority of the members were to be unknown personally to one another, it would be impossible to establish their exact number, for the list of their names was made in one single copy, which was kept by Apis alone. This document he never revealed to anybody; not even to his most intimate friends, nor to the “ big ten “ which shared with Apis the executive power. During the farcical trial to which the exiled Serbian Government subjected Apis and his followers in Salonika in 1917, the police searched their offices and lodgings, but they never found the complete list of the members of the organisation “ Unification or Death.“ Where was it kept? This was one of the secrets which Apis carried to his grave !
But, as I said, during the years from 1911 to the downfall of Serbia in 1915, Apis and the Black Hand were too powerful to be attacked openly by any government in Serbia. Therefore, Prince Alexander endeavoured by all means to keep up friendly relations with Apis upon whom he showered innumerable public honours and personal favours. Thus, for example, when Apis fell ill during the first Balkan War, Prince Alexander, at his own expense, summoned from Germany some of the greatest specialists who came and cured Apis.
Knowing even a little of this, it did not take me long to realise that Sir Roper Parkington’s words to me were true and that there were indeed two governments in Serbia. I was not able to form an opinion as to where the loyalties of my London chief, Dr. Slavko Gruitch, lay, but it soon became quite obvious to me that there were strong undercurrents flowing through the Serbian Legation in London. The English reader will find it difficult to believe my story. He will not understand how men could possibly work in an atmosphere of conflicting loyalties. I do not, indeed, believe that Englishmen could tolerate it. Imagine a young English- man going from Oxford or Cambridge to join the British Embassy in Belgrade only to find upon his arrival there that the ambassador was not only working for the British Crown and Government but also for some little-known Colonel in the British Secret Service. What is a young man to do in such an atmosphere? If he has a spark of patriotism in him what can he do? If he protests he loses his caste. If he smothers his feelings he gradually loses his moral sense altogether.
I found Dr. Gruitch a very charming man indeed, and his charming American wife was a very good friend to me later. He seemed to have very little to do, and in fact there was nothing much to do in the Legation as a whole.
The first secretary of the Serbian Legation was Alexander Djordjevitch, a tall, slender, handsome man of about forty. He was, one might say, a cavalier sans peur et sans reproche, and belonged to a family which might have become the wealthiest in the kingdom, for his father, Dr. Vladan Djordjevitch, was for many years Prime Minister during the reign of King Milan Obrenovitch. As King Milan was more of an actor than a statesman, it was Vladan who was the virtual ruler of the country. His administration was at once glorious and notorious; it is known in our national history under the name of “ Vladanovstina,“ which means approximately “ the terrorist despotism of Vladan and company.“ If this great statesman had followed the example of most of his predecessors, whose chief concern was to become rich over- night, he too could have accumulated enormous wealth. But Vladan was one of those painfully few Serbian potentates who were honest patriots. Whatever his personal or political enemies might have said of him, none of them had ever charged him with misuse of his high position for his personal profit. He was generally referred to as the Serbian Aristides. But he had left to his several sons only a great name, without any income. They all had to earn their living by work, and they continued in the steps of their father, in as far as personal disinterestedness was concerned.
So my colleague, Alexander Djordjevitch, was a strictly clean-handed man in the discharge of his official duties, which, however, were not many. I remember how he would come in in the morning and ask me whether there was any news from Belgrade. There were at times some highly important instructions, which I would hand to him decoded and typed, but which he would return to my desk with all the nonchalance of an Easterner, too lazy to read, asking me only to tell him in a few words what was in those despatches. There- upon he would replace his hat, tipping it slightly over his right eye, placing his walking-stick under his left arm, and pulling on further his gloves, he would leisurely walk off, with the dignified gait of a Turk with all eternity before him.
The work in the Legation was a very monotonous affair. The diplomatic and trade relations between Great Britain and the kingdom of Serbia were not very lively. Consequently our work, if there was any at all, was limited to some empty formalities, book-keeping and writing receipts of our salaries and representation fees. This stereotyped work was not infrequently varied by applying for extra contingent expenses, some parts of which were used for “ propaganda “ and “ intelligence service „-this latter word, when translated into usual language, means nothing more nor less than authorised tolerated espionage.
As for the social work, it was also insignificant. There were very small receptions at our Legation, and these also very infrequent.
But things became still slower when the lease of 40, Pont Street expired. Now, as Dr. Gruitch knew well that he was soon to go to Belgrade to take up the duties of Under- Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, he did not take the trouble to look for a new building into which the Legation could be moved. When moving day came, we found ourselves without a house. Then Gruitch had the ingenious idea of storing his private furniture and personal effects, and moving the archives and the furniture of the Legation into a modest hotel, “ Belgravia Mansions,“ not far from Victoria Station. It was always a source of regret to me that Dr. Slavko Gruitch, otherwise a correct and very cautious diplomat, committed the unpardonable foolishness of removing all the secret records of the Serbian Legation into a public hotel, where strange people were in and out at all hours of the day or night. And, what is more, here the Legation had no safe, no strong box of any kind, so that even the documents of the most delicate nature were stored in old sugar-boxes, which were piled one upon the other in the rooms which were destined to be Djordjevitch’s and my offices!
One day in March 1914 as Alexander Djordjevitch and I were busily engaged in deciphering a dispatch which had just arrived from Belgrade, Gruitch came in and said:“ Alexander, come for a minute to my room! “
Djordjevitch went out, and I remained alone to struggle with the cipher code and the dispatch. Presently my elder colleague returned to call me to his assistance.
“ Yes, I would gladly come with you, but how can we leave these confidential things on the table of a public place?“ I said as I placed the code and the papers in a drawer of my desk.
“ Lock the desk, and leave it to chance! “ said the phlegmatic diplomat.
We went through the corridor of the Belgravia Mansions until Djordjevitch opened a door, which was not that of Dr. Gruitch’s office, nor did it belong to the suite occupied by the Legation. It was a small reception room. There were a few arm-chairs and a sofa in it. When we closed the door, I saw a man sitting in a chair next to the entrance. His eyes were sharp, as those of a lynx. His face pale, but mirroring determination and audacity. His aquiline nose, and his general features betrayed a man who would not shrink from anything.
He stood up as we entered the room. Six foot three would be his approximate height. His shoulders and arms were of the type which a Massai chief would have envied.
„Shake hands with Mr. Stevens ! “ said Djordjevitch in English, adding a word in Serbian which meant “ secret agent.“
I wondered why Djordjevitch, an experienced diplomat, should call me, his younger colleague, to his assistance in discharging a job which was entrusted to him, and to him only.
“ Secret agent? Whose? “ I asked in Serbian.
“ Nobody’s yet,“ said the first Secretary, closing his lips tightly, as was his custom when displeased-which he nearly always was-and the tired lines in his face became deeper.
Neither was I very favourably impressed by “ Mr. Stevens,“ although he was the bearer of a personal letter from Count Beckendorff, the then Russian Ambassador in London. Gruitch had assured us that he had an oral confirmation from the writer of the recommendation. We called this gentleman “ Mr. Stevens,“ but his real name, he said, was Senor del Val. At Djordjevitch’s request I spoke to “ Stevens “ in Spanish, which he claimed to know well. He certainly spoke Spanish quite fluently, but not with a Castilian accent. He spoke Spanish, indeed, with a sort of Mexican accent, and his English was that of a meagrely educated man.
After a few questions had been asked in my presence Stevens was engaged by Djordjevitch and he was passed over to me for a few lessons in Serbian, thus to fit him for a mysterious voyage to Serbia. I duly gave him lessons in Serbian, and he made good progress in this most difficult language, then one day he mysteriously disappeared.
In the meantime, Gruitch had left the Legation in London and had gone back to Belgrade where he had become Under- Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. In his place reigned Matej Boskovitch. I did not see Stevens again until some time in June of 1914, by which time we had received a letter from certain quarters in Belgrade concerning him. Stevens was given a sum of money, and again disappeared. His movements remained a mystery to me.
On 28th June, 1914., Gavrilo Princip, an under-aged Serbian fanatic from Bosnia, fired two fatal shots in Sarajevo.
On that fateful Sunday my chief, Matej Boskovitch, and I had hardly finished lunch when a telegram was brought in. A rough translation of it read as follows :
THIS MORNING CERTAIN BOSNIAN FANATICS MURDERED FRANZ FERDINANDE AND HIS CONSORT IN SARAJEVO STOP GIVE NO INFORMATION UNTIL FURTHER INSTRUCTS-PACU
I was utterly horrified, but Boskovitch, strangely enough, seemed quite indifferent to the news, and in fact, smiled from ear to ear. To me it seemed as though he expected the telegram.
I afterwards learned that both Boskovitch and Gruitch were supposed to have been under the command of Dimitrijevitch-Apis who, through the agency of two members of the Black Hand called Ciganovitch and Major Voja Tankositch, had .trained Princip and his confederates for their dastardly task. The judicial investigation in Sarajevo, conducted immediately after the crime, not only proved this conclusively, but also showed that they were equipped with weapons manufactured in the Serbian State Arms Factory in Kragoujevatz.
The guilt of Serbia was only too apparent-or rather, not of Serbia, but of the terrible gangsters who held her simple people in thrall. Sympathy for Austria was universal. Reports from British newspaper correspondents showed that the Press in Vienna and Budapest openly accused the Serbian Government of complicity in the outrage.
Anti-Serb riots broke out in Sarajevo, Zagreb and other places in the Dual Monarchy. The storm of hostile feeling which swept Vienna was inflamed by the most violent language of the Austro-Hungarian Press, which demanded a condign punishment of the entire Serbian people. That Austria- Hungary had a right to demand adequate satisfaction from the Belgrade Government, as also some sort of guarantee to the effect that its officials would prepare no more murders in Austria-Hungary, there was no doubt, and even Serbia’s friends admitted it at the time, and earnestly counselled moderation.
In the meantime, on or about 5th July, 1914, Stevens suddenly reappeared at the Serbian Legation and asked for ,1,000 pounds. I did not understand what he meant and so I asked my new chief what to do about it. Boskovitch came into my office and told Stevens that he could not legitimately expect any more money. Stevens protested vehemently and mentioned a certain agreement. Boskovitch, disconcerted by the use of the word “ agreement,“ argued that that agreement demanded certain things of Stevens and these had not been carried out. With this Stevens broke loose and the whole thing became clear as day. I saw instantly that Stevens had been engaged to go to Sarajevo to shoot Princip and his confederates should they fail to take the poison in their phials after having murdered Ferdinand. The idea was that Stevens, who was a crack shot with a pistol (he could split an apple at a hundred paces) should stand at a distance and fire at the assassins as though he were an outraged spectator. Princip certainly shot the Archduke, but Stevens could not shoot Princip because of the intervening crowds and the police. Thus, argued Boskovitch, Princip would “ squeal “ and the fat would be in the fire. The spy turned for the door. When he reached it, he turned and faced Boskovitch and me, and spat out the following words : “ Si no Io paga el halaco, el pagara el Turco,“ which means, “ If you won’t pay then the Turk will.“
Boskovitch seemed utterly dumbfounded by the turn of events, for Stevens evidently meant mischief. The British Press, in the meantime, had not ceased to condemn the murderers, but the climax was reached, and Stevens’ trump card was displayed when on 11th July, John Bull published an article entitled “ The Murdered Archduke,“ which on account of its historic significance, and its profound effect upon British public opinion, is reproduced here.
JOHN BULL JULY 11th 1914
THE MURDERED ARCHDUKE
COMPLICITY OF THE SERVIAN GOVERNMENT – OUR ASTOUNDING REVELATION
When we were in the House of Commons we never lost an opportunity of protesting against the resumption by this country of diplomatic relations with Servia; and again and again we pointed intercourse with the blood-stained regicides was an empty sham.
We have always looked upon Servia as a hot-bed of cold-blooded conspiracy and subterfuge- the ringleaders being the scoundrels who compassed the assassination and destruction of the late King and Queen of the country, and placed on the throne, and nominally in power, King Peter and his half -demented son; and who, during the Balkan war were responsible for the massacre and the burning alive of women and children in Albania. And knowing something of the political relations subsisting between Austria and Bulgaria- with a very definite Servian objective- we have always been prepared for such news as that which flashed around the world the other day of the brutal assassination, in the streets of Serajevo, of the Austrian Archduke- heir to the throne- and his consort. Nor were we surprised to read that Austrian suspicion at once fell upon Servia for complicity in, if not actual responsibility for, the crime. And Austria is right.
WHAT AUSTRIA AND SERVIA KNEW
The Austrian Government was doubtless aware, as we are, that about eight months ago Servia instituted a Secret Service Bureau at their London Legation at 40, Pont Street, afterwards, at the Belgrave Mansions Hotel, and then at Queen’s Gate, for the main purpose of causing every possible harm and discredit to the Austrian Empire. On the other hand, Servia was doubtless aware, as we are, that Austria was supplying money and arms to Bulgaria, shipped through the Port of Burgas, on the Black Sea, with a view to the encroachment of the Bulgarian force into Servian territory on the Eastern Frontier. At the same time it was found that many Servian agents had been captured and imprisoned by the Austrian authorities, and in February it was to be secretly made away with. this decision of Servia was privately communicated to the Austrian Embassy, and by them was sent to Colonel Albin Driegall, in Vienna, a high official in the Secret Service.
Such then was the position of affairs in the spring of the present year. And now comes a revelation which will startle Europe. It was thereupon decided by the Servian regicide gang to „eliminate“- that was the brutal phrase- the heir to the Austrian throne, and definite plans were organised with this subject in view. Assassins were hired to carry out the work- 2,000 pounds „and expenses“ was the price- and although, of course, we must not, without evidence, implicate the staff of the Legation proper, we do assert that the Servian Secret Service were actively at work, et the Legation, plotting the foul deed. And we are in a position to produce evidence of a character which, as we say, will stagger civilisation.
THE PLOT EXPOSED.
Now, it happened that in the month of April the Servian Legation was being removed from Belgrave Mansions Hotel to Queen’s Gate. In connection with the removal it was decided to tear up and burn a large number of documents which it was considered unwise to preserve. Amongst such documents was one of the most incriminating character, and relating, as we shall show, to the projected murder of „F.F.“- Francis Ferdinand, the Archduke. Never mind how, but we have come into possession of a portion of that document- rescued from the flames before its bloody story was for ever lost. It id part of an official sheet of the Legation paper, with its embossed address and just sufficient of the date can be read to fix it as on the 5th April. It is in the private code of the Secret Service. That fact, however, presents no insuperable difficulty, for we happen to have also in our possession the cypher code of the Secret Service, and with the aid of this, and other special information, we find that the document decodes first into crude Spanish which translated into English we get:-
For the total elimination of F.F. the sum of 2,000 sterling pounds paid as follows- 1,000 sterling pounds on your arrival in Belgrade by the hands of Mr G. and the rest, 1,000 sterling pounds, on finishing the work paid as above. The sum of 200 sterling pounds for expenses and to pay agents, etc., before you leave here. Your arrangements do not—
Need we say more? The next step is with Sir Edward Grey. Will he have the courage to deal with the matter as the facts demand? In any case, we must have no diplomatic parleying and platitudinising. Servia must be wiped out!
JOHN BULL ATTACKS SERBIA (REPRODUCED BY KIND PERMISSION OF ODHAMS PRESS) __________________________________________________________________
Our agents soon discovered that Stevens had sold the “ agreement “ as well as certain other compromising documents to the Austro-Hungarian Embassy in London (Petrovitch alleged that Bottomley could not give the real facts without implicating Stevens. The papers were, therefore, purposely torn and burnt.), and that all those papers had got into the hands of Horatio Bottomley, who certainly made a terrible use of them. John Bull’s article caused a deep sensation in London and, indeed, all over the world, for it purported to produce evidence that the Secret Service Bureau attached to the Serbian Legation in London had been privy to the plans for the murder of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand.
No sooner were the first copies of John Bull of 11th July distributed, than our Legation building became a veritable bee-hive of inquisitive reporters from Fleet Street. Boskovitch could not give them any explanation, for he was waiting to receive “ instructions “ from Pasitch. However, as I had verbal instructions from Pasitch, which he gave me in May 1914, I tried to satisfy the curiosity of those journalists, not forgetting always that I was paid by the Serbian Government to use my tongue only as a true Byzantine diplomat, that is, to conceal, not to express, my thoughts.
When Boskovitch received the eagerly awaited instructions, he went, on or about 15th July, to the British Foreign Office and, upon his return to the Legation, he told us he had sent a report to Belgrade to the effect that he had had a private interview with Sir Arthur Nicolson. In reply to Boskovitch’s question as to whether it would be advisable for the Serbian Legation to bring an action in the Courts for libel against John Bull, the wise British diplomat is reported to have privately advised my chief to the effect that, although the fatal article “ purported to produce evidence that the Secret Service Bureau attached to the Serbian Legation in London had been privy to the plans for the murder of the Archduke,“ he (Sir Arthur) thought that, if the Serbian Minister were really to institute an action against ,John Bull, such proceedings “ might fail “ because- to use again the words which Boskovitch claimed were Sir Arthur’s-“ the writer of the article had been very careful to write with such vagueness as to prevent the possibility of any particular person complaining that he was libelled.“ According to Boskovitch, it was further pointed out to him that “ there was no means in this country by which the executive could suppress a newspaper.“
I remember how Boskovitch raged impotently because in Great Britain journalists could not be arrested when they wrote something which displeased somebody, and subjected to the favourite Balkan punishment “ bastinado.“ He emphatically asserted that Belgrade had incomparably better and more effective methods of silencing such public writers as Horatio Bottomley, and recalled to us the “ classical “ example of two unfortunate Serbian journalists, the brothers Novakovitch, who just before the Balkan War (1912) were arrested, thrown into the shameful prison “ Glavnyatcha “ (Glavnjaca) and shot dead in cold blood, without a trial, because they “ tried to escape.“
Yet ,John Bull had to be silenced in some way, so from the „highest place“ in Belgrade an emissary was sent to London. He saw Bottomley and, according to the said emissary’s report, which I read but of which I could not make a copy, he offered money to the editor of John Bull to stop writing against Prince Alexander Kara- Djordjevitch’s Government. As Bottomley showed indignation at such a shameful offer, the said emissary told him that he, Bottomley, would have no chance to spend the money which “ he had received from Count Mensdorff,“ (the Austro-Hungarian Ambassador in London) “ for the Black Hand was a far-reaching hand.“
To this plain threat, Horatio Bottomley answered with an article entitled “ To Hell with Servia (Serbia),“ which staggered the whole diplomatic world.
Horatio Bottomley had undoubtedly sinned during his long and meteoric career, but he only published a part of the secret documents which the Serbian Legations’ spy “ Mr. Stevens “ had supplied to him. Horatio Bottomley has been accused of having been finally silenced only when the “ highest- place “ in Belgrade doubled the sum which the Austro- Hungarian Legation was alleged to have offered to John Bull to publish the third instalment. But I, who was on the spot and saw things, do hereby declare that those accusations were groundless and infamous calumnies, for Bottomley received nothing from the said emissary or from our Legation in London. Other, entirely different reasons decided the brave English journalist to discontinue his anti-war propaganda and exposure of the regicides who brought Kara-Djordjevitch to the blood-stained throne. It was another, entirely different person, said to have been in the entourage of Horatio Bottomley, who, according to Boskovitch, after having understood the great journalist’s decision to discontinue, came to him and received “ four figures „of “ silencing money.“ Boskovitch, in his „justifying “ despatch to Pasitch, described that “ peace- maker “ as a tall, blond fellow. I never saw him, nor did anybody else in the Serbian Legation in London.
So much for Bottomley’s exoneration.
On 23rd July, 1914., at six o’clock p.m., Baron Wladimir Giesl von Gresringen, the Austro-Hungarian Minister to the Court of King Peter Kara-Djordjevitch, presented personally to Dr. Pacu, Pasitch’s locum tenens, the fateful time-limit note which Sir Edward Grey termed as “ akin to an ultimatum.“ By this note, the Austro-Hungarian Government, inter alia (Point 6), demanded that judicial proceedings should be taken against the accessories to the plot of 28th June, 1914., who were on Serbian territory, and that delegates of the Austro-Hungarian Government should take part in the investigation relating thereto. A reply to the said note was demanded within forty-eight hours, i.e., at six o’clock p.m. on 25th July, 1914.
Pasitch and most of the members of his Cabinet were in the provinces on an electoral campaign. Prince Alexander, according to the report of an eye-witness, came that night to Belgrade and forthwith rushed, at a late hour of the night between 23rd and 24th July, into the bedroom of M. Strandtmann, the Russian charge d’affaires, and begged the young diplomat to get up and wire to Petrograd for help. Strandtmann, amazed at this nocturnal visit by the future King of Serbia, counselled moderation and any possible means to gain time. As for the suggested telegram, he told His Royal Highness that one had already been sent to Sasonov.
When the Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs received that telegram, containing the text of the Austrian note, he termed it, according to official reports, as an ultimatum, and added : “ C’est la guerre ! “
We received a telegram from Belgrade, informing the Legation that the Serbian Government, in view of the fact that the Serbian Army was utterly unprepared, and, therefore, had no earthly chance to match itself against the formidable forces of the Dual Monarchy, was ready to accept, without reserve or qualifications, the Austro- Hungarian Government’s ultimatum in its entirety.
All the true friends of Serbia were glad to see that wisdom prevailed over passion. For a few hours there was a general relief felt in all the capitals of Europe, and war seemed as remote a thing as the end of the world.
But at about five or five-thirty p.m. on that fateful day (25th July, 1914,) another telegram came from Belgrade. Djordjevitch and I sat down at once to decipher it, but despite the great importance of the message, the First Secretary -who was notoriously a nonchalant fellow and had an aversion to work-suddenly remembered that he had promised to attend a social gathering. Consequently he left me alone to decode the message, while he went home to dress. Boskovitch was also away-probably at the club in Lancaster Gate where he used to go every evening about that time, and from which he would return to rest only towards the dawn.
The initial lines of ciphered groups, obviously made in great haste, were not clear, and I had a lot of trouble to find out the change of the key-group, which had not been given. As there were sixteen combinations for composing the key in order to be able to transpose the message ciphers into our code ciphers, it was quite seven p.m. before I found the meaning.
Pasitch stated that he had received an urgent telegram from the Serbian Legation at Petrograd. The text of the message was quoted and Boskovitch was instructed forthwith to verify its contents with Count Benckendorff and see whether the Russian Ambassador had received any information to the same effect. I deciphered the whole telegram and made a pencil copy of Spalajkovitch’s report, for I thought it might be useful for my Diplomatic History of Serbia, which I was preparing at that time. Here is an English translation of the message which I took at the time.
TELEGRAM FROM PETROGRAD
(Spalajkovitch to Pasitch)12th-25th July, 1914..
Cabinet meeting held at Krasnoe Selo under the chairmanship of the Tsar. Sasonov imparted to me : mobilisation of Military districts of Kief, Odessa, Kazan and Moscow ordered. Other military districts ordered to make all preparations for mobilisation. This means general mobilisation. All cadets promoted to officers’ ranks. Officers on leave of absence recalled. To us he recommends that our reply to the Austro-Hungarian ultimatum should be in a yielding spirit, but to reject all the points (especially the 6th) which cut into the independence of Serbia, at the same time to order general mobilisation. If Austria should attack us, we are to retreat without resistance and await the further development of the situation. Sasonov will have to-day a conference with Paleologue and Buchanan with respect to joint action and our armament. Russia and France maintain the thesis that the Austro-Serbian question is not a question of a local nature, but a part of the great European question, which only all the Powers can solve. There prevails in competent circles here a great bitterness against Austria-Hungary, and the mot d’ordre is war. The entire Russian nation is enthusiastic for the war. Great ovations in front of the Royal Legation. The Tsar will personally answer the Crown Prince’s telegram.
(Signed in ciphers) SPALAJKOVITCH.(Serbian Minister at St. Petersburg)
At the conclusion of the above dispatch Pasitch privately requested that I should be ready to go to Dover to meet Mme. Pasitch and her elder daughter, Miss Dara, who were soon to come to London for a prolonged visit. (The fact that Petrovitch was made responsible for the welfare of the wife and daughter of the Serbian Prime Minister is an attested fact. The English family with whom they stayed have vouched for the accuracy of Petrovitch’s intimacy with the Pasitch family.)
It was only about an hour after I had decoded the whole despatch that Boskovitch came. He studied the message very carefully; then he asked me to hand him the original ciphered groups as they came from the British Telegraph Office. These I gave him, and he verified certain places to see whether I had deciphered correctly. When he was convinced in this respect, he asked me whether anybody else had seen the dispatch. I told him that Djordjevitch had helped me to decode the initial groups but that he suddenly had to go to an important social gathering. Boskovitch enjoined me earnestly to keep an absolute silence about what I had seen. He especially warned me against Nikola Mishu, the Roumanian Minister, who might try to learn something from me ; and, should Djordjevitch ask me anything with regard to the contents of the dispatch, I was to tell him that Boskovitch had come in, taken the message away from me and deciphered it himself.
Thereupon Boskovitch drove to Chesham House to try and see Count Benekendorff, but I understood from him afterwards that the Russian Ambassador, when he returned towards midnight saw him at once and gave him to understand that the Russian Embassy had received no news similar to that which our Legation at St. Petersburg had sent to Belgrade.
His Excellency the Russian Ambassador also told Boskovitch that Sasonov had communicated to him only the subject matter of the Tsar’s proposed telegraphic reply to Prince Alexander’s appeal transmitted through young Strandtmann after the Prince’s visit to his bedroom on the night of 23rd July.
I learned later in the day that Boskovitch had been to see Sir Arthur Nicolson but had never mentioned Pastich’s telegram to him.
These two incidents caused me to think deeply. Why should the Serbian Minister at St. Petersburg send in reports of Russian mobilisation and war-fervour that were not known to the Russian Ambassador in London? Why should the Serbian Minister in London be so anxious to conceal the news that the Russians in London had no such news.
There could be only one answer: the Black Hand of Serbia, working through its agents in the Serbian diplomatic service, was trying to make the representative Serbian Government feel that it could assume the support of Russia and so alter its reply to the Austrian ultimatum. No other construction could be put upon it.
Towards evening another telegram was brought in. It contained the full text of the Serbian Government’s reply to the Austro-Hungarian ultimatum. While it was worded in a very conciliatory and yielding spirit, it refused quietly but categorically to comply with the demands which were affecting the sovereignty of Serbia. The message added that Baron Giesl, immediately upon the receipt of the reply, had left Belgrade together with the entire personnel of the Austro- Hungarian Legation.
This meant severance of the diplomatic relations between the two neighbouring states.
It meant more, as we all know too well!
Had that fatal message of 24th July, 1914, not been sent by the Serbian Legation in Petrograd to Pasitch, the originally made reply of the Serbian Government, accepting all the demands of the Austro-Hungarian time-limit note, would have been handed to Baron Giesl who, in compliance with his instructions from Vienna, would have stayed in Belgrade, and THE WAR WOULD HAVE BEEN AVOIDED at that time. Perhaps it would have been s
pared to mankind altogether.