‘This is terrible! Every sorrow has befallen me on this earth.’

Archival series on the build up to the first World War: while sympathising with the Austrian royal family, Russia’s media accused Vienna of discriminating against Serbs and stoking tensions that culminated in the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand

Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie travel in a car seconds before their assassination in Sarajevo on June 28th, 1914. Russian media accused Ayustria of discriminating against the Serbs and stoking tensions that culminated in the assassinations. Photograph: JU Sarajevo Museum / handout via Reuters

Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie travel in a car seconds before their assassination in Sarajevo on June 28th, 1914. Russian media accused Ayustria of discriminating against the Serbs and stoking tensions that culminated in the assassinations. Photograph: JU Sarajevo Museum / handout via Reuters

 

Murder of the Austrian Crown Prince

It is said that when the aide-de-camp told the monarch about the catastrophe, Emperor Franz Josef turned extremely pale, saying in a barely audible voice, “Again...again... again... This is terrible! Every sorrow has befallen me on this earth.”

***** ... Anti-Serb agitation in Bosnia is rising by the day and assuming an exceedingly dangerous form....

The Austria-Hungarian press has waged a vigorous media campaign against Serbia that is provoking action against Serb groups in Bosnia.

I can say in the most categorical terms that accusations that the Serbian government participated in the plot [to murder the Archduke] are savage and unfounded. How could the government be responsible for such an act of insanity?

The plot to kill the heir to the throne did not come out of the blue. It was brewing for a long time and through many events. Austria has contributed in no small way to the hatred it inspires in the local population in Bosnia.

The Serbs in Bosnia have endured unimaginable suffering, according to our sources. There were no laws and no guarantees to protect them. Serbs were suspected of everything, they were considered dangerous elements and the Austrians used every available opportunity to deal them blows.

Oskar Pitiorek, who was appointed governor of Bosnia, didn’t know a single word of the Serb language.

Cafés in Bosnia are traditional meeting places for people at the centre of political life. Since the country was united [with Austria Hungary] hardly a day has gone by without unpleasant scenes provoked by Austrian officers flaring up in the cafés. The officers cause trouble by forcing the orchestras to play “Wacht am Rhein” [a patriotic German anthem]star with a repertoire of German plays. They performed in the German language. Middle school pupils were obliged to attend even though the plays were offensive to Slavic feelings. Eventually a protest erupted. Several officers were in the theatre at the time. One of them suddenly jumped up from his seat and struck a young person. The comrades began complaining. Then the officers drew their swords and wounded three students from the gymnasium. After that a major demonstration broke out in the theatre.

Many people appealed to the government demanding that the officers be punished. However, the authorities in Vienna announced that the officers would not face reprisals and that the school would be closed. As a result the students will miss out on a whole academic year.

In a mark of protest, local residents closed down their shops for a day...

***** It has just become known that, apart from Emperor Wilhelm, no members of royalty will attend Archduke Franz-Ferdinand’s funeral as it would be too exhausting for the elderly monarch. Instead, foreign states will be represented by ambassadors accredited in Vienna.

***** There are reports that Sergei Dmititrevich Sazonov, the [Russian] foreign affairs minister, left his card at the Austrian embassy with the message: “Quel abominable crime.”

***** Information about the murder of the Archduke and his wife was kept from their children for a whole day.

Countess Henrietta Chotek tried several times to break the sad news, but couldn’t summon the courage. Then she instructed the children’s nurse to do it. There were heartbreaking scenes.

******

Information has reached Petersburg that about 200 Serbs have been killed during unrest in Sarajevo.

Vecherniye Vremya, Saint Petersburg, July 2nd 1914