The remarkable fact about Austro-Serbian relations in the months before the Sarajevo assassination is that they were reasonably good. All tensions had subsided with the ending of the October 1913 crisis over Albania. The murders in Sarajevo, of course, immediately revived and dramatized the old antagonism. Yet the assassination of Franz Ferdinand succeeded only because of the self-obsession and incompetence of Bosnia-Herzegovina's Landeschef Oskar Potiorek. The story of 28 June 1914 is as much about the personal aspirations of this Austrian General as it is about an amateurish conspiracy against Franz Ferdinand. However, a dead Archduke now became a useful tool in Vienna's pursuit of pocket imperialism in the Balkans, expressed by Austria-Hungary's resolve to place Serbia in the dock. This despite the fact that the Ballhausplatz had no proof of the Serbian Government's complicity in the Sarajevo assassination and that its own investigator Friedrich von Wiesner had actually ruled out such complicity.
With the many publications during 2014, a new discussion has ensued about who and what started the First World War of which the consequences are very much present today. Having embarked on a detailed investigation, we now present a ten-part investigation with new answers that help us understand why so many historians got it wrong.
Many of the tendentious evaluations that have associated official or semi-official Serbia with the Sarajevo assassination have then moved seamlessly on to the outbreak of the war, equally tendentiously presenting it as an inevitable consequence of the murders. To better understand this we first have to understand Serbia in the Bosnian annexation crisis.
At no point was Serbia threatening, or in a position to threaten, the integrity of the Habsburg Empire. Vienna's Balkan imperialism, by contrast, was relentlessly stifling Serbia's at every turn.
Mentioned in our original analyses of how the First War started, the Matscheko Memorandum, composed before the assassination of Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, was adapted and presented to the German Kaiser on 5 July which resulted in the issuing of the infamous blank check assurance.
But to understand why the Matscheko memorandum is so important one needs to take a closer look at two weeks before Franz Ferdinand was murdered including when the latter and Kaiser Wilhelm II met at Konopischt where he and Franz Ferdinand discussed the possibility of a future war.
Although the memorandum did not mention territorial conquest, its goals carried serious implications, because they involved reversing dominant trends in the Balkan peninsula.
Seldom had a little war looked more enticing: Serbia would basically disappear, Romania, Bulgaria, and Albania would all be secured, and Russia would be dislodged from the region. Provided that Germany could ward Russia off, this war in the Balkans could be a game-changer for the long-suffering Habsburg Empire. The strategy was risky but quite irresistible.
The chief negotiator Count Hoyos admitted in his 1922 memoir, "that the murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand had been prepared or intended by authorities in Belgrade or Petersburg." Presumably, in July 1914 Hoyos must also have conveyed this belief to his colleagues and his boss Berchtold. In a sense, therefore, the Austrian investigation into archduke's assassination Friedrich von Wiesner had been sent on a wild-goose chase. To establish Sarajevo assassination would have been nice to have, but ultimately this did not matter given that the decision for war had already been taken.
Many of the tendentious evaluations that have associated official or semi-official Serbia with the Sarajevo assassination have then moved seamlessly on to the outbreak of the war, equally tendentiously presenting it as an inevitable consequence of the murders. Yet those historians who have argued in this manner have wrongly fused the question of who bore responsibility for the assassination with a second, separate question of what subsequently impelled the Habsburg decision-makers to react as they did. Certainly, Vienna was not weighing up any Black Hand linkage - if for no other reason than that no one was claiming that this organization was involved; nor indeed was such a claim made until long after the end of the Empire, becoming a theme only in 1923.
Early on Richard C. Hall perceptively pointed out that, by themselves, the killings of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife in Sarajevo had "caused nothing" - that what brought the war about was "the use made of this event", initially by Austria-Hungary "The key event", according to Hall, was the delivery of the Austro- Hungarian note to Serbia on 23 July.
Misrepresented by a number of historians as we will analyze in this upcoming link the Serbian reply to the Austro- Hungarian ultimatum is one of the more famous documents of modern European history. Whereby the Austro-Hungarian river monitors from the Danube flotilla, the bulk of which had been concentrated at Zemun, started bombarding Belgrade. The First World War, initially resembling a "Third Balkan War", had begun.
Conclusion: Historians by now have also seen that it was not World War II but World War I was the decisive war of the twentieth century in transforming the global map and creating violent mid-century ideologies.