Serbia on the Brink of War

An analysis of Serbian domestic conditions and policies on the brink of war in 1914.

The paper is an investigation of the domestic, political conditions that led to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and the ensuing crises. It frames the events of that day in the context of Serb domestic politics. Intro includes note on sources, background and Pan-Serbism historical context, nationalism, Balkan wars, previous coups and assassinations, and previous crises in the region. It also provides a brief history of terrorism, militant groups, and militias in Serbia.
“Is it possible that history consists primarily of chaos and chance? When theories of dialectic historicism fail us, or when studies of the “great men” leave gaps, are we not left with dumb luck alone? Where would we be today if the Archduke of Austria-Hungary had taken another road? Would ten million have died if Gavrilo Princip had panicked at his chance to take the life of the heir to the Hapsburg throne? It seems impossibly fascinating to think that sheer coincidence tipped off the spiraling of Europe into the godforsaken trenches for more than half a decade. Unfortunately, as seductive as this what-if history may seem, there were actually some concrete factors at play on the fateful day in June of 1914. The Serbs had seen a rising patriotism across their society since the Balkan Wars. The government had no control over its own security forces, which developed into a state within a state. The militias popping up all over the Balkans were beyond of the control of authorities. Had Princip failed, it is not inconceivable that another disillusioned young radical would have eventually crossed a line somewhere and set things into motion. The conditions in Serbia at the time made it possible, with the atmosphere of rising nationalism, a growing militant movement uncontrollable by civil authorities, and an expanding and dangerous unaccountability on the part of certain elements of the Serb security forces. It was these domestic conditions, born out of history and contemporary conditions, which set the stage for the tragic murders of Sarajevo.”