Letter "reveals WW1 plans one year before assassination"

ANDRIĆGRAD -- Plans for the start of World War I existed 13 months before the Sarajevo assassination and 14 months before Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia.

The Serbian Kingdom soldiers are seen during the Battle of Kolubara (Wikipedia)
The Serbian Kingdom soldiers are seen during the Battle of Kolubara (Wikipedia)

This can be inferred from a copy of the letter that Director of the Archives of Serbia Miroslav Perišić presented in Andrićgrad, in the RS, Bosnia.

Governor of Bosnia-Herzegovina Oskar Potiorek sent this letter to the then Minister of Austria-Hungary Bilinski on May 28, 1913, and its copy was made public at the history department of Kamengrad (Andrićgrad) on Sunday.

Perišić noted that the letter is of manifold importance for all those engaged in the study of World War I, as it not only uncovers the intentions of Viennese pro-war circles, but also the stands the ruling circles took on Serbs, Croats, Muslims and their relations, especially in relation to Vienna's policy on the Serbs in Bosnia and Serbia, and proponents of the idea of unification of the South Slavs.

“Potiorek's letter is a document that falls into the category of primary sources, as it was created at the time when the event took place and it is one of the most important historical sources when doing a research on the issue of blame and accountability for the beginning of World War I,” Perišić said.

He noted that the reasons for keeping this letter away from the public eye are not difficult to grasp, because its content did not conform to the desired, or fabricated, unscientific picture of the pre-history of World War I.

Up to now, this document of utmost importance has not been available to historians and was not used in research papers, although it was published for the first time in 1928 in the Sarajevo-based daily Večernja Pošta and was kept in the so-called 'cabinet noir' containing the most classified mail, Perišić said.

The copy of this historical document, which is important for shedding light on the immediate trigger and root causes of World War I, is presently kept in the Archives of Serbia, while the search for the original is still under way.

Miroslav Jovanović, a member of the Višegrad-based Ivo Andric Institute Committee tasked with marking the centenary of the start of World War I, said that the Sarajevo assassination was not decisive, but rather the immediate trigger for the outbreak of the Great War which claimed lives of nine million soldiers and five million civilians.

“Austria-Hungary laid the blame for World War I at the door of Serbia and Russia, which was later backed by many renowned historians such as Chris Clark and Sean McMeekin,” Jovanovic said.

Film director and Kamengrad's creator Emir Kusturica said that the re-publication of the letter in “Historical Notebooks” of the Ivo Andrić Institute should improve the historical and media take on the start of the war.

“Numerous assassinations of tyrants made history, and in recent times they even took place in front of TV cameras. The Sarajevo assassination has been misused in historical terms, and served as a screen for persecution of the Serb people and the beginning of the Great War,” Kusturica said.

He underscored that Gavrilo Princip "killed the occupier Franz Ferdinand, a racist and anti-Semite, on his own doorstep in Sarajevo, and not in Vienna or some summer palace in Austria-Hungary."

“When Gavrilo Princip killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand in occupied Sarajevo, his uncle Franz Joseph, according to the memoir literature, said that one has not to defy the Almighty. His reaction was not just an expression of antagonism toward his nephew (Ferdinand), but also illustrates the state of affairs in one of the most powerful empires in the history of mankind” the RS Srna news agency quoted Kusturica as saying, and Banja Luka-based media reported.

He said that the re-publication of the document marks the start of efforts that the Ivo Andrić Institute will invest in revealing the documents that divert the public attention from the track of propaganda and organized oblivion which even those who were on the winning side in World War I have now found themselves on.

“In any case, it will be useful to read what Potiorek said to Bilinski one year before Austria (Hungary) declared war on Serbia and thus dragged Europe and the world into flames that left, according to Oleg Airapetov, 9.5 million soldiers and five million civilians dead,” he noted.

Kusturica confirmed that he will film a documentary in view of the anniversary of the beginning of World War I, and announced that the Ivo Andric Institute will organize numerous events, promotions of documents and books, and present the truth about the war in international forums.