28 July 1914, the Austro-Hungarian Empire declared war on Serbia. In both countries, mass mobilization of troops began. 29 July, the Austro-Hungarian forces launched artillery shelling of Belgrade. By August 12, the Austro-Hungarian command concentrated on the Serbian front 200 thousands of soldiers and launched a massive invasion. Thus began the Serbian campaign of the First World War, which cost Serbia 1,5 a million people (33% of the population).
The confrontation in the Balkans has lasted for more than a decade. The main players were the Ottoman Empire, Russia, Austria-Hungary and Italy. In addition, England and France had a certain influence, and Germany strengthened its position more and more, whose growing economic power could not but affect the growth of Berlin's influence in the region.
The Balkan Wars 1912 — 1913 and 1913 led to the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, which lost almost all of the land in Europe (while the Port did not resign and hoped to regain some influence in the region) and clash of former allies in the anti-Turkish alliance. Bulgaria was defeated by Serbia, Montenegro, Greece and Romania. In addition, Turkey opposed Bulgaria.
The collapse of the Balkan Union (bloc Serbia, Montenegro, Greece and Bulgaria) took advantage of Austria-Hungary and Germany. The Bulgarian elite was unhappy with the defeat in the Second Balkan War. Bulgaria craved revenge. Revanchist Bulgaria eventually joined the Central Powers bloc.
In turn, in the Second Balkan War, Serbia, though significantly increased, but was not fully satisfied. Belgrade did not achieve access to the sea and wanted to annex the north of Albania, which went against the policies of Austria-Hungary and Italy. In the fall of 1913, the Albanian crisis broke out - Serbia sent troops into Albania, but was forced to withdraw them under pressure from Austria-Hungary and Germany.
In addition, in Vienna they feared the emergence on their borders of a strong Serbian state, which, after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria in the Balkan Wars, could become the strongest power in the Balkan Peninsula. In Vojvodina, which belonged to Austria-Hungary, a large number of Serbs lived. Fearing separatist sentiments in Vojvodina and other Slavic lands and the complete disintegration of the empire, a significant part of the Austro-Hungarian leadership wanted to resolve the issue by force — defeat Serbia. Especially these sentiments increased after the assassination of 28 in June, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife. The heir to the throne was a supporter of a peaceful solution to the problem - the creation of the triune state of Austria-Hungary-Slavia. Franz Ferdinand did not like the Slavs, but he categorically opposed a preventive war with Serbia. His assassination destroyed the main barrier to the war in Austria-Hungary.
Germany supported the Austro-Hungarian war party, since Serbia was on the road to pushing German capital and goods to the Balkans and the Middle East. This intensified especially after the Balkan Wars, when Serbia received the Novo-Bazar sanjak and found itself on the roads leading to Constantinople and Thessaloniki. Serbia was considered an ally of Russia, which violated Germany’s plans for the future of the Balkans and the Middle East. Germany hoped that while Austria-Hungary would be at war with Serbia and attract the attention of Russia, in the most favorable situation to deal with France.
At the same time, Serbia should not be considered a victim. Serbia was radicalized, victories in two wars at once and a sharp strengthening of the state brought up a strong national boom. Plans to create "Great Serbia" were very popular. Various nationalist, right-wing radical organizations, which aimed at the collapse of Austria-Hungary and the separation of the Slavic lands from it, some of which were supposed to be included in the “Great Serbia”, intensified. The Black Hand group was organized, which controlled virtually all authorities, its branch Mlada Bosna, operated in Bosnia, planning to separate this area from the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
It is also necessary to take into account that among the organizers of “Black Hand” there were masons who were guided by their sister structures in other European countries. And the Masons, in turn, were one of the structures so-called. "Financial international" - "golden elite", which ruled France, England and the United States. "Financial International" has long been preparing Europe for a big war, which was supposed to strengthen their power in the world. A provocation was needed that would launch the process of the start of a world war. This provocation was organized by the Serbian brothers-masons.
28 June Franz Ferdinand was killed. The murderer and his comrades were associated with the nationalist Serbian organization Black Hand, which had the support of a number of senior officers of the Serbian military intelligence. The provocation was perfect. In Vienna, they decided that the reason was good for the military defeat of Serbia. 5 July, Germany promised to support the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the event of a conflict with Serbia. In Berlin, they also considered that the moment was ideal for the start of the war and the defeat of France. Vienna and Berlin made a strategic miscalculation, considering that they are implementing their game. Although in reality they fell into a trap that had long been prepared, which was to lead to the destruction of the German and Austro-Hungarian empires, as well as Russia, which was to stand up for Serbia.
On July 23, the Austro-Hungarian envoy to Serbia Baron Gizl von Gieslinger handed a note with an ultimatum to the Serbian government. Part of the requirements of this ultimatum were related to the sovereignty of the country and were obviously unacceptable for Belgrade. So, the Serbian government had to stop the massive anti-Austrian propaganda, dismiss the organizers of this campaign, dissolve the nationalist organization Narodn Odbrana, arrest the officers who organized the murder of Franz Ferdinand and allow the official representatives of Austria-Hungary to the territory of Serbia to investigate the assassination attempt the archduke. Serbia had to respond to the ultimatum in 48 hours. At the same time, Vienna began preparations for the mobilization of the armed forces.
Belgrade realized that it smelled of roast and the Serbian government was in a hurry. Serbia has not had time to recover from the two Balkan wars, the country was not ready for war. The government of Pashich, like most of the bourgeoisie, was currently afraid of war. Prince Regent Alexander asked his uncle - the king of Italy, to act as a mediator. At the same time, Belgrade asked St. Petersburg for help. “We cannot defend ourselves,” wrote Prince Regent Alexander in an address to Emperor Nicholas II, “therefore we beg your Majesty to assist us as soon as possible.” Your Majesty has so often assured her of free will, and we secretly hope that this appeal will find a response in your noble Slavic heart. ” In Petersburg, they were not very happy about this situation; in recent years Russia has more than once had to act as a peacemaker in the Balkans.
However, at an emergency meeting of the Russian government, it was decided to provide comprehensive diplomatic assistance to Belgrade. Petersburg advised to accept the demands of Vienna. Serbia unconditionally accepted the eight requirements of Austria-Hungary, and one with a reservation (the presence of Austrian investigators on Serbian soil). Belgrade offered to consider this issue in an international court in The Hague.
But Vienna waited for such an answer. The beginning of the war was practically resolved. On July 25, the Austrian envoy Baron Gizl von Gieslinger said the answer is unsatisfactory and diplomatic relations between the two powers are broken. At this time, French Prime Minister Raymond Poincaré visited the Russian capital and both powers solemnly reaffirmed their obligations to each other. In St. Petersburg and Paris, they considered that if firmness was shown, there would be no war, Vienna and Berlin would give way. “Weakness towards Germany always leads to problems, and the only way to avoid danger is to show firmness,” said Poincare. England, which had long wished for war in Europe, also supported the Allies.
There is a telegram from Petersburg to Belgrade: Begin mobilization, be firm - there will be help. In turn, in Vienna they were convinced that Russia, disappointed with the previous policy of Serbia, would not fight for it. In Austria-Hungary it was believed that the case would end with a diplomatic protest of the Russian empire, and the Russians would not enter the war. The chief of the Austrian General Staff, Conrad von Götzöndorf (Hötzendorf), said: "Russia is only threatening, so we should not abandon our actions against Serbia." In addition, he strongly overestimated the strength of the Austro-Hungarian army, thinking that it would be able to stand on equal terms with the Russian army. Berlin also pushed Vienna towards the start of the war, instead of holding back an ally. The German Kaiser and his closest advisers assured the Austrians that Russia was not ready for war (which was true) and that Austria-Hungary needed to take Belgrade so that the Serbs fulfilled all the conditions of Vienna. In Serbia and Austria-Hungary began to mobilize. The Serbian government with the treasury moved from Belgrade to Niš, since the capital was located near the border and was vulnerable to the Austro-Hungarian invasion.
Austria-Hungary was seized by anti-Serb hysteria. A longtime supporter of Serbia’s military solution, Prime Minister Count Istvan Tisa, said: “The monarchy must make energetic decisions and demonstrate its ability to survive and put an end to the unbearable conditions in the southeast” (he called southeast Serbia). A wave of mass anti-Serb demonstrations swept through all the major Austrian cities, where the Serbs were called a "gang of murderers." In Vienna, the crowd nearly crushed the Serbian embassy. Serbian pogroms began in the cities of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Vojvodina. In Bosnia, it came to the point that under the auspices of the local authorities, Muslim paramilitary units were formed, which launched terror against the Serbs. Various Serbian associations and organizations - educational, cultural, sporting (many of which were actually created by Serbian intelligence and with Serbian money), were closed, their property was confiscated.
On July 28, the Austro-Hungarian Empire declared war on Serbia. On the night of July 28-29, long-range artillery of the Austro-Hungarian army began shelling Belgrade. The Danube monitors also participated in the shelling. flotilla. July 31, Austria-Hungary began a general mobilization.
Alexander I Karageorgievich (1888 — 1934)
Austrian War Plan
Initially, the Austro-Hungarian command planned to deploy against Serbia three armies totaling more than 400 thousand men (2 / 5 of all the forces of the army). These armies formed the army group of General Potiorek: the 2-I army occupied positions along the Sava and Danube currents, the 5-I army - along the left bank of the r. Driny to its confluence with r. Sava and the 6 Army in Bosnia between Sarajevo and the Serbian border. The Austro-Hungarian armies were to invade Serbia and allied Montenegro and bypass the Serbian troops from both flanks. The commander-in-chief of the Austro-Hungarian army was the Duke of Teschinsky, Friedrich of Austria. The head of the general staff was Franz Konrad von Höttsendorf.
However, Berlin forced Vienna to make adjustments to these plans. In Germany, they believed that a powerful barrier should be set against Russia. The German command demanded the participation of the Austro-Hungarian infantry divisions against the Russian Empire 40. The Austro-Hungarian military command was forced to leave against Serbia the entire 1 / 5 part of all available forces (5 and 6 army), and 2 army (190 thousand soldiers) to transfer from Sava and Danube to Eastern Galicia. Against Serbia at the beginning of the war, more than seven army corps were displayed.
Therefore, the Austro-Hungarian governor of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces in the Balkans and Commander of the 6 Austrian-Hungarian Army Oscar Potiorek decided to abandon active offensive operations on the Danube front and the lower course of Sava and carry out only demonstrative actions. For this purpose, the 7 Army Corps, located in the Temesvara area, was designed. He was supported by the Hungarian military units (Honved) and the Landsturm (Militia). But they decided to launch a decisive offensive from the River Driny in the five corps of the 5 and 6 armies: the 4, 8, 13, and parts of the 15 and 16. Part of the forces of the 15 and 16 corps were to oppose the Montenegrin army. The 9 Army Corps units were in reserve between Sava and Drina.
Oscar Potiorek (1853 - 1933)
Serbia mobilization and plans
The Serbian army, after the Balkan wars and the expansion of the country's territory, has undergone a complete reorganization. The number of infantry divisions in the army increased from 5 to 10. The first conscription classes (men 21-30 years) formed five divisions and one cavalry division, large-caliber and mountain artillery. In addition, the surplus of these draft age allowed the formation of six additional infantry regiments in Old Serbia and one division in New Serbia (Serbian Macedonia). The second conscription classes (30-38 years) also formed five divisions, but of incomplete composition. There were three regiments in the divisions, not four, only one artillery group (12 guns) instead of three (36 guns). The command distributed new Macedonian regiments between the Old Serb garrisons, where they were replenished to the state of war. The third conscription classes (38-45 years) formed the police - one regiment and a squadron for each conscription district.
In addition, volunteers, road guards, railway personnel, etc. were subject to mobilization. As a result, Serbia could put up more than 400 thousand people. The main strike force was represented by 12 infantry and 1 cavalry divisions (about 240 thousand people). However, the problem of the Serbian army was a shortage weapons, especially artillery and ammunition, ammunition. And the two Balkan wars significantly thinned the arsenals. They have not had time to replenish. Russia promised 400 thousand rifles, but in the summer 1914 of the year managed to deliver only 128 thousand. The strength of the Serbian army was the combat experience, morale and character of the upcoming war (it was necessary to defend the Motherland).
Voevoda, Chief of the General Staff of Serbia during the Balkan Wars and the First World War Radomir Putnik (1847 - 1917)
The war against Austria-Hungary was popular in society, patriotic attitudes after two victorious wars prevailed in Serbia. Moreover, Serbia has been a militarized society for centuries. Therefore, despite the fact that the mobilization was announced in the midst of field work, 80% spare was mobilized on the first day. But, in new areas of Serbia, mobilization did not go so smoothly. There were numerous cases of desertion in Bulgaria. The Serbian government was even forced to turn to the Bulgarian government, demanding to prohibit the passage of fugitives across the Serbian-Bulgarian border, which violated the neutrality declared by Bulgaria.
The Prince Regent of the Serbian Kingdom, Alexander I Karageorgievich, was the Commander-in-Chief of the Serbian army, the voivode (corresponding to the rank of field marshal) Radomir Putnik - Chief of the General Staff. Belgrade worked through two variants of the war with Austria-Hungary: 1) alone; 2) in alliance with Russia. The Serbs did not have any information about the forces that Austria-Hungary would put up, nor about the strategic deployment of the enemy’s armies. Much depended on whether Russia would fight. In general, the Serbian plan of war assumed defensive actions at the beginning of the war. Serbia did not have the forces to invade Austria-Hungary, especially until a decisive change in Galicia (with the participation of Russia in the war).
The Serbian command took into account that the Austro-Hungarian armies could strike from two strategic directions. To the north of the Danube and Sava, Austria-Hungary had a developed network of communications and was able to concentrate the main forces in the Banat region in order to seize the Serbian capital first and, at the second stage, advance the Morava valley and Kolubara inland, to capture Kragujevac (the main arsenal of Serbia ). However, here the Austrian offensive was complicated by the fact that they needed to overcome the Serbian defenses on the first-class water frontiers of the Danube and Sava. In addition, the Serbian troops could try to cover the Austro-Hungarian troops.
Its advantages had a blow from the Drina, from west to east. Here the Austro-Hungarian troops rested the left flank on their territory, and the right - in remote mountains, which protected them from possible coverage. However, in the Drinsky direction, the rugged highlands, with a small number of roads, favored the Serbian defense. Serbs were on their land. On the Bulgarian side, the Serbian army was covered by Timok, Morava and the mountain range between them.
According to the two main directions and outlined the options for the deployment of the Serbian troops. The Serbian command had to wait until the moment when the general situation became clearer. The deployment area was supposed to be covered by the Sava and Danube currents from the north, which they considered to be the main one, and they also took into account the likelihood of the enemy's attack from the west and north-west.
According to these directions, the Serbian troops were consolidated into the 4 army (in fact, corps or detachments). The 1 Army under the command of Petar Boyovich had to keep the 100 km along the Danube front. Its main forces were concentrated in the area of Palanka, Racha and Topola. The army included: 4 infantry and 1 cavalry divisions. Under the command of General Stefanovich, the 2 Army was a maneuverable group in the Belgrade area and consisted of the 4 infantry divisions of the first stage. The 3 Army under the command of General Jurishich-Sturm also represented a maneuverable group in the Valyev region and consisted of two infantry divisions and two detachments. The 4 Army (Uzhitska Army) under the command of General Boyanovic covered the valley of the Upper Morava from the western direction and provided communication with Montenegro. It consisted of two infantry divisions. In addition, 60-th. Montenegrin army unfolded in the border zone on its territory, supporting the left flank of the 4 Serbian army.
Thus, a large part of the Serbian army was a maneuverable group, covered by the natural defensive lines of the Danube, Sava and Drava rivers, which defended the reserve units of the third conscription. In general, the Serbian army, with limited capabilities, had a favorable (middle) position for the struggle and was ready to act in internal operational areas. In case of successful development of the situation, the maneuverable group was ready to launch an offensive operation in the Srem region or in Bosnia.
The weak point was the possibility of participation in the war of Bulgaria on the side of Austria-Hungary. Then Serbia would have to fight on two fronts. Forces for conducting combat operations on two fronts at Serbia was not. The Austro-Hungarian Empire linked all the forces of the Serbian army. In the event of a war on two fronts, Serbia was under threat of a military-political catastrophe.
Map source: Korsun N. G. Balkan Front of World War 1914-1918
To be continued ...