The Annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina, 1908.


Article 25 of the Treaty of Berlin gave Austria-Hungary the right to "occupy and administer" Bosnia-Herzegovina. At the time there was a widespread expectation that within a few years the Provinces would be formally annexed to the Dual Monarchy. A variety of circumstances, connected with both the foreign and internal affairs of Austria-Hungary, prevented any serious effort to convert occupation and administration into annexation. As time passed objections of the domestic order ceased to be as pronounced as in the years soon after 1878. Under the leadership of Count Aehrenthal, Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Government of the Dual Monarchy found in the Turkish revolution of 1908, a convenient, opportunity for annexation.

The Government of the Dual Monarchy alleged that the Turkish Revolution in 1908 made it necessary for Austria-Hungary to define her position in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The constitutional reforms announced by the Young Turks required that Turkey grant a degree of autonomy to the provinces and representation in the Turkish Parliament. This made it necessary, in the interest of the welfare of the provinces, that Austria-Hungary should no longer leave their status ill defined.


Vienna was probably determined on an early annexation after the revolt broke out in Turkey in July. Though Isvolsky, Russian minister of foreign affairs, was told that the act would take place "au moment favorable" and with ample warning, Russia was not notified until October 3, and the other powers were uninformed until October 6. The diplomacy of Aehrenthal, minister of foreign affairs of Austria-Hungary, was perplexingly intricate.


On October 6 a circular note to the powers announced the evacuation of the Sandjak of Novi Bazar, and the grant of constitutional autonomy to Bosnia-Herzegovina. On October 7 the Emperor-King announced to the inhabitants of the provinces his reasons for annexation.


On October 8 the Porte protested to Vienna that the Treaty of Berlin and the convention of Constantinople could be altered only by the consent of the signatory parties. A Turkish boycott on Austrian goods caused such losses that on November 22 Pallavicini, ambassador of Austria-Hungary at Constantinople, promised concessions if the boycott was raised. Kiamil Pasha ordered it stopped on December 5. On January 11 Pallavicini offered the Porte £2,200,000 to compensate for Turkish property in the provinces, this payment, he asserted, having nothing to do with the annexation. This and other compensations were embodied in the protocol of February 26, by which Turkey recognized the annexation.


On October 7 Serbia. demanded complete restoration of the Treaty of Berlin or compensation. Montenegro demanded that Antivari be freed from Austrian control. Milovanovitch, minister of foreign affairs of Serbia, was urged by the powers to avoid hostilities and await in international conference. He replied that Serbia wished a recognition of Serbian and Montenegrin integrity, and the strip between the Sandjak and Bosnia-Herzegovina as a buffer between Austria and Turkey.


The attitude of the powers was as follows: The interests of England and France were not directly concerned. Russia was anxious to bring the matter before a congress of the. Italy was bound by the Triple Alliance. Germany approved a fait accompli, but wished Austria to go no further. Aehrenthal would consent to a congress only with the proviso that the annexation should not be discussed, but should be simply ratified as a matter of legal form. A plan for the congress was drawn up, but Austria-Hungary pronounced it unacceptable.


The idea of a Congress was abandoned for two reasons: The attitude of Germany and the retreat of Russia, Serbia, and Montenegro. The Berlin Government, supporting Austria-Hungary, insisted that annexation be excluded from discussion, and that no compensation be given Serbia and Montenegro without Austria's consent.

In the Reichstag, on December 7, Von Bülow said that Germany would stand by her ally. In March, 1909, he notified Russia that, if Russia intervened to and Serbia, in case of war Germany would support Austria. Russia at once recognized the annexation.


In February and March, 1909, Austria mobilized three army corps and the Danube flotilla, and demanded categorical renunciation of the Serbian claims. As Russia had withdrawn her support early in March, Serbia on March 31 renounced her opposition to annexation and promised to restore her army to the status of the spring of 1908.

On April 6 Montenegro renounced her opposition in return for the suppression of article 29 of the Treat of Berlin, giving Austria control of Antivari.


As the powers most nearly concerned agreed to the annexation, the remaining powers consented to the suppression of article 25 of the Treaty of Berlin. Italy consented April 11, Germany April 7, England April 17, Russia and France April 19.


The results of annexation for Austria were an indemnity of £2,200,000 to Turkey; trade losses by the Turkish boycott; £14,000,000 for the mobilization of the army; the alienation of most of the powers from Austrian policy; and a heavy obligation to Germany. The whole episode became the starting point and was in large measure the immediate cause for the series of events, all of them connected with the affairs of the Turkish Empire which filled the years 1908 to 1914 and led directly to the World War.

Source: Anderson, Frank Maloy and Amos Shartle Hershey, Handbook for the Diplomatic History of Europe, Asia, and Africa 1870-1914. Prepared for the National Board for Historical Service. Government Printing Office, Washington, 1918.

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