The Serbian Revolution of 1903.


On June 10, 1903, King Alexander and Queen Draga of Serbia were murdered in the royal palace at Belgrade by a band of officers of the Serbian Army. The assassination was followed by shocking indignities to the bodies of the dead and by the murder of two brothers of the Queen and of two ministers. The precise origin of the plot is not yet known. A charge has been freely made and widely accepted that it was hatched under Russian auspices, but H. W. Steed asserts that the Austro--Hungarian Government was fully informed of meetings held in Vienna by the conspirators.


The murder was due to the long-continued misgovernment of the country under Kings Milan and Alexander (1868-1903), to the fact that under the system of government maintained by King Alexander no political opponent of the King, his wife, or her brothers could count his life safe, and to the fear, apparently well founded, that almost any moment might witness further and more irremediable disgrace for the nation than had been its lot during recent unhappy years. "Political revolution was justified on every ground," says Temperley. It was one of Serbia's many misfortunes that revolution was accompanied by murder. King Peter who was called to the throne by the conspirators, though under no suspicion of personal complicity in the murder of his predecessor, was forced to begin his reign under exceptionally trying circum-stances.


The murder of the royal pair was promptly followed by the withdrawal from Belgrade of the diplomatic representatives of all the European States, except Russia and Austria-Hungary. The min-isters of these two States were present at King Peter's entrance into his capital on June 24. Later on even these were withdrawn in order to signify the displeasure of the powers at King Peter's failure to dismiss from service and punish the murderers of his predecessor. But during the year 1904 the States which had withdrawn their representatives at Belgrade, except Great Britain, resumed diplomatic relations with Serbia. At the coronation of King Peter on Sep-tember 21, there were representatives present of all the powers ex-cept Great Britain. Resumption of diplomatic relations between Serbia and Great Britain did not take place until August 17, 1906.


The revolution of June, 1903, marked a turning point for Serbia and the change to which it led in that country reacted upon the whole course of events in the international relations of Europe. Under Milan and Alexander, Serbia had become practically a dependency of the Dual Monarchy. King Peter and the men who surrounded him soon began to show that they aspired to play a more independent rôle. Russian influence in large measure replaced Austrian influence. With emancipation from domination by its powerful neighbor and improved government in internal affairs Serbian national pride began to revive and the hopes of Serbian patriots began to dwell upon the glories of Serbia in the days before the Turkish Conquest. In that situation Serbia was in no mood to acquiesce without vigorous protest in any encroachment upon its rights or in any action which threatened to injure seriously its future development. It was this aspect of the matter which made the annexation of Bosnia-Herzo-govina by Austria-Hungary, October, 1908, so portentous an event.

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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