Sergei Sazonov, Russian Foreign Minister

(3) The Crisis Breaks, July 23 - July 27, 1914

July 23

==[400.AM] > Russian Foreign Minister Sazonov transmits a strong warning to Austria against making excessive demands on Serbia - the message is still undelivered when Austria presents its ultimatum to Serbia


==[1100.PM] > The Poincaré mission departs from St. Petersburg after issuing a communiqué describing French-Russian views on the Balkans as “absolutely identical” - the first incomplete news of the Austrian ultimatum to Serbia arrives just after the mission sails

==The German Army stops officers’ leave

==The Royal Navy completes its training exercises and begins to head for its home ports
==Unaware of the breaking crisis, Lloyd George urges naval cutbacks in response to improved relations with Germany

==Berchtold seeks Bulgarian neutrality rather than an alliance, in an attempt to localize the impending war with Serbia

July 24

==[200.AM] > French President Poincaré urges Austria to be moderate in its demands, unaware that its ultimatum has already been sent

==[700.AM] > A complete account of the Austrian ultimatum reaches St. Petersburg from Belgrade

==[morning] > Austria notifies the European powers of its ultimatum to Serbia

==[1000.AM] > A frightened Serbian Council of Ministers meets and decides to comply with most Austrian demands and play for time - ~Serbian Regent Prince Alexander cables Russia for support

==[late morning] > Upon learning of the Austrian ultimatum, the enraged Russian Foreign Minister Sazonov exclaims “That’s a European war!” - he conducts a hostile interview with Austrian Ambassador Szápáry - an attempt is made to order a partial mobilization against Austria, though Russia has prepared no such plans

==[midday] > Sazonov lunches with the French and British Ambassadors - without authorization, Paléologue pledges complete French support, and repeats the pledge on Jul.25; Buchanan cautiously remains neutral

==[300.PM] > The Russian Council of Ministers decides to back Serbia to the extent of war, if necessary

==[afternoon] > The text of the Austrian ultimatum arrives in London during a Cabinet meeting - Grey calls it “the most formidable document that was ever addressed from one State to another,” but reacts mildly, urging Austria to extend the deadline and suggesting mediation by Britain, Germany, France, and Italy - Asquith writes “We are within measurable... distance of a real Armageddon.  Happily, there seems to be no reason why we should be more than spectators.” - the unruffled British Cabinet leaves London for the weekend

==[700.PM] > Sazonov bluntly tells the shaken German Ambassador Pourtalès “If Austria-Hungary swallows Serbia, we will go to war with her.”

==[evening] > Sazonov advises Serbia not to resist an attack by Austria

==[evening] > Ambassador Paul Cambon returns to Paris from London, recalled to assist the confused French Acting Foreign Minister Bienvenu-Martin, who has grown alarmed at Russia’s tough stance - ~French War Minister Messimy informs Chief of Staff Joffre that a war is likely

==Bethmann sends the Entente powers a note supporting the Austrian ultimatum and warns that intervention will “bring about inestimable consequences”
==Germany first learns the details of Austria’s timetable for dealing with Serbia, and is alarmed by the slow pace
==A meeting is held at the German War Ministry on how to handle national minorities and socialists on the outbreak of war - Interior Minister Delbrück squashes a plan for mass arrests
==Still on his yachting vacation, Kaiser Wilhelm first sees the Austrian ultimatum in a Norwegian newspaper
==(to Jul.25) > From Berlin, French Ambassador Jules Cambon warns that Germany is committed to fully supporting Austria

==Belgium pledges to uphold its neutrality “whatever the consequences”

July 25

==[morning] > From London, German Ambassador Lichnowsky forcefully argues that unless Germany drops its pretence of innocence and agrees to help mediate the crisis, Britain will turn hostile - ~he makes repeated strong appeals for British-German cooperation

==[morning] > Responding to Serbian requests for aid, Greek Premier Venizelos warns Germany that if Bulgaria attacks Serbia, Greece will aid Serbia

==[1100.AM] > A Russian Imperial Council at Tsarkoe Selo decrees a  ‘Period Preparatory to War’, although the Czar refuses a partial mobilization - growing Russian anger against Austria - ~Russia officially expresses “the greatest anxiety” and warns that it “cannot remain indifferent” to Austrian threats against Serbia - ~German observers report obvious war preparations

==[late morning-late afternoon] > To placate Entente diplomats, Jagow makes empty attempts to persuade Austria to extend its deadline, while secretly urging that it quickly attack Serbia - Germany credibility is damaged

==[midday] > Berchtold rejects an urgent Russian request to extend the deadline for the ultimatum to Serbia

==[early afternoon] > Russian support emboldens Serbia

==[afternoon] > Alarmed by developments, the Kaiser ends his yacht trip to Norway and orders the German High Seas Fleet to return to home waters

==[300.PM] > Serbia orders mobilization
==[558.PM] > Two minutes short of the deadline, Pasic delivers Serbia’s clever and evasive reply to the Austrian ultimatum - Austrian Ambassador Giesl quickly judges it unsatisfactory
==[630.PM] > Austria breaks relations with Serbia, and its diplomatic staff departs Belgrade - ~the Serbian government and the foreign embassies leave Belgrade for Nish

==[800.PM] > Ambassador Buchanan wires London that Russia “will face all the risks of war” to prevent Austria from crushing Serbia

==[evening] > Jubilant crowds in Austria and Germany celebrate the rupture with Serbia - ~British Ambassador Bunsen reports from Austria “War is thought to be imminent .. Wildest enthusiasm prevails in Vienna.”

==[953.PM] > Conrad receives orders for a partial Austrian mobilization against Serbia, to begin Jul.28 - ~the Austrian Council of Ministers transfers some jurisdiction to military courts

==[1159.PM] > Russian troops are ordered to report to their standing quarters - ~Russian military cadets are promoted to officer rank

==(to Jul.26) > The vacationing Serbian Chief of Staff Putnik is briefly detained near Budapest by Austro-Hungarian authorities, before being released on Franz Joseph’s orders

==An Austrian report estimates that its artillery has only about 500 shells per gun

==German Chief of Staff Moltke and Prussian War Minister Falkenhayn return to Berlin from their vacations
==The first German warship passes through the recently widened Kiel Canal
==The German Social Democrats condemn Austria’s ultimatum to Serbia

==The Echo de Paris portrays Germany as openly threatening the Entente - ~the start of rising anger against the Central Powers in the French press
==From Berlin, Ambassador Jules Cambon advises that France quietly begin making military preparations - French generals are recalled to duty

==Grey notifies his ministers in France and Russia that British public opinion won’t sanction a war to defend Serbia
==British Foreign Undersecretary Crowe writes in a memo to Grey that the crisis is caused by Germany’s drive for hegemony- he advocates open British support of the Entente against Germany

==Italian Foreign Minister San Giuliano recommends that Serbia nominally accept all Austrian demands, and then entangle Austria in prolonged negotiations

United States.
==The American public suddenly becomes aware of the threat of war in Europe

July 26

==[100-326.AM] > War Minister Sukhomlinov partially calls up the Russian reserves, tightens security, and puts bases on alert throughout European Russia, including near the German frontier - ~although assured that this is directed solely against Austria, Germany begins to become very alarmed by Russian war preparations

==[morning] > The Kaiser angrily refuses Bethmann’s requests to rescind his order bringing home the German fleet

==[morning] > King George V tells Prince Henry of Prussia that Britain desires neutrality

==[early afternoon] > In a friendly talk with Austrian Ambassador Szápáry, Sazonov urges direct talks

==[300.PM] > Grey proposes a 4-power conference of himself with the French, German and Italian Ambassadors in London, during which Austria will suspend military operations - German Ambassador Lichnowsky eagerly supports the idea

==[405.PM] > Admiral Battenberg secretly orders the British fleet to remain concentrated at Portland and prevents the release of naval reservists

==[430.PM] > After learning of German military preparations, France recalls troops on leave

==[late evening] > In St. Petersburg, German Ambassador Pourtalès warns that Russian war preparations could provoke German mobilization, but suggests an Austro-Serbian compromise - Sazonov readily encourages it - ~Berlin ignores Pourtalès’ plan

==[night] > Paris urgently requests that President Poincaré and Premier Viviani return from their trip abroad

==Giving in to German pressure, Berchtold decides to declare war on Serbia quickly, although Conrad warns that an invasion won’t be possible for weeks

==A Hungarian fort briefly fires at a Serbian troopship on the Sava River at Temes-Kubin

==Montenegro, closely aligned with Serbia, orders mobilization

==An article in the semi-official North German Gazette portrays an Austrian attack on Serbia as unavoidable, and warns the powers against interfering
==By now anticipating a general war, Germany adopts the official policy of blaming Russia

==German Chief of Staff Moltke prepares a ultimatum to be given to Belgium, demanding entry for German forces to counter a fictitious French invasion - it will be sent to the German Ambassador in Brussels on Jul.29 and delivered to the Belgian government on Aug.02

July 27

==[morning] > Churchill announces that part of the British Home Fleet will not disperse after the end of its annual exercises: the implied threat is ignored by Germany - ~Churchill orders the British Mediterranean Fleet to prepare to shadow potentially hostile warships

==[100.PM] > Germany refuses Grey’s proposed ambassadors’ mediation conference

==[afternoon] > Sazonov makes a garbled proposal that the powers’ ministers in Belgrade monitor Serbian behavior

==[130.PM] > France agrees to Grey’s proposed ambassadors’ mediation conference

==[310.PM] > Having returned to Potsdam from his vacation, the Kaiser meets with Bethmann and the Army chiefs; the mood is temporarily optimistic - one participant writes: “I have the impression that it will all blow over.” - the Kaiser isn’t told that Germany has rejected Grey’s mediation proposal

==[afternoon] > British Foreign Undersecretary Crowe notes that Russian mobilization will bring on German mobilization, which will instantly bring on French mobilization so that “within twenty-four hours His Majesty’s Government will be faced with the question” of whether to “stand idly aside, or take sides.”

==[437.PM] > German Ambassador Tschirschky reports that Austria will reject any negotiated settlement and will declare war within a day or two, the date moved up under German pressure

==[evening] > Sazonov seeks to “build a golden bridge” for Austria by direct talks - the proposals are discussed across Europe, but Germany declines to press the idea on Vienna

==[evening] > Austria draws up a declaration of war against Serbia

==[900.PM] > Germany strongly urges Austria to secure the Italian alliance by offering compensation to Rome

==[late night] > Trying to appear more conciliatory, Jagow forwards Grey’s proposal for a four-power conference to Austria, but urges them to reject it - British faith in German assurances collapses

==(to Jul.28) > Misled by garbled accounts of the Temes-Kubin incident on Jul.26, Berchtold believes that Serbia has already fired on Austrian forces and refuses all peace proposals
==Franz Joseph tells Giesl, the former Ambassador to Serbia: “We are not at war yet, and if I can, I shall prevent it.”
==The Vienna Stock Exchange is closed

==A Russian staff conference decides that a partial mobilization against Austria would be suicidal

==Jagow repeatedly promises that Germany will not mobilize against Russia if Russia only mobilizes against Austria

==From Berlin, French Ambassador Jules Cambon accurately predicts that if Germany is threatened by Russian mobilization it will immediately launch a crushing offensive against France

==Poincaré and Viviani again pledge their full support to Russia “in the interests of peace.”- they cancel their remaining state visits and head back towards France

==France begins implementing railroad security
==The French Foreign Minister is compelled to permit the Sûréte (French intelligence) to resume the decoding of diplomatic wires, though it is unable to attain full efficiency for another two months
==The French command in Morocco is ordered to evacuate the interior and send most of its troops to France - French Resident-General Lyautey comments “A war among Europeans is a civil war.  It is the most monumental folly the world has ever committed.”

==Grey describes his proposed mediatory ambassadors’ conference to the Commons
==The July Crisis finally makes the lead story in the London Times, with the headline “PEACE IN THE BALANCE”

==Italy agrees to Grey’s proposed ambassadors’ conference to mediate the Serbian crisis - Italy unsuccessfully proposes that the demands on Serbia be enforced by the powers rather than by Austria alone

==The International Trade Union Conference is held in Brussels - the German unions refuse to respond to the French CGT’s call for a strike to stop war preparations

Gottlieb von Jagow, German Foreign Minister

courtesy of Photos of the Great War  (World War I Docoument Archive)

July Crisis Introduction    //   (1) 1904-Jun.1914   //    (2) Jun.28-Jul.22
(4) Jul.28-31    //    (5) Aug.1-4; Aftermath    //    Biographies