“With supreme irony, the war to “make the world safe for
democracy” ended by leaving democracy more unsafe than at
any time since the collapse of revolutions in 1848.”
—James Harvey Robinson
Countries in central Europe were competing with one another, and relations already were sour in June of 1914 when Archduke Francis Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated by young Bosnian revolutionaries —recognized as agents of a terrorist Serbian society dedicated to overthrow Austrian control. As the murderous event became known, citizens throughout the world were outraged and sympathetic toward Austrian claims for satisfaction.1
Aware of the assassination plot, the Serbian government had done nothing to stop it or even warn the Austrian government. Most of the Austrian crown council favored immediate declaration of war against Serbia, but the declaration was delayed a month until the end of July, when Austria formally declared war on Serbia.
Meanwhile, Russian governments in turmoil undertook a general mobilization program. Germany interpreted this program as a threat to its own eastern frontier and sent a 12-hour ultimatum to Russia, demanding cessation of military preparations on the German frontier. The twelve hours passed, and Germany, having received no reply to its ultimatum, declared war on Russia on August 1, 1914. German diplomats next sent