23/7/1914 The ultimatum is served on the Serbians

Serbia is in the middle of a general election campaign. Prime Minister Pašić is campaigning away from Belgrade. Dr Lazu Pacu is deputising when Ambassador Giesl of Austria-Hungary arrives to present the ultimatum. Initially there is some confusion, as the ultimatum is written in French, a language Dr Pacu is unable to read. An interpreter is soon found, but when the gist of the document is revealed, Pacu tells Giesl that he is not qualified to receive it. Furthermore, because of the election campaign, it would be impossible to convene a cabinet meeting to discuss the ultimatum in the short time before a reply to it is required (6.00 pm on Sunday the 25th of July, just two days hence).

Giesl replies that Serbia’s problems in formulating a reply are not his concern. Pacu continues to insist that he cannot receive the ultimatum. Eventually Giesl has no option but to place it on the table and leave.

The Serbians quickly share news of the ultimatum with friendly diplomats. Much of it is anodyne, but acceptance of points 5 and 6 would severely infringe Serbia’s sovereignty, by having Austrian officials direct Serbia’s investigation into Franz Ferdinand’s murder and the suppression of Serbian ultra-nationalist societies.

Prince Alexander, the regent, meets Vasily Strandman, temporary head of the Russian mission. Strandman has no instructions from home but he predicts Russian support and advises Alexander to telegraph the Tsar. Strandman himself telegraphs home regarding the still undelivered arms shipment Russia has promised Serbia.

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