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Franz Ferdinand Opposes War with Serbia

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The First World War was an unprecedented catastrophe that killed millions and set the continent of Europe on the path to further calamity two decades later. But it didn’t come out of nowhere. With the centennial of the outbreak of hostilities coming up in 2014, Erik Sass will be looking back at the lead-up to the war, when seemingly minor moments of friction accumulated until the situation was ready to explode. He'll be covering those events 100 years after they occurred. This is the 87th installment in the series. 

September 29, 1913: Franz Ferdinand Opposes War with Serbia

After months of arguing, cajoling, pestering, and pleading, by September 1913 Austrian chief of staff Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf had finally won over foreign minister Count Leopold von Berchtold to his point of view: The upstart kingdom of Serbia, burning with ambition to liberate its ethnic kinsmen in Austria-Hungary’s neighboring Balkan provinces, represented an implacable existential threat to the Dual Monarchy which could only be eliminated by war.

Conrad was helped in his campaign by the events of the Balkan Wars, when Serbia and its allies carved up the European territories of the Ottoman Empire, then fought each other over the spoils; informed opinion held that the Serbs would next try to fulfill their national destiny by dismembering Austria-Hungary. The Austro-Hungarian Empire’s southern Slavic populations in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia already complained of oppression (resentment which was hardly allayed by Bosnian governor Oskar Potiorek’s decision to decree a state of emergency in the province in May 1913). The sense of looming disintegration was only heightened by a rash of assassination attempts against Imperial officials by Slavic nationalists and anarchists.

In short, Conrad’s fears were no paranoid fantasy: the Empire really was coming apart at the seams, and Slavic nationalism seemed to be the main (though certainly not the only) culprit. Thus when Serbian troops invaded Albania in September 1913, threatening to undo all Berchtold’s work creating the new nation, the foreign minister didn’t need to be persuaded that the time had come for a decisive military response.

But one key figure still stood in the way: Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the throne, who remained focused on Italy as Austria-Hungary’s real long-term enemy. Never shy about sharing his opinions, Franz Ferdinand shrugged off Berchtold’s warnings about the Serbian threat—“all such Serb horror stories leave me cold”—and made no secret of his opposition to war, predicting (correctly) that it would lead to war with Serbia’s patron Russia as well. In February 1913 he gave an unusual toast at a public event: “To peace! What would we get out of war with Serbia? We’d lose the lives of young men and we’d spend money better used elsewhere. And what would we gain, for heaven’s sake? Some plum trees and goat pastures full of droppings, and a bunch of rebellious killers. Long live restraint!” 

In fact the Archduke had a falling out with Conrad over this issue, repeatedly chastising the chief of staff for urging Emperor Franz Josef to attack Serbia. In the summer of 1913 he wrote to Berchtold: “Excellency! Don’t let yourself be influenced by Conrad—ever! Not an iota of support for any of his yappings at the Emperor! Naturally he wants every kind of war, every kind of hooray! rashness that will conquer Serbia and God knows what else… It’s be unforgivable, insane, to start something that would pit us against Russia.”

Now, as different factions vied for the Emperor’s ear amidst another Albanian crisis, Franz Ferdinand’s attitude was yet again the decisive factor. On September 29, 1913, Conrad told Berchtold “Now would be the opportunity to put things in order down there. An ultimatum, and if Albania is not evacuated in twenty-four hours, then mobilization.” Berchtold replied that he personally supported military measures, but “felt no confidence that authoritative quarters would stand firm.” Conrad, ever hopeful, pointed out that “On peace and war the decision lies solely with the Emperor”—but there was no escaping the fact that the elderly monarch felt obliged to heed the vehemently expressed views of his nephew the Archduke. Once again the foreign minister and chief of staff found their plans frustrated by the heir to the throne.

Franz Ferdinand wasn’t totally oblivious to the threat posed by Serbia, but he hoped to resolve things with a (somewhat vague) plan to reform Austria-Hungary by adding a third monarchy representing the Slavs, or perhaps even remaking the Empire as a federal state, which might then absorb Serbia peacefully. Unsurprisingly his plan was bitterly opposed by Serbian nationalists, who aspired to become the nucleus of a new “Yugoslav” state, not a mere appendage of a decadent multinational empire.

Nevertheless, Franz Ferdinand—recently appointed inspector general of the armed forces—pressed ahead with his plans to attend the upcoming annual maneuvers in Bosnia in June 1914, followed by a visit to the provincial capital of Sarajevo; while the Archduke hoped to avoid war with Serbia and conciliate the Empire’s own Slavs, he also understood that a little saber-rattling could help keep the peace. On September 29, 1913, Conrad met with Potiorek, the provincial governor, to begin making arrangements for Franz Ferdinand’s visit, including provisions for security (which in the event proved sadly lacking).

Inevitably, word of the Archduke’s impending visit started to spread. The Serbian ambassador to Vienna, Jovan Jovanović, later recalled: “From the month of December [1913] onwards the maneuvers in Bosnia were spoken of in Vienna. The Inspector General of the Austro-Hungarian army was to take part both as future Emperor and Commander-in-Chief. It was to be, as was said towards the end of 1913, a lesson and warning to the Serbs both of Bosnia and Serbia.” Among those certain to hear of the Archduke’s planned visit was Dragutin Dimitrijević (“Apis”), the chief of Serbian military intelligence and head of the ultra-nationalist secret society known as the “Black Hand.”

See the previous installment or all entries.

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13 Fantastic Museums You Can Visit for Free on Saturday
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On Saturday, September 23, museums and cultural institutions across the United States will open their doors to the public for free, as part of Smithsonian magazine’s annual Museum Day Live! event. Hundreds of museums are set to participate, ranging from world-famous institutions in major cities to tiny, local museums in small towns. While the full list of museums can be viewed, and tickets can be reserved, on the Smithsonian website, we’ve collected a small selection of the fantastic museums you can visit for free this Saturday.

1. NEWSEUM // WASHINGTON, D.C.

The Newseum in Washington, D.C. is an entire museum dedicated to the First Amendment. Celebrating freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly and petition, the museum features exhibits on civil rights, the Berlin Wall, and the history of news media in America. Their latest special exhibitions take a look back at the event of September 11, 2001 and go inside the FBI's crime-fighting tactics.

2. INTREPID SEA, AIR & SPACE MUSEUM // NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK

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New York's Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum doesn’t just showcase America’s military and maritime history—it is a piece of that history. The museum itself is one of the Essex-class aircraft carriers built by the United States Navy during World War II. Visitors can explore its massive deck and interior, and view historic airplanes, a real World War II submarine, and a range of interactive exhibits. Normally, a ticket will set you back a whopping $33 (or $19 for New York City residents), but on Saturday, general admission is free with a Museum Day Live! ticket.

3. AUTRY MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN WEST // LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA

Perfect for art lovers, history buffs, and cinephiles alike, the Autry Museum of the American West (named for legendary singing cowboy Gene Autry) offers up an eclectic mix of art, historical artifacts from the real American West, and Western film memorabilia and props.

4. MUSEUM OF ARTS AND SCIENCES // DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA

A massive art, science, and history museum located on a 90-acre nature preserve, the Museum of Arts and Sciences features the largest collection of Florida art anywhere in the world, as well as the largest collection of Coca-Cola memorabilia in all of Florida. Its diverse exhibits are alternately awe-inspiring, informative, and quirky, ranging from an exploration of 2000 years of sculpture art to an exhibition of 19th and 20th century advertising posters.

5. INTERNATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE HORSE AT THE KENTUCKY HORSE PARK // LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY

The International Museum of the Horse explores the history of—you guessed it!—the horse. That might sound like a narrow scope, but the museum doesn’t just display horse racing artifacts or teach you about modern horse breeds. Instead, it endeavors to tackle the 50-million-year evolution of the horse and its relationship with humans from ancient times to modern times.

6. THE PEGGY NOTEBAERT NATURE MUSEUM // CHICAGO, ILLINOIS

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The 160-year-old Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum is pulling out all the stops for this year’s Museum Day Live! In addition to their vast exhibits of animal specimens and cultural artifacts, the museum will be hosting a live animal feeding and a butterfly release throughout the day.

7. OGDEN MUSEUM OF SOUTHERN ART // NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA

The Ogden Museum of Southern Art aims to teach visitors about the rich culture and diverse visual arts of the American South. Right now, visitors can view a collection of William Eggleston's photographs and check out the museum's 10th annual invitational exhibition of ceramic teacups and teapots.

8. BALTIMORE MUSEUM OF INDUSTRY // BALTIMORE, MARYLAND

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Located in a 19th century oyster cannery on the Baltimore waterfront, the Baltimore Museum of Industry tells the story of American manufacturing from garment making to video game design. Visitors this weekend can meet video game designers and create custom games at the museum’s interactive “Video Game Wizards” exhibit.

9. SYLVAN HEIGHTS BIRD PARK // SCOTLAND NECK, NORTH CAROLINA

You can meet 2000 birds from around the world this weekend at the 18-acre Sylvan Heights Bird Park. Visitors to the massive garden can walk through aviaries displaying birds from every continent except Antarctica, including ducks, geese, swans, and exotic birds from all over the world.

10. DELTA BLUES MUSEUM // CLARKSDALE, MISSISSIPPI

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Visitors to the Delta Blues Museum can learn about the unique American musical art form in “the land where blues began,” with audiovisual exhibits centered on blues and rock legend Don Nix, as well as Paramount Records illustrator Anthony Mostrom.

11. NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NUCLEAR SCIENCE & HISTORY // ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO

America’s only congressionally chartered museum dedicated to the story of the Atomic Age, the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History features exhibits on everything from nuclear medicine to representations of atomic power in pop culture. Adult visitors to the museum will delight in its impressively nuanced take on nuclear technology, while kids will love the museum’s outdoor airplane exhibit and hands-on science activities at Little Albert’s Lab.

12. MUSEUM OF THE MOUNTAIN MAN // PINEDALE, WYOMING

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Dedicated to the mountain men who explored and settled Wyoming in the 19th century, the Museum of the Mountain Man brings American folklore and legends to life. The museum features exhibits on the Rocky Mountain fur trade and tells the story of American folk legend and famed mountain man Hugh Glass (the man Leonardo DiCaprio won an Oscar playing in 2015's The Revenant).

13. BESH BA GOWAH ARCHAEOLOGICAL PARK AND MUSEUM // GLOBE, ARIZONA

Arizona’s Besh Ba Gowah Archaeological Park and Museum lets visitors connect with history firsthand. The museum is home to the ruins and artifacts of the Salado Indians who inhabited Arizona from the 13th century through the 15th century, and even lets visitors wander through an 800-year-old Salado pueblo.

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‘American Gothic’ Became Famous Because Many People Saw It as a Joke
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In 1930, Iowan artist Grant Wood painted a simple portrait of a farmer and his wife (really his dentist and sister) standing solemnly in front of an all-American farmhouse. American Gothic has since inspired endless parodies and is regarded as one of the country’s most iconic works of art. But when it first came out, few people would have guessed it would become the classic it is today. Vox explains the painting’s unexpected path to fame in the latest installment of the new video series Overrated.

According to host Phil Edwards, American Gothic made a muted splash when it first hit the art scene. The work was awarded a third-place bronze medal in a contest at the Chicago Art Institute. When Wood sold the painting to the museum later on, he received just $300 for it. But the piece’s momentum didn’t stop there. It turned out that American Gothic’s debut at a time when urban and rural ideals were clashing helped it become the defining image of the era. The painting had something for everyone: Metropolitans like Gertrude Stein saw it as a satire of simple farm life in Middle America. Actual farmers and their families, on the other hand, welcomed it as celebration of their lifestyle and work ethic at a time when the Great Depression made it hard to take pride in anything.

Wood didn’t do much to clear up the work’s true meaning. He stated, "There is satire in it, but only as there is satire in any realistic statement. These are types of people I have known all my life. I tried to characterize them truthfully—to make them more like themselves than they were in actual life."

Rather than suffering from its ambiguity, American Gothic has been immortalized by it. The country has changed a lot in the past century, but the painting’s dual roles as a straight masterpiece and a format for skewering American culture still endure today.

Get the full story from Vox below.

[h/t Vox]

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