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Serbs Back Down, But Kaiser Warns of Coming Race War

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

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 89th installment in the series.

October 18-20, 1913: Serbs Back Down, But Kaiser Warns of Coming Race War

In October 1913, Franz Josef (top)—Emperor of Austria, Apostolic King of Hungary, King of Bohemia, Croatia, Galicia and Lodomeria, and Grand Duke of Krakow—was 83 years old and no longer in the best of health. The elderly monarch understandably hoped to live out his twilight years in peace, enjoying the company of his longtime companion (and perhaps mistress) the beautiful actress Katharina von Schratt, taking the air at the resort town of Bad Ischl or tea at the imperial palace of Schönbrunn in Vienna.

But Franz Josef was also a dutiful sovereign, motivated by feelings of responsibility to his subjects and the ancient house of Hapsburg to preserve and pass on his imperial inheritance intact. This meant seeing off various internal and external dangers, many of them linked, including nationalist movements among Austria-Hungary’s many minority populations and military threats from Russia and Italy—Great Power rivals who hoped to dismember the Empire and annex bordering territories.

What’s more, it was widely feared that Russia was encouraging its Balkan client state, Serbia, to trigger the Empire’s final crackup by stirring up dissent among its southern Slav populations; these fears were only heightened by Serbia’s expansion in the Balkan Wars and its continued meddling in the new nation of Albania, culminating in an invasion in September 1913. By openly defying Austria-Hungary, Serbia threatened to diminish the Empire’s prestige and even call into question its status as a Great Power.

All this was daunting enough, but Franz Josef’s task was further complicated by differences of opinion among his top officials and advisors. On one hand, chief of staff Conrad von Hötzendorf argued that Serbia indeed posed an existential threat to Austria-Hungary, which could only be ended by war, and by October 1913, the bellicose chief of staff had also persuaded Franz Josef’s foreign minister, Count Leopold von Berchtold, that Serbia had to be dealt with militarily; in their view, the Serbian invasion of Albania offered an ideal opportunity to settle accounts. Opposing Conrad was the heir to the throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, who warned that attacking Serbia would bring Austria-Hungary into conflict with Russia, with potentially disastrous consequences.

But in the authoritarian Dual Monarchy the ultimate decision lay with Franz Josef. After initially siding with Franz Ferdinand, in mid-October the Emperor, doubtless dismayed by Belgrade’s defiant responses to several “friendly warnings” from Berchtold, decided to split the difference: Austria-Hungary would once again threaten to mobilize its troops against Serbia if the latter didn’t withdraw its troops from Albania immediately. Hopefully Serbia would comply, resolving the problem without war—but at the end of the day the old Emperor was ready to fight to protect his Empire’s interests.

On October 18, 1913, Berchtold sent a note to the Serbian government in Belgrade stating: “It is indispensable in the eyes of the Imperial and Royal government that the Serbian government shall proceed to the immediate recall of the troops… who… occupy territories forming part of Albania… Failing this, the Imperial and Royal government will to its great regret find itself compelled to have recourse to the appropriate means to assure the fulfillment of its demand.” He gave the Serbs one week to comply.

The Serbs, who faced more rebellions in Macedonia as well as continuing hostility from Bulgaria, caved almost immediately: On October 20, the Serbian ambassador to Vienna, Jovan Jovanović, promised Berchtold that the Serbian armies were being withdrawn behind the borders agreed at the Conference of London, and on October 25 Belgrade followed up with a second note announcing that the withdrawal was complete. Yet another Balkan crisis had been resolved peacefully. 

But several unfortunate precedents had been set. For one thing, while Berchtold carefully lined up support from Austria-Hungary’s German ally, he didn’t consult with the other Great Powers before delivering the ultimatum. This meant Britain, France, Italy, and Russia never had a chance to intervene, for example by warning Serbia to withdraw or persuading Austria-Hungary to moderate its stance, as Italy had in the crisis of July 1913. Because everything worked out, the other Great Powers didn’t protest (too much) and Berchtold drew the conclusion that Austria-Hungary could go it alone in the Balkans, dealing with Serbia one-on-one without interference from the other Great Powers. In July 1914 this assumption would prove sadly mistaken.

Meanwhile, Germany’s leaders—already paranoid about being “encircled” by France, Russia, and Britain—feared losing their only ally, as the rise of Slavic nationalism threatened Austria-Hungary with dissolution. The only remedy for Serbian defiance, they felt, was war. On October 18, 1913, Kaiser Wilhelm II told Conrad, who was visiting Germany for the centennial celebration of Napoleon’s defeat at Leipzig: “I go with you. The other [Powers] are not prepared, they will not do anything about it. In a few days you will be in Belgrade. I was always a supporter of peace, but there are limits.” 

As always, Germany’s leaders were haunted by anxiety about a looming “racial war” between Teutons and Slavs. Meeting with Berchtold during a visit to Vienna on October 26, Wilhelm shared his fear about the “powerful forward surge of the Slavs,” warning that “War between East and West was in the long run inevitable.” He elaborated: “The Slavs are born not to rule but to obey,” and if Serbia didn’t comply with Vienna’s demands, “Belgrade shall be bombarded and occupied until the will of His Majesty [Franz Josef] has been carried out. And you can be sure that I will back you and am ready to draw the saber any time your action makes it necessary.”

See the previous installment or all entries.

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12 Pieces of 100-Year-Old Advice for Dealing With Your In-Laws
Hulton Archive // Getty Images
Hulton Archive // Getty Images

The familial friction between in-laws has been a subject for family counselors, folklorists, comedians, and greeting card writers for generations—and getting along with in-laws isn't getting any easier. Here are some pieces of "old tyme" advice—some solid, some dubious, some just plain ridiculous—about making nice with your new family.

1. ALWAYS VOTE THE SAME WAY AS YOUR FATHER-IN-LAW (EVEN IF YOU DISAGREE).

It's never too soon to start sowing the seeds for harmony with potential in-laws. An 1896 issue of one Alabama newspaper offered some advice to men who were courting, and alongside tips like “Don’t tell her you’re wealthy. She may wonder why you are not more liberal,” it gave some advice for dealing with prospective in-laws: “Always vote the same ticket her father does,” the paper advised, and “Don’t give your prospective father-in-law any advice unless he asks for it.”

2. MAKE AN EFFORT TO BE ATTRACTIVE TO YOUR MOTHER-IN-LAW.

According to an 1886 issue of Switchmen’s Journal, “A greybeard once remarked that it would save half the family squabbles of a generation if young wives would bestow a modicum of the pains they once took to please their lovers in trying to be attractive to their mothers-in-law.”

3. KEEP YOUR OPINIONS TO YOURSELF.

In 1901, a Wisconsin newspaper published an article criticizing the 19th century trend of criticizing mothers-in-law (a "trend" which continues through to today):

“There has been a foolish fashion in vogue in the century just closed which shuts out all sympathy for mothers-in-law. The world is never weary of listening to the praises of mothers ... Can it be that a person who is capable of so much heroic unselfishness will do nothing worthy of gratitude for those who are dearest and nearest to her own children?”

Still, the piece closed with some advice for the women it was defending: “The wise mother-in-law gives advice sparingly and tries to help without seeming to help. She leaves the daughter to settle her own problems. She is the ever-blessed grandmother of the German fairy tales, ready to knit in the corner and tell folk stories to the grandchildren.”

4. IF RECEIVING ADVICE, JUST LISTEN AND SMILE. EVEN IF IT PAINS YOU.

Have an in-law who can't stop advising you on what to do? According to an 1859 issue of The American Freemason, you'll just have to grin and bear it: “If the daughter-in-law has any right feeling, she will always listen patiently, and be grateful and yielding to the utmost of her power.”

Advice columnist Dorothy Dix seemed to believe that it would be wise to heed an in-law's advice at least some of the time. Near the end of World War II, Dix received a letter from a mother-in-law asking what to do with her daughter-in-law, who had constantly shunned her advice and now wanted to move in with her. Dix wrote back, “Many a daughter-in-law who has ignored her husband’s mother is sending out an SOS call for help in these servantless days,” and advised the mother-in-law against agreeing to the arrangement.

5. STAY OUT OF THE KITCHEN. AND CLOSETS. AND CUPBOARDS.

An 1881 article titled "Concerning the Interference of the Father-in-Law and Mother-in-Law in Domestic Affairs," which appeared in the Rural New Yorker, had a great deal of advice for the father-in-law:

“He will please to keep out of the kitchen just as much as he possibly can. He will not poke his nose into closets or cupboards, parley with the domestics, investigate the condition of the swill barrel, the ash barrel, the coal bin, worry himself about the kerosene or gas bills, or make purchases of provisions for the family under the pretence that he can buy more cheaply than the mistress of the house; let him do none of these things unless especially commissioned so to do by the mistress of the house.”

The article further advises that if a father-in-law "thinks that the daughter-in-law or son-in-law is wasteful, improvident or a bad manager, the best thing for him to do, decidedly, is to keep his thought to himself, for in all probability things are better managed and better taken care of by the second generation than they were by the first. And even if they are not, it is far better to pass the matter over in silence than to comment upon the same, and thereby engender bad feelings.”

6. NEVER COHABITATE.

While there is frequent discussion about how to achieve happiness with the in-laws in advice columns and magazines, rarely does this advice come from a judge. In 1914, after a young couple was married, they quickly ran into issues. “The wife said she was driven from the house by her mother-in-law,” a newspaper reported, “and the husband said he was afraid to live with his wife’s people because of the threatening attitude of her father on the day of the wedding.” It got so bad that the husband was brought up on charges of desertion. But Judge Strauss gave the couple some advice:

“[Your parents] must exercise no influence over you now except a peaceful influence. You must establish a home of your own. Even two rooms will be a start and lay up a store of happiness for you.”

According to the paper, they agreed to go off and rent a few rooms.

Dix agreed that living with in-laws was asking for trouble. In 1919, she wrote that, “In all good truth there is no other danger to a home greater than having a mother-in-law in it.”

7. COURT YOUR MOTHER-IN-LAW.

The year 1914 wasn’t the first time a judge handed down advice regarding a mother-in-law from the bench. According to The New York Times, in 1899 Magistrate Olmsted suggested to a husband that “you should have courted your mother-in-law and then you would not have any trouble ... I courted my mother-in-law and my home life is very, very happy.”

8. THINK OF YOUR IN-LAWS AS YOUR "IN LOVES."

Don't think of your in-laws as in-laws; think of them as your family. In 1894, an article in The Ladies’ Home Journal proclaimed, “I will not call her your mother-in-law. I like to think that she is your mother in love. She is your husband’s mother, and therefore yours, for his people have become your people.”

Helen Marshall North, writing in The Home-Maker: An Illustrated Monthly Magazine four years earlier, agreed: “No man, young or old, who smartly and in public, jests about his mother-in-law, can lay the slightest claim to good breeding. In the first place, if he has proper affection for his wife, that affection includes, to some extent at least, the mother who gave her birth ... the man of fine thought and gentle breeding sees his own mother in the new mother, and treats her with the same deference, and, if necessary, with the same forbearance which he gladly yields his own.”

9. BE THANKFUL YOU HAVE A MOTHER-IN-LAW ... OR DON'T.

Historical advice columns had two very different views on this: A 1901 Raleigh newspaper proclaimed, “Adam’s [of Adam and Eve] troubles may have been due to the fact that he had no mother-in-law to give advice,” while an earlier Yuma paper declared, “Our own Washington had no mother-in-law, hence America is a free nation.”

10. DON'T BE PICKY WHEN IT COMES TO CHOOSING A WIFE; CHOOSE A MOTHER-IN-LAW INSTEAD.

By today's standards, the advice from an 1868 article in The Round Table is incredibly sexist and offensive. Claiming that "one wife is, after all, pretty much the same as another," and that "the majority of women are married at an age when their characters are still mobile and plastic, and can be shaped in the mould of their husband's will," the magazine advised, “Don’t waste any time in the selection of the particular victim who is to be shackled to you in your desolate march from the pleasant places of bachelorhood into the hopeless Siberia of matrimony ... In other words ... never mind about choosing a wife; the main thing is to choose a proper mother-in-law,” because "who ever dreamt of moulding a mother-in-law? That terrible, mysterious power behind the throne, the domestic Sphynx, the Gorgon of the household, the awful presence which every husband shudders when he names?"

11. KEEP THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE.

As an 1894 Good Housekeeping article reminded readers:

“Young man! your wife’s mother, your redoubtable mother-in-law, is as good as your wife is and as good as your mother is; and who is your precious wife's mother-in-law? And you, venerable mother-in-law, may perhaps profitably bear in mind that the husband your daughter has chosen with your sanction is not a worse man naturally than your husband who used to dislike your mother as much as your daughter’s husband dislikes you, or as much as you once disliked your husband’s mother.”

12. IF ALL ELSE FAILS, MARRY AN ORPHAN.

If all else fails, The Round Table noted that “there is one rule which will be found in all cases absolutely certain and satisfactory, and that is to marry an orphan; though even then a grandmother-in-law might turn up sufficiently vigorous to make a formidable substitute.”

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A Secret Room Full of Michelangelo's Sketches Will Soon Open in Florence
Claudio Giovannini/AFP/Getty Images
Claudio Giovannini/AFP/Getty Images

Parents all over the world have chastised their children for drawing on the walls. But when you're Michelangelo, you've got some leeway. According to The Local, the Medici Chapels, part of the Bargello museum in Florence, Italy, has announced that it plans to open a largely unseen room full of the artist's sketches to the public by 2020.

Roughly 40 years ago, curators of the chapels at the Basilica di San Lorenzo had a very Dan Brown moment when they discovered a trap door in a wardrobe leading to an underground room that appeared to have works from Michelangelo covering its walls. The tiny retreat is thought to be a place where the artist hid out in 1530 after upsetting the Medicis—his patrons—by joining a revolt against their control of Florence. While in self-imposed exile for several months, he apparently spent his time drawing on whatever surfaces were available.

A drawing by Michelangelo under the Medici Chapels in Florence
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Museum officials previously believed the room and the charcoal drawings were too fragile to risk visitors, but have since had a change of heart, leading to their plan to renovate the building and create new attractions. While not all of the work is thought to be attributable to the famed artist, there's enough of it in the subterranean chamber—including drawings of Jesus and even recreations of portions of the Sistine Chapel—to make a trip worthwhile.

[h/t The Local]

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