Belgrade in the 19th century: A Historical Survey

For Dimitrije ‘’Uncle Mita’’Djordjevic

 

 

 

The Serbian revolution: Nation-Building and Modernization

 

               After the long centuries of Ottoman rule, only temporarily interrupted by the Habsburgs, it was only in the age of nationalism, that Belgrade eventually came under the control of the Serbs.[1] The peasant revolt of 1804, widely known as the First Serbian Uprising was turned, within two years, from a modest rebellion against local Ottoman janissaries into a Balkan-size national and social revolution which the eminent German historian Leopold von Ranke described, in comparison to the French example, as the Serbian revolution.[2]

 

            Terrorized  by the local janissaries, Serbian peasants of the twelve districts of pashalik of Belgrade (formally sanjak of Smederevo), led by local elders (knezes), mostly merchants enriched by livestock trade with neighbouring Habsburg Empire, rose to rebellion after the slain of dozens of local leaders (seča knezova). Formally fighting to restore their own privileges within the Ottoman system, insurgents - tacitly supported by the wealthy Serbian community from southern Hungary (present-day Vojvodina) and Serb officers from Austrian Military Border - offered themselves to be placed under the protection of Austria, Russia and France respectively, entering, as a new political factor, into the converging aspirations of the Great Powers during the Napoleonic wars in Europe.

 

            The demands for self-government in 1804 within Ottoman Empire turned into a war for independence in 1807, encouraged by the Imperial Russia. Combining patriarchal peasant democracy with modern national goals the Serbian revolution was attracting thousands of volunteers among the Serbs of Montenegro, Herzegovina, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Dalmatia and southern Hungary. The Serbian Revolution soon became a symbol of the coming nation-building in the Balkans, provoking peasant unrests among the Christians in both Greece and Bulgaria.   

 

            Seized by 25.000-men strong rebel forces led by the charismatic leader (vožd) Karageorge (Karadjordje Petrović) on 8 January 1807, Belgrade became the capital of insurgent Serbia, until its final defeat in 1813. The Governing Council (Praviteljstvujušči Sovjet), High School (Velika škola), Theological School (Bogoslovija) and other administrative bodies were established in the city abandoned by the majority of the Ottoman population. Karageorge and other insurrection leaders sent their children to the Belgrade High School which had among its students also Vuk Stefanović Karadžić (1787-1864) the famous reformer of Serbian alphabet.  Belgrade was repopulated by local military leaders, merchants and craftsmen but also by an important group of enlightened Serbs from the Habsburg Empire who gave a new cultural and political framework to the egalitarian peasant society of Serbia. Dositej Obradović, a prominent figure of the Balkan Enlightenment, the founder of the High School in 1808 became the first minister of Public Instruction of Serbia in 1811.[3]

           

            The further development of Belgrade depended on developments dictated by the Napoleonic wars in Europe. After Napoleon invaded Russia, the Bucharest Treaty between Russia and the Ottoman Empire was concluded in 1812 granting local government for Serbia within the Ottoman realm. The Serbs rejected any solution but independence and faced Ottoman invasion. Facing complete defeat, Karageorge and most of the insurgent leadership left Belgrade passing to Austria to eventually find asylum in Russia.  Recaptured by the Ottomans in October 1813, Belgrade became a scene of brutal revenge, with hundreds of its citizens slaughtered and thousands (including men, women and children) sold as slaves on Ottoman markets. Serbia went back to direct Ottoman rule, while the Muslim population returned to Belgrade and other cities of Serbia.

 

            After a short series of clashes with the Ottomans during the Second Serbian Insurrection in 1815 - the second phase of the Serbian Revolution - the struggle for autonomy within the Ottoman Empire led by Prince Miloš Obrenović, a notable of Karageorge who stayed in Serbia after the 1813 catastrophe, entered a new phase. Miloš made an agreement with local Ottoman officials on maintaining peace and order in Serbia, while in return he obtained concessions in governing Serbia himself and collecting taxes for the Ottoman treasury.  Political and diplomatic means in negotiations between the Serbian Prince and the Porte instead of permanent armed rebellion coincided with the political rules within the framework of Metternich’s Europe. Prince Miloš Obrenović, an astute politician and able diplomat, in order to confirm his hard won loyalty to the Porte in 1817 ordered the assassination of Karageorge shortly after his secret return to Serbia to start a new Balkan-wide uprising.

 

            The new political strategy of step-by step enlargement of self-government for Serbia proved successful after a Russo-Ottoman War in 1828-1829. Prince Miloš became by special decree (berat) the hereditary prince of Serbia, while autonomy of the autonomous Principality within Ottoman Empire, was guaranteed by Russia, referring to the stipulations of 1812 Treaty of Bucharest. The Imperial decree (Hatt-i-Sharif) from Constantinople that granted autonomy to Serbia was solemnly read in Belgrade in 1830. Serbia obtained full autonomy after the Hatt-i-Sharifs of 1830 and 1833 which ended Ottoman feudalism in Serbia. According to the stipulation of the 1833 Hatt-i-Sharif, the withdrawal of Muslims, apart from those who remained in the fortresses of the autonomous Principality of Serbia, was to be completed in five years with compensation for their properties. Muslims, however, remained in Belgrade, but most of them, except for garrison, weakened by Serbian self-government and control of the economy, gradually moved towards other provinces of Empire. In 1834, out of 15,000 Muslims living in Serbia, 6,000 of them still lived in Belgrade, but in 1837, out of 20,000 inhabitants only 3,000 were Muslims. The French traveller Boislecomte in 1838 described the position of Muslim/Turkish population thus: “At a first glance it would seem that they dominate the land inasmuch as they hold the country’s fortresses, but because of the Porte’s neglect they are nothing more than hostages of prisoners, and in order to live, they are forced to depend on the mercy of the populace they had supposedly remained to keep in check.”[4]

 

            In contrast, Prince Miloš Obrenović, since 1830, was tacitly repopulating Belgrade with peasant immigrants coming from inner Serbia, but also with Austrian Serbs, establishing major state institutions before he eventually moved his court to the vicinity of the city – in Topčider district. Apart from Serbs and Muslims (mostly Islamized Slavs and some Turks and Albanians) Belgrade was also inhabited by Greeks, ‘Tzintzars’ (Hellenized Vlachs), who, for several decades, before being absorbed by the Serbian population, controlled some of local trade and export business with neighbouring Austria and other parts of Ottoman Empire. The first decades after the establishment of Serbian autonomy, Belgrade still had a strong Ottoman and Levantine air. Western travellers in the 1830s and 1840s were still underlining the sparkling difference between European and Ottoman way of life by simple crossing of the Sava and Danube from Zemun to Belgrade.

 

In the 1870s, a Serbian writer Milan Dj. Milićević recalled that ‘several decades ago, the chief city of Serbia was part Turkish, part Greek, part cosmopolitan, but least of all Serbian. Turkish and bad Serbian was spoken on the street, largely Greek in the stores, and in church and school more Greek than Serbian. The houses, stores, shops, dress, mode of life and all the customs were oriental.”[5] 

 

            Until the early 1830s Serbian cultural life was still dominated by local Greek community: Serbian merchants were sending their children to Greek schools in Belgrade to learn Greek language as the lingua franca of Balkan commerce. The church in Serbia, after the abolishment of Patriarchate of Peć in 1766, was dominated by Greek prelates until 1831 when the last Greek Metropolitan Antim left Belgrade. The Belgrade Metropolitan, appointed from the ranks of the Serbian prelates became integrated into the domestic order by autonomy granted by the Patriarchate of Constantinople in 1832.[6]

 

            Becoming increasingly Serbian, Belgrade gradually developed, after Novi Sad in the southern part of the Habsburg Empire (capital of today’s Autonomous Province of Vojvodina in Serbia), into the most important cultural centre of the nation: the first Serbian book in Cyrillic script, after 1552, was printed in Belgrade in 1832, along with the first number of official Serbian Gazette (Novine Srbske), while the first almanac was published in 1833. Within the ninety books printed in Belgrade from 1832 to 1839, the most important project were volumes of collected works of Dositej Obradović, “the Serbian Voltaire”, as he was called for being the main promoter of the ideas of the Enlightenment. The Belgrade grammar school established in 1839 had five classes by 1842-1843, while the High School (Licej) was moved from Kragujevac to Belgrade already in 1841.[7]

 

            Belgrade as the newly-established capital of Serbia was soon recognized by the Great Powers. The first foreign representative appointed in Belgrade was an Austrian consul in 1836. The British consulate was established in 1837, French and Russian consulate followed in 1838 and in 1839.[8] Dynamic political activities marked by the growing conflict   between the autocratic Prince Miloš and an influential group of oligarchs among the notables, ended by the change of dynasty. Prince Miloš, unwilling - according to the 1838 Constitution  - to accept power-sharing with the notables of the seventeen member Council, decided to leave the Serbian throne in 1939, while his successor, Prince Mihailo (Michael), after  clashes with insurgents led by notables, eventually abdicated in 1842. The new ruler of Serbia, elected by the National Assembly became a son of Karageorge, Prince Aleksandar Karadjordjević, who, far from being strong as charismatic as his father, was under the strong influence of the oligarchs of the Council known as Defenders of the Constitution (Ustavobranitelji) or Constitutionalists. The change of dynasty, recognized by the Sublime Porte and Russia after series of difficult negotiations, started a half-century long political struggle among the two most distinguished families and their followers in Serbia.[9]

 

The Constitutionalists: The Europeanization of Serbia 

 

            The leading figure among the Constitutionalists was Ilija Garašanin, the first modern statesman of Serbia, author of a famous memorandum on foreign policy, called Načertantije (Draft). In cooperation with Paris-based Polish émigrés led by Prince Adam Czartoryski, who were looking for an ally in the Balkan to continue their struggle against the Habsburgs and Russians, Ilija Garašanin in 1844 elaborated a detailed plan that would make Serbia the centre of a movement for unifying Serbs and other South Slavs into a large state under the Karadjordjević realm. Belgrade became the centre of a Pan-Slavic agitation, attracting patriots from Bosnia and Croatia. Ilija Garašanin (1813-1874) however, was suspicious that the dissolution of Habsburg Monarchy was imminent, as foreseen by Polish émigrés, and limited their initial revolutionary plan for a larger South Slav state to the more realistic project of Serbian unification within Ottoman Empire, comprising kindred population of Bosnia, Herzegovina, Montenegro and a coastal part of Northern Albania. This goal, as Garašanin saw it, was achievable if Serbia was supported by the Western Powers, France and Great Britain in particular. Although the plan remained secret for several decades Načertanije was the confirmation of long-term political aspirations of Serbia.[10]

 

            For next ten years, until Ilija Garašanin was in office, a network of secret agents in Bosnia, Herzegovina, Old Serbia and other parts of Turkey-in-Europe was set, responsible to the political committee in Belgrade. The Montenegrin Prince-Bishop Petar II Petrović Njegoš (1813-1851), the greatest Serbian poet of all times, was closely collaborating with Garašanin in drafting his ambitious foreign policy plans. As stressed by the French consul in Belgrade in 1953: “Belgrade is the political, moral, and almost the religious centre of the South Slavs of Turkey.”[11]

 

            The first counsellor of Garašanin was Matija Ban from Dubrovnik (Ragusa) a poet and a playwright, professor of French at Belgrade High School. As a leading intellectual of the Constitutionalist rule, Matija Ban, a Roman Catholic Serb from Dubrovnik, who gave his name to a large district of today’s Belgrade (Banovo brdo), was trying to instil a classical spirit in modern Serbian literature that would soon be forgotten in the face of the Romantic poetry of younger generations.[12] 

 

            In order to modernize Serbia, the Constitutionalists (1842-1858) employed hundreds of educated Austrian Serbs, adepts of cameralist methods of government, to serve in a previously very modest state apparatus. They wanted to remove the Ottoman-style rule established by Prince Miloš and impose a Central-European model of centralized administration.  In 1844, the Civil Code (Gradjanski Zakonik) of Serbia, a combination of Austrian law and Code Napoléon, elaborated by Austrian Serbs was promulgated. The Civil Code made all citizens equal before the law, while private property was guaranteed.[13] Additional efforts were made by Constitutionalists to establish a stable legal system (courts) and to promote the education of the Serbian peasantry. Already in 1839, a dozen of young students, chosen by the government, were given scholarship and sent to study abroad, in Austria, Saxony and France. They were to become a new class of native Serbian bureaucrats. Constitutionalist also helped provided facilities for the students from the tiny Serbian principality of Montenegro to study at the Belgrade High School.[14] 

           

            Constitutionalists, comprising both reformists and conservatives, made an important contribution to the gradual transformation of Serbia from an egalitarian to a modern society. However, the bureaucratization that they imposed turned into a burden that additionally separated peasant masses from civil servants who became a highly privileged social group. Constitutionalist considered the Serbian peasantry immature to interfere into the governing system, and imposed harsh method of punishment for any kind of public disobedience.

 

            The challenge to Constitutionalist regime came from a first generation of western-educated native Serbian youth. Young liberals (Jevrem Grujić, Vladimir Jovanović, Milovan Janković, Jovan Ilić) brought to Serbia the romantic ideas of the nation, the French notion of popular sovereignty and the British example of parliamentarism.  The early Liberals, called ‘Parisians’ brought into Belgrade not only the manners and habits of Western Europe and a cult of science, but also a passion for political debates. Belgrade became the centre of political discussions on national policy and political freedoms among the youth association (Družina mladeži srbske), liberal-minded professors (Dimitrije Matić and Kosta Cukić) and their students of the High School. They criticized Constitutionalists for their “draconic legislation and a hollow and corrupt system of administration”.[15]

 

            The Belgrade Liberals were combining national Romanticism with general liberal ideas. They considered the peasant society of Serbia, deprived of aristocracy, as naturally destined for democracy, and extended family (zadruga), as a nucleus of democratic order with pater familias as its constitutional ruler. The nation was the only authentic source of legitimate power. Therefore, the highest expression of national sovereignty and self-government was to be the National Assembly (Narodna Skupština), seen as a genuine Serbian democratic institution. In contrast to the oligarchic rule of the Constitutionalists, the National Assembly was, as a Convent in the French Revolution, to become the highest legislative and executive body.[16] 

 

            The demands for political freedoms, already voiced at National Assembly during the 1848 Revolution, when Belgrade youth was protesting against the official neutrality of Serbia in the face of Revolution in Hungary and the Serbian movement within the self-proclaimed Serbian Duchy (Vojvodstvo Srbije, shortened afterwards into Vojvodina). The Hungarian revolution of 1848 accelerated the gradual transformation of the city from Oriental to a modern European-like capital. Many citizens of Belgrade rushed over Sava and Danube to support the armed struggle for autonomy of their brethren in Vojvodina. After Novi Sad was completely destroyed and burnt down during the fierce fighting between Serbs and Hungarians, many Serbian families from Novi Sad, at that time the most European Serbian city in the Habsburg Monarchy, crossed over to Serbia and settled in Belgrade. Their way of living was gradually accepted as a model, replacing the Oriental habits of dressing and housing. The suburbs, however, remained Oriental.[17]

 

            After the Crimean War (1853-1856), the international position of Serbia had improved: the guarantees for its autonomy passed from Russia to a concert of powers. In 1858, after a series of internal crises the Great National Assembly, composed of 439 deputies was convoked in Belgrade on St. Andrew Day (12 December). Led by young Liberals who served as its secretaries, the St. Andrew Assembly turned into a Serbian version of the July Revolution of 1830 in France: Prince Aleksandar Karadjordjević was overthrown, the exiled Miloš Obrenović re-elected as a Prince, while the National Assembly was proclaimed the bearer of national sovereignty and the highest legislative body.[18]  Although Prince Miloš quickly revoked all the major liberal laws voted by the Assembly, the Liberals had made an important step in spreading the ideas of constitutional government, civil liberties and popular sovereignty.[19]

 

            The successor of Prince Miloš, Prince Mihailo (his second reign 1860-1868) declared at the beginning of his second reign that “the law should be the highest authority in Serbia”, but failed to meet the demands of the Liberals, limiting the powers of the National Assembly to those of consultative body. Prince Mihailo was convinced that apart from a handful of Liberals, the Serbian society was not mature enough for Western-type political freedoms. However the reforms introduced by Prince Mihailo marked the end of a patriarchal era in Serbia. His conservative government (1861-1867), led by Ilija Garašanin, was more oriented towards legislative reforms, organizing a standing army out of national militia, building a Balkan alliance system (with Montenegro, Greece and Romania) and making preparations for a Balkan-scale insurrection against the Ottomans. Belgrade once again became a centre of émigrés coming from Bosnia and Bulgaria and in 1866 even from Croatia, when various plans for the creation of the future South Slav state were discussed. The Prince Mihailo launched  a political slogan «Balkans to the Balkan nations», hoping that Serbian will asume the role of the Balkan Piedmont. Concentrated on foreign policy, Prince Mihailo supressed the liberal movement and their followers of the United Serbian Youth (Ujedinjena omladina srpska) who demanded internal freedom as a precondition for the coming struggle for national unification.[20] 

 

            The main achievement of  Prince Mihailo in foreign policy, after abortive plans for a large-scale Balkan insurrection was the final withdrawal of Ottoman garrisons from Serbia. The 1862 incident, when the Ottoman troops from the fortress bombed downtown Belgrade and killed a child at Čukur-česma, triggered a popular demand for the immediate withrowal of all Ottoman garrisons from Serbia. A conference of the ambassadors of the great powers was convened in Constantinople to prevent a Serbo-Turkish war, but the final results only partially met Serbian demands. After internal turmoils in Greek lands (Cretan uprising in 1866) and constant fears that Serbia might trigger a far-reaching revolt of Balkan Christians, the final withdrowal of Ottoman garrisons from Belgrade and other cities in Serbia took place eventually in April 1867 through sopshisticated mediation of the guaranteeing Powers.[21] The old fortifications and all four heavy entrance-towers were leveled in order to unify the fortress with the city. The Ottoman flag on the Belgrade citadel remained as the only sign of the sovereignty of the Sublime Porte in Serbia.

 

            Prince Mihailo ruled  in a manner that  combined the practice of enlightened Prussian kings and Napoleon III. Spending several decades in exile, mostly in Vienna and Pest, the Oriental Balkan Prince grew up to become sophisticated European gentleman, eager to apply Western standards of living in Belgrade. In the Palace (Konak) the Prince occasionally organized balls and social gatherings, while his generous donations for Belgrade cultural institutions, gave a more European outlook to the city. Assassinated in the Topčider park on 11 June 1868, in a conspiracy the motivation of which remains obscure, Prince Mihailo did not live to see the National Theatre on the main square of Belgrade completed.[22] The first show at the new theatre was a play dedicated to his tragic end. In front of  the National Theatrе the equestarian statue of the Prince Mihailo was erected in 1882, with the Prince pointing by the finger towards the south – symbolizing his unachieved plans for the liberation of Serbs in other parts of Turkey-in-Europe. The memory of Prince Mihailo in Belgrade was very strong among the Belgraders. According to travel writers, many shops, but also private houses were having his picture in their windows for years after his death.

 

The Urban Elite 

 

            The second richest man in mid-nineteenth century was Captain Miša Anastasijević, a business partner of the richest one, Prince Miloš himself. Anastasijević was called the ‘Prince of Danube” or “Danube Rothschild” for his wealth and business skills. He was the first public benefactor in Serbia and organizer of various balls for the Belgrade bourgeoisie. Captain Miša Anastasijević married his daughter to a Prince from the ruling Karadjordjević family and built the most impressive building in the city (Kapetan Mišino zdanje), destined to be a new court but when this political plan failed, the building turned into an endowment for the Fatherland, sheltering the High School and the National Museum. The Belgrade urban elite in the nineteenth century emerged through marriage arrangements. Two powerful families, Babadudić and Hadžitomić, who had made their riches during the 1860s, married their daughters to promising young ministers, politicians and leading intellectuals educated abroad, combining fortune with political power. Three daughters of rich merchant Hadži Toma were married  one to Jovan Ristić, a disciple of Leopold von Ranke, a prominent statesman, diplomat and leader of the Liberal party, a second one to Prime Minister Radivoje Milojković, a third one for minister and diplomat Filip Hristić, the first Serb to hold a PhD from Sorbonne of Paris University.[23] The clan of Babadudić family led by Živko Karabiberović, the banker and the mayor of Belgrade boasted among their sons-in-law General Jovan Belimarković, war minister, Jovan Avakumović, minister and university professor, Alimpije Vasiljević, liberal leader and professor etc. Within this influential group forming the core of the urban elite of Belgrade an important place was reserved for the relatives of both dynasties. Under the reign of the house of Obrenović their relatives from the Nikolajević family were most important while under the reign of the dynasty of Karadjordjević the prominence went to the family of Nenadović, distinguished already during the First Serbian Uprising in 1804. The family ties with ruling dynasties and cabinet ministers fostered nepotism and all kinds of lucrative business for the state.

 

            The Belgrade elite in the 1870s and 1880s was leaving behind the Orienal way of life, imitating the latest fashion from Paris, Vienna and Budapest: As stressed by M.B. Petrovich, «the interiors of home took on a pronounced European burgeois look as the more affluent society in Belgrade, and even of the provincial towns, copied the furniture styles ofcentral and western Euroope often in helter-skelter mélange. There was a notable increase in the importation of luxury items such as porcelan, small furniture, glasware and silver. To live in 'the European manner' became such a compulsion that Belgrade society in the 1870s quickly lost its since Ottoman and Serbian patriarchal way of life.»[24] The Belgrade elite was sending their children to acquire higher education  in France -  where already in the 1880's the Paris Law School was seen «as a school for Serbian ministers» - but also in Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium and Russia. Around 200 Paris-educated Serbs, the so-called 'Parisians' at the end of the nineteenth century were performing a predominant influence on the politicals and cultural scene of Serbia.[25]

 

            The rich urban elite were spending their weekends in the beautiful Topčider park, where they drove by carriages whereas financially modest intelligentsia, comprising poets, writers, literary critics and actors gathered in the old quarter of Skadarlija, stretching from the National Theatre to the slopes towards the Danube side of the city. With many coffee shops and restaurants and local orchestras from inner Serbia and southern Hungary, including some Gypsy bands, the cheap restaurants of Skadarlija, open until early morning, were the privileged meeting point of urban intellectuals discussing politics, contemporary literature and recent theatre plays.

 

The Ascendancy of the Liberals

 

            After the assassination of childless Prince Mihailo, the new ruler of Serbia, elected by the National Assembly was Prince Milan Obrenović, his fourteen-year old distant cousin, born in Wallachia, a student of the lycée Lous Le Grand in Paris. During his minority, Serbia was ruled by the Regency Council, which in 1869 introduced a new Constitution, drafted by  the Liberals and approved by the Regency Council. Serbia was defined as 'a hereditary constitutional monarchy with national representation.' The one-chamber National Assembly was more than an advisory body, but with no control over budget and legislation. Two-thirds of the Assembly were elected by all male tax-payers (introducing, apart from army personnel and a limited number of landless peasants, almost the full suffrage), while the Prince was to nominate one-third of its deputies among citizens ‘distinguished by their learning or experience of public affairs’. The Minister were not responsible to the National Assembly but to the Prince. The ‘Regency Constitution' fostered dynamic political life dominated by the Liberals and young Conservatives (led mostly by western-educated sons of Constitutionalists) marking the beginning of the parliamentary system, while the Prince accepted the practice of cabinet government. The extension of the freedom of the press was followed by series of important reforms on financing (silver currency unit, credits incentives) and introduction of the metric system.[26]

 

            Urban development in the 1870s was somewhat chaotic, but accelerated. As witnessed by different travel writers, great efforts were made to widen and pave the streets and put a European imprint on the city.  Jan Neruda of Bohemia, visiting Belgrade in early 1870s underlined that Belgrade was called The Rose of Danube, ''riveted with golden nails''. Neruda also noticed that ''everywhere there's digging, regulation and building. Shingle roofs are being replaced. Streets are being redrawn. At the present only one has been completely put in order – the one passing by the Prince's palace... Appealing private houses are being built one after the other, and even taverns, not of the worst kind, are also multiplying.'' The Prussian travel-writer Gustav Rasch in 1873 stressed that six years ago he had ''nowhere to 'spend the evening in Belgrade' unless Prince Mihailo's court manager'' invited him to ''his private quarter at the Konak'' when he could meet ''the Belgrade high society, east fruit preserves (slatko) and smoke the čibuk. Now I could choose to spend my evening in any of several very beautiful gardens, with good music, outstanding food and pleasant company. Six years ago, the court manager and I had to settle for some very pitiful inn found in the deserted Turkish quarter. In today's Belgrade, during the summer season, an opera company performs in one of the new parks giving a pretty good interpretation of Offenbach's operetta's and comedies.'' Rasch also praised new and comfortable hotels, such as ''The Serbian Crown'', ''The Serbian King'' and ''Hotel Paris'', but also  Kasina, an English style club for gentlemen : ''The Casino occupies the entire first floor of a nice, fashionable building. Along with a large reading room where there were numerous French, English and Slav political and illustrated magazines one finds: a wonderfully furnished room for conversations, the billiard room, a room for cards and an entertainment hall. On the ground floor of the same building, there is the National bookstore, opened during the Regency period.'' [27]       

 

            During the first years of the reign of Milan Obrenović, Serbia went through a difficult period marked by the Eastern Crisis (1875-1878). After the Serbian peasants in Herzegovina rose against the Ottoman rule in 1875, demanding unification with Montenegro, the revolt quickly spread to Bosnia. Serbian insurgents in Bosnia encouraged by military successes proclaimed unification with Serbia. Public opinion in Belgrade thought that the moment had come for a final confrontation with the decaying Ottoman Empire. Thousands of enthusiastic volunteers were crossing to Bosnia to join the Serbian insurgents, while Serbia and Montenegro, militarily poorly prepared, entered the war in 1876. The Serbian campaign on several fronts, including Bosnia, proved unsuccessful, and through the mediation of Russia Serbia managed to negotiate a peace treaty on the basis of status quo ante bellum. The second war against the Ottomans (1877-1878), already weakened by the large-scale struggle with Russians, extended Serbian frontiers to the south, encompassing the former Ottoman sanjak of Niš.[28] 

 

Belgrade: A Royal Capital

 

            At the Congress of Berlin in 1878, Serbia and Montenegro, both territorially enlarged were recognized as independent states, but Bosnia & Herzegovina, contrary to the Serbian expectations, went under Austro-Hungarian occupation. Abandoned by Russians who favoured Bulgaria as their main Balkan client, Prince Milan turned to Vienna, signing a series of bilateral treaties, including a Secret Convention (1881), a secret political treaty that authorized the Dual Monarchy to control the foreign policy of Serbia. In return for becoming an obedient satellite of Austria-Hungary, Prince Milan was supported by Vienna to proclaim Serbia a Kingdom in March 1882, with Belgrade as its capital.[29]

 

            Foreign consulates in Belgrade were elevated into legations, while Serbia, as an independent state, became attractive for foreign investments. The National bank (1883) and other state institutions were established, while the railway connecting Belgrade with central Europe on the north and the city of Niš in the south was completed in 1884, as well as an impressive railway station in the capital. The first telephone wires were installed in 1883, to be used only by the army until 1889. During the visit of Nikola Tesla, the Serbian-American inventor in 1895, the Serbian Post “caused a sensation by connecting a simultaneous concert in Belgrade and Niš by telephone…”[30] Electric lights were installed in 1892, while streetcars started to run already in 1893.  Involved in various business arrangements, the Belgrade political and entrepreneurial elite built new and attractive villas and mansions that contributed to the more European image of the city. However, the economic dependence of Serbia to Austria-Hungary until the early twentieth century made the general progress of Belgrade and Serbia much slower than expected.

 

            Political life, despite internal turmoil during the Eastern Crisis, gradually progressed. Apart from the Liberals and the Young Conservatives (regrouped into Progressive Party), a Radical party emerged as a new and important factor of Serbian politics. Led by Nikola Pašić, (1859-1926) Radical leaders were a group of western-educated intellectuals mixing Socialist, French Radical and Slavophile ideas with the popular demands of Serbian peasantry for lower taxes, self-government and political freedoms. Under the progressive cabinet of Milan Piroćanac (1880-1883), supported by the Radicals, the Serbian parliament introduced a series of French-inspired liberal laws on the freedom of the press, public meetings and association that gave impetus to the Radicals, who became the strongest political party, challenging authority of the Prince.[31] After the Radical-led peasant revolt (Timok Rebellion in 1883), the leadership of the Radical party was imprisoned or exiled. Prince Milan, supported by the Progressives who were disappointed by effects of their previous legislation on political freedoms, imposed an autocratic rule.[32]

 

            Austrophile in foreign policy and authoritarian in domestic affairs, excessive in spending state funds for private purposes, involved in a family feud with his wife Queen Nathalie, Prince Milan, especially after a humiliating defeat in a war in Bulgaria (1885), became increasingly unpopular, confronting the majority of his subjects who were loyal to the Radicals. In 1888, after negotiations with all three political parties King Milan engineered the Liberal Constitution, solemnly acclaimed by an overwhelming majority of 600 deputies of the Grand National Assembly summoned in Belgrade. The 1888 Constitution introduced practically universal male suffrage, ministerial responsibility and independent judiciary, strengthened civil liberties and budget control.[33] King Milan after imposing his confidents as members of the Regency Council – on March 6 1889, the day of the seventh anniversary of independence of Serbia - abdicated in favour of his thirteen-year old son Aleksandar Obrenović. King Milan was convinced that under such a liberal Constitution, Radicals will lead Serbia into political and economic disaster.[34]

 

            However, for several years - until the young King organized a coup against the Regency Council in April 1893 and assumed his royal powers – Radical cabinets (1889-1892) managed to improve the crippled Serbian economy and stabilize political situation. Until the mid-1880s, elections in the Belgrade constituency gave deputies for the National Assembly mostly from the ruling parties (Liberals or Progressives). It was only in 1886 that Belgrade ha chose the representatives of the radical opposition. Under the 1888 Constitution, the mayors of Belgrade were chosen from the party that won the elections in the city. One of the most able mayors was the radical leader Nikola Pašić (mayor 1895-1897). During the next decades, until the First World War, when elections were not held under police pressure, Belgrade was choosing mostly radical and independent radical deputies. 

 

            In 1894, the King Aleksandar, as advised by his father, suspended the 1888 Constitution and reinstalled the 1869 Constitution, entering a new phase of struggle against the Radicals. A series of political and family scandals marked the decade of the reign of King Aleksandar Obrenović. His efforts - encouraged by ex-King Milan who returned in Belgrade in 1894 to become a commander-in-chief of the Serbian Army in 1897 - were aimed to divide and eventually destroy the Radical party. The sudden marriage of King Aleksandar with a much older widow Draga Mašin, former dame d’honneur of Queen Nathalie in 1900, was strongly disapproved, not only by his father and the political elite, but by the public opinion of Serbia as well.  Weakened by a series of family scandals and alienated from the army - a main stronghold of the dynasty - King Aleksandar was becoming as unpopular as his father was prior to his abdication. In 1901, the King imposed a new Constitution, introducing bicameral legislature in order to prevent the control of the Radicals. The older generation of Radicals, exhausted by the constant struggle with the house of Obrenović, entered a coalition government with the Progressives and accepted the 1901 Constitution, while the younger fraction of the future Independent Radicals, firmly rejected the deal with the Crown. The growing dissatisfaction with the frequent change of cabinets, three royal coups, abrogation and suspension of Constitutions within the autocratic rule of King Aleksandar Obrenović, however, was additionally enhanced by  dissent in the army, dissatisfied with deteriorating financial conditions and favouritism introduced  by the Queen after the royal marriage.[35]

 

The 1903 Coup d'Etat           

 

            On 11 June (29 May, O.S.) 1903, Belgrade became the theater of a genuine royal tragedy. A group of civil conspirators, mostly Liberals (former ministers Djordje Genčić and Jovan Avakumović, General Jovan Atanacković and merchant Nikola Hadži Toma), senior army officers (colonels Damnjan  Popović, Aleksandar Mašin, Petar Mišić) and an ambitious group of junior officers (Lieutenants Dragutin Dimitrijević Apis, Velimir Vemić and Antonije Antić) recruited during 1902 and early 1903, a hundreds of dissatisfied army officers. They executed  a Coup d'Etat that ended with the assasination of the royal couple. King Aleksandar and Queen Draga were killed in the Belgrade Palace and their mutilated bodies were thrown from the balcony to the garden. The two brothers of late Queen Draga, together with several cabinet ministers and high-ranking officers loyal to the dynasty of Obrenović, were executed the same night.  Ex-King Milan died in Vienna in 1901, two years before the tragic end of his son. That was the end of the House of Obrenović. As previously agreed by conspirators, the exiled Prince Petar Karadjordjević (the third son of Prince Aleksandar Karadjordjević and a grandson of Karageorge) was proclaimed a King to the vacant throne. The «Revolutionary government» formed out of all main political parties, including leading conspirators, assumed  power, until the arrival of the new King from Geneva. It was one of the rare military  coups that restored democracy and transferred power to the political parties enjoying popular support.

 

            The brutal regicide provoked outrage in  Europe while Belgrade, after the first shock reacted with joy, celebrating ''the death of the tyrant''. Western press, especially in Britain, depicted Belgrade as a ''White city of death'', while the reports of the brutal regicide became the main cover story on the front pages of newspapers in Europe and United States. Serbia, having already attracted the attention of Western press in previous decades by the series of scandals within the Obrenović family, was anew depicted  as a hotbed of dark Oriental-type conspiracies.[36]

 

            The new King of Serbia, Petar Karadjordjević (1842-1921), after his father lost the Serbian throne in 1858, was trained at Geneva and the Saint-Cyr military academy in Paris. He was considered to be a liberal and a devoted patriot. In 1868 Prince Peter translated in Serbian John Stuart Mill’s essay On Liberty, in 1870-1871, he joined the French army during the Franco-Prussian War and earned a medal for his military merits. In 1875, the pretender to the Serbian throne joined the Serbian insurgents in Bosnia and operating under the nom de guerre of Petar Mrkonjić, formed his own combat unit. He was married to the oldest daughter of the Montenegrin Prince Nikola Petrović Njegoš, and lived in Cetinje until the death of his wife Princess Zorka. Prior to the 1903 Coup d’Etat, Prince Petar Karadjordjević had been living quietly in Geneva, while his two sons, Djordje and Aleksandar, were in the pages corps in St. Petersburg. Prince Petar accepted the plan of the conspirators for a coup, but there is no evidence that he consented to the assassination of the royal couple.[37] After his arrival in Belgrade, both Chambers of the Parliament proclaimed him King, under the previously introduced 1903 Constitution, a slightly revised version of 1888 Constitution. “The real novelty – as stressed by R.W. Seton-Watson – was the appearance for the first time in Serbian history of a sovereign who was constitutional by instinct, not merely by necessity, and whose habits of personal effacement threw into sharp relief the theatrical vagaries of his predecessors.”[38]

 

            The new elections produced, as expected, a sound majority for the Radicals. Old and Young Radicals divided into two separate parties after 1905, alternated in the government until the outbreak of the First World War. The main problem of the new regime remained the question of regicides. The new King, lacking political support in the country, was relying on the army, while the National Assembly paid tribute to the conspirators who freed Serbia from the autocratic rule of the last Obrenović. The British government, however, refused to recognize the new order in Serbia, demanding that the main perpetrators of the regicide be punished. Until June 1906, when the six leading members of the conspiracy in the army were retired, Belgrade was under a diplomatic boycott. The main event in Belgrade, the coronation ceremony of King Peter I in 1904 - on the centenary of the First Serbian Uprising, led by his grandfather Karageorge – apart from several foreign diplomats, was attended only by the official delegations sent from Montenegro and Bulgaria. [39]

 

‘The Golden Age of Serbia

 

            The reign of King Petar I Karadjordjević (1903-1914, formally until 1921) was praised as the ‘golden age of Serbia’.            The decades long economic dependency on Austria-Hungary was eventually terminated during the 1906-1911 Tariff War (Carinski rat), when Serbia managed to find new markets for its cereals and livestock. The independent course in foreign policy - as demanded by public opinion - was relying on the political and financial support of Russia and France. Although Serbia was compelled to accept the annexation of Bosnia & Herzegovina as fait accompli in 1908, its military victories in the Balkan Wars (1912-1913) produced not only an overall self-confidence in the pursuit of national policy, but turned it, within a decade, into a prestigious political centre of the South Slavic population.[40] 

 

            Despite the internal difficulties of the new regime, the high level of political freedoms, the constitutional government within democratic parliamentary procedures, low franchise and freedom of the press, coupled with a dynamic cultural and economic development was seen by Serbs and South Slavs in the neighbouring Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires as the inspiring model of a modern political system. In the early twentieth century, apart from roughly three million inhabitants of Serbia, almost two more million Serbs were living within Austria-Hungary while another million were under Ottoman rule.[41] Belgrade was not only the centre of Serbdom but also a promising centre of South Slav unity, embracing the Yugoslav idea as one of the possible political solutions to the rising crisis in the relations with Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire. The coronation of the King Petar I attracted many unofficial delegations from the South Slavic provinces of the Dual Monarchy and the Ottoman Empire, who saw Belgrade and Serbia as gathering point of Yugoslav political aspirations.

 

            A Yugoslav Arts Exhibit, held in Belgrade in 1904, on the occasion of the King’s coronation, was the first signal that Serbia was to become a leading centre of the Yugoslav movement.   A society called Slovenski jug (The Slavic South) was established already in 1904, organizing public conferences and editing a journal that advocated the unity of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. All kinds of Yugoslav-inspired conferences in Belgrade during this period were attended by the associations of teachers, medical doctors, writers, journalist and youth coming from Croatia, Bosnia, Vojvodina, Montenegro or even Bulgaria, marking a growing political significance of the Serbian capital. Various political meetings, against the Albanian atrocities in Old Serbia (Vilayet of Kosovo), the Ottoman oppression against Christians in Macedonia, or perhaps the largest one, attracting several thousands of protesters - against the annexation of Bosnia & Herzegovina in 1908 - was marking the growing political awareness of the Belgraders.

 

            During the early twentieth century Belgrade was not seen, as several decades before, as a sharp frontier separating the European West from the Balkan-Oriental East. French journalists and travel writers (André Cheradame, Pierre de Lanux, Henry Barby) were delighted with the predominantly French influence on Belgrade society, stressing that most of the university students, army officers and intellectuals are speaking French and stressed the important role of the Société littéraire française, counting among the hudereds of its highly active members King Petar I himself.[42] 

 

British travel writers (Herbert Vivian, John Foster Fraser, Harry de Windt), far less enthusiastic, as usual insisting on a peasent virtues and democratic values of the Serbian society, however, noticed that  'means, education and leisure have called an upper class into existance. Their manner and habits are those of European society everywhere else, and they have no social dealings with the burgeois or peasantry. The [Belgrade] burgeoisie is filled with American notion of equality...»[43] but also that «man and women usually dress in the European style. At the fall of the sun all Belgrade comes to promenade the streets, the ladies dressed as prettily and much in the same way as the ladies at an English watering place.»[44] The main city square (Terazije) along with grand boulevards were reconstructed in 1910 by French architects Leger and Cambon inspired by Parisian-style boulevards.

 

            Belgrade population was continuously growing throught nineteenth century. From 7,033 in 1834, it grew to 24,768 in 1866 and to 54, 249 in 18890. With a population of  69,769 in 1900, the city was still behind other  Balkan metropolises as were Athens (122,000) or Bucharest (287,000). In 1910 Belgrade was predominantly Serbian. Out of 89,876 inhabitants in 1910, Belgrade had about 19,000 inhabitants originating from other parts of South Slavic regions and another 3,000 from different European countries, comprising Germans, Greeks, Hungarians, Czechs, Slovaks and Jews: there were 5,443 Roman Catholics, 4,192 Jews, 586 Protestants and 362 Muslims. The religious diversity was confirmed by six Serbian Orthodox churches, three synagogues, two Roman Catholic Churches and two mosques.[45]

 

            Cultural life in Belgrade was considered to be the most dynamic among the South Slavic provinces in the Balkans. In order to highlight the cultural independence of Serbia and the rise of the Serbian cultural impact among the South Slavs  the Grand School (Velika škola) was officially elevated into University status in 1905, having prestigious, mostly French and German-educated scholars among its professors, including geographer Jovan Cvijić,  Jovan Skerlić, Pavle Popović and Bogdan Popović, holding the chairs of Serbian and European literature, Law school history professor Slobodan Jovanović, mathematician Mihailo Petrović ‘Alas’, philosopher Branislav Petronijević,  geologist Jovan Žujović and dozen of others, recognized as  scholars of international standing.[46]

 

            The first rector of the Belgrade University,  Sima Lozanić, a renowned chemist,  in his inaugural address stated the following: “It is known that the German and Italian universities, by promoting national consciousness and contributing to the national wealth, were the chief agents in preparing the way for the unification of their nations. Thus I believe that a Serbian university will perform the same service for the Serbian people.”[47] The liberal orientation of the Belgrade University was additionally underlined by the provisions of its Charter: “University instruction is free. Professors shall be free in the presentation of their subjects. Students shall choose the lecture they shall attend.”[48] In 1913, within five colleges (law, medicine, philosophy, theology and technical sciences), there were eighty professors and 1,600 students at the Belgrade University.  Although relatively modest by number of students, Belgrade University was prominent as the flag-bearer of the idea of Serbian and Yugoslav unity.

 

            Belgrade had been since 1886 the seat of the Royal Serbian Academy, the leading academic institution which had among its members many distinguished scholars from all South Slavic regions. The flourishing of free press under the constitutional democracy of the Kingdom of Serbia was unprecedented in the Balkans. Out of 90 dailies in 1904, 72 were published in Belgrade, while the leading widely read dailies, like independent Politika, and party newspapers Odjek (Echo) of the Independent Radicals, Samouprava (Self-Government) of the Old Radicals, Pravda (Justice) and Videlo (Dawn) of the Progressives or Srpska Zastava (Serbian Standard) of the Liberals (Nationals) were considered to be the visible sign of a high level of political freedoms. As stressed by the British envoy, “one of best written and widely read daily papers is Politika, which is neutral in party politics and criticizes or supports the Government on the merits of each question”.[49] In 1912, out of 302 newspapers and journal published in Serbian, 199, with an annual circulation of 50 million copies were published in Serbia, among them 126 alone in Belgrade.  

 

            After 1903, Belgrade was choosing mostly deputies from the Radical party, more often from their younger faction – Independent Radicals. In the 1906 elections in Belgrade, the Independent Radicals received  2,455 votes, the Old Radicals of Nikola Pašić 1,932, the Socialists 1,0002, the Progressives 647 and the Liberals (renamed to National Party) only 273 votes.  Among the mayors the most popular one was Dr. Kosta Glavinić.[50]

 

            The shadow on the overall picture of “the golden age of Serbia” was the influence of the 1903 conspirators who had for years acted as a privileged military clique in control of the army and had strong political influence in the Royal Palace. In contrast to the late King Aleksandar Obrenović, the new ruler, King Petar I Karadjordjević had considered the army as the pillar of his dynasty, unwilling to enter in conflict with the officers who had brought him to the Serbian throne. After the main conspirators were retired in 1906, a group of younger conspirators in the army ranks, led by charismatic Captain Dragutin Dimitrijević ‘Apis’, dissatisfied with internal strife and a slow evolution in the pursuit of the ambitious plans for Serbian unification, were involved in supporting Serbian guerrilla activities in Ottoman Macedonia while demanding from the Palace a more active foreign policy, considerably restrained after in March 1909, Serbia was obliged to accept the annexation of Bosnia & Herzegovina to Austria-Hungary proclaimed in October 1908. The activities of the nation-wide patriotic organization Narodna Odbrana (National Defence), formed in Belgrade to prevent the unilateral act of annexation of occupied provinces in 1908 and fight Austria-Hungary, were restricted by the Serbian government to mostly cultural activities.

 

            In 1911, supported by a group of civilian political activists, they formed in Belgrade a secret organization called “Unification or Death”, a.k.a  ”the Black Hand”, in order to foster the unification of Serbs under foreign rule into the Kingdom of Serbia as national Piedmont.  Their basic plan was to revolutionarize the Serbs in the Ottoman-held provinces of Old Serbia and Macedonia, while at the same time they were recruiting members also from Bosnia, Herzegovina, Dalmatia and Croatia. Apart from several hundred of army officers, the “Black Hand” admitted few young nationalist of other South Slav nations. Serbian unification as a primary political goal and the Yugoslav unification as a long-term objective were, deemed compatible during the first years of the secret organization activities. Their newspaper Pijemont (Piedmont) was criticising the Old Radical cabinet for corruption, the abuse of power and the lack of patriotism while demanding a broader political consent, surpassing the immediate party interests, on a more active foreign policy.[51]  

 

            The First Balkan War was the most popular war in Serbian history. A Balkan alliance, comprising Serbia, Montenegro, Greece and Bulgaria, launched a war against Ottomans in October 1912, in order to liberate Balkan Christians in Ottoman possessions in South Eastern Europe. Belgrade, like the rest of Serbia was ecstatic after the victories of the Serbian army in Kosovo and Macedonia. The victory that enlarged Serbia in the south from 48,330 to 87,3000 square kilometres was considered as the ultimate revenge to the Ottomans for the battle of Kosovo in 1389. Generations of Serbs, educated to become the “the avengers of Kosovo” had lived to see their national dream come through. After the Serbian troops entered Albania and reached Adriatic Sea at Durazzo in November 1912, Austria-Hungary intervened in favour of the newly-proclaimed Albanian state and threatened Serbia with war if their troops did not evacuate occupied regions of northern and central Albania. The Belgrade government and state institutions were evacuated from Belgrade to Niš, until the crisis with Vienna was solved.[52] 

 

            The Second Balkan war, against Bulgaria, the former ally in 1913, confirmed the new Serbian possessions in the disputed regions of Slavic Macedonia, strengthening the prestige of the army and the dynasty. The Serbian victories, including the victories of the tiny Serbian Kingdom of Montenegro, were received in Bosnia, Herzegovina, Vojvodina, but also among the Yugoslav-oriented political elite of Dalmatia and Croatia as the beginning of a new era that destined Serbia to bring about the unifications of the Serbs and the Yugoslavs under the realm of the Karadjordjević dynasty. Belgrade, as the leading South Slav hub in culture, science and democracy, gained prestige as the most important political centre in the region.  After returning from Kosovo and Macedonia in August 1913, Serbian troops headed by Crown Prince Aleksandar, the Commander of the First Serbian Army, were greeted in Belgrade as true national heroes, during a magnificent parade in their honour. The French journalist who attended the parade noted a statement of a Jewish officer in the Serbian troops: “We gave 1300 soldiers to the army, while 20 of them died in fighting. But we are all devoted to the liberal government in the state where there is no difference between us and other citizens.”[53]

 

            However, the conflict between the “Black Hand”, whose officers excelled during the Balkan Wars, and the civilian authorities was deepening over the control of the New Territories (Nove Oblasti) in the south. The conflict between Prime Minister Nikola Pašić, supported by Russia and France, and the Black Handers backed by the army, ended by the silent withdrawal of  old King Petar I on 24 June 1914, reluctant to take action against the army. The old King announced that due to ill-health, decided to entrust his royal prerogatives to his second son Crown Prince Aleksandar.[54] 

             

The 1914 July Crisis 

 

            The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914, found Serbia unprepared for another political crisis. The relations with Austria-Hungary worsened considerably after 1903, when Vienna saw all Serbian aspirations as the threat to its interests in the Balkans, while a pro-Yugoslav movement within the borders of the Dual Monarchy was perceived as a menace against its very existence. Serbia was exhausted by the Balkan Wars while its politicians were in the midst of campaigning for the new elections scheduled for the following September. Belgraders were initially surprised by the news from Sarajevo which were followed by large-scale anti-Serb press campaign - The slogan ‘Serbia must die” (“Serbien muss sterbien”) appeared - and violent demonstrations harassing ethnic Serbs all over Dual Monarchy territory, including large-scale pogroms against Serbs in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and were worried of the possible consequences of this fateful event. The reports that came from Vienna blamed not only the Black Hand as the instigator of the assassination -which was perpetrated by the members of Mlada Bosnia (Young Bosnia) - but also the Serbian government for alleged complicity. The government, however, was not aware that several members of the Black Hand, including Lieutenant Colonel Dragutin Dimitrijević ‘Apis’, the Chief of Military Intelligence, were supporting Bosnian nationalist in theirs assassination plans, and that a group of Bosnian students had been trained and supplied with arms in Belgrade, before they were secretly sent back to Bosnia.[55] This was confirmed by Dr. Wiesner, a legal counsellor of the Austro-Hungarian Foreign Ministry who conducted an independent investigation: “there is nothing to prove, or even to cause suspicion of the Serbian Government’s cognizance of the steps leading to the crime, or of its supplying the weapons. On the contrary there are indications that this is to be regarded as out of the question.”[56]

 

            Within a month the crisis led to  war after Austria-Hungary, presented an ultimatum to the Serbian government in Belgrade on 23 July demanding the arrest of all suspects, including several Black Hand members, suppression of Narodna Odbrana and all anti-Austrian propaganda in Serbian press and school curricula, and, finally, authorisation to investigate the Sarajevo crime within Serbian territory. The ultimatum, presented after Austria-Hungary had obtained the support of Germany for a long-awaited war against Serbia, was deliberately calculated to be unacceptable. One of the Serbian ministers, after reading the list of demands expressed the prevailing feelings in the cabinet: “Nothing else remains but to die fighting”. The Serbian reply, delivered forty-eight hours later, was highly conciliatory. The Serbian cabinet accepted all but the last demand (investigation of Austro-Hungarian officials within Serbian territory) offering to bring this question before the International Court in the Hague.

           

            Although the European Powers, including the German Emperor, were impressed by the diplomatic tact and moderation of the Serbian reply, the Austrian-Hungarian envoy, Baron Giesel von Gieslingen, left Belgrade on 25 July dissatisfied by the response to the Vienna ultimatum. General mobilization was ordered in Serbia, while the government and other state institutions were quickly moved from Belgrade southward to Niš. After the war declaration came in the early afternoon on July 28 to Niš, the war started the same night with a large-scale bombing of Belgrade from the Austrian military positions across the Sava River.

 

            Belgrade, a city on the immediate border with Austria-Hungary, was the first European capital to be bombed in the First World War. The long nineteenth century, which turned Belgrade from decaying Ottoman fortress to modern European city, a century extending from 1804 up to July 1914, was over.

             

 

              Published in  Journal of the North American Society for Serbian Studies, vol. 16 (2), Washington D.C. 2002, pp. 335-339.

 

 



[1] Among several histories of Belgrade, the most recent one is: Nikola Tasić (ed.) Istorija Beograda (Beograd: Balkanološki institut, 1995), 606 p. which is a revised and shortened version of an older three volume Istorija Beograda, edited by Vasa Čubrilović, Istorija Beograda, vol. I-III (Beograd: Balkanološki institut & Prosveta 1974), 2.298 p.

[2] Cf. Wayne S. Vucinich (ed.), The First Serbian Uprising,  War and Society in East Central Europe, vol. 8 (Boulder & New York: Columbia University Press 1982)

[3] Dušan Popović, ”Beograd za vreme Karadjordjeva ustanka”, Posebna izdanja Srpskog geografskog društva, Beograd 1954, pp. 90-102.

[4] Quoted in: Michael Boro Petrovich, A History of Modern Serbia 1804-1918, vol. I (New York & London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich 1976), p. 171.

[5] Quoted in: Michael Boro Petrovich, A History of Modern Serbia 1804-1918, vol. I, p. 173.

[6] For religious affairs cf. Jean Mousset, La Serbie et son Eglise (1830-1904) (Paris : Librairie Droz 1938).

[7] Mihailo S. Petrović, Borbe starog Beograda, (Beograd: NP 1951), p. 129.

[8] Georges Castellan, « Aux origines de l’établissement des relations diplomatiques entre la France et la Serbie », Institut d’histoire, Recueil des travaux, Institut d’histoire, vol 10, Belgrade 1990, pp. 67-74.

[9] More details in: Slobodan Jovanović, Ustavobranitelji i njihova vlada 1838-1858 (Beograd: Izdavačka knjižarnica Napredak 1925).

[10] Dušan T. Bataković, ''Ilija Garašanin's Načertanije – A Reassessement'', Balcanica, vol XXV-1, Belgrade 1994, pp.157-183. A biography of Garašanin: David MacKenzie, Ilija Garašanin: Balkan Bismarck (Boulder & New York: Columbia University Press 1985).

[11] Arhiv Srpske akademije nauka i umetnosti, Doc. No 14233.

[12] Radmila Popović-Petković, ''Zaostavština Matije Bana'', Arhivski almanah, no 1, Beograd 1958, pp. 191-201. 

[13] Djurica Krstić, ''Influence française dans la législation civile de la Serbie'', Recueil des travaux vol. 10, Institut d'histoire,  Belgrade 1990, pp. 91-93.

[14] Jovan Milićević, ''Prva grupa srbijanskih studenata, državnih pitomaca školovanih u inostranstvu (1839-1842)'', Istorijski časopis, vol. IX-X (1959), Belgrade 1960, pp. 363-374.

[15]  Slobodan Jovanović, Ustavobranitelji i njihova vlada 1838-1858, pp. 211-213.

[16] Dušan T. Bataković, ''Francuski uticaji u Srbiji 1835-1914. Četiri generacije 'parizlija' '', Zbornik za istoriju Matice srpske, vol. 56, Novi Sad 1997, pp. 77-82. 

[17] Dimitrije Marinković, Uspomene i doživljaji Dimitrija Marinkovića 1846-1869,  edited by Dragoslav Stranjaković, (Beograd: Srpska Kraljevska Akademija 1939).

[18] Andrija Radenić, Svetoandrejska skupština (Beograd, SANU 1964)

[19]  Cf. Jovan Milićević, Jevrem Grujić. Istorijat Svetoandrejskog liberalizma (Beograd: Nolit 1964).

[20] Grgur Jakšić &Vojislav J. Vučković, Spoljna politika Srbije za vlade kneza Mihaila. Prvi Balkanski savez (Beograd: Istorijski institut 1963).

[21] Dimitrije Djordjevic, ''The Echo of the 1866 Cretan Uprising in Serbia'', offprint, Athens 1975, pp. 94-109.

[22] Ilija Djukanović, Ubistvo kneza Mihaila i dogadjaji o kojima se nije smelo govoriti, vol.I-II (Beograd: Geca Kon 1935-1936)

[23] Cf. Filip Hristić, Pisma Filipa Hristića Jovanu Ristiću 1868-1880, edited by Grgur Jakšić, (Beograd: Posebna izdanja 206, Srpska akademija nauka 1953); Jovan Ristić, Pisma Jovana Ristića Filipu Hristiću, (Beograd: Srpska Kraljevska Akademija 1951).

[24]  Michael Boro Petrovich, A History of Modern Serbia 1804-1918, vol. II, p. 523.

[25] Dušan T. Bataković, «L'influence française sur la formation de la démocratie parlementaire en Serbie», Revue d'Europe  Centrale, t. VII, no 1, Strasbourg 1999, pp. 17-44.

[26]  Jovan Milićević, «Prilog poznavanju porekla srbijanskog parlamentarizma”, Zbornik Filozofskog fakulteta, vol. XI-1, Beograd 1970, pp.609-626.

[27]  Ratomir  Damjanovic, Novo Tomić, Sanja  Ćosić (eds.), Serbia in the Works of Foreign Authors (Belgrade: Itaka 2000), pp. 147-150.

[28] Čedomir Popov, Srbija na putu oslobodjenja 1868-1878 (Beograd: Naučna knjiga 1980).

[29] More details on Secret Convention in: Grgur Jakšić,  Iz nove srpske istorije. Abdikacija kralja Milana i druge raspravе, (Beograd: Prosveta 1956).

[30] Michael Boro Petrovich, A History of Modern Serbia 1804-1918, vol. II, pp. 523-524

[31] Slobodan Jovanović, Milan Piroćanac, Političke i pravne rasprave, (Beograd: Geca Kon 1932), pp. 221-302.

[32]  Gales Stokes, Politics as Development. The Emergence of Political Parties in Nineteenth-Century Serbia, (Durham & London: Duke University Press 1990).

[33] Mihailo Popović, Poreklo i postanak Ustava od 1888. godine (Beograd: Geca Kon 1938).

[34] Detailed analysis in: Grgur Jakšić, Iz nove srpske istorije. Abdikacija kralja Milan i druge rasprave (Beograd: Prosveta 1956)

[35] Cf. Wayne S. Vucinich, Serbia Between East and West. The Events of 1903-1908 (Stanford: Stanford University Press 1954), pp. 46-59.

[36] Slobodan G. Markovich, British Perceptions of Serbia and the Balkans 1903-1906 (Paris: Dialogue, 2000), pp. 63-74.

[37] Cf. a three volume biography of Petar I by Dragoljub R. ­Živojinović, Kralj Petar I Karadjordjevic. U otadzbini 1903-1914, vol. II (Beograd: BIGZ 1990).

[38]  Quotation from: Robert W. Seton-Watson, German, Slav and Magyar. A Study in the Origins of the Great War (London: Williams and Norgate 1916), p. 78.

[39] Frances  Radovich, “The British Court  and Relations with Serbia”, East European Quarterly, vol. 14 (Winter 1980), pp. 461-468; David MacKenzie, “The May Conspiracy and the European Powers: The Diplomatic Boycott Against Serbia 1903-1906”, South East European Monitor, Vienna, vol. II-2, Vienna 1995, pp. 3-19.

[40] Dimitrije Djordjević, Carinski rat Austro-Ugarske i Srbije 1906-1911 (Beograd: Istorijski institut 1962).

[41] Dimitrije Djordjević, ''The Serbs as an Integrating and Disintegrating Factor'', Austrian History Yearbook, 3:2, 1967, pp. 48-82; idem,  “Srbija i Habsburška Monarhija- uzroci sukoba», Istorijski glasnik, vol. 1, Beograd 1969, pp. 31-39.

[42] Pierre de Lanux, La Yougoslavie. La France et les Serbes (Paris : Payot 1916), pp. 67-70.

[43]  Herbert Vivian, The Servian Tragedy with Some Impressions of Macedonia (London: Grant Richards 1904), p. 171.

[44] John Foster Fraser, Pictures from the Balkans (London, Paris & New York: Cassel & Co. 1906), p. 34.

[45] Dimitrije Djordjevic, “Serbian Society 1903-1914”, in Bela A. Kiraly & Dimitrije Djordjevic,  East Central European Society in the Balkan Wars (Boulder & New York,: Columbia University Press 1987), pp. 227-239.

[46] Dušan T. Bataković (ed.), Nova istorija srpskog naroda (Beograd: Naš Dom 2000), pp.195-200.

[47]  Michael Boro Petrovich, A History of Modern Serbia 1804-1918, vol. II, p. 579.

[48] Ibid.

[49] Public Record Office, Foreign Office, 371/328, Servia, Annual Report, 1907, No 20. Confidential, Belgrade, April 2, 1908.

[50] Public Record Office,  FO,  371/734, No 31, Belgrade, April 13, 1910.

[51] Dusan T. Batakovic, “La ‘Main noire’ (1911-1917) : l’armée serbe entre démocratie et autoritarisme », Revue d’histoire diplomatique, vol. 2, Paris 1998, pp. 95-144.

[52] Dimitrije Djordjevic, Izlazak Srbije na jadransko more i konferencija abmasadora velikih sila u Londonu 1912, (Beograd : by author 1956).

[53] Pierre de Lanux, Yougoslavie. La France et les Serbes, p. 76.

[54]  Dušan T. Bataković, “Sukob vojnih i civilnih vlasti u Srbiji u proleće 1914», Istorijski časopis, vol. XXIX-XXX (1982-1983), Beograd 1983, pp. 477 - 491.

[55] More details in: Vladimir Dedijer, The Road to Sarajevo (London: MacGibonn & Kee 1967).

[56] Quoted in: Sidney B. Fay, The Origins of the World War, vol. II (New York: The Free Press  1966), p.237.