Annexation Crisis

Annexation Crisis
   A diplomatic crisis occasioned by Austria-Hungary’s formal annexation of the Turkish provinces of Bosnia and Herzogovina that heightened Great Power tensions in the decade before the outbreak of World War I. The Congress of Berlin in 1878 authorized Austria-Hungary to occupy and administer Bosnia-Herzegovina, but officially the territory remained part of the Ottoman Empire. Supervised by a department within the common ministry of finance in Vienna, the administration was run by Austro-Hungarian civil servants and officers. Because of its special legal status, Bosnia-Herzegovina had neither a parliament nor a constitution. A reinvigorated Ottoman Empire might have challenged Austria-Hungary’s control over Bosnia-Herzegovina, but in July 1908, the Young Turks revolution led to a constitution and political reforms of the Ottoman polity. The Habsburg monarchy’s foreign minister, Aloys Lexa von Aehrentha l, decided to annex Bosnia- Herzegovina, and, to avoid Russian resistance to the move, he met the Tsar’s foreign minister Aleksandr Izvolsky in September 1908 in Moravia. As a price, Isvolsky received Aehrenthal’s pledge of support for Russia’s attempt to open the Straits to Russian warships. Izwolsky nevertheless seemed to be surprised when Aehrenthal acted swiftly and had the annexation announced October7, 1908. That Ferdinand I, Bulgaria’s ruler, cut the legal ties to the Ottoman Empire and declared himself Tsar of Bulgaria, led to further Russian misgivings over renewed flux in the Balkans. Meanwhile, fierce protests against the unilateral annexation in the Ottoman Empire and in Serbia further aggravated the situation. The boycott of Austro- Hungarian goods in the Ottoman Empire proved to be less harmful to the Habsburg monarchy than Russian support for Serbia’s claims that Austria-Hungary should leave Bosnia- Herzegovina with its South Slavic population.
   Assisted by her allies Britain and France, Russia backed Serbia’s propaganda campaign and saber rattling. Because Germany stood firmly by Austria-Hungary and threatened to intervene in case of an armed clash between Russia and the Habsburg monarchy, the tsar’s government was forced to back down. Without Russian support, Serbia was forced to give in to an Austro-Hungarian ultimatum in March 1909. The Ottoman Porte was mollified by financial compensations from Austria-Hungary and the Habsburg monarchy’s evacuation of its troops from the Sanjak of Novipazar. As result, Aehrenthal got away with the risky unilateralist annexation, but only at the price of increased diplomatic isolation of his government. Deeply felt Russian and Serbian hostility toward Austria-Hungary became an important feature of European politics yet to be reckoned with. To Britain and France, the Habsburg monarchy seemed to be completely dependent on Germany, a perception shared by observers in Austria-Hungary and Berlin. Finally, the annexation did little to stabilize Habsburg control over Bosnia-Herzegovina, although it made it possible to proclaim a constitutional statute and to establish a parliament in Sarajevo, while the diplomatic tensions over it prefigured the fatal crisis of August 1914.
   See also <>; <>; <>; <>.
    Bridge, F. R. From Sadowa to Sarajevo: The Foreign Policy of Austria-Hungary 1866-1914 . London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1972;
    Herrmann, David G. The Arming of Europe and the Making of the First World War . Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997;
    Lieven, D.C.B. Russia and the Origins of the First World War . New York: St. Martin’s, 1983.

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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