THIS DAY IN RMR HISTORY: The period from the assassination of the Austro-Hungarian heir to the throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, on 28 June 1914, through to the general declaration of war in early August 4th 1914 is often referred to as “the July Crisis.”
Some factions within the Austro-Hungarian government wanted to strike at Serbia during the immediate pre-war years, but lacked a credible excuse to do so. Nationalist pan-Slav agitation within Serbia, which Austria-Hungary suspected was encouraged by the Serbian government, served only to destabilize Austro-Hungarian influence in the Balkans.
The assassination of Franz Ferdinand provided the Austro-Hungarian government with a ready-made excuse to launch what they thought would be a limited war against the far weaker Serbians. Austria hoped to crush Serbia in a local war and presented harsh demands on Serbia which she could not possibly meet while still retaining her sovereignty. Serbia sought help from Russia, but in view of Russia’s known encouragement of Serbian ambitions, Austria had taken the precaution of obtaining Germany’s support if the conflict spread. In addition to seeking Russian help, Serbia sought advice from France, Britain and Italy.