Sunday, October 6, 2013

Bosnian Crisis

It was on this day in 1908 that Austria-Hungary annexed the nominally Ottoman Turkish province of Bosnia-Herzegovina, sparking the Bosnian crisis, one of the events which led up to the outbreak of the Great War, particularly because of the humiliation suffered by the Russian Empire over the affair. The lack of trust and ill-will created between Austria-Hungary and Russia is usually all that is taken away from this event, however, it was also a major reason for the ultimate break-up of the Triple Alliance of Germany, Italy and Austria-Hungary. This is not often talked about but failing to mention it reveals an anti-Italian prejudice because it disproves the long-held accusation of the Kingdom of Italy "betraying" the other countries of the Triple Alliance by staying out of World War I in 1914 and then joining the war the following year against Austria-Hungary and later Germany.

This is important to understand because it was not Rome that broke its word to Vienna but rather Vienna that first broke its word to Rome. The issue was the annexation of Bosnia. When the Kingdom of Italy joined the Triple Alliance, which was really a defensive alliance of the three monarchies involved rather than a political pact between countries with a shared agenda, it was recognized that there were still outstanding territorial disputes between Italy and Austria-Hungary concerning the Italian-populated lands originally taken from the Republic of Venice that Austria-Hungary still occupied. According to the Triple Alliance agreement, if Austria-Hungary made any territorial gains elsewhere, these Italian-populated territories were supposed to be returned to the Kingdom of Italy in compensation. Obviously, the annexation of Bosnia was a major territorial acquisition and yet when Italy expected Austria-Hungary to live up to the terms of their agreement and reunite the Italian populated lands to Italy, Austria-Hungary refused.

Italy was not about to overlook such a violation of their agreement and so, from that time on, did not feel bound by the Triple Alliance any more since Austria-Hungary had violated their agreement. Of course, there were other reasons for Italy not going to war alongside Austria-Hungary and Germany in 1914 but this was a major point for the Italian government. It should be remembered and should be more well known today. It is still unfortunate what happened to Austria-Hungary in World War I, it did not deserve to be 'carved up' out of existence, but the honor of the Kingdom of Italy has been unfairly criticized because of this incident and for that reason the facts should be made known. The Triple Alliance agreement was broken but it was not broken in 1914 and it was not the Kingdom of Italy that broke it.

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