The German Emperor, Wilhelm II, and the Russian Tsar, Nicholas II, exchanged telegrams in the immediate run-up to the outbreak of war between 29 July 1914 and 1 August 1914.
Tsar to Kaiser
29 July 1914, 1 a.m.
Peter’s Court Palais, 29 July 1914
Sa Majesté l’Empereur
Am glad you are back. In this serious moment, I appeal to you to help me. An ignoble war has been declared to a weak country. The indignation in Russia shared fully by me is enormous. I foresee that very soon I shall be overwhelmed by the pressure forced upon me and be forced to take extreme measures which will lead to war. To try and avoid such a calamity as a European war I beg you in the name of our old friendship to do what you can to stop your allies from going too far.
Kaiser to Tsar
29 July 1914, 1.45 a.m. (this and the previous telegraph crossed)
28 July 1914
It is with the gravest concern that I hear of the impression which the action of Austria against Serbia is creating in your country.
The unscrupulous agitation that has been going on in Serbia for years has resulted in the outrageous crime, to which Archduke Francis Ferdinand fell a victim. The spirit that led Serbians to murder their own king and his wife still dominates the country.
You will doubtless agree with me that we both, you and me, have a common interest as well as all Sovereigns to insist that all the persons morally responsible for the dastardly murder should receive their deserved punishment. In this case politics plays no part at all.
On the other hand, I fully understand how difficult it is for you and your Government to face the drift of your public opinion. Therefore, with regard to the hearty and tender friendship which binds us both from long ago with firm ties, I am exerting my utmost influence to induce the Austrians to deal straightly to arrive to a satisfactory understanding with you. I confidently hope that you will help me in my efforts to smooth over difficulties that may still arise.
Your very sincere and devoted friend and cousin
Kaiser to Tsar
29 July 1914, 6.30 p.m.
Berlin, 29 July 1914
I received your telegram and share your wish that peace should be maintained.
But as I told you in my first telegram, I cannot consider Austria’s action against Servia an “ignoble” war. Austria knows by experience that Servian promises ono paper are wholly unreliable. I understand its action must be judged as trending to get full guarantee that the Servian promises shall become real facts. This my reasoning is borne out by the statement of the Austrian cabinet that Austria does not want to make any territorial conquests at the expense of Servia.
I therefore suggest that it would be quite possible for Russia to remain a spectator of the austro-servian conflict without involving Europe in the most horrible war she ever witnessed. I think a direct understanding between your Government and Vienna possible and desirable, and as I already telegraphed to you, my Government is continuing its exercises to promote it.
Of course military measures on the part of Russia would be looked upon by Austria as a calamity we both wish to avoid and jeopardize my position as mediator which I readily accepted on your appeal to my friendship and my help.
Tsar to Kaiser
29 July 1914, 8.20 p.m.
Peter’s Court Palace, 29 July 1914
Thanks for your telegram conciliatory and friendly. Whereas official message presented today by your ambassador to my minister was conveyed in a very different tone. Beg you to explain this divergency! It would be right to give over the Austro-servian problem to the Hague conference. Trust in your wisdom and friendship.
Your loving Nicky
Oil on panel, 86,5 x 39,5 cm
Palazzo Ducale, Venice
28th July 1914 - Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia
On July 28, 1914, one month to the day after Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife were killed by a Serbian nationalist in Sarajevo, Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia, effectively beginning the First World War.
The following telegram sent by Count Leopold von Berchtold (Austro-Hungarian Foreign Minister) at 11.10 am to M. N. Pashitch (Serbian Prime Minister and Foreign Minister), who received it at 12.30 pm
28 July 1914
The Royal Serbian Government not having answered in a satisfactory manner the note of July 23, 1914, presented by the Austro-Hungarian Minister at Belgrade, the Imperial and Royal Government are themselves compelled to see to the safeguarding of their rights and interests, and, with this object, to have recourse to force of arms.
Austria-Hungary consequently considers herself henceforward in state of war with Serbia.