Russia, Wednesday, 29th July
11.00 A.M. Pourtalès calls on Sazonov to tell him Berlin is still pushing Vienna to talk with St Petersburg and clarify "the aims and extent" of its actions in Serbia. Sazonov says he wants to talk with Vienna but there is no sign Vienna wants to talk.
He tells Pourtalès Russia is about to order mobilisation of the Russian military districts facing Austria and points out ".... in Russia, unlike western European states, mobilisation is far from being the same as war. The Russian Army could, at need, stand at ease for weeks without crossing the frontier".
Pourtalès warns him military measures are dangerous. They lead to counter-measures by the other side. [More]
Morning, Peterhof Yanushkevich takes the ukazes for partial and general mobilisation to the Tsar who signs both of them.
Morning Sazonov reads Shebeko's report that Berchtold has refused to authorise further direct talks with St. Petersburg. (Shebeko did not realise the refusal covered only talks on the Serbian reply, not other talks.)
Afternoon Sazonov tells Buchanan that Russia is not ordering general mobilisation though that is what the military recommend. He also says Russia now supports Grey's four-power mediation proposal as Vienna is rejecting direct talks with St Petersburg.
Afternoon Sazonov calls back Pourtalès to tell him Berchtold has rejected talks and Russia is now supporting the British proposal. Pourtalès emphasises that Austria-Hungary is not going "to submit to any kind of European court of arbitration" and repeats his warning that any form of Russian mobilisation would be "a grave mistake". [More]
Afternoon Szápáry calls on Sazonov. Though Austria-Hungary will not discuss the ultimatum or the Serbian reply, it is ready for a "far broader basis for the exchange of views" and does not wish to damage Russian interests. Sazonov says the Austro-Hungarian note infringes Serbian sovereignty though, oddly, he says it is "quarrelling over words". He also says "Russian interests are identical with the Serbian".
While they are talking news arrives Belgrade has been shelled and Sazonov takes it to mean the invasion of Serbia has begun. He tells Szápáry there can be no more discussion and ends the meeting. [More]
Afternoon Yanushkevich instructs Dobrorolski to obtain the signatures of the Minister for War, the Navy Minister and the Minister of the Interior needed to make the ukazes operative.
7.00 P.M. Pourtalès calls on Sazonov for their third meeting that day. He carries out Bethmann's instruction and tells Sazonov that "further progress of Russian mobilisation measures would compel us to mobilise and that then European war would scarcely be prevented".
Sazonov sees the German message as an ultimatum. It convinces him that Berlin is behind Austro-Hungarian actions.
He had thought partial mobilisation against Austria-Hungary was a sufficient response. He now thinks a European war is inevitable and Russia therefore must start general mobilisation immediately. [More]
Soon after The Tsar phones Sazonov to tell him about the message from the Kaiser [W1] which sounds friendly. It contrasts with what Pourtalès has just said to Sazonov. The Tsar telegrams the Kaiser thanking him for his conciliatory telegram and asks why the ambassador's official message is in such a different tone. [N2]
8.00 P.M. Austria-Hungary's refusal of direct talks, the bombardment of Belgrade, the latest message from Pourtalès, which sounds like an ultimatum, together with the military reasons against partial mobilisation persuade Sazonov war cannot be avoided and Russia must order general mobilisation.
He meets Yanushkevich and Sukhomlinov and they decide "in view of the small probability of avoiding war with Germany" to recommend immediate general mobilisation to the Tsar. The Tsar approves the decision over the phone. [More]
Shortly after Sazonov telegrams Izvolsky so he can inform the French.
9.00 – 10.00 P.M. General Dobrorolski completes the collection of signatures for the mobilisation order and goes to the St Petersburg Central Telegraph Office to wire the order across the country. The telegrams are ready shortly after 10.00 P.M.
9.40 P.M. The Tsar gets a message from the Kaiser [W2] asking for Russian restraint while he tries to mediate in Vienna. The Tsar decides he cannot ignore this appeal and immediately countermands the order for general mobilisation. Instead, he orders partial mobilisation. [More]
Shortly after 10.00 P.M. Dobrorolski gets the new order just in time to stop the telegrams going out. He collects them and orders new ones for partial mobilisation. These go out at midnight.
11.00 P.M. and shortly after Paléologue is told about the decision for general mobilisation and prepares a telegram for Paris saying the Russian government has decided ".... to order the mobilisation of thirteen corps destined to operate against Austria and secretly to commence general mobilisation".
At the last minute news arrives of the Tsar's change to partial mobilisation and the words "and secretly to commence general mobilisation" are removed from the message. Paléologue does not tell Paris Russia first ordered general mobilisation. [More]
Around midnight Sazonov sees Pourtalès for the fourth time to tell him of the Russian decision for partial mobilisation. He asks Berlin to take part in four-power talks aimed at persuading Vienna to drop demands detrimental to Serbian sovereignty. Pourtalès is not optimistic, saying that talks are almost impossible "now that Russia had resolved on the fatal step of mobilisation". [More]
1.20 A.M. next day The Tsar wires the Kaiser thanking him for his message [W2]. He says Russia's military measures started five days before are on account of Austria-Hungary's actions and are defensive. He hopes with all his heart they won't interfere with the Kaiser's role as mediator which the Tsar greatly values. [N3]
About 2.00 A.M. next day Pourtalès asks to see Sazonov. He has a more positive message from Bethmann than the one delivered that afternoon warning that Russian mobilisation would compel Germany to mobilise.
Bethmann is trying to get a fresh formal assurance of Austria's "désintéressement" in Serbian territory. Sazonov is still very doubtful about Vienna’s intentions so Pourtalès asks him to make his own proposal.
Sazonov suggests that if Vienna declares that because the dispute has taken on a European dimension it is "ready to eliminate from its ultimatum those points which infringe on Serbia's sovereign rights" then "Russia agrees to suspend all military preparations". [More]