Prelude To World War I:
Balkan Wars and Serbo-Albanian Relations
The 20th century arrived with momentous events in the making or on the horizon. The Balkan peoples were in stages of uneven development. Those that had a state, such as the Serbs, were a powerful magnet for their brothers who were living under foreign rule, much to the discomfort of Austria-Hungary, which had a large Slav population within its borders. Those that did not have a state, such as the Albanians, were still attempting to begin the process of nation-building. For them, the Ottoman Empire was in the last stages of decay, but would or could the Albanians seize the opportunity to emancipate themselves?
Albanian patriots were not able to provide adequate leadership to their nation at the time of the Prizren League and in the days that followed. There were too few of them, and they were not with their people, but outside the country. In contrast with the leaders of the Serbian uprisings, Karadjordje and Milos, who were first among equals (a mirror image of every peasant who joined the troops), the Albanian intellectual elite that wanted to lead and was reaching out for mass support, first had to introduce themselves. The fragrance of European cities was overpowering for the sheep-herding Albanians. To the illiterate Albanian peasants, all these newcomers could have been Scandinavians, they were so remote. The best example of this drastic remoteness is probably the author of a deeply inspired and inspiring poem, "Oh, Albania." It reads, in rough translation:
Albanians, you are killing your brothers,
It was written by an Albanian Northerner from Skadar, an Albanian Christian (Roman Catholic), Vasa Pasha Effendi, protagonist of the Latin alphabet for Albanians, and high Turkish official. The poem was published posthumously, for obvious reasons, in 1899 and in Sofia.
When the Albanian effendi is compared with the Serb from Bosnia, Philip Visnic, who as a child was blinded from smallpox, the real difference is not in the variance of style or degree of sophistication. These two poets worked in dissimilar environments, though in the same wilderness of the Balkan mountains. At that time, 1 society was still dormant, the other vibrant with life. Vasa Pasha was appealing to his compatriots; they were misguided and not fully awake; and he himself was far removed from them. Philip, on the other hand, was at the center of events. He doggedly followed Serbia's Black George and his troops, and never ceased to report, to tell the story of action, of national liberation in process:
When George ruled over Serbia, And baptized Serbia with the Cross, And took her under his wing, From Vidin town to the river Drina, From Kosovo all the way to Belgrade ...
Both poems lose in translation, but both have a Homeric sound. However, one is a product of the soil, the other of abstract intellect.
A major problem for the Albanians, in terms of national ideas, was that they were divided into 3 segments: those in the interior regions, those on the periphery, and those living abroad. Those in the interior were very conservative; they deeply distrusted their compatriots abroad; they believed firmly in Muslim solidarity (with the Turks); and they nursed a degree of animosity toward the Albanians who had turned Christian or who were susceptible to Latin, Slav, or Greek influences. They lived insulated in their feudal mentality, which meant that a few more decades would be needed before they would be ready for the nationalist "yeast" that was working so well in the border regions. Hence, the interior and the periphery were poles apart - while those living abroad were insistent in seeking to take the reins of the national awakening movement.
It is perhaps understandable why the Albanian patriots found it necessary to start the national "awakening" process in the border regions, where the mentality was somewhat less conservative, if not rather radical. These regions, as a rule, experienced some Greek and Slav influences. This may explain why Bitolj, Ohrid, Kicevo, Debar, Prizren, Pristina, Djakovica, and Skadar attracted the "revolutionaries." There was a definite philosophical affinity between the outsiders and border region Albanians.
Turkish administration had contributed greatly to that affinity. When setting up multinational areas under their rule into "vilayets" (districts), the Turks purposely drew the dividing lines in such a way so as to encompass several nationalities in 1 district, instead of separating them. Whatever the rationale for such a policy, it kept rivalry alive and prevented a common front against the Turks. Using one against another, made it easier to control all of them. Were the Albanian leaders aware of this Turkish perfidy? Very much so. The first point of their national demands insisted on "Albania to be constituted as a single vilayet," meaning ethnically pure Albania. The difficulty with this was that the leaders of the Central Committee in Constantinople demanded the "union of the 4 vilayets of Shkodor [Skadar], Janina, Monastir [Bitolj], and Kosovo in a single pashalik governed by Albanians." But these vilayets, as drawn by Turkish administrators, included numerous Greeks, Serbs, and Bulgarians. In making such a demand, and in fighting for Skoplje, the administrative center of the Kosovo vilayet, the Albanians conveniently forgot their own earlier expressed philosophy about an ethnically pure Albanian vilayet.
To no small degree, the Albanian leaders were influenced by Austria-Hungary, whose concept of a future Albania was one that Vienna intended to dominate. For the time being, however, Austria-Hungary preferred the status quo, and sought to dissuade Albanians from revolting against Turkey. They wanted Turkey intact and as strong as possible to resist Serbia. Consequently, they urged the Albanians to avoid agreements with the Slavs which were aimed against Turkey.
When in 1912, Serbia, Greece, Montenegro, and Bulgaria declared war on Turkey, neither Austria nor the Albanians were ready for the Balkan blitz. Certain Serbian emissaries had talked with some Albanian leaders, exploring the possibilities of joining in an insurgency against the Turks. But the Albanians could not at that time fathom the military weaknesses of the Turkish army, so they stayed aloof.
Moreover, there was as yet no unity among the Albanian leaders, no common point of view. Most of them were against the Young Turks, but not Turkey. And when the Young Turks consented not to push reforms, Albanian animosity was appeased. The Serbs were still regarded as the common enemy, "giaours," to whom the Young Turks had wanted to entrust "police duties" in settlements of mixed ethnicity! For the Albanians that was utter madness, and they just could not take it. They could not see a "sultan's saber dangling from a giaour's hip," particularly since the Albanians had such a low opinion of Serbian arms. This low opinion of Serbian arms was influenced by what Austria-Hungary told them.
The Turks certainly were not about to admit how weak they were. Albanian unrestricted violence against the defenseless Serbian population in Kosovo and elsewhere, in the period 1903-1912, had made them overconfident.
Albanian violence in those years seemed to know no bounds. When George Stepanovich Scherbin was allowed by the Turkish government to open the Russian consulate in Kosovska Mitrovica, local Albanians, led by Isa Boletini, decided that this should not be allowed. They besieged the city (March 1903), and were repulsed by the Turkish garrison. However, 10 days later, the consul was assassinated. Albanians considered him guilty for the fact that the time had come for "Muslims to make way for Christians." The Albanians also attacked the town of Vucitrn and ransacked the Serbian church, "searching for arms." And they swarmed into the city of Kolasin, closing schools, expelling Serbian teachers, and "looking for rifles," allegedly smuggled in from Serbia. Serbian consuls in the area were sending back reports that sounded like real horror stories, and the Serbian premier, Nikola Pashic, deplored the "difficult situation facing the Serbs in the area." Turkish authorities were either unable or unwilling to stop the Albanian harassment of Serbs.
When informed of rumors about an assault of Albanians on Prizren, many local Turks began packing and heading south for safer cities. Everything pointed to total chaos, which culminated in the massive march of some 15,000 Albanians on Skoplje (August 12, 1912). Even when earlier Sultan Mehmed V himself came to Kosovo, Albanians, enraged by the Turkish reforms, were not listening anymore. Armed Albanian units occupied Djakovica, Mitrovica, and finally entered Skoplje. And Turkey, in a state of political transition, felt that action against the Albanian insurgents could wait. In the meantime, the Balkan powers had moved swiftly in their war against the Ottoman Empire. The Serbs defeated the Turks at Kumanovo (October 23, 1912), and met with the Montenegrin forces in Metohija (October 29). The Montenegrins liberated Pec and Djakovica, while the Serbian army entered Pristina and Prizren. Kosovo was free! And one of Vienna's prime aims in the Balkans, the prevention of a common border between Serbia and Montenegro had been nullified.
When Serbia realized that there was an opportunity to reach the sea, the army was ordered to cross the river Drim. It pushed through Albania, entering the cities of Ljes, Kroja, and Tirana. On November 29th the Serbian cavalry waded into the Adriatic, and took the port of Drac. The Albanians, during this sweep, fought in the ranks of the Turkish army. As the situation at the front worsened, however, they started to trickle off and desert.
Europe gasped in disbelief. As the news from the front began reaching the capital cities, the Great Powers were surprised, but Vienna was stunned. The German General Staff took it as a personal humiliation, because the Turkish officers were practically their pupils. The "Drang nach Osten" was jeopardized. Franz Ferdinand in Vienna called the Serbs "a bunch of thieves, murderers, no-goods, and hooligans," as Vienna was preparing for a diplomatic denial of Serbia's achievements. The Russians, who until recently had seriously objected to Serbian impatience, now were elated. Foreign Minister Sazonov told the Serbian envoy in St. Petersburg: "Now, you will see, I will be your best lawyer!" British diplomat, George Buchanan, however, when told of the Serbian army being in Drac, remarked sarcastically to the Serbian minister: "Oh, you already have a name for Durazzo."
Albanian nationalist leaders were in shock. Stavro Skendi says that: "the problem which the patriots had to face was very grave: the fate of their country." (The Albanian National Awakening, p. 451). He emphasizes that the situation was even more "entangled" by the lack of central authority that all Albanians would recognize, and by the disruption of communications. "Albanians fought on the side of Turkey because they believed that by doing so they would best safeguard their own territory" (Ibid., p. 452). Now they were seeing Montenegro besieging Skadar in the north, the Serbian forces occupying the heart of Albania, and Greeks marching to Janina. They were witnessing what they had always feared most: the "dismemberment of Albania." Top leaders among Albanian nationalists (Ismail Kemal, Faik Konitza, Fan Noli, and others) were caught unprepared for the Turkish defeat. Overnight all Albanian eyes turned toward Vienna, the only possible savior by virtue of the diplomatic and military power it could wield. Vienna became the mecca for Albanian nationalists, and Sami Bey Frasheri in 1913 published (in Vienna and Leipzig) the German translation of his book, Was war Albanien, was ist es, was wird es werden? (cited earlier).
On his way to Albania from Constantinople, Ismail Kemal, in addition to visiting other cities, stopped in Budapest. There he met Count Leopold Berchtold, Austria-Hungary's foreign minister. On the basis of talks in Budapest and prior to that in Vienna, Ismail Kemal felt confident enough to cable his son in Vlore (Albania): "Avenir Albanie assure." A month after leaving Constantinople, Ismail Kemal arrived at Drac (November 21, 1912) on a boat placed at his disposal by Berchtold. He got out of the city in the nick of time, on the way to his hometown of Vlore, not to witness the arrival of the Serbian army (November 29). He was not welcomed as warmly in Drac as he would be in his hometown. Landowning beys were opposed to him, and many citizens still preferred to view the Turkish flag instead of the Albanian one. But in Vlore, where about 80 delegates from all over Albania assembled, things went smoothly for the proclamation of Albanian independence and the formation of a provisional government. Vienna's foreign minister had emphasized that at that critical moment the image of unity among the Albanians had to be maintained, if Vienna's role of defending Albania and stopping Serbia was to succeed on the diplomatic front.
In the meantime, the Serbo-Montenegrin occupation of northern Albania became a topic of international concern. The London Conference of Ambassadors was called (December 17, 1912), to decide on Albanian frontiers, and on the withdrawal of the occupation forces. The future of the victorious Serbian exploit did not seem bright. Austria-Hungary, which had been surprised by the Balkan powers' swift action, was adamant. It insisted on a Serbian pullout, and the creation of a separate Albanian unit. It appeared that Vienna was looking for a casus belli. The Great Powers took the situation seriously and began pressing Serbia to capitulate. The Serbian position was that they had fought against Turkey (the powers had always maintained that this was Turkish territory), and they would not budge until peace talks had been concluded. Deep in their heart, they knew that this was bravado. One by one, Serbia's "friends" advised a pullout. Britain, France, and finally Russia, told Serbia that they would not risk a European war for some small cities in the Balkan peninsula.
Sazonov, who had earlier promised Serbia that he would be her "best lawyer," warned the Serbian envoy in St. Petersburg: "Watch out. Don't insist on Drac, because you might lose Belgrade. Vienna has lost its head." (Dimitrije Popovic, Borba za narodno ujedinjenje, 1908-1914 [Struggle for National Unification], Belgrade, 1936, p. 100). Serbia could not be satisfied with such brotherly advice. When Serbia's prime minister, Nikola Pasic, asked what they should do in the face of Austrian intransigence, Sazonov replied: "We are ready to defend the political and economic emancipation of Serbia and its exit to the sea across Albanian territory [meaning free transit] ... and to work for the drawing of Serbo-Albanian borders as much to the west as possible. But we do not believe that Serbia will be given a sovereign right at any point on the Adriatic coast ... Imperial Russia must be sure that Serbia will accept the decision arrived at by the Great Powers. Otherwise, Serbia cannot count on our support, and in that case neither England nor France will help Serbia. Neither Russia nor her allied powers can allow the question of European war to be decided by Serbia." (Ibid., p. 102.)
Pasic's government replied: "... With great sacrifices, Serbia has liberated Serbs from the Turks, and reached the littoral which once belonged to her ... However, in view of the desires of Austria, which has declared that it cannot agree with the Serbian retention of the littoral taken by arms, ... the Serbian Government ... entrusts to the Great Powers the solution of the Serbian outlet to the Adriatic sea." (Ibid., p. 103.)
The Conference of Ambassadors decided on the "creation of an autonomous Albania, under the sovereignty and suzerainty of the sultan and under the exclusive guarantee of the 6 Great Powers. Serbia will be reserved a commercial outlet to 1 Albanian port, free and neutral ... for all commodities, including munitions." But Vienna balked at this proposition and increased its military preparedness. In the meantime, a new inflammatory point emerged, the question of Skadar, besieged by the Montenegrins. King Nikola wanted it badly, but he had no heavy artillery. Essad Pasha defended it ably. After 5 months, however, he surrendered the city to jubilant Montenegrins (April 23, 1913). Only a week later, the Great Powers on Orthodox Easter Sunday demanded that King Nikola withdraw his troops. Vienna and the Vatican insisted that Skadar not be given to Montenegro, and the former stepped up its mobilization.
Serbia had already agreed to pull out its troops "once peace is signed and related questions settled," and advised Montenegro to do the same. Nikola Pasic of Serbia told King Nikola of Montenegro: "The sacrifice is difficult, but it must be borne when the whole of Europe demands it." And Tsar Nicholas II of Russia advised the same thing. Nikola, the king of Montenegro, did not believe it when, from his mountain view of the sea, he observed an international naval force (Austria-Hungary, France, and England) poised in the blue waters.
Peace with Turkey was signed on May 30, 1913, and the withdrawal of occupying Serbian troops began, mostly via the sea route, through Salonika. In the meantime, the Greeks and the Serbs had agreed on their respective spheres of interest in Albania (south and north of the Shkombra River). The Serbian army retained strategic positions in the border belt and dug in. This offered an ideal opportunity for Albanian guerrillas to prolong the bellicose situation, and in September 1913 they massively attacked the cities of Debar and Struga. When Serbian reinforcements drove them out of the cities a month later, the Serbian army crossed the river Drim and invaded the regions of Mati and Malesia. It was a militarily tactical move, but the European powers immediately branded it "another Serbian drive toward the Albanian littoral."
To the Austrians, the behavior of Serbia was unfathomable. Accustomed in its imperial haughtiness to manipulating the "civilized" Slavs of its own multinational state, Vienna just did not know how to handle the "Balkanese." The confrontation more and more took on a David-and-Goliath aspect, and the old empire was uncomfortable with that image. Just as Vienna thought it had won the second round (the first being the Serbian entry into Albania), the Serbs were again in Albania. When the Serbs occupied Albanian territory for the second time, Austria-Hungary sent an ultimatum to Belgrade, requesting a pullout within 8 days. On the advice of Russia, Serbia gave in.
Yet the very existence of Serbia grated on the Austrian nerve. The nation, which at the time of the Congress of Berlin had a population of under 2 million, now had 4.5 million, with its territory doubled. Serbia needed a commercial outlet to the sea (an Adriatic port), but Austria would not hear of it. Vienna insisted on controlling the external trade of Serbia by routing it through its own (Austrian) territory. This is what Pashic called a "stranglehold." How long would David be able to keep his cool in front of Goliath's constant bullying? David had just repulsed another attempt to push him around the Bulgarian troops that crossed Serbia' s frontier in 1913 were badly beaten by the Serbs. Once again, Vienna felt humiliated by this nation of "peasants" and "palace murderers," a reference to the assassination of Serbia's king, Alexander Obrenovic, in 1903.
Austria-Hungary was waiting for an opportunity to strike, and Nikola Pashic could sense it. He knew that Vienna would not desist from bullying Serbia. In St. Petersburg, in the early spring of 1914, he conveyed his fears to Tsar Nicholas II. Pashic knew that a preventive war against Serbia had become a necessity for the rulers in Vienna. Nicholas was disbelieving, but promised help in case of an unprovoked attack on Serbia.
But, in the end, what became of the Albanian minuet? The Conference of Ambassadors, which first decided to give Albania an autonomous status within Turkey, later qualified its recommendations, since the Turks had agreed to pull out from the western regions of the Balkan peninsula. In the spring of 1913, "independence" was substituted for "autonomy," and Austria-Hungary and Italy were entrusted with the task of working it out. By the end of July 1913 the ambassadors finally decided it would need a body of "six plus one" (six representatives of the Great Powers and one Albanian) to set up the new administration. German Prince Wilhelm von Wied was chosen to become "hereditary prince of Albania." He did not stay long enough to get to know his subjects. He left in a hurry, as soon as he learned that the archduke was felled by a shot of a young Serbian nationalist, an Austro-Hungarian subject and on Austro-Hungarian territory (Sarajevo).
A great deal of squabbling, tense dispute, and hard-driving give-and-take took place during the months (1913) of the London ambassadorial meetings. The participants agonized over the death of Turkey, the birth of Albania, and the demands of the Balkan allies. Serbia and Montenegro sent to London the cream of their diplomatic corps (Stojan Novakovic, Andra Nikolic, and Milenko Vesnic for Serbia, and Lazar Mijuskovic for Montenegro). Neither the Serbs nor the Montenegrins worried too much about the question of the form of the Albanian state or its status. As far as they were concerned, creating an independent state in their immediate neighborhood was a blessing. It was always better to have a small, hopefully reasonable, nation at your border than an insatiable imperialistic Great Power, be it Italy, Turkey, or Austria-Hungary. The main concern of the Serbs was the boundary lines, and a convenient outlet to the sea. When it became clear that they would be deprived of the latter, the Serbian team concentrated on the boundary line.
As far as the Albanians were concerned, one would have expected that of the 3 items on their agenda, national independence, domestic system, and frontiers, the last would have the lowest priority. But this was not the case. The most "awakened" among the "awakened" Albanians were from the border areas. If they had to choose between living in Slav Serbia or Muslim Turkey, they would always opt for Turkey. In what form, system, or arrangement was of secondary importance. It was a totally reverse line of thinking, as compared to the Serbian one. When a century earlier Milos was in their situation, he first attended to whatever form of national assertion was possible, leaving geography for later.
Evaluating the ambassadorial decision of July 29, 1913, regarding Albania, one cannot avoid a feeling of pity and sorrow. It was a profoundly meaningless turn in the history of the Albanian people: politically, the Turkish ruler was replaced by a German prince; socially, the feudal system was taken over by the Westernized offspring of former lords: culturally, the Albanians were subject to a non-Muslim culture; and nationally, they became an appendage of the Vienna foreign office. Was all that less important than who would get the city of Djakovica?
By concentrating on the question of frontiers, the Albanians badly hurt themselves. They had to go through a humiliating haranguing to the effect that the principle of "national borders" could not be applied to a non-existing state (the Russians harped on that). What they claimed to be "Albanian" was in fact Turkish territory (the Serbs further emphasized that issue). They had to throw themselves completely into the lap of Christian Vienna without being able to preserve even the smallest independent action. Most importantly, they did not get a single border town that they had asked for. Even Skadar was finally occupied by a British admiral, who placed the town under the control of an international force and not the "Albanian" government in Vlore.
What the Albanian leaders never understood was that just as Russia or Britain would not risk a war for Debar, neither would Vienna. Logically, boundary problems should have been the subject of discussion among those most directly concerned, Serbia and Albania. Essad Pasha, the defender of Skadar, was one of the few Albanians who understood that. But the Albanian leaders in Vlore expelled him from the country for such thoughts. In their opinion he was a traitor. Of all people, the man who prevented Montenegro from incorporating Skadar became an Albanian "traitor!" Essad Pasha, after his expulsion went to Nis, which was at that time the seat of the Serbian government. Essad Pasha's ideas of returning to his country (already in a stage of civil war), and establishing his own authority, and even proclaiming himself ruler, met with the full support of the Serbs. He formed his own government in Drac in September 1914. But by that time nobody could save Albania. The Italians were in the port of Vlore (Valona), and on the island of Saseno, and, as World War I came, Bulgarian and Austro-Hungarian armies occupied most of Albania.
In Cetinje, the impervious and durable ruler of Montenegro, King Nikola, the "European father-in-law" as he was known, could never forgive Europe for taking Skadar away from him. Montenegrins were always proud of being Serbs and rejoiced in every Serbian success. When in 1913 the Bulgarians broke away from the Balkan alliance and attacked Serbia, Montenegrins came 12,000 strong to help the Serbian army. At the end of the Balkan wars, however, there was in their Serbian bosom a certain envy. They saw that the Serbs got their Prizren, but that Montenegro did not get its Skadar. They saw the Serbs as jubilant, and themselves in mourning. The 2 brothers felt differently about the war that they had fought together and the outcome that they shared.
In a sense, the war was misdirected. When Serbia's leaders talked about an outlet to "the coast that had been ours before," they were referring to the estuary of the Neretva River and the littoral south of it. At that time, however, Austria-Hungary was in Bosnia-Herzegovina and in the Bay of Kotor. Consequently, the entry of Serbian forces in those areas would have meant war with Vienna. Serbia and Montenegro tried to compensate in Turkish Albania. Vienna had no qualms about occupying Serbian lands, but it could not tolerate Slavs in Albanian lands.
Before the curtain fell on Serbia and Montenegro the 2 small brothers showed the world what hearts beat in them. On July 28, 1914, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. Old Pashic was eating his lunch in a local pub when the courier brought him the sealed envelope. His only comment to a bystander was: "This is the end of Austria. Lord Almighty will help us to come out winners." Finally, the chief of the Austro-Hungarian General Staff, Conrad, had his way: he had asked for war on Serbia some 20 times! According to Vienna's envoy at the Vatican, the latter approved of the war. The Vatican secretary of state, Del Val, told Vienna's Palfi: "... let us hope the Monarchy will finish the task it started and destroy Serbia." (Vladimir Dedijer in Bozic, Ivan, et al., Istorija Jugoslavije [History of Yugoslavia]: 2nd ed., Belgrade, 1973, p. 383).
The Austro-Hungarian commander on the Balkan front, General Potiorek, moved his invading army through Bosnia, attacking Serbia on the flank, hoping to occupy most of it in 2 to 3 weeks. After a few initial skirmishes and withdrawals, the Serbs stood up at chosen positions and routed Potiorek's army across the Sava River, recapturing occupied Belgrade. Again, Central Europe was stunned, Russia elated, Western Europe pleasantly surprised. Potiorek was demoted. Humiliated Vienna in 1915 watched as German commander, General Mackensen, the winner of the Battle of Gerlitz (against the Russians earlier in the year), took over. His Prussian General Staff drew up plans that would make possible for a German motorized division to surround the army of Balkan peasants. The Germans tried 3 times; 3 times the peasants, low on munitions and rations, outmaneuvered them, and finally withdrew to their destiny-determining Kosovo. The Bulgarian army, in a sneak stab in the back in October, closed the retreat route toward Greece. A French task force in Greece was told to abandon rescue operations. The only way out for the Serbian forces was through the mountains of Montenegro and Albania.
This time the flesh-hungry Kosovo soil would receive only cold heavy guns and armaments, while the "skeletons" would head to the snow-covered mountain passes. There the Albanian sharpshooters would be waiting for them, although Essad Pasha's friendship with Pashic to a degree eased the Serbian retreat. At the head of the retreating Serbian army peasant-soldiers carried 4 lighted candles, protecting the flames from the mountain winds, and 1 sarcophagus. They were moving the bones of Serbia's king, Stefan the First Crowned, lest they be desecrated either by Bosnian Muslims in the Austro-Hungarian army or by the "liberated" Albanians from Kosovo. Stefan was used to such escapades; he must have gone through 20 of these in the 5 centuries of Serbian history. The coffin was finally laid to rest in Montenegro's Ostrog Monastery. Montenegro was not to remain free either. The mountain people repulsed at the Battle of Mojkovac several Austrian attempts to intercept the Serbian retreat to the sea. One-third of the 400,000 Serbs who met Mackensen on the Danube made it to the coast, to re-emerge on the Salonika front in 1916. Montenegrins fought as long as they could, then offered peace talks. The angry Austrians demanded unconditional surrender, including the delivery of the passing Serbian "skeletons." To surrender their own ragged, emaciated, and half-frozen brothers to the hated enemy was inconceivable. Instead, King Nikola and his premier left Montenegro - there was no truce, no capitulation, no signed instrument. The Austrians entered Montenegro as ignored occupiers. The state of war with Montenegro was never formally terminated. There is disagreement among Yugoslav historians, however, as to whether some form of surrender instrument was signed by Montenegrin military commanders.