1922 Encyclopædia Britannica/Berchtold von und zu Ungarschitz, Leopold, Count

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1922 Encyclopædia Britannica
Berchtold von und zu Ungarschitz, Leopold, Count
See also Count Leopold Berchtold on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

BERCHTOLD VON UND ZU UNGARSCHITZ, LEOPOLD, Count (1863- ), Austro-Hungarian statesman. The Berchtolds are a Moravian noble family whose patent of knighthood and nobility of the empire dates from 1616. They became counts in 1673, and acquired their Hungarian rights in 1751. Count Leopold Berchtold, born April 18 1863, was employed first in the Moravian Government, entered the service of the Austro-Hungarian Foreign Office in 1893, and in 1894 was attached to the Paris embassy. In 1903 he went as councillor of legation to St. Petersburg, and in Dec. 1906 was appointed ambassador there. With the Russian court and the aristocratic society of St. Petersburg he maintained the best relations, but failed entirely in his zealous efforts to accommodate the obviously increasing differences between Russian and Austro-Hungarian policy. He took a leading part in the negotiations preceding the crisis caused by the annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina, which aimed at securing common action of the two powers in the Balkan question. It was at his château of Buchlau, in Moravia, that the fateful conference took place between Isvolski and Aehrenthal (Sept. 15 1908). At the time of the strained relations between the Cabinets of St. Petersburg and Vienna, which followed the annexation, and under the shadow of the personal feud between the two foreign ministers, the position of Berchtold at St. Petersburg was extremely difficult. For months together he had to avoid all official intercourse with the Russian Foreign Office; and it was not till the spring of 1909, when the violence of the quarrel had abated, that he could resume his efforts to improve the relations between the two states. His success was only temporary; the tension, indeed, for a time relaxed; but gradually it increased, and during the last months of his residence in St. Petersburg became extreme. In March 1911 Count Berchtold was recalled from Russia, and on Feb. 17 1912 he was, against his own will, appointed Aehrenthal's successor as Foreign Minister.

His efforts were primarily directed towards securing the position of Austria-Hungary in the Balkan Peninsula. He wished to bind Bulgaria more closely to the Triple Alliance; to strengthen the ties of the Habsburg Monarchy with Rumania and Turkey; to foil the aspirations of Serbia for an extension of territory. To the idea of solving the questions at issue with this latter power with the sword he was at this time opposed, contemplating a peaceful solution of the Balkan question by agreement with Russia and the Western Powers. In this sense he spoke at the first session of the Delegations in which he took part as Foreign Minister. But the increasingly obvious efforts of Russian statesmen to weaken the influence of Austria-Hungary in the Balkans, the aggressive activities of the Serbs, and the ambiguous behaviour of Bulgaria forced him to change his attitude, especially as he failed to receive from the Western Powers the support which he had sought from them. In Oct. 1912, at a meeting at San Rossore, he came to certain agreements with the Italian Foreign Minister, San Giuliano, of which the objects were to secure the autonomy of Albania and to counter Serbia's plan for an extension of her power in the Adriatic coast-lands. The renewal of the Triple Alliance followed at the beginning of December.

Meanwhile the struggle between Turkey and the Christian nations of the Balkans had broken out. During the three Balkan wars, fought between Oct. 1912 and Aug. 1913, Berchtold's attitude was a weak one. He repeatedly took steps towards active intervention, but drew back when the Entente Powers used threats and the other members of the Triple Alliance intervened with counsels of moderation in Vienna. His efforts at the close of the third Balkan War to secure a revision of the Treaty of Bucharest (Aug. 10 1913), which was unfavourable to Bulgaria, were as unsuccessful as his attempt to secure an accommodation between Bulgaria and her rivals by way of direct negotiation. The prestige of Austria-Hungary in the Balkans noticeably declined. Serbia's endeavours to extend her power to the Adriatic, and to win recruits for the ideal of Great Serbia among the kindred Slav races of Austria-Hungary, became more and more evident and pressed for a decision. For these reasons, at the conferences at the Ballplatz which followed the murder of the heir to the throne, the Archduke Francis Ferdinand, on June 28 1914, Berchtold maintained the view that a definitive settlement with Serbia was essential, even at the risk of war with Russia and France. He does not seem at that time to have reckoned with the possibility of an active participation of Great Britain on the side of the opponents of the Triple Alliance.

After the outbreak of the World War he directed his efforts to inducing Italy and Rumania to carry out their obligations and to securing new allies for the Central Powers. These efforts were for the most part unsuccessful. Turkey alone joined the Central Powers. Rumania and Italy declared their neutrality; even Bulgaria dragged out the negotiations, though Berchtold offered great concessions in return for her active intervention on the side of Austria-Hungary and Germany. Italy's demands for compensation were indeed acknowledged in principle by Berchtold, under pressure from Germany, but he embarked on the negotiations with hesitation, and down to the day of his resignation he refused to listen to any proposal for the cession of territory which had long been under Austrian rule. In the course of the war Berchtold came into conflict with German statesmen and the German Supreme Army Command. He thought that Germany did not give sufficient support to her ally in the severe struggle against the superior strength of Russia, and protested strongly against the readiness with which Germany had agreed to the territorial and other demands of Rumania and Italy. The reasons of his fall, which took place on Jan. 13 1915, are still obscure, but it is certain that the attitude of Stephen Tisza and his adherents, from the autumn of 1914, in refusing to coöperate with him was a contributory cause. In March 1916 Berchtold was appointed Obersthofmeister (Lord High Steward) to the heir to the throne, Charles Francis Joseph, whom he subsequently served as Oberkämmerer (Lord High Chamberlain). After the fall of the dynasty he took no part in politics. (A. F. Pr.)