1906-1911 - The Pig War

Pigs by Franz Marc, 1912

"The Hapsburg Monarchy could never allow the creation of a Greater Serbia."

Austrian Foreign Minister Agenor von Goluchowski, 1906

The Pig War was not a conflict waged on a battlefield. It was a confrontation of the economic variety brought about by Austria-Hungary in an attempt to put an end to the Pan-Serb movement, and, hopefully, Serbia itself. It is mentioned here because it was the incident that tainted diplomatic relations between the countries and created the atmosphere that would lead to the events of 28-Jun-1914 in Sarajevo.

Austria-Hungary had carefully planned the economic dependence of its Slav neighbor since the 1870's. By 1903 a whopping 90 percent of Serbia's foreign trade was with the Hapsburg empire. This disproportionate trade was mostly in the form of livestock, mainly pigs. While this "guaranteed trade" situation was not without benefit for Serbia, many Serbs felt, and rightfully so, that it impeded Serbian industrial growth.

In 1906 the Austrians decided to take advantage of the situation and apply an economic stranglehold by stopping the import of all Serbian livestock. The Pig War had begun and would continue for five years with unexpected results for both sides. The Serbians reacted quickly by opening new trade with Egypt, Greece, Turkey and Germany. That's right, Germany. It seems the Germans knew a good pig price when they saw one. By the end of the embargo's first year, the Serbians were exporting more livestock than ever before. Their economy was booming. Vienna could only look on in disbelief.

Public opinion outside the empire turned against Austria-Hungary since they were now viewed as bullies. Within the empire, the Magyars were less than pleased. This was a policy invented in Vienna that was having monetary implications in Budapest. It was also clear that this was an open affront to Slavs in general and Serbs in particular. The Pig War had divided the Monarchy.

The Pig War would be forgotton to the events that would follow but it is an interesting case study in a foreign policy gone very wrong.