Culture, resistance and violence: Guarding the Habsburg Ostgrenze with Montenegro in 1914

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Between 1878 and 1918 the Eastern border (Ostgrenze) of the Habsburg Monarchy, and in particular the mountainous regions between Hercegovina and Montenegro, posed security challenges. The people of the region had strong local traditions and a reputation for resistance to outside authority (having fought against Ottoman power for centuries). In 1878, the village of Klobuk had tried to fight off the Habsburg invader and had only slowly been subdued. Thereafter the new authorities built up a formidable line of defence along their new border with Montenegro including the garrisons at Trebinje, Bileća and Avtovac. After the annexation of Bosnia and Hercegovina in 1908, the security situation became tense, a situation exacerbated by fear of South Slav expansion after the Balkan Wars of 1912–13 (which went hand in hand with propaganda that depicted the Serbs and Montenegrins as violent by nature). Orthodox Serbs living along the Montenegrin border were increasingly viewed with suspicion. During the summer of 1914, when anti-Serb feeling reverberated around the Monarchy, men from the villages closest to the border were either hanged or deported. The implementation and interpretation of Habsburg military regulations (Dienstreglement) meant that the Orthodox population in the border areas suffered disproportionately in 1914.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)705-723
Number of pages19
JournalEuropean Review of History
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2018


  • Habsburg Monarchy
  • 1914
  • Violence
  • First World War
  • Montenegro
  • Hercegovina
  • Orthodox Serbs

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