View Full Version : "Unity or Death": A Pre-WW1 Serbian Secret Society

Thulean Imperial Inquisitor
Monday, September 11th, 2006, 03:35 AM
The following, in quotes, was posted in the thread Of Necessity/ Blood and Soil/ Aryanosophy (http://forums.skadi.net/showthread.php?t=1595) on forum Skadi in the year 2003.

In Russian philosophy we have a notion similar to "Blood and Soil" called narodnost, which is basically a difficult word to try to translate into English. It was first put forward by the Slavophiles of the early 19th century."Blood and Soil" was THE philolosophy of the pre-WWI Serbian secrect society Unity or Death, also known as the 'Black Hand'(combination of blood and soil on the palms,a ritual)

I find this most interesting! I do wonder if anyone has information on this society "Unity or Death"? Especially I look for information on their "Blood and Soil" sophy! I have searched the forum and found nothing. If thou hast information on this; please do post it here. From the information we might engage in discussion on the subject.

The following, with what I find especially intersting in bold, is what I found by the help of Google:


"Black Hand (Serbian: Црна рука / Crna Ruka), officially Unification or Death (Serbian: Уједињење или смрт / Ujedinjenje ili smrt) was a secret society founded in Serbia in May 1911[1][2] as part of the Pan-Slavism nationalist movement, with the intention of uniting all of the territories containing Serb populations (notably Bosnia and Herzegovina, annexed by Austria-Hungary in October 1908). The society's implication in the June 1914 assassination in Sarajevo of Franz Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria helped ignite World War I.


The Black Hand was founded by former members of a semi-secret society named Narodna Odbrana (Defence of the People) dedicated to Pan-Slavism and nationalism. The purpose of the group was to recruit and train partisans for a possible war between Serbia and Austria, and eventually free Serbia from Austria. Under their anti-Austrian propaganda, they organized spies and saboteurs to operate within the empire's provinces. Satellite groups were formed in Slovinia, Bosnia, Herzegovina and Austria. In 1909, after the Annexation Crisis, Austria pressured the Serbian government to put a stop to their anti-Austrian insurrection. At that time Russia lacked military strength to fully support Serbia in case of a war, so the organization was forced to stop. From then on, Narodna Odbrana attempted to disguise itself as a cultural organization by shifting its concentration to education and propaganda within Serbia. In 1911, differences between the two main groups of the Narodna Odbrana--political leaders of the Radical Party and military officers--arose. The political leaders preferred a more passive approach for the time being, including more peaceful relations with Austria and concerntrating on strengthening Serbia for future struggle, but some of the military officers grew impatient with the more moderate Radical policies. Consequently, the more zealous members of the Narodna Odbrana started a new secret society, and the Black Hand was founded.


Many members of Narodna Odbrana then formed another group, which gave birth to the Black Hand. The group encompassed a range of ideological outlooks, from conspiratorially-minded army officers to idealistic youths, sometimes tending towards republicanism, despite the acquiescence of nationalistic royal circles in its activities (the movement's leader, Col. Dragutin Dimitrijević or "Apis", had been instrumental in the June 1903 coup which had brought King Petar Karađorđević to the Serbian throne following 45 years of rule by the rival Obrenović dynasty). The group was denounced as Nihilist by the Austro-Hungarian press and compared to the Russian People's Will and the Chinese Assassination Corps which, like the Black Hand, used assassination to achieve anti-imperialist political goals.


Just prior to World War I, the Black Hand supplied weapons and assistance to fifteen people in a plot to assassinate the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand while he was visiting present day Bosnia. Only three of the assassins actually made an attempt - and one, a 19-year-old named Gavrilo Princip -- succeeded in killing him. The Austrians therefore dispatched an ultimatum to Serbia, which is believed to have been deliberately written to be unacceptable. To Austria-Hungary's surprise, all but one of the demands - to allow Austrian agents to investigate the assassination on Serbian soil - were accepted. The Austrian government chose to regard this as a rejection of the ultimatum and declared war, with the support of Germany. Russia began to mobilise in support of Serbia. Germany, wishing to avoid a war on two fronts, invaded France, effectively starting WWI. The three assassins were later imprisoned and one was hanged for the deed.


In May 1917 Dimitrijević was tried on charges of plotting against the royal government, then exiled in Thessaloniki, Greece following Serbia's occupation by Austro-Hungarian, German, and Bulgarian forces in late 1915. His subsequent execution signaled the Black Hand's eclipse by the monarchist White Hand, which was to dominate the political outlook of military leaders in the inter-war Yugoslav kingdom."
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Hand

Seal of the Black Hand.

"The Birth of the Black Hand
Many members formed a new, and again secret, organization to continue the terrorist actions. Ten men met on May 9, 1911 to form Ujedinjenje ili Smrt (Union or Death), also known as The Black Hand. The seal of their group is reproduced above.
By 1914, there were several hundred members, perhaps as many as 2500. Many members were Serbian army officers. The professed goal of the group was the creation of a Greater Serbia, by use of violence, if necessary. The Black Hand trained guerillas and saboteurs and arranged political murders. The Black Hand was organized at the grassroots level in 3 to 5-member cells. Above them were district committees. Above them, was the Central committee in Belgrade. At the top was the ten-member Executive Committee led, more or less, by Colonial Dragutin Dimitrijevic, (also known as Apis ). Members rarely knew much more than the members of their own cell and one superior above them, to ensure that the group's leaders would remain secret. New members swore "...before God, on my honor and my life, that I will execute all missions and commands without question. I swear before God, on my honor and on my life, that I will take all the secrets of this organization into my grave with me."

The Black Hand took over the terrorist actions of Narodna Odbrana , and worked deliberately at obscuring any distinctions between the two groups, trading on the prestige and network of the older organization. Black Hand members held important army and government positions. Crown Prince Alexander was an enthusiastic and financial supporter. The group held influence over government appointment and policy. The Serbian government was fairly well informed of Black Hand activities.
Friendly relations had fairly well cooled by 1914. The Black Hand was displeased with Prime minister Nikola Pasic. They thought he did not act aggressively enough towards the Pan-Serb cause. They engaged in a bitter power struggle over several issues, such as who would control territories Serbia annexed in the Balkan Wars. By this point, standing up and saying 'no' to the Black Hand was a dangerous act. Political murder was one of their well known tools.
It was also in 1914 that Apis decided that Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir-apparent of Austria, should be assassinated. Towards that end, three young Bosnian-Serbs were recruited and trained in bomb throwing and marksmanship. Princip, Cabrinovic' and Grabez were smuggled across the border back into Bosnia via a chain of underground-railroad style contacts.
The decision to kill the Archduke was apparently initiated by Apis, and not sanctioned by the full Executive Committee. Those involved probably realized that their plot would invite war between Austria and Serbia. They had every reason to expect that Russia would side with Serbia. In all likelihood, they did not anticipate that their little war would mushroom into world war.
Others in the government and some on the Black Hand Executive Council were not as confident of Russian aid. Russia had let them down recently. When word of the plot percolated through Black Hand leadership and the Serbian government, Apis was told not to proceed. He made a half-hearted attempt to intercept the young assassins at the border, but they had already crossed. This 'recall' appears to make Apis look like a loose cannon, and the young assassins as independent zealots. In fact, the 'recall' took place a full two weeks before the Archduke's visit. The assassins idled around in Sarajevo for a month. Nothing more was done to stop them. The extensive network of contacts that smuggled them into Sarajevo, fed and housed them, was not utilized to stop them. This calls into question the Black Hand's and the Serbian government's desire that the plot truly be cancelled.

The Assassination

Of the seven young men involved, Princip succeeded in killing the Archduke. (Read the Sarajevo, June 28, 1914 (http://www.lib.byu.edu/%7Erdh/wwi/comment/sarajevo.html) article for a fuller account of the assassination.) The careful secrecy of the Black Hand delayed its being found out as the instigator of the crime until many weeks later. By that time, the guilt for the crime had settled loosely on Serbia in general. Tensions between Serbia and Austria eventually drew in the other European powers and escalated into world war.
Towards the end of 1916, Prime Minister Pasic decided to destroy the leaders of the Black Hand and break up the organization. By the spring of 1917, many Black Hand leaders, including Apis, had been arrested.
A sham trial before a military tribunal was held in May 1917 for Apis and others. Among the charges was that the Black Hand had attempted to murder Prince Regent Alexander. Though the number of witnesses against them were numerous, the evidence cited was nearly all hearsay or outright fabrications. Apis and six others were sentenced to death. Three obtained commutations to long prison terms, but Apis and three comrades were executed by firing squad on June 26, 1917.
In June 1917, the Black Hand was outlawed. Intriguing and insurrection, by their very nature, however, are not bothered by legalities. A new organization -- The White Hand -- was formed from trustworthy men of Narodna Odbrana . It continued the imperialistic work of the Black Hand, using the same techniques. The death of Vojislav Petrovic, an ex-attache to the Yugoslav Legation in London, was said to be the work of Narodna Odbrana . Petrovic was preparing a book on the history of the Sarajevo assassinations and the Black Hand.
In what became Yugoslavia after the war, the White Hand grew into an essential piece of the state's machinery."

- http://www.lib.byu.edu/~rdh/wwi/comment/blk-hand.html (http://www.lib.byu.edu/%7Erdh/wwi/comment/blk-hand.html)

Oath sword by all members of the Black Hand group:
I, in joining the organisation "Union or Death", swear by the Sun that warms me, by the Earth that nourishes me, before God, by the blood of the ancestors, on my honour and on my life, that I will from this moment until my death be faithful to the laws of this organisation; and that I will always be ready to make any sacrifice for it.

I swear before God, on my honour and on my life, that I will take all the secrets of this organisation into my grave with me."

- http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/FWWblackhand.htm

Constitution of the Black Hand Group (9th May, 1911):

Article 1. For the purpose of realising the national ideals - the Unification of Serbdom - an organization is hereby created, whose members may be any Serbian irrespective of sex, religion, place or birth, as well as anybody else who will sincerely serve this idea.

Article 2. The organisation gives priority to the revolutionary struggle rather than relies on cultural striving, therefore its institution is an absolutely secret one for wider circles.

Article 3. The organization bears the name: "Ujedinjenje ili Smrt".

Article 4. In order to carry into effect its task the organization will do the following things:

(1)Following the character of its raison d etre it will exercise its influence over all the official factors in Serbia - which is the Piemont of Serbdom - as also over all the strata of the State and over the entire social life in it:

(2)It will carry out a revolutionary organisation in all the territories where Serbians are living:

(3)Beyond the frontiers, it will fight with all means against all enemies of this idea:

(4)It will maintain friendly relations with all the States, nations, organisations, and individual persons who sympathise with Serbia and the Serbian race:

(5)It will give every assistance to those nations and organisations who are fighting for their own national liberation and unification.

Article 5. The supreme authority is vested in the Supreme Central Directorate with its headquarters at Belgrade. Its duty will be to see that the resolutions are carried into effect.

Article 6. The number of members of the Supreme Central Directorate is unlimited - but in principle it should be kept as low as possible.

Article 7. The Supreme Central Directorate shall include, in addition to the members from the Kingdom of Serbia, one accredited delegate from each of the organisations of all the Serbian regions: (1) Bosnia and Herzegovina, (2) Montenegro, (3) Old Serbia and Macedonia, (4) Croatia,
Slovenia and Symria (Srem), (5) Voyvodina, (6) Sea-coasts.

- http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/FWWblackhand.htm