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J. G. Huckenpöhler

The activities of a hate-filled opponent compel Me, in defense of My Monarchy, in protection of its good name and its authority and for the security of its possessions, after long years of peace to take up the sword.

With quickly-forgetting ingratitude the Kingdom of Serbia, which from the first beginnings of its national independence to the most recent times has been sustained and promoted by My predecessors and Myself, has already for years traveled the road of open enmity toward Austria-Hungary... The hope that the Serbian Kingdom would appreciate the patience and friendship of My Government has not been fulfilled.

A criminal activity strikes across the border, to undermine the basis of political order in the Southeast of the Monarchy, to make the people for whom I care with paternal love waver in their loyalty to ruling house and fatherland, to lead into error the young people growing up, and to incite them to frivolous and senseless acts of treason...

Balkans 1914, Click for larger image

With these words, published in the Wiener Zeitung of June 29th, 1914, Kaiser Franz Joseph announced to his peoples the outbreak of a war between Austria-Hungary and Serbia, which eventually involved most of the nations of the civilized: world. Among the less known participants in the conflict, according to Edgar Rice Burroughs, was the Kingdom of Lutha, one of the smallest — and oldest — of the Balkan States. This miniscule country, which he placed in the angle where Bosnia, Montenegro, and Serbia come together, is in its way as amazing as Burroughs' more famous creations such as Barsoom, Amtor and Pellucidar; and it is unfortunate that he did not develop it further in additional stories.

The question of Burroughs' inspiration for Lutha could become a subject of debate. The most obvious choices, Liechtenstein and Montenegro, may be ruled out---the former on the basis of location, the latter because it has no German element of any size in its population. The name reminds one of Lusatia (eastern Saxony) and Lithuania; however, the location militates equally against both of these. We are forced, then, to the conclusion that Lutha is a montage composed of elements taken from a number of states: the location from Montenegro or Bosnia, the ethnic mixture from Lithuania (i.e. the Lithuania of 1913, with a large German-speaking nobility), and the political situation from Bavaria.

Burroughs wrote THE MAD KING (Part I) in October and November of 1913. On November 5, 1913, The Mad King of Bavaria, Otto I, was deposed by his cousin, Prince Regent Ludwig, who assumed the title of Ludwig III. And while there is no question that Otto was insane, the matter is not so clear-cut in the case of his brother and predecessor, Ludwig II. The patron of Wagner and builder of fairy tale castles of Neuschwannstein and Herrenchiemsee (the former familiar to everyone who has ever seen a Lufthansa travel poster), Ludwig seems to have been declared insane and deposed as a last-ditch measure to keep him from draining the national treasury for his architectural creations; at the time of his deposition he was apparently negotiating the sale of the Rhenish Palatinate to France in order to finance the building of a new castle.

A further connection with Bavaria may be traced through the Von der Tann family, one of whose members served as Chief of Staff to Prince Karl of Bavaria during the disastrous Seven Weeks' War of 1866. It was the incompetence of Prince Karl as Commander of the VII Corps of the German Confederation which was largely responsible for the collapse of the Anti-Prussian forces in the West during that war, and thus for the creation of Bismarck's 'German Empire' under Prussian domination.

Like The Balkans as a whole, Lutha is a patchwork of nationalities, comprising Germans in the upland areas, and Slavs in the valleys. Little is known of its history; however, by combining the scraps included by Burroughs in THE MAD KING with information from general Balkan history some reasonable conjectures can be made.

I. 1190-1911

The origin of Lutha is shrouded in mystery, but the most likely explanation seems to be that which connects it with the Third Crusade. Kaiser Friedrich I, supposedly in alliance with Richard the Lion-Hearted and Philip Augustus of France, attacked the Moslems at Acre (Accho)--though the three European rulers spent more time fighting among themselves than battling the enemy. In 1190, Friedrich died, leaving his followers to make their way home to Germany as best they might. Apparently a band of them made it only as far as the valley of the Ru River, settling there and maintaining their holdings against Byzantines, Bulgars, Serbs, and, eventually, the Ottoman Turks.

For over 150 years, like their neighbours the Montenegrins, they retained an uneasy sort of autonomy against the Ottomans, until the early 17th century. At this time entirely cut off from the outside world by the encircling Turks, and faced with the last surge of Ottoman expansion, which culminated in the siege of Vienna in 1683, the hereditary ruler attempted to make peace with the Sultan at whatever advantage for himself he could obtain. The heads of three major noble families Rubinroth, Von der Tann, and Blentz--ousted the traitor, and replaced him with the leader of the insurgents, a Rubinroth.

We are not told whether or not Lutha participated in the Balkan Wars of 1877-'78, though it was perhaps during this period that the rulers of Lutha assumed the title of King, as was the case in Roumania and Serbia. This may also be the period when the nearby lowlands with their predominantly Slavic population were acquired, though the fluency of all elements of the Luthanian population in German seems to indicate that uplands and valleys had been united long before. At any rate, Lutha's international relations of necessity underwent a profound change: after having been for 450 gears entirely surrounded by Turkish territories, Lutha suddenly found itself in the midst of Austro-Hungarian Military Protectorates--Bosnia to the north and west, Novibazar to the south and east. Both areas remained under nominal Ottoman suzerainty until 1908, when Bosnia (with Herzegovina) was annexed outright by Austria-Hungary, and the Sandjak of Novibazar was returned to Turkey.

The rivalry between Blentz and Tann may also date from this period, when the House of Blentz, whose holdings were almost at the Bosnian border, would have the greatest interest in preserving friendly relations between the Habsburgs and the Rubinroths. no doubt it was regarded as a fortunate coup at the Hofburg in Vienna when the Crown Prince of Lutha married a Blentz princess, for small in numbers as they were, the people of Lutha were possessed of an extraordinarily warlike and independent spirit, as is shown by their survival through the centuries of Ottoman encirclement.

Lutha, Click map for larger image

In 1888, the Crown Princess gave birth to a son who was christened Leopold, and at some time during the last decade of the nineteenth century the Crown Prince succeeded to the throne. His reign was a short one, however; in 1901 he died of cancer, and his son, Leopold, became King under the regency of his uncle, Prince Peter of Blentz. Peter immediately declared the boy insane, with an eye toward assuming the throne himself. The cruelty of the imprisonment which Leopold suffered for ten years may be imagined from its results: the brave, kindly lad was turned into a warped, spineless wretch whose only thought was of escape.

The King finally succeeded in escaping in October, 1911, and through the help of his cousin, Bernard Custer (the son of the King's aunt, the Princess Victoria, and an American) regained the throne.

II. 1911-1918

Whether or not Lutha participated in the three Balkan Wars of 1912-'13, is unrecorded; the nature of King Leopold argues against it. At any rate, another profound change in Lutha's foreign policy was dictated by the presence of two new neighbours, Serbia and Montenegro.

With the outbreak of World War I, the Blentz-Tann rivalry was exacerbated, the faction favouring the Triple Alliance (Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy 1) the Tann faction supported the Entente (France, Russia and Great Britain). Again, the timely arrival of Barney Custer from the United States caused a sharp turn bringing Lutha into the Entente in time to participate in the repulse of the first Austrian Balkan Campaign. Here again, the warlike nature of the Luthanian people is eloquently demonstrated by the fact that so small a country could field an entire army corps — at a conservative estimate, some twenty thousand troops.

The Austro-Hungarian forces in the south were made up of the Fifth and Sixth armies, with part of the Second, under the overall command of Feldzeugmeister Oskar Potiorek, Military Governor of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The original plan, as laid out by the Chief of the General Staff, Freiherr Conrad von Hotzendorf, called for three whole armies to participate in the invasion and occupation of Serbia ('Plan B'). But Conrad had also developed 'Plan R,' in case of war with Russia, which called for the Second Army to protect Galizia; thus, the Russian entry into the war meant that the Second Army was divided, with detachments in Croatia and Galizia, and by far the largest portion in Central Hungary, on its way north.

The boundary between Serbia and Austria-Hungary formed a natural fortress, with the Save and Drina Rivers forming the moat and the mountains on either side of the Drina forming the battlements. Across this boundary Potiorek attacked on August 12th, with the Fifth Army and the remnant of the Second, keeping the Sixth in Reserve. The Corps posted to Blentz might be either the XV or the XVI, Bosniaks or Dalmatians, The Austrian command was under-manned and under equipped; from their commanding heights above the Jadar River, the Serbs halted the Austrian thrust toward Belgrade on the 19th of August, and began pushing the Imperial Troops back toward the border across which the Austrians retreated on the 20th.

Thus the great Luthanian victory is seen as only part of the larger ebb and flow of the conflicting forces. Had the Austrians been able to take and hold the heights above the Jadar, it is doubtful that the Luthanians could have defeated their southern wing; conversely, given the general retreat of the Fifth Army, it is doubtful if the Austrians could have held Lutha even if Peter of Blentz himself had been on the throne of Lutha.

Even as the forces of the dual monarchy retreated from Lutha, the final act in the drama between the two cousins was played out: Leopold was shot by one of his own minions who believed him to be the American, and thus King Bernhard I ascended the Luthanian throne.

Despite the hopes of the new King' s father-in-law, Prince Ludwig Von der Tann, it seems unlikely that the reign of King Bernhard was either long or happy. In September, the Serbs invaded Bosnia and Croatia, and were thrown back; twice more before the end of 1914, in October and November, the Austro-Hungarians made equally futile attempts against Serbia, the latter time probably occupying Lutha from November 8th to early December. After the failure of his third attempt, Potiorek was removed from command of Army Group Balkan and replaced by Archduke Eugen, a cousin of Kaiser Franz Joseph.

The Archduke, fifty-one, and in poor health, was not a dynamic commander; the stalemate in the Balkans lasted through the Spring and Summer of 1915. Meanwhile the Central Powers concentrated their attacks on Russia, winning most of Poland by August. And now a new factor entered the balance: the Central Powers were strengthened by the accession of Bulgaria, and a new offensive in the south was planned--this time a two-pronged attack, with a combined Austro-Hungarian and German force under Field Marshal von Mackensen striking from the north and west while two Bulgarian armies struck from the east--the first into Serbia proper, and the second into Serbian Macedonia.

By the end of October, both flanks of the Serbian Army had collapsed toward the center, and the month of November saw the steady retreat of the survivors across Serbia toward the Montenegrin and Albanian borders.

The last organized resistance in Serbia was destroyed in the Battle of Ferizovitch on November 23rd and 24th; after that there was no longer a Serbian Army, but a terror-stricken mob struggling over snowy mountains into Albania to escape the vengeance of the Bulgars, who now regained Macedonia, which had been taken from them in 1913 during the Third Balkan War.

The Luthanian Army seems to have met a similar fate during the early part of December; at any rate Pljevlje in northern Montenegro fell to the Austro-Hungarian Third Army on December 2nd. It is most probable that the remnants of the Luthanian Army spent the month fighting a continuous rearguard action across Montenegro, escaping into Albania near Scutari about the beginning of 1916. It is not unreasonable to assume that, like the Serbs, they were evacuated by the French to Corfu, there to be re-outfitted and placed back in the line of battle at Salonika, joining the Anglo-French Expeditionary Force which had landed there the previous September. The Entente forces at Salonika, by summer of 1918 reinforced by the Italians, Greeks, and Russians, launched a final attack on Bulgaria in September. Bulgaria was defeated and agreed to an armistice on the 3Oth of September--the first member of the Quadruple Alliance to break---and Austria-Hungary followed on November 3rd. Lutha regained its freedom, but that freedom was to be short-lived.

On December 4th, Serbia proclaimed itself the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (Jugo-Slavia), and Lutha, like Montenegro, Croatia, and Bosnia, was swallowed up, despite Prince Ludwig von der Tann's pious assumption that "Serbia has no desire to increase her possessions in this direction." The King and Queen, along with the Queen's father, Prince Ludwig, and Gen. Otto von Butzow, probably sailed from Ragusa for North America before the close of 1918. Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Custer would have reached Beatrice, Nebraska, early in 1919. We can only hope that they have found there the peace which eluded them in their unhappy Kingdom of Lutha.

1 The outbreak of war between Austria-Hungary and Serbia brought a declaration of neutrality from Italy, which maintained that its membership in the Triple Alliance did not commit it to aggressive action. In 1915 Italy repudiated its alliance with the Central Powers and joined the Triple Entente.