Pig War (1906–08)

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The Pig War (Serbian: Свињски рат/Svinjski rat) or Customs War (Царински рат/Carinski rat) was an trade war between Austria-Hungary and the Kingdom of Serbia in 1906–08 in which the Habsburgs unsuccessfully imposed a customs blockade on Serbian pork, turning the countries openly hostile to each other.

Background[edit]

At the beginning of the twentieth century Serbia was (economically at least) little more than a satellite of the Habsburg empire, its major export being pork, most of which was bought by the Austro-Hungarian Empire. When Serbia started trying to evade economic and political control by the Habsburgs, and build links with other countries, particularly Bulgaria and France, Vienna decided to punish the Serbs with economic sanctions. Specifically, in an attempt to reduce its economic dependence on the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in 1904 Serbia began to import French rather than Austrian munitions and established a customs union with Bulgaria in 1905, making tariff-laden Austrian goods unsalable in Serbia.

History[edit]

Long used to setting economic policy, Austria responded in April 1906 by closing its borders to Serbian pork. Serbia refused to bow to Vienna, gained French investment to build new packing plants for international trade, began to order materials from the Austrian rival Germany, and pressured the Austrian-administrated provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina for a trade outlet on the Adriatic Sea, causing Austria to give up by March 1908. This can be seen in the trade statistics of the period in question, as published in the 1911 edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Foreign Trade of the Kingdom of Serbia
Encyclopaedia Britannica 1911 Edition: Volume 24, pp. 688
1904 1905 1906 1907 1908
Exports (thousand GBP): 2,486 2,879 2,864 3,259 3,019
Imports (thousand GBP): 2,437 2,224 1,773 2,823 3,025
Trade Balance (thousand GBP): 49 655 1,091 436 -6
Exports/Imports (%):
Rounded to the nearest %
102 129 162 115 100

Russia supported Serbia's actions, and war between Austria-Hungary and Russia was averted only because of a German ultimatum in 1909 demanding the cessation of Russian aid to Serbia.

References[edit]

  • Misha Glenny, The Balkans 1804-1999: Nationalism, War and the Great Powers (London: Granta, 1999), pp. 281–2.