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Saturday, 28 June 2014

History in Focus: The Assassination of Franz Ferdinand

Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie on the day of their death
On this day, June 28th, one hundred years ago heir to the Austrian-Hungarian throne Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his pregnant wife Sophie were assassinated by a Yugoslav nationalist in Sarajevo. This event was the beginning of the First World War.

Background- In 1878 the Austrian-Hungarian empire took Bosnia and Herzegovina from the Ottoman Empire thanks to the Treaty of Berlin. From this date until 1908 this region was occupied by the empire until it annexed Bosnia. In 1903 however the Serbian King and Queen Alexander and Draga Obrenovic were assassinated in a coup to be replaced by Peter the First. King Peter was unlike King Alexander as he broke away from Austria and formed closer ties with Russia as well as having a nationalistic view so he decided to expand Serbia to reclaim its old territories including annexing Kosovo and Macedonia from the Ottomans. This made Serbia more powerful and caused Austria-Hungary to feel threatened as Serbia then started to claim Bosnia and Croatia who were in the Austrian Empire.

Why did Franz Ferdinand go to Sarajevo?- With rising conflict with Serbia, growing nationalism in Bosnia and even assassination attempts on Austro-Hungarian officials in Croatia and Bosnia, including one in 1910 on the Governor of Bosnia and Herzegovina by Bogdan Zerajic the Emperor got worried. In 1913 the Emperor got his son to look at army manoeuvres in the June of 1914. Sophie however insisted on accompanying him as she feared for his life which unfortunatly for her she was right.

Who was the assassin?- The man shown below was the assassin: Gavrilo Princip. Although he was not alone in the assassination attempt. Princip grew up in poverty and through this became a Serb nationalist in Bosnia as he believed that the Austro-Hungarian government weren't doing enough to help his people who many lived in poverty. He joined a group called the Black Hand which wanted to united all the Southern Slavic areas under a Greater Serbia. He came under the tutelage of Danilo Ilic along with fellow conspirators Trifko Grabez and Nedeljko Cabrinovic. When they found out that the Archduke was visiting they planned to strike armed with bombs, pistols and suicide pills on the 28th, on the anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo where the Ottoman Sultan was assassinated by a Serb.

The assassination- On June 28th Ilic, Princip, Grabez, Cabrinovic and three others were ready. Ferdinand's motorcar was to pass over a bridge over the Miljacka River and Ilic positioned three conspirators in prime positions to assassinate Ferdinand. The first two failed to act but the third, Cabrinovic threw a bomb which missed and detonated under a second car wounding twenty. He then took his cyanide pill and jumped into the river but the pill had expired so he only vomited and the river was shallow being in the summer so he didn't drown. Despite the near assassination Ferdinand decided to continue with his journey but with a different route. However in one move that changed history the driver accidentally turned into the original route just where Princip was waiting. Princip fired and Franz Ferdinand and Sophie were killed. Ilic was hanged and the rest were imprisoned, except for one who fled to Montenegro.

How did this cause World War One- As the Black Hand was Serbia had made it clear that it wanted to unite with Bosnia and Herzegovina Austro-Hungary blamed Serbia. The Empire gave Serbia a set of demands or they would declare war and the German Empire agreed their ally Austria. However Serbia had made an alliance with France and Russia who agreed to back Serbia as they feared the growing military strength of Germany. The nations started to mobilise and on July 28th Austria and Germany delcared war on Serbia to which France and Russia declared war on Germany and Austria. Shortly after Britain entered the war after Germany enacted the Schlieffen Plan by invading Belgium and the Ottoman Empire entering the war on the side of the Central Powers. This was followed by four years of never ending bloodshed and the deaths of 8.5million soldiers.

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