The 29 June 1914 special issue of the daily Budapesti Hírlap on the deadly Sarajevo assassination the previous day ran as follows: ‘This morning, when Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, [heir presumptive to the Austro–Hungarian throne], and his wife, Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg, went to the town hall…where a reception was being held in their honour, a bomb was thrown at their car, which the Archduke pushed back with his arm. The bomb exploded just as the Archduke’s car was passing and Count Boos-Waldeck and Colonel Merizzial, the provincial governor’s aide-de-camp, who were in the car following the Archduke’s car, were slightly injured. Six members of the public were more or less severely wounded. The assassin, who was found to be a printer from Trebinje named [Nedeljko] Čabrinović, was arrested immediately. After a solemn reception at the town hall, the Archduke continued his tour with his wife. Then an eighth-grader from Grabovo named [Gavrilo] Princip fired several shots from a Browning pistol at the imperial car. The Archduke was hit in the face and the Duchess in the lower body. Both the Archduke and his wife were immediately taken to the konak (Editor’s note: Turkish name for the Governor’s official residence), where both died of their wounds. The perpetrator of the second assassination was also arrested. The desperate crowd almost lynched the two assassins.’
On 28 June 1914, 109 years ago today, at around 11 o’clock in the morning,
a 20-year-old anarchist assassin, Gavrilo Princip, fired several shots at the Archduke of the Austro–Hungarian Empire and his wife.
Franz Ferdinand and Duchess Sophie Hohenberg had come to Sarajevo to visit the exercises of the Monarchy’s Imperial and Royal Army (German Kaiserlich–Königliche Armee, or k.u.k) in Bosnia, but they also saw their visit as an opportunity to restore the Habsburg dynasty’s shattered prestige. The Archduke had already been warned of the dangers of his trip earlier, given that the two Balkan provinces, since their annexation in 1908, had become a hotbed of Serbian terrorist organisations, with groups attempting to assassinate members of the imperial family on several occasions. Tensions were further heightened by the fact that the visit took place on the anniversary of the first Battle of Kosovo in 1389, which had disastrous consequences for the Serbs as the Turks had defeated the Christian allies led by the Serb forces.
The heir presumptive was killed in a fatal coincidence. But how did that really happen? As also described in the quotation at the beginning of our article, as the Archduke and the Duchess were travelling in an open car to visit the mayor of the city, the first would-be-assassin, Nedjelko Čabrinović, attempted to kill the Archduke with a hand grenade but failed. As a result, the original route of Ferdinand’s visit was changed, but the drivers at the head of the procession forgot about the instructions. As the Archduke’s car turned into a narrow street, General Oskar Potiorek, the military governor of Bosnia and Herzegovina, angrily stopped the convoy, resulting in chaos at the intersection nearby. As a result, Gavrilo Princip, the anarchist assassin, managed to get close to the stalled vehicle in the commotion, unnoticed in the crowd of onlookers, and fired at Ferdinand and Sophie at point-blank range. The former was shot in the carotid artery, the latter in the groin. The imperial couple bled to death.
Soon afterward, the Austro–Hungarian Monarchy sent an ultimatum to Serbia, which the Serbs rejected. Thus,
the Sarajevo assassination became the casus belli for the ‘Great War’,
as it was called back then, i.e., the First World War. The war resulted in unprecedented devastation: nine million soldiers died on the battlefields and five million civilians were killed in the following four years of hell on earth.