Hero or terrorist

During the past few weeks, millions of words were written about the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie a hundred years ago in Sarajevo that triggered the First World War. What was woefully missing is any explanation of what caused that tragic event.

To understand this, we need to recall that Article 25 of the Treaty of Berlin in 1878 permitted Austria-Hungary to occupy and administer the provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina. These were inhabited mainly by Serbs. It was a region that would afford the most convenient and long-desired access to the Adriatic Sea. In spite of protests by Serbian officials, the annexation went ahead in October 1908.

The official visit to Sarajevo by the Archduke and his wife was also a celebration of their 14th. wedding anniversary. It was indeed unfortunate to have arrived on the anniversary of the 1389 Battle of Kosovo. This aroused the emotions of the Serbs who took it as a personal affront. The Archduke had brushed aside warnings his visit was unwelcome and might be dangerous. What the assassins did not know is that the man they planned to kill was actually sympathetic to their cause. Ferdinand would have eventually inherited the Hapsburg crown from his 84 year-old uncle, Emperor Franz Joseph and he had planned to give the Bosnian Serbs a greater voice in the Austrian-Hungarian government.

A tragedy of events followed. On June 28th 1914 the Archduke and his wife were assassinated by a Bosnian Serb, Gavrilo Princip.

The Austrians saw this dastardly deed as the occasion for measures to humiliate Serbia and to enhance Austrian-Hungarian prestige in the Balkans. A year earlier, William II of Germany had assured Austria-Hungary of its support should a war against Serbia erupt.

The Austrians presented an unacceptable and deliberately  provocative document to Serbia, relying on Germany to deter Russia from intervention. The answer from Serbia was unacceptable. It seemed to many that Austria was just looking for an excuse and on July 28th., 1914, declared war on Serbia.

Russia had a treaty with Serbia. So it prepared for war.

Germany had a treaty with Austria-Hungary and declared war on Russia on August 1st.

France had a treaty with Russia and so off it went to war with Germany on August 3rd.

Germany invaded Belgium on August 4th in its march to attack France in such a manner that the last German soldier on the right would brush the English Channel with his sleeve.

Britain had a treaty with France and Belgium and declared war on Germany on August 4th.

Canada, Australia, New Zealand and India joined Great Britain.

So on and so forth!

What was so pathetic is the fact that the King of England, the German Kaiser and the wife of the Russian Czar were all grandchildren of Queen Victoria.

If it hadn’t been so tragic, it would have been downright hilarious.

The question that remains to this very day is: Was the assassin, Gavrilo Princip a hero or a terrorist?


About the Author
Originally from Mumbai, India. Studied, trained and worked in Mumbai, Munich, Germany and Toronto, Canada. For many years, Leslie owned and operated a printing company where he printed everything, except money! Currently retired. Married with four children (four too many.)