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The Assassination of Archduke Ferdinand
No other political murder in modern history has had such momentous consequences as the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand. He was the heir to the Habsburg empire, and the first to fall victim to political homicide. Unlike some constitutional monarchies in Western Europe, the Habsburgs had failed to modernize their multinational state. They used force to defend their institutions, and they were faced with a mass of revolutionary movements in Italy and Hungary.
Although the Sarajevo assassins were Bosnians and thus Austro-Hungarian citizens, and although they had plotted against the Habsburg dignitaries for years, three leading members of the conspiracy, Princip, Cabrinovic, and Grebez, came to Sarajevo from Belgrade. They were armed with pistols and bombs, which they had obtained through some Bosnian youth from Major Voljislav Tankosic, one of the leaders of the Black Hand. Despite the common goal of national liberation shared by the Young Bosnians and the Black Hand alike they differed in their approach to internal problems in the South Slav society.
The civilian authorities at the border informed the Serbian government that some members of the Black Hand were smuggling arms into Austro-Hungarian territory. An investigation was at once opened. They questioned Colonel Apis, the leader of the Black Hand, but he denied that his men were involved in these operations.
There is a theory that there was a power struggle between Apis and Pasic, the Prime Minister who thought Apis was threatening the whole political system of Serbia. The struggle led Apis to approve the delivery of the arms to the Sarajevo assassins. It seems that Apis did not expect that Princip and his accomplices would succeed in killing the archduke. Colonel also thought that their efforts would provoke a greater strain in relations between Pasic and the Vienna government. These complications would further weaken Pasic s position in relation to Apis.
The conflict of interests between the European powers was intensifying on the eve of 1914 and forcing Germany and Austria-Hungary toward a common policy in the Balkans. France and Germany were competing actively in this area by offering state loans and armament contracts to the Balkan states. At the same time, Russia was increasing their influence by advocating an alliance of Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece, and Montenegro not only against the Ottoman Empire, but also against Austria-Hungary.
Franz Ferdinand was a strong supporter of a preventive war against Serbia. From his Internal Political Instructions, he said that a war with Serbia was a certainty. He intended to annex Serbia if he had succeeded Franz Josef.
The Archduke Franz Ferdinand s decision to
visit Bosnia-Herzegovina in June 1914 was based
on military, political, and personal considerations.
He was expected to attend and the Emperor
commanded the archduke to represent him as well.
The news of Franz Ferdinand s visit was made public in an announcement, which appeared in the press in the middle of March 1914. This spurred the Young Bosnians and other South Slav secret societies to greater efforts. The security measures for the Archduke s journey to Bosnia were not impressive. A close friend warned him that he might be killed in Sarajevo, all he replied was I am sure your warning is justified, but I do not let myself be kept under a glass cover. Our life is constantly in danger. One has to rely upon God. The police had prepared a special report on the activities of the Young Bosnians, but were rebuked for having a fear of Children. On the eve of June 28 they had again warned that the archduke should not visit Sarajevo on St. Vitus Day. However, the chief of the reception committee, an army officer, rejected the warning by saying: Do not worry, these lesser breeds would not dare to do anything.
It was 10:10 am on June 28, 1914 and as the archduke s car passed the central police station of Sarajevo, General Potiorek, who was with the archduke and his wife, pointed out the new barracks. At that moment a tall young man in a long black coat and a black hat, Cabrinovic, asked a policeman which car the archduke was in; seconds later he had knocked the cap off a hand grenade against a metal lamppost and hurled it at the archduke s car. The driver saw a black object flying towards him and accelerated, and the bomb
fell onto the folded roof. It
bounced into the street,
exploding under the left rear
wheel of the next car. The
Archduke ordered the chauffeur to stop, since he noticed that the other cars were not following. Two officers were wounded, one seriously, and several bystanders were wounded as well.
The procession moved on towards the town hall and here the archduke decided to change the route of the procession to visit one of the wounded officers in the hospital. The driver was lured to take an incorrect route, whether this was a mistake, or deliberate, we will never know. General Potiorek shouted at the driver, What is this? Stop! You are going the wrong way. Stepping hard on the brake, the driver stopped the car just in front of a shop, close to the crowded pavement. At that instant a short young man with long hair and deep-set blue eyes took out a revolver. A policeman saw the danger and was on the point of grabbing his hand when he was struck by someone standing nearby, presumably a friend of the assassin. Pistol shot were heard. The killer was only a few steps from his target.
It seemed at first as though this attempt too had failed. General Potiorek saw both the archduke and the duchess motionless in their places. But as the car was backing down the road, the duchess fell towards the archduke and the general saw the blood on the archduke s lips. He ordered the chauffeur to drive at full speed to the Konak, the governor s residence. When they arrived, both were unconscious. They were carried into the home where their death was soon established.
The duchess died first. A bullet was shot at her on the right side of her body. The archduke outlived her for a short time. A bullet had pierced the right side of his coat collar, severed the jugular vein and came to a stop in his spine. The fast drive to the Konak must have made their condition even worse.
The investigation carried out in Sarajevo after the assassination did not provide any proof of the responsibility of the Serbian government. The horrible murder was the work of a Serbian society with branches all over the country. Serbia s guilt or innocence was not the real issue raised by the Sarajevo incident. Almost any incident could have sparked off Austria-Hungary s aggressive intentions towards Serbia. Archduke Franz Ferdinand s death was to be avenged with more of Europe s blood than even he, the leader of Austria s war party, could have wished.
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