World War I: Assassination and Terrorism (June 1914)


Figure 1.--Here a girl visiting the Military Museum in Belgrade is learming about the terrorist cell that assassinated Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand. How they are viewed in Serbia is an interesting question. A reader in Serbia writes, "Serbia does not think them national heroess. Quite the contry. They were criminals. The Museum staff claimed that they were young students acting outside the Serbian state authorities and the assassination was not ordered by Serbian officials." HBC's understanding is that there was considerable support for the shadowy Black Hand among Serbian Government officials, security agencies, and the Army. The Serbs in the 1990s were confronted by the Kosovo Liberation Army which they considered terrorists. Kosovo had been part of Serbia, but by the 1990s had a largely Kosivar (Albanian) population.

Despite all the bickering over colonial possessions, it was the Balkans that would provide the spark for war. Terroism provided that spark in a chilling reminder to our modern age. The Balkans was particularly unsettled and wars occured there just before the outbreak of World War I. It was a terrorist act that was the actual catalyst. Serbia developed as an independent state in the mid-19th century and an expanding Serbia came into conflict with an expanding Austro-Hungarian Empire. And beause large numbers of Serbs lived in Bosnia which the Austro-Hungarian annexed, the conflict between the two states intensified. Serbia was a much smaller country and as a result, declined to confront Austria openly. Serbian officials, however, supported Serbian nationalists in Serbia to destabilize Austrian rule. The best known Serb terrorist group nwas the Black Hand. Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip (June, 28, 1914) assasinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary. The Austrians were incorporating Bosnia into their Empire and had chosen the most sacred day in Serbian history, their defeat by the Ottoman Turks on the plains of Kosovo, for the Archduke's visit. The Austrians decided to punish the Serbs. This might have been a localized incident. The two countries, however, had treaty and cultural relations with larger powers. The Serbs were Slavs and Russia had a pan-Slavic foreign policy. The Austrians had a treaty with Germany. Austria would have reacted cautiously to the assiasination if they knew they would have to fight Russialone. The German Government (July 6) gave its support for Austro-Hungary's plan to punish the Serbs. The Austrians did not think Russia would dare fight Germany.

Serbia

Serbia developed as an independent state in the mid-19th century and an expanding Serbia came into conflict with an expanding Austro-Hungarian Empire. The new Serbian Kingdom established in 1878 strongly supported Slavic nationalism which now was seen as Serbian natioanlism. The dream was for a great Balkan South Slav state united under the leadership of Orthodox Serbia. The Sebs believed that Bosnia should be part of this new Slav state and were outraged that the Great Powers had put Bosnia under Austro-Hungarian administration. Serbian agents promoted groups in Bosnia opposing Austrian rile. This effort was covertly financed by the Russians who shared both ethnic and religious ties with the Slavs. The Russians themselves as the protector of Orthodox Christians. Serbian nationalists were also actively plotting to overthrow Austro-Hungarian rule in other South Slavic lands, Croatia and Slovenia.

Austria-Hungary



Austria Annexes Bosnia and Herzegovina (October 1908)

Austro-Hungary in 1909 decided to formerly annex Bosnia. The immediate cause was the Turkish Revolition of 1908. This cause a major European crisis at it upset the Austro-Russian entente of 1897 that had stabilized the Balkan situation. Russia protests were met with German backing for Austria. This reversed the Bismarkian concept of a purely defensive alliance with Austria-Hungary. From 1908 until the outbreak of World war I, the Russians and Austrians were at loggerheads over the Balkans. The essentially German "offensive" support for Austria-Hungary also had the affect of further consolidating Russia ties to the French. The Austrain to formally annex Bosnia-Herzegovina only added to desire on the part of Serb nationalists to resist Austri-Hungary before they had fully incorporated Bosnia into the Empire. And beause large numbers of Serbs lived in Bosnia which the Austro-Hungarian annexed, the conflict between the two states intensified.

Serbian Terrorism

Serbia was a much smaller country and as a result, declined to confront Austria openly. Serbian officials, however, supported Serbian nationalists in Serbia to destabilize Austrian rule. The best known Serb terrorist group nwas the Black Hand. The Austrian annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (October 6) led to the formation of the Black Hand. A group mod Serbs including state ministers and rabking military officials met 2 days after the Austrian annexation in the Belgrade City Hall (October 8). They decided to form a mationalist society--Narodna Odbrana (National Defense). This was a Pan-Slav group aimed at resisting Austrian encroachments in the Slavic areas of the Balkans. They foresaw a war with Austia Hungary. They sought to preoarecfor the eventual war. They also sought to opose the Austrians without a war and undertook to promote anti-Austrian propaganda, recruit ans train spies, and to carry out a program of sabotage. They undertook to nmake this a Pan-Slavic effort by organizing satellite groups in Austrian provinces with Slav populations (Slovinia, Bosnia, Herzegovina and Istria). The Bosnian group was called Mlada Bosna (Young Bosnia). Narodna Odbrana's attacks prompted the Austrian Government demanded that the Serbian government stop their anti-Austrian insurrection (1909). The Russia Tsarist Government was not prepared back Serbia at the time so the Sebs backed down. Narodna Odbrana shifted its efforts to education and propaganda within Serbia, presenting itself as a cultural organization. More committed nationalist decided to found a secret society to pursue violent attacks--the Black Hand.

Balkan Wars (1912-13)

espite all the bickering over colonial possessions, it was the Balkans that would provide the spark for war. Terroism provided that spark in a chilling reminder to our modern age. The Balkans was particularly unsettled and wars occured there just before the outbreak of World War I. The Balkans Wars are very complicated and involved extensive assaults and killing of civilians by all sides. Italy began the assault on the Ottomon Empire by declaring war in this case to secure a new colony in North Africa--Libya. The Turko-Italian War (1911-12). While fought outside the Balkans, it further weaked Ottomon troops. In this case the Ottomons largely ceeded to Italian demands because of the worsening situation in the Balkas. The First Balkan War (1912) was essentially a continuation of the wars for independence from the Ottoman Empire. This meant by the 20th century dividing up the spoils of the Ottomon territories in Europe. The new Balkan states (Bulgaria, Greece, and Serbia) combined to drive the Ottomans from Eastern Roumelia (Lower Thrace and Macedonia). Unfortunately for the people of Macedonia and other Balkan lands, there was no agreed plan for partitioned the territory liberated from the Ottomans. Which lead to the Second Balkan War (1913). This time the primary target was Bulgaria. Ininitially only Serbia was involved in the War, but eventually all the Balkan countrues were drawn into the War. Bulgaria anf thevOttoman Empire joined the Central Powers. Greece, Romania, and Serbia fought with the Allies.

Archduke Franz Ferdinamd

Francis Joseph's nephew Francis Ferdinand was made heir to the throne after the untimely death of Archduke Rudolf. I know little of his childhood or how he was dressed as a boy. Historians have written a great deal about Franz Ferdinand and very little of it has been very positive. Franz Ferdinand has been referred to as a miser, a bigot, and a spoiled child. He was shunned by the elite of Viennese society. One observer called "the loneliest man in Vienna". Francis Ferdinand appears to have lacked the two key elements for success in political life--charm and elegance. His Family life, however, appears to have been surprisingly better. His marriage to Countess Sophia von Chotkowa und Wognin, Duchess of Hohenburg in 1900 was called one of the world's great love affairs. Unfortunately the Emperor considered the Duchess a commoner and tried to convince Franz Ferdinand he was marrying beneath his station. They went through with the marriage against the Emperor's wishes but had to renounce rights of rank and succession for their children. In the years to come, Sophie would not be allowed to ride in the same car with her husband during affairs of state. I do not yet have details on Francis Ferdinand and Sofia's children. There was at least two boys and a girl. Theboys were often dresses alike. Sofia seems to have liked sailor suits even though Austria had only a small navy. The Archduke and his wife Sophie were assassinated in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, their 14th wedding anniversary, by Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip. The Archduke's role of Inspector General of the Austrian army had brought him to Sarajevo for the summer maneuvers. Neither Emperor Franz Josef or the Kaiser saw fit to attend the funeral. A strange reaction when in reaction to the assasination, they were to plunge Europe into the First World War which would result in the end of both the Austrian and German monarchies. Franz Ferdinand was third in line to the throne at one point, he became heir through two untimely deaths. The first was of the Emperor's son, Crown Prince Rudolph, who killed himself (and his 16 year old mistress) in 1889. The second was the death of his father, Archduke Charles Louis, in 1896. After which it was Franz Ferdinand that would be next in line for the Austrian crown.

Assassination (June 1914)

Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip (June, 28, 1914) assasinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary. The Austrians were incorporating Bosnia into their Empire and had chosen the most sacred day in Serbian history, their defeat by the Ottoman Turks on the plains of Kosovo, for the Archduke's visit. The Archduke and his wife Sophie were assassinated in Sarajevo, Bosnia (June 28, 1914), their 14th wedding anniversary. The Archduke's role of Inspector General of the Austrian army had brought him to Sarajevo for the summer maneuvers. Coming to Bosnia on of all days the anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo Pale was sure to arouse the emotions of Serbs who took it as a personal affront. The Archduke appers to have disregarded the most basic safety precautions. The local authorities appear to have concentrated security precautiions on the main streets where it was assumed that the official cars would be driven. As the cars had set out for the Town Hall, a bomb had been thrown at them, severely injuring the Archduke's aide-de-camp. Rather than intensifying security, on leaving the Town Hall, the Archduke ordered his car to be driven to the hospital to which his aide-de-camp had been taken so he could personally check on his condition and care. As his car turned slowly into a side street out of the well-guarded main street, the grammar school boy, Gavrilo Princip, took advantage of the confusion arising from the approach of the Archducal car to fire two pistol-shots with lethal accuracy. The dying Duchess of Hohenberg sank on to the shoulder of her mortally wounded husband. Both were taken to the Konak, the residence of General Potiorek, the commanding officer. The Archduke died shortly afterwards without regaining consciousness. The bodies were brought back to Vienna for a state funeral. Neither Emperor Franz Josef or the Kaiser saw fit to attend the funeral. This would seem a strange reaction when in response to the assasination, they were to plunge Europe into World War I which would result in the loss of millions of lives and end both the Austrian and German monarchies.

Austrian Reaction

The Austrians decided to that that Serbia was respionsible abd had to be dealt with forcibly. The Empire issued an ultimatum which Serbia largely accepted. Foreign Minister Leopold von Berchtold wanted full compliance and believed thatv Russia would not intervene with Germany backing Austria. Emperor Franz Ferdinand's final major decesion was to declare war on Serbia. Here he acted on the advice of Berchtold. The Emperor left the conduct of the war entirely to his military high command.

Internationa; Complication

This Serbo-Austrian dispute might have been a localized incident. The two countries, however, had treaty and cultural relations with larger powers. The Serbs were Slavs and Russia had a pan-Slavic foreign policy. The Austrians had a treaty with Germany. Austria would have reacted cautiously to the assiasination if they knew they would have to fight Russialone. The German Government (July 6) gave its support for Austro-Hungary's plan to punish the Serbs. The Austrians did not think Russia would dare fight Germany. It was a terrorist act that was the actual catalyst.

Sources








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Created: 1:57 AM 11/11/2009
Last updated: 6:53 AM 11/20/2009