World War I is a fascinating, yet often overlooked historical event, usually overshadowed by it’s larger and bloodier successor World War II. It’s a topic I’ve been wanting to study more in depth for a long time, but for one reason or another I just haven’t. But what I do know I will share with you here and I’ll be learning in the process as well. I’m going to divide this question into three posts: The Short Answer: Assasination at Sarajevo, The Long Answer: What Tangled Webs We Weave and The US Enters the War. Consider this post the first.
The short answer to what started WWI is the asassination of Franz Ferdinand in 1914. No, not the Scottish indie-rock band, but the Archduke. Franz Ferdiand was the Archduke of Austria and heir apparent to the throne of aging monarch of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, his uncle Franz Joseph. The Arhcduke was in Sarajevo on June 28th, 1914 to observe military manuevers, open a musesum, and celebrate his annisverary with his once-common wife.
Seven young slavs who were a part of a Serbian nationalist organization called the Black Hand were milling about the streets that day with the intent of assasinating the Archduke. The Black Hand was part of a greater movement known as Pan-Slavism. The aims of the movement were to foment an uprising among the Slav population of Austria-Hungary in order to bring about the creation of an independant Slav state, Yugoslavia. (We’ll talk more about this in The Long Answer: What Tangled Webs We Weave.)As the Archdukes motorcade made it’s way through the city, it passed several of the would-be assasins, but for one reason or another none made an attempt to carry out the plan. Except one. Despite this very day being a Serbian patriotic holiday, Vidovdan, and Sarajevo being in a heavily Slav province, security was light and the Archduke insisted on riding in the car with the top down. As the ragtop passed one of the assasins on it’s way to the Town Hall, Nedeljko Čabrinović threw a bomb at it. Fortunately for the Archduke and his wife Sofie, the would-be assasin was no Greg Maddux and his toss missed, hitting another car in the motorcade and exploding. When the Archduke arrived at the Town Hall, he interupted a prepared speech from the mayor by saying, “One comes here to visit and is received with bombs. Mr. Mayor, what do you say? It’s outrageous! All right, now you may speak.” After a tense but otherwise peacful reception, the Archduke requested to visit the hospital to check on the bomb victims.
The remaining assasins meanwhile, either because they thought the bombing had succeeded or because they knew they had failed, began to go their seperate ways. Gavrilo Princip stopped at a sandwhich shop to grab a bite. You wouldn’t believe the appetite you can work up after an attempted assasination. As he emerged from the shop, no doubt slurping down a bite of his rueben, he came face to face with the Archdukes car which, as providence would have it, had made a wrong turn down this very street. Seizing the opportunity, he pulled out his pistol and fired hitting Sofie in the stomach and the Archduke in the neck. As blood began to stream from Franz Ferdinand’s mouth Sofie cried, “For heaven’s sake, what’s happened to you?” then she lost conscienceness. Ferdinand pleaded with his wife, “Sophie dear, Sophie dear, don’t die. Stay alive for our children.” The mayor, who was also in the car, asked the Archduke if he was hurt to which he replied, “It is nothing, It is nothing…” and then died.
The question then is how did this one event spark a worldwide conflict that would become the bloodiest and most destructive war to that point in history? Why did the assasination of an heir to the crown by a rogue youth have such dire global consequences? These questions will be answered in next weeks post, The Long Answer: What Tangled Webs We Weave.
Questions, comments, concerns?
Sources other than my brain for this post are: