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- Biography of Gavrilo Princip
- The Assassination at Sarajevo
- The Aftermath of the Assassination
Key Facts And Information
Let’s know more about Gavrilo Princip!
- Gavrilo Princip was born into a poor family, and in spite of the education he attained at school, he associated with a secret Serbian organisation named the Black Hand. With the help of other ‘revolutionaries’, he killed the heirs to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, i.e. Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie.
- Following the assassination at Sarajevo, peace in Europe came to an end and the First World War started, lasting from 1914 to 1918. Gavrilo Princip died of tuberculosis six months before the end of the war.
- Gavrilo and his companions tried to commit suicide after the murder in order to preserve the anonymity of the Black Hand, however they were stopped by the police. Though the revolutionaries were not sentenced to death because they were still under twenty years old at that time, Gavrilo was sentenced to twenty years in prison.
Biography of Gavrilo Princip
- On 25 July 1894, Gavrilo Princip was born in Bosnia-Herzegovina which at the time was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He was the sixth of nine siblings (although only three of them survived beyond infancy). His family was Christian Orthodox and was poor.
- In fact, they lived in the same state as medieval serfs since they were ‘obliged to give almost all their meagre farming earnings to overlords’ (Telegraph 2013). The conditions in which they lived were appalling. They lived in a tiny shanty which had no flooring and its walls were rocks stacked on top of each other.
- However, the young Gavrilo tried to change his destiny and enrolled in a secondary school, first in Sarajevo and then in Tuzla. He was an outstanding student that achieved the greatest results. However, he joined a secret society called the Black Hand (its real name was Ujedinjenje ili Smrt, which means ‘Union or Death’).
- Princip desired the destruction and fall of the Austro-Hungarian rulership in the Balkans and wanted the South Slavs’ population to be united in a federal nation. In other words, it can be stated that Princip supported Slav nationalism and ‘the idea that foreigners should be driven out so local people could rule, no matter if they were Serbian, Croatians, or from other ethnicities’ (Telegraph 2013).
- After having completed his education, Princip moved to Serbia where he met other Serbian nationalists such as his associate Nedeljko Čabrinović. It was with Čabrinović and four other terrorists (including Trifko Grabez) that Princip plotted the assassination that changed the course of European history.
- Princip was arrested immediately after having shot the archduke and his wife. At only nineteen years old, he was condemned to twenty years in prison and was ‘denied food once a day each month’ (Telegraph 2013). The only reason Princip did not receive the death sentence is because he was under twenty (which was the legal age required to be sentenced).
- The revolutionary man died in 1918 at only twenty-three years old. It is said that ‘his body had become racked by skeletal tuberculosis that ate away his bones so badly that his right arm had to be amputated’ (Telegraph 2013).
The Assassination at Sarajevo
- The nineteen-year-old Gavrilo received the news that Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg, were going to Sarajevo for an official visit in June. Sarajevo was in Bosnia, which had been annexed to the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
- Since Franz Ferdinand was also the Inspector General of the Army, he had been invited by General Oskar Potiorek to do some military inspections. Dragutin Dimitrijevic was the chief of the Intelligence Department in the Serbian Army and the leader of the Black Hand. He was the one that carefully selected the people that were going to assassinate the heirs to the Austro-Hungarian Empire (Duffy 2009).
- The revolutionaries’ preparation for the big day started. In May, Princip and his collaborators traveled to Belgrade ‘where they received six handheld bombs, four semi-automatic pistols, and cyanide suicide capsules’ from the Black Hand terrorist group (Greenspan 2014). Thanks to the secret group that they were part of, they were able to smuggle their weapons across the border and entered Bosnia-Herzegovina with no issues.
- As Greenspan (2014) claims, the archduke’s journey did not promise the best. In fact, they had received ‘multiple warnings to cancel the trip’. Nonetheless, the consorts reached a spa town just outside Sarajevo where Franz Ferdinand attended some military duties, whilst his wife ‘visited local schools and orphanages’. The archduke arrived in Sarajevo on 28 June. That morning, before going towards their tragic death, the couple sent their son a telegram in order to ‘congratulate him on his latest exam results’.
- Subsequently, they entered an ‘open-top car’ in order to drive towards the city hall where Ferdinand would give speeches. Although six trained officers had to be present on the vehicle, only one of them was present with three other policemen (Greenspan 2014).
- Čabrinović was able to throw a grenade onto the archduke’s car, however ‘the driver took evasive action and quickly sped from the scene’ (Duffy 2009). The grenade bounced off the back of the archduke’s car and rolled underneath the next car, exploding seconds later causing two of the people on board to be injured.
- The boys that carried out the assassination had been ordered to commit suicide after the killing of the archduke. In fact, apart from cyanide, they also were in possession of a revolver and grenades. Dimitrijevic wanted them to commit suicide so that they would not reveal any details about himself, or more generally about the Black Hand.
- Čabrinović followed Dimitrijevic’s order of committing suicide, and therefore swallowed a capsule of cyanide and jumped in the Miljacka River with the intention of drowning.
- However, it didn’t work. In fact, some claim that the capsule ‘contained nothing other than harmless water-based solution’ and that the part of the river in which he jumped was only 10cm deep. Franz Ferdinand, meanwhile, was able to make it to the city hall, and while interrupting the major’s welcome speech, he claimed: “What is the good of your speeches? I come to Sarajevo on a visit, and I get bombs thrown at me. It is outrageous’ (Duffy 2009; citing Archduke Franz Ferdinand 1914).
- After his speech at the city hall, the consorts decided it would be appropriate to go visit the hospitalised people injured by the grenade explosion. General Potiorek had advised not to take the main route that went through the city centre, and instead suggested taking a secondary route. However, such instructions had not been followed by the Royals’ driver, and Potiorek ‘remonstrated with the driver who in turn slowed the car and then began to reverse out of the street’ (Duffy 2009).
- When the vehicle turned onto Franz Joseph Street, Gavrilo Princip was five feet away from the archduke when he shot him. Apparently, the car drove once again in the wrong direction ‘and ended up outside a sandwich shop […], Gavrilo Princip emerged from the shop, having just bought his lunch [..], drew two pistols and fired at the royal car’ (Llewellyn et al. 2014).
- Franz Ferdinand was killed by bullets in the neck, whereas his wife was shot in the abdomen. Following the murderous act, Princip tried shooting himself, but several policemen managed to stop him and he was therefore taken to the nearest police station.
- According to Duffy (2009), eight men were arrested and charged with treason for murdering the couple, yet none of them could be sentenced to death because they were under the official age for capital punishment. Gavrilo, on the other hand, was sentenced to twenty years in prison.
The Aftermath of the Assassination
- The assassination of the Austro-Hungarian archduke and his wife happened in a fragile moment in history. In fact, for the past two decades, European countries had been signing pacts and agreements with each other in order to have assured defence in case a war spread across Europe. In reality, everyone in Europe thought the war was imminent since tensions were running high.
- The incident started ‘a flood of anti-Serb protests and violence in many Austro-Hungarian cities, including Sarajevo itself’. Shops and buildings were being attacked and ‘vandalised’, whereas ‘messages of support and encouragement’ were reaching Vienna (Llewllyn 2014).
- Although no one in the Austro-Hungarian government was particularly upset by Franz Ferdinand’s death (since from that moment on he was not going to cause any ‘constitutional problems’), on 28 July 1914, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. The fragile ‘peace’ that was in Europe suddenly collapsed, and within a week, two blocks had formed across the continent: Russia, Belgium, France, Great Britain, and Serbia were ready to fight against Austria-Hungary and Germany.