Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria (June 28, 1914)

Thankfully not many terrorists can boast that their deed led to the deaths of tens of millions.

SARAJEVO, BOSNIA — Ever wonder how terrorists measure success? Is it in the number of people they end up killing? Or the material damage they cause? Is it the changes in policy they effect? Or the media attention they gain?

Archduke Franz Ferdinand

I would imagine it depends on the group. Some are very local with very local goals (independence for a small ethnic polity for example). Others have global plans (I would put Al Qaeda in that category). Nevertheless, very few organisations achieve these desires or enjoy any real success at all.

So what do we make of an act of terrorism carried out by a ‘member’ of a fluid bunch of anarchists in what we used to call Yugoslavia which was the spark that lit the fire we call WWI?

On this day in 1914 a Serbian anarchist named Gavrilo Princip, a member of ‘Young Bosnia’, fired upon and killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie in Sarajevo. This act was typical of what is known as the ‘anarchist wave’ of terrorism which lasted from the late 19th to early 20th centuries.

The world was at war

Ferdinand was the nephew of Franz Josef, the Austro-Hungarian emperor. Blame was assigned, various parties took sides and, by late summer the world was at war.

Of course that area of the world was beset by near genocide eighty years later in the aftermath of the break-up of Yugoslavia. Serbs and Croats turned on their Bosnian neighbours, carrying out mass murder and mass rape. The 1990s was a horrendous decade for that nation.

On this day in 1914, the terrorist assassination of Austro Hungarian Empire Archduke Ferdinand led to the outbreak of WWI and the deaths of 9,000,000.

The death toll from WWI is estimated to have been over nine MILLION (civilian and military). And it all began with an act of terrorism. No single act since, not even 9/11, has led to carnage on this scale. Let’s hope it never does again.

Phil Gurski

2 thoughts on “Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria (June 28, 1914)

  1. Give the book The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman a read. According to her account, killing the Arch Duke was the spark on a short fuse due to a number of preceding actions by the rulers of the day, mostly the German kaiser, but plenty of others as well. Interesting!

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