Courtesy Reuters

Sarajevo Fifty Years After

Because of the international conditions under which it occurred and the region where it took place, no other political murder in modern history has had such momentous consequences as the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand von Österreich-Este, the heir apparent to the throne of the Hapsburg Empire, at the hands of Gavrilo Princip, in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914. In his native Bosnia, whose tribal society had been disintegrating under the impact of modern colonialism, Princip fired his pistol not only at an Archduke but also at the façade of a quiet, apparently stable world.

In reality, the year 1914 found Europe in a state of turmoil, and rapidly approaching the end of an era. Germany, with her increasing industry and population, was challenging Britain as the leading world power. The imperialist rivalry was intensified by the system of secret alliances; Britain, for one, found common interests even with her century-long opponent, Tsarist Russia.

The Balkans, the bridge between Europe, Asia and Africa, was a particularly sensitive area over which the Great Powers clashed. Germany and Austria- Hungary found a common interest in penetrating to the warmer seas through this region. France, Russia and Britain tried to establish a barrier to the "Drang nach Osten" by backing the small, economically underdeveloped Balkan states which were eager to be modernized. The leading European banking concerns were competing for the financing, through state loans, of the armaments of the Balkan armies. The success of Serbia, Greece, Bulgaria and Montenegro in the 1912-1913 war, ending the centuries-long rule of the Ottoman Empire in Europe, was hailed in the stock exchanges of the European capitals as a victory for Schneider Creusot and Vickers-Armstrong over Krupp and Skoda.

One of the most controversial issues of modern history arises from this question: What were Princip's motives and who were his instigators, if any, and his accomplices? Sir Edward Grey described Princip's crime as a perfect political murder, in the sense that it would be impossible for the truth

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