Assassination in Sarajevo

From Academic Kids

A plaque commemorating the exact scene of the Sarajevo Assassination.
A plaque commemorating the exact scene of the Sarajevo Assassination.

On June 28, 1914, Franz Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife Countess Sophie were killed in Sarajevo by Gavrilo Princip, a member of the revolutionary youth organization Young Bosnia. The event, known as the Assassination in Sarajevo triggered World War I.



Bosnia and Herzegovina had been occupied by Austria-Hungary in 1878 and annexed in 1908. Many Bosnians, primarily Bosnian Serbs, resented the occupation and preferred unification with Serbia and/or other South Slavic lands. This resentment culminated in the assassination. In addition, the Austrian authorities picked none other than 28 June, the date of Vidovdan, an important Serbian Orthodox holiday that commemorates St. Vitus, for Archduke's visit. Unfortunately for Sophie, June 28 was also their fourteenth wedding anniversary. Sophie's rank was considered too low for marriage to the heir to the throne, thus forcing her to lead a withdrawn life back in Vienna. Franz Ferdinand realised this and took the visit as an opportunity to appear in public ceremonially with his beloved Sophie. So it can be said that her anniversary treat led to her death at her husband's side.


Young Bosnia was equipped with pistols and bombs supplied by the Black Hand, a secret society with links to Serbian government.

The level of involvement of the Black Hand is disputed. Some believe that it directly organized the attack and that Young Bosnia was in fact a subsidiary organization. Others point out that Young Bosnia was ideologically different from the Black Hand and so inexperienced that the Black Handers never really believed the attempt would be successful. Most people do agree that the Black Hand supplied the weapons and cyanide to the assassins.

Direct links between the Serbian government and the terrorist action have never been proven. There is in fact evidence that the Serbian government tried in good faith to prevent terrorist infiltration of Bosnia, as they were attempting to avoid provoking the Austro-Hungarian government in the aftermath of the successful Balkan wars. Another theory postulates the involvement of the Okhrana with the Black Hand.

The assassination

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A map of where the Archduke was killed.
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Princip being arrested after the shooting

Note: The exact course of events was never firmly established, mostly due to inconsistent stories of witnesses.

The seven conspirators were inexperienced with weapons, and it was only due to a freakish set of coincidences that they were successful. At 10:15 the parade of 4 cars passed the first member of the group, Mehmedbašić, who attempted to shoot from an upstairs window, but couldn't get a clear shot and decided to hold fire so as not to jeopardize the mission by alerting the authorities. The second member, Nedeljko Čabrinović, threw a bomb (or a stick of dynamite, according to some reports) at Ferdinand's car, but missed. The explosion destroyed the following car, wounding the passengers, a policeman and several members of the crowd. Čabrinović swallowed his cyanide pill and jumped into the River Miljacka. The procession sped away towards the Town Hall, and the crowd turned into chaos. Police dragged Čabrinović out of the river, and he was severely beaten by the crowd before being taken into custody. His cyanide pill was old and had not worked. Some of the other assassins left upon hearing the explosion, under the assumption that the Archduke had been killed.

The remaining conspirators didn't get an opportunity to attack because of the heavy crowds, and it was beginning to look like the assassination would fail. However, the Archduke decided to go to hospital and visit the victims of Čabrinović's bomb. Gavrilo Princip had gone to a nearby shop for a sandwich, apparently giving up, when he spotted Ferdinand's car as it drove past, having taken a wrong turn. After dashing up to the car, Princip shot Sophie in the stomach, and a second shot hit Ferdinand in the neck. They were driven to the governor's residence where they died from their wounds.

Princip tried to kill himself first by ingesting the cyanide, and then with his gun, but he vomited the poison (which Čabrinović had also done, leading the police to believe the group had been deceived and sold a much weaker poison), and the gun was wrestled from his hand before he had a chance to fire another shot.


During interrogation, Princip, Čabrinović and all the others maintained their vow of silence. The authorities thought the imprisonment would be arbitrary, until one member, Danilo Ilić, lost his patience and told the authorities everything, including the fact that the guns were supplied by the Serb government.

Austria-Hungary blamed the government of Serbia for the assassination and issued an unrealistic ultimatum. Austria-Hungary insisted that Serbia had to accept all of the conditions. To the surprise of most of Europe, Serbia accepted most of the ultimatum but 2 points. Austria-Hungaria then declared war on July 28, 1914. It was the immediate World War I .

All of the members were sentenced to prison (except Danilo Ilić, who was hanged). Čabrinović and Princip died of tuberculosis in von Sarajewo lb:Attentat vu Sarajevo nl:Moord op Frans Ferdinand ja:サラエボ事件 sr:Сарајевски атентат sv:Skotten i Sarajevo zh:萨拉热窝事件


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