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11-08-2015, 17:51

Gavrilo Princip ( 1 894- 1918)

Gavrilo Princip was the teenage assassin who murdered Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand, thereby precipitating the diplomatic crisis that led to the outbreak of World War I. Princip was a Serb living in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and he was steeped in the national hatreds that dominated life in the Balkans. The young man and his friends despised the fact of Habsburg rule over their homeland; they belonged to a group of radical schoolboys who longed to see Bosnia-Herzegovina united with the kingdom of Serbia. Enthusiastic but barely competent amateur killers, they were willing to take up the tools of the assassin to shake the power of Austria-Hungary over its Serb population. They expected great results of some sort by murdering the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne. Princip ignited a diplomatic crisis that soon plunged most of the continent into hostilities. The future political murderer was bom on July 13, 1894, in the Krajina region of northwestern Bosnia. He was the son of a poor peasant who supported his family by farming and carrying the mail. A small, quiet child as well as a diligent student, Gavrilo grew up in a rural environment filled with nationalist propaganda calling for the creation of a Greater Serbia. Such a prize could come only by uniting the kingdom of Serbia with Serb-inhabited territories like Bosnia-Herzegovina, under Austrian control, and Macedonia, under the rule of the Ottoman Empire. In 1 907 the thirteen-year-old finished his studies at his village school and moved to Sarajevo, where he continued his education at a local commercial school. There he had his first contact with one of the secret nationalist groups that thrived among schoolboys in the Serb communities of Bosnia- Herzegovina. For Serb nationalists of any age, the annexation of Bosnia- Herzegovina by Habsburg authorities in 1908 raised their passions to fever pitch. The move seemed a new and intolerable barrier to the united Serb state of their dreams. In 1911 Princip joined a secret student group. He now had the example of a recent attempt at political assassinadon: in June 1910, a young Serb had tried unsuccessfully to murder the governor of Sarajevo. Meanwhile, in May of the same year, more competent Serb nationalists, many of them military and political figures of consequence in the kingdom of Serbia, had formed a group known as the Black Hand. It pledged to pursue "with all means" its goal—"the union of all Serbs." In 1912 Princip took a crucial step toward his fateful encounter with Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Expelled from school after participating in a political demonstration, he crossed the border into the kingdom of Serbia; there he joined the horde of impoverished young Bosnian exiles who gathered in cheap cafes and dreamed of heroic actions. Serbia's victorious war against Turkey in the winter of 1912-1913 offered some of the exiles the chance for action. Princip, still undersized and apparently sickly, found himself rejected for service with Serbia's fighdng forces. Embittered and frustrated, he spent the next months wandering between Sarajevo and Belgrade, the Serbian capital. In early 1914, while Princip was still only nineteen, he joined a group of like-minded young Bosnian exiles. All were fervent Serb patriots; when Princip, in March, read of the archduke's planned visit to Sarajevo, all agreed with his call to murder the Austrian leader. At this point, Princip's group and the Black Hand made firm contact. Somfc historians believe that the Black Hand decided to murder Franz Ferdinand; they feared that his plans for reforming the Austro-Hungarian Empire would cool the discontent of Serbs within the empire. In this view, Princip and his fellow teenagers were the triggermen for a group of politically sophisticated Serb leaders. More plausibly, Princip and his crew were the initiators of the plot, with no clear goal other than to strike at an Austrian leader who was making himself available as a target. The Black Hand merely provided weapons—pistols and bombs—for the youngsters, without knowing what they were up to or expecting much in the way of results. Black Hand leaders, such as the head of military intelligence in the Serbian army, were not likely to choose amateurs like Princip—who barely knew how to fire his pistol—as agents to carry out a carefully structured plot. Starting in late May, Princip and two companions made their way to Sarajevo with their hoard of weapons. They brought a number of other amateur plotters into their circle, and on July 28 they struck. Most of the crew got cold feet or botched their chance at success. A mistake by the driver leading the archduke's entourage, however, placed Franz Ferdinand and his wife only a few feet from Princip. The young Bosnian fired twice—without aiming. Each shot found its mark, killing the archduke and his wife. At the subsequent trial, Princip stood out from his fellow conspirators by refusing to plead guilty to any crime. Too young to receive the death penalty under Austrian law, all the convicted conspirators were sentenced to long prison terms. Princip died of tuberculosis in the military prison at Theresienstadt on April 28, 1918.

 

 

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