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Gavrilo Princip – The Teenager Who Started First World War (WW1)

Given the slimmest of chance, nobody could have fathomed that the bullet that cut down Archduke Franz Ferdinand could have come from the direction of a 19-year-old. That teenager was Gavrilo Princip, arguably history’s greatest teen troublemaker.
But wait… How was that even possible? Let us re-examine his early life.
Young Princip was born in June or July 1894, the son of a postman. He is one of nine children, six of whom were reported to have died at infancy.
According to cnn.com, his first name Gavrilo means Gabriel in his mother tongue, Serbian. Originally his mother had wanted to call him Spiro after her late brother, but the local priest intervened saying the boy should be name after the Archangel Gabriel.
Princip’s health was poor from an early age: little surprise his eventual death was caused by tuberculosis.
The teenager left for Belgrade in May 1912.  While in Serbia, Princip joined the secret Black Hand society, a nationalist movement favouring a union between Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia.
Princip was one of three men sent by Dragutin Dimitrijevic, the chief of the Intelligence Department in the Serbian Army and head of the Black Hand, to assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, during his visit to
Sarajevo on 28 June 1914.
Ferdinand had accepted the invitation of General Oskar Potiorek to inspect army manoeuvres in his capacity of Inspector General of the army.  The other men sent to assassinate Ferdinand were Nedjelko Cabrinovic, and Trifko Grabez.
The three men were instructed to commit suicide after killing the Archduke. To this end, they were each given a phial of cyanide, along with a revolver and grenades.  Each of the men suffered from tuberculosis and consequently knew that they did not have long to live; meanwhile, Dimitrijevic did not wish any of the men to live to tell who was behind the assassination.
The prime minister of Serbia was given advance warning of the assassination plot, and whilst a sympathiser of the Black Hand’s objectives – Bosnia-Herzegovina achieving independence from
Austro-Hungary – he feared war with Austria-Hungary should an assassination attempt be successful.
He therefore gave orders for the arrest of the three men as they left the country; his orders were not acted upon however.
Once in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the three men met up with six fellow conspirators and travelled onwards to Sarajevo.
Franz Ferdinand arrived in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914, a Sunday, and was met at the railway station by General Potiorek, to be taken on to the city hall for the reception and speeches.
Seven members of the Black Hand lined the route due to be taken by the Archduke’s cavalcade along Appel Quay. One of the men, Nedjelko Cabrinovic, threw a grenade at the Archduke’s car. The driver took evasive action and quickly sped from the scene.  The grenade bounced off the back of the Archduke’s car and rolled underneath the next car, exploding seconds later; two of its occupants were severely wounded.
Cabrinovic swallowed his cyanide capsule as instructed, and jumped into the River Miljacka.  He did not die however, but was captured and arrested.  It is speculated that the capsule contained nothing other than a harmless water-based solution.
Ferdinand attended the reception at the city hall and complained vociferously about his reception at the city.

“What is
the good of your speeches?  I come to
Sarajevo on a visit, and I get bombs thrown at me.  It is outrageous!”

Archduke Franz Ferdinand interrupting the Mayor’s welcome speech at Sarajevo’s city hall, 28 June 1914.
Following the reception, the Archduke was determined to visit those injured in the grenade explosion at the city hospital.  General Potiorek decided that the motorcade should take an alternate route to the hospital, avoiding the city centre altogether.  However the driver of Ferdinand’s car, Franz Urban, was not informed of the change of plan and so took the original route.
Turning into Franz Joseph Street, General Potiorek, who was a passenger in Ferdinand’s car, noticed that the altered route had not been taken.  He remonstrated with the driver who in turn slowed the car and then began to reverse out of the street.
Gavrilo Princip, who happened to be in Franz Joseph Street at a cafe, seized his opportunity, and took aim at Ferdinand from a distance of five feet.  His bullets struck the Archduke in the neck and his wife, Sophie, who was travelling with him, in the abdomen.
Urban drove the car to the governor’s residence at Konak; the couple died soon afterwards.
After the shooting Princip made to turn his gun upon himself but was seized and restrained by a man nearby, aided by several policemen. He was arrested and taken to a

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Soldiers arrest Gavrilo Prinzip, assassin of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. –(credit: Bettmann/CORBIS)

police station.

In total eight men were charged with treason and Franz Ferdinand’s murder.
However under Austro-Hungarian law capital punishment could not be applied to anyone under the age of 20 when the crime was committed.  Gavrilo Princip, whose precise date of birth could not be firmly established at his trial, was therefore imprisoned for the
maximum duration of 20 years.
To ensure, his sympathisers wouldn’t break him out, Gavrilo was transferred from prison to  prison. At a point, he was quoted as saying:

“There is no need carrying me to another prison. My life is already ebbing away. I suggest you nailed me to a cross and burn me alive. My flaming body will be a torch to light my people to the path of freedom”

As emotional as that might have sounded, the authorities were not bent on making a martyr out of him even as WW1, which many historians described was the immediate result of the teenager’s action aside other remote causes, raged on.
Unfortunately young Gavrilo did not finish his sentence as he died of tuberculosis on 28 April 1918 less than eight months before the end of the war.
Apparently Princip was a student in his last year of high school — the eighth grade — when he fired the shot that sparked World War I.
For the record, he was a south Slav nationalist; although ethnically a Bosnian Serb, he supported a group of activists calling for the unification of all local Slav people in Bosnia: Muslims, Croats and Serbs.
Their dream was to drive out the Habsburg occupier, so shooting the Archduke was seen as a “grand gesture” to inspire others to rise up against the foreign power. Even though the plan worked, it came at a terrible price.
The shooting triggered a war that Princip could never have anticipated. Millions died and empires fell — and eventually, the hated Austro-Hungarians were driven out of Bosnia.
As a result, the local Slavs had the chance to unite in one country, later called Yugoslavia, meaning a nation for south Slavs. In the eyes of some locals there, Princip could be heralded as a “liberator.”
His legacy in the Balkans was indeed toxic.
The wars that ripped Bosnia apart in the 1990s were driven by ethnic divisions between the local Slav communities: Serb, Croat, Muslims. The dream of all local Slavs living together was shattered.
Although Princip fired his gun a hundred years ago in hopes of freeing his Slav kinfolk, today he is “blamed” for being an ethnic Bosnian Serb, tainted by association with those extremists responsible for committing atrocities during the Balkans war.
The issue is so toxic that, as the centenary of the June 28, 1914 assassination approached, in Bosnia there was no national consensus on how it should be acknowledged.
Thus the issue of whether he remains a hero or villain will continually be contested depending on which side of the coin you view his action.
Highlight of WW1World War I (WWI or WW1), also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918. More than 9 million combatants and 7 million civilians died as a result of the war, a casualty rate exacerbated by the belligerents’ technological and industrial sophistication, and tactical stalemate. It was one of the deadliest conflicts in history, paving the way for major political changes, including revolutions in many of the nations involved.

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The war drew in all the world’s economic great powers, assembled in two opposing alliances: the Allies (based on the Triple Entente of the United Kingdom, France and the Russian Empire) and the Central Powers of Germany and Austria-Hungary.

Although Italy had also been a member of the Triple Alliance alongside Germany and Austria-Hungary, it did not join the Central Powers, as Austria-Hungary had taken the offensive against the terms of the alliance. These alliances were reorganised and expanded as more nations entered the war: Italy, Japan and the United States joined the Allies, and the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria the Central Powers. More than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, were mobilised in one of the largest wars in history.

As explained above, the trigger for war was the 28 June 1914 assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, by Yugoslav nationalist Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo.

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Article compiled by Adebayo
Folorunsho-Francis with additional contribution
from CNN and WW1 portals

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