WWI: A Misconception, a Wrong Turn, and an Opportunist
Anyone familiar with this combination of characters (WW1) would know that it was a global conflict which got registered on the dates of the early 20th century and scared not only the fields of Europe but also the high mountains, searing desert, violent seas and the mystic air. But only those with a decent knowledge of this topic would know that a Bosnian student shot Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne. And this act set some events in motion, both intentional and accidental which would soon lead to the beginning of the infamous World War 1.
But isn't it intriguing to question how the assassination of an Archduke triggered a war so big? Of course, it is and when you start looking you'll realise that this assassination is just the tip of an iceberg. And this article is all about understanding that tip and the inception of WW1.
Let's start by understanding every major piece of this story.
In the 1900s, the Balkan state was the land of troubles. The three major powers and the then great empires of the Ottoman, Austro-Hungary and Russia continuously fought to exercise power and influence over the Balkans. For several years, the Balkans were ruled by the Ottoman Umpire. But the revolutionary Serbia which was forever hellbent for independence overthrew the Turks and claimed their land to become the independent Slav nation, Yugoslavia. But the fight of borders wasn't over yet because the Turks from the south may have gone but the danger from the north still lurks. The Austro-Hungary ruled by the Hapsburgs were more dangerous and fearsome for they not only snatch the land, but they also aim at destroying the native freedom, language and culture. Hapsburg had a great talent of acquisition of lands. This dual monarch of Austria and Hungary was like a prison for all others(this empire was built on 10 different nationalities other than Austria and Hungary) except for the native Austrians and Hungarians and hence this empire had a state of constant crisis. The emperors would mostly spend their reign suppressing changes of any kind but the Archduke next inline had plans of his own.
Dragutin Dimitrijević was an officer in the Serbian army, he was contemptuous of any relations with the Austro-Hungarians. He believed that the blind surrender to Austria's embrace was the most shameful betrayal of Serbian traditions. He was one of the finding members of the Black Hand, a secret military society that used terrorism and assassination to try and establish Yugoslavia.
Archduke Franz Ferdinand
Franz Ferdinand unlike is predecessors had radical ideas for political reforms. He believed that to keep the multinational Austro-Hungary on its feet and to put an end to all internal conflicts the field has to be evened for all kingdoms of his empire. He also wanted to avoid war with the Balkans at all costs. He once said, "To peace, what would we get out of a war with Serbia, we'd lose the lives of young men and would spend money better used elsewhere. And what would we gain for heaven's sake a few plum trees, some pastures full of goat droppings and a bunch of rebellious killers?".
Conrad Von Hötzendorf
Conrad Von Hötzendorf was an Austrian general. He served as Field Marshal and Chief of the General Staff of the military of the Austro-Hungarian Army and Navy from 1906 to 1917. For years he had repeatedly called for preemptive war against Serbia to rescue the multiethnic Habsburg Empire, which was, he believed, nearing disintegration.
Now let's put all these pieces together
Archduke Franz Ferdinand was scheduled to visit Sarajevo to observe the Austro-Hungarian armies manoeuvres. As chief of Serbian military intelligence, Dragutin Dimitrijević misjudged these manoeuvres to be a decoy. He thought that Franz Ferdinand(the only heir of this empire who ever wanted to bring peace to this kingdom, once and for all) is actually plotting an invasion of Serbia.
This visit was announced 1-month prior, which gave local radical anarchists of Serbia enough time to plan an assassination of visiting Archduke. News of this was conveyed to Dragutin Dimitrijević by one of his associates. Dimitrijević sought this as a perfect opportunity to clear his obstacles and decided to give these insurgents a chance, and Serbian student Gavrilo Princip aged 19 was one of them.
A wrong turn
On 20th June 1914, Franz Ferdinand went to Serbia, a day which was celebrated as Serbian National Day. Hatred for Hapsburgs was in the air hence Serbian ambassador to Vienna warned the throne of any possible hostile attempts, but the Hapsburg pride laughed it off.
Princip's group was given four pistols and six grenades. One of them threw a grenade at the Archduke's wagon but it bounced off of the body and exploded underneath the car right behind them. Archduke was rushed to the townhall and security was put on high alert. Assuming that the task went haywire Princip left the premises and stopped at Franz Joseph street to buy a sandwich. Ferdinand came out of the townhall very soon to check on his injured soldiers and then he started towards his destination but unfortunately, the driver took a wrong turn. Of all the million possibilities the driver chose that one wrong turn of Franz Joseph street and stopped to turn right in front of the bakery where Princip was enjoying his sandwich. Right then, Princip drew his pistol and fired two shots, each one for either member of the royalty.
The royal who aimed at bringing peace to Europe was about to become the reason for a world war. On 4th July 1914, Oskar Potiorek the governor of Bosnia suggested that the throne should take the first opportunity for a destructive blow against Serbia to give the monarchy a few decades of calm and internal development and make Serbia fear the throne, again! But it was the words of Conrad Von Hötzendorf that would change the fate of many kingdoms and democracies in the distant and painful feature. He laid his opinion of war on Serbia in front of his majesty. To which his majesty asked how they could wage a war on Serbia if every kingdom of Europe and majorly Russia is going to attack them. To which Hötzendorf then promised backing from Germany.
And that's how you start a WORLD WAR!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Krishna