Serbian Nationalist Who Assassinated the Archduke & Archduchess

Reports on Gavrilo Princip's arrest differ on whether the Bosnian crowd was trying to destain him or kill him before police arrived. (ref 2,5)
... Images

Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife, Duchess Sofie von Hohenberg on June 28, 1914 in Sarajevo. Princip was a Serbian nationalist who believed the assassination of a member of Austria-Hungary's imperial family would lead to an overthrow of Austro-Hungarian rule in the Balkans and the establishment of a southern Slavic nation. The assassination triggered events that led to World War I.

1 Black Hand

Princip was born in 1894 in western Bosnia. He was educated in Sarajevo, Tuzla and Belgrade. Bosnia was annexed by the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1908. Princip, who considered Bosnia to be Serbian territory, was trained by the Black Hand -- a Serbian terrorist organization -- beginning in 1912. He volunteered for Serbian military service during the Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913 -- wars in which Serbia increased its size significantly -- but was turned away because he was considered too small and frail.

2 Attack of Opportunity

Princip was recruited and equipped by the Black Hand, along with five others, to help with an assassination planned for the the archduke's visit to Sarajevo. Earlier on the day of the assassination, compatriot threw a bomb at the car carrying the archduke and duchess, but missed. Princip took advantage of an opportunity when the motorcade took a wrong turn and stopped next to him. He shot Ferdinand and Sophie at point blank range. Princip attempted to shoot himself, but was restrained and arrested. Princip, just a few weeks short of his 20th birthday at the time of the assassination, was tried and sentenced to 20 years in prison, the maximum sentence under Austro-Hungarian law for those under 20 years of age. Princip died in prison in 1918.

Dell Markey is a full-time journalist. When he isn't writing business spotlights for local community papers, he writes and has owned and operated a small business.