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The Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand

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The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on the 28th June 1914 by Gavrilo Princip of the Serbain Secret society, the “Black Hand” had devastating consequences on the world. The causes of this event can be found in the determination of Serbian nationalism to create a Southern Slav state and the equal determination of Austria to prevent this from happening. This created growing tension amongst the Great Powers which would lead to a series of Ultimatums and mobilisations which would affect many people’s lives.

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The annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina also known as the Bosnain Crisis of 1908-1909 erupted when on the 6th of October 1908, the Autrian-Hungarian Empire announced the annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina . Russia, Turkey, Britain, Italy, Germany, France, Serbia and the rest of the Balkan Nations took interest in the event. A revision of the Treaty of Berlin during April of 1909 brought an end to the crisis. However, the crisis permanently damaged between Austra-Hungary, Serbia and Russia.

The annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina and resulting reactions were contributing factors to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand The Balkans was known as the powder keg of Europe.

One spark and the region seemed to explode. In 1912, the Balkan Nations of Serbia, Greece, Bulgaria and Montenegro put aside their differences to form the Balkan League. Using their new found stength, they decided to take advantage of the already weakened Turkey who was already known as the “dying man of Europe”. During what became known as the first Balkan War, Turkey was nearly completly driven out of Europe in no more than 7 weeks.

Meanwhile, Austria watched on stunned as the peoples of Serbia began adopting a nationalist point of view that clashed directly with Austria and Ipmerialism. After the first Balkan war, Serbia had emerged as the most powerful nation in the Balkan League and using their new found power, almost doubled in size. This in turn frightened the Austrian Generals and they called for a quick and decisive war to crush Serbia once and for all. There was one major problem with this; Because of a complicated system of alliances that existed in Europe.

Britain, France and Russia established the Triple Entente while Germany, Italy and Austria-Hungary formed the Triple Alliance. Such alliances were necessary because each nation had to defend its interests. Britain, for instance, was the undisputed ruler of the seas and after adopting the “two power standard” in the 1800’s, she feared the expansion of the German navy. France, meanwhile, wanted revenge on Germany for the outcome of the Franco-Prussian war of 1871; France suffered a humiliating defeat in this conflict and lost the provinces of Alsace-Lorraine.

So with these alliances in place, Austrai-Hungary couldn’t attack Serbia without the Russians becoming invloved, then if the Russians attacked Austria-Hungary, Germany would have to back Austria and attack the Russians. According to the 1894 Franco-Russian Entente, France was to back Russia if she was attacked and if France was attacked, it would be likely that Britain would become invloved due to their strengthening relationship. Though these alliances were meant to prevent war, they wound up having the opposite effect.

When Austria-Hungary went to war with Serbia, Russia came to defend the Serbs; the Russians and Serbs were naturally aligned because they were both of Slav descent. Because Germany instucted Austria-Hungary to be firm with Serbia following the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, it felt obligated to join the conflict and promptly waged war on Russia. Britain and France had already established an alliance with Russia and had no choice but to wage war on Germany. Within a month of June 28th, 1914, all of the major European powers were at war.

It is worth noting that Italy held out until 1915 when it joined the side of the allies. Both Balkan wars worsened the sour relationship Between the Balkans and Austria-Hungary. Because of Serbia’s transisiton into a formidable military power, the press continued calling for one unified Southern slav state and Serbian terriost attacks were openly appauled. But Austria still ruled over 6 million Serbs and Croats which included the 1 million Serbs in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Austria resented Serbias recent success.

For Austia, it was now only a matter of time before she attacked Serbia. On the 28th of June, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austrain-Hungarian throne, and his wife Sophie, visited Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia to inspect army exercises. This particular day would have been seen as a provocative move by Serbian nationalists because the 28th of June was a special day for all serbs – the anniversary of the Battle of Kossovo in which Serbia had first lost their independence to Turkey in the 14th Century.

The first attempt at the Archduke’s life was when a bomb was hurtled at his car but it missed and the plot appeared to have failed, but after an official meeting at town hall, the Archduke’s chaffeur made a wrong turn and was forced to stopvand turn around. As fate would have it, one of the leading conspirators, Gavrilo Princip, was standing at that very spot. He took out his gun and fired two shots. One at the Archduke and one at his wife. Shortly afterwards, both were pronounced dead. The assassination was the work of a young group of Bosnian terriosts that were decicated to the cause of the greater Serbia.

The group was armed by a secret Serbain society known as the black hand and was led by the Serbian Chief of Staff, Dragutin Dimitrejevic. Gavrilo Princip was only one of 22 would be assassins but he was trained by Dragutin Dimitrejevic himself then smuggled across the border into Bosnia a few days before the assassination. On July 28th, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. A whole month after Franz Ferdinand had been shot. Before war had been declared, on the 23rd of July the Austro-Hungarian government sent what is considered one of the harshest ultimatums ever sent in diplomatic history to Serbia.

Included in the ultimatum were demands that no self-respecting nation would ever agree to. But none-the-less, Austria gave 48 hours for Serbia to agree to all the demands. Even though Serbia agreed to all but one of the terms of the ultimatum, the leaders of Austria-Hungary didn’t care because they felt the desire for war. On July 28th, war was declared and the next day, Austrian bombs fell on Belgrade. This time, Russia was determinded to back Serbia and weren’t going to face a similar humiliating backdown as they had to in the 1908/09 annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

On July 30th, the Tsar of Russia ordered his armies to mobilise. Secretly, they had been preparing their armies 5 days before cause they had been encouraged by France. On the 31st of July, Germany issued two ultimatums- Russia was given 12 hours to demobilise and the French 18 hours to guarantee their neutrality if Germany went to war with Russia. When the ultimatum to Russia expired, Germany declared war and began to mobilise. Also on the same day, France rejected Germany’s ultimatum and commenced mobilisation.

On the 2nd of August, Germany crossed the border and invaded Luxembourg, at the same time they sent an ultimatum to Belgium demanding that they allow German troops across their country. As a signatory to the 1839 Treaty of London, Britain was bound to protect Belgium’s neutrality so if Germany invaded Belgium, Britain was almost guarenteed to enter the war. So on Monday the 3rd of August, Belguim refected Germany’s Germany’s ultimatum and appealed to the signatories of the Treaty of London for help. The next day, the British sent an ultimatum of their own to Berlin.

In it, they said if Germany did not hault the invasion, then Britain would severe all diplomatic ties with Germany. When the ultimatum expired at midnight, Britain declared war on Germany. In short, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand was essentially insignificant. It was an incident that simply happened to take place during a tumultuous time characterized by tension and discontent throughout Europe. The eventual involvement of all the European powers in the initial conflict between Serbia and Austria-Hungary can be summed up in two words: domino effect.

In conclusion, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand had a significant impact on the lives of many people, the consequences of which sent ripples across the whole of Europe and which led to a tidal wave of destruction across the world. Caused by the opposing factions of nationalism and imperialism. It led to the eventual explosion of tension among the Great Powers and the opening salvos of World War One precipatated by a series of ultimatums and mobilisations. The cost on human lives, the economice devastion and the legacy of this “war to end all wars” would be felt for years to come.

Cite this The Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand

The Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. (2016, Oct 13). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/the-assassination-of-archduke-franz-ferdinand/

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