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Who Was Gavrilo Princip?

By S. Mithra
Updated Mar 06, 2024
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The events leading up to the military action of World War I began with a bullet shot from the pistol of Gavrilo Princip. On 28 June 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand visited Sarajevo and encountered a group of assassins that succeeded in killing him. Ferdinand represented the Austro-Hungarian Empire, while Princip acted for Serbia and Bosnia who wished to remain independent nations. Thus, all of Europe chose sides in this divide, and many countries soon declared war.

Gavrilo Princip was a Bosnian Serb who believed in preventing Austria from gaining control of Bosnia. Early in life, he joined the Young Bosnia political group that used underground and terrorist tactics to protect their homeland. Since he was weak with tuberculosis, he was chosen, along with six others, to conduct an assassination mission against the heir to the Hapsburg throne of the Austrian Empire.

To Sarajevo's inhabitants, Archduke Franz Ferdinand already represented oppression and tyranny. But he could not have chosen a worse day to visit the capital of Bosnia than June 28th. The holiday, similar to Independence Day, celebrated the anniversary of Battle of Kosovo. Therefore, the Young Bosnians sought to counter Ferdinand's symbolic visit by assassinating him to send a message to the imperialist force that they would not be easily occupied. The group never intended to start a war involving all of Europe.

The seven assassins lined themselves up along the path that Ferdinand's car would take. Some attempts were made to launch a bomb at the car or shoot at its occupants, but these failed. Gavrilo Princip, the seventh assassin, jumped onto the car when it slowed, and shot both the Archduke and his wife. They died immediately. Princip was seized by authorities. Since he was only 19, he was too young to receive a death sentence. Therefore, he died in prison four years later of tuberculosis.

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