Gavrilo Princip was the person who assassinated Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in June of 1914, which sparked the start of World War I. Princip was a member of the Black Hand, which was a secret society that carried out the plans for the assassination of Ferdinand. The events of the assassination had a profound impact on Europe in the early 20th century and plunged the continent into war.
GAVRILO PRINCIP'S EARLY LIFE
Gavrilo Princip was born on July 25th, 1904 in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Gavrilo’s family was Serb and Orthodox Christians. In fact, Gavrilo was named after Archangel Gabriel at the suggestion of a local priest. His parents, Petar and Marija, were poor farmers and struggled to make ends meet. Regardless, Gavrilo was sent to school at the age of nine and performed well. Further, when he was thirteen, Gavrilo went to the city of Sarajevo to live with his older brother Jovan. While in Sarajevo, Gavrilo studied business.
His time in Sarajevo proved to be incredibly important to his political thought. For instance, while there Gavrilo began following prominent Serb nationalists. An example of this is when, in 1911, he joined a secret organization called Young Bosnia. As an organization it was focused on liberating Bosnia from Austria-Hungary. At the time Bosnia was under the control of the Austro-Hungarian Empire following the events of the Bosnia Crisis of 1908.
In general, the Bosnian Crisis involved the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina by Austria-Hungary. This means that Austria took control over the two territories. Previously they had been controlled by the Ottoman Empire but by this time the Ottoman Empire was in decline and losing its authority in the region. Austria’s annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina created a crisis not only with the leadership of the Ottoman Empire, but also with other surrounding European nations including Italy, Russia, and Serbia. In fact, Serbian nationalists resented the Austro-Hungarian takeover of Bosnia and Herzegovina. This created lingering anger people of the Balkans, who wanted to unify and liberate Slavic people in the Balkans.
The Bosnia Crisis of 1908, along with other related issues in the Balkans caused Princip to eventually join the Black Hand. The Black Hand (which was also known as ‘Unification or Death’) was a Serbian nationalist organization that existed in the early part of the 20th century. It was a secret society that worked to promote Serbian nationalism. One of the most significant events associated with the Black Hand (and Gavrilo Princip) was the 1914 assassination of Franz Ferdinand.
ASSASSINATION OF FRANZ FERDINAND
Franz Ferdinand was the Archduke of Austria-Hungary and next in line to rule over the empire. Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were assassinated on June 28th, 1914 in Sarajevo, the capital of the Austro-Hungarian province of Bosnia and Herzegovina while there on a visit to inspect the military forces. The assassin was Gavrilo Princip. Just nineteen years old at the time, Princip was a member of the Black Hand.
Upon first arriving in Sarajevo, Franz and Sophie made their way through the city in a motorcade. Members of the Black Hand had pre-planned their assassination of the archduke in anticipation of his visit to Sarajevo. As the archduke’s motorcade made its trip a member of the Black Hand attempted to assassinate the couple with a bomb that was thrown at the couple’s car. The bomb missed Franz and Sophie and injured members of the car behind them when it exploded. After a short rest at the Governor’s house in Sarajevo, Franz decided to visit the people injured by the earlier bombing by going to the hospital. The drivers of the motorcade were not made aware of the change in plans and as a result the drivers took the wrong route. By the time the error had been discovered the drivers had to turn around and began to slowly back up down a street in the center of Sarajevo.
By coincidence, Gavrilo Princip was on the street at that time and noticing his opportunity he approached the cars and fatally shot both Franz and Sophie with his pistol. Franz and Sophie were dead and the members of the Black Hand that carried out the attack were rounded up and arrested.
GAVRILO PRINCIP'S LATER LIFE & DEATH
While he was being arrested for the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, Princip tried to shoot himself, but ultimately failed. Shortly after, he was quickly put on trial and sentenced to twenty years in prison. His time in prison was difficult, and he suffered extremely poor treatment. For instance, he struggled with malnutrition and tuberculosis while in prison. He died on April 28th in 1918.
Princip left a considerable legacy following his death. His actions (along with those of the Black Hand) sparked the events of World War I, which lasted for four bloody years. Some Serbs today celebrate him as a hero for his people, while others consider him a terrorist who plunged Europe into a devastating conflict.
CITE THIS ARTICLE