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The Shot Heard Down the Years

One hundred years ago today - June 28th 1914 - Gavrilo Princip shot the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Habsburg throne, and his consort Sophia in Sarajevo.

Princip was a Bosnian Serb and Yugoslav nationalist. He and his fellow plotters were not the sharpest knives in the drawer of Austro-Hungarian malcontents. The cyanide pill he took after the assassination was past its sell-by date; to evade capture, his co-conspirator jumped into the River Miljacka, but it was only five inches deep, and a man standing up to his ankles in the middle of a river in a large city tends to attract attention. Nevertheless, Princip's assassination of the Archduke and his duchess plunged Europe into war and slaughter on a scale hitherto unknown. Too young to be hanged, the murderer was jailed in Terezin and died of malnutrition in 1918 at the age of 23, pre-deceasing by a few months the Habsburg Empire itself.

It was the most consequential gunshot in history. By the time it had finished ricocheting around the continent, it was not just the Habsburgs but the German, Russian and Turkish empires that were gone. In their wake came Communism and Nazism and the post-Ottoman Middle East. The border the ISIS head-hackers have just erased between Syria and Iraq is one drawn on the map by Anglo-French diplomats in the wake of the Great War. Like ISIS, Osama bin Laden's ultimate political goal was the restoration of the Caliphate Gavrilo Princip's gunshot helped end. Even in Europe itself, the Yugoslavia Princip shot the Archduke for ended the 20th century in war and genocide.

We deal with the unfinished business of the Great War every day. We live in the world Gavrilo Princip made.

from Steyn on the World, June 28, 2014

 

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