World War I began after the assassination of Austrian archduke Franz Ferdinand by South Slav nationalist Gavrilo Princip on June 28, 1914. Read more about why the Balkans became the “powder keg of Europe.”
The real causes of World War I included politics, secret alliances, imperialism, and nationalistic pride. However, there was one single event, the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, which started a chain of events leading to war.
Germany sought to break up the French-Russian alliance and was fully prepared to take the risk that this would bring about a major war. Some in the German elite welcomed the prospect of beginning an expansionist war of conquest. The response of Russia, France and later Britain were reactive and defensive.
When it was learned that the heir-apparent to the Austrian throne, Franz Ferdinand, was scheduled to visit Sarajevo in June of 1914, the Black Hand decided to assassinate him because of his perceived threat to Serbian independence.
Without the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, there would have been no need for rulers in Vienna to threaten Serbia, no need for Russia to come to Serbia's defense, no need for Germany to come to Austria's defense — and no call for France and Britain to honor their treaties with Russia.
Black Hand, byname of Ujedinjenje Ili Smrt (Serbo-Croation: Union or Death), secret Serbian society of the early 20th century that used terrorist methods to promote the liberation of Serbs outside Serbia from Habsburg or Ottoman rule and was instrumental in planning the assassination of the Austrian archduke Franz ...
The Black Hand was a precursor of organized crime, although it is still a tactic practiced by the Mafia and used in organized crime to this day.
Serbia's response effectively accepted all terms of the ultimatum but one: it would not accept Austria-Hungary's participation in any internal inquiry, stating that this would be a violation of the Constitution and of the law of criminal procedure.
The seal of their group is reproduced above. By 1914, there were several hundred members, perhaps as many as 2500. Many members were Serbian army officers.
The Central Powers' origin was the alliance of Germany and Austria-Hungary in 1879. Despite having nominally joined the Triple Alliance before, Italy did not take part in World War I on the side of the Central Powers.
This “blank check,” via unconditional support, sought military and political triumph in securing the Balkans. It also gave Austro-Hungarian leaders the confidence needed to embark on war against Serbia.
Quay, one of the attackers, Nedjelko Cabrinovic, threw a grenade at the royal couple's car. The bomb bounced off the back of the vehicle and exploded behind them, injuring members of the entourage who were in the next car and peppering bystanders with shrapnel.
Princip was spared the death penalty because of his age (19) and sentenced to twenty years in prison. He was imprisoned at the Terezín fortress.
He was about the opposite of a 50-year-old archduke: a Serbian peasant, only 19 years old when he shot his Browning pistol at the motorcade, first hitting Ferdinand's wife, then Ferdinand. He wasn't even the first assassin to attack Ferdinand's motorcade that day.
Wanting to destroy Austro-Hungarian rule in the Balkans and to unite the South Slav peoples into a federal nation, he believed that the first step must be the assassination of a member of the Habsburg imperial family or a high official of the government.
It's an account that, while respectful of the significance of Franz Ferdinand's death, hooks pupils' attention by stressing a tiny, awe-inspiring detail: that if Princip had not stopped to eat a sandwich where he did, he would never have been in the right place to spot his target. No sandwich, no shooting.
But Franz Ferdinand was equally determined to marry his beloved "Sopherl." Accepting the reality that the Chotek family could never qualify as a members of the very highest nobility, on June 28, 1900, Franz Ferdinand swore on a Bible and signed an Act of Renunciation that took away all rights to succession to the ...