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28 June 1914

Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand This is the street corner where Gavrilo Princip shot the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife on 28 June 1914. Copyright © Tim Judah

The Archduke Franz Ferdinand came to Sarajevo to visit Sarajevo on June 28, or Vidovdan, the day Serbs commemorate the Battle of Kosovo of 1389. Scheduling the visit for this day, says Donia, "is often ascribed to a malicious desire to provoke Serb sensitivities. Most scholars now agree that the date was selected for convenience rather than symbolism." As the visit to the city progressed one of the conspirators, Nedjelko Čabrinović threw two bombs at the Archduke's car. The first missed but the second injured two passengers in the following car.

Franz Ferdinand's last public words were spoken on the steps of Sarajevo City Hall. On being welcomed by the mayor, the archduke stated that he appreciated the mayor's welcome but hadn't expected to be greeted by a bomb. He announced his intention to visit the injured passengers in the hospital before departing the city. General Potiorek, chief of the Regional Government, advised him to change plan and return along the riverside rather than risk parading through the city center's dense, crowd-lined streets. Orders were given to make the change, but the driver of the archduke's car never heard them. When he reached the Latin Bridge, the driver followed the original plan and turned the car to the right, toward the city center. Alerted to his error, he inadvertently brought the car to a stop directly in front of Gavrilo Princip, another of the assassins. Princip fired two shots. One struck the archduke, and the other hit Sophie. She slumped onto the archduke. The driver later reported that they had exchanged a few words, but he was unable to hear what was said. As police arrived at the scene of the killings, the car sped the archduke and Sophie to the nearest medical facilities at the Konak across the river. Both were dead by the time they arrived.

[pp: 122-123]

Sarajevo: A Biography. 2005. Robert Donia [C. Hurst & Co]

From 1992 until 2007 the small museum which had commemorated the murder of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and which stands at the corner where it took place was closed. Recenlty it has reopened but it now it is no longer a museum about the assassination but one about Sarajevo under the Austro-Hungarian empire. What is fascinating is how every single regime, from the Austo-Hungarians, to the Yugoslav kingdom, to the Nazis, the communists and since have sought to remember the event.

Paul Miller, Associate Professor of History at the International University of Sarajevo and McDaniel College has written this short and fascinating account of this story, which he also gave as a talk at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington. It is called: "Compromising Memory: The Site of the Sarajevo Assassination".

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