Gavrilo Princip (1894-1918) may have been the most influential man of the twentieth century, if we look at the total effect of what followed. His assassination of the Archduke and his wife, Sophie sparked World War I. The war inspired Woodrow Wilson to involve the United States in the conflict, paving the way for American Imperialism and interventionist actions around the globe. The Treaty of Versailles which followed punished Germany, causing resentment, nationalism, and the rise of the Nazis. This caused World War II. The same treaty also carved up much of the Middle East by weakening the Ottoman Empire. This led to the destruction of the Caliphate, paving the way for much of the strife in that region.

The war helped to bring about the end of the Czarist system in Russia, leading to the Soviet Union. World War II resulted in that union becoming a superpower, exporting communism across the globe. The early success communism had inspired Mao Zedong, and the methods they used were similar. The Vietnam War, Korean Conflict, and the Cold War all probably would never have happened if those shots had not been fired.

Indirectly, Gavrilo Princip may have caused the deaths of a couple of hundred million people. See the Law of Unintended Consequences. A good reason to look before you leap.

Princip was sentenced to 20 years in prison for his crime, since he was not 20 when he did it. He died in 1918 of tuberculosis. I wonder what he would have thought about what he did if he had lived to see the results.

Gavrilo Princip, the son of a postman, was born in Bosnia-Herzegovina in July, 1894. Gavrilo was one of nine children, six of whom died in infancy. His health was poor and from an early age suffered from tuberculosis. Princip attended schools in Sarajevo and Tuzla, but in May 1912, left Bosnia for Belgrade to continue his education. While in Serbia, Princip joined the Black Hand ("Unity or Death") secret society. For the next two years he spent most of his spare time with other nationalists who also favoured a union between Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia.

When it was announced that Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the throne of Austro-Hungarian Empire, was going to visit Bosnia-Herzegovina in June 1914, Dragutin Dimitrijevic, the chief of the Intelligence Department in the Serbian Army and head of the Black Hand, sent three men, Princip, Nedjelko Cabrinovic, and Trifko Grabez to Sarajevo to assassinate him. Each man was given a revolver, two bombs and small vial of cyanide. They were instructed to commit suicide after Archduke Franz Ferdinand had been killed. It was important to Dragutin Dimitrijevic that the men did not have the opportunity to confess who had organised the assassination. Princip, Nedjelko Cabrinovic and Trifko Grabez were suffering from tuberculosis and knew they would not live long. They were therefore willing to give their life for what they believed was a great cause, Bosnia-Herzegovina achieving independence from Austro-Hungary. Nikola Pasic, the Prime Minister of Serbia, received information about the plot, and gave instructions for Princip and the other two men to be arrested when they attempted to leave the country. However, his orders were not implemented and the three men arrived in Bosnia-Herzegovina where they joined forces with fellow conspirators, Muhamed Mehmedbasic, Danilo Ilic, Vaso Cubrilovic, Cvijetko Popovic, Misko Jovanovic and Veljko Cubrilovic.

On Sunday, 28th June, 1914, Franz Ferdinand and Sophie von Chotkovato arrived in Sarajevo by train. General Oskar Potiorek, Governor of the Austrian provinces of Bosnia-Herzegovina, was waiting to take the royal party to the City Hall for the official reception. In the front car was Fehim Curcic, the Mayor of Sarajevo and Dr. Gerde, the city's Commissioner of Police. Franz Ferdinand and Sophie von Chotkovato were in the second car with Oskar Potiorek and Count von Harrach. The car's top was rolled back in order to allow the crowds a good view of its occupants. Seven members of the Black Hand group lined the route. They were spaced out along the Appel Quay, each one had been instructed to try and kill Franz Ferdinand when the royal car reached his position. The first conspirator on the route to see the royal car was Muhamed Mehmedbasic. Standing by the Austro-Hungarian Bank, Mehmedbasic lost his nerve and allowed the car pass without taking action. Mehmedbasic later said that a policeman was standing behind him and feared he would be arrested before he had a chance to throw his bomb. The next man on the route was Nedjelko Cabrinovic. At 10:15 Cabrinovic stepped forward and hurled his bomb at the Archduke's car. The driver accelerated when he saw the object flying towards him and the bomb exploded under the wheel of the next car. Two of the occupants, Eric von Merizzi and Count Boos-Waldeck were seriously wounded. About a dozen spectators were also hit by bomb splinters.

After throwing his bomb, Nedjelko Cabrinovic swallowed the cyanide he was carrying and jumped into the River Miljacka. Four men, including two detectives, followed him in and managed to arrest him. The poison failed to kill him and he was taken to the local police station. Franz Ferdinand's driver, Franz Urban, drove on at extreme speed, and the remaining members of the Black Hand group decided that it was useless to try and kill the Archduke when the car was moving so fast. After attending the official reception at the City Hall, Franz Ferdinand asked about the members of his party that had been wounded by the bomb. When the Archduke was told they were badly injured in hospital, he insisted on being taken to see them. A member of the Archduke's staff, Baron Morsey, suggested this might be dangerous, but was assured of their safety by General Potiorek. However, Potiorek did accept it would be better if Duchess Sophie remained behind in the City Hall. When Baron Morsey informed Sophie of the revised plans, she refused to stay, arguing that she would never leave her husband's side.

In order to avoid the city centre, General Potiorek decided that the royal car should travel straight along the Appel Quay to the Sarajevo Hospital. However, Potiorek forgot to tell the driver, Franz Urban, about this decision. On the way to the hospital, Urban took a right turn into Franz Joseph Street. Princip happened to be was standing on the corner at the time. Oskar Potiorek immediately realised the driver had taken the wrong route and informed him, but it was too late. The driver put his foot on the brake, and began to back up. In doing so he moved slowly past the waiting Princip. He stepped forward, drew his gun, and at a distance of about five feet, fired several times into the car. Franz Ferdinand was hit in the neck and Sophie von Chotkovato in the abdomen. Princip's bullet had pierced the Archduke's jugular vein. Franz Urban drove the royal couple to Konak, the Governor's residence, but although both were still alive when they arrived, they died from their wounds soon afterwards.

After shooting Franz Ferdinand and Sophie von Chotkovato, Princip, following instructions, turned his gun on himself. A man behind him saw what he was doing, and seized Princip's right arm. A pair of policemen joined the struggle and Princip was arrested. Princip and Cabrinovic were both interrogated by the police. They eventually gave the names of their fellow conspirators. Muhamed Mehmedbasic managed to escape to Serbia but each of the remaining conspirators were arrested and charged with treason. Eight of the men charged with treason and the murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand were found guilty. Under Austro-Hungarian law, capital punishment could not be imposed on someone who was under the age of twenty when they had committed the crime. Princip therefore received the maximum penalty of twenty years.

Gavrilo Princip died of tuberculosis on 28th April 1918.

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