Two Shots That Changed The World

On June 28, 1914, Gavrilo Princip, a Serbian nationalist fired two shots on the street of Sarajevo, Bosnia killing Archduke Francis Ferdinand (heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary). Principe likely had no idea the avalanche he had just caused. A small group of young nationalist plotted to assassinate Austrian Archduke Francis Ferdinand during his visit to Sarajevo, capital of Bosnia, on June 28. One youth threw a small bomb but missed his target, and others failed to act when the time came. Gavrilo Princip was the one conspirator who succeeded—and only by sheer accident. How so?    

Princip killing Archduke Franz Ferdinand 
When Princip saw the archduke drive by still unharmed by the bomb, he tried to get to the car but in vain. Dispirited, he walked across the road to a café. Meanwhile, the archduke, angry about the attempted bombing, decided to change his route. However, his driver, unaware of the change in plans, set off in the wrong direction and had to turn the car around. At that very moment, Princip came out of the café and was literally presented with a sitting target—the archduke in his open car less than ten feet away. Princip approached the car and fired two shots, killing the archduke and his wife. Princip killed the archduke’s wife by mistake. He had intended to shoot the governor of Bosnia, General Potiorek, who was with the royal couple in the car. This incident eventually plunged the whole world into a war that lasted four years.
The death of the Archduke was just the immediate cause of the war. Before 1914 there were long-standing rivalries among European nations. This rivalry was rooted in European history of the previous years. By 1914 European powers had been divided into two opposing alliance; the Triple Alliance of Austria-Hungary, Italy, and Germany and the Triple Entente of Britain, France, and Russia. These nations had political and economic ties with a number of other countries. Many of these countries also had colonies in other continents.   
Before 1914 many European nations had a romantic notion of war. They saw war as noble and glorious, and believed that a war could be won quickly and decisively. They believed that war is the solution to lasting peace.  A phenomenon known as the arms race made matters worse. European nations quickly acquired military ammunition believing that the more weapons you have, the more other nations would be afraid to go to war with you. Since every major European nation was in the arms race, none feared the other; each believed that war could easily be won. The atmosphere was ripe for war! All that was needed was a reason to fight: which Gavrilo Princip provided.
Soldiers at War
Austria-Hungary believed that the Serbian government was responsible for the assassination of the archduke. Even though an official investigation found no evidence to incriminate the Serbian government, Austria on July 23 sent Serbia a list of demands that amounted to an ultimatum. Since Serbia could not meet up with all the demands Austria immediately terminated diplomatic relations with Serbia. The Austrian emperor, backed by Germanys support, declared war on Serbia on July 28, 1914.  Since Russia and Serbia were of the Slav race, Russia backed Serbia and tried to restrain Austria. Germany declared war on Russia on august 1, and on France two days later. Since German war plan involved marching through Belgium which was a colony of Britain, Britain declared war on Germany. The war eventually involved 32 countries, 28 of which supported the entente.
More than 13 million soldiers and civilians paid the ultimate price for the war. Soldiers of different religion were urged to kill one another in the name of their saviour. On one side were protestant Germany, catholic Austria, orthodox Bulgaria and Moslem turkey. On the other side were protestant Britain, catholic France and Italy, and orthodox Russia. Even priests and nuns were mobilized for the war. 
War ends on November 11, 1918
The war finally came to an end on November 11, 1918 with the defeat of Germany and his allies. 20 years later a Second World War broke out, usually considered a continuation of the First World War. More than a 100 million people have died as a result of wars since 1914. Even if you know the sorrow of losing one loved one in warfare, we can only imagine such misery and pain multiplied millions of times over.
Although Europe was ripe for war by 1914, it took 2 gunshots from a Serbian nationalist to set off a series of events that eventually led to the death of millions. The world was never the same.  


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