Tourists and journalists gathering around a replica of the Archduke’s car

Crowd gathers for the Assassination Anniversary in Sarajevo street

Posted on on 28 June 2014
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The Editor of Centenary News, Nigel Dacre, reports from Sarajevo on how the city marked the moment when the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated.

The Anniversary

Saturday, June 28th, 2014. 11.00 in the morning. Latin Bridge, Sarajevo.

100 years on, I am standing just yards from where Gavrilo Princip shot and fatally wounded Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie.

There is no official ceremony to mark the event. No speeches. No fanfare. Just a crowd of people, mainly tourists, journalists, and photographers, jostling for position on the pavements and road, trying to be as close as possible to where the event actually happened.

A replica of the royal couple's Graf and Stift sports car is parked where the assassination had taken place. At one stage, the adjoining museum arranges for two people dressed up as the Archduke and his wife to sit in the car.

A motorcade of five cars, with flashing lights and a police escort, suddenly turn into the street – raising expectations that we are about to see an official high level visit. The cars, though, just drive past without stopping.

But despite the lack of ceremony, there is still a charged atmosphere.

A large poster above the building next to the assassination proclaimed that this is “The Street Corner That Started the 20th Century”.

And the people that I spoke to amongst the crowd seemed to share that sentiment – a real sense that they were connecting with a massive historical event.

                          The poster above the Museum in what was Franz Joseph Street

Historic Day

This is, undeniably, an historic day.

It was around this time a hundred years ago, that a teenager, interested mainly in local Balkan politics, carried out an act that led to the death of millions of people, the toppling of empires and monarchies, and the rise of both Stalin and Hitler.

It took only a few moments for 19 year old Gavrilo Princip to step forward and fire his semi-automatic pistol at his targets in the royal car.

But, as we all know, what Princip did triggered a chain of events that had an enormous impact on the world for the next hundred years.

But as well as the Centenary of the Archduke’s assassination, today is also the start of the Centenary itself.

After years of planning and debate, June 28th 2104 marks the beginning of 4 years of commemorative and remembrance events that will take place around the world.

                          A crowd gather around where the assassination had taken place

It Could Have Been Different

Considering what happened following the shooting, and standing close to the very spot that it took place, it’s intriguing to think of how it could have been so very different.

If security had been tighter; if the Austrian authorities had acted on intelligence that a team of assassins were travelling in the region; if the car’s driver hadn’t taken the wrong turning; if Gavrilo Princip had missed his target or only injured his victims. An unusally long list of What Ifs.

One of Gavrilo Princips’ two bullets, fired in haste and without a clear aim, had struck the Archduke in the neck. As he was bleeding to death, according to evidence given during the trial of the assassins, he repeated the phrase, “It’s nothing. It’s nothing. It’s nothing”.

What happened in Sarajevo today 100 years ago was anything but “nothing”. Being on the street where the assassination occurred brought this home with force.

History can be shaped by small, badly organised actions, just as much as by major ones.

In Sarajevo, on this day, in this street, exactly a hundred years ago, history was indeed made.

Click here to read about the other events in Sarajevo on the anniversary day.

Nigel was in Sarajevo on a tour organised by Military History Tours The Surrey-based company is run by Gavin Worrall.

Images courtesy of Nigel Dacre, Centenary News