As a follow-up to the #KU_WWI LIVE Tweetenactment of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, #TheWorldReacts features a collection of tweets from leaders around the world as they learned of what happened in Sarajevo on June 28th, 1914.
Summer 1914 would eventually lead these political leaders to war, a war that would shape the 20th Century. Therefore it may come as a surprise that for many of these leaders, the events seemed relatively insignificant at the time. Few had any foresight as to how what happened in Sarajevo would result in a global war, and most had what they thought were more pressing, local issues in mind.
When he learned of the assassination in Sarajevo, British Prime Minister (@PM_Asquith) dismissed it as one of many. His main preoccupation was with the Irish independence movement (see Sean McMeekin’s July 1914: Countdown to War, pg. 70 – 72). The character’s response also indicates a general disengagement between Great Britain and continental Europe.
In June 1914, politicians in France were dealing with their own assassination scandal. A mistress of the French finance minister had recently murdered the editor of the French paper Le Figaro for launching a smear campaign against her lover. French President Raymond Poincaré (@Prez_Poincare) was at the Longchamp horse races when he received a telegram about the assassination and his reaction was dismissive – he stayed at the races and continued to place bets (see Sean McMeekin’s July 1914: Countdown to War, pg. 62 – 68 and Margaret MacMillan’s The War that Ended Peace: The Road to 1914, pg. 544).
Kaiser Wilhelm II (@Wilhelm_II) was attending the Kiel Regatta Gala when he heard the news of Archduke Ferdinand’s death. A close, personal friend of the Archduke, Kaiser Wilhelm II was one of the few heads of state who saw the assassination as a war-provoking event (see Sean McMeekin’s July 1914: Countdown to War, pg. 78 – 80 and Margaret MacMillan’s The War that Ended Peace: The Road to 1914, pg. 544).
Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Joseph I (@Franz_Joseph_I) was in the town Ischl when he heard the news and to some seemed almost relieved. Upon receiving the telegram from his adjutant the emperor was quoted as saying that, “A higher power has restored the old order that I unfortunately was unable to uphold.” Future statements would be more publically acceptable and grief-stricken, but his initial reaction was telling and further exemplified in the imperial court’s continued humiliation of the Archduke and Duchess Sophie in their funeral proceedings (King and Woolmans, The Assassination of the Archduke, pg 212-213) — stay turned for our post about #FirstWorldWarOrphans later this week.
The first half of #TheWorldReacts represents the concept that while the assassination in Sarajevo is often described as the spark that ignited World War I, a more nuanced view of history shows how the event created a path to war – one of many paths they could have been taken that summer – a path these leaders had a month to turn back from.
The second half of #TheWorldReacts presents the two very different perspectives of political leaders in Serbia represented by the #KU_WWI characters King Peter I (@PeterI_Serbia) and the Serbian Chief of Intelligence Dragutin “Apis” Dimitrjević (@BlackHandApis).
King Peter I personifies the old-world monarchist view while the other represents more of a radical, nationalist agenda that would reappear again and again throughout the 20th century in the Balkans and also throughout Europe.
One hundred years later, the role of Serbia in the assassination plot continues to be controversial. While the Belgrade-based Black Hand terrorist group claimed responsibility for the assassination after the fact, it has never been clear how much support they provided the Young Bosnia conspirators. Was Serbia the culprit, the victim, or the victor? As in many historical events, the answer probably lies somewhere in the middle of all three. The misinformation and confusion between the two characters represents how the assassination plot’s threads may have extended to Belgrade, but it was unlikely the conspiracy was “well organized” as would later be suggested by Austria-Hungary.
In #TheWorldReacts, the two Serbian characters argue about the assassination’s legacy. Should the assassins be celebrated as heroes and martyrs or should they be regarded as disenfranchised youths or terrorists? The dialogue between the two characters represents the divisive way in which Gavrilo Princip and his actions are remembered even to this day. As fate would have it, both character’s predictions for the future eventually came to pass.
A legacy of World War I was the 1918 formation of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, which became the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1929 and eventually the communist country of Yugoslavia after World War II. “One nation, one king, one country” was the motto of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia which the character tweets in both a cyrillic and latin script, indicating his hopes for unity in Southeast Europe.
In 1930, a plaque commemorating Gavrilo Princip was erected at the corner of Appel Quay and Franz Josef Strasse in Sarajevo. It read in Serbian, “Na ovom istorijskom mjestu Gavrilo Princip Navijesti slobodu na Vidov-Dan 15. [28.] Juna 1914.” Translation: “At this historical place, Gavrilo Princip proclaimed freedom on Vidovdan 15. Juna 1914” [St. Vitus Day, June 28th 1914 – Gregorian Calendar]. This plaque was stolen by Nazi troops in 1941 and given as a present to Adolf Hitler. A second plaque was erected in 1945 and Gavrilo Princip was declared a “national hero” of Yugoslavia. In 1953, another plaque was erected, this time with footprints encased in cement indicating the exact spot where Gavrilo Princip stood when he assassinated the Archduke. This plaque and memorial were destroyed by bombs during the siege of Sarajevo in 1992. Gavrilo Princip’s cement footprints were never replaced, but the Bosnian government did choose to erect a more neutral plaque that stands to this day. In Bosnian and English it reads: “From this place on 28 June 1914 Gavrilo Princip assassinated the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sofia.”
If you would like to read an eye-witness account of WWI centennial commemoration activities in Bosnia, check out National World War I Museum Archivist Jonathan Casey’s blog: https://theworldwar.org/eyewitness.
Click here to learn more about the #KU_WWI Twitter Project.
Check out these other #KU_WWI Tweetenactments: #SafetyFirst, #Conspiracy,#WhySarajevo, #All4USophie, #BlankCheck, #IheartBosnia, LIVE Tweetenactment, LIVE Tweetenactment Deconstructed, #Sarajevo, #KU_WWI Characters Revealed.