The #KU_WWI Twitter Project never intended on being a strictly historical representation or chronological timeline of the events that occurred in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914. Rather, it proposed a more creative approach – a human-focused interdisciplinary perspective that included history but also had geographical, literary, music and other social science and humanities elements both past and present. In other words, it was intended to be a social media performance piece that might inspire followers to learn more about World War I history.
But that doesn’t mean the project was entirely devoid of historical fact. In this blog post, we’ll deconstruct the #KU_WWI LIVE Tweetenactment and point out any interesting bits you might have missed on the day of the event.
The #KU_WWI LIVE Tweetenactment began at 9:30 am, 100 years to the minute (not accounting for the time difference) that Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Duchess Sophie departed Hotel Bosna in Ilidze for their official visit to Sarajevo. The morning begins with reference to the previous mini tweetenactment #IheartBosnia that ends with an exchange in which the Archduke tries to cancel the next day’s visit and the Governor insists. This discussion between the Archduke and Governor Potiorek actually took place the night before the assassination when both were attending a celebratory dinner at Hotel Bosna.
The morning of the assassination, the conspirators did in fact meet in a back room of Vlasjić’s Pastry Shop. There they received their weapons, and then identified strategic positions along the Miljacka River using a map of the parade route that had been published in local newspapers. For weapons, Gavrilo Princip chose to take a gun, Nedeljko Čabrinović took a bomb, and Trifko Grabež chose both – as indicated in the Tweetenactment.
At Vlasjić’s Pastry Shop conspiracy organizer Danilo Ilić distributed cyanide capsules – rather than be apprehended, the assassins intended on taking their own lives. As audience members learned to great dramatic effect, the cyanide capsules were old and did not kill the assassins who swallowed them.
Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Duchess Sophie were in the 3rd car in the motorcade. They rode in a Viennese Graf & Stift Bois de Boulogne open touring car that sported a yellow and black Hapsburg flag. A man named Leopold Loyka drove the car.
As the motorcade moved along the parade route, most of the assassins failed to act. There is still some controversy as to why – some may have had second thoughts, some might have froze – a few claimed during their trial that they were being watched too closely by police stationed in the crowd. Whatever the reason, in the end, only Nedeljko Čabrinović and Gavrilo Princip went through with the assassination plan.
The first assassination attempt on June 28th occurred when Nedeljko Čabrinović pulled out the bomb he’d received at Vlasjić’s Pastry Shop, struck its detonator cap against a lamppost, then hurled it at the Archduke.
Seeing the bomb, driver Leopold Loyka quickly accelerated and Archduke Franz Ferdinand raised his arm in an effort to protect Duchess Sophie. The bomb bounced off the back of their car and exploded under the car behind them. The passengers in the Archduke’s car were relatively unhurt – Duchess Sophie did receive some minor injuries.
The passengers of the 4th car as well as 20 spectators were injured by the explosion and taken to a local garrison hospital.
After tossing the bomb, Nedeljko Čabrinović swallowed his cyanide capsule and shouted, “I am a Serbian hero” before leaping into the Miljacka River – which, because it was Bosnia in June, was only a few inches deep. He was quickly apprehended by police and taken away.
The motorcade sped down the Appel Quay to city hall. Many of those waiting for the Archduke to arrive at city hall, including the mayor, thought the loud noise they had just heard was from a car backfiring or a cannon salute – many had no idea about the assassination attempt. Entirely unaware, the mayor launched into his prepared speech:
It is true that the mayor’s speech was interrupted by Archduke Ferdinand who exclaimed:
And the awkward moment in which the flustered mayor continued to read his prepared speech to which Archduke Ferdinand replied by reading from the pages of his own prepared remarks visibly splattered with the blood of his aide is also a matter of historical fact.
After the visit at city hall, it was agreed that instead of continuing with the official itinerary, the Archduke should visit those wounded by the earlier assassination attempt. Ironically, the person in charge of telling the driver of Archduke Ferdinand’s car about the change in destination was one of those injured in the bombing, and was therefore at the hospital unable to perform his duties.
Gavrilo Princip, the only assassin still committed to seeing the plot through, had wandered down Appel Quay to the corner of Franz Josef Strasse and was loitering in front of Schiller’s Delicatessen. During his trial he confessed he was just wasting time after a long and disappointing day. He was sure that the motorcade would change the planned route, and was stunned when it continued along its original path and passed right in front of him.
There is some controversy as to whether Archduke Ferdinand’s car stopped in front of Gavrilo Princip or actually backed up to him (did the car have a reverse gear?) – regardless, the assassin found himself less than 5 ft from his marks. It is said that upon seeing Duchess Sophie, Gavrilo Princip hesitated for several seconds before discharging his weapon. At his trial, he insisted that her death was an accident and while his accounts deferred, at one point said he was so excited he could not recall how many times he fired the gun or even where he aimed.
For the assassination, lyrics from the band Franz Ferdinand’s song, “All For You, Sofia” were used to illustrate the shooting. The juxtaposition highlights Gavrilo Princip’s youth – he was only 19-years-old at the time of the assassination and had he been alive today, might very well have liked this popular indie rock band. Using the modern day band’s lyrics in this context also educates fans that might not have fully understood the song’s historical context.
The shots fired by Gavrilo Princip struck both Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Duchess Sophie. Duchess Sophie, turning to her husband and seeing blood on his face, cried out her final words:
Seeing his beloved wife slump down in her seat, Archduke Franz Ferdinand whispered his final words to her:
The Storify for the LIVE Tweetenactment concludes with the deaths of Archduke Ferdinand and Duchess Sophie. For an epilogue, the Tweetenactment features eleven graphic representations of the assassination in what we call #AssassinationReimagined. This was followed by eleven newspaper headlines in different languages. Both illustrate how the world learned about the fateful events in Sarajevo that would eventually lead to global conflict.
In the epilogue, the number eleven was specifically chosen for its symbolic significance in WWI history. Last rites were said over the bodies of Archduke Ferdinand and Duchess Sophie at 11pm. The license plate of the car they were riding in when they died was “AIII 118” which some claim eerily prophesizes 11/11/18, the date of the WWI armistice at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day on the eleventh month in 1918.
While this concluded the LIVE portion of the #KU_WWI Twitter Project, the tweets didn’t stop there. Over the next few days we will release the Storifies for what happened in Sarajevo following the assassination, how the world found out and reacted, what happened to Archduke Ferdinand and Duchess Sophie’s children, and the literary interpretation of these events.
Click here to learn more about the #KU_WWI Twitter Project. Click here to read more about the characters.
Christopher Clark, The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914, (New York: Harper Collins, 2012).
Greg King and Sue Woolmans, The Assassination of the Archduke: Sarajevo 1914 and the Romance that Changed the World, (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2013).
John Keegan, The First World War, ( New York: Vintage Books, 1998).
Max Hastings, Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War, ( New York: Knopf, 2013).
Sean McMeekin, July 1914: Countdown to War, (New York: Basic Books, 2013).