Many things caused World War I, like Big Militarism, Imperialism, or the many defense alliances. But the thing that made the tension in Europe really explode was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand by the Serbian Black Hand.
He was murdered on the 28th of June 1914 by a terrorist group called the Black Hand. At first, their attempt to kill him with a grenade failed. But later on, a Serbian nationalist called Gavrilo Princip murdered him and his wife in Sarajevo.
This assassination led to a war declaration from Austria-Hungary to Serbia. As Russia started to mobilize its big army, Germany, an ally of Austria-Hungary, declared war on them.
That’s what caused World War I, but why did the Black Hand want to kill the Archduke of Austria-Hungary?
Background of the Black Hand
The Black Hand was a Serbian ultra-nationalist secret organization dedicated to extending the Serbian state and, as a consequence of its actions, re-creating the old Serbian Empire. At first, the Black Hand called themselves the Unification of Death.
In Belgrade’s City Hall on October 8, 1908, only two days after Austria formally acquired Bosnia and Herzegovina, a group of Serbian ministers, officials, and generals gathered to discuss the future of their country following the Anschluss.
They established the Narodna Odbrana, a semi-secret society that provided Pan-Serbism with a focal point and an organizational structure.
The group’s mission was to free Serbs who were under the control of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Besides that, they carried out anti-Austrian propaganda and recruited sabotage agents and spies to work inside the seized regions.
Satellite organizations were established in Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Istria, and other countries. During its time in Bosnia, the Bosnian organization developed close ties with local pan-Serb activists, such as Mlada Bosna.
Motives for the murder
Austria-Hungary was known as the Dual Monarchy because the monarchs of Austria and Hungary each held authority over a separate territory inside their own kingdoms.
However, the empire also included a large number of Slavic citizens, including Czechs, Slovaks, Slovenes, Croats, Ukrainians, and Poles, who did not have the same degree of representation at the highest levels of administration as the other people. Franz-Ferdinand wished to alter this situation, which made him a threat.
Franz-Ferdinand was the heir apparent to the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, and since his father Franz Josef was 84 years old in 1914, it seemed inevitable that he would succeed to the throne himself. Because of his intentions to provide Slavic inhabitants of the Empire more autonomy and self-rule, the Archduke posed a significant danger to Serbian nationalist aspirations.
The Black Hand sought to assassinate Sophie and Franz Ferdinand for two reasons: first, to prevent the Slavic population of Central Europe from gaining a stake in the Austro-Hungarian Empire; and second, to prevent the Slavic population of Central Europe from gaining a stake in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. That would effectively pull the rug out from under their Serbian Empire before it had a chance to get off the ground.
However, it would also trigger a broad European war, in which Russia would be able to neutralize the Austrian menace on their behalf.
There are some assumptions about Russia’s part in the assassination of Franz Ferdinand.
The trial of Gavrilo Princip
Gavrilo Princip was directly captured after the attack on the Archduke as the crowd around him start to attack him.
There isn’t much known about the main trial of the Black Hand, but we know Gavrilo Princip was sentenced to 20 years of prison after a trial in 1914 in Sarajevo, the maximum amount since he was under 20 years old at the time.
But he couldn’t complete his full sentence, he died in 1918 in Vienna due to tuberculosis.