Gavrilo Princip PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 02 March 2010 15:55

Gavrilo Princip

Born: 25 July 1894(1894-07-25)

Died: 28 April 1918

Age: 23

Cause of Death:  Rotted to death in prison.

Notable because:  Class warrior and the most famous Bosnian Serb ever. Shot wealthy Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife, Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg, in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914, setting in motion events of WW1. He tried to kill himself immediately and later said "I am the son of peasants and I know what is happening in the villages. That is why I wanted to take revenge, and I regret nothing."

Gavrilo Princip was a Bosnian Serb patriot, associated with the freedom movement Mlada Bosna (Young Bosnia). Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife, Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg, in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914. Princip and his accomplices were arrested and implicated a number of members of the Serbian military, leading Austria-Hungary to issue a démarche to Serbia known as the July Ultimatum. This set off a chain of events that led to World War I

Gavrilo Princip was born in the village of Velestovo, a poor area of Bosnia near Bosansko Grahovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Austria-Hungarian Empire, the son of a postman. His parents, Petar and Marija (née Mićić), had nine children, five sons and four daughters, six of whom died in infancy. His impoverished parents could not provide for him and sent him to live with an older brother in Zagreb.

Most historians agree that Princip was a member of the group known as "Union of Death", a smaller, breakaway group of Young Bosnia, was involved with the Black Hand (Црна рука/Crna ruka); and that the latter group was at least somewhat responsible for coordination, training, and/or supplying weapons for the forthcoming assassination attempt on Franz Ferdinand. However, Princip had minimal contact with the group, and did not associate with them. The Young Bosnia movement was a group made up of Serbs, Croats, and Bosnian Muslims, committed to the independence of the South Slavic peoples from Austria-Hungary. In February 1912, Princip took part in protest demonstrations against the Sarajevo authorities for which he was expelled from school. Following his expulsion, he moved to Belgrade. In Belgrade, he sought to gain admission to the First Belgrade Gymnasium but failed the entrance exam.

On 6 October 1908, Bosnia-Herzegovina had been declared a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire by Emperor Franz Joseph. This created a stir among Slavic people of southern Europe and the Russian Tsar who opposed this annexation.

In 1912, Serbia was abuzz with mobilization for the First Balkan War. Princip planned to join the komite, irregular Serbian guerrilla forces under Serbian Major Vojislav Tankosić which had fought in Macedonia against Ottoman units. Tankosić was a member of the central committee of the secret society Unification or Death (Ujedinjenje ili Smrt). Princip, however, was rejected by the komite in Belgrade because of his small physical stature. He then went to Prokuplje in Southern Serbia where he sought a personal interview with Tankosić. Tankosić, however, rejected Princip as being "too small and too weak." Vladimir Dedijer argued that this rejection was "one of the primary personal motives which pushed him to do something exceptionally brave in order to prove to others that he was their equal."

The Latin Bridge, known as the Princip Bridge during the Yugoslav era, was the site of the assassination.

On 28 June 1914, Gavrilo Princip participated in the assassination in Sarajevo. General Oskar Potiorek, Governor of the Austrian provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina had invited Franz Ferdinand and Countess Sophie to the opening of a hospital. The Archduke knew that the visit would be dangerous, knowing his uncle, Emperor Franz Josef, had been the subject of an assassination attempt by the Black Hand in 1911.

Just before 10 o'clock on Sunday, the royal couple arrived in Sarajevo by train. In the front car was Fehim Čurčić, the Mayor of Sarajevo and Dr. Gerde, the city's Commissioner of Police. Franz Ferdinand and Sophie were in the second car with Oskar Potiorek and Count Friedrich August von Harrach-Rohrau. The car's top was rolled back in order to allow the crowds a good view of its occupants.

The seven conspirators lined the route. They were spaced out along the Appel Quay, each one with instructions to try to kill Franz Ferdinand when the royal car reached his position. The first conspirator on the route to see the royal car was Bosniak Muhamed Mehmedbašić. Standing by the Austro-Hungarian Bank, Mehmedbašić lost his nerve and allowed the car to pass without taking action. Mehmedbašić later said that a policeman was standing behind him and feared he would be arrested before he had a chance to throw his bomb.

At 10:15 A.M., when the six car procession passed the central police station, nineteen-year-old student Nedeljko Čabrinović hurled a hand grenade at the Archduke's car. The driver accelerated when he saw the object flying towards him, but the bomb had a 10 second delay and exploded under the wheel of the third car. Two of the occupants, Eric von Merizzi and Count Ludwig Joseph von Boos-Waldeck were seriously wounded. About a dozen spectators were also hit by bomb shrapnel.

After Čabrinović's bomb missed the Archduke's car, five other conspirators, including Princip, lost an opportunity to attack because of the heavy crowds and the high speed of the Archduke's car. To avoid capture, Čabrinović swallowed cyanide and jumped into the River Miljacka to make sure he died. The cyanide pill was expired and made him sick, but failed to kill him and the River Miljacka was only 13 centimetres (5 in) deep. A few seconds later he was hauled out and detained by police.


Franz Ferdinand later decided to go to the hospital and visit the victims of Čabrinović's failed bombing attempt. In order to avoid the city centre, General Oskar Potiorek decided that the royal car should travel straight along the Appel Quay to the Sarajevo Hospital. However, Potiorek forgot to inform the driver, Leopold Loyka, about this decision. On the way to the hospital, Loyka took a right turn into Franz Josef Street.

Princip had gone into Moritz Schiller's cafe for a sandwich, having apparently given up, when he spotted Franz Ferdinand's car as it drove past, having taken the wrong turn. After realizing the mistake, the driver put his foot on the brake, and began to back up. In doing so the engine of the car stalled and the gears locked, giving Princip his opportunity. Princip stepped forward, drew his FN Model 1910 pistol, pistol-whipped a nearby pedestrian, and at a distance of about five feet, fired twice into the car. Franz Ferdinand was hit in the neck and Sophie (who instinctively covered Franz's body with her own after the first shot) in the abdomen, and they both died before 11:00 A.M.

His partners in Franz's death were: Nedeljko Čabrinović, Trifun Grabež, Muhamed Mehmedbašić, Vaso Čubrilović, Cvjetko Popović, Lazar Djukić, Danilo Ilić, Veljko Čubrilović, Neđo Kerović, Mihaijlo Jovanović, Jakov Milović, Mitar Kerović, Ivo Kranjcević, Branko Zagorac, Marko Perin, and Cvijan Stjepanović.

Gavrilo Princip's trial on 5 December 1914.

Princip attempted suicide first with the use of his pistol after the assassination, then by ingesting cyanide. But he vomited the past-date poison (as did Čabrinović, leading the police to believe the group had been deceived and bought a much weaker poison). The pistol was wrestled from his hand before he had a chance to fire another shot.

Princip was too young to receive the death penalty, being twenty-seven days short of his twentieth birthday at the time of the assassination. Instead, he received the maximum sentence of twenty years in prison. He was held in harsh conditions which were worsened by the war. He got tuberculosis, and had one of his arms amputated in prison when the disease infected an arm bone. He died of tuberculosis on 28 April 1918 at Theresienstadt (a place which later became infamous as a Nazi concentration camp), 3 years and 10 months after he assassinated the Archduke and Duchess. At the time of his death, Princip weighed around 40 kilograms (88 lb), weakened by malnutrition, blood loss from his amputated arm, and disease.

The cell where Gavrilo Princip was kept

The house where Gavrilo Princip lived in Sarajevo was destroyed during the First World War. After the war, it became a museum in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia was conquered by Germany in 1941 and Sarajevo became part of fascist Croatia. The Croatian fascists destroyed the house again. After a communist Yugoslavia was established in 1944, the house of Gavrilo Princip became a museum again and there was another museum dedicated to him within the city of Sarajevo. During the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s, the house of Gavrilo Princip was destroyed a third time by the government; no attempts to rebuild it have yet been announced. The Gavrilo Princip museum has been turned into a museum dedicated to Archduke Ferdinand and the Habsburg monarchy. Prior to the 1990s the site on the pavement on which Princip stood to fire the fatal shots was marked by embossed footprints. These were removed as a consequence of the 1992-5 war in Bosnia and the perception of Princip as having been a Serb nationalist. Later, a simple wooden memorial was placed near the site of the assassination with the words "May Peace Prevail on Earth" in Bosnian, Serbian and English.

The Scottish rock band Franz Ferdinand wrote a song about the assassination called "All For You, Sophia", which was released on the sing EP for "Take Me Out". The first two lines of the song are "Bang, Bang! Gavrilo Princip. Bang, Bang! Shoot me Gavrilo." This could possibly be insinuating that Princip performed the assassination to pledge his love for Countess Sophie.


"I am the son of peasants and I know what is happening in the villages. That is why I wanted to take revenge, and I regret nothing."
"I am not a criminal, for I destroyed a bad man. I thought I was right."
Princip after he performed his assassination
"No, I am not sorry. I have cleared evil out of the way."
Princip during his trial
"There is no need to carry me to another prison. My life is already ebbing away. I suggest that you nail me to a cross and burn me alive. My flaming body will be a torch to light my people on their path to freedom."
Princip to the prison governor on being moved to another prison
"Our shadows will be walking through Vienna, strolling through the court, frightening lords."
Found engraved on the wall of Princip's prison cell after his death
"If I hadn't done it the Germans would have found another excuse."
Supposedly his last words, but not proven.


Terrorist: Gavrilo Princip, the Assassin Who Ignited World War I (Fiction - Young Adult)

Author: Henrik Rehr
Manufacturer: Graphic Universe
Amazon Price: $11.99
Offers - Buy New From: $8.60 Used From: $2.10
Buy Now
Editorial Review: This much we know: On June 28, 1914, a young man stood on a street corner in Sarajevo, aimed a pistol into a stalled car carrying the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, and pulled the trigger. Within a few minutes, the archduke was dead, and Europe would not know peace again for five years. More than 16 million people would die in the fighting that came to be known as World War I. Little else is known about the young man named Gavrilo Princip. How could a poor student from a tiny Serbian village turn the wheel of history and alter the face of a continent for generations? Henrik Rehr's dark and riveting graphic novel fills the gaps in the historical record and imagines in insightful detail the events that led a boy from Oblej to become history's most significant terrorist.


The Trigger: The Hunt for Gavrilo Princip - the Assassin Who Brought the World to War

Author: Tim Butcher
Manufacturer: Random House
Offers - Buy New From: $7.87 Used From: $2.98
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Editorial Review:
On a summer morning in Sarajevo almost a hundred years ago, a teenager took a pistol out of his pocket and fired not just the opening rounds of the First World War but the starting gun for modern history. By killing Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Gavrilo Princip, started a cycle of events that would leave 15 million dead from fighting between 1914 and 1918 and proved fatal for empires and a way of ruling that had held for centuries.

The Trigger tells the story of a young man who changed the world forever. It focuses on the drama of the incident itself by following Prinip’s journey. By retracing his steps from the feudal frontier village of his birth, through the mountains of the northern Balkans to the great plain city of Belgrade and ultimately Sarajevo, Tim Butcher illuminates our understanding of Princip— the person and the place that shaped him—and makes discoveries about him that have eluded historians for a hundred years. Traveling through the Balkans on Princip’s trail, and drawing on his own experiences there as a war reporter during the 1990s, Butcher unravels this complex part of the world and its conflicts, and shows how the events that were sparked that day in June 1914 still have influence today. Published for the centenary of the assassination, The Trigger is a rich and timely work, part travelogue, part reportage, and part history.


One Morning in Sarajevo: 28 June 1914

Author: David James Smith
Manufacturer: Phoenix
Amazon Price: $16.95
Offers - Buy New From: $2.94 Used From: $1.47
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Editorial Review:

It was the shot that led to World War I and the death of countless millions: the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. This historical account of what happened on that day in June 1914 is every bit as gripping as The Day of the Jackal. Focusing on the man behind the killing, and using newly available sources (including the few surviving witnesses), David James Smith brilliantly reinvestigates and reconstructs the events that determined the shape of the twentieth century.




Brothers in Arms: Easter 1916 & Sarajevo 1914: The legacy of Padraig Pearse and Gavrilo Princip

Author: James Rankin

Buy Now
Editorial Review: Patrick Pearse is well known as one of the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland, Gavrillo Princip is almost as well known for assassinating Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914, the event that triggered World War One.
Both men, born 1300 miles apart were influenced by the previous sacrifices of fellow countrymen; both became convinced that the only way to free their countries from occupation was through an act of violence and sacrifice, an act designed to spark a revolution. Despite the deaths that followed their actions, the lives of both men are currently being celebrated in their respective countries.
What can we learn from a comparison between them and their motivations? Is their courage and self-sacrifice a model for political action today?


Bosnia: In the Footsteps of Gavrilo Princip (Wayfarer)

Author: Tony Fabijancic
Manufacturer: University of Alberta Press
Amazon Price: $29.95
Offers - Buy New From: $23.95 Used From: $19.47
Buy Now
Editorial Review:

Behind one of the twentieth century's most infamous events lies the forgotten story of Gavrilo Princip, Archduke Franz Ferdinand's assassin and unlikely catalyst of the Great War. Inspired by the idealism of the young Princip, Tony Fabijancic sets off on an unprecedented journey, shadowing the ghost of the assassin from the peasant village of his birth, across the rugged breadth of Bosnia-Herzegovina, to his fateful meeting in Sarajevo with the heir apparent to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. A human portrait of Princip emerges as Fabijancic, accompanied by his father, plunges us into the roiling heart of Bosnia then and now. Two parallel journeys flow into one compelling story that takes readers interested in Balkan nationalism, political terrorism, and literary travel writing on a unique journey through a complex land. The son of a Croatian immigrant who escaped Yugoslavia in 1964, Tony Fabijancic was born in Edmonton, Alberta. He is an Associate Professor of English at Memorial University in Corner Brook, Newfoundland, and the author of Croatia: Travels in Undiscovered Country.

Tensions leading to World War I brewed for years, and were brought to a head by the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. But who was the assassin? What was his plan? Not many people know the name of Gavrilo Princip. Tony Fabijancic peels back the mystery surrounding Princip, and explores his journey to Sarajevo, his motivations, idealism, and Yugoslavianism. Fabijancic also connects Princip to the new Bosnia that emerged from the ethnic violence of the 1990s. Anyone with an interest in literary travel writing, Balkan nationalism, and international politics will find a wealth of historically important information folded into a remarkable story set in a fascinating land.


Last Updated on Sunday, 20 March 2011 18:48

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