Sarajevo Gears up For World War I Centenary

The unveiling of portraits of Gavrilo Princip and Archduke Franz Ferdinand on the exterior of the Sarajevo Museum mark the start of a series of events commemorating the centenary of the outbreak of World War One.

Marking a start to commemorations of the outbreak of World War One, the Museum of Sarajevo on June 9 unveiled the images of both Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his Serbian assassin, Gavrilo Princip.

Princip’s murder of the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary in Sarajevo in 1914 is widely seen as the key event that triggered the war.

Mirsad Avdic, curator of the museum, told Balkan Insight that, besides the banners, a number of events are planned this month to mark the historic day of June 28, 1914.

He added that the museum will stage a special exhibition dedicated to the event aside from the regular exhibition, which has already been seen by thousands of visitors this year.

‘We will also draw Gavrilo’s footsteps here on the sidewalks where it happened,’ Avdic said, pointing to the site where the fatal shots were fired on the corner of the street in front of the museum.

“We will also mark the place where Franz Ferdinand’s car was when the assassination happened,’ he added.

Other events planned for the end of June, related to the centenary, include scientific conferences on the topic of the causes of World War One and modern understandings of who Princip and Ferdinand were and what they represent now.

‘I hope the aim of the scientific round tables will be establishing the truth,’ Avdic said. ‘But I don’t think they will change anything,’ he added.

The authorities in Bosnia’s mainly Serbian entity, Republika Srpska, are not participating in plans to mark the centenary of the start of the war in Sarajevo. They are planning separate events together with Serbia.

The entity maintains that the events in Sarajevo will not be historically well grounded and will also not contribute to reconciliation among peoples in the country.

At the time of the assasination, Bosnia was part of Austria-Hungary. The Archduke’s assassination by a Bosnian Serb nationalist led directly to the outbreak of war between the Habsburg Empire and Serbia, which then drew in Russia, Germany, France, Britain, and others.

The central event of the marking of the centenary will be a concert performed by the Vienna Philharmonic on 28 June in the newly re-opened City Hall, the Vijecnica.

Tension over the centenary in Bosnia reflects the fact that Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks [Muslims] view Princip’s action and legacy differently.

To most Serbs, Princip was a national hero whose memory is to be celebrated. Many Croats, on the other hand, recall Princip as a terrorist and do not rejoice in the destruction of Austria-Hungary, which was a direct consequence of the war.

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