Those Who Do Not Know Their History: World War I Edition

Franz Ferdinand had crossed the Danube into Bosnia in order to witness an exercise by two corps of the Austrian army – staged with the obvious intent of cowing local unrest.  Had he any awareness that he was entering a land of long memories, he might have chosen a day other than the anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo in 1389, when a single Serb had gone behind Turkish lines and knifed Sultan Murad I to death.


Teenage boys, Princip and Cabrinovic could hardly have been aware of the full range of ironies – historical, cultural, and strategic – impinging on the archduke’s visit.  Franzjosefstrasse, the thoroughfare into which his driver had accidentally turned – thronged with tarboosh-wearing Muslims, bulging with Russian Orthodox domes, and bearing the name of an octogenarian Austrian Catholic – was in itself symbolic of the combustible elements that had long threatened an explosion in the Balkans.  By killing Franz Ferdinand in such a place, at a moment when both Austria and Germany were spoiling for war against the East, the conspirators had acted with more lethal consequences than they knew.

Thats some mighty fine writing.

For anyone unaware, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in Sarajevo in 1914 was the spark that set off World War I.  He’s also the namesake of a 21st century rock band.

It should be noted that the Battle of Kosovo in 1389 was a bloody tactical draw and a strategic defeat for the Serbs – another World War I parallel.

Quote source: “Colonel Roosevelt” by Edmund Morris (pg 362)