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Who the Hell is Gavrilo Princip?
Serbia Has a New Teen Idol
© Wikimedia Commons.

© Wikimedia Commons.

Serbia’s government is commissioning a statue to honor Gavrilo Princip, the boy-assassin of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Novosti, Serbia’s largest newspaper, revealed this week. To avoid any speculation about its intended symbolism, the statue will be erected atop the Belgrade Fortress on June 28, the 100th anniversary of Princip’s fateful gunshots, which, conventional wisdom holds, ushered in World War I. “Serbia and the Serbian people are thus righting a wrong committed against Princip, who has never before had a monument dedicated to him,” writes the pro-government paper.

Historians, of course, have long disagreed over how consequential Princip’s actions really were. But scholarly accuracy is hardly the issue here: Popular sentiment is. The centenary of the war’s outbreak has generated lively debate the world over, and Serbia has resented the portrayal of its national hero and supposed freedom fighter as a malicious terrorist or, worse, a misguided teen (Princip was 19). Recent scholarship has even made the comparison between the revolutionary organization Princip belonged to, Mlada Bosna, and al-Qaeda, and has forcefully alleged that members of Serbia’s government organized the assassination.

Last we checked, Germans were more than happy to lay the blame for World War I on others. Even so, it is notable that a country that only very recently joined formal talks to join the European Union is celebrating a figure who is so closely associated with the continent’s utter destruction.

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  • Tom

    This is ridiculous. Serbia lost between 1/10 and 1/5 of its population because this guy gave Germany and Austria-Hungary the excuse they needed to light Europe on fire by killing the more progressive heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne.
    And they’re building a statue to him?

    • FreeRider

      Yes, but it doesn’t had efect, Franz Ferdinand was a tiny figure, he was “only third in line to the throne” and that political murder was just an excuse as you said, Germany and “K und K” monarchy (aka Austro/Hungary) had a plan to take whole Balcan peninsula as their own colony and to start a Great war, no one couldn’t stopped them in that. Serbia was first on strike and SERBIA WON although with great sacrifice…

    • Jim__L

      “More progressive” than Franz Josef, who as an 18 year old supported the suppression of the uprisings of 1848? Isn’t that setting the bar a little low?

    • Kavanna

      That’s the most appalling thing. Franz Ferdinand went out of his way to marry a Czech and to redesign the Dual Monarchy into a triple monarchy, with a Slavic piece. Princip targeted him specifically to destroy any possibility of peacefully reforming the Austro-Hungarian empire.

      And Serbia suffered horribly in both world wars, the worst of any country. Only Poland in WWII fared in a similar way. And with Hitler, an Austrian German, the Slavs acquired a genocidal enemy.

  • michaelj68

    Way to go Serbia for honoring the terrorist who lite the fire that destroyed Europe.

  • dfooter

    Some countries, like some problem children, never learn and never grow up.

  • Lyle7

    We’ve got statues for Robert E. Lee and company. And some of our native American brothers and sisters can’t stand the Lincoln memorial. Just to name a few our own cultural icons who as human beings were less than perfect.

    • Kavanna

      Yes, but Lee made a point of freeing his slaves at the start of the Civil War. He viewed states’ rights as a point of honor.

  • Corlyss

    I don’t understand the high dudgeon. He was obviously making a political statement for Serbian independence. He wasn’t wrong. Just premature. I don’t understand why he should shoulder the blame for all the complex consequential balance-of-power arrangements that others elected to erect to protect themselves. It was normal contemporary political behavior, what nations had been trained to do since the Reformation. It’s unlikely that such a house of cards would have survived long without some spark to burn it all down. Europeans used to love fratricidal wars just as a matter of course. Now, instead, they love toxic welfare states and still envy German successful industry. How you all think that’s gonna work out?

    • Asmund Hairy-Arse

      Serbia was independent in 1914. But the Serbs wanted Bosnia, which was an Austrian possession.

      • Kavanna

        And they wanted to drag Russia into a confrontation with Austria-Hungary. Read Rebecca West’s classic Black Lamb and Grey Falcon — and she was sympathetic to the Serbs. But she doesn’t whitewash what happened in 1914.

        What turned it into a general war was the German general staff’s determination to use the occasion to pursue their own goals of destroying a rising Russia and humiliate France.

  • TommyTwo

    I can’t imagine why the name Ahn Jung-geun comes to mind.

    “it is notable that a country that only very recently joined formal talks to join the European Union is celebrating a figure who is so closely associated with the continent’s utter destruction”

    This goes to show the importance of branding: “European Union” sounds so much better than “Austro-Hungarian Empire.” (Not that branding is a modern invention; see “Holy Roman Empire.”)

    • FreeRider

      TommyTwo, “United States of Europe” sounds much more better that that “brand” that you mentioned. ;) :D

      • TommyTwo

        Yes, but then there’d be mass demonstrations throughout Europe by people demanding that they be sent home. :-)

    • Kavanna

      Neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire.

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