Describe the Sarajevo incident of the First World War.

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droxonian eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, while visiting Sarajevo in Bosnia is widely acknowledged to have been the trigger cause of the First World War. While many other elements combined to push Europe into war, it was this assassination which was the straw that broke the camel's back.

In June 1914, Franz Ferdinand was visiting Sarajevo, which was at that time part of the Austrian Empire. An independence movement was brewing in Bosnia, however, and although Ferdinand was warned of possible violence, he opted to go ahead with his state visit, traveling in an open car. In part, his determination to continue with the visit, despite the violence in Bosnia, stemmed from a desire to show strength and stand up to those who opposed his family's rule.

By chance, Franz Ferdinand asked to take a different route than planned through Sarajevo, because he wanted to visit an officer who had been hospitalized by an earlier grenade attack on a car. This change of route brought the Archduke directly into the path of Black Hand member Gavrilo Princip, who was able to shoot and kill both the Archduke and his wife while their car was stopped. This led the Austrians to determine that Serbia was to blame for financing the Black Hand group and thus began the First World War.