One hundred years ago today, a calamitous event occurred that would lead Croatia into decades of dark existence under a Serb-led oppressive dictatorship and then Serb-led communist persecution and denial of Croatian national pride under communist Yugoslavia.
On June 28, 1914 a Serbian nationalist, Gavrilo Princip, who was an operative of the Greater-Serbia fanned “Black Hand” terrorist organisation, assassinated the heir to the throne of Austro-Hungarian Empire Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie as they visited the city of Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. This assassination was the point in history that whirled into reality World War One, which claimed the lives of over 10 million soldiers and 7 million civilians around the globe.
So, with the two close-range bullets from Princip’s handgun a calamitous and lethal conflict was unleashed that, more than any other series of events, has shaped the world ever since It toppled empires, coaxed the U.S. from its isolation and sowed the seeds of the next even bloodier war, genocide and the Cold War partition of Europe and, as far as Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina are concerned – it built the foundations of the stage for the 1990’s brutal war of Serb and Serb-led Yugoslav army aggression and genocide. Had it not been for WWI communism would most likely not have taken hold in Russia and then across Eastern and South Eastern Europe, where Croatia sits.
WW I destroyed four empires—the Austro-Hungarian (to which Croatia belonged), Ottoman, Russian and German—and a new world map was redrawn. It led to Nazi promises to restore Germany to greatness, planting the seeds for World War II. It led to the Russian Revolution but also the Allied forces propped Serb-led creation of the oppressive Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes despite the fact that the Croatian parliament never ratified such a union, leaving the platform for a later onslaught by the communist Yugoslavia forces that would in just over forty years on be quashed during 1990’s in the brutal war of Serb aggression against Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In the immediate aftermath of WWI the Allied forces rushed in to declare that Germany, and especially its leaders, had been responsible for the war; the Austrians too, as accomplices, in lesser degree. The Treaty of Versailles made this official, as the victorious powers there spoke of a “war imposed upon them by the aggression of Germany and her allies.” This was the notorious guilt clause used to justify severe “reparation” payments stretching far into the future.
While the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was declared in Serbia, Belgrade, on 1 December 1918, the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, saw to the legitimisation of Serbia’s land-grab form Croats and Slovenes.
In 1914, the Serbian government stated that, “the struggle for the liberation and unification of all our captive brethren Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes” (Nis Declaration December 7, 1914) would be one of its chief war aims. This marked an important first step on the Greater-Serbia road towards creating a Yugoslavia in which Serbs would lead and reign superior. The Corfu Declaration of July 20, 1917 outlined the basic structure of the future Yugoslav kingdom/state. Both the Serbian government, under the premiership of Nikola Pasic, and the so-called Yugoslav Committee – which operated from London and was founded in London – under their chairman, a Yugoslav nationalist in self-imposed exile of Croatian extraction Ante Trumbic, agreed to the creation of the parliamentary monarchy under the Serb Karadjordjevic dynasty.
There was a major problem with the Corfu Declaration – it was based on the lie that the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes were one people with one common goal. Which certainly was not true!
To help prop-up this Declaration came President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points speech on January 8, 1918. President Wilson’s speech, points ten and eleven in particular, speak of Serbia’s high international prestige and its good standing among the Allies. Well, Serbia’s Gavrilo Princip fired that fatal shot on 28 June 1914, giving the Allies an easy excuse to enter into war and to redraw the map of Europe and reward Serbia’s Karadjordjevic with the land King Alexander (married to King George VI’s cousin) had been asking for under the guise of “unification and fight against oppression of the Austro-Hungarian Empire”!
Croatia and Slovenia thus found themselves in a situation where others – the Allies – largely dictated what was to become of them! Vast amounts of Croatian and Slovenian lands were also promised to Italy; pressure to join the Serb-led Kingdom mounted; bypassing the Croatian Parliament, the Croatian National Council was formed and it, not the parliament or the people, was the body that agreed to join in the union with Serbs! By December 1, 1918, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes was formed, with Prince Regent Aleksandar Karadjordjevic named as its sovereign.
Many international leaders condemned the Serbs during the Balkan wars of the 1990s. Some Serb officials said they cannot take part in this year’s World War I commemorations at Sarajevo’s city hall, for example, because it bears a plaque blaming “Serb criminals” for setting it afire in 1992. Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic said recently he wouldn’t attend the Sarajevo WWI commemoration because he cannot go where his people are being accused.
Serbs are instead erecting monuments to Gavrilo Princip in a Serb enclave in East Sarajevo and in his hometown of Obljaj, where his birthplace is being renovated.
The Serbian Orthodox church meanwhile has proclaimed the assassin Princip a national hero. “Gavrilo Princip was just defending his freedom and his people,” a leading cleric, Metropolitan Amfilohije, said recently. “In Serbia, there is still the old narrative from the former Yugoslavia, which says that the first world war happened because there was this great hero called Gavrilo Princip,”…
The hypocrisy of this never ceases to stun: Serbs fought brutally against the plight of Croatian people for freedom from Serb-led Yugoslavia in 1990’s!
Whatever the Serbian Orthodox church or Serbia’s political leaders of today may wish to tell the world regarding WWI an indisputable truth remains: Gavrilo Princip and his associates were encouraged and trained in the ultra-nationalistic atmosphere of Belgrade (Serbia) amid the heady expansionism of a Serb program that targeted Archduke Franz Ferdinand precisely because he had plans for reaching a compromise in the South Slav area. Greater-Serbia politics were not having any of that – it had its sights set on grabbing other nations’ lands for itself!
And as Robin Harris, former advisor to UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, wrote in his recent article “ Sarajevo: Where the century of terror began” – “Most importantly, the whole Serbian state apparatus, within which — then and since — one must include prominent intellectuals and key elements in the Serbian Orthodox Church, was fully behind the broader strategy of ‘liberating’ the South Slavs to include them within what amounted to a Greater Serbia (by whatever name). In that regard, the Austrian authorities were fully justified in blaming Serbia.
Viewed from the angle of Belgrade — rather than perspectives more familiar in London, Paris, or even Berlin — the conflict that began in 1914 was a Third Balkan War. The First Balkan War (1912) against the Ottoman Empire saw Serbia gain control of Kosovo, while the Second (1913) against Bulgaria saw it gain much of Macedonia. These two wars left the Serbs as the most powerful Balkan state. They also fed the violent, aggressive aspects of a deep-rooted and enduring Greater Serbian ideology. Belgrade began to feel strong enough, with Russian support, to take on its larger Austrian neighbour. And, especially since the Austrian annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1908, Serbian state policy regarded Vienna as the principal obstacle to its ambitions…”
Forward this “tape” of the Greater Serbia trend, pursuits and undercurrents that are designed to bastardise Sarajevo’s official commemoration today of 100 years since the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, at which ceremony the renowned Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra will set the mood of remembrance. Bosnian Serbs are boycotting the central Centenary ceremonies and have organised their own ceremony, which competes with the central Centenary commemoration, in which they raised yesterday a monument to Gavrilo Princip as hero! The message I see in this is that Serbs never have and never will want to live in unity and on par with Croats and Bosniaks – they simply keep on with their Greater Serbia agenda, in blind and brutal denial of the crimes employed to achieve it. It was like that at and ever since WWI – the “dream” they say Gavrilo Princip had for freedom whilst pulling the trigger that killed Archduke Ferdinand one hundred years ago today, was nothing but a well organised ploy that left nothing to chance – for there were several Serbian nationals armed with guns and bombs along the route Ferdinand was taking in Sarajevo on that fateful day – to create a yet another opportunity for Greater Serbia expansion. In the light of the bloodshed that flowed through 1990’s Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, the bloodshed that culprit Serbs blame on everyone else but themselves, today’s Bosnian Serb monument in Sarajevo to Gavrilo Princip is and should be evidence enough for those who are inclined to agree with Serbs that Princip was a hero to reexamine their conscience and conclude: Serbia may have been on the side of WWI victors but its part was in no way altruistic (as it tries to promote) – it was all about securing a long-lasting Serb control over the territory that Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina once were. So, beware of calamitous treachery you who listen “unawares” and with inklings of credence to the echoes of Greater Serbia dream from within the Gavrilo Princip statue in the Serbian Republic, created through 1990’s genocide and terror with eerie similarity to Princip’s modus operandi. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)