The Fog Of History: The Princip Principle

It is often said that one person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter. That eternal argument rages on in Sarajevo where the Bosnian Serbs have erected a statute of Gavrilo Princip. Yes, *that* Gavrilo Princip; the man who assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Reaction to that event, of course, spiraled out of control and led to the Great War.

The shots that changed the world occurred 100 years ago today: June 28, 1914. The Bosnian Serbs regard Princip as a hero, which is not an analysis that I agree with. He was a fanatic with a gun whose actions unleashed a blood bath and led eventually to most of the worst European events of the 20th Century: the rise of Nazism, Soviet style Communism, World War II, the Cold War and the ethnic cleansing that swept through the former Yugoslavia in the 1990’s.

I have no nostalgia for the ancien regimes of Russia, Austria-Hungary and Germany. They would have fallen eventually and maybe even violently but to celebrate the man who set all of this in motion is obscene. I could even add a 21st Century event to the Princip list: the second Iraq War. The neo-cons may have had petro-imperialism at the top of their agenda but many liberal supporters of the war saw it as a humanitarian intervention a la Kosovo. They were, of course, delusional and we’re still paying for Tony Blair’s delusions and Dick Cheney’s hubris.

Does any of this make Gavrilo Princip sound like someone who should be honored as a hero? I should hope not, but the Serbs have a persecution complex, which could be dubbed the Princip principle.

I’ll have more about the centennial of the Great War in the weeks to come. That is all.

6 thoughts on “The Fog Of History: The Princip Principle

  1. You don’t agree with the analysis because you aren’t a Bosnian Serb.
    I don’t agree with it either nor would I honor Princip. Because I’m not a Bosnian Serb.
    But glibly waving off thousands of years of history in a region so unlike America – and so unlike the rest of Europe – it might as well be another planet with “the Serbs have a persecution complex” = historical analysis FAIL.

  2. Also, Princip (fanatic or not) was not the mastermind of the assassination plot. It was planned, funded, and put in motion by a group of much more powerful men, some of whom were executed for the crime. Princip (likely due to his young age) was only given 20 years. (He died of TB in prison).

  3. I spent a good deal of time reading various histories Sunday . . I get the impression that Princip was a useful young tool for ambitious men too old or ‘important’ to pull the trigger themselves. Austria-Hungary had been agitating for war against the Kingdom of Serbia for years since they occupied Bosnia & Herzegovina 30 years before. The visit by the Archduke was just one more belligerent provocation. The Serbs didn’t like that very much, nor did the Serbs living in B&H. The Austrians fucking prayed that some hothead would whack Ferdinand – it’d take care of two birds with one stone, because the Archduke wasn’t liked very much by the rest of the monarchy. It’d be like Bush & Cheney sending Colin Powell to Iraq for a 10 day public schedule without a security escort or one armored vest.

  4. Y’all I know that Princip was a pawn. @Virgo: Is my post oversimplified? Yes. Do the Serbs have a highly developed persecution complex? Yes.

  5. Does everything you write have the same level of “insight” as one of your Mad Men recaps? Yes.
    My grandfather was mustard-gassed at the age of 20. From 21 to 77, he lived every day with blindness, emphysema, pneumonia, skin cancer and finally died of lung cancer. Oh, and you might want to research WWI veteran benefits. Because I’ve got some skin in the game, and no one else I knew had a family member who was a victim of chemical warfare, I spent a few decades learning. Even after that, I wouldn’t call myself a scholar but I’ve got no patience for the USA Today version.

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