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.