Bosnia marks the day 100 years ago when two shots changed course of history

Bosnia marks the day when two shots changed the course of history

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 June, 2014, 12:43am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 June, 2014, 12:43am


Artists and diplomats have declared a new century of peace and unity in Europe in the city where the first two shots of the first world war were fired 100 years ago.

On June 28, 1914, the Austro-Hungarian crown prince Franz Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated in Sarajevo, where he had come to inspect his occupying troops in the empire's eastern province.

The shots fired by Serb teenager Gavrilo Princip sparked the Great War, which was followed decades later by a second world conflict.

Europeans have learnt that no problem can be solved by war

Together the two wars cost 80 million European their lives, ended four empires - including the Austro-Hungarian - and changed the world forever.

A century later, Sarajevans again crowded the same street along the river where Princip fired his shots. And the Austrians were also back, this time with music instead of military: The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra performed works of European composers reflecting the catastrophic events and concluded with a symbol of unity in Europe - Beethoven's Ode of Joy.

Austrian President Heinz Fischer said Europeans "have learnt that no problem can be solved by war".

The continent's violent century started in Sarajevo and ended there with the 1992-95 war that took 100,000 Bosnian lives.

"If anything good can be found in this repeating evil, it's more wisdom and readiness to build peace and achieve peace after a century of wars," Bosnian President Bakir Izetbegovic said.

The centennial concerts, speeches, lectures and exhibitions on Saturday were mostly focused on creating lasting peace and promoting unity in a country still struggling with similar divisions as it did 100 years ago. The rift was manifested by the Serbs marking the centennial by themselves in the part of Bosnia they control, where a performance re-enacted the assassination.

As Austrian conductor Franz Welser-Moest raised his baton in Sarajevo, an actor playing Gavrilo Princip descending from heaven on angel's wings, raised his pistol in the eastern town of Visegrad, at the border to Serbia, to kill Franz Ferdinand again.

For the Serbs, Princip was a hero who saw Bosnia as part of Serb national territory at a time when the country was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

His shots were a chance for them to include Bosnia into the neighbouring Serbian kingdom - the same idea that inspired the Serbs in 1992 to fight the decision by Muslim Bosnians and Catholic Croats to declare the former republic of Bosnia independent when Yugoslavia fell apart. They still want to include the part of Bosnia they control into Serbia.