How it be­gan

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - THE SUNDAY TIMES 2 -

World War I be­gan in 1914, af­ter the as­sas­si­na­tion of Arch­duke Franz Fer­di­nand, and lasted un­til 1918. Dur­ing the con­flict, Ger­many, Aus­tria-Hun­gary, Bul­garia and the Ot­toman Empire (the Cen­tral Pow­ers) fought against Great Bri­tain, France, Rus­sia, Italy, Ro­ma­nia, Ja­pan and the United States (the Al­lied Pow­ers). Thanks to new mil­i­tary tech­nolo­gies and the hor­rors of trench war­fare, World War I saw un­prece­dented lev­els of car­nage and de­struc­tion. By the time the war was over and the Al­lied Pow­ers claimed vic­tory, more than 16 mil­lion peo­ple—sol­diers and civil­ians alike—were dead.

Arch­duke Franz Fer­di­nand

Ten­sions had been brew­ing through­out Europe—es­pe­cially in the troubled Balkan re­gion of south­east Europe—for years be­fore World War I ac­tu­ally broke out.

A num­ber of alliances in­volv­ing Euro­pean pow­ers, the Ot­toman Empire, Rus­sia and other par­ties had ex­isted for years, but po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity in the Balkans (par­tic­u­larly Bos­nia, Ser­bia and Herze­gov­ina) threat­ened to de­stroy th­ese agree­ments.

The spark that ig­nited World War I was struck in Sara­jevo, Bos­nia, where Arch­duke Franz Fer­di­nand—heir to the Aus­troHun­gar­ian Empire—was shot to death along with his wife So­phie by the Ser­bian na­tion­al­ist Gavrilo Prin­cip on June 28, 1914. Prin­cip and other na­tion­al­ists were strug­gling to end Aus­tro-Hun­gar­ian rule over Bos­nia and Herze­gov­ina.

The as­sas­si­na­tion of Franz Fer­di­nand set off a rapidly es­ca­lat­ing chain of events: Aus­tria-Hun­gary, like many in coun­tries around the world, blamed the Ser­bian govern­ment for the at­tack and hoped to use the in­ci­dent as jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for set­tling the ques­tion of Ser­bian na­tion­al­ism once and for all.

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