Ser­bia un­veils mon­u­ment to man who ig­nited world war

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

Ser­bia on Sun­day un­veiled a mon­u­ment to Gavrilo Prin­cip, whose as­sas­si­na­tion of the Aus­tro-Hun­gar­ian crown prince in Sara­jevo helped ig­nite World War I and still pro­vokes con­tro­versy in the eth­ni­cally di­vided Balkans.

Hun­dreds of cit­i­zens at­tended the cer­e­mony in cen­tral Bel­grade held on the an­niver­sary of the 1914 as­sas­si­na­tion which is also the Ser­bian na­tional hol­i­day of St. Vi­tus Day.

Pres­i­dent Tomis­lav Nikolic de­scribed Prin­cip — who is viewed as a ter­ror­ist by many out­side Ser­bia — as a free­dom fighter and hero.

“To­day, we are not afraid of the truth,” Nikolic said. “Gavrilo Prin­cip was a hero, a sym­bol of the idea of free­dom, the as­sas­sin of tyrants and the car­rier of the Euro­pean idea of lib­er­a­tion from slav­ery.”

He added that “oth­ers can think what­ever they want.”

Aus­tria ac­cused Ser­bia of mas­ter­mind­ing the as­sas­si­na­tion of Arch­duke Franz Fer­di­nand in Sara­jevo on June 28, 1914. Backed by Ger­many, Aus­tria at­tacked Ser­bia, whose al­lies, Rus­sia and France, were quickly drawn into the con- flict. The United King­dom, with its sprawl­ing em­pire, and the United States also joined the fight­ing.

Prin­cip’s legacy is also viewed dif­fer­ently by dif­fer­ent na­tions in the Balkans, which re­mains a smol­der­ing patch­work of eth­nic and re­li­gious ri­val­ries two decades af­ter the end of the con­flict in the 1990s that fol­lowed the breakup of the for­mer Yu­goslavia.

In Bos­nia, Serbs re­gard Prin­cip as a hero, while the coun­try’s Mus­lims and Croats widely re­gard him as a killer and a Ser­bian na­tion­al­ist whose goal was Bos­nia’s oc­cu­pa­tion by Ser­bia. A cen­tury ago, Mus­lim Bos­ni­ans and Catholic Croats pre­ferred to stay in the big Aus­trian em­pire that had brought progress, law and or­der.

Bos­nian Serb leader Milo­rad Dodik said dur­ing the Bel­grade cer­e­mony that the un­veil­ing of the Prin­cip mon­u­ment amounted to “fight­ing for free­dom to­day.”

World War I claimed some 14 mil­lion lives — 5 mil­lion civil­ians and 9 mil­lion sol­diers, sailors and air­men — and left another 7 mil­lion troops per­ma­nently dis­abled. Prin­cip, who was only 19, was im­me­di­ately ar­rested and died in cap­tiv­ity months be­fore the war ended.


Ser­bian army honor guard stands be­hind the two-me­ter (6.6-foot) high bronze statue of Gavrilo Prin­cip af­ter an un­veil­ing cer­e­mony at a park in down­town Bel­grade on Sun­day, June 28.

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