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Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand

Have you ever heard of the Black Hand assassins? These were a group of men trained to pull the trigger on the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, who was heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

This shot set in motion the chain of events that would lead to World War One.

Let’s learn all about this interesting time in history and be sure to take our quiz on this particular event at the end!

Archduke Franz Ferdinand

On June 28th 1914, the Archduke was travelling through the city of Sarajevo, the capital city of Bosnia, to the town hall in a giant procession.

Oblivious to the several deadly assassins planted along the route, the Archduke and his wife looked out and waved to the crowds from their car.

atomic bomb

The first assassin on route was a man called Nedeljko Cabrinovic. He launched a bomb into the Archduke’s car.

It was close, but the bomb bounced off and the Archduke’s car sped away to the town hall.

Franz Ferdinand killed by Gavrilo Princip

All seemed safe until, on the way back from the town hall, the Archduke’s car took a wrong turn, putting Gavrilo Princip, a Black Hand assassin, right within shot of the Archduke.

He fired his shots and the Archduke and his wife Sophie were killed.

The crowd went wild and detained Princip. He was then arrested by the police. The First World War began shortly afterwards.

New York WWI Troops Fight to get into the Fight
Soldiers of the 369th Infantry Regiment man a trench in France during World War I. The Signal Corps photograph collection includes every major aspect of the United States (U.S.) Army involvement in WWI.

How did one shot in Serbia cause a whole world war?

The Archduke Franz Ferdinand was a very important person in Europe because he was heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Once in power, Archduke Franz Ferdinand would have been the ruler of a big stretch of land, spanning several modern-day countries (including Austria and Hungary) in Central and Eastern Europe.


The Austro-Hungarian government saw the assassination of the monarch by the Black Hand terrorist group as a direct attack on their power and their country by Serbia.

Serbia had tried to warn Austria-Hungary that there was a terrorist attack coming but this message was not passed on properly.

Even though the members of the Black Hand  group were terrorists, the Austro-Hungarian government blamed the Serbian government.

They thought Serbia had helped the Black Hand terrorists by giving them money, training and information.


This might have been possible because a lot of people in Serbia thought that the Austro-Hungarian rule was oppressive (very harsh).

The Black Hand movement was a group of people in Serbia that wanted freedom from Austro-Hungarian rule. They believed that violence was the approach to take to fight for their freedom and get all Serbs in one country.

Hungarian flag

There were lots of movements and ideas about freedom and new types of rule in Europe at this time. Many people around the world were questioning the older system of monarchies, kings and queens.

This was happening in Russia too, and resulted in the Russian Revolution.

Russian Revolution

War is Declared

Austria-Hungary took this assassination very seriously and made lots of harsh demands on Serbia, which Serbia rejected. Austria-Hungary then declared war on Serbia.

Russia became involved because they had agreed to defend their old allies Serbia, so they began to get their army ready to fight.

Serbian flag today

In order to protect their friend and ally Austria-Hungary, Germany then declared war on Russia (and this then got Britain and France involved in the war, too).

This is why this shooting is seen as one of the causes of World War I. It is seen as the ‘catalyst’ that started the war. This means it is like the spark that lights the dynamite.

After five long years of fighting in the First World War, the Austro-Hungarian Empire was broken up into lots of smaller countries at the Treaty of Versailles.


Freedom fighter or terrorist?

In Serbia today, some remember Gavrilo Princip as a brave and heroic man, who gave up his life to free the Serbian country from the harsh rule of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Some see him as someone who triggered a war that brought great suffering to Serbia and to Europe.


Many people lost their lives in the war and it took countries in Europe a long time to recover from the war damages.

Gavrilo Princip took action against the ruling powers to fight for his people’s freedom, but did he choose the right way to do it?

What do you think?


Quiz Time!

Where were the Black Hand terrorist group from?

Who was Gavrilo Princip?

When was the Archduke Franz Ferdinand shot?

Why did Austro-Hungary declare war on Serbia?

Why did Russia declare war on Austria-Hungary?

What did the Black Hand terrorists want?

World War I

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