Sarajevo and the Great War’s 100th Anniversary

Graffiti in Ciglane district of Sarajevo

Graffiti in Ciglane district of SarajevoToday’s Pic du Jour was taken in Sarajevo’s Ciglane district two years ago today; somehow I let the date and the anniversary it marked pass by at the time without much fanfare.

The day marked 98 years since the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand unleashed a chain of events that led to the first world war. That didn’t seem to matter much in Sarajevo that day, a city that was and remains massively scarred from the war of the early 1990s. The assassination was already more history than memory for a city that had spent a century associated with war. Little more thatn just another historical marker among many commemorative markers.

Below, a shot of the Latin Bridge —also snapped two years ago today— where Gavrilo Princip, a teenaged Yugoslav nationalist and anarchist wannabe, shot Franz Ferdinand and his pregnant wife. Killing the former was a political act; killing the latter the war’s first atrocity. During the Yugoslav years, the bridge bore Princip’s name, a teenager who managed to change the course of history.

You have to wonder what would have transpired had Princip been a more typical teenager and simply stuck with graffiti instead.

Latin Bridge, Sarajevo, June 2011

One hundred years on Princip remains a divisive figure in Sarajevo, the capital of a country that remains very much divided. So divided, that the Serb entity, Republika Srpska, and the Muslim-Croat Federation are commemorating today’s milestone anniversary separately.

A few interesting write-ups on the topic (edited 29-Jun):

– The Guardian: Villain or hero? Sarajevo is split on archduke’s assassin Gavrilo Princip
– NY Times: In Sarajevo, Divisions That Drove an Assassin Have Only Begun to Heal
– Salon: Ghosts of an assassination: The chaotic history of Franz Ferdinand’s demise




  1. Great shot Bob, and a very interesting insight. The whole identity of my family was shaped by WW1 and it is a historical event I relate very closely to. I love the line ‘Killing the former was a political act; killing the latter the war’s first atrocity.’ Very inspiring, Bob. I’m sharing this one.

    1. Thanks, Margherita. Indeed, it seems that the first world war doesn’t sometimes get the ‘credit’ it deserves for what exists now.

  2. Love that first photo! (Not that the second one wasn’t good too!) It’s more than sobering sometimes to think just how easily one event spiralled into everything that happened in the first world war and even after that, and how people now walk over that very same spot with a burger and shake from McDonalds.

  3. Great shot of the bridge, Bob. I read the NYT article on Friday and was quite struck by the divisions that persist among the communities in Bosnia. I have only made it to a small portion of that country and need to get several days in Sarajevo to appreciate the history and life of the city.

    1. Maintaining those divisions was a chief part of the peace accords. It’s a wonderful city but it’ll never be the same. During the Yugoslav federation years, most of the country’s best artists, musicians, actors, and writers were from Sarajevo, precisely because of its multi-cultural history. That’s gone now, and it’ll be several generations –at least– before that community returns.

  4. Im going to Sarajevo in less than a month and can´t wait to learn more about the history of area….I´m sure the scars of the war are still visible everywhere and would love to hear what the locals can say about it, they all have their stories. I love that first photo

  5. I recently visit Konopiste Castle which was the last residence of Franz Ferdinand I believe. I have to admit I didn’t have a clue who he was before I went there but his story and assassination is an interesting story, a part of history I was completely unaware of. Good post you just reminded me of great day of history learning! I didn’t know it was a factor that started WW1 either!

  6. What a great shot you have there ! I’m visiting Sarajevo this August, it’s such an history filled city, I’m really looking forward to it

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