Thursday, April 28, 2011


As every schoolboy knows, the First World War was started by the assassination of the Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie Chotek, Duchess of Hohenberg by the Serbian, Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo.

The question I ask is why when there were so many other assassinations in the Twentieth Century, did this one end up with the wholesale slaughter of millions on the battlefield?

In 1900, the King of Italy was assassinated by an Italia anarchist, in 1901, the American president, William McKinley was shot by an American anarchist, in 1902, the Bulgarian Minister of Public Instruction, was assassinated by a sacked schoolmaster and the Russian Minister of the Interior was killed by a student, but the King of the Belgians escaped unhurt when he was shot at.

In 1903 a provincial judge and a couple of police spies in Russia were murdered. In Serbia there was a night of slaughter when the King and Queen were murdered in their beds together with the Prime Minister, Minister of War, the Queen's two brothers an army general and twelve men of the palace guard. This Serbian assassination did not lead to a world war, but Britain broke off diplomatic relations for the next three years. In 1905, the Tsar's uncle, Grand Duke Serge was assassinated in Moscow; in Finland a student assassinated the Procurator of the Senate.

In 1906, lots of Russians were assassinated including a leading member of the Duma, several policemen and army officers including General Minn, and many provincial governors. The Prime Minister escaped, but two of his children were severely injured and thirty of his visitors killed by a bomb at his summer residence. In 1907, the Prefect of St Petersburg and the Procurator-General of the Russian Empire were both assassinated and in Georgia, Prince Chavchavadze later in the year. In 1908, the Turkish General Shemsi Pasha was assassinated in Salonika while in Turkey itself the former military governor of Pera was killed. In Austria-Hungary the Governor of Galicia was murdered by a Ruthenian student and in Portugal the King and Crown Prince were murdered in Lisbon.

In 1909, Colonel Karpov, Chief of the Secret Police was blown up by a bomb in Moscow. It was not confined to Europe, the public prosecutor for Bengal was shot by a student in India and then an aide-de-campe of the Secretary of State for India was shot dead in London. Although the assassin was executed, an Englishman in India was killed in a revenge attack. The Japanese Prince Ito, three times Prime Minister, was assassinated in Manchuria by a Korean. In 1910, the Prime Minister of Egypt, Boutros Ghali (yes it's his grandfather) was assassinated by Inrahim Wardani, a chemistry student. In 1911, the Prime Minister of Russia was killed by an anarchist While in British India a bomb killed both British and India officials.

In 1912, two Prime Ministers of Spain were killed within a week of each other by anarchists. In 1913 King George of Greece was killed by a 'drunken Greek degenerate' according to the Times and the Turkish Grand Vizier, Shevket Pasha was shot and killed.

The question is what kept the assassins at bay in 1904?

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