“One day the great European War will come out of some damned foolish thing in the Balkans.”

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–Otto Von Bismarck, 1898

Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie on the 28 June 1914, moments before their assassination.

 

This iconic picture shows Archduke Franz Ferdinand with his wife Sophie on the day they were assassinated by Gavrilo Princip, on 28 June 1914. In an event that is widely acknowledged to have sparked the outbreak of World War I, a Serbian nationalist in Sarajevo, Bosnia, shot Archduke Franz Ferdinand, nephew of Emperor Franz Josef and heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, to death along with his wife. The event bought into sharp focus the question of Slav nationalism, and was used as an excuse by Austrian leadership to punish the Serbian government – who it blamed.

Russia supported the Serbians because of a large Slav population in Russia, and it entered the war promptly, triggering a rapid chain of events that dragged Europe into war. Those who though such incidents couldn’t happen in the age of modern diplomacy were mistaken; the Crimean crisis is analogous. Russia entered Crimia to protect the Russian speaking population of the region once conflict broke out in Kiev. Even now where ethnic populations span different countries – such as the Kurds – the chance of a flashpoint setting of conflict off.