The 1908 annexation of Bosna and Herzegovina by Austria-Hungary, precipitated the formation of several underground pressure groups by angry Serb nationalists who believed the territories should be part of Serbia.
They infiltrated other Bosnia movements and on 3 June 1910, 22-year old Žerajić, a Bosnian-Serb student and member of The Young Bosnia Movement, unsuccessfully attempted to kill the Austrian governor of Bosnia-Herzegovina, General Varešanin before killing himself.
His action inspired many including Princip who made him a role model. Princip later said “when I was seventeen I passed whole nights at his grave, reflecting on our wretched condition and thinking of him. It is there that I made up my mind sooner or later to perpetrate an outrage.”
In June 1914, The Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Joseph I instructed his younger brother the archduke to go and inspect the imperial armed forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
One group notoriously named ‘The Black Hand’ which was formed for the creation of a “Greater Serbia through “terrorist action” hatched a plot to kill the archduke during his visit to Sarajevo. As his motorcade rode into the city from the train station the 1st assassin chickened out and failed to throw his bomb.
The 2nd threw his bomb and it bounced off the back of the archduke’s car to detonate under the following vehicle. Seeing his failed attempt the 2nd assassin swallowed his cyanide pill and jumped into a shallow river. Unfortunately, he vomited the pill and was dragged out of the river by a crowd who beat him black and blue before handing him over to the police.
Princip who was 3rd in line didn’t get a chance as the motorcade sped off to ‘the town hall where the angry archduke lamented that he was greeted by bombs on a friendly visit. He was calmed by his wife and they later decided to visit the injured in Sarajevo hospital. However, a fatal error was made as the drivers were not informed about the change in route by security officials.
As they drove to the hospital the first driver took a wrong turn and the governor-general who was riding with the archduke called him out to reverse. In that brief moment as they braked Princip who had patiently waited by the roadside for the return trip shot the royal couple at point-blank range, killing both almost instantly. The archduke reportedly cried out “Sophie, Sophie! Don’t die! Live for our children!”.
The assassination triggered a rapid chain of events, as Austria-Hungary immediately blamed the Serbian government for the attack. Tensions escalated with Russia backing Serbia, while Austria was backed by Germany and Bulgaria. Precisely one month later, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia beginning a 4-year conflict now known as the First World War.