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Sunday, 29 June 2014

37 Day Countdown to War - Day 2

JUNE 1914 29th June

Although what happened in Sarajevo obviously filled "the first place in the public mind," acknowledged the Times, and the outcome of the investigation into the killing would no doubt "occupy the attention of all students of European politics," it was imperative that Britons keep their priorities straight, because "our own affairs must be addressed." At the time, the United Kingdom was threatened by the possible outbreak of civil war over the future status of Ireland; this presumably was the principal "affair" to which the Times was referring.

In Britain, as in many of the European capitals, the assassination of Franz Ferdinand was at first viewed in a less alarmist light than might be assumed given the enormity of the war that the event would later precipitate. The archduke had not been widely liked, within his own country or without, and as the British ambassador to Italy reported to his government in London: "It is obvious that people have generally regarded the elimination of the Archduke as almost providential." The attention of the French public, meanwhile, was riveted on the scandalous case of Madame Caillaux, a politician's wife who had murdered the editor of a right-wing newspaper after he threatened to publish damaging material about her husband.

Even in Vienna, the archduke's own capital city, Franz Ferdinand's death seemed to arouse little strong feeling from the public. As the Austrian government and military leadership hurried to obtain assurances of German support if the Austrian pressure on Serbia over the assassinations led to war with Serbia and its powerful ally, Russia, the reaction among the Austrian population was mild, almost indifferent. As historian Z.A.B. Zeman later wrote, "the event almost failed to make any impression whatsoever. On Sunday and Monday [June 28 and 29], the crowds in Vienna listened to music and drank wine?as if nothing had happened."

However more aggressive demonstrations began at around 8 o'clock in the morning in Sarajevo and quickly assumed the characteristics of a pogrom. Large groups of Muslims and Croats gathered on the streets shouting and singing while carrying black-draped Austrian flags and pictures of the Austrian emperor and late archduke. Local political leaders held speeches to these crowds. Josip Vancaš was amongst those who gave a speech before violence erupted. While his exact role in the events is unknown, some of the political leaders certainly played important role in bringing crowds together and directing them against shops and houses belonging to Serbs. They first attacked one Serb school and then shops and other institutions. A bank owned by a Serb was sacked while goods taken from shops and houses of Serbs were spread on the sidewalks and streets.
Josip Vancaš addressing a crowd in Sarajevo.

That evening, governor Potiorek declared a state of siege in Sarajevo, and later in the rest of the province. Although these measures authorised law enforcement to deal with irregular activities they were not completely successful because mobs continued to attack Serbs and their property. Official reports stated that the Serb Orthodox Cathedral and Metropolitan seat in the city were spared due to the intervention of Austro-Hungarian security forces. After the corpses of Franz Ferdinand and his wife were transported to Sarajevo's railway station, order in the city was restored. Further, the Austro-Hungarian government issued a decree which established a special court for Sarajevo authorised to impose the death penalty for acts of murder and violence committed during the riots.

 Photo of a crowd that gathered around destroyed property of Serbs in Sarajevo.

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