Bosnia marks WWI with concert for unity

Sarajevo marks 100 years since murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the death that sparked the First World War.

Last updated: 28 Jun 2014 19:24
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Sarajevo has marked 100 years since the murder of an Austrian prince in the city, an act that lit the fuse for the First World War.

The Bosnian capital held events on Saturday, a century to the day when the archduke of Austria-Hungary, Franz Ferdinand, was shot dead while touring the Bosnian capital.

A concert by the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra formed the centrepiece of the anniversary, offering a message of unity to Europe, a continent suffering social and economic strife.

Broadcast live on dozens of television and radio stations from 6:15pm (4:15pm GMT), the repertoire was rooted in the days of the Habsburg Empire.

The repertoire included Haydn, Schubert, Berg and Brahms.

Asked about the significance of a Vienna orchestra marking the event, conductor Franz Welser-Most said: "You should not deny the burden of history." The message, he said, was "never again".

Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to Austria Hungary, was murdered along with his Sophie in 1914 by a 19-year-old Bosnian Serb called Gavrilo Princip.

The single act led to the First World War, with Austria a month later attacking what was then Serbia, and dragging in the great powers of Europe according to their alliances.

At the war's end in 1918, tens of millions of people had died and four empires had fallen: The Ottoman, the German, the Russian and the Austro-Hungarian, with the British empire entering its last years.

EU marks centennial

In Sarajevo on Saturday, the Austrian president Heinz Fischer was guest of honour at the concert in the capital's restored City Hall, known as Vijecnica, where Ferdinand spent part of his last day a century ago.

There are wildly differing interpretations of 20th century history in the region where the scars of sectarian wars in the 1990s are still fresh.

 EU marked the centennial in Ypres, Belgium

Ferdinand's assassin is among the most divisive figures in that history - either a fervent Serb nationalist who sought to liberate Slavs from the Austro-Hungarian occupier, or a "terrorist" who unleashed horrific bloodshed on the world. 

Serbian and Bosnian Serb leaders refused to take part in the main commemorations in Sarajevo, instead unveiling a two-metre bronze statue of Princip in eastern Sarajevo on Friday.

Leaders of the 28-member European Union marked the centennial on Thursday in Ypres, the Belgian city synonymous with the slaughter of the war, papering over divisions born of economic crisis and growing support for the anti-EU right.


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