Tuesday, June 28, 2016



Cousin Ignatz, Asleep At Princip's Post: Sarajevo, 2014 (Matthew Fisher / Postmedia News)

Roughly twelve hours and 102 years ago, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, the Grand Duchess Sophie, were shot by Gavrillo Princip, a member of an assassination team sent to the Bosnian city by the government of Serbia.

Collectively, the team was the gang which couldn't shoot straight: armed with crude grenades, a few pistols, and carrying some form of suicide pill, they waited along the route Franz Joseph's car would take as it drove beside the Miljacka river, which cuts through Sarajevo (local Austro-Hungarian authorities had helpfully published the Archduke's route beforehand).

Most of the team either was poorly positioned, or chickened out at the last moment.  One conspirator did throw a bomb at the Archduke's car, which bounced off its folded-back fabric top and exploded near a second car traveling just behind. Several people in the car had minor injuries and it continued on to a local hospital.

The Archduke's driver continued to Sarajevo city hall. When Franz Ferdinand arrived, he effectively unloaded on the hapless city administration about the state of their local security. Meanwhile, back at the river, the would-be bomber had jumped into the Miljacka and swallowed his suicide pill -- then, promptly threw up. The police arrested him, barely managing to keep him from a mob of pro- Austro-Hungarian citizens and save him for later trial and execution.

At approximately 12:30 PM, having finally accepted the thanks of the Sarajevo city fathers, Franz Ferdinand and his wife got back into their car, planning to go to the local hospital to see those wounded in the attack that morning. They used the same route, in reverse, that they had taken into the city, driving along the river, but their driver was confused.  He came to an intersection -- to the left, a street; to the right, a bridge over the Miljacka.

 The Royal Couple (Seated, At Rear) Leaving City Hall: Fifteen Minutes Left

Their driver turned left into the street, immediately realized he'd made a wrong turn, and stepped on the brakes. The car came to a stop a few yards up the street and the driver put it in reverse gear.

 The Intersection, 2014: The Archduke's Car Turned Left, Into This Street;
The Restaurant Where Princip Had Lunch Now A Museum (Photo: CNN)

At that same intersection, Gavrillo Princip, the last member of the Serbian assassination team, walked out of a small restaurant where he had gone for a sandwich, angry and dejected, after the team's failure that morning. As he stood on the sidewalk outside the cafe, the Archduke's car stopped directly in front of him; the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne and his wife were less than ten feet away. If you were writing a novel or screenplay, something that coincidental would be considered impossible.

Princip pulled out a pistol and stepped forward, firing several shots, managing to mortally wound both the Archduke and his wife. Their driver rushed them to the local military governor's residence, where a doctor could be called quickly, but Sophie died on the way; Ferdinand died a short time after they arrived.

Just over a month later, Europe was at war. Over the next four-plus years, the entire social fabric of the continent and much of the world changed irrevocably. Monarchies ended; millions died; the map of the world changed as the victors annexed territory from Germany and Austria Hungary, and new countries were created. New technology was developed -- and, in the Versailles Treaty, the groundwork was laid for a second, even more horrible war to begin by 1939.

(And, in 1918-19, the Spanish Influenza infected 500 million people and killed 40 million, worldwide; it was the largest number of deaths due to pandemic disease since the 'Black Death' Bubonic Plague outbreak in the 14th century [~200 million].  In the U.S., millions were made sick, and 675,000 died [0.6-plus per cent of America's population at the time, 103 million]. It's often referred to as the "forgotten epidemic" -- just one more terrible event in an ocean of violence and atrocity.)

 Cousin Ignatz, Worn Out By All The History

Why the history lesson? It's been a week of history. While the Brexit is not a shot heard 'round the world, and no one suggests that apocalyptic events will spring from it -- is it (A) the continuation of the slow unraveling of the alliances created after that Great War and WWII, which shaped the world we live in, or is it (B) the latest vote against the globalization of that world?

Hope you're not looking for an answer. I am, after all, only a Dog, and no one listens to me.


  1. what a thought-provoking story - and as far as i know, it did happen that way

    chance and circumstance
    and also
    grand historical forces

    i am reminded of the zen story of the strawberry - how sweet it tasted

    and that reminds me that paracelsus said that some entities or situations are like strawberries - ready relatively early in the growing season - whereas others are like grapes, not ripe until fall

    be excellent to each other; and party on, dudes!

    and speaking of bill and ted's excellent adventure, the movie i just quoted, i saw perhaps the most recent film starring keanu reaves last night - he plays the title character john wick - he is an avatar of vengeance in it

    at the end john wick adopts a dog

    coincidence - or destiny? you decide

    and speaking of dogs, and destiny, though not so much of vengeance, the james tate poem with a dog as its central character might fit here - see our discussion of three years ago



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