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Anniversary of Worst Royal Visit Ever (Franz Ferdinand – Sarajevo, 1914)

June 28, 2014


I don’t know if the band Franz Ferdinand has ever played Sarajevo.  A hard trip to insure I’d have thought.  I’ll bet the Kaiser Chiefs have stayed away as well.

The royal couple had already had a bomb thrown at them earlier that day before their eventual assassin took them out.  As it happens, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire was cordially hated by the elderly emperor Franz Joseph, who busied himself trying to exploit his death rather than grieve his loss.  But then royal families have never scored top marks for familial affection.

Of all the major powers in 1914, Austria was perhaps the only one that really wanted a war.  They didn’t want the kind of war they got, but they did want a punitive war against Serbia.  The death of Franz Ferdinand gave the Austrians the chance to issue an ultimatum in July to the government of Serbia whose terms were effectively incompatible with any definition of Serbian national sovereignty.  And then Europe’s interlocking structures of affinity and estrangement sent first missives and then troop trains scuttling across Europe.  And the rest is horrible horrible history.

It is striking the extent to which the rulers of Europe allowed themselves or encouraged themselves to feel powerless.  Their own military advisers had assured them that early mobilisation was the key to victory – was the key to survival itself.  Railway timetables dictated to rush to war and missing the train meant annihilation.  Nobody seemed to have come up with the idea of a reverse gear.

“We’ve gone too far to turn back” seems to have been the mantra of the summer.  The failure of diplomacy was in turn the suicidal victory of a fatal kind of “expertise” which mechanised decision making to the point where nobody was prepared to make a unilateral decision to ask troops to stand down.

World War One is an illustration of how a kind of multilateralism can sponsor a bloodbath if the possibility of unilateral gestures of good faith is negated.  Its story is a story of the structuration and bureaucratisation of evil.


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One Comment
  1. Reblogged this on conradbrunstrom and commented:

    Was this the worst royal visit ever?

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