Precisely one hundred years ago today, a political assassination led to the outbreak of World War I, which still reverberates today in so many ways!
The Archduke Francis Ferdinand, the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, along with his wife, were assassinated in Sarajevo, Bosnia, by Gavrilo Princip, a member of the Black Hand terrorist organization, which was out to prevent Habsburg influence over Bosnia, which was allied by ethnicity to Serbia nationalists, and had friendship and support with Czarist Russia.
The series of events that followed over the next five weeks led to general continental war in Europe, lasting more than four years, when most thought the war would be won by their side within months. Instead, we saw trench warfare, barbed wire separating the warring sides, and use of poison gas, with almost no progress toward victory on the “Western Front”, and total disaster for Czarist Russia in Eastern Europe against Germany and Austria-Hungary. It became known as the “Great War,” but it was only great in the massive loss of life of millions of people, and the upending of the traditional empires of European nations in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.
World War I led to the following:
The rise of the Soviet Union and Communism, and the later Cold War, with the downfall and murder of the last Czar of Russia.
The end of the German Empire, but then the rise of Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler within 14 years of the end of the war, and the eventual outbreak of a more disastrous war, World War II.
The rise of Fascist Italy under Benito Mussolini within four years of the end of the war.
The end of the Austro Hungarian Empire, and the rise of separate nations based on nationality in Eastern Europe.
The end of the Ottoman Turkish Empire, and the creation by Great Britain and France of artificial boundaries for the Arab peoples of the Middle East, leading to more disarray and conflict on a constant basis, and now unraveling after a century.
The decline and fall of the British Empire, French Empire, and other European empires in Africa and Asia over two generations, creating instability in both Africa and Asia, and the creation of new nations on both continents.
The rise of the United States as the greatest military power after World War II until the late 1960s, when the Vietnam War, followed by the Iraq War and the Afghanistan War, undermined and weakened the supremacy of the American nation.
The world and America will be commemorating the events of World War I over the next four and a half years, and a worthwhile tourist site would be the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri, which the author has visited, and highly recommends to anyone wanting to understand the reality and the impact of this war, which transformed the world in so many ways!