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How a wrong turn caused World War 1

June 28th, 1914 was like every other summer day in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Little did the world know that this day would go down in history as one of the major catalysts that would shape the future of humanity.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, had come to Sarajevo with his wife, Sophie Chotek, to inspect the imperial armed forces stationed there. This period was a very tumultuous one in the European geopolitical arena. World War 1 was a ticking time bomb set off by a chain reaction starting with the assassination of Franz Ferdinand.

Austria-Hungary had annexed Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1908. This move angered Serbian nationalists who believed that the territories should belong to Serbia. The Archduke’s visit to Sarajevo to inspect the military exercises was a show of power towards Serbia. A group of 7 young ultra-nationalist Bosnian Serbs hatched a plan to assassinate the Archduke. The terrorists, armed with weapons supplied by the Serbian military intelligence, had positioned themselves along the planned route to be taken by the Archduke’s motorcade. Despite warnings, few security measures were taken to protect the procession. The first terrorist threw a timed grenade at the car, which by sheer luck bounced off the Archduke’s car and detonated safely away from him. This mishap sent the plan into complete disarray, and at that point, the Archduke had already been safely escorted to the city’s town hall. The procession was cancelled, but the Archduke later wanted to visit the people injured in the bomb blast at the hospital.

One of the assassins, 19-year-old Gavrilo Princip, stuck to the plan and went to Schiller’s delicatessen in Franz Joseph Street, just across from the city’s most popular shopping destination known as Appel Quay. For security reasons, they abandoned the planned route. The new route would take the motorcade through Appel Quay and out of the city. But as fate may have it, the drivers of the two cars in the motorcade were Czech, and nobody translated the plans made in German to them.

This deadly blunder led the drivers to go by the original plan until they took a wrong turn into Franz Joseph Street instead of Appel Quay. Realizing the mistake, the car stopped to make a turn, bringing the Archduke face to face with Gavrilo Princip, who then shot at him and his wife, killing both almost immediately.

It is important to note here that Franz Ferdinand was a pacifist and he was the reason why Austria-Hungary had not already invaded Serbia. His assassination at the hand of a Serbian national was more than enough of a reason to invade Serbia. On July 28th, 1914, Austria-Hungary went to war with Serbia. Things were further complicated by the fact that all major powers were in defence pacts with one another which ultimately led to an all-out war between the Central Powers (Austria-Hungary, Germany, Ottoman Empire) and the Allied Forces (Serbia, Russia, France, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, and the USA) in Europe resulting in 20 million deaths.

The war eventually ended on June 28th, 1919, with the signing of the Versailles treaty, which was envisioned to help create a war-free future. Ironically, the same treaty would lead to the Second World War started by Germany in part due to the resentment towards the treaty and its authors.

This wrong turn ended up in an assassination, which led to WW1, The Spanish Flu, The Russian Revolution, the rise of Adolf Hitler, WW2, The Atomic Bomb, The Cold War, and countless other events that shaped the world into what it is today.

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