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Sarajevo 1914: An Examination of the Context by which Austria Hungary Responded to the Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand

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Technical Report

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Air Command and Staff College Maxwell Air Force Base United States

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The assassination of the Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophia in Sarajevo in 1914 is remembered as the event which sparked the First World War, yet it came at a time when other assassinations of political leaders, such as US President William McKinley, did not produce such a devastating result. The difference lies in the context in which the assassination occurred. The Sarajevo assassination was conducted by revolutionaries from within Austria-Hungary but masterminded by actors in neighboring Serbia. Austria-Hungary suspected Serbian involvement in the assassination and planned to eliminate the Serbian threat while avoiding wider war. Unfortunately for Austria-Hungary, a long succession of Balkan crises created animosity between them and Russia compounded by their respective competing alliances. Austria-Hungary was constrained in their ability to exact punishment against Serbia without risking a worldwide conflict. Nonetheless, Austria-Hungary, in close consultation with Germany, attempted to move against Serbia without eliciting a Russian response. Their gamble proved catastrophic. This paper examines the context in which the assassination took place and shows how Austria-Hungary felt compelled to respond as they did to the assassination. This paper also applies lessons learned from Austria-Hungarys plight in 1914 to potential situations today for the United States and allies with the goal of provoking thoughtful consideration of US foreign policy in future crises

Subject Categories:

  • Government and Political Science
  • Humanities and History

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