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By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
SARAJEVO, BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA (BosNewsLife)– The capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina is marking the 100th anniversary of the assassination that sparked World War I, but Serbian and Bosnian Serb representatives are boycotting the events in Sarajevo.
The Austro-Hungarian crown prince, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and his wife were shot dead by a Serbian nationalist here on June 28, 1914.
Now a replica of the car in which they were shot dead has been parked at the same spot in Sarajevo where they were killed.
The summer shots led to four years of bloodshed, initially putting Austria-Hungary and Germany against allies France, Britain and Russia, followed by many other countries.
At least nine million soldiers died in what was one of the deadliest conflicts in history. Historians say it led to the Second World War, the expansion of the Soviet Union and eventually the collapse of Communism in Europe.
Yet, different interpretations of World War I have underscored ethnic divisions in Bosnia-Herzegovina, following the Balkan conflict here of the 1990s.
Sarajevo’s Mayor Ivo Komsic is furious that Serbian and Bosnian Serb leaders are boycotting his city’s commemorations. “Those who have blatantly refused to come here have not demonstrated their attitude towards the past, but they’ve shown their attitude towards the future of this region,” he told reporters.
Serbs see assassin Gavrilo Princip as a hero who ended centuries of Balkan occupation in 1914 by killing Archduke Franz Ferdinand. On Friday, Serbs honored the assassin with a monument in their part of Sarajevo
They claim Bosnia’s Muslims and Catholic Croats want to portray him as a nationalist terrorist.
Yet, organizers of the main events commemorating the assassination say they want to mark today as the beginning of a “century of peace” for everyone.
That’s why the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra has been preparing for a grand performance in the rebuilt City Hall.
The concert on Saturday was due to begin with the Bosnian anthem and end with composer Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” – the official European anthem.