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Bosnian Serbs erect statue to Gavrilo Princip, teen assassin who ignited WWI


SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) -- Marking the eve of the centennial of the beginning of World War I in their own way, Bosnian Serbs on Friday unveiled a monument in their part of Sarajevo to the man who ignited the war by assassinating the Austro-Hungarian crown prince on June 28, 1914.

At the other end of the city, the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra was rehearsing for Saturday's grand EU-sponsored performance, planned as a symbolic start of a new century of peace at the place where the century of wars in Europe started 100 years ago.

The two separate events testify to the depth of lingering divisions in Bosnia-Herzegovina, where one side performed works of Austrian, German and French composers in a salute to European integration while the other celebrated the man who assassinated the emperor's heir as a national hero.

Saturday's concert aims to emphasize the transformation Europe has gone through, said Clemens Hellsberg, the President of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. "We feel obliged to do things in a better way than it was done in the past," the Austrian said, adding the orchestra is delivering a message of humanity to those who want to listen.

It will start with the Bosnian anthem and finish with Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" - the official European anthem - which symbolizes where Europe sees Bosnia's future, he said.

In the Bosnian Serb East Sarajevo they have a different view of Bosnia's future: to divide the country so that the Serb part can join neighboring Serbia.

During the unveiling ceremony Friday, a young actor dressed as shooter Gavrilo Princip ran on the stage and fired two shots in the air. He then cited a poem Princip wrote in captivity which was followed by a Serbian folk dance. Later the actor pointed his gun into the air while posing in front of Princip's statue as people in the crowd shouted he should "shoot at NATO" or "shoot at the EU."

"Gavrilo Princip was a freedom fighter and the Austro Hungarian empire was an occupier here," said the president of the Bosnian Serb half of the country, Milorad Dodik, after he unveiled the 2 meters-high bronze statue.

"People who live here have never been on the same side of history and are still divided. We are sending different messages and that says it all about this country which is being held together by international violence," he said.

A century ago Austria accused Serbia of masterminding the assassination and attacked the country with backing from Germany. Serbia's allies, Russia and France, were quickly drawn in and later Britain, its sprawling Commonwealth empire and the United States also joined the fighting. When the mass slaughter known as the Great War ended in 1918, it had claimed some 14 million lives.

For the Bosnian Serbs Princip's shots on St. Vitus Day - a sacred Serb holiday of June 28 - announced the liberation from Austro-Hungarian rule and a chance for including Bosnia into the neighboring Serbian kingdom. That same idea inspired the Serbs in 1992 to fight the decision by Muslim Bosnians and Catholic Croats to declare the former republic of Bosnia independent when Serb-dominated Yugoslavia fell apart.

A peace agreement ended the 1992-95 war without a winner by recognizing Bosnia as a sovereign state but divided in two parts - one for the Serbs and the other shared by Muslim Bosniaks and Roman Catholic Croats. The Serb leadership sees the current division only as a step toward a final dissolution and inclusion of their half into Serbia.

"St. Vitus day is an inspiration for all of us," said Nebojsa Radmanovic, the Serb member of Bosnia's joint three-member presidency. "It's an inspiration in the fight for our freedom, in a fight for our sacrifice and in our joint battle for a joint country, which we haven't managed yet to create," he said referring to a Greater Serbia.

Serbs refused to take part in the commemoration in Sarajevo on Saturday, where the EU has financed various international cultural events to mark the centennial.

"Sarajevo is now a symbol of a century of wars in Europe but we are here to talk about peace and reconciliation," said Joseph Zimet, Sarajevo director general of the "Mission du centenaire" - a French-led partnership program managing the WWI commemorations. He added that it "was a pity" Serbs from Serbia and Bosnia have "not joined us".

Sarajevo mayor Ivo Komsic said those who refused to come "demonstrated not their attitude toward the past but toward the future of this region."

Maestro Franz Welser-Most said the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra came to Sarajevo "with a historical burden" and with the intention to "send a clear message: Never again!"

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JIm June 27 2014 at 7:58 PM

My Grandfather was on crutches his whole life ( He was machined gunned and Gassed at the battle of Verdun in 1916 and now these ingrates erect a statue in the honor of the scumbag that kicked the whole fiasco off. Grandfather was one of the lucky ones. millions more died. And for nothing as usual. Jim Copeland Boca Raton FL.

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6 replies
floppypawltd June 27 2014 at 7:35 PM

Ya go figure honor the sob who caused the death's of millions in WW1 and set the ground work for the murder of millions more in WW2.

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7 replies
lookatutwo June 27 2014 at 8:14 PM

Hate the new comment format!

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2 replies
siscosdad lookatutwo June 27 2014 at 8:48 PM

Don't we all..........

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1 reply
Jerry siscosdad June 28 2014 at 11:11 AM

No we all don't. Huffington Post followers (especially the flag as abusive "Pundits" who spew their own hate but can't be flagged) can go to the HP refugees sponsored by the MSNBC web site.

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Jerry lookatutwo June 28 2014 at 11:08 AM


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thescot June 27 2014 at 7:38 PM

I guess the Bosnian Serbs are brain dead, this killer caused the deaths of millions on people during that war and the erect a statue to him. I hope the pigeons get in a lot of dive bombing practice. What next, the Germans erection a statue to Hitler because he got the country back on its feet economically after WWI. Those people are nuts.

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9 replies
Hello, Mary June 27 2014 at 7:42 PM

The beginning of a war should never be celebrated .... only the end.

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2 replies
JRivers Hello, Mary June 27 2014 at 8:25 PM

Not planning on celebrating on the 4th?

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eriol1917 Hello, Mary June 27 2014 at 9:23 PM

People celebrate Independence on the 4th, not the war. By rights, they ought to be celebrating the day we actually achieved independence, not the day we declared it. For that matter, July 4 isn't even the day we declared it. That happened on July 2.

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1 reply
dankonviser eriol1917 June 27 2014 at 10:48 PM

And the fighting actually began over a year earlier.

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Johnny ! June 27 2014 at 7:31 PM

Bosnian Serbs are barbarians.

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5 replies
Say NO to libs! June 27 2014 at 7:38 PM

Drop the freaking bomb and put an END to these savages! WHEN is enough ENOUGH?

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5 replies
almazstmp June 27 2014 at 8:14 PM

Austro-Hungarian Empire used that incident to attack Serbia and started WWI. He didn't start the war, only a government of a country can start a war. Put the blame for WWI where it belongs.

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9 replies
redwingirish June 27 2014 at 8:07 PM

Where are these people's minds?...They have the same thinking pattern as george bush!

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1 reply
bkgregor redwingirish June 28 2014 at 6:36 AM

you must be a dummmycrat.

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s.mil1 June 28 2014 at 3:15 AM

Gavrilo Princip did not kill a civilian but a commander in chief of Austra-Hungarian Emprire that occupied the Serbian teritory of Bosnia by annexing it just 5 years before the assassination. Austra-Hungary was an occupaying force in Bosnia that deprived Serbs of their human and civil rights. Killing the Archduke was the equivalent of killing Hitler. The WWI started when Austra-Hungary attacked Serbia and Serbia not only won the war and liberated the whole Balkans from Austria-HUngarian reign but demolished Austrian-Hungarian Empire so much that it ceased to exist.

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1 reply
lancesammy s.mil1 June 28 2014 at 8:29 AM

you an idiot aND HAVE NO BIZ LIVING IN THE USA. the archduke was a young man and with a progressive outlook that was breaking with the old regime and if he lived reforms would have been initiated.

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1 reply
s.mil1 lancesammy June 28 2014 at 11:02 AM

You are an ignoramus and the only place YOU SHOULD is ANTARTICA. First, archduke was not yound at all, second, his age is of no relevance and third, whether he intended to be a reformer is irrelavant as well. He did know have the right to take control over Serbian Bosnia. It is called OCCUPATION. If you had a teritory, such was Bosnia, that had never been a part of Austria-Hungary, and annexed the teritory forcefully against the will of the people in Bosnia, and whose population was not of Austrian-Hungarian descent, and who never wanted to belong to Austria-Hungary, and who was tyranized by Austria-Hungary regime then that was a mere OCCUPATION. Gavrilo Princpi fought that occupation and that is why he is a Freedom Fighter and should be celebrated around the world.

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