Serbs unveil statue to 'hero' who set Europe marching to war

Fri Jun 27, 2014 11:34am EDT
 
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By Daria Sito-Sucic

SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Serbs in Bosnia unveiled a statue on Friday of the man who shot dead the heir to the Habsburg throne a century ago, thumbing their nose at the country's official commemoration of the act that triggered World War One.

The 2-metre (6.6 feet) bronze statue of Gavrilo Princip, unveiled by the Serb member of Bosnia's tripartite presidency, underscored the gulf between Bosnia's Serbs, Croats and Muslim Bosniaks in how they view the assassination that lit the fuse for the Great War.

The centenary falls on Saturday, and will be officially marked in Sarajevo with a concert by the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra, which leaders of Serbia and the Bosnian Serbs are boycotting.

Serbs see the 19-year-old assassin, a Bosnian Serb, as a heroic fighter for the freedom of all southern Slavs from centuries of imperial occupation over the Balkans. To others, he was a nationalist terrorist whose gunshot heralded four years of slaughter and suffering, as more than 10 million soldiers died and empires crumbled.

The centenary commemorations have, to a degree, been taken hostage by the wounds of a more recent war, when 100,000 people, mainly Bosniaks, were killed between 1992 and 1995 as Yugoslavia disintegrated.

"These fighters for freedom 100 years ago have given us the direction to follow for the next 100 years," Nebojsa Radmanovic, a Serb who shares the Bosnian presidency with a Bosniak and a Croat, said as he unveiled the statue in Serb-controlled East Sarajevo.

Around a thousand people, including children, watched as a young man, acting the part of Princip, waved a gun and silenced the music of a waltz by Austrian composer Johann Strauss.

"Who wants to live should die, who wants to die should live!" he shouted. A Serb folk dance ensued.   Continued...

 
A statue of Gavrilo Princip is seen after an opening ceremony in East Sarajevo, June 27, 2014. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic