On centenary of WWI assassination, the past still haunts Sarajevo

Thu Jun 26, 2014 4:51pm EDT
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By Matt Robinson and Daria Sito-Sucic

VISEGRAD/SARAJEVO Bosnia (Reuters) - Two concerts in two Bosnian cities will mark the 100th anniversary on Saturday of the Sarajevo assassination that lit the fuse for World War One, in a divided country where the past still haunts the present.

The separate events speak volumes to Bosnia a century on, where perceptions of the Bosnian Serb who gunned down Archduke Franz Ferdinand have been warped by time and politics, and wounds are still raw from the bloody demise of Yugoslavia.

In the capital, where the heir to the Habsburg throne was shot with a Browning gun on a summer's morning in 1914, the Vienna Philharmonic will play Haydn, Schubert, Brahms and Ravel in remembrance of the murder that triggered the march to war and turned out the lights on an age of European peace and progress.

To the east, in the Drina river town of Visegrad, Serbia's premiere orchestra will perform Vivaldi's summer concerto in tribute to Gavrilo Princip, to Serbs a hero whose act brought down the curtain on centuries of occupation over the Balkans.

Leaders of Serbia and the Bosnian Serbs have refused to join the Sarajevo events, saying Bosnia's Muslim Bosniaks and Catholic Croats want to paint Princip as a nationalist terrorist and the Orthodox Serbs as guilty for the wars that opened and closed the 20th century.

Instead, they will unveil a mosaic of Princip and his collaborators in Visegrad, where actors will re-enact Ferdinand's murder and the trial of his 19-year-old assassin, who died in jail of tuberculosis months before World War One ended.

The assassination "began the liberation from serfdom and slavery", filmmaker Emir Kusturica, organizer of the Visegrad events, told Reuters. "I don't know why everyone would mark the day in the same place when they look on it so differently."

The row threatens to drown out those hoping to send a message of unity; Saturday's events in Sarajevo will close with an open-air musical bringing together 280 performers from across Europe, including Serbs, under the title "A Century of Peace after the Century of Wars".   Continued...

A worker smokes a cigarette in front of a mosaic with image of Gavrilo Princip, in Andricgrad village near Visegrad June 19, 2014. REUTERS/Djordje Kojadinovic