A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, June 27, 2014

Speaking of the Great War: 100 Years Ago Tomorrow, "Some Damned Foolish Thing in the Balkans"

Europe today is a powder keg and the leaders are like men smoking in an arsenal … A single spark will set off an explosion that will consume us all … I cannot tell you when that explosion will occur, but I can tell you where … Some damned foolish thing in the Balkans will set it off.
—Otto von Bismarck at the Congress of Berlin in 1878
The second post on Kut is coming later this evening. Meanwhile I thought it worth noting another World War I connection: that tomorrow marks the centenary of the "some damned foolish thing in the Balkans" that the Iron Chancellor had prophesied in 1878, the assassination in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife Sophie. In a little over a month, much of Europe was at war.

Though Turkey did not formally join the war until October, its tilt towards Germany was already under way in that summer of 1914.

Note too in the famous photo of the Archduke and wife leaving Sarajevo's city hall on the day of the assassination, we see reminders (fezzes, clerical turbans) that it was only in that same Congress of Berlin that witnessed Bismarck's comment in 1878, that Bosnia and Herzegovina had ceased to be Ottoman territory and fell under Austrian control.

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