1914/2014 – The Battlefield of Memory

Gavrilo Princip – hero or antihero?





What does the past say about the present?

  • Events that followed a heroic deed,
    passer-by in Sarajevo
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  • Country of monologue,
    interview in Sarajevo
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  • Football European Championship – Bosnia versus Serbia,
    interview in Sarajevo
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Stupid hero, interview in Belgrade

He’s mostly described as a hero. And that’s something that textbooks say openly. So you have a photo of Gavrilo Princip and it’s written “A Serbian hero”, so it’s clear. But then, in this new interpretation of history, he also made a mistake. Because what he did put Serbia in the central position of the beginning of the First World War and then the tragedy came as a result. And that Yugoslavia came as a result, which is the worst part for those who are giving this new interpretation. According to this new interpretation, Princip made a big mistake. Maybe [he was] a hero because he sacrificed himself for the nation, but [he was] a hero who misunderstood the situation. A stupid hero, let’s say, who sacrificed himself for Yugoslavia. What an idiot! He got it wrong.

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At school, interview in Banja Luka

In our books Gavrilo Princip was … described as a hero. We can remember that. I personally agreed in part with that, when you take the political backgrounds into account. But then, when you consider the victims involved in the assassination, I don’t find it such a heroic deed.

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Serbian terrorist, interview in Sarajevo

Well in Sarajevo, I think that today most people see Gavrilo Princip as a terrorist, a Serbian terrorist, and at the same time of course the assassination is seen in rather negative terms. Nowadays it is not seen as a liberating action or an attempt to fight against the Austro-Hungarian oppression. In this context I also think that most people – or a lot of people here – have a positive attitude towards the Austro-Hungarian period here in Sarajevo. And the two things are linked. Inasmuch as the assassination was directed against the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary. Whereby, now I really don’t know what caused what. In other words, so to speak, whether the negative assessment of the assassination has resulted in the positive attitude towards Austria-Hungary or the positive assessment of the Austro-Hungarian people also so to speak resulted in the negative attitude towards the assassination, or whether in fact both factors affected each other.

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Gavrilo Princip Bridge / Latin Bridge, interview in Sarajevo

There were a few movies that were filmed during the Yugoslavian period in order to make this event [the attack on the heir to the throne] a good event, a bright event in the history of Yugoslavia. Of course, the events were a little bit changed in this movie. These guys were seen as good guys; they were actually seen to be heroes, as they were actually in Yugoslavia. Even this bridge, that is an old bridge from the 16th century, that is normally called the “Latin Bridge”; during the period of Yugoslavia it was called the “Gavrilo-Princip-Bridge”. And even today we have people that are calling this bridge “Gavrilo-Princip-Bridge”.

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Soccer game Bosnia against Serbia

ABut there were even things that… I think that everything happens because people, the international communities are allowing them to do so. For example, a few years ago Bosnia was going to the qualifications for the European Championship in football. We were playing together in a group with Serbia. We were playing with Serbia in Serbia, in Belgrade, and we were winning with 1:0. Then the supporters of Serbia started breaking the fences between our supporters and their supporters, beating the supporters of Bosnia and even killed one guy, they injured a lot of people and the game was not stopped. So our players stopped, the Serbian players continued going and at the end they won with 2:1. And the UEFA and the FIFA did nothing at all to stop this. – So there is still tension. There is still tension, of course.