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Interpreting the Evidence


  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    Turn of the Century and WWI (1890 - 1930)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Comprehension

  • Grade Level:

    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:

    Global History and Geography
    World War I

  • Primary Source Types:


  • Regions:


  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Sarajevo in 1924 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
Sarajevo in 1924, a decade after Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated in the city's streets, beginning the First World War.

Historical Context
Sarajevo was the site of one of the world’s most famous assassinations: that of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary.  Bosnia and Herzegovina were provinces administered by Austria after the Turks lost control of them as a result of the Treaty of Berlin in 1878.  Austria officially annexed them into the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1908, but of the three ethnic groups found in those territories, the Serbs were the most upset with Austrian rule.  Many of these Bosnian Serbs wished to be united with Serbia rather than being controlled by the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  Meanwhile, in Serbia, a secret organization called the Black Hand worked to increase anti-Austrian propaganda in Serbia along with increased attacks in provinces Serbia wished to control. When Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s visit to Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia, was announced, the Black Hand decided to assassinate him.  When the Archduke visited on June 28, 1914, his motorcade was attacked with a grenade. However, he refused to cancel his visit as, in his mind, this would make it look as though his family could not control Sarajevo.  Unfortunately, later that day when the motorcade changed their route, it stopped right in front of one of the Black Hand assassins and the Archduke and his wife were both shot and killed. Austria wanted to punish Serbia for their hand in the assassination, resulting in Serbia calling on Russia to help. Austria looked to Germany for aid and the world broke out into war as the famous Central Powers and Allied Powers alliances were created as a result of this assassination in Sarajevo.  
After the assassination, martial law was proclaimed for a short period of time in Sarajevo. As the war years passed, numerous changes took place in the governing of the city and by December 1, 1918, the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenians, made up of land that was once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was announced.  In 1924, Sarajevo became the seat of the Sarajevo district, one of the provinces of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenians.  Even though these changes took place, the ethnic difficulties within this territory did not get resolved, WWII complicated matters even more, and the region continued to be face problems in the future with the outbreak of major violence during the 1990s. 

Essential Question
How does geographic location impact a country's history?

Check for Understanding
Describe Sarajevo geography using evidence from the photograph.

Historical Challenges
Research the specific events surrounding Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination on June 28, 1914. What would you have done if you were him after the first attack? Why did violence break out in this area in the 1990s? How was it resolved?

Interdisciplinary Connections
Geography: On a blank map of Europe, color in the Central Power nations and the Allied Power nations involved in WWI by the end of 1914. Do the same with a second map to see how the nations involved had changed by the end of 1918.