In 1914, Serbian nationalist Nedjelko Cabrinovic blows up the Austrian nobleman Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, along with their driver.
Flower of Freedom
by Robbie TaylorA dozen people on the Sarajevo street where the Archduke was driving were injured. The Serbian terrorist had tossed his bomb into the Austrian car, and Ferdinand almost tossed it back out, but it went off before the nobleman could save himself and his wife.
The horror of the bomb scene, with the mutilated bodies of the Austrians and injured Sarajevans, enraged the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and Emperor Franz Joseph wanted to move troops into Serbia immediately to hunt for the nationalists who killed his nephew. Russia was asked not to interfere, because they had a security pact with Serbia, and the Austrian negotiator took photographs of the Archduke's body to convince them. After seeing the consequences of this horrible attack, the Russians reluctantly worked with the Austrians to convince the Serbs to give up the nationalist elements in their society. The betrayed Serbians declared war on both Austria-Hungary and Russia, but the tiny nation was unable to keep these European giants from dispatching their own military in short order.
Once Austria-Hungary had the nationalists who had assassinated the Archduke in custody, they withdrew from Serbia, but their attack proved more far-reaching; Serbians sympathetic to the nationalists began a campaign of terror attacks against Austro-Hungarian and Russian targets across Europe. Although Russia eventually toppled the Serbian government and replaced it with one more to their liking, the terror attacks continued until the Austro-Hungarians and Russians committed genocide against the Serbs in 1928, virtually annihilating the Serbian people.
The two empires were condemned by the western democracies for this war crime, and lack of trade with civilized nations after this horrific transgression took them into a gradual decline; Russia's Tsar abdicated in 1934, and a parliamentary government headed by Alexander Kerensky took control and reestablished diplomatic and trade relations with the rest of the world. After Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria-Hungary died in 1936, the empire split into 6 minor countries, each of which repudiated their imperial past and rejoined the international community. This blossoming of democracy in the 1930's even spread to the powers that hadn't been involved in the Serbian atrocity - Germany, Spain and Italy all liberalized their governments into parliamentary democracies. "The flower of freedom has bloomed from the grave of Serbia" Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany said as he turned over most of his power to the new German Chancellor, Friedrich Ebert.