I've read that Austria-Hungary annexed Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1908, much to the dismay of the Serbs. Russia backed this action and was promised to have access to the Straits but were later denied. The Serbs were pressured by their Russian ally to give up their claims of Bosnia-Herzegovina (but why?). Before then, Austria had repeatedly threatened to go to war against Serbia if Serbia continued to refuse recognizing Austria's claims.

The killer who murdered Archduke Ferdinand was a member of the Black Hand, the same group that is connected with the post-revolutionary government in Serbia, so the Serbian government was complicit. From a historical point of view, it seems that Serb nationalism was the trigger to WWI.

  • 3
    Well, the assassination was the straw that broke the camels back.
    – Russell
    Dec 5, 2012 at 2:08
  • I need more information on the alliance system as well and an in-depth analysis of the causes and results of the Bosnian crisis.
    – Person
    Dec 5, 2012 at 2:20
  • 2
    Gavrilo Princip (the killer) wasn't a member of Black Hand (a military group), he was a member of Mlada Bosna. I don't think any of the six assassins was member of Black Hand.
    – yannis
    Dec 5, 2012 at 2:31
  • 4
    There's a lot of information and "in-depth analysis" here. Dec 5, 2012 at 3:30
  • 5
    To call something a trigger is not the same as to call something a cause. To say "trigger" implies a specific incident that sets in motion a chain reaction. Hostile sentiment or a belligerent nature by themselves do not produce conflict; something has to provide an "excuse" to fight. The assassination was the trigger, nationalism a contributing cause.
    – choster
    Dec 13, 2012 at 19:48

2 Answers 2


I would say that the fundamental cause of World War I was the "Serbian" crisis, of which the Bosnian crisis and the assassination of the Archduke were merely "manifestations."

Austria's response to the assassination of the Archduke was the so-called July Ultimatum.

Briefly its terms included that Serbia fire a list of government officials, suppress books and publications, and disband organizations that were "anti Austria-Hungary." In addition, Serbia would have to prosecute people that participated in the assassination, and allow Austrian police to take part (term 6). Basically, these were terms giving Austria-Hungary "extraterritorial" rights in Serbia.

Under pressure from its "allies" France and Russia, Serbia agreed to all terms but number 6. Even Germany's Kaiser Wilhelm was more than satisfied that Serbia's response had averted war, because it represented a most humiliating capitulation.

But the Austrians deemed the reply "unacceptable" and declared war, even after "informally" promising the Russians they would not.

Basically, Austria was looking for an excuse to declare war on, and annex Serbia, having done so with Bosnia. If it had not been due to the assassination of the Archduke, it would have been over some other matter.


After Congress of Berlin Bosnia and Herzegovina was occupied by Austro-Hungary, but still was formally part of Ottoman Empire. As Montenegro and Serbia wanted to incorporate that Ottoman province together, they were dissapointed with that decision and as only consolation they got international recognition and Niš was annexed to Serbia.

Regardless to situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina Serbia found ally in Austro-Hungaria as they wanted to expand their territory to Eastern Balkan. In Serbo - Bulgarian war, Austro-Hungary saved Serbian independence when Austro - Hungarian representative Count Khevenhüller-Metsch threatened Bulgaria with Austro - Hungarian inclusion in war.

Situation changed in 1903. when Alexander Obrenović was killed by secret military organization Bela Ruka (White Hand). On throne came Karađorđević dynasty with Petar Karađorđević as new king. Goals of Serbia have changed and they found new ally in Russia and France. Cooling of relations with Austo-Hungary led to Pig war between Serbia and Austro-Hungary and annexation of Bosnia and Herezgovina almost led to real war.

In same time in Austro-Hungary strengthened idea of making unique Yugoslavic province in Austro-Hungary. However, emperor Franz Joseph I. refused conduction of this idea. Young Archduke Franz Ferdinand had different views and he actually wanted to rearrange Austro-Hungary in trialist monarchy. That idea wasn't very popular in Hungary because they would lost Rijeka and other territories (Austro-Hungarian Compromise), Riječka krpica. That idea also wasn't popular in Serbia and strongly yugoslavic- oriented people in Austro-Hungary (there was batch of them in that time).

Gavrilo Princip was one of them. He was member of Mlada Bosna which was controlled by Crna Ruka, terrorist organization which took part in many murders and criminal activities. He finally killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand and when Austro-Hungary request for conduction of investigation was refused, Austro-Hungary attacked Serbia starting chain reaction and beginning of WW1.

So assassination was trigger to World War I, and causes of WW1 were lying in Congress of Berlin, Bosnian Crisis and many other events in world not including only Austro-Hungary and Serbia, but other great world powers.

And yes, I recommend you to read @choster comment if you don't know difference between causes and trigger of the war.

  • check this question: history.stackexchange.com/questions/22994/…
    – amphibient
    Jun 4, 2015 at 20:53
  • It's not White Hand but Black Hand who overthrew the Obrenovic dynasty in Serbia. Jul 8, 2015 at 2:48
  • @ОгњенШобајић Overthrow happened in 1903. Black Hand was formed in 1911. and White hand was formed a year later. So neither Black or White Hand existed formally back then, but both colonel Petar Živković, founder of White Hand and Dragutin Dimitrijević, founder of Black hand were involved in coup. Jul 8, 2015 at 7:34

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