Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Part 5 - Commemoration in Sarajevo of the Centennial of the Assassination, June 2014

            Sarajevo’s commemoration of the centennial of the assassination was definitely strange, reflecting ambivalence toward the event and the desires of many different groups. Here are a lot of photos that I took and some commentary.

            It’s important to note that the 20th century was a “century of wars” for Sarajevo: three major, devastating conflicts, of which World War I was merely the first. Everywhere one sees signs of these wars: World War I from 1914 to 1918, World War II from 1941 (when Germany invaded Yugoslavia) to 1945, and “the last war” from 1992 to 1995. No wonder the theme for the commemoration was “a century of peace after a century of wars.”  
            Scheduled for the June 28, 2014 were some peace exhibits, an exhibit of the assassination, the opening of the often-closed museum at the assassination site, a concert by the Vienna Philharmonic, and a youth peace concert beginning 11:45 PM. However, other unofficial or spontaneous events abounded and I attempted (in my amateur way) to photograph them all.
            Before getting started, here’s a look at the city of Sarajevo.  From one of the surrounding hillsides, you can see that Sarajevo is in a narrow valley. 

Its religious diversity is evident (Note the mosques, churches, synagogue…) as is its recent war (graveyard with tombstones bearing death dates between 1992 and 1995). 

The Miljacka River runs along one end of it with main roads on each side of its banks. 

Franz Ferdinand’s parade route took him along the road (right) from the then new City Hall 
to the place of his death on “the street corner that started the 20th century.” 

The bridge at that fateful intersection, then called the Latin Bridge (in German), was later renamed Princip’s Bridge, and more recently has reverted to the Latin Bridge (in Bosnian). 
So what happened on the centennial? Officially, there were some exhibits:

(1) an outdoor, one-day-only exhibit of the Sarajevo assassination, put on by Bosnia-Herzegovina’s National Archives
(2) an outdoor, long-term (month-long?) exhibit of peace cartoons from various countries 

Note: These are LARGE - at least a yard high (I'm not good at calculating size!) - and printed on some translucent, waterproof material (which is why you can see nearby buildings showing through the cartoons).

(3) an outdoor, long-term exhibit on peace

             At the assassination site itself, the only officially scheduled event seemed to be the opening of the museum (which is often closed). 
For the occasion, there were some interesting items available for purchase: t-shirts and coffee mugs, available with either Franz Ferdinand on them or Gavrilo Princip. (I decided not to buy anything. I’m not sure I want to show approval for an assassin, no matter how idealistic he was. Nor do I want to endorse a representative of a foreign conqueror, regardless of the fact that he did not deserve to be killed.)

          Other groups all had their own agenda. Bosnian Serbs, of course, opposed the Bosnian Federation’s commemoration (since none of the groups in Bosnia can agree on anything, even something that happened a century ago). They held their own event in their own territory, complete with a statue of Gavrilo Princip. Other groups just kept showing up at the assassination site. There were these people – though I’m not sure what they were demonstrating about or what their flag represented. 
Then, some others showed up with a peace banner/wreath. 
Austrians came too 

 as did people leaving a commemoration of the “central European monarchy” in the Bosnian language. 

Altogether the street corner memorial ended up looking like this:
 And just to make everything even more strange, a car modeled on the archduke’s kept showing up, and people kept posing on it.

            By early evening, activity intensified. A concert of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra was held in the old City Hall (destroyed in the last war and very recently renovated). Only foreign dignitaries were in attendance inside the hall, and security was tight. 

The road on that bank of the river was completely blocked off, but on the other side, people gathered before a large screen set up so that they could hear (and see) the concert. 

Protestors gathered as well, lining up just along the opposite bank of the river, expressing their interpretations of the meaning of the commemoration in light of modern developments. Wearing Gavrilo Princip masks (!), they held up signs, presumably for the benefit of the arriving officials. After the dignitaries disappeared in the building, they continued their protest at the assassination site.

(Note: It was hard to get pictures because of the crowd/location.) 

Some of the young people were protesting the International Monetary Fund and the European Union, proclaiming the actions of those entities a new occupation and calling for a modern-day Gavrilo Princip to save them from foreign exploitation. Others were rambling expressions of Bosnian Serb nationalism. It was a mixed bag of dissatisfaction and protest.

          Finally, the concert began with an odd selection: the German (not Austrian or Bosnian) national anthem: “Deutschland über alles.” I still haven’t figured out the reason for the song choice.

         The day ended with some kind of an international youth concert for peace on the Latin Bridge (formerly the Princip Bridge), just across from the assassination site. For some reason, the event started at 11:45 pm, too late for some of us jetlagged foreigners, so this picture only shows the preparations for the concert. 

            Thus ended the centennial commemoration of the Sarajevo assassination, which even today is fraught with controversy.  


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