Iconic Photos

Famous, Infamous and Iconic Photos

The Arrest of Gavrilo Princip

with 14 comments


Gavrilo Princip was unintentionally one of the most influential and notorious people of the last century, and he achieved this dubious infamy quite young. The discontented Bosnian-Serb student was just nineteen when he fatally shot Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo and set the continent on course towards a world war, end of three powerful empires and inevitably towards the horrors the Nazis unleashed.

Yet, after two failed attempts on the Archduke’s life earlier that day, Princip’s success was an unlucky coincidence at best, very much like Franz Ferdinand’s visit to the city on Vidov Dan, the anniversary of the Serbs’ defeat at the Turkish hands in Kosovo in 1389. Dissolute Princip was at a sandwich shop when the Archduke’s car made a wrong turn into the Plaza and was making a slow backing.

After shooting Franz Ferdinand and his consort Duchess Sophie, Princip — whose political goal was to cleave away Serbia from Austria-Hungary and to create an united pan-slavic country — tried to kill himself. A man behind him saw what he was doing, and seized Princip’s right arm. A couple of policeman joined the struggle and Princip was arrested. The above photo, one of the earliest photodocumentary scoops of the century, was taken by one Milos Oberajger, a forestry engineer and amateur photographer. Doubt remains as to the identity of the man being arrested in the photo, however. 

After a 12-day murder trial in Sarajevo in October 1914, Princip was sentenced to 20 years, the maximum penalty since he was younger than 20 when he committed his crime. Probably tubercular before his imprisonment, he had an arm amputated because the disease spread to the bone. He died in hospital in April 1918, failing to outlive the conflagration he had unleashed.  In a final irony, the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28th 1919, five years to the day of the assassination. 

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

May 5, 2009 at 12:36 am

14 Responses

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  1. This is so weird, one man is a underlyning cause of one of the greatest wars in history. Must realy be a small world afterall.


    April 21, 2010 at 8:34 pm

  2. Oh, you have no idea, mate. Not only did this man started off a chain of events that set off World War I, but arguably, though quite plausible, sets the stage for the rest of the 20th century, starting from the inter-war years, from the treaty of Versailles, which all parties didn’t benefit much, especially for Germany, which then saw the rise of fascist leaders like Hitler, Mussolini, then you also have the rise of Joesph Stalin,you have the great depression, the Sino-Japanes wars, and a mess of events that all came to starting World War II, then came the “cold war” afterwards, in which various events took place, such as the foundation of The State of Israel in 1948, which started the Arab-Israeli conflict we still see today since then, the independence of India and the creation of the state of Pakistan, the Baby Boom in the U.S. (One of the results from World War II), the Korean War, which split Korea into two entities ever since, the de-colonization of Africa, which happened in such haste that countless many problems still plague the continent to this day, the Vietnam War, the Soviet War in Afghanistan, the rise of crook leaders like Reagan, Thatcher, and Gorbachev (who sold his country out), etc. (the list is quite long that it’ll take me forever to detail it all to you. I urge you to research all of this, and see for yourself.), and since the end of 1991, with the fall of the USSR (sad day, since the Ying-Yang balance is now broken), U.S. imperialism has gone out of hand, which leads to the Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan (in-fact, they say that Afghanistan is the graveyard of empires, look into that, you’ll be suprised.), the Balkanization of former Yugoslavia, which split into many different countries, and strife continued there until 2000, the splitting of the USSR into 15 different republics, which lead to the tragic state of Russia in the 1990s, from which Putin and Medvedev have salvaged Russia from the slums of oligarchs and corrupt business leaders, and the salvaging of the former Russian superpower continues to this day, and events in the Middle East continue to rock the world to this day, along with other events that are on-going.

    So, looking at this in a nutshell, you can thank Gavrilo Princip for starting World War I, and starting a domino effect which influences the rest of the 20th century after WWI. Yes, indeed, it is amazing how one man could possibly, and arguably, set the course of events in such ways.

    Jack Thompson

    July 25, 2011 at 11:03 am

    • Of course, this is all arguable, considering many, many factors, but when viewed in this sort of light,it isn’t that hard to imagine that Gavrilo Princip was, undoubtably, one of the most influential figures of the 20th century, in terms of war, politics, and perhaps etc., all with just a little gun and a trigger. Again, one can argue about this all day, so… I leave you with that.

      Jack Thompson

      July 25, 2011 at 11:12 am

    • to f ing long


      pred alien 5

      January 18, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    • Dear Jack,
      Yes.. it could be that young Gavrilo created a chain reaction. But it can be that we are reverse engineering the events. There were wars long before Garvilo “shot the sheriff”, and i’m affraid that there will be wars long after we all die.

      WWI would happen sooner or later. The Austro-Hungarian empire was only looking for the “initial spark” to go all guns blazing. If it was not a Gavrilo, it would be some other poor guy who thought that he was doing the right thing.

      Vladimir Krzalic

      July 2, 2012 at 7:00 pm

    • I agree. There is a lot of talk that Osama what-ever his name is, is a direct decendant of this person.

      Back in the day, we had a high ranking fellow come and school us about these terrorists. He said that they have a thousands of years tradition going for them and that their main forte is that they plot and meditate for long periods working out their plans but predicting like a chess master the results of what they are planning. I think he was hitting the nail on the head. I think these guys knew what the domino effect was gonna be.

      BTW: He also presented disturbing facts about Lincoln, John Wilks Booth, Kennedy and Oswald. The few that I can remember was that Lincoln’s Father was a Carpenter
      Kennedy’s Carpenter was a Father and Jackie Kennedy Drove a Lincoln and somehow is you add all the letters up it spells Barry Soetoro.

      Go Figure.

      Your Obt Svt.
      Col. Korn.
      Chief o Mayhem, In the Great WW-2 (An tha Cold War)
      Currently Chief O Security an Sanitation,
      OXOjamm Studios.

      Col. Korn

      June 28, 2014 at 4:07 am

  3. I’ve just come across a good quality early print of the above image in an old photo album from the time that belonged to my grandfather. Do you think it might be of interest to anyone or were huge numbers printed? Please reply to nick@nickewbank.co.uk

    Nick Ewbank

    January 17, 2012 at 1:06 pm

  4. this is screwede up when i grow up i wanna be a hitman like him but i gonna work for the fbii hahaha


    cAlL mE pHyScO

    pred alien 5

    January 18, 2012 at 3:39 pm

  5. This is the most iconic photo of the 20th century and possibly of all time. It was taken a minute or two – at most – after the assassination of the heir to the Austrian empire. The consequences of Gavrilo Princip’s fateful act is beyond comprehension – such is its magnitude.

    Princip is wearing a coat of sorts – probably to hide his pistol etc. His face looks contorted, probably the result of the beating from the police as they grabbed and arrested him. Members of the crowd had also struck him earlier, apparently. You can see that some members of the public – men in traditional clothing – are trying to get at him. Keep in mind that Princip had swallowed an expired cyanide pill immediately after the shooting – he would probably have been dry-retching as a result of this.


    March 12, 2012 at 11:06 am

  6. This could be a fake picture. How can you be sure that it is Gavrilo Princip?


    March 26, 2012 at 7:08 am

    • The biographer DeVoss actually claims that this photo is of a German bystander who was arrested because he tried to protect Princip from the mob that was trying to lynch him. The German’s name is Ferdinand Behr. There is, however, one photo of Princip being arrested and led away that is beyond dispute. It’s a front shot that shows Princip, head held high, being led down a street. The image I’ve seen on Google is not of exceptional quality but it is passable. You can just see Gavrilo’s moustache and his messed up hair.


      March 29, 2012 at 5:34 am

  7. You probably don’t mean dissolute.


    June 27, 2014 at 9:39 pm

  8. […] The war claimed sixteen million lives, maimed twenty million more. It was deadlier still when taken into account the pandoran tragedies it unleashed, from rise of the Soviet Union to economic depression to Hitler’s Third Reich. We covered that pivotal moment of June 28, 1914 back in 2009. […]

  9. Uhm. That’s not Gavrilo Princip


    August 21, 2014 at 9:34 pm

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