Assassin who sparked WWI to get monument in Belgrade

Agence France-Presse
A portrait of Serbian secessionist Gavrilo Princip, who assassinated Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Duchess Sophie. 
Sean Gallup

Belgrade will erect a monument honoring Gavrilo Princip, the Bosnian Serb nationalist whose assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand sparked World War I, city authorities said Monday.

Local official Goran Vesic told state broadcaster RTS that the monument is set to be unveiled by the end of June.

"The monument will honor a man who entered into Serbian history through his actions, a man who sacrificed everything for liberty," Vesic said.

But Princip, who was just 19 when he shot the archduke in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, remains a controversial figure in the Balkans, where the scars of sectarian wars in the 1990s are still fresh.

While some see him as a fervent Serb nationalist who sought to liberate Slavs from their Austro-Hungarian occupiers, others regard him as a terrorist who unleashed horrific bloodshed on the world.

He shot dead the archduke and his wife with a Browning revolver, setting off a chain of events that sucked Europe's great powers into four years of unprecedented violence that redrew the world map.

Last summer Sarajevo marked 100 years since the assassination, but Princip's divisive legacy meant that Serbian and Bosnian Serb leaders shunned the event.

Until the Bosnia war in the 1990s, Princip was Sarajevo's favorite son.

Two years after he died in prison in 1920 his bones were dug up and brought to be buried in the city, where a bridge was named after him and plaques put up in his honor.

But during the 1990s conflict he was worshipped as an icon of Serb nationalism by Bosnian Serb forces as they besieged Sarajevo in one of the war's most brutal episodes.