Bosnian Serbs unveiled a bronze statue Friday in Sarajevo of Gavrilo Princip, the nationalist who assassinated Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand a century ago and set in motion the First World War, which took 10 million lives and shattered empires.
The ceremony, led by the Serbian member of Bosnia's tripartite presidency, included a reenactment of the June 28, 1914, shooting with a plastic gun and replica of the open car in which the Hapsburg heir and his pregnant wife were shot to death.
Bosnian Serb head of state Nebojsa Radmanovic was joined for the celebration of Princip's act by the president and prime minister of neighboring Serbia. Serbian officials from both former Yugoslav republics have said they will boycott the events organized by members of all three major ethnic groups — Serbs, Croats and Bosniak Muslims — to mark the day with a display of unity and commitment to peace.
Princip was a 19-year-old radical whose assassination of the Austro-Hungarian royal in line for the Hapsburg throne is considered by most historians to have been an act of terrorism, although he is revered by Serb nationalists who credit him with freeing Bosnia and Serbia from respective occupation by the Hapsburg and Ottoman empires.
"These fighters for freedom 100 years ago have given us the direction to follow for the next 100 years," European news agencies said Radmanovic told the crowd of about 1,000 gathered for the unveiling in a Serbian neighborhood of East Sarajevo.
Saturday's centennial of the world-altering assassination will be marked by other Bosnian civic and political leaders with a concert by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and other events that Serbian and Bosnian Serb leaders plan to boycott.
Jovan Mojsilovic, the actor who played Princip in the theatrical presentation during the statue-unveiling ceremony, called the Vienna orchestra's visit to Sarajevo a "pure provocation," the Reuters news agency reported.