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100 Years Ago: The Assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand Affects Pittsburgh Today

Carl Pietzner

One-hundred years ago this Saturday, June 28, 1914, Arch-duke Francis Ferdinand, nephew and heir of the Austrian Emperor, was shot and killed by Gavrilo Princip while riding in an open car through the Bosnian capital. The tragic incident set in motion events that led to the start of World War I.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writer Len Barcousky recently wrote a piece on the “political crime” that sparked the war.

Barcousky notes that the impact of these events played a role in the lives of many Pittsburghers.

“It [World War I] remade the map. There were lots and lots of immigrants here in Pittsburgh, who had fled their homelands because they were in their viewpoint, 'occupied' or 'unjustly ruled' by the Austra-Hungarian empire. In the case of the Czechs, in the case of the Poles by the Germans, in the case of some of the other Poles, in some Lithuanian speakers and the Czarist empire, which controlled huge swaths of territory. Which did indeed for various periods become independent after the Czarist empire imploded. So they would have followed these events very closely."

Many of these immigrants found themselves fighting for America in World War I, or as it was called at the time "the Great War." This sometimes caused conflict for Pittsburgh immigrants. 

"There certainly would have been lots and lots of other immigrants who would have been drafted into the American army who would have had similar mixed feelings and mixed emotions. Not being quite sure whether or not they were fighting with the right allies. They certainly knew they were fighting on the right side as Americans, but they weren't necessarily sure they were fighting with the right allies."