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Anti-Serb riots in Sarajevo

Anti-Serb riots in Sarajevo
A crowd gathered around piles of destroyed Serb property in Sarajevo, 29 June 1914
Date 28–29 June 1914
Location Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Austria-Hungary
Also known as Sarajevo frenzy of hate
Cause Anti-Serb sentiment in the aftermath of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand
Participants Bosniak and Croat population in Sarajevo, encouraged by the Austrian authorities
Deaths 2 Serbs killed
Property damage Numerous houses and buildings owned by Serbs
Inquiries More than 100 Serbs arrested on suspicions of supporting the assassins of Franz Ferdinand[1]
58 non-Serbs arrested[2]

The anti-Serb riots in Sarajevo consisted of large-scale anti-Serb violence in Sarajevo on 28 and 29 June 1914 following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria. Encouraged by the Austro-Hungarian government, the violent demonstrations assumed the characteristics of a pogrom, leading to ethnic divisions unprecedented in the city's history. Two Serbs were killed on the first day of the demonstrations, and many were attacked, while numerous houses, shops and institutions owned by Serbs were razed or pillaged.


  • Background 1
  • The riots 2
    • 28 June 1914 2.1
    • 29 June 1914 2.2
  • Photographs 3
  • Reactions 4
    • People of Sarajevo 4.1
    • South Slavic politicians in Austria-Hungary 4.2
    • Newspapers and diplomats 4.3
  • Aftermath 5
    • Incidents in other locations 5.1
    • Schutzkorps 5.2
  • References 6
  • Bibliography 7
  • Further reading 8


In the aftermath of the Zagreb. The following day, anti-Serb demonstrations in the city became more violent and could be characterized as a pogrom. The police and local authorities in the city did nothing to prevent anti-Serb violence.[12]

The riots

28 June 1914

Oskar Potiorek, the Austro-Hungarian governor of Bosnia and Herzegovina, organized and stimulated riots against Serbs.
Josip Štadler agreed to eradicate "subversive elements of this land".

Anti-Serb demonstrations in Sarajevo began on 28 June 1914, a little later than those in Zagreb.[12] Ivan Šarić, the assistant of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Bosnia, Josip Štadler, scratched anti-Serb verse anthems in which he described Serbs as "vipers" and "ravening wolves."[13] A mob of Croats and Bosnian Muslims first gathered at Štadler's palace, the Sacred Heart Cathedral.[13] Then, at around 10 o'clock in the evening, a group of 200 people attacked and destroyed the Hotel Evropa, the largest hotel in Sarajevo, which was owned by Serb merchant Gligorije Jeftanović.[13] The crowds directed their anger principally at Serb shops, residences of prominent Serbs, Serbian Orthodox places of worship, schools, banks, the Serb cultural society Prosvjeta, and the Srpska riječ newspaper offices.[14] Many members of the Austro-Hungarian upper class participated in the violence, including many military officers.[14] Two Serbs were killed that day.[14]

Later that night, following the brief intervention of ten armed soldiers on horses, order was restored in the city. That night, an agreement was reached between the provincial government of Bosnia and Herzegovina led by Oskar Potiorek, the city police and Štadler with his assistant Ivan Šarić to eradicate the "subversive elements of this land."[12][15] The city government issued a proclamation and invited population of Sarajevo to fulfill their holy duty and clean their city of the shame through eradication of the subversive elements. This proclamation was printed on the posters which were distributed and displayed over the city during that night and tomorrow early morning. According to the statement of Josip Vancaš, who was one of the signatories of this proclamation, the author of its text was the government's commissioner for Sarajevo who composed it based on the agreement with higher representatives of the government and baron Collas.[16]

29 June 1914

Josip Vancaš addressing a crowd in Sarajevo.

On 29 June 1914, more aggressive demonstrations began at around 8 o'clock in the morning and quickly assumed the characteristics of a pogrom.[12] Large groups of Muslims and Croats gathered on the streets of Sarajevo shouting and singing while carrying black-draped Austrian flags and pictures of the Austrian emperor and late archduke. Local political leaders held speeches to these crowds. Josip Vancaš was amongst those who gave a speech before violence erupted.[14] While his exact role in the events is unknown, some of the political leaders certainly played important role in bringing crowds together and directing them against shops and houses belonging to Serbs.[14] Political leaders disappeared after their speeches and many fast moving smaller groups of Croats and Muslims began attacking all property belonging to Sarajevo Serbs they could reach.[17] They first attacked one Serb school and then shops and other institutions and private houses owned by Serbs.[12] A bank owned by a Serb was sacked while goods taken from shops and houses of Serbs were spread on the sidewalks and streets.[2]

That evening, governor Potiorek declared a state of siege in Sarajevo, and later in the rest of the province. Although these measures authorized law enforcement to deal with irregular activities they were not completely successful because mobs continued to attack Serbs and their property.[18] Official reports stated that the Serb Orthodox Cathedral and Metropolitan seat in the city were spared due to the intervention of Austro-Hungarian security forces. After the corpses of Franz Ferdinand and his wife were transported to Sarajevo's railway station, order in the city was restored. Further, the Austro-Hungarian government issued a decree which established a special court for Sarajevo authorized to impose the death penalty for acts of murder and violence committed during the riots.[19]


Main street of Sarajevo
(today's Marshal Tito street) 
Baščaršija, near the Bezistan 
Vandalized Serb school in Sarajevo 
Destroyed garage of Hotel Evropa 


People of Sarajevo

A group of notable Sarajevo politicians, consisting of Jozo Sunarić, Šerif Arnautović and Danilo Dimović, who represented the three religious communities of Sarajevo, visited Potiorek and demanded that he take measures to prevent attacks against Serbs.[20] In reports that Potiorek submitted to Vienna on 29 and 30 June, he stated that Serb shops in Sarajevo were completely destroyed, and that even upper class women participated in acts of looting and robbery.[21] Many residents of Sarajevo applauded to the crowd as they watched the events from their windows while authorities reported that demonstrators enjoyed widespread support amongst the non-Serb population of the city.[14]

Writer Ivo Andrić referred to the violence as the "Sarajevo frenzy of hate."[22]

South Slavic politicians in Austria-Hungary

Slovenian conservative politician Ivan Šusteršič called for violence against Serbs in the aftermath of the riots.

According to author Christopher Bennett, relations between Croats and Serbs in the empire would have spun out of control had it not been for the intervention of Hungarian authorities.[23] Slovenian conservative politician Ivan Šusteršič called for non-Serbs "to shatter the skull of that Serb in whom voracious megalomania lived".[18]

Except from the weak far-right political forces, the other South Slavs in Austria-Hungary, particularly those in Dalmatia and Muslim religious leaders in Bosnia and Herzegovina, either refrained from participating in anti-Serb violence or condemned it while some of them openly expressed solidarity with the Serb people, including the newspapers of the Party of Rights, the Croat-Serb Coalition, and Catholic bishops Alojzije Mišić and Anton Bonaventura Jeglič. Until the beginning of July, it became obvious that the only support for the government's anti-Serb position came from the state-supported reactionaries while some kind of South Slav solidarity with Serbs existed, though still in an undeveloped form.[18]

However, authors Bideleux and Jeffries stated that Croatian political leaders displayed fierce loyalty to Austria-Hungary and noted that Croatians in general became significantly more engaged in the Austro-Hungarian armed forces at the outbreak of World War I, commenting on the high proportion of front-line fighters compared with the total population.[8]

Newspapers and diplomats

The Catholic and official press in Sarajevo inflamed riots by publishing hostile anti-Serb pamphlets and rumors, claiming that Serbs carried hidden bombs.[12] Sarajevo newspapers reported that riots against ethnic Serb civilians and their property resembled "the aftermath of Russian pogroms."[24] On 29 June, a conservative newspaper from Vienna reported that "Sarajevo looks like the scene of a pogrom."[25] According to some reports, the police in Sarajevo permitted the riots to occur.[26] Some reports state that Austro-Hungarian authorities stood by while Sarajevo Serbs were killed and their property burned.[17] The anti-Serb riots had an important effect on the position of the Russian Empire. A Russian newspaper reported: "the responsibility for the events is not on Serbia but on those who pushed Austria into Bosnia so Russia's moral obligation is to protect the Slavic people of Bosnia and Herzegovina from the German yoke".[27] According to Milorad Ekmečić, one Russian report stated that more than thousand houses and shops were destroyed only in Sarajevo.[28]

The Italian consul in Sarajevo stated that the events were financed by the Austro-Hungarian government. The German consul, described as being "anything but a friend of Serbs", reported that Sarajevo was experiencing its own St. Bartholomew's Day massacre.[12]


Incidents in other locations

Anti-Serb demonstrations and riots were organized not only in Sarajevo and Zagreb but also in many other larger Austro-Hungarian cities including Split and Dubrovnik, although in Šibenik a number of shops owned by Serbs were plundered.[30][31][32]

Austro-Hungarian troops hanging Serbs in the Herzegovina region.


Austro-Hungarian authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina imprisoned and extradited approximately 5,500 prominent Serbs, 700 to 2,200 of whom died in prison. 460 Serbs were sentenced to death and a predominantly Muslim[33][34][35] special militia known as the Schutzkorps was established and carried out the persecution of Serbs.[36] Consequently, around 5,200 Serb families were expelled from Bosnia and Herzegovina.[35] This was the first persecution of a substantial number of citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina because of their ethnicity, and, as Slovene author Velikonja describes, an ominous harbinger of things to come.[37]


  1. ^ Donia 2006, p. 127
  2. ^ a b Donia 2006, p. 128
  3. ^ Bennett 1995, p. 31.
  4. ^ Bennett 1995, p. 31
    ...high throughout the Habsburg Empire and in Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina it boiled over into anti-Serb pogroms.
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b Bideleux & Jeffries 2006, p. 188.
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ a b c d e f g Mitrović 2007, p. 18
  13. ^ a b c
  14. ^ a b c d e f Donia 2006, p. 125
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ a b Jannen 1996, p. 10
  18. ^ a b c Mitrović 2007, p. 19
  19. ^ Donia 2006, p. 126
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ Bennett 1995, p. 31
    Though these pogroms were clearly incited by Habsburg authorities, it eventually took Hungarian intervention to prevent relations between Croats and Serbs within the Empire getting totally out of hand.
  24. ^
  25. ^ Jannen 1996, p. 10
    A conservative Vienna paper reported the next day that "Sarajevo looks like the scene of a pogrom."
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^ Ekmečić 1973, p. 165
    Према једном руском из- вјештају, само у Сарајеву било је уништено преко хиљаду кућа и радњи. [...] "Ријеч „демонстрација" овдје нема право значење, и ту филологија не стоји у складу са реалношћу историје; назив- „погром" је адекватнији."
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^ Tomasevich 2001, p. 485
    The Bosnian wartime militia (Schutzkorps), which became known for its persecution of Serbs, was overwhelmingly Muslim.
  34. ^
  35. ^ a b Velikonja 2003, p. 141
  36. ^
  37. ^ Velikonja 2003, p. 141
    For the first time in their history, a significant number of Bosnia Herzegovina's inhabitants were persecuted and liquidated for their national affiliation. It was an ominous harbinger of things to come.


Further reading

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