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28 July 1914
19th century Europe had a complex system of political and military alliances in place. The assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand by a Serbian nationalist threw this system off balance. The assassin, Gavrilo Princip, was a Bosnian Serb teenager and member of the radical nationalist group Mlada Bosnia (Young Bosnia), which was affiliated to the secret armed organisation known as Unification of Death (also the Black Hand). The motivation behind the assassination was that the Habsburg Empire, to which the Archduke was heir, had annexed Bosnia-Herzegovina from the declining Ottoman Empire in 1908. As a Serbian nationalist and a believer in a united Yugoslavia, Princip believed that the attack would result in a revolution and instability that would free the land of Habsburg rule. He was correct, and his actions resulted in a global war between the major powers of the European continent. These powers fought on two opposing sides: the Triple Entente and the Triple Alliance. The Triple Entente was comprised of the United Kingdom, France, United States and Russia who were victorious over the Triple Alliance, made up of Germany, Austria- Hungary and Italy. With the defeat of the Triple Alliance came the Treaty of Versailles, which outlined the reparations to be made by Germany in particular. It also saw the establishment of the League of Nations, the forerunner of the United Nations, which hoped to prevent a conflict of this nature from reoccurring. As one of the longest and deadliest conflicts in history, the loss of lives in World War 1 amounted to over 15 million. Amongst these losses were South African soldiers, who entered the conflict on the side of the Triple Entente and fought their most noted battle at Delville Wood in France in 1916. Gavrilo Princip's dream was only reaslied after World War 2, when Yugoslavia was united under communist rule. This lasted until the early 1990s when the union broke apart in a protracted civil war.