‘Union or death!’: Gavrilo Princip, Young Bosnia and the role of ‘Sacred time’ in the dynamics of nationalist terrorism

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This article seeks to investigate the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand from the ideological perspective of his assassins: the Young Bosnia movement. More specifically, it views Young Bosnia’s ideology as a form of political religion. It begins by constructing an ideal-typically defined syndrome of how radicalised, counter-hegemonic ideologies draw on senses of the numinous as part of their praxis. The article argues that through this lens we can enrich our understanding of the movement’s ideological dynamic. By taking as a point of departure the Young Bosnia’s conception of cultural time, which they believed to be unstable, the article argues that the movement promoted a mental state that demanded the need to act out what were perceived as personally heroic and socially redemptive fantasies. To the members of Young Bosnia, these fantasies, dramatising individual and societal redemption, were understood as narratives of renewal, or ‘palingenesis’. Following a theoretical discussion exploring this syndrome ideal-typically, the model is then used to generate a reading of the ideology that underpinned the Young Bosnia movement. After this, the article turns its attention to Ferdinand’s killer, Gavrilo Princip, and the cohort helping to carry out the assassination. This grouping’s willingness to commit suicide after completing their ‘mission’ was, the article argues, the product of a host of mythopoeic resources drawn upon by the Young Bosnia movement in order to elaborate a palingenetic ideology. Further, it claims that their actions provide an excellent case study in which one can see how a broad synthesis of socialist, Marxist and nationalist ideologies, alongside poetic resources, each induced the palingenetic condition in the assassins. Finally, it provides an explanatory framework that allows us to interpret how this ideology could justify political violence both against others and against their own persons
Original languageEnglish
JournalTotalitarian Movements and Political Religions
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2006


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