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Black Hand Organization

The Black Hand, also known as “Unification or Death,” was a secret society and nationalist organization founded in Serbia in 1911. Composed of Serbian military officers and intellectuals, their primary goal was to unify all South Slavic territories under Serbian rule. They believed in the creation of a Greater Serbia, free from Austro-Hungarian rule.

The Black Hand operated as a clandestine society with a hierarchical structure. Its leadership consisted of a central committee composed of influential figures within the Serbian military, government, and intelligence agencies. Colonel Dragutin Dimitrijević, also known as “Apis,” was one of the key figures leading the organization.

The organization’s name, “Black Hand,” derived from a ritual in which new members took an oath of loyalty by tracing a black handprint on a white paper. This symbolized their commitment to secrecy, sacrifice, and the advancement of Serbian interests.

The Black Hand was responsible for the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, on June 28, 1914, in Sarajevo. Gavrilo Princip, a young member of the organization, carried out the assassination. This act of political violence led to a series of diplomatic tensions and ultimatums between Austria-Hungary and Serbia, eventually leading to the outbreak of World War I.


The Black Hand’s involvement in the assassination of Franz Ferdinand and their nationalist agenda played a significant role in escalating the conflict. However, it’s important to note that the war was not solely caused by the actions of the Black Hand. It was a culmination of complex political alliances, rivalries, and tensions among European powers.

The story of the Black Hand adds another layer of intrigue and complexity to the events leading up to World War I. It highlights the impact of secretive organizations and nationalist movements in shaping the course of history.

History behind it:

The Black Hand’s influence extended beyond Serbia, as they sought to support nationalist movements and rebellions in neighboring regions such as Bosnia, Herzegovina, and Macedonia. They provided financial aid, weapons, and training to nationalist groups sympathetic to their cause.

Black Hand was directly involved with the organization known as Young Bosnia. Young Bosnia was a revolutionary nationalist movement composed primarily of Bosnian Serb and Bosnian Croat students and intellectuals. It aimed to achieve the unification of all South Slavic territories under a single Yugoslav state.

The most notable and tragic event associated with the collaboration between the Black Hand and Young Bosnia was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria on June 28, 1914, in Sarajevo, Bosnia. Gavrilo Princip, a member of Young Bosnia, carried out the assassination. Although not an official member of the Black Hand, Princip and other conspirators received support and training from Black Hand operatives.

In the end, the Black Hand faced its own downfall. Following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the organization became a target of international scrutiny and was eventually dismantled. Many of its key members were captured, tried, and convicted for their involvement in the assassination plot. The demise of the Black Hand marked the end of an era and a turning point in the history of nationalist movements in the Balkans.

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