Black Hand

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Black Hand (Serbian: Црна рука, Crna ruka), officially Unity or Death (Уједињење или смрт, Ujedinjenje ili smrt), was a military secret society founded in the Kingdom of Serbia on May 9, 1911;[1][2] It was a part of the Greater-Serbia movement, with the intention of uniting all of the territories containing Serb populations annexed by Austria-Hungary.[3][4] Through its supposed connections to the June 28, 1914, assassination in Sarajevo of Franz Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria, the Black Hand may have been one of the catalysts to the start of World War I.



Foreign Affairs correspondent C. L. Sulzberger asserts that the Black Hand was actually formed already in 1903 when it backed the assassination of King Alexander I of Serbia and his consort Draga; he further states that Captain Dragutin Dimitrijevic Apis who had personally led the group of Army officers who killed the royal couple in the Old Palace at Belgrade on the night between 28 and 29 May 1903 (Old Style), was also the Black Hand's leader.[5]

On October 8, 1908, just two days after Austria annexed Bosnia and Herzegovina, many men, some of them ranking Serbian ministers, officials and generals, held a meeting at City Hall in Belgrade. They founded a semi-secret society—Narodna Odbrana (National Defense) which gave the Greater Serbia idea a focus and an organization. The purpose of the group was to liberate Serbs under the control of Austria-Hungary. They also undertook anti-Austrian propaganda and organized spies and saboteurs to operate within the empire's provinces. Satellite groups were formed in Slovenia, Bosnia, Herzegovina and Istria. The Bosnian group went under the name Mlada Bosna—Young Bosnia. In 1909, Austria pressured the Serbian government to put a stop to their anti-Austrian insurrection. Russia was not ready to stand fully behind Serbia should things come to a showdown, so Belgrade was grudgingly forced to comply. From then on, Narodna Odbrana concentrated on education and propaganda within Serbia, trying to fashion itself as a cultural organization.

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