Assassins Prepare Amid Rumors of Serbian Coup

wikimedia commons
wikimedia commons

The First World War was an unprecedented catastrophe that killed millions and set the continent of Europe on the path to further calamity two decades later. But it didn’t come out of nowhere. With the centennial of the outbreak of hostilities coming up in August, Erik Sass will be looking back at the lead-up to the war, when seemingly minor moments of friction accumulated until the situation was ready to explode. He'll be covering those events 100 years after they occurred. This is the 116th installment in the series.

May 7 - 8, 1914: Assassins Prepare Amid Rumors of Serbian Coup

The Serbian army’s show of defiance against its supposed civilian masters in April 1914 was the catalyst for a coup attempt organized by the head of military intelligence, Dragutin Dimitrijević (codename Apis, also the head of Crna Ruka, “Unity or Death,” otherwise known as the Black Hand—top row, left) against the government of Nikola Pašić. In May, the conspiracy gathered momentum, as the mutinous mood spread and the Black Hand newspaper Pijemont warned “bloody clashes between the army and police can be expected any minute.”

The growing tensions didn’t escape the notice of foreign observers. On May 7, 1914, the French ambassador to Serbia, Léon Descos, reported signs of dissent as well as the government’s attempts to purge Dimitrijević’s supporters through forced retirement, which only made the officers angrier: “The officers are in a ferment and hold meetings; the police keep them under observation and this irritates them. There are announcements of several resignations and placings on the retired list among the highest commands in the army. The army paper Pijemont… forecasts fresh turmoil.”

Austria-Hungary was understandably alarmed by the prospect of ultranationalist army officers seizing power in Serbia; while no great fans of Pašić, Foreign Minister Berchtold and chief of the general staff Conrad at least recognized that he was moderate compared to certain elements in the Serbian military. On May 8, 1914, the Austrian ambassador to Belgrade, Baron von Giesl, reported: 

The conflict between the government and the conspirator party (Crna Ruka)… has become so aggravated in the last few weeks that a violent clash between the two rivals for power seems not impossible… The King, who owes his throne to the conspirators, does not quite venture to side openly with them, but his sympathies belong to the Crna Ruka, as do those of the Crown Prince… I regard the possibility of violent eruptions, even of an overthrow of the Government or a coup d’etat, as not entirely inconceivable developments… unless the Government at the last moment capitulates to the military party, as it has done up to now.

In fact, that is more or less what happened: Ultimately, Dimitrijević’s coup attempt failed because King Peter moved to conciliate the officers by forcing Pašić and his cabinet to resign in early June 1914. This triggered new elections, leaving Serbia without an official government in the fateful month of July 1914.

Of course, even before the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand the fall of the Serbian government was nothing for Vienna to celebrate, as Giesl warned that no matter what happened, “the determining factor in Serbia, the army, is filled with Yugoslav chauvinism and hate for Austria-Hungary and will force a nationalist-chauvinistic and anti-Austrian bias upon the policy of whatever Government there may be.” In short, Serbia would remain a thorn in the side of the Dual Monarchy no matter who was in charge.

Plotters Train in Belgrade

In May 1914, three conspirators recruited by the Black Hand—Gavrilo Princip (bottom row, left), Nedeljko Čabrinović (bottom row, center), and Trifun Grabež (bottom row, right)—started preparing for the assassination of the Archduke, who was scheduled to visit Sarajevo, the provincial capital of Bosnia, after observing Austria-Hungary’s annual military maneuvers in late June.

The aspiring assassins, all then residing in the Serbian capital Belgrade, were provided with weapons and training by Milan Ciganović (top row, right), an employee of the Serbian state railways, and associate of Major Vojislav Tankosić (top row, center), who in turn was Dimitrijević’s right-hand man in the Black Hand. At Tankosić’s order Ciganović, a veteran of the Balkan Wars, took the plotters to Topčider Park, a quiet, wooded area in Belgrade, for target practice, where Princip soon distinguished himself as the best shot.

Eventually Tankosić and Ciganović supplied the assassins with six grenades, four pistols, a map of Bosnia, cyanide pills (to commit suicide if they were about to be caught), and some money. They also arranged for them to be smuggled across the border into Bosnia by Black Hand members who were serving as officers of the frontier guard; the assassins would begin the journey to Sarajevo in late May.

Meanwhile, the Archduke was apparently having second thoughts about the visit to Bosnia: Around this time, his personal secretary recalled that Franz Ferdinand grumbled that he “would have much preferred it if the Emperor had entrusted the mission to someone else.” In fact the Archduke repeatedly tried to get his uncle, the Emperor Franz Josef to cancel the visit, but to no avail—and then he began having premonitions.

In early May, he told his nephew Karl (who would become the last emperor of Austria-Hungary in 1916): “I know I shall soon be murdered. In this desk are papers that concern you. When that happens, take them, they are for you.” Not long after, his beloved wife Sophie, also worried about the visit to Bosnia, told her friend and fellow outcast from royal society, the Countess Larisch: “It is a dangerous undertaking, and I will not leave the Archduke to face it alone.”

See the previous installment or all entries.

Why Are the Academy Awards Statuettes Called Oscars?

Getty Images
Getty Images

In 2013, the Academy Awards were officially rebranded as simply The Oscars, after the famed statuette that winners receive. "We're rebranding it," Oscar show co-producer Neil Meron told The Wrap at the time. "We're not calling it 'the 85th annual Academy Awards,' which keeps it mired somewhat in a musty way. It's called 'The Oscars.'" But how did the statuette get that nickname in the first place?

The popular theory is that the nickname for the Academy Award of Merit (as the statuette is officially known) was coined by Academy Award librarian and future Director of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Margaret Herrick. The story goes that when Herrick first saw the statue in 1931, she said that it looked like her Uncle Oscar. According to Emanuel Levy, author of All About Oscar: The History and Politics of the Academy Awards, columnist Sidney Skolsky was there when Herrick said this and would later write that, “Employees have affectionately dubbed their famous statuette ‘Oscar.’”

While the first documented use of “Oscar” as the nickname for the statuette was made by Skolsky—in a 1934 New York Daily News article—there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that Skolsky was actually responsible for the above quote. Skolsky, in his 1975 memoir Don’t Get Me Wrong, I Love Hollywood, claimed he first used the nickname referencing a classic vaudeville joke line, “Will you have a cigar, Oscar?” in an attempt to mock the Academy Awards:

"It was my first Academy Awards night when I gave the gold statuette a name. I wasn’t trying to make it legitimate. The snobbery of that particular Academy Award annoyed me. I wanted to make the gold statuette human. ... It was twelve thirty when I finally arrived at the Western Union office on Wilcox to write and file my story. I had listened to Academy, industry, and acceptance talk since seven thirty ... There I was with my notes, a typewriter, blank paper, and that Chandler feeling.

You know how people can rub you the wrong way. The word was a crowd of people. I’d show them, acting so high and mighty about their prize. I’d give it a name. A name that would erase their phony dignity. I needed the magic name fast. But fast! I remembered the vaudeville shows I’d seen. The comedians having fun with the orchestra leader in the pit would say, “Will you have a cigar, Oscar?” The orchestra leader reached for it; the comedians backed away, making a comical remark. The audience laughed at Oscar. I started hitting the keys ...

“THE ACADEMY awards met with the approval of Hollywood, there being practically no dissension … The Academy went out of its way to make the results honest and announced that balloting would continue until 8:00 o’clock of the banquet evening … Then many players arrive late and demanded the right to vote … So voting continued until 10 o’clock or for two hours after the ballot boxes were supposed to be closed … It was King Vidor who said: “This year the election is on the level” … Which caused every one to comment about the other years … Although Katharine Hepburn wasn’t present to receive her Oscar, her constant companion and the gal she resides with in Hollywood, Laura Harding, was there to hear Hepburn get a round of applause for a change…”

During the next year of columns, whenever referring to the Academy Award, I used the word 'Oscar.' In a few years, Oscar was the accepted name. It proved to be the magic name."

"Mouse's Return," a September 11, 1939 article in TIME magazine, seems to back up Skolsky’s above claim, stating:

"This week Sidney Skolsky joined the growing stable of writers that Publisher George Backer is assembling for his New York Post. Hollywood thought Publisher Backer had picked the right horse, for Skolsky is one of the ablest columnists in the business (he originated the term “Oscar” for Academy Awards) and by far the most popular …"

Though Skolsky has actual evidence to back his claim, his assertion that he coined the nickname is still slightly in doubt. Many claim that during Walt Disney’s Academy Award acceptance speech for Three Little Pigs in 1934—the same year Skolsky first covered the Awards—Disney referred to the statuette his little "Oscar," which was supposedly an already well-established nickname for it within the industry. The term Oscar was commonly used as a mocking nickname for the Academy Award (as Skolsky claims he used it), but in this theory, Walt Disney was supposedly the first in the industry to publicly use the name in a positive light.

Perhaps Herrick really did think the statuette resembled her uncle. Or maybe Skolsky really did come up with the moniker (whether he did or not, he certainly helped popularize it). In the end, nobody really knows why the Academy Award statuette is called an Oscar.

The idea for the design of the Academy Award statuette was thought up by MGM director Cedric Gibbons. His idea was to have a knight gripping a sword while standing on a film reel. Sculptor George Stanley was then hired to create the actual statuette based on this design idea. The first Academy Awards ceremony was held on May 16, 1929 in the Blossom Room of Hollywood's Roosevelt Hotel. The nickname Oscar wasn’t officially adopted for the statuette by the Academy until 1939.

Incidentally, the Academy states that the five spokes on the film reel the knight is standing on signify the original five branches of the Academy: writers, directors, actors, producers, and technicians.

Daven Hiskey runs the wildly popular interesting fact website Today I Found Out. To subscribe to his “Daily Knowledge” newsletter, click here.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

This article originally appeared in 2013.

11 Dothraki Words and Phrases Every Game of Thrones Fan Should Know

Helen Sloan, HBO
Helen Sloan, HBO

You know the words khal and khaleesi, but consider working these other words and phrases from the Dothraki language—which was created by linguist David J. Peterson, and featured in Living Language Dothraki—into your vocabulary before the final season of Game of Thrones premieres on April 14, 2019.

1. M’athchomaroon!

The Dothraki way of saying hi, this word—which can also be shortened to M’ach! or M’ath!—translates to “With respect.” To say hello to a group of non-Dothrakis, you would use the phrase Athchomar chomakea, which literally translates to “Respect to those that are respectful.” Fonas chek, which translates to "hunt well," is one way to say goodbye.

2. San athchomari yeraan!

Peterson writes that the Dothraki have no word for “thank you.” Instead, use this phrase, which literally translates to “a lot of honor to you!” but basically means “much respect!”

3. Fichas jahakes moon!

These are Dothraki fighting words, meant to encourage the warriors in their khalasar (or Dothraki group). This phrase means “get him!” but literally translates to “Take his braid”—which makes sense, since Dothrakis cut off their braids after a defeat. A Dothraki who wins a lot of battles is a lajak haj, or “strong warrior.”

4. And 5. Yer shekh ma shieraki anni and Yer jalan atthirari anni

Jason Momoa and Emilia Clarke in Game of Thrones
Helen Sloan, HBO

Both of these phrases—the first said by a male, the second by a female—mean “you are my loved one,” but they literally translate to phrases well-known to Game of Thrones fans: “You are my sun and stars” and “You are the moon of my life.” As Peterson notes, “these expressions come from Dothraki mythology, in which the sun is the husband of the moon.”

6. Anha dothrak adakhataan

Peterson writes that “as a result of the importance of horses to Dothraki culture, there are many idiomatic expressions related to horses and riding.” This phrase is best used before a meal: It means “I’m about to eat,” and literally translates to “I ride to eating.” If you were Dothraki, you’d likely be eating fresh horsemeat (gavat) and drinking mare’s milk (lamekh ohazho, which is often just shortened to lamekh).

7. Hrazef

This is Dothraki for horse, and there are many other words relating to horses in the language. A good one to know is the word for the great stallion, a.k.a., “the deity worshipped by the Dothraki”: vezhof.

8. Addrivat

Joseph Naufahu, Tamer Hassan, Emilia Clarke, Elie Haddad, Darius Dar Khan, and Diogo Sales in Game of Thrones
HBO

If there’s one thing the Dothraki are very good at, it’s killing, and they have multiple words for the deed. This is a verb meaning “to kill,” and literally translates to “to make something dead.” Both Ds are pronounced. It’s used, according to Peterson, “when the killer is a sentient being.” (Drozhat is used when a person is killed by an animal or an inanimate object, "like a fallen rock," Peterson writes.)

9. Asshekhqoyi vezhvena!

The next time your friend or loved one is celebrating another year around the sun, use this Dothraki phrase, which means “happy birthday” but literally translates to “[Have] a great blood-day!”

10. Zhavorsa or Zhavvorsa

Dothraki for dragon. Finne zhavvorsa anni? means “Where are my dragons?” This word might not be super applicable in everyday life, so jano—the Dothraki word for dog or dogs—is probably more appropriate.

11. Vorsa

Dracarys—a.k.a., what Dany says to Drogon to get him to let loose—is the High Valyrian word for dragonfire. It's unclear if the Dothraki have a word for dragonfire, but the word for fire is vorsa. Sondra, meanwhile, is their word for obsedian—or, as it's called on Game of Thrones, dragonglass.

For more information on the Dothraki language and culture, pick up Living Language Dothraki: A Conversational Language Course Created by David J. Peterson Based on the Hit Original HBO Series Game of Thrones at Amazon.

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