1914 and 2016: Random Thoughts about the Assassination of the Russian Ambassador to Turkey

June 28, 1914: Artist’s depiction of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife, Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg, in Sarajevo

Somebody compared the assassination this week of Andrey Karlov, Russia’s ambassador to Turkey, to Sarajevo 1914, where another assassination triggered World War One.

This is far-fetched.

It is more rewarding to think of another event in 1914, the decision of the Ottoman Empire to side with Germany. The empire was in extremis and could only survive if it formed an alliance with a great power. But France, Russia and England (Churchill) saw no advantage in an alliance with a moribund empire. Germany did. It was already building the Berlin-Baghdad railway and had ambitions in India. Also, hitting Russian from below had a considerable strategic attraction.

The Kaiser had paid two visits to the Sultan and was addicted to A Thousand and One Nights. On one of these visits his nosy wife insisted on visiting the Sultan’s harem. She was repelled by the sight of fat, bored women — not young and not clean — sitting around swatting flies.

One of the reasons for the Armenian massacres was the Turkish assumption that the Armenians were siding with the Russians in the war.

December 19, 2016: Andrey Karlov after being assassinated at an art gallery in Ankara

December 19, 2016: Andrey Karlov after being shot at an art gallery in Ankara


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