Saturday, June 28, 2014

Sarajevo assassination: 100 years

Exactly 100 years ago, the Great War became unavoidable. (That's how the people called a world war before they were forced to realize that this exercise is repeatable.)

On Sunday, June 28th, 1914, the prospective Czech king – who also managed to be destined to become the Hungarian king and the emperor of the rest of Austria-Hungary, too – archduke Franz Ferdinand d'Este, along with his wife, Czech countess Sophie (Žofie, genetically Czech aristocrat, culturally fully Germanized) who was afraid of her husband's safety (rightfully, it turned out, but her fear didn't help), was murdered during his visit to the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo, in a South Slavic region that would belong to Austria-Hungary at that time.

The assassin was Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian Serb whose act was almost certainly coordinated by the Serbian secret services or parts of the Serbian military. Serbia had ambitions to destabilize the South Slavic regions of the Austrian Empire, Croatia, Bulgaria, and others and the principle or the principal goal of Princip's and other efforts was to create something like a Great Serbia. Well, let's use the word: they simply wanted to create Yugoslavia. ;-)

Princip would be arrested in Terezín, Bohemia – this fortress would become a softcore concentration camp during the following world war 3 decades later. He would die there in Spring 1918. The bullet that ignited the Great War may be seen on the Konopiště Castle, Czechia.

The tragic implications could have been partly predicted. However, from a short timescale point of view, Austria-Hungary had the undeniable and understandable right to declare war against Serbia – which it did, exactly one month later (July 28th, after Serbia rejected friendly Austrian offers to allow the Austrian police to freely investigate the murderers on the Serbian territory etc.). If Putin's successor or Dmitry Medveděv were murdered by a Ukrainian assassin in Crimea – feel free to invent a similar example involving U.S. politicians etc. – Russia would almost certainly declare a war against Ukraine, too. After all, the U.S. war against Afghanistan was justified by 9/11 in pretty much the same way; the world's public sympathies towards the U.S. and Austria were analogous in both cases, too.

The Austrian Empire had its existential interests much like Serbia had its expansionist ambitions and similar comments apply to Germany and others. The relationships between them were complicated and their dense network guaranteed that the conflict would escalate. Britain wanted to prevent Germany from becoming a new major power. France wanted to punish Germany for a war in 1870-71. Italy wanted to steal some Italian provinces from Austria-Hungary, and so on. In effect, the war was like a soccer championship match in which fans all over the world may join the game. ;-)

Austria would be hoping that a Blitzkrieg against Serbia would work smoothly and quickly. It wasn't the case. The war got complicated. The Central Powers (Germany, Austria, Ottoman Empire, Bulgaria) around Austria would finally lose the war; Triple Entente (France, Britain, Russia, Italy, America, and others, including Serbia that only existed for another year after the war erupted) countries would win. The German, Austrian, Russian, and Ottoman empires would be dissolved as empires. New countries such as Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia would arise. About 5 million casualties had to die on each side – about 10 million in total.

The numbers are less scary than those quantifying the Second World War but you must appreciate that the total world population in 1914 was somewhat lower (1.8 billion) than around 1940 (2.3 billion), too. Yup, the growth between 1914 and 1940 wasn't huge. And one more aspect that makes the First World War worse is that the losers were in no way the "unified villains", like in the Second World War. Heroes and victims as well as villains were on both sides of the conflict. At least at the very beginning, Austria, France, and Britain had justice on their side; Serbia, Russia, Germany, and Italy were the culprits. The result of the First World War was a "random rearrangement" that had some advantages and some disadvantages relatively to the previous state of affairs. I say that despite the fact that I think that e.g. the birth of Czechoslovakia meant some positive progress. But the defeat of Nazism in 1945 was a much more clearly positive, noble goal, I would say – although the following rise of communism was negative and it was probably an inevitable consequence of the defeat of Nazism.

You may interpret the previous paragraphs as evidence that the nation states as we knew them up to the early 20th century were a lousy arrangement that would create unnecessary wars and suffering and some EU-like arrangement is a better one. But it's you, not me, who would say such a thing. The nation states are very natural. Equally importantly, the nation states allowed Europe to thrive in the relatively warless and prosperous period 1814-1914.

Sometimes, we vent some negative sentiments when we talk about the 19th century. It's a symbol of many obsolete things. They didn't even know quantum mechanics in that century. But the 19th century was a wonderful period of economic and technological progress. Many of the key changes that implied the technological revolution, the dramatic increase of the life expectancy, and many other things were gifts of the 19th century, not 20th century.

The 19th century also brought us many pernicious and toxic things such as Marxism. But it was only the 20th century when this junk began to significantly influence the world. It was the 20th century when these ideologies acquired the ambition to change the world, when self-confident politicians backed by these sick ideas began to construct plans how to take over Europe or the world. It was the 20th century when communism, fascism, Nazism, Europeism, feminism, environmentalism and similar -isms began to hijack the political institutions allowing them to control whole continents. We know it very well because some of these pathological ideologies – ideologies that made it possible both for conflicts and problems and for stagnation to be much more extensive, deep, and global in character – haven't been defeated yet, as of 2014.

The First World War was a catastrophe. From some viewpoints, it was the worst one – especially because it was "useless". It was global in its impact. On the other hand, it was also the conflict that marked the end of the relatively happy and safe world in which people and nations had their geographically isolated, understandable interests and the conflicts were more or less regional in character. After or during this Great War, the reasoning changed and most of the ideas and efforts capable of igniting a conflict became able to ignite a conflict at the global scale.

I reminded you that the exercise of a "world war" turned out to be repeatable. Czech readers know very well that the Sarajevo assassination has occurred later again. In 1997, the prime minister of the Czech Republic Václav Klaus would be visiting Sarajevo. While he was there, he was "assassinated" by two (now completely forgotten) traitors from his party who irrationally linked him to some rumors about corruption and who demanded his resignation. The havoc caused by these demands ultimately led to Klaus' resignation, indeed. His party got split but the Klaus core did pretty well and in the early 1998 elections, he managed to control the government after the "opposition treaty" with the social democrats of Mr Zeman, the current president, who would win the government chairs.

Last week, Prof Knížák, the artist and ex-director of our national gallery, told me that he would often argue with Klaus. But after the 1997 Sarajevo assassination, he would realize what kind of scum the anti-Klaus people are. He became a close friend of Klaus who drinks beer with Klaus about once a month these days ;-) and the arguments have pretty much faded away.


  1. My first instant reaction when reading the title was "Oh no, not Prof. Zumino!" as I have learned
    to like some of his work when reading the SUSY demystified book :-(

    But of course and for obvious reasons, even great physicists can not stay an infinite amount of time among us...

    Thanks for this cute memorandum article.

  2. The WW1 was a bigger tragedy than WW2 not in terms of lives but in terms of consequences because both the rise of nazism in Germany and communism in your beloved Russia can be seen as consequences of WW1.
    Knížak is of course scum, just like Klaus. Look at the "art" he is producing. Hahaha. Such kind of tasteless garbage.

    Look at some amazing documentary about your favorite guru Stalin and what he did in Ukraine. And after that spread another bullshit about Bandera
    Stalin was rehabilitated by Putin, another scum, that you admire greatly.

    Lubos, you are not a conservative. You became a hardcore stalinist.

  3. At least physicists are comforted by the fact that they live for ever through their equations.

    Imagine that in 1000 years when we’ll all be long forgotten Zumino will still be remembered at least by his fellow physicists; future generations will stumble upon his name in physics text books.

  4. "nation states allowed Europe to thrive in the relatively warless and prosperous period 1814-1914."

    But in what sense were Austro-Hungary, Russia, Turkey, even Germany really nation states during the 19th century? I recently read an interesting article suggesting that it was the transitioning from empires to nation states that the two world wars were all about.

    There are those who would argue (and I am one) that the Industrial Revolution so discombobuled the communal structure of European societies (at the village level) that nationalism and all the other "isms" tried to fill the void that was left in people's lives.

  5. A good point, Luke. It was wrong for me to use that word.

    Most of them were multi-national empires led by a particular ethnic nation. What I wanted to contrast these empires with was an EU-like would-be "nation-less" state entity pretending that everyone is completely equal which is simply impossible.

  6. "feel free to invent a similar example involving U.S. politicians etc." An Islamic lethal incursion into high-ranking Beltway poobahs - if it did not damage real estate - would be greeted with national mild relief tempered by disappointment in daytime TV yielding to a Potemkin Village social compassion week.

    Imagine agents of Goldstein taking out 1111 Constitution Ave NW, #5480, Washington, DC 20224. Loss of that real estate is a reasonable cost of doing business.

    Sunstein, Cass R. Worst-Case Scenarios (Harvard University Press, 2009) ISBN 0-674-03251-9, p. 63

  7. The "nation-less" state entity known as the EU, especially with free mobility of all ethnicities within it, sounds to me like it could end up being a super-multi-ethnic quasi-state in which the central authority lacks even the power (monopoly of force) to enforce its own rules.

    Much better in my opinion would a simple customs union and a collective security pact, a new Democratic League composed all the OECD countries (but nobody else), using its combined commercial, industrial, technological, financial, and military (especially naval and air and space) power to enforce civilized norms around the world.

    As for the village thing, i was only referring to the masses of ordinary people who were herded into cities.

  8. Looking at it from the outside, I suspect you are right, but I also suspect that the opportunities for such a union were already pissed away in dreams of Euro-nation.

  9. I met Bruno Zumino at the Scottish Universities Summer School in Physics at St. Andrews in 1976. A very jolly man. Supersymmetry and supergravity were just getting going.

    By coincidence I was just reading a nice history of the first days of gauge invariance by J. D. Jackson and L. B. Okun that appeared in Rev. Mod. Phys. 73 (2001) 663. They cite Zumino's fine paper in J. Math. Phys. 1 (1960) 1, and in their paper say something that should be more widely known, imo:

    "Various gauges have been associated with names of physicists, a process begun by Heitler, who introduced the term 'Lorentz relation' in the first edition of his book. In the third edition, [Heitler] used 'Lorentz gauge' and 'Coulomb gauge'. Zumino (1960) introduced the terms 'Feynman gauge', 'Landau gauge' and 'Yennie gauge'."

    Zumino's original model with Wess involved many more fields; but in "Zumino gauge" it was restricted to the few fields Lubos describes. Only fair that Bruno Zumino got his *own* gauge.

  10. Wow, someone just asked about the origin of "Feynman gauge" and "Landau gauge" at Physics Stack Exchage two days ago:

    I hope it's OK that I copied your answer. Thanks for the interesting comment even more generally.

  11. A historical question. Who were the pioneers in supersymmetry? I suppose, Wess and Zumino were. But were there others?

  12. Now that both Wess and Zumino have unfortunately passed on, is there any theorist who might get Nobel prize for SUSY if it is discovered experimentally in near future?

  13. Please let those who you call "crackpots" publish what they want. If you believe you can do it better, then no problem, go ahead! There are lot of examples when "crackpots" wrote highly cited papers and lot of examples when "experts" publish papers that are cited (if cited) by their close friends and associates only. Let us recall the discoverer of the quasi-crystals who was called "quasi-scientist". Another example is a scientist who discovered grapheme previously experimented with flying frogs. Therefore, it is difficult to say who will be true scientist and who will remain "expert" in particle physics until his retirement.

  14. And Mr gabor melos beat 3.8 With only 32 triez. That is better news than wars and destruction. But it may not be more useful.

    These are only two weekend warriors that improved the score. The rest are stuck in the gausses tail. Now can any one beat 3.910018281828.

  15. Please don't be this heavily off-topic and ludicrous at the same moment. An improvement of the top score in an obscure contest by 0.01 is surely not more important than the 100th anniversary of the First World War, is it?

  16. OK. Should I edit it out??

    But the anaversity of a miserable war that accomplished nothing is not much to celebrate.

    Rather it is a time to try to learn from history.

  17. Do you have an infinitesimal reason to think that someone is "celebrating" the First World War here???

  18. No not at all. But here in the British Colonies they make a big deal out of winning w.w.1 but they forget that they had a hand in encouraging it to. For example the English encouraged Italy to break it's alliance and attack north.

  19. dear lubos

    what do you make of this:

    thank you in advance

  20. Glad to have been accidentally helpful!

  21. SUSY has a rich history, with competing groups in the West and in the USSR at the conceptual beginning. And it's an industry that has worked very well for 35 years so there are different aspects with different key contributors.

    Most conceptually, in the West, (world sheet) SUSY was discovered first by Pierre Ramond who incorporated fermions to string theory. In this setup, it would be unnatural not to honor Neveu and Schwarz who figured out that other sector of the RNS string where SUSY is broken on the world sheet cylinder but preserved on the plane ;-).

    In the USSR, they studied possible symmetries etc. and Volkov, Akulov did that - along with Gervais, Sakita; and Golfand+Likhtman.

    Wess and Zumino pioneered the interacting SUSY 4D theories. And Savas Dimopoulos and Howard Georgi are the canonical "phenomenological picks" if the simplest version of SUSY is realized in Nature because they're fathers of the MSSM.

    A special history would be dedicated to supergravity, SUGRA. Several key people at the beginning, and so on. Note that if SUSY is right, Nature almost certainly has SUGRA as well, so it has to be discovered at one point, too.

    The candidates could have looked complicated in the case of the Higgs mechanism or particle but SUSY has many more men associated with it.

  22. I have enjoyed the fact that one (you) may find such a nice answer to such a seemingly inaccessible question on the history of physics, especially one that someone randomly asked.

    I am not sure whether the person who asked the question shares my excitement. There are way too many questions in which the posters just want to promote themselves and they're not really interested in the answers, even if they are as well-defined as in this case. Well, I am writing it because I just had an exchange with a user who must be convinced he deserves a Nobel prize because, as he believes, the Sun in Britain increases the temperature of surfaces by a greater temperature difference than in Italy. Any attempt to rationally discuss the actual reasons why he feels so is guaranteed not to be welcome! ;-)

    Similarly, the guy who asked about the Landau/Feynman gauges may have just wanted to show that he could list 7 remotely related papers himself.