In the history of humankind, some assassinations had the effect of significantly changing the course of history. Most of them, from the point of view of world history, are still of local importance. These murders had an impact on the millions of people whose lives were directly affected, and these murders have changed the path of history. Here are ten of those assassinations.
Franz Ferdinand, Austria († June 28, 1914)
The assassination of the Austro-Hungarian heir to the throne Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sofia on June 28, 1914, is known as the Sarajevo assassination. This assassination served as the reason for the beginning of the First World War. No political assassination in modern history has left such a deep mark as the Sarajevo assassination. Although a significant majority of historians agree that the bullets that Gavrilo Princip fired at Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophia were not the causes of the outbreak of the First World War, but rather the sparks that set off a series of events that led to it, it is still the outcome of the event that happened more than 100 years ago in Sarajevo was devastating.
The Sarajevo assassination was seen by the Central Powers as an excellent opportunity to achieve their interests through war. Soon after the funeral of Franz Ferdinand, propaganda began that the real culprit for their murder was Serbia and that Gavrilo Princip, and his associates were just tools in the hands of the Serbian state. In parallel with the presentation of “evidence” that supported such claims, Serbia was spoken of as a constant source of crises and instability that can only be “brought to order” through war. Therefore, although this event was taken as the official reason for the start of the First World War, it is certain that it would have happened sooner or later.
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Nicholas II, Russia († July 17, 1918)
On the night of July 17, 1918, a Bolshevik squad executed Russian Czar Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra, and their five children. This event put an end to the rule of the Romanov dynasty, which ruled Russia for more than three centuries. The assassination of the last Russian tsar was not a decisive political moment because it was a by-product of the Bolshevik revolution. However, it could be taken as a symbol of the entry onto the global stage of another phenomenon that made today’s world as we know it and whose consequences we will feel for a long time: communism. It is impossible to imagine that the monarchy in Russia would survive the turbulence of the 20th century, so the fate of the Romanov family was sealed even before the assassination.
As a consequence of the assassination, the Soviet Union became a major world power, with a political and economic system that challenged the dominance of Western capitalism. It also played a key role in the outcome of World War II, and the subsequent Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union shaped global politics for decades. Furthermore, the assassination of Nicholas II had a significant impact on the perception of the Russian monarchy and the Romanov dynasty. The event is often seen as symbolic of the decline and fall of the Russian Empire, and it has been the subject of countless books, films, and other cultural works.
John F. Kennedy († 22 November, 1963)
On November 22, 1963, American President John F. Kennedy visited Dallas, Texas. He and his wife, Jackie, were driving around the town in a convertible on the campaign trail. Kennedy was shot with multiple bullets. After that, the entire country fell into collective mourning. On that day, for many, the dream of a young, charming American president who embarked on a mission to improve the world ended. The official investigation into Kennedy’s death concluded that he was killed by a lone perpetrator, Lee Harvey Oswald, who was supposedly killed two days later by the owner of a nightclub, Jack Ruby. But that version is constantly questioned. Thus, there are speculations that Oswald, who was a communist sympathizer, was given the order to kill Kennedy by Cuba or the Soviet Union. Others believe that his political opponents are behind the murder.
The assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, was a pivotal moment in American and world history. It had a profound impact on politics, culture, and society in the United States and beyond. In terms of politics, the assassination of JFK had far-reaching consequences. Lyndon B. Johnson, who became president following Kennedy’s death, implemented many of the policies that Kennedy had championed, including civil rights legislation and the escalation of the Vietnam War. Johnson’s presidency was marked by significant social and political upheaval, as the country grappled with the legacy of JFK’s assassination and the broader issues facing the nation. The assassination of JFK left an indelible mark on American culture and society. It marked the end of a period of optimism and hope in American politics and culture, and it left many Americans feeling disillusioned and questioning the direction of the country.
Robert F. Kennedy († June 5, 1968)
US Senator Robert F. Kennedy was the younger brother of John F. Kennedy. In the early morning hours of June 5, 1968, he was killed by Sirhan Sirhan. The next day, Kennedy died in a hospital. Kennedy was shot four times at close range. He was the presidential candidate of the Democratic Party. The motives behind Sirhan’s assassination of Kennedy are unknown. However, he is believed to have been a Palestinian terrorist seeking revenge for US support for Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War. Younger Kennedy was supposed to continue in his brother’s footsteps, and that is why this assassination changed the path of history.
In the wake of RFK’s assassination, there was a significant outpouring of grief and anger across the country. The assassination fueled a sense of disillusionment and mistrust of government and political institutions, particularly among younger Americans. In the wake of RFK’s assassination, there was a significant outpouring of grief and anger across the country. The assassination fueled a sense of disillusionment and mistrust of government and political institutions, particularly among younger Americans.
Martin Luther King († April 4, 1968)
Martin Luther King was killed in Memphis on April 4, 1968, shot by a sniper on the balcony of his hotel room. James Earl Ray was convicted of his murder. For years, King fought for the equality of African Americans in the US using non-violent methods. He organized campaigns and the March on Washington, where he gave the famous speech “I Have a Dream” at the rally. In March 1968, he traveled to Memphis to support African American sanitation workers. The workers’ protest that followed on March 28 ended tragically. One teenager was killed. Then the King vowed to return in April and organize another protest. When Luther King came to the city again on April 3, he gave his last sermon. The next day he was killed by a sniper.
As soon as it became known about the assassination, protests began across the United States, and even National Guard units were deployed in Washington and Memphis. Three days later, he was buried in Atlanta. Tens of thousands of people came to pay their respects. They stood in line while two mules pulled the cart carrying the coffin with his body. His assassination marked the end of one era of the civil rights movement in the US. The assassination of King also had a significant impact on American politics overall. King had been a powerful and influential voice for social justice and equality, and his death left a leadership vacuum in the civil rights movement. The movement struggled to find a new leader who could fill King’s shoes, and the struggle for civil rights continued in the decades that followed.
Abraham Lincoln († April 14, 1865)
American President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on April 14, 1865. A century and a half later, he is considered one of the greatest and most beloved leaders, whose legacy continues to inspire American presidents and world leaders. Abraham Lincoln was shot while watching a play with his wife at Ford’s Theater in Washington. The assassin, John Wilkes Booth, escaped, while Lincoln was taken to a house across the street from the theater, where he died the next morning. Lincoln was assassinated while leading the nation out of a long and bloody civil war in which more than 620 thousand soldiers were killed. The man who ended slavery in the US and preserved the Northern Union in the Civil War had a lot more to offer as US president, probably to prevent the difficult period that arose after the Civil War.
Lincoln’s death also had a significant impact on the process of Reconstruction, as the country struggled to rebuild in the aftermath of the Civil War. Many of the policies and programs that Lincoln had championed, such as the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, were implemented in the years following his death, but the process was slow and fraught with difficulty.
Mahatma Gandhi († January 30, 1948)
Mahatma Gandhi, the leader of the Indian independence movement, was killed half a year after India achieved independence. Gandhi, who successfully promoted non-violent resistance and non-violent dispute resolution, died as a victim of violence. He was killed in New Delhi by Nathuram Godse, a fanatic from the “Hindu Mahasabha” sect who opposed his policy of silencing the antagonisms between Hindus and Muslims. When Gandhi was approaching the pulpit from which he was to deliver the prayer. Godse came near Gandhi as if to greet him. Godse bowed to Gandhi and shot the Mahatma three times in the chest and stomach from a small distance. After that, the assailant did not try to escape or attack anyone else but allowed himself to be overpowered by a crowd and thrown to the ground. Then the police arrested him. Gandhi’s assassination changed the course of history because the authority that could reconcile the irreconcilable disappeared.
In addition to its impact on India, Gandhi’s assassination had a profound impact on the world. Gandhi had been a leading voice for non-violent resistance and social justice, and his legacy continued to inspire people around the world long after his death. His ideas and philosophy influenced many other movements for social justice and human rights, including the civil rights movement in the United States.
Julius Caesar († March 15, 44 BC)
Julius Caesar, the famous Roman dictator, was stabbed to death in the Roman Senate house by 60 conspirators, led by Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus, on March 15, 44 BC. This day later became known as the Ides of March. A group of conspirators believed that his death would lead to the restoration of the Roman Republic. However, this assassination led Rome to a new cycle of civil wars, from which Octavian Augustus, Caesar’s grandson, the first Roman emperor who destroyed the republic forever, emerged victorious. However, regardless of this murder, the fact is that the period of the Roman Republic was coming to an end. If Caesar had survived the assassination, he would most likely have been the first Roman emperor.
The aftermath of Caesar’s assassination led to the rise of his heir, Octavian, who eventually became the first Roman emperor under the name Augustus. The Roman Republic was effectively ended, and the Roman Empire was born. Augustus went on to establish a period of relative stability and prosperity known as the Pax Romana, which lasted for more than two centuries.
Leon Trotsky († August 20, 1940)
The assassination of the famous communist Leon Trotsky, former commander of the Red Army and close associate of the late Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, was carried out on August 20, 1940. It happened in Mexico, where Trotsky lived in exile after the conflict with Stalin and leaving the USSR. The assassination was carried out by Stalin’s agent Ramon Mercader, a Spanish communist in the service of the infamous Soviet police.
Trotsky died in a hospital from his injuries, and the killer ended up in a Mexican prison for 20 years. Stalin awarded the murderer with the Order of Lenin while he was in a Mexican prison, and when he returned to the USSR, he was declared a hero of the Soviet Union. Trotsky was Stalin’s main political opponent, and he would lead the Soviet Union in a different direction if he had a chance.
Olof Palme († February 28, 1986)
Europe has always been famous for political murders, but in the middle of the 20th century, they were considered relics of the past. Until a bolt of lightning struck Sweden, Olof Palme was killed. What was previously thought unimaginable, the murder of a politician in modern Sweden, happened on February 28, 1986, in Stockholm – someone shot Palme while returning home from the cinema. The case remained unsolved.
Palme, politician, long-time prime minister, and leader of the Social Democratic Party is one of the most famous Swedes of the last century. The revolutionary reformist gained the respect of the world with very emotional performances against the role of the USA in the Vietnam War, the USSR in crushing the Prague Spring, the Franco regime in Spain, or nuclear armament. His murder changed the course of history as it showed that even the Scandinavian countries were not as safe as it was believed.