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Oskar Potiorek
Oskar Potiorek in 1908
8th Governor of Bosnia and Herzegovina

In office
10 May 1911 – 22 December 1914
Appointed by Franz Joseph I of Austria
Preceded by Marijan Varešanin
Succeeded by Stjepan Sarkotić
Personal details
Born (1853-11-20)20 November 1853
Bad Bleiberg, Carinthia, Austrian Empire
Died 17 December 1933(1933-12-17) (aged 80)
Klagenfurt, Austria
Nationality Slovene
Alma mater Kriegsschule Academy, Vienna
Profession Soldier
Military service
Allegiance  Austria-Hungary
Service/branch Austro-Hungarian Army
Years of service 1886-1915
Rank General of the Infantry
Battles/wars World War I
Awards Order of Saint Stephen of Hungary
Order of Leopold

Oskar Potiorek (20 November 1853 – 17 December 1933) was an officer of the Austro-Hungarian Army, who served as Governor of Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1911 to 1914. He was a co-passenger in the car carrying Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Duchess Sophie of Hohenberg when they were assassinated in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914. In the following World War I, Potiorek commanded the Austro-Hungarian forces in the Serbian Campaign of 1914/15.


Born in Bad Bleiberg, Carinthia the son of a mining official, Potiorek attended the Imperial and Royal military institute of technology and the Kriegsschule academy in Vienna. He joined the Austro-Hungarian general staff in 1879, appointed deputy chief by Emperor Franz Joseph in 1902. However, the emperor ignored his ambitions, when in 1906 he filled the post of Chief-of-Staff with Field Marshal Lieutenant Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf at the behest of heir apparent and deputy commander-in-chief Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Potiorek became Commanding General at Graz, Styria in the rank of a Feldzeugmeister. Serving as Inspector General in Sarajevo since 1910, he was appointed Bosnian governor (Landeschef) the next year, holding both civil and military offices.

In 1913 Potiorek had invited Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie to watch his troops on maneuvers scheduled for 26 and 27 June 1914. An attack on the life of former governor Marijan Varešanin in 1910 and several rumours on future assaults (leaked by Serbian Prime Minister Nikola Pašić) did not keep the archduke from a public appearance in Sarajevo, backed by Potiorek who worried about his own prestige. On 28 June the royal couple arrived from Ilidža by train and went to Philipovic army camp where Franz Ferdinand performed a brief review of the troops. Potiorek was waiting to take the royal party to the city hall (present-day National and University Library of Bosnia and Herzegovina) for the official reception. Franz Ferdinand, his wife and several officials switched into a six car motorcade driving down Appel Quay along Miljacka River without further security measures. Potiorek was in the second car, a Gräf & Stift open six-seater driven by Leopold Lojka, together with the owner Count Harrach and the royal couple. At 10:10, when the vehicles passed the central police station, assassin Nedeljko Cabrinovic hurled a hand grenade at the archduke's car. Lojka accelerated when he saw the object flying towards the car, the grenade bounced off the coachwork and exploded under the wheel of the next car, wounding the passengers and several spectators.

Latin Bridge, Sarajevo

Furious Franz Ferdinand, after attending the official reception at the City Hall, asked about visiting the members of his party that had been wounded by the bomb. A member of the archduke's staff, Andreas von Morsey, according to his own accounts suggested this might be dangerous, but Potiorek replied "Do you think Sarajevo is full of assassins? I will take responsibility". Nevertheless, the governor decided that the royal car should travel on an alternative route to the Sarajevo hospital. However, he forgot to tell the driver about this decision. On the way to the hospital, he took a right turn on the Latin Bridge, where one of the conspirators, Gavrilo Princip, was sitting in a corner café at the time. The assassin had already abandoned his plans, when he saw the alerted driver began to back up the car right in front of him. He stepped forward, drew his gun, and at a distance of about five feet, fired several times into the car. Franz Ferdinand was hit in the neck and Sophie in the abdomen. Neither Potiorek nor Count Harrach or Lojka were injured.[1] Princip later claimed that the bullet that killed Sophie was meant for the governor. Despite his responsibility, Potiorek remained in office. When the assassination and the succeeding July Crisis led to the outbreak of World War I, he became the commander of all Austro-Hungarian forces on the Balkans. It is speculated that this "survivor's guilt" led Potiorek to take charge of the Austro-Hungarian army and lead the first mission to "punish" Serbia. He was reportedly very zealous in his actions (multiple times he claimed "I was spared at Sarajevo so that I may die avenging it!") but was apparently an inept commander. The small Serbian Army remained undefeated in all major battles and after the textbook military disasters at the Battle of Cer and the Battle of Kolubara with huge numbers of casualties, he was removed from command on 22 December 1914 and replaced by Archduke Eugen of Austria, a choice that reportedly made him suicidal. Potiorek retired to Carinthian Klagenfurt, where he died in 1933. He is buried in the cemetery of the Theresian Military Academy in Wiener Neustadt.


  1. When Sarajevo Triggered a War Time 30 January 1984

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Preceded by
Marijan Varešanin
Governor of Bosnia and Herzegovina
May 10, 1911 - December 22, 1914
Succeeded by
Stjepan Sarkotić

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