REVIVING FALLEN MONARCHIES

Felled by a Serbian assassin on June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand their to the Austro-Hungarian Emperor - leaned toward his wounded wife, Sophie, to utter his last words: ''Stay alive for our children!''

But Sophie died alongside the Archduke that day, and - in a sense - so did the future glory of the Hapsburg children. For the world war sparked by the assassination ended the Hapsburg monarchy and toppled the Vienna-ruled empire that had stretched from Bohemia to Transylvania.For 83 years after those gunshots shook the world, no family member had returned to the scene. But earlier this month the most prominent of the Hapsburg descendants - Otto von Hapsburg, 84, and his son Karl - visited Sarajevo for the first time to lay flowers at the spot.

''This is the place where all tragedies began,'' the elder Hapsburg said at the site where his great-uncle was shot when Otto was a year old. Since then, Sarajevo has been ravaged by two world wars, four decades of oppressive communist rule and the destruction of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Visiting the scarred city five years, to the day, after the Bosnian war began, the Hapsburgs told the crowd of onlookers: ''We are here today to pray for this circle of tragedies to close.''

Only an incurable optimist would say that the upheavals in Central and Eastern Europe that the Archduke's assassination triggered have ended. After World War I toppled the emperors in Austria, Hungary and Russia, dictators of another ilk plunged the world into World War II. But it was the communist despots who ousted the remaining monarchies of Eastern Europe.

No one predicts that any of Eastern Europe's former monarchs, or their descendants, will soon return to anything resembling their ancestral thrones. But the increasing prominence in recent months of the Hapsburgs and other descendants of fallen East European royalty show the deep desire for stability within the region.

After all, monarchies have survived in many West European countries, including Britain, Sweden and Spain. And the crowned heads, possessing little more than symbolic and ceremonial powers, have given the countries a sense of stability and continuity. That is of significant value in today's topsy-turvy world.

Otto von Hapsburg himself is now a practicing democrat. He is a German deputy to the European Parliament, while his son, Karl, is a delegate representing Austria. Their visit to Sarajevo had nothing to do with monarchist plots. Rather, they were part of a European Parliament's fact-finding mission to Bosnia.

Unlike the Hapsburgs, other pretenders for East European thrones have been quite outspoken about their claims. And the regal descendants in countries like Bulgaria, Romania and Albania have been getting an increasingly favorable reception.

In Romania, with its shaky economy and government, the new centrist leaders acted in February to restore citizenship to the former King Michael, who had been forced into exile by the communists in 1947. Large and generally friendly crowds have greeted the 75-year-old former monarch, who now lives in Switzerland. He said the purpose of his recent visit to Romania was ''to give, not to take; to unite, not to divide.''

In Bulgaria, a country just as ravaged by political and economic upheavals, a recent poll indicated widespread affection for Simeon II, the son of former King Boris III (1894-1943). Simeon, who lost his claim to the Bulgarian throne in 1946, has suggested he might be willing to become a figurehead king, but few politicians in Bulgaria take the idea seriously.

As Albania descended into anarchy in recent weeks, some conservatives revived the idea of inviting back Leka I, the exiled claimant to the throne who has lived in South Africa since 1961. The 57-year-old blue-blood has said he would return if a referendum indicated that the people wanted a monarch.

The man who claims the dubious title, ''Crown Prince of Yugoslavia,'' Alexander Karadjordjevic, recently created an Internet Web site to answer inquiries. He boasted to a German magazine that more than 30,000 Yugoslavs have visited his site in its first two months.

Even in Russia, where the Bolsheviks toppled Czar Nicholas II in the October Revolution of 1917 - and later murdered him and much of his kin - groups of faithful czarists have emerged in recent months to campaign for a return of the old monarchy. But few Russians take the idea seriously.

Despite the monarchist rumblings to the east there is little talk of empire in Vienna, the city built in the grandiose image of the House of Hapsburg. even though nostalgic reminders of empire are everywhere.

A few Viennese may still recall the court gatherings and the grand balls, but the Hapsburg monarchy ended on Nov. 11, 1918 - and no one wants to set back the clock. For the nostalgia for monarchy in Eastern Europe is a reaction to today's instability, rather than a yearning for yesterday's empire.

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