Sarajevo

SUMMARY

In the early 1990s the name Sarajevo became synonymous with bloodshed and civil war. This was in contrast to a happier recent past, as the city enjoyed a period of stability after the devastation of World War Two, highlighted when Sarajevo hosted the Winter Olympics in 1984. Not even a decade later, calamity returned and residents of Sarajevo were caught up in the brutal Bosnian war. Exposed daily to snipers and shelling, 11,000 people were killed and a many others died as a result of the severe shortages of food and fuel during the three-year siege – the longest siege of a capital city in modern history. An important part of the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires, Sarajevo was home to vibrant cultural and religious (including Muslim, Catholic and Jewish) communities. Since the end of the Bosnian war in 1995, the city has rebuilt and peace has been restored. However, ethnic divisions remain: education is segregated and children from different backgrounds study totally separate curricula, leaving the communities largely ignorant about each other’s history. [Source: http://www.npr.org/2012/04/05/150009152/two-decades-after-siege-sarajevo-still-a-city-divided ]

PROFILE

Sarajevo is the capital city of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is its administrative, economic, cultural, educational (university) and sport centre.

Nestled between rugged mountains of Romanija, Bjelasnica and Trebevic, and split by the Miljacka River, Sarajevo is stretched across an area known as Sarajevo Field. There are numerous archaeological finings attesting to settlements in this area dating back to the Neolithic period, as well as records that point to significant Ilyiran presence in the area. The cultural and historic heritage of the city of Sarajevo dates back from the following historical periods: Prehistoric Time, Roman Period, idle Ages, Ottoman Period and Austro-Hungarian Period.

The medieval town of Hodidjed was located in the vicinity of today’s Sarajevo; however, the sheer name of the city (from Turkish saray – court and ovasi – field) indicates that Sarajevo is a creation of the Ottoman Empire.

It is generally accepted that Sarajevo is founded in the mid-15th century by the Ottoman governor of Bosnia – Isa-bey Ishakovic – to house the area’s Ottoman government. Anyone strolling through Sarajevo will easily notice the city’s three distinct parts, each reflective of the historical period in which it was built. The initial expansion of the city occurred during the first 150 years or so of Ottoman rule. Many of the city’s architectural gems were built during this period, such as Gazi Husrev Bey’s and The Emperor’s Mosques. Bascarsija – the city’s, once great bazaar – was also constructed during the same period. By the beginning of the XVII century, Sarajevo grew into a vibrant community of artisans and an important merchant trading post, as well as one of the most significant cities in the European part of the Ottoman Empire.

The city’s second architectural expansion started following the Austro-Hungarian occupation in the later 19th century and lasted until the beginning of World War I in 1914. The city was modernized during this period. Austro-Hungarians established the city’s firs public transportation system and the first telephone lines. Many cultural and educational institutions were founded in this period as well, including the National Museum, the First Sheriate Law High School and the National Theatre. Sarajevo City Hall, Ashkenazi Synagogue and Catholic Cathedral were also added to the expanding city. The growth of Sarajevo was interrupted on 28 June 1914, when Gavrilo Princip assassinated Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and his with Sophia during their visit to Sarajevo, setting off an unfortunate chain of events that led to the start of World War I.

Following the Treaty of Versailles in 1918, Sarajevo, along with Bosnia and Herzegovina, became a part of the newly formed Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. It remained within the later-named Kingdom of Yugoslavia until the beginning of World War II, when the monarchy was abolished and, following the end of the war, the new socialist Yugoslavia was created. The general plan for development of Sarajevo was adopted in 1945, and the city that suffered tremendous losses during World War II, was not only rebuilt but considerably expanded as well. Sarajevo almost tripled in size during its third expansion occurring in the formative years of socialist Yugoslavia. By 1984, when the city hosted the 14th Winter Olympic Games, Sarajevo was a modern city of around 500,000 people.

Unfortunately, the Olympic flame was to flicker for a brief period of time only. Eight years later, in 1992, Sarajevo was trapped in a siege that lasted until the end of 1995. In addition to being exposed to daily sniper and mortar fire, the inhabitants of the city suffered severe shortages of food and fuel during the nearly four-year siege. Thousands of mortars fell upon the city, killing many and severally damaging it. The only lifeline was a 800-meter-long tunnel, dubbed the Tunnel of Hope, through which food and other supplies were brought in.

The war in Bosnia and Herzegovina ended in 1995 by the Dayton Peace Agreement. Bosnia and Herzegovina is divided in two entities Federation and Republic of Srpska. The City of Sarajevo is also divided in two parts, Sarajevo and East Sarajevo.

Today, the City of Sarajevo is the local self-governance unit which is consisted of four municipalities: Centar, Novi Grad, Novo Sarajevo and Stari Grad. Competency and internal organisation have been regulated y the City Statute. City has its Council consisted of 28 councillors. The Major directly runs the City Administration.

East Sarajevo is the capital of the Republika Srpska entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina adjacent to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s capita Sarajevo to its northeast. East Sarajevo consists of a few pre-war suburban parts of Sarajevo that are now in the Republika Srpska entity and newly built areas. The municipalities of East Sarajevo are: Istocna Ilidza, Istocno Novo Sarajevo, Istocni Stari grad, Pale, Sokolac, Trnovo.

The most recent census in 2013, shows that in Sarajevo 80% of the population are Bosniaks, while in East Sarajevo 60,000 Serbs live compared with the combined population of Bosniaks , Croats and other ethnicities only reaching 4,000. Certain issues unite both areas – exasperation at government level corruption, an ineffective opposition and the increasing use of aggressive nationalism of the sectarian elites in politics. This frustration over spilled in June of 2013 during the first large scale anti-governments protests since the war had ended and again by the riots in February 2014.  The political situation has deteriorated further since then leading to a wave of emigration for those that can afford to leave. According to the World Bank, youth employment in Bosnia is at 68%, the worst in the world. The educated youth are fleeing to greater employment opportunities abroad, leaving cities like Sarajevo with the issue of how to retain this sector going forward. 

In recent years, another issue in Sarajevo has been the influx of migrants. For years, Bosnia remained untouched of the migrant issue many countries in the EU were facing. That altered in 2015 and 2016 when neighbouring countries closed their borders, causing a bottleneck of migrants in Bosnia. During 2018, more than 23,000 migrants and asylum seekers arrived in Bosnia. For a country already divided and lacking in economic opportunities, this has renewed tensions, which some political leaders are only too eager to fan.

However, there are positive changes occurring in this vibrant and cosmopolitan city. Political groups, such as Nasa Stranka, a non-ethnic party are focusing on quality of life instead of divisive rhetoric. Focus is being put on lessening the air pollution in Sarajevo, which according to the UN Environment Program, has the highest concentration of air pollution in Europe. The city’s tourism industry is also thriving. As Sarajevo continues to grow and modernise, so too should this city’s population.