History of Sarajevo
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|History of Sarajevo|
Early Ottoman era
Late Ottoman era
Sarajevo under the Habsburgs
Modern and post-war
|Timeline of Sarajevo|
Archeologists can safely say that the Sarajevo region has been continuously inhabited by humans since the Neolithic age. The most famous example of a Neolithic settlement in the Sarajevo area is that of the Butmir culture. The discoveries at Butmir were made on the grounds of modern day Sarajevo suburb Ilidža in 1893 by Austro-Hungarian authorities during construction of an agricultural school. The area’s richness in flint was no doubt attractive to Neolithic man, and the settlement appears to have flourished. The most stunning aspects of the settlement are the unique ceramics and pottery designs which identified the Butmir people as a unique culture. This was largely responsible for the International congress of archeologists and anthropologists meeting in Sarajevo in 1894.
The next prominent inhabitants of Sarajevo were the Illyrians. The ancient people that considered most of the West Balkans as their homeland had several key settlements in the region, mostly around the river Miljacka and Sarajevo valley. The Illyrians in the Sarajevo region belonged to the tribe “Daesitates”, a war-like people who were the last to resist Roman occupation. Their defeat to the Roman emperor Tiberius in 9 AD marks the start of Roman rule in the region. The Romans never built up the region of modern day Bosnia that much, however it is known that the Roman colony of Aquae Sulphurae existed on top of present day Ilidža, and was the most important settlement of the time.
During the Middle Ages, Sarajevo was part of the Bosnian province of Vrhbosna near the traditional center of the kingdom. Though a settlement called Vrhbosna existed, the exact settlement of Sarajevo at this time is debated. During the high Middle Ages, various documents make note of a place called “Tornik” in the region. By all indications, however, “Tornik” was a very small marketplace surrounded by a proportionally small village not considered very important by Ragusan merchants.
Others meanwhile say that Vrhbosna was a major settlement located in the middle of modern day Sarajevo. Indeed, Papal documents say that in 1238, a Cathedral to Saint Paul was built in the city. Even disciples of the famous Saints Cyril and Methodius had stopped by the region, establishing a church at “Vrelobosna”. Whether this city was indeed located at modern day Sarajevo or not, an important city called Vrhbosna did indeed exist at the time and the region was of great importance.
Early Ottoman Era
Sarajevo as we know it today was founded by the Ottoman Empire in the 1450s upon conquering the region, with 1461 typically used as the city’s founding date. The first Ottoman governor of Bosnia, Isa-Beg Ishaković, transformed whatever cluster of villages there was there into a city and state capitol by building a number of key objects, including a mosque, a closed marketplace, a public bath, a hostel, and of course the governor’s castle (“Saray”) which gave the city its present name. The mosque was named “Carova Džamija” (the Tsar’s Mosque) in honor of the Sultan Mehmed II. With the improvements Sarajevo quickly grew into the largest city in the region. Many Christians converted to Islam at this time.
Under the wise leadership of people such as Gazi Husrev-beg, (the city’s greatest donor who built most of what is now the Old Town) Sarajevo grew at a rapid rate. Sarajevo became known for its large marketplace and numerous mosques, which by the middle of the 16th century were over a hundred in number. At its height, Sarajevo was the biggest and most important Ottoman city in the Balkans after Istanbul itself. By 1660, the population of Sarajevo was estimated to be over 80,000. Comparatively, Belgrade in 1838 had a mere 12,963 inhabitants, and Zagreb as late as 1851 had a lowly 14,000 people. Things went mostly downhill for Sarajevo from there.
Late Ottoman Era
In 1699, Prince Eugene of Savoy led a successful raid on Sarajevo. After his men looted all that they could, the city was set on fire. In a mere day, nearly the whole city was destroyed except for a handful of neighborhoods, some mosques, and the orthodox church. Numerous other fires weakened the city as well, so that by 1807 it only had some 60,000 residents (although this was still considerably more than New York City at the time).
In the 1830s, the area around the city was ground to several battles of the Bosnian rebellion, led by Husein Gradaščević. Today, a major city street is named “Dragon of Bosnia” in his honor. The rebellion however, failed, and the crumbling Ottoman state remained in control of Bosnia for several more decades.
In 1878, Bosnia was occupied by Austria-Hungary. Architects and engineers who endeavored to rebuild Sarajevo as a modern European capital rushed to the city. They were unexpectedly aided by a fire that burned down a large part of the central city area (čaršija). This has resulted in a unique blend of the remaining Ottoman city market and contemporary western architecture. Sarajevo hosts some shiny examples of Secession and Pseudo-Moorish styles that date from this period.
The Austria-Hungarian period was one of great development for the city as the Western power brought its new acquisition up to the standards of the Victorian age. Various factories and other buildings were built at this time, and a large number of institutions were both Westernized and modernized. For the first time in history, Sarajevo’s population began writing in Latin script.
In the event that triggered the World War I, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg were assassinated in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914 by Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip.
After World War I and contributions from the Serbian army alongside rebelling Slavic nations in Austria-Hungary, Sarajevo became part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Though it held some political importance, as the center of first the Bosnian region and then the Drinska Banovina, it was not treated with the same attention or considered as significant as it was in the past. Outside of today's national bank of Bosnia and Herzegovina, virtually no significant contributions to the city were made during this period.
During World War II, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia put up an inadequate defense. Following a German bombing campaign, Sarajevo was captured on 15 April 1941 by the 16th Motorized infantry Division. The Axis powers created the Independent State of Croatia and included Sarajevo in its territory. On October 12, 1941 a group of 108 notable Muslim citizens of Sarajevo signed the Resolution of Sarajevo Muslims by which they condemned the persecution of Serbs organized by Ustaše, made distinction between Muslims who participated in such persecutions and whole Muslim population, presented informations about the persecutions of Muslims by Serbs and requested security for all citizens of the country, regardless of their identity.
The city was bombed by the Allies from 1943 to 1944. The Yugoslav Partisan movement was represented in the city. Resistance was led by a NLA Partisan named "Walter" Perić. He died while leading the final liberation of the city on 6 April 1945. Many of the World War II shell casings that were used during the attacks have been carved and polished in Sarajevo tradition and are sold as art.
Following the liberation, Sarajevo was the capital of the Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina within the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The communists invested heavily in Sarajevo, building many new residential blocks in Novi Grad Municipality and Novo Sarajevo Municipality, while simultaneously developing the city's industry and transforming Sarajevo once again into one of the Balkans' chief cities. From a post-war population of 115,000, by the end of Yugoslavia Sarajevo had 429,672 people. Sarajevo grew rapidly as it became an important regional industrial center in Yugoslavia. Modern communist-city blocks were built west of the old city, adding to Sarajevo's architectural uniqueness. The Vraca Memorial Park, a monument for victims of World War II, was dedicated on 25 November, the "Day of Statehood of Bosnia and Herzegovina" when the ZAVNOBIH held their first meeting in 1943.
The crowning moment of Sarajevo’s time in Socialist Yugoslavia was the 1984 Winter Olympics. Sarajevo beat out Sapporo, Japan; and Falun/Göteborg, Sweden for the privilege. They were followed by an immense boom in tourism, making the 1980s one of the city's best decades in a long time.
World War II
During the World War II Sarajevo was part of Independent State of Croatia a puppet state of Nazi Germany,. On October 12, 1941 a group of 108 notable Muslim citizens of Sarajevo signed the Resolution of Sarajevo Muslims by which they condemned the persecution of Serbs organized by Ustaše, made distinction between Muslims who participated in such persecutions and whole Muslim population, presented informations about the persecutions of Muslims by Serbs and requested security for all citizens of the country, regardless of their identity.
Reconstruction of Sarajevo started as soon as the war ended in 1995. By 2003, most of the city was rebuilt, with only a few remaining visible ruins in the city center.
- "Independent State of Croatia". Britannica Online Encyclopedia. Accessed 8 September 2009.
- Hadžijahić, Muhamed (1973) "Muslimanske rezolucije iz 1941 godine [Muslim resolutions of 1941]" Istorija Naroda Bosne i Hercegovine (in Serbocroatian) Sarajevo: Institut za istoriju radničkog pokreta p. 277
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