Sarajevo, Bosnia Herzegovina



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WRITTEN BY: The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica

Sarajevo, capital and cultural centre of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It lies in the narrow valley of the Miljacka River at the foot of Mount Trebević. The city retains a strong Muslim character, having many mosques, wooden houses with ornate interiors, and the ancient Turkish marketplace (the Baščaršija); much of the population is Muslim. The city’s principal mosques are the Gazi Husreff-Bey’s Mosque, or Begova Džamija (1530), and the Mosque of Ali Pasha (1560–61). Husreff-Bey also built the medrese (madrasah), a Muslim school of theology; the Imaret, a free kitchen for the poor; and the hamam, public baths. A late 16th-century clock tower is adjacent to the Begova Džamija. Museums include the Mlada Bosna (“Young Bosnia”), an annex of the town museum; the Museum of the Revolution, chronicling the history of Bosnia and Herzegovina since 1878; and a Jewish museum. Sarajevo has a university (1949) that includes faculties in mining and technology, an academy of sciences, an art college, and several hospitals. A number of streets named for trades survive from an original 37, and the Kazandžviluk (coppersmith’s bazaar) is preserved in its original form.

Near Sarajevo are the remains of a Neolithic settlement of the Butmir culture. The Romans established a rest centre at nearby Ilidža, where the Bosna River has its source; there is still a sulfurous spa. The Goths, followed by the Slavs, began settling in the area about the 7th century. In 1415 Sarajevo is mentioned as Vrhbosna, and, after the Turks invaded in the late 15th century, the town developed as a trading centre and stronghold of Muslim culture. Dubrovnik merchants built the Latin quarter (Latinluk), and migrating Sephardic Jews founded their quarter, Čifuthani. The 17th and 18th centuries were less fortunate—Prince Eugene of Savoy burned the town in 1697, while fires and plagues decimated the population.

The declining Ottoman Empire made Sarajevo the administrative seat of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1850. When the Austro-Hungarian Empire ousted the Turks in 1878, Sarajevo remained the administrative seat and was largely modernized in the following decades. During this period it also became the centre of the Bosnian Serbs’ resistance movement, the Mlada Bosna, whose resentment of Austrian rule culminated on June 28, 1914, when a Bosnian Serb, Gavrilo Princip, assassinated the Austrian heir apparent, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and his wife. The Austro-Hungarian government used this incident as a pretext for mobilizing against Serbia, thus precipitating World War I. In November 1918 the Diet of Sarajevo proclaimed union within Yugoslavia. During the German occupation of World War II, Sarajevo resistance fighters in the republic fought several crucial battles against the Germans. After World War II, Sarajevo rapidly repaired the considerable war damage. After Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence in 1992, Sarajevo became a focal point of fierce warfare in the region in the mid-90s, and the city suffered considerable damage. Recovery was slow thereafter.

Sarajevo is the centre of a road network and has a rail connection to the Adriatic. Old craft trades, particularly metalware and carpet making, continue. Sarajevo was the site for the 1984 Winter Olympic Games. The city’s pre-civil war industry included a sugar-beet refinery, brewery, furniture factory, tobacco factory, hosiery works, communications plants, an agribusiness combine, and an automobile industry.

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David Hunt
The Siege of Sarajevo
Updated on September 23, 2017

I try to make history readable and interesting, warts and all. We must look to the past to understand the present and confront the future.
Longest Siege in Modern History
Starting in 1992, the city of Sarajevo, capital of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, came under siege and was subjected to daily shelling and sniper attacks from Serbian forces in and around the city. The siege lasted from April 6, 1992 to February 29, 1996, the longest siege in modern history– a year longer even than the Siege of Leningrad during World War Two.
Start of the Siege
When Yugoslavia’s leader Marshal Tito died in 1980, the country’s constituent ethnic and religious groups began vying for control. Some wanted independence; some wanted Yugoslavia to continue– though under their control.

After the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (hereafter referred to as “Bosnia”) declared its independence on March 3, 1992, Serbia, along with Bosnian Serbs and, initially, Croatia, prepared for war and sporadic fighting broke out in parts of Bosnia. As tensions mounted, 40,000 Bosnians, Serbs and Croats from all over Bosnia demonstrated for peace in Sarajevo on April 6, 1992, the same day that members of the European Union recognized Bosnia as an independent state. This show of ethnic unity angered Serb nationalists who fired into the crowd. This was considered the start of the Siege of Sarajevo.

Surrounded Standoff
Serbs and Bosnian Serbs held positions inside the city, including the airport, as well as in the surrounding hills. By May 2, the entire city was surrounded. They cut off supplies, including food and medicine, as well as water, electricity and heating fuel. Though equipped with superior weaponry and fully supplied, the Serbs were outnumbered by the city’s defenders who were armed with anti-tank weapons and were able to stop the attacking armored columns. Faced with this standoff, the Serbs decided to lay waste to the city with their artillery and terrorize the population with sniper attacks.

Watch Out – Sniper!
From positions in the hills and in high-rises in the city itself, snipers shot anything that moved, whether they be men, women or children. All were deliberately targeted, as that is the nature of sniping. Some of the worst streets under constant sniper fire had signs posted reading “Pazi – Snajper!” (“Watch out – Sniper!”) and were referred to as “sniper alleys”. It became a daily routine to crouch and run across many streets. Later, when UN observers were allowed in, citizens would run beside UN armored vehicles to get across.

An Average of More Than 300 Shells a Day
During the course of the siege, an average of more than 300 artillery and mortar shells a day landed in the non-Serbian areas of the city. On the worst days, the city was hit by 3,000 shells. No place was spared: schools, markets, hospitals, libraries, industrial sites, government buildings– all were targeted. The worst loss of life occurred on February 5, 1994, when mortar attacks killed 68 and wounded 200 civilians at the Markale marketplace. Other attacks included a football game and people waiting in line at a water spigot.

The Cellist of Sarajevo
Vedran Smailović, a cellist in the Sarajevo Philharmonic Orchestra, played his cello regularly in ruined buildings around the city, despite the constant threat of shellfire. He also played at many funerals even though funerals were a favorite target of snipers. Composer David Wilde wrote a piece for solo cello called The Cellist of Sarajevo in his honor.

The Tunnel
By 1993, a one kilometer-long tunnel was completed. This became Sarajevo’s only link with the outside world. Supplies, weapons and ammunition could then be smuggled in on a larger scale. The UN arms embargo applied to both attackers and defenders, though the Serbs never seemed to have a shortage of munitions or weaponry. It is said that this tunnel, under the airport, which was also used to get people out, saved Sarajevo.

NATO Steps In
After the mortar attack on the Markale marketplace in February, 1994, the UN formally requested that NATO immediately carry out air strikes against the attacking Serb positions. The day of February 12, 1994 marked the first casualty-free day in 22 months. NATO strikes continued off and on into the next year, but intensified in August of 1995 when the Serbs shelled the Markale marketplace a second time, resulting in 37 dead and 90 wounded. In September, 1995, the Serbs finally complied with the UN mandate and withdrew their artillery from the hills around Sarajevo. Slowly, the Bosnians went on the offensive, pushing the Serbs steadily back. A ceasefire was declared in October 1995 and, when the Serbians retreated from their positions in and around the city, the siege was officially declared over on February 29, 1996.

The Sarajevo Red Line
The population of Sarajevo prior to the siege is estimated at 435,000. In 2012, its population was estimated at 310,000.

Official figures list 11,541 people killed in Sarajevo during the siege, including 643 children. Around the city, visitors will come across what are called Sarajevo Roses. These were created by filling in mortar shell damage in the concrete with red resin, creating a pattern like a red flower. Each rose marks where citizens died when the shell exploded.

For the 20th anniversary of the start of the siege, a memorial event called the Sarajevo Red Line was held. On April 6, 2012, 11,541 empty red chairs were arranged as if waiting for an audience, stretching back almost half a mile along Maršal Tito Street. There were 643 small chairs, one for each child killed. Passers-by left teddy bears, tiny plastic cars and other toys and candy on the small chairs.

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Por Patricia Rey Mallén

Sarajevo, el ave fénix balcánico
Si la historia diese premios al esfuerzo, Sarajevo estaría, como mínimo, en la lista de finalistas.
Haz memoria: recuerda qué has oído de Sarajevo hasta ahora. Si tiras de titulares periodísticos, las imágenes que te vendrán a la mente serán desoladoras. En los 90, Sarajevo se convirtió en el símbolo de la guerra de los Balcanes. Aislada del mundo, asolada por un asedio que duró casi tres años, Sarajevo era la foto de portada de la tragedia.

Viaja un poco más atrás en el tiempo, y te sonará que la capital de Bosnia y Herzegovina fue escenario clave en la Primera Guerra Mundial, que empezó con el asesinato del archiduque Francisco Fernando de Austria en una conocida calle de Sarajevo.
Con tal epígrafe, Sarajevo no salta a la mente como un destino turístico imprescindible… pero lo es. Sarajevo ha sabido levantarse, desempolvarse y descubrirse como una de las ciudades más fascinantes de Europa.

A caballo entre oriente y occidente, este entrelazado ecléctico de estilos arquitectónicos derrocha encanto y ganas de vivir, en el que todo el mundo tiene una historia (a veces desgarradora, a veces conmovedora) que contar.
Si en el juego de la vida no importa cuantas veces te tumben, sino cuantas te levantes, Sarajevo ya es campeona. Deja que te gane a ti también.
Sarajevo es una ciudad que vive entre sonidos. En la capital bosnia, el ritmo diario viene puntuado entre llamadas a la oración desde los minaretes y campanadas de misa desde la catedral. No en vano, se la considera el punto más oriental de Occidente, y el más occidental de Oriente: un emblema que Sarajevo lleva con orgullo.

La llamada Jerusalén de Europa hace honor a su nombre con siglos de experiencia como hogar de tres grandes religiones (islamismo, cristianismo ortodoxo y cristianismo católico), cuyas huellas son tangibles en todo Stari Grad (Casco Viejo). Sin ir más lejos, en un área que cubre apenas cuatro manzanas conviven la Catedral del Sagrado Corazón (católica), la Catedral de la Natividad de la Madre de Dios (ortodoxa), y la Mezquita Ferhadija (musulmana).Paseando por el Baščaršija, el bazar de Stari Grad en el que se te pasará una tarde (o tres) sin pensarlo, cuesta imaginar que hace apenas 20 años Sarajevo fuese escenario del mayor conflicto bélico de finales del siglo XX. El mercado hierve de vida, con tiendas que reclaman la atención de los paseantes con todo tipo de productos locales, desde miel a bolsos de cuero.

Stari Grad vive entre animados cafés (Andar, en la esquina de Sarači y Čizmedžiluk, es una magnífica opción), humeantes bares de shisha (prueba El Kazbah, en la misma calle) y el bullicio de la Merzquita Gazi Husrev-beg (la más grande del país) que acogen a turistas y vecinos por igual a todas horas del día.
Bajo la superficie, sin embargo, la sombra de la guerra sigue latente. Sus huellas salpican las calles, incluso en el centro, en forma de las Rosas de Sarajevo: marcas de granada que el gobierno, en lugar de tapar, ha pintado de rojo en un testamento plástico al horror que vivió la ciudad entre 1992 y 1995. Sin ir más lejos, en la puerta de la Catedral católica hay una, y a medida que te alejes de Stari Grad las verás con más frecuencia.

Al entrar en Novi Grad, la parte moderna de Sarajevo, las cicatrices del pasado reciente se hacen más y más visibles. Vayas a pie o en el tranvía número 2, que te lleva lo largo de la avenida Maršala Tita, los edificios se hacen cada vez más altos y más grises, en un testimonio a la época comunista que vivió Bosnia como parte de Yugoslavia. Muchos de ellos tienen todavía agujeros de bala, y los que no, también tienen su propio recuerdo de la guerra.

Entre ellos, el hotel Holiday tuvo un asiento en primera fila: el hotel, alojamiento oficial de la prensa internacional durante el conflicto, fue el punto de origen de la mayoría de los reportajes que salían al extranjero (además de sufrir bombardeos en varias ocasiones).
La guerra de los Balcanes y el asedio a Sarajevo se mantienen frescos en la memoria popular de muchos museos alrededor de la ciudad. En Stari Sad, el excelente Galerija 11/07/95 es un homenaje a las víctimas de la masacre de Srebrenica, en la que miles de hombres y niños musulmanes murieron en la limpieza étnica más grande de Europa desde la Segunda Guerra Mundial. Galerija 11/07/95 incluye fotografías y una lista de nombres de todos los fallecidos, así como tres documentales cortos y otras muestras gráficas de lo que ocurrió en esta ciudad al norte de Bosnia en julio de 1995.
En Novi Sad, el Museo Histórico de Bosnia y Herzegovina acoge la exposición “Sarajevo bajo asedio,” incluyendo fotografías y objetos que demuestran el ingenio y la creatividad de los vecinos ante las desoladoras condiciones en las que vivieron entre 1992 y 1995.

Pero quizá la visita que mejor refleje las condiciones en que vivió Sarajevo el asedio es la del Túnel de la Esperanza. El museo, al lado del aeropuerto, recoge muestras de la vida durante la guerra, alrededor del túnel que durante años fue el único lazo de la ciudad con el exterior, transportando víveres, armas y personas. Hoy siguen en pie (y se pueden recorrer) 25 metros de esta construcción, cavada a mano, en una muestra de la resistencia de Sarajevo ante la adversidad.
Más allá de Novi Sad, Sarajevo mira atrás, más allá de la guerra, a años en los que el sufrimiento posterior era inimaginable. Uno de los recuerdos que la ciudad atesora con más cariño son las Olimpiadas de Invierno que acogió en 1984. Sarajevo, anidada en un valle, está rodeada de montañas excelentes para los deportes de nieve, que fueron muy aprovechados en los juegos.

De aquellos días, aún queda en pie la pista de bobsleigh, hoy cubierta de grafiti y reclamada por la maleza, que se puede visitar (aunque te tendrán que subir en coche, o atreverte a ir andando, hasta el inicio en la montaña Trebević). El trayecto es un agradable paseo de 20 minutos, aterrizando en una explanada con vistas a toda la ciudad.

Esta es la imagen que te llevarás de Sarajevo: una ciudad inclusiva, acogedora, que mira al futuro sin olvidar el pasado.

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