Sunday, February 12, 2017

216. Sarajevo - a turbulent history then a siege ...

Sarajevo has had quite a turbulent history that can be dated back to the earliest findings of settlement in the area of the Neolithic Butmir culture of the pre-Bronze Age dating back to 5200-4500 B.C.

The next prominent culture in Sarajevo were the Illyrians. The ancient people, who considered most of the West Balkans as their homeland, had several key settlements in the region, mostly around the River Miljacka and the Sarajevo valley.

The Illyrians in the Sarajevo region belonged to the Daesitiates, the last Illyrian people in BiH to resist Roman occupation. Their defeat by the Roman emperor Tiberius in 9 A.D. marks the start of Roman rule in the region. But the Romans never built up the region of modern-day Bosnia - after the Romans, the Goths settled the area, followed by the Slavs in the 7th century.

Then during the Middle Ages Sarajevo was part of the Bosnian province of Vrhbosna near the traditional center of the Kingdom of Bosnia.

Finally the settlement of Sarajevo as it stands today was founded by the Ottoman Empire in the 1450s upon its conquest of the region, with 1461 used as the city's founding date. The first Ottoman governor of Bosnia, Isa-Beg Ishaković, transformed the cluster of villages into a city and state capital by building a number of key structures, 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.

Ruins of Taslihan in the centre of Sarajevo
... this was a 16th Century "motel" for traveling merchants ... 

Under the Ottoman leaders Sarajevo grew at a rapid rate

In 1697, during the Great Turkish War, a raid was led by Prince Eugene of Savoy of the Habsburg Monarchy against the Ottoman Empire, which conquered Sarajevo and left it plague-infected and burned to the ground. After his men had looted thoroughly, they set the city on fire and destroyed nearly all of it in one day. Only a handful of neighborhoods, some mosques, and an Orthodox church, were left standing. Numerous other fires weakened the city, which was later rebuilt but never fully recovered from the destruction. By 1807, it had only some 60,000 residents.

In the 1830s, several battles of the Bosnian uprising had taken place around the city but the rebellion failed and for several more decades the Ottoman state remained in control of Bosnia, and by 1850 the Ottoman Empire had made Sarajevo an important administrative centre.

Austria-Hungary's occupation of Bosnia and Herzegovina came in 1878 as part of the Treaty of Berlin, and complete annexation followed in 1908, angering the Serbs. Sarajevo was industrialized by Austria-Hungary, who used the city as a testing area for new inventions such as tramways, which were established in 1885 before they were later installed in Vienna. Architects and engineers wanting to help rebuild Sarajevo as a modern European capital rushed to the city.

The Austro-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.
During WW1 most of the Balkan offensives occurred near Belgrade, and Sarajevo largely escaped damage and destruction. Following the war, the Balkans were unified under the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, and Sarajevo became the capital of Drina Province. Though it held some political significance as the center of first the Bosnian region, the city was no longer a national capital and saw a decline in global influence.

During World War II the Kingdom of Yugoslavia's army was overrun by German and Italian forces, and 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.

The city was bombed by the Allies from 1943 to 1944.

After WWII, Sarajevo was the capital of the Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina within the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The Republic Government invested heavily in Sarajevo, building many new residential while simultaneously developing the city's industry and transforming Sarajevo into a modern city. Sarajevo grew rapidly as it became an important regional industrial center in Yugoslavia.

... A crowning moment of Sarajevo's time in Socialist Yugoslavia was the 1984 Winter Olympics. The games were followed by a tourism boom, making the 1980s one of the city's most prosperous decades ...

From its creation following World War II, the government of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia kept a close watch on nationalist sentiment among the many ethnic and religious groups that composed the country, as it could have led to chaos and the breakup of the state. When Yugoslavia's longtime leader Marshal Tito died in 1980 this policy of containment underwent a dramatic reversal.

By the end of the 1980s nationalism experienced a renaissance and while the goal of Serbian nationalists was the centralisation of a Serb-dominated Yugoslavia, other nationalities in Yugoslavia aspired to federalisation and the decentralisation of the state.

On 18 November 1990, the first multi-party parliamentary elections were held in Bosnia and Herzegovina. They resulted in a national assembly dominated by three ethnically based parties, which had formed a loose coalition to oust the communists from power. Croatia and Slovenia's subsequent declarations of independence and the warfare that ensued placed Bosnia and Herzegovina and its three constituent peoples in an awkward position. A significant split soon developed on the issue of whether to stay with the Yugoslav federation ( overwhelmingly favored among Serbs ) or to seek independence ( overwhelmingly favored among Bosniaks and Croats ).

The Serb members of parliament, consisting mainly of Serb Democratic Party members, abandoned the central parliament in Sarajevo, and formed the Assembly of the Serb People of Bosnia and Herzegovina on 24 October 1991, which marked the end of the tri-ethnic coalition that governed after the elections in 1990. This Assembly established the Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina on 9 January 1992, which became the Republika Srpska in August 1992.

Following the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina's declaration of independence from Yugoslavia on 3 March 1992, sporadic fighting broke out between Serbs and BiH government forces all across the territory.

On 6 April, twelve European Community foreign ministers announced that their countries would recognize the independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Recognition by the United States followed the next day. Shortly after this, armed conflict broke out when the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) attacked the Ministry of Training Academy in Vraca, the central tramway depot and the Old Town district with mortars, artillery and tank fire, and also seized control of Sarajevo's airport. The Bosnian government had expected the international community to deploy a peacekeeping force following recognition, but it did not materialize in time to prevent war from breaking out across the country.


Sarajevo is a city surrounded by hills ...

On 2 May 1992, Bosnian Serb forces established a total blockade of the city. They blocked the major access roads, cutting supplies of food and medicine, and also cut off the city's utilities ( e.g., water, electricity and heating ).

Serbian forces surround the city from all sides ...

The second half of 1992 and the first half of 1993 were the height of the siege of Sarajevo, and atrocities were committed during heavy fighting. Serb forces outside the city continuously shelled the government defenders. Inside the city, the Serbs controlled most of the major military positions and the supply of arms. With snipers taking up positions in the city, signs reading Pazite, Snajper! ("Beware, Sniper!") became commonplace on particularly dangerous streets. 

The siege affected all sectors of Sarajevo's population. UNICEF reported that of the estimated 65,000 to 80,000 children in the city, at least 40% had been directly shot at by snipers; 51% had seen someone killed; 39% had seen one or more family members killed; 19% had witnessed a massacre; 48% had their home occupied by someone else; 73% had their home attacked or shelled; and 89% had lived in underground shelters. It is probable that the psychological trauma suffered during the siege will bear heavily on the lives of these children in the years to come. As a result of the high number of casualties and the wartime conditions, there are makeshift cemeteries throughout Sarajevo and its surrounding areas.


Memorial to the 521 children killed during the Sarajevo Siege

Fighting escalated on the ground as joint Bosnian and Croatian forces went on the offensive. The Serbs were slowly driven back in Sarajevo and elsewhere, which eventually allowed the city's heating, electricity and water supplies to be restored. A ceasefire was reached in October 1995. On 14 December, the Dayton Agreement brought peace to the country and led to stabilization.

 Cemetery in my district of Hrastovi

The Bosnian government officially declared an end to the siege of Sarajevo on 29 February 1996, when Bosnian Serb forces left positions in and around the city.

 Twenty odd years after the siege 
there is still a lot of healing to take place ...

New construction projects and foreign capital investment have made Sarajevo perhaps the fastest-growing city in the former Yugoslavia. 

On 5 December 2003 the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) convicted the first commander of the Sarajevo-Romanija Corps, General Stanislav Galić, of the shelling and sniper terror campaign against Sarajevo, including the first Markale massacre. Galić was sentenced to life imprisonment for the crimes against humanity during the siege.

Sehidsko cemetery in Kovaci
for soldiers killed in the 1992-1995 war ....

In 2007, General Dragomir Milošević, who replaced Galić as commander of the Sarajevo-Romanija Corps, was found guilty of the shelling and sniper terror campaign against Sarajevo and its citizens from August 1994 to late 1995, including the second Markale massacre. He was sentenced to 29 years in prison.
On 24 March 2016 Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžić was found guilty of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Srebrenica and other areas of Bosnia during the war in the 1990s. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison.

The Sarajevo Cellist 

Vedran Smailović (born 11 November 1956), known as the "Cellist of Sarajevo", is a musician from Bosnia and Herzegovina, and a former cellist in the Sarajevo String Quartet. During the siege of Sarajevo, he played Albinoni's Adagio in G Minor in ruined buildings, and, often under the threat of snipers, he played during funerals. His bravery inspired musical numbers and a book.

 ... Sarajevo Roses ...

During the siege of Sarajevo 1992-95 the city was repeatedly bombarded by enemy forces. It is estimated that an average of over 300 shells hit the city every day with a devastating crescendo of 3,777 shells hitting the city on July 22nd, 1993. By then all buildings in the city had suffered some type of damage and over 35,000 had been completely destroyed.

Many of the explosive craters left behind by the shelling were filled with red resin to mark the casualties suffered at the spot. The explosion patterns reminds some of a flower leading to the memorials being named “Sarajevo Roses.” However many of them also resemble giant bullet wounds lest anyone forget their violent origins.

 Sarajevo Rose in front of Sacred Heart Cathedral
The Sarajevo Roses have slowly been disappearing from the city as streets are rebuilt and asphalt is replaced. The city slowly heals from its wounds just like the wounds of the ones who experienced the siege do. But a few of them will be left to forever to remind citizens and visitors alike of the hardship the population of Sarajevo suffered.