April 6th is a very important date in Bosnia. It is a day of both celebration (the 1945 victory) and commemoration (the start of the 1992-95 Bosnian war).
This monument to the dead of wars past has always had an eternal flame burning in front of it. But during the Bosnian War, the flame was out, as the Bosnian Serb Army besieging the city had cut off the gas supply.
This was hardly the first war in which Sarajevo played a key role. The street corner where this museum is located is the exact spot where The Great War started. Anarchists from the Serbian organization known as the Black Hand had planned to murder the heir to the Empire and had, that very morning, attempted to do so about where I was standing when I took this picture.
As far as terrorists go, Gavrilo Princip was not the most competent. If he had lived today, he would have been the Underwear Bomber. In the June 18 1914 plot, his colleagues had thus put him as the back-up guy number 7, in case the first 6 failed! For the record, the author of the first attack was no Jason Bourne either. He threw a grenade with a 10 second delay directly at his moving target! Obviously, it exploded under the fourth car behind, injuring the occupants and 12 spectators. He then swallowed a cyanide pill and jumped in the river. However, he had purchased a lot of expired cyanide, which only made him a little sick, and there was only 10 cm of water in the river, so he just smashed his face in the mud.
So after the morning’s failed attack, young Gavrilo went to the museum, which was then a cafe. A short while later, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Duchess Sophie made their way out of the palace to visit the hospital where people injured in the attempted assassination had been taken. A confused driver took the wrong route and stopped in front of the cafe. Seeing the unexpected opportunity, Gavrilo leapt out of the establishment and shot the Archduke dead. Gavrilo’s poor marksmanship also cost the life of the Duchess, as he apparently admitted at his trial that he had no intention of killing her (he was firing at a range of 1.5 meter, just saying). Anyway, most conspirators were sentenced to death, but in the relatively progressive Empire, Gavrilo (and the first grenade thrower) had not reached the minimum age for capital punishment, 20. It turned out to be a moot point, as they both got tuberculosis in jail and died shortly thereafter.
But, as amateurish as their performances were, they did ultimately accomplish their mission and while both died before seeing it, the chain of event they initiated did result in the ultimate dismantlement of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
The remnants of a much more recent war, this abandoned building in a very central part of the city. It still lays in ruins not for lack of potential or capital, but because of persisting legal battles over ownership, a direct consequence of all the ethnic cleansing that occurred during the Bosnian War.
The Pijaka market, where 68 people were killed by a mortar round in 1994, and 43 more in 1995, an event which triggered the NATO bombing campaign against the Bosnian Serbs, which resulted in the end of the open conflict and the signing of the Dayton Accords. Bosnian Serb leaders always pretended the Muslims had fired on their own people to create international outrage. All I can say is that if true, it certainly worked.
Right next to the only remaining synagogue in Sarajevo stands this building, known as the ugliest in the city. Rents are higher than the area’s average, because residents have the benefit of not having the view of their own building! Continue reading