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Tito Baroque

View of Sarajevo from Jajce Fortress - Copyright © by Alan Grant

Sarajevo has been marked by the builders of three eras. Ottoman Sarajevo survives in the great mosques and alleyways of Baščaršija. The Austro-Hungarian city extends along the river and westwards while Yugoslav Sarajevo exists in the blocks and hosing developments, which stretch west again just as the buildings of the pre-1918 city begin to peter out. "Sarajevo's development as a socialist city benefited immensely from a change in economic philosophy proclaimed by Tito ten years after the war," writes Donia. "At a rally in June 1955 he announced that economic policy henceforth "should stimulate the development of industrial sectors that directly influence the improvement of living standards."

The colossal investment in the industrial base in the late 1940s, coupled with the gradual rise in consumer spending, powered economic growth in the 1950s at a rate unprecedented in Sarajevo's history and unparalleled in most cities of the world. Personal income rose 11 percent annually between 1952 and 1964. In 1948, 72 percent of the population of Bosnia-Herzegovina lived in rural communities; that number fell to 36.6 percent by 1971. The perpetual expansion of the housing stock in Sarajevo and other cities provided a growing supply of comfortable housing for those drawn into urban areas.

As a result, the most conspicuous transformation in the Sarajevo cityscape was the rise of ubiquitous high-rise residential complexes. Drawn by the city's disproportionate economic benefits, better living conditions, and urban cultural life, immigrants came to the city from both the countryside and other towns....The great expansion of the city took place westwards....High-rise apartment buildings arose periodically along Vojvoda Putnik Street, which soon became a boulevard with tram tracks between the east and westbound lanes. Many high-rises were built in the spirit of a master design used throughout Yugoslavia, and costs were carefully controlled. Even architects complained of the drab repetitiveness of the new housing structures. Ivan Štraus complained, "The settlements were arranged in rows westwards, and each addition reached the level of mediocrity of its predecessor." One pundit dubbed these structures "Tito Baroque."

Although their uniformity put off some observers, the high-rise housing settlements were redeemed by the convenience they offered their inhabitants, and they fulfilled the socialist vision of making all important services immediately accessible to the working class. Most buildings were grouped in settlements served by cafés, restaurants, shops, one or two schools, a tramway and bus stop, and a small park or central square. With contemporary utility services, finished interiors, and regular maintenance, the new apartments were valued by those who lived there and coveted by those who did not. Sarajevans did not stop appreciating their cultural heritage, but they opted in overwhelming numbers for residence in the new, undistinguished skyscrapers.

[pp: 229-231]

Sarajevo: A Biography. 2005. Robert Donia [C. Hurst & Co]

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