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1878: The Battle of Sarajevo

Field-Marshal Josip Philippovich

Austro-Hungarian forces led by Field-Marshal Josip Philippovich entered Bosnia on July 29th 1878 and immediately defeated bands of Muslims and Serbs resisting the occupation. They were soon on the outskirts of Sarajevo, ready to take the city:

As Austro-Hungarian forces reached Sarajevo's outskirts from the north and the west on the evening of the eighteenth, they placed cannon on high ground at various points around the city. Sarajevans abandoned several vulnerable neighbourhoods and found shelter with relatives and acquaintances in Vratnik, in the shadow of the Ottoman fortress on the hill above. At dawn on August 19, the invading troops began an overpowering artillery bombardment of the city. The Sarajevans fought back, using cannon seized from Ottoman arsenals, but the eight-hour battle ended with Sarajevo's defenders completely vanquished. Heavy street fighting accompanied the troops' entry into the city, and snipers firing from homes were answered by troops burning homes with the inhabitants inside. At 2 p.m. the yellow and black imperial flag was hoisted over Sarajevo, and Field-Marshal Philippovich entered the city at 5 p.m., to be greeted as liberator by small groups of hastily assembled Sarajevans. The four [foreign] consuls called on him in the Konak [governor's building] that evening, and the era of Habsburg rule had begun.

But the battle for Bosnia was far from over. Although the organizational nerve center in Sarajevo was extinguished on August 19, forces of Bosnian Muslims and Serbian Orthodox put up a determined resistance. Frustrated Habsburg officials eventually committed 285,000 troops to a campaign that lasted well into the fall. They incurred some five thousand casualties and were criticized by foreigner and several groups within the monarchy for underestimating the scope of resistance to imperial rule.


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

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