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Forgotten City

Before the new state of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (SHS) could print its own stamps the old Austro-Hungarian ones were overstamped

Donia argues that while Sarajevo had been a "Habsburg showplace...thoroughly integrated into the monarchy's economic, political, and cultural orbit....Those linkages were shattered in 1918," and that Sarajevo became the urban orphan of the new Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. The new country he says, gave "preference to Belgrade, Zagreb, and Ljubljana, the major urban centers corresponding to the three groups in the state's formal title...Neglected because of its diversity and torn by forces emanating from the three....Sarajevo became a forgotten city.

Most Sarajevans greeted the prospect of life in a new South Slav state with enthusiasm and optimism. When soldiers of the Serbian royal army entered Sarajevo triumphantly on November 6, 1918, marking the city's uncontested passage from Habsburg to South Slav military control, they were hailed as liberators and welcomed with celebratory activities matching any from Habsburg times. Soon Sarajevans were busy preparing new governing institutions, anticipating that the city would continue to be a major administrative center in the new kingdom. Members of the first appointed city council, expecting the imminent dawn of democracy in their land, put forth initiatives for reform and prepared to hold elections based on a broad franchise. But those prospects faded with the regime's unrelenting autocratic centralism and determination to eliminate Bosnia-Herzegovina as an administrative unit, diminishing Sarajevo's role as a regional capital.


The years 1918-41 were to be ones of disillusion for Sarajevo and compare unfavourably in terms of the development of the city with the years that came before 1914 and after 1945.

In Sarajevo protracted economic stagnation was the overriding problem throughout the period. The government's persistent refusal to grant the city meaningful local self-government rendered the city fathers largely impotent to deal with the problem. In royal Yugoslavia, no less than under Habsburg rule, the city's residents struggled in vain to acquire control over their own destinies. The new rulers offered no grand vision to inspire the growth or reconfiguration of urban space. The house of Karadjordjević [the Serbian and after 1918, Yugoslav royal family,] replaced the house of Habsburg in the city's memorial culture as the central theme of holidays, statues, memorials, cultural events, and street renaming. But little was altered during the protracted political struggles between the council and the various representatives of royal rule. Many things happened, but few things changed.

[pp: 132-133]

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

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