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Life After War: Sarajevo Today


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Renie Block



Sarajevo, the capital city of Bosnia and Herzegovina, holds a significant place in history. As a cultural crossroads between the East and the West, the city has experienced both prosperity and adversity throughout the centuries. Nestled in a picturesque valley surrounded by mountains, Sarajevo boasts a rich heritage dating back to ancient times.


However, the city’s history took a dramatic turn in the 20th century, when it became a focal point of the Bosnian War in the 1990s. For nearly four years, Sarajevo endured a relentless siege, leaving its infrastructure destroyed and its citizens scarred by the horrors of war. Today, Sarajevo stands as a testament to the resilience of its people, who have embarked on a journey of rebuilding and revitalization.


This article explores the journey of Sarajevo from the devastating war to the present day, shedding light on the remarkable transformation the city has undergone. We will delve into the impact of the war on Sarajevo, the challenges faced during the post-war reconstruction, and the efforts made to restore its vibrant culture and heritage. Furthermore, we will discuss the current social, economic, and cultural landscape of Sarajevo, highlighting the strides taken towards its revitalization.


By delving into the story of Sarajevo, we can gain a deeper understanding of the resilience and spirit of its people, and the power of art and culture in healing and transforming a city torn apart by conflict. Join us on this journey as we discover the remarkable life after war in Sarajevo.


History of Sarajevo

Sarajevo has a rich and diverse history that spans centuries. The origins of the city can be traced back to the time of the Roman Empire when it served as an important trading post. Over the centuries, Sarajevo became a melting pot of different cultures and religions, with influences from the Ottoman Empire, Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the Yugoslavian era.


One of the defining moments in Sarajevo’s history was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in 1914, which sparked the beginning of World War I. The city’s geographical location at the crossroads of Europe played a crucial role in this event, leading to significant political and social changes that shaped the region for decades to come.


During the period of the Ottoman Empire, Sarajevo flourished as a center of trade and a melting pot of different cultures. The city’s architectural landscape is a testament to this rich heritage, with mosques, synagogues, and churches coexisting harmoniously. The famous Baščaršija, the old bazaar district, is a vibrant showcase of Ottoman-era architecture, bustling with markets, traditional cafes, and artisans.


In 1878, Sarajevo came under the rule of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, marking a new era in the city’s history. The influence of the Austro-Hungarian Empire can still be seen in the neoclassical and secessionist architecture that dots the cityscape, giving Sarajevo a unique blend of Eastern and Western influences.


Sarajevo’s history took a tragic turn during the 1990s with the outbreak of the Bosnian War. The city became the epicenter of the conflict, enduring a relentless siege that lasted for almost four years. The war brought destruction, suffering, and loss to the people of Sarajevo, leaving scars that are still visible today.


Despite these challenges, the historical legacy of Sarajevo endures. The city remains a symbol of cultural diversity and the resilience of its people. The scars of the past have not erased the spirit of Sarajevo, and the city continues to pave the way for a brighter future.


Impact of War on Sarajevo

The Bosnian War, which ravaged Sarajevo from 1992 to 1996, had a profound and lasting impact on the city and its residents. The siege of Sarajevo was one of the longest and most brutal in modern history, lasting for almost four years. The war left a devastating mark on the city, both physically and emotionally.


During the siege, Sarajevo was subjected to relentless shelling, sniper attacks, and a lack of basic necessities such as food, water, and electricity. The infrastructure of the city was decimated, with buildings, bridges, and cultural landmarks reduced to rubble. The scars of the war are still visible today, with bullet holes and shrapnel marks serving as haunting reminders of the past.


The human toll of the war was immense, with thousands of lives lost and countless others forever changed. The citizens of Sarajevo faced daily hardships, living in fear and uncertainty. Schools and hospitals were targeted, and the city’s residents had to resort to creative means to survive, such as building makeshift tunnels to transport supplies and evade snipers.


The cultural fabric of Sarajevo also suffered greatly during the war. Museums, libraries, and art galleries were targeted and destroyed, resulting in the loss of irreplaceable cultural treasures. The vibrant cultural scene that once thrived in Sarajevo was silenced, as artists and intellectuals were forced into hiding or fled the city.


The psychological impact of the war on the people of Sarajevo cannot be overstated. The trauma and grief experienced during those years continue to shape the lives of survivors. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health issues are prevalent among the population, requiring ongoing support and rehabilitation efforts.


Despite the immense challenges faced during the war, the people of Sarajevo displayed incredible resilience and solidarity. Communities came together to support one another, and acts of bravery and kindness were witnessed amidst the chaos. The spirit of Sarajevo, once tarnished by conflict, began to emerge stronger than ever.


The impact of the war on Sarajevo cannot be fully quantified or comprehended. The wounds of the past are still healing, but the city and its people are determined to rebuild and move forward. The process of reconstruction and revitalization has been an arduous one, but it has also been a testament to the strength and determination of the people of Sarajevo.


Post-War Reconstruction

After the Bosnian War, Sarajevo faced the daunting task of rebuilding and recovering from the devastation caused by the conflict. The process of post-war reconstruction was complex and required the collaboration of various stakeholders, both local and international.


One of the first priorities was to restore essential infrastructure in the city. Roads, bridges, and public utilities were rebuilt to reconnect neighborhoods and improve access to basic services. Housing reconstruction programs were also implemented, providing support for families who had lost their homes during the war.


International organizations played a crucial role in the reconstruction efforts. The European Union, the United Nations, and other humanitarian agencies provided financial aid and technical support to rehabilitate key public facilities, including schools, hospitals, and cultural institutions. This support was vital in revitalizing the social fabric of Sarajevo and offering hope for a brighter future.


Efforts were also made to restore Sarajevo’s cultural heritage. Historical landmarks and sites of cultural importance were carefully reconstructed to preserve the city’s rich history and identity. The National Library, which had been destroyed during the war, was painstakingly rebuilt, symbolizing the resilience and determination of the city’s residents.


Rebuilding the economy was another critical aspect of Sarajevo’s post-war reconstruction. The war had devastated the local economy, leaving many unemployed and businesses in ruins. To stimulate economic growth, initiatives were implemented to attract foreign investment, promote entrepreneurship, and create job opportunities for the city’s residents.


Tourism emerged as a key driver of economic revitalization in Sarajevo. The city’s unique blend of Eastern and Western influences, coupled with its rich history, attracted visitors from around the world. The construction of modern hotels, restaurants, and cultural venues further boosted the tourism sector, providing a much-needed source of income for local businesses and communities.


Post-war reconstruction in Sarajevo has been an ongoing process, facing numerous challenges along the way. The city continues to grapple with issues such as limited resources, bureaucratic obstacles, and the need for sustainable development. However, the determination and resilience of the people of Sarajevo have fueled progress and created a foundation for a brighter future.


The process of post-war reconstruction is not merely about rebuilding physical structures; it is about healing and creating a sense of hope and unity among the people. Sarajevo’s journey of recovery serves as an inspiration, demonstrating that a city can rise from the ashes and thrive, even in the face of immense adversity.


Economy of Sarajevo

The economy of Sarajevo has undergone significant transformations in the post-war period, as the city strives to rebuild and regain its economic stability. Despite the challenges faced, Sarajevo has experienced gradual growth and diversification in various sectors, contributing to its overall economic development.


One of the key drivers of Sarajevo’s economy is the services sector, which encompasses a wide range of industries such as tourism, finance, education, and healthcare. The city’s unique cultural heritage, combined with its natural beauty, attracts tourists from around the world. This influx of visitors has created opportunities for the growth of hospitality, dining, and entertainment industries, stimulating job creation and generating revenue for local businesses.


Sarajevo’s strategic location and well-developed transportation infrastructure have also contributed to the growth of logistics and trade sectors. The city acts as a transit hub, connecting Western Europe with the markets of Southeast Europe and the Balkans. This has attracted foreign investors and boosted trade activities, particularly in the areas of import-export and wholesale trading.


The entrepreneurial spirit of the people of Sarajevo has also played a significant role in the city’s economic development. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have emerged in various sectors, including technology, creative industries, and manufacturing. These enterprises have not only created job opportunities but have also contributed to innovation and the diversification of the local economy.


The government of Bosnia and Herzegovina, along with international organizations, has implemented initiatives to support entrepreneurship and attract foreign investment. Programs such as business incubators, tax incentives, and foreign trade zones have been established to foster a favorable environment for economic growth and innovation.


While the economy of Sarajevo continues to progress, it still faces challenges such as high unemployment rates and limited access to financing for small businesses. However, efforts are being made to address these issues through vocational training programs, entrepreneurial education, and the promotion of microfinance options.


Furthermore, Sarajevo is positioning itself as a center for conferences, exhibitions, and cultural events. The city has modern conference facilities and hosts international events, attracting professionals from various fields. This not only enhances the city’s reputation but also creates economic opportunities in sectors such as hospitality, transportation, and event management.


The economy of Sarajevo is at a crucial juncture, where ongoing efforts in economic diversification, investment attraction, and entrepreneurship promotion are laying the groundwork for sustainable growth. With its rich history, cultural heritage, and strategic location, Sarajevo has the potential to become a thriving economic hub in the region, attracting businesses, investors, and visitors from around the world.


Cultural Revival

The Bosnian War dealt a severe blow to the vibrant cultural scene of Sarajevo, but in the aftermath of the conflict, the city has witnessed a remarkable cultural revival. The people of Sarajevo, recognizing the importance of art and culture in healing and rebuilding their community, have made tremendous efforts to revive and celebrate their cultural heritage.


Cultural institutions that were damaged or destroyed during the war have been rebuilt and rejuvenated. The National Museum, the Gallery of Fine Arts, and the Historical Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina are just a few examples of the institutions that have resurfaced, preserving and showcasing the rich history and cultural legacy of Sarajevo.


The Sarajevo Film Festival, launched in 1995 during the war, has become one of the city’s most prominent cultural events. It attracts filmmakers and cinema enthusiasts from around the world, shining a spotlight on Sarajevo as a hub for artistic expression and creativity. The festival not only celebrates film but also serves as a platform to promote the cultural diversity and resilience of the city.


The performing arts have also played a crucial role in the cultural revival of Sarajevo. The National Theatre, the Bosnian National Opera and Ballet, and numerous independent theaters have breathed new life into the city’s artistic landscape. These institutions showcase a range of theatrical productions, including traditional Bosnian plays, contemporary works, and international collaborations.


Music has always held a special place in the hearts of the people of Sarajevo. The city’s rich musical heritage, influenced by both Western and Eastern traditions, is celebrated through various events and festivals. The Sarajevo Winter Festival, an annual event that brings together artists from different disciplines, has become a platform for showcasing the region’s artistic talent and fostering cross-cultural dialogue.


Visual arts and street art have transformed Sarajevo’s urban landscape. Walls and buildings that were once marked by war are now adorned with vibrant murals, reflecting the resilience and creative spirit of the city. Street art festivals, such as the Sarajevo Street Art Festival, have emerged as platforms to showcase local and international artists, contributing to the cultural vitality of the city.


Community-led initiatives have also played a vital role in the cultural revival of Sarajevo. Grassroots organizations, art collectives, and cultural associations have emerged to promote local artists and provide platforms for creative expression. These initiatives not only nurture artistic talent but also preserve and transmit traditional crafts and cultural practices.


The cultural revival of Sarajevo extends beyond the traditional arts. The city has embraced contemporary culture, embracing new forms of artistic expression, including digital media, design, and fashion. The emergence of alternative art spaces, music festivals, and cultural events has created a dynamic and diverse cultural ecosystem that continues to grow and evolve.


The cultural revival of Sarajevo is a testament to the spirit of resilience and the power of art and culture to heal and inspire. By embracing their cultural heritage and cultivating new artistic expressions, the people of Sarajevo have not only rebuilt their city but have also reignited a sense of pride and identity that defines their community.


Social Challenges in Sarajevo Today

While Sarajevo has made significant progress in its post-war recovery, the city still faces several social challenges that need to be addressed for a more inclusive and prosperous community. These challenges stem from the impact of the war, economic disparities, and the process of reconciliation and healing.


One of the most pressing social challenges in Sarajevo is the high unemployment rate. Despite economic growth, many people still struggle to find stable employment, particularly young people. This poses a significant barrier to social mobility and can contribute to feelings of frustration and disillusionment among the population.


The war and the resulting displacement and loss of life have had a profound impact on social cohesion in Sarajevo. The trust between different ethnic and religious groups was fractured during the conflict, and the process of rebuilding social connections and fostering dialogue is an ongoing challenge. Building a more cohesive society requires efforts to promote inter-ethnic understanding, tolerance, and respect.


Mental health issues continue to be a significant concern in Sarajevo. The trauma and stress of the war have left lasting psychological scars on individuals and communities. Access to mental health services and support is crucial for the healing and well-being of the population, as unresolved mental health challenges can hinder personal growth and societal development.


Income inequality and poverty are persistent social challenges in Sarajevo. While the city has experienced economic growth in recent years, the benefits have not been evenly distributed. A significant portion of the population still lives in poverty, struggling to meet their basic needs. Efforts must be made to address income disparities and provide equal opportunities for all residents.


Gender equality is another area that requires attention in Sarajevo. Although progress has been made, women still face challenges in terms of access to education, employment opportunities, and representation in decision-making positions. Empowering women and promoting gender equality are essential for a more inclusive and just society.


Social inclusion of marginalized groups, such as refugees, internally displaced persons, and Roma communities, is another significant challenge in Sarajevo. These groups often face discrimination and barriers to accessing basic services and opportunities. Efforts must be made to ensure their inclusion and integration into society, providing equal rights and opportunities for all residents.


Addressing these social challenges requires a multi-dimensional approach that encompasses education, employment, social services, and community engagement. It requires collaboration between the government, civil society organizations, and the international community to create an environment where all residents can thrive and contribute to the collective well-being of the city.


Sarajevo’s journey of post-war recovery has been remarkable, but the social challenges that remain must not be overlooked. By acknowledging and addressing these challenges, the city can continue to build a more inclusive, resilient, and harmonious community, where every individual has the opportunity to live a dignified and fulfilling life.


Infrastructure and Urban Development

The Bosnian War took a significant toll on Sarajevo’s infrastructure, leaving the city in ruins. However, in the years since the war, Sarajevo has made remarkable progress in rebuilding its infrastructure and embarking on urban development projects to meet the needs of its growing population.


One of the key areas of focus in the post-war reconstruction efforts has been the restoration of the city’s transportation infrastructure. Roads and bridges that were destroyed or damaged have been rebuilt, improving connectivity within the city as well as with surrounding regions. The development of an efficient and reliable public transportation system has played a vital role in easing congestion and improving mobility for residents.


Urban development projects have transformed the face of Sarajevo, with new commercial and residential buildings adding to the city’s skyline. Modern housing complexes and commercial centers have emerged, providing improved living and working spaces for the residents. These developments have not only enhanced the aesthetic appeal of the city but have also contributed to economic growth and job creation.


Parks and green spaces have also been given special attention in Sarajevo’s urban development plans. The development of new parks and the renovation of existing ones have provided residents with recreational spaces to enjoy nature and unwind. These green spaces serve as important social hubs, bringing communities together and improving the overall quality of life in the city.


Investments in infrastructure have also extended to utilities and public services. Efforts have been made to improve and expand water supply and sanitation systems, ensuring access to clean water and proper sanitation for all residents. Upgrades to electrical grids and the incorporation of renewable energy sources have also been implemented to promote sustainability and reduce the city’s carbon footprint.


Preserving the cultural heritage of Sarajevo has been a significant aspect of the city’s urban development plans. Efforts have been made to restore historical buildings, such as libraries, museums, and religious sites, to their former glory. The meticulous restoration of these architectural gems not only pays homage to Sarajevo’s rich history but also attracts tourists and stimulates cultural tourism.


However, challenges still remain in terms of urban development in Sarajevo. Rapid population growth and the influx of people from rural areas pose challenges for infrastructure and services. The need for affordable housing, improved healthcare facilities, and educational institutions requires ongoing investment and planning to meet the needs of the growing population.


Additionally, ensuring inclusivity and accessibility in urban development is crucial. Efforts must be made to create barrier-free environments, providing equal access and opportunities for all residents, including people with disabilities.


Sarajevo’s infrastructure and urban development efforts have transformed the city into a modern and vibrant metropolis. The careful balance between preserving the city’s historical charm while embracing contemporary advancements has provided a solid foundation for the city’s continued growth and prosperity.


Tourism in Sarajevo

With its rich history, cultural diversity, and stunning scenery, Sarajevo has become an increasingly popular tourist destination in recent years. The city’s unique blend of Eastern and Western influences, coupled with its resilience and vibrant cultural scene, attracts visitors from around the world.


One of the key attractions for tourists in Sarajevo is its rich historical heritage. The city’s Old Town, known as Baščaršija, is a maze of narrow streets lined with traditional Ottoman architecture, bustling markets, and old-world charm. Visitors can explore historical landmarks such as the Gazi Husrev-bey Mosque, the Sebilj Fountain, and the Latin Bridge, which holds historical significance as the site of Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination.


Sarajevo is also known for its museums and cultural institutions, which provide a deeper understanding of the city’s history and heritage. The National Museum, the Historical Museum, and the War Childhood Museum are just a few examples of the fascinating museums that shed light on different aspects of Sarajevo’s past.


The city’s vibrant arts and cultural scene also draw tourists to Sarajevo. The Sarajevo Film Festival, one of the city’s most renowned events, screens a wide range of films from diverse genres and countries. It is a platform for emerging filmmakers and offers a unique experience for cinephiles. The Sarajevo Winter Festival, Sarajevo Jazz Festival, and other cultural events showcase the city’s thriving music, art, and performance scenes.


Sarajevo’s natural beauty is another draw for tourists. The city is nestled in a valley surrounded by mountains, providing ample opportunities for outdoor activities such as hiking, skiing, and cycling. The Olympic Mountains, including Bjelašnica and Jahorina, offer breathtaking views and world-class ski resorts where visitors can enjoy winter sports.


Culinary tourism is also gaining popularity in Sarajevo. The city’s gastronomy is a reflection of its multicultural history, blending Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, and Balkan influences. Traditional Bosnian dishes such as cevapi, burek, and baklava entice visitors to indulge in the city’s culinary delights.


Furthermore, Sarajevo’s warm and hospitable residents contribute to the overall tourist experience. The locals take great pride in sharing their city’s history and cultural traditions, making visitors feel welcome and ensuring a memorable stay.


Sarajevo has made significant efforts to develop and expand its tourism infrastructure to accommodate the growing number of visitors. The city boasts a wide range of accommodation options, from luxury hotels to boutique guesthouses and budget-friendly hostels. The public transportation system has been improved, making it easier for tourists to navigate the city and access its attractions.


While tourism has brought immense benefits to Sarajevo, it also presents challenges that need to be managed. Sustainable tourism practices are crucial to preserving the city’s cultural and natural heritage, as well as minimizing the impact on the local community. Balancing the influx of tourists while maintaining the authenticity and charm of Sarajevo is a delicate task that requires careful planning and management.


Overall, tourism in Sarajevo plays a vital role in the city’s economic development, cultural preservation, and international recognition. The city’s unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty continues to captivate visitors, offering a rich and rewarding experience that lingers long after they depart.



Sarajevo’s journey from the devastating Bosnian War to its present state of revival and resilience is nothing short of remarkable. The city has managed to rebuild its infrastructure, revive its cultural scene, and attract tourists from around the world. It stands as a testament to the determination and spirit of its people, who have worked tirelessly to heal the wounds of the past and shape a brighter future.


The history of Sarajevo, with its rich cultural tapestry and geographical significance, has contributed to the city’s unique identity. From its origins as a Roman trading post to its role in triggering World War I and enduring a brutal siege in the 1990s, Sarajevo has weathered countless challenges throughout the centuries.


The impact of the Bosnian War on Sarajevo cannot be overstated. The city suffered untold devastation, both physically and emotionally. However, the resilience of its people has allowed Sarajevo to rise from the ashes, rebuilding its infrastructure, revitalizing its cultural heritage, and nurturing a sense of unity and pride.


Post-war reconstruction efforts have focused on rejuvenating the city’s economy, enhancing its cultural landscape, and addressing social challenges. Sarajevo’s economy has diversified, with sectors such as tourism, services, and trade playing a prominent role. The city’s cultural revival has seen the reconstruction of cultural institutions, the emergence of vibrant festivals, and the celebration of its artistic talent.


Social challenges, such as unemployment, reconciliation, and income inequality, still persist in Sarajevo. However, the city remains committed to addressing these issues through initiatives that promote social inclusion, economic opportunities, and community cohesion.


Infrastructure and urban development have transformed Sarajevo into a modern and efficient city, while maintaining its historical charm. The restoration of its architectural gems, the creation of green spaces, and the improvement of public services have enhanced the quality of life for its residents and created an inviting environment for tourists.


Tourism has played a crucial role in Sarajevo’s recovery, attracting visitors with its rich history, cultural diversity, natural beauty, and warm hospitality. The city has developed its tourism infrastructure while striving for sustainable practices to preserve its cultural heritage and minimize the impact on the local community.


In conclusion, Sarajevo stands as a testament to the indomitable human spirit and the power of art, culture, and resilience in overcoming adversity. The city’s journey of rebuilding and revival serves as an inspiration, reminding us of the transformative role that art, community, and determination can play in healing and shaping a vibrant and prosperous future. Sarajevo is not just a city; it is a living testament to the strength of the human spirit and the resilience of a community that refuses to be defined by its past.