Sarajevo’s Symbolic Library Gets New Facade

Twenty years after it was burnt down during the war, the Sarajevo ‘Vijecnica’ building, one of the symbols of the city, has regained some of its former glory as the work was completed on its outer facade.More than a hundred Sarajevo citizens attended a performance on Wednesday evening to mark the end of the third phase of the reconstruction of the National Library building known as Vijecnica.

During the ceremony, the Mayor of Sarajevo, Alija Behmen, said that he was extremely happy that the Vijecnica building had been brought back to life.

“I remember the day when this building of wisdom was dying before our eyes. For days, the streets of Sarajevo were filled with the burnt remains of Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian documents. That awful August night in 1992, they tried to erase our history and cultural heritage,” said Behmen.

Behmen recalled that 70 per cent of the National and University library collection was destroyed in the fire, including hundreds of ancient rare books and documents. Paintings, the walls and roof were also lost.

Vijecnica is one of the most distinctive, Austro-Hungarian style buildings in Sarajevo. It was first built more than a hundred years ago in 1896, and for half a decade was used by the city authorities.

In 1949, after the Second World War the building was handed over to the National and University Library, and became one of the most renowned, and best equipped libraries in the former Yugoslavia.

During the siege of Sarajevo, on the night of August 25, 1992, the building was hit by several rockets fired by Bosnian Serb forces. The resulting fire destroyed much of the collection, and the building itself suffered serious damage.

The reconstruction of the building was carried out in four stages. The initial work to stabilize Vijecnica was completed in 1996 and 1997, with a donation from Austria, while the European Commission funded the second stage of renovations, which lasted from 2000 to 2004.

Mayor Behmen thanked the many donors for helping restore Vijecnica, but explained that since 2006 the City of Sarajevo has been principally responsible for the reconstruction work.

The ceremony was attended by representatives of several international organizations and embassies.

Behmen also announced that the final stage in the restoration of was planned for the first part of 2014.

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