Sarajevo Reopens Iconic War-Damaged City Hall

Author : Mircea Birca | Monday, May 12, 2014
Posted in category Balkans, Bosnia Hertegovina
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The landmark Vijecnica city hall and national library has been reconstructed and reopened 22 years after it was shelled by Serb forces during the wartime siege of the Bosnian capital.

A concert by the Sarajevo Philharmonic and spectacular projections showing the history of the neo-Moorish building, which was built in 1896 but burned down in 1992, heralded the reopening of the Vijecnica on Friday.

Speaking during the opening ceremony, the chairman of the Bosnian tripartite Presidency, Bakir Izetbegovic, said that the restoration of the iconic building symbolised how Sarajevo had survived the horrors of war.

‘After 22 years we are marking the triumph of civilisation over barbarism, light over dark, life over death,’ Izetbegovic said.

‘From cosmopolitan, European, multi-ethnic Sarajevo, we send a message of peace, tolerance and mutual respect,’ he added.

Around two million books, articles and magazines were burned in the fire at the Vijecnica caused by Bosnian Serb shelling in August 1992.

The reconstructed building will house the national library, the city council and a museum. It will also host a showpiece concert by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra on June 28, the centenary of the assassination in Sarajevo of Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which helped to spark World War I.

The mayor of Sarajevo, Ivo Komsic, said that the Vijecnica was a symbol of the city’s wartime resistance but also of its strength in trying to overcome the past and create a better future.

‘We want to build the future with those who are ready to face the past the way this building did,’ Komsic said.

‘It belongs to those people who carry it in their memory, identify with it and feel proud,’ he said.

The reconstruction cost more than 16 million euro, half of which was supplied by the EU, according to media reports.