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Mostar – “The Fall of Yugoslavia”, Misha Glenny

February 15th, 2012 · No Comments · Ethnicity, Multi-culturalism, War

Mostar is famous above all for its Ottoman architecture symbolised by the old footbridge which arches high over the Neretva River…

Hercegovina is divided by the river Neretva, whose moth is in Croatian territotyr but which soon enters Hercegovina. The Serbs consider the Neretva the dividing line between Serb and Coat territory. The Croats however claim that many of the communities on the eastern side of the bank are Croatian and so must come under their jurisdiction…

This war between the Serbs and Coats is but one of three wards which broke out in BiH. The straightforward struggle between Serbs and Croats intersects with the second war in Mostar. This is a war of territorial acquisition initiated by Bosnian Serbs and the JNA at the expense of the Moslems. The Croats claim all of Mostar for themselves while the Serbs say that the town on the right side of the Neretva is theirs. Nobody asks the Moslems, however, who are the largest national group in the city…

During the Second World War, the Serb, Croat and Moslem population of Mostar was famous for resisting the temptation of mutual loathing which gripped the rest of western and eastern Hercegovina and the Neretva Valley. Mostar Croats saved Serbs, Serbs protected Moslems and communal life revived in Mostar faster than almost anywhere else in BiH after the war. However, Mostar’s military airport and its strategic position doomed the town in 1992….

The struggle was symbolised by the fate of Mostar, a city that was both homely and majestic. Over a period of months, eastern Mostar, with a predominantly Moslem population, was bombarded daily with between 100 and 600 shells. On 9 November 1993, a group of Bosnian Croat soldiers pummelled the famous sixteenth centry Ottoman bridge spanning the Neretva river in Mostar. It is difficult to describe to those who do not know the region well just how deep a psychological wound this inflicted on the vast majority of citizens in the former Yugoslavia. This single act seemed to represent the utter senselessness and misery of the entire conflict.

Mostar is one of the saddest places I’ve visited. While the bridge has been rebuilt and is utterly gorgeous, the city itself still feels just… broken.

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