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Sarajevo has a very rich and vibrant history. The Sarajevo region has been continuously inhabited by humans since the Neolithic age. The most famous example of a Neolithic settlement in the Sarajevo area is that of the Butmir culture. The discoveries at Butmir were made on the grounds of modern day Sarajevo suburb Ilidža in 1893 by Austro-Hungarian authorities during construction of an agricultural school. The most stunning aspects of the settlement are the unique ceramics and pottery designs which identified the Butmir people as unique culture. This was largely responsible for the International congress of archeologists and anthropologists meeting in Sarajevo in 1894.
The next prominent inhabitants of Sarajevo were the Illyrians. The ancient people that considered most of the West Balkans as their homeland had several key settlements in the region, mostly around the river Miljacka and Sarajevo valley. The Illyrians in the Sarajevo region belonged to the tribe "Daesitates", who were the last to resist Roman occupation. Their defeat to the Roman Emperor Tiberius in 9 A.D. marks the start of Roman rule in the region. Roman colony of Aquae Sulphurae existed on top of present day Ilidža, and was the most important settlement of the time.
Sarajevo as we know it today was founded by the Ottoman Empire in the 1450s upon conquering the region, with 1461 typically used as the city’s founding date. The first Ottoman governor of Bosnia, Isa-Beg Ishaković, transformed whatever cluster of villages into a city and state capital by building a number of key objects, including a mosque, a closed marketplace, a public bath, a hostel, and of course the governor’s castle ("Saray") which gave the city its present name. The mosque was named "Careva Džamija" (the Tzar’s Mosque) in honor of the Sultan Mehmed II. Under the wise leadership of people such as Gazi Husrev-beg (the city’s greatest donor who built most of what is now the Old Town) Sarajevo grew at a rapid rate. Sarajevo became known for its large marketplace and numerous mosques, which by the middle of the 16th century were over a hundred in number. At its peak, Sarajevo was the biggest and most important Ottoman city in the Balkans after Istanbul itself. By 1660, the population of Sarajevo was estimated to be over 80,000. Comparatively, Belgrade in 1838 had a mere 12,963 inhabitants, and Zagreb as late as 1851 had 14,000 people.
In 1699 Prince Eugene of Savoy led a successful raid on Sarajevo. After his men looted all that they could, the city was set on fire. In a mere day, nearly the whole city was destroyed except for a handful of neighborhoods, some mosques, and the Orthodox Church. Numerous other fires weakened the city as well, so that by 1807 it only had some 60,000 residents (although this was still considerably more than New York City at the time).
In the1830s the area around the city was ground to several battles of the Bosnian rebellion, led by Husein Gradaščević against Ottoman Empire. The rebellion however, failed, and the crumbling Ottoman state remained in control of Bosnia for several more decades. Today, a major city street is named "Dragon of Bosnia" in his honor.
In 1878, Bosnia was occupied by Austrian-Hungarian Empire. Architects and engineers who endeavored to rebuild Sarajevo as a modern European capital rushed to the city. They were unexpectedly aided by a fire that burned down a large part of the central city area (čaršija). This has resulted in a unique blend of the remaining Ottoman city market and contemporary western architecture. Sarajevo hosts some shiny examples of Secession and Pseudo-Moorish styles that date from this period. The Austria-Hungarian period was a great development for the city. Various factories and other buildings were built at this time, and a large number of institutions were both westernized and modernized. For the first time in history, Sarajevo’s population began writing in Latin script. In the event that triggered the World War I, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg were assassinated in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914 by Gavrilo Princip.
During Yugoslavia, Sarajevo was the capital of Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina as one of six republics. The city was then developed through socialist doctrine and specific architectural style mostly noted in New Sarajevo and New City Municipalities. One of the most glorious times for Sarajevo were the 80s when the city was at its peak mainly in culture and sport. In 1984 Sarajevo hosted Winter Olympics and entire sport infrastructure around the city was modernized and rebuilt.
However, just 8 years after the Olympics Sarajevo was in the middle of war and was under siege from April 1992 to February 1996. The Siege of Sarajevo is the longest siege of a capital city in the history of modern warfare. Serb forces and the Yugoslav People's Army besieged Sarajevo, the capital city of Bosnia and Herzegovina, from 5 April 1992 to 29 February 1996.
After Bosnia and Herzegovina had declared independence from Yugoslavia, the Serbs, encircled Sarajevo with a siege force of 18,000 stationed in the surrounding hills, from which they assaulted the city with different weapons. From 2 May 1992, the Serbs blockaded the city controlling food, water and electricity supply to its inhabitants.
The Bosnian government defense forces inside the besieged city were poorly equipped and unable to break the siege. It is estimated that nearly 10,000 people were killed or went missing in the city, including over 1,500 children. An additional 56,000 people were wounded, including nearly 15,000 children.
During the siege hundreds and hundreds of documentary films about life and death in the besieged city were made. These films went around the world and were the only true image of what was really happening in Sarajevo and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
MGM SARAJEVO (MAN-GOD-MONSTER) was one of the most successful of these documentaries: it won the FELIX Award at the European Film Academy. Other important films were Srđan Vuletić’s I BURNT LEGS, Pjer Žalica’s CHILDREN LIKE ANY OTHER, and SA-LIFE by Sarajevo Group of Artists.
The recent Bosnian War resulted in large scale destruction and dramatic population shifts during the siege. Reconstruction of Sarajevo started as soon as the war ended in 1995. By now most of the city is rebuilt, with only a few remaining visible ruins in the city center.
Sarajevo area has mostly continental and mid continental climate. The average annual temperature in Sarajevo is 9.5 °C, with January (−1.3 °C avg.) being the coldest month of the year, and July (19.1 °C avg.) the warmest. However, the area outside the city has a bit sharper climate and, for example, at the highest peak on mountain Bjelašnica, average temperature year around is only 0.7 °C, whereby highest temperature in summer time is only about 24 °C, and the lowest winter temperature is -41 °C.
Basically, all four seasons exist in Sarajevo: from beautiful springs, warm summers, charming autumns and snowy winters.
The population of the city's four municipalities is estimated to be 310,605, whereas the Sarajevo Canton population is estimated at 436,572.
The official information is not available, but it is also estimated that the population is higher than the above-mentioned information as the last statistics date to 20 years ago.
Sarajevo is situated close to the center of triangular shape of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is situated in the area of Sarajevo Plain and surrounded by mountains. Average height above sea level of Sarajevo plain is 500m.
Four city municipalities (Old City, Center, New City and New Sarajevo) cover area of 141.5 km². Sarajevo Canton, in whole, covers area of 1,280 km².
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