Banja Luka

Banja Luka

The name "Banja Luka" was first mentioned in a document dated February 6, 1494, but Banja Luka's history dates back to ancient times. There is a substantial evidence of the Roman presence in the region during the first few centuries A.D., including an old fort Kastel (Castra, lat.) in the center of the city. The area of Banja Luka was entirely in the kingdom of Illyria and then a part of the Roman province of Illyricum, which split into provinces of Pannonia and Dalmatia which Castra became part of. Slavs settled in the area in the 7th century A.D., although the exact nature of their migrations remains something of a mystery. What is known is that the first mention of the city dates to 1494, by Vladislav II. The name is interpreted as "Ban's meadow", from the words ban ("a medieval dignitary"), and luka ("a valley" or "a meadow"). The identity of the ban and the meadow in question remain uncertain, and popular etymology combines the modern words banja ("bath" or "spa"), or bajna ("marvelous") and luka ("port").
A different interpretation is suggested by the Hungarian name "Lukácsbanya", i.e. "Luke's Mine", which is also the meaning of Slovak "Banja Luka". Beside Kastel fort there is also a Roman Catholic Franciscan monastery, built in the 20th century in Banja Luka’s neighbourhood of Petrićevac and an earlier Trappist monastery from the 19th century that lent its name to the neighbourhood of Trapisti and has left a large legacy in the area through its famous Trappist cheese and its beer production.
During the Ottoman rule in Bosnia, Banja Luka was the seat of the Bosnian pashaluk, and the lords of the region built what is nowadays the main street of the city. The most prominent pasha was Ferhat-paša Sokolović, who ruled between 1566 and 1574. Ferhat Pasha was one of the main founders of what was Banja Luka’s town core during the Ottoman rule. He built over 200 projects ranging from artisan and sales shops to wheat warehouses, baths and mosques. During the construction of the mosques, a plumbing infrastructure was laid that served the surrounding residential areas. All this stimulated the economic and urban development of Banja Luka, which soon became one of the leading commercial and political centers in Bosnia.
In 1688, the city was burned down by the Austrian army, but it quickly recovered. Later periodic intrusions by the Austrian army stimulated military developments in Banja Luka, which made it into a strategic military center.
Orthodox churches and monasteries near Banja Luka were built in the 19th century. Also, Sephardic Jews and Trappists migrated to the city in the 19th century and contributed to the early industrialization of the region by building mills, breweries, brick factories, textile factories and other important structures. Banja Luka as a city was not modernized until Austro-Hungarian rule in the late 19th century. Austrian occupation brought westernization to Banja Luka. Railroads, schools, factories, and infrastructure appeared, and were developed. This led to a modern city, which, after World War I, became the capital of the Vrbas Banovina, a province of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. The provincial capital owed its rapid progress to the first Ban Svetislav Milosavljević. During that time the Banski dvor and its twin sister the Administration building, and the Serbian Orthodox Church of the Holy Trinity, a theater and a museum were built, the Grammar School was renovated, the Teachers College enlarged, a city bridge was also built and the park renovated. 125 elementary schools were functioning in Banja Luka in 1930. Banja Luka naturally became the organizational center of anti-fascist work in the region. During World War II, Banja Luka was occupied by the Croatian NDH regime. Most of Banja Luka's noble Serbs and Sephardic Jewish families were deported to nearby Croatian concentration camps such as Jasenovac and Stara Gradiška. The city was finally liberated on 22 April 1945.
On 26 and 27 October 1969, two devastating earthquakes (6.0 and 6.4 on the Richter scale) damaged many buildings in Banja Luka. 15 people were killed, and over a thousand injured. A large building called Titanik in the center of the town was razed to the ground, and the area was turned into a central public square. With contributions from all over Yugoslavia, Banja Luka was repaired and rebuilt.
During the 1990s, the city underwent considerable changes when the Bosnian war broke out. Upon the declaration of Bosnian-Herzegovinian independence and establishment of Republika Srpska, Banja Luka became the de facto center of the entity's politics. An estimated 40,000 Serbs from Croatia took refuge in Banja Luka.
Nearly all of Banja Luka's Croats and Bosniaks were expelled during the war and all of the city's 16 mosques were destroyed, which are now being rebuilt. Recently a new film scene with a new generation of film makers has appeared with many short films, documentaries and feature films, with an emphasis on co-production with Serbia.

Banja Luka has a continental climate, characterized by harsh winters, warm summers and strong winds from the north and northeast. The average annual temperature in Banja Luka is 10.7 °C, with January (0.8 °C avg.) being the coldest month of the year and July (21.3 °C avg.) the warmest. Being the city in which it snows almost every winter and where southern winds bring hot weather in the summer, Banja Luka is praised for its beauty in all four seasons.

Population living in city is estimated to be 200,000 with 50,000 more leaving in the wider area.

Banja Luka, the second largest city of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the capital of the Republika Srpska (Republic of Srpska), is situated in the northwest of the country and swamped between lush green hills and a darting Vrbas river.

Banja Luka covers about 96.2 km² of land.