Sarajevo is administrative and cultural capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Nested between rugged mountains of Romanija, Bjelašnica and Trebević and split by Miljacka River, Sarajevo is stretched across an area known as Sarajevo Field. There are numerous archeological findings attesting to settlements in this area dating back to the Neolithic period, as well as records that point to significant Ilyiran presence in the area. The medieval town of Hodidjed was located in the vicinity of today’s Sarajevo; however, the sheer name of the city (from Turkish saray – court and ovasi – field) indicates that Sarajevo is a creation of the Ottoman Empire.
It is generally accepted that Sarajevo is founded in the mid 15th century by the Ottoman governor of Bosnia – Isa-bey Ishakovic – to house the area's Ottoman government. Anyone strolling through Sarajevo will easily notice the city's three distinct parts each reflective of the historical period in which it was built. The initial expansion of the city occurred during the first 150 years or so of Ottoman rule. Many of the city’s architectural gems were built during this period such as Gazi Husrev Bey’s and The Emperor’s Mosques. Baščaršija – the city’s, once great, bazaar – was also constructed during the same period. By the beginning of the XVII century, Sarajevo grew into a vibrant community of artisans and an important merchant trading post, as well as one of the most significant cities in the European part of Ottoman Empire.
The city's second architectural expansion started following the Austro-Hungarian occupation in the late 19th century and lasted until the beginning of World War I in 1914. The city was modernized during this period. Austro-Hungarians established the city’s first public transportation system and the first telephone lines. Many cultural and educational institutions were founded in this period as well, including the National (Land) Museum, the First Sheriate Law High School and the National Theater. Sarajevo City Hall, Ashkenazi Synagogue, and Catholic Cathedral were also added to the expanding city. The growth of Sarajevo was interrupted on June 28, 1914 when Gavrilo Princip assassinated Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophia during their visit to Sarajevo, setting off an unfortunate chain of events that led to the start of World War I.
Following the Treaty of Versailles in 1918 that ended World War I, Sarajevo, along with Bosnia and Herzegovina, became a part of the newly-formed Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. It remained within the later-renamed Kingdom of Yugoslavia until the beginning of World War II, when the monarchy was abolished and, following the end of the war, the new socialist Yugoslavia was created. By 1984, when the city hosted 14th Winter Olympic Games, Sarajevo was a modern city of around 500,000 people.
Unfortunately, the Olympic flame was to flicker for a brief period of time only. Eight years later, in 1992, Sarajevo was trapped in a siege that lasted until the end of 1995. In addition to being exposed to daily sniper and mortar fire, the inhabitants of the city suffered severe shortages of food and fuel during the nearly four-year siege. Thousands of mortars fell upon the city, killing many and severally damaging it. The only life-line was an 800-meter-long tunnel, dubbed Tunnel of Hope, through which food and other supplies were brought in. To fight back the despair, people of Sarajevo attempted to preserve some degree of normalcy. Consequently, classes were held in bomb shelters, plays were shown in basement make-shift theaters, and Sarajevo’s famed Sarajevo Film Festival was held in the besieged city in the summer of 1995.
Despite the fact that the scars of war are still very visible everywhere you look, Sarajevo’s spirit remains unbroken and the city is slowly reclaiming its shine.