Banja Luka

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Бања Лука
Banja Luka
Location in Republika Srpska

Shown in bright red (click to enlarge)
The light red indicates the Republika Srpska entity
General Information
Entity Republika Srpska
Municipality area 96.2 km²
- (est.)

- (1991 census) 195,692
Coordinates 44°46′N 17°11′E
Area code +387 51
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
Mayor Dragoljub Davidović (SNSD)

Banja Luka or Banjaluka (Cyrillic: Бања Лука, pronounced: /ˌbaɲaˈluːka/) is the main city and the administrative seat of Republika Srpska and the second largest city in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the biggest in the Bosanska Krajina region. It is located in the northwest of the country, on the Vrbas river. The city is well-known in the former Yugoslavia for being full of tree-lined avenues, gardens, and parks. The population is estimated at 224.647. The city is the seat of the National Assembly of Republika Srpska, and the University of Banja Luka, one of the entity's two public universities, is located in the city.


[edit] Geography

Banja Luka covers some 96.2 km² (37.1 mi²) of land in northwestern Bosnia on the river Vrbas. The city is located at 44.78° N 17.19° E. Downtown is at 163 m above sea level, surrounded by hills.

The source of the river Vrbas is some 90 km. to the south, and the tributary rivers Suturlija, Crkvena, and Vrbanja flow into the Vrbas at Banja Luka. Banja Luka also has a number of springs close by.

The area immediately around Banja Luka is woodland, although a bit farther out there are a number of mountains. The city itself is built in the Banja Luka valley, which is located on the transition between high and low mountain areas. The most notable of these mountains are Manjača (1214 meters), Čemernica (1338 meters), and Tisovac (1172 meters). These are all part of the Dinaric Alps mountain range.

[edit] Climate

Banja Luka has a continental climate, with harsh winters and warm summers. The warmest month of the year is July, with an average temperature of 45 °C (? °F). The coldest month of the year is January, when temperatures average a near freezing 0.6 °C (33 °F).

Annual precipitation for Banja Luka is about 988 mm. Banja Luka has an average of 143 rainy days a year. Due to the city's high latitude, it snows in Banja Luka almost every year as well. Strong winds come from the north and northeast.

[edit] History

Kastel fortress
Kastel fortress

The name "Banja Luka" was first mentioned in a document dated February 06, 1494, but Banja Luka's history dates back to ancient times. There is substantial evidence of a Roman presence in the region during the first few centuries AD, including an old fort "Kastel" in the center of the city. The area of Banja Luka was wholly in the Roman province of Illyricum, lying on important Roman roads between Dalmatia and Pannonia.

Slavs settled 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 means "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 ("marvellous") and luka ("port"). In modern usage, the name is pronounced and usually declined (u Banjaluci) as one word, and often written as such; the citizens reportedly prefer the more correct form with inflected adjective (u Banjoj Luci).[1]

One of the first public structures after Kastel was a Franciscan monastery, built in 1378 in Banja Luka’s neighborhood of Petrićevac by Bosnian Franciscans. It was the first of such buildings in Bosnia.

Banja Luka at the turn of 20th century
Banja Luka at the turn of 20th century

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. Between 1566 and 1574 Ferhat Pasa Sokolovic, one of the founders of the Banjaluka’s town core, built over 200 projects ranging from artisan and sales shops to wheat warehouses, baths and mosques. Among his more important constructions were Ferhadija and Arnaudija mosques, during which construction a plumbing infrastructure was laid that served surrounding residential areas. All this stimulated economic and urban development of Banja Luka, that soon after became one of the leading commercial and political centers in Bosnia. In 1688 the city was set to the torch by an 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. Serb churches and monasteries near Banja Luka were built in the 13th -16th century. In the 19th century Sephardic Jews and Trappists migrated to the city, which contributed to the early industrialization of the region by building mills, breweries, brick factories, textile factories and other important structures. For all its leadership to the region however, Banja Luka as a city was not modernised until rule by Austria-Hungary 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, that after World War I became the capital of the Vrbas Banovina, a province of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. This period is viewed as the golden age of the town.

Orthodox church of the Holy Trinity
Orthodox church of the Holy Trinity

It owed its rapid progress to the first Ban Svetislav Milosavljević, who was enterprising and energetic. Thanks to him, Banski dvor and its twin sister the Administration building, the Serbian Orthodox Church of the Holy Trinity, theatre and museum were built, Grammar school was renovated, Teachers College enlarged, city bridge was also built and the park renovated. 125 elementary schools worked in Banja Luka in 1930. Revolutionary ideas of the time along the city were allocated by the association «Pelagić» and Student's Club. Banjaluka naturally became the organizational centre of anti-fascist work in the region.

During World War II, Banja Luka was occupied by the mostly native Roman Catholic Croatian Ustaše (pro-Nazi) regime. Most of Banja Luka's noble Serbian and Sephardic Jewish families were deported to nearby concentration death camps such as Jasenovac(more than 600 000 tortured and killed-Jad Washem info) and Stara Gradiška. On February 7, 1942 the Ustaše forces, led by a Franciscan monk, Miroslav Filipović (aka Tomislav Filipović-Majstorović) killed 2,500 Serbs (among them 500 children) in Drakulići, Motike and Sargovac (part of the Banja Luka municipality). The town's Orthodox church of the Holy Trinity was razed to the ground by the Nazi German occupation authorities [1]. The city was finally liberated on April 22, 1945.

In 1969, a devastating earthquake damaged many buildings in Banja Luka. 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 Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia regions, Banja Luka was repaired and rebuilt. However, much of the old city center that had many small buildings and shops from Austrian-Hungarian and Ottoman periods were damaged beyond repair and were subsequently razed.

The city underwent considerable changes during the Yugoslav wars. Upon the declaration of establishment of Republika Srpska, Banja Luka became the de facto center of the entity's politics, and in 2003 it officially became the capital of Republika Srpska. Some Croats and Muslims were taken to nearby detention camps, Manjaca and Omarska. Some Serb Banjalukans also left for economic reasons or to dodge the draft, in the same period and years after it. Banja Luka's Bosniak and Bosnian Croat population is now much smaller than before the war. Many Serb refugees who left or were forced to leave Krajina and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (mostly from Sanski Most and Kljuc) moved to the city and its surroundings in the mid-1990s. Serb economic migrants from neighbouring areas of the Republika Srpska also followed suit. As of 2004, many of its current inhabitants are said to be refugees or displaced persons - according to some as many as a third of them, even though the authorities have only registered some 18,000. A number of former residents of Banja Luka currently reside in the city of Hamtramck, Michigan (5 miles from downtown Detroit).

Ferhat-Pasha "Ferhadija" Mosque (1579 - 1993)
Ferhat-Pasha "Ferhadija" Mosque (1579 - 1993)

All 16 mosques dating from 15th and 16th century in the city were destroyed in the recent war between 1992 and 1995 by Serb extreme nationalists believed to be supported by the authorities of Republika Srpska as part of their ethnic cleansing campaign. Among the destroyed mosques was the Ferhadija mosque, a national monument at the time protected by UNESCO. Recent attempts to reconstruct the Ferhadija mosque resulted in mass riots by Serb nationalists on May 7, 2001. Some 4,000 Serb rioters beat and stoned three hundred Bosniaks, who were participating in a ceremony commemorating the laying of the cornerstone for the reconstruction. At least eight Bosniaks were taken to the Banja Luka hospital for medical treatment. One of them died on May 26, 2001, of head injuries. While many mosques in Banja Luka are being rebuilt the reconstruction of Ferhadija still has not started, although the Serb authorities in Banja Luka have issued all necessary documents, and permissions. According to the Islamic Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the reconstruction should begin in 2006.

Many Catholic churches also sustained damage or were destroyed during this conflict. Most Catholic churches, however, were intact during the period from 1992 to 1994. Not until 1995 did the Serbian refugees from Croatia destroy the Catholic church in Petričevac, in retaliation for being forced out of Croatia during the "Oluja" (Operation Storm) military operation.

[edit] Demographics

[edit] Current population

The population of the city of Banja Luka is about 196,500. Along with the metro area, Banja Luka's population reaches some 220,000 people. Although there is a lack of official statistics on ethnic distribution, there is little doubt that Serbs make up an overwhelming majority in the city. It is said that 65,000 of today's Banja Luka population are refugees or displaced persons.

Banja Luka municipality 2006:

  • Serbs (99%)
  • Others(1%)

[edit] 1991

According to the 1991. census, the municipality of Banja Luka had a population of 195,692, including:

[edit] 1981

According to the 1981. census, the municipality of Banja Luka had a population of 183,618, including:

[edit] 1971

According to the 1971. census, the municipality of Banja Luka had a population of 158,736, including:

[edit] Settlements (over 1,500 residents), 1991. census

  • Banja Luka

total: 143,079

  • Ivanjska

total: 4,577

  • Piskavica

total: 3,798

  • Rekavice

total: 2,679

  • Dragočaj

total: 2,578

  • Kola

total: 2,241

  • Motike

total: 2,009

  • Krupa na Vrbasu

total: 1,858

  • Bistrica

total: 1,703

  • Bočac

total: 1,685

  • Pavlovac

total: 1,522

  • Šimići

total: 1,516

  • 1,493 - 98.48% Croats
  • 8 - 0.52% Serbs
  • 15 - 0.98% others and unknown

[edit] Historical population

See also: Historical population of Banja Luka

Ethnic composition of Banja Luka municipality in 1981. Serbs Croats No clear majority (Serbs, Croats, Muslims (Bosniaks), Yugoslavs) Uninhabited or no data
Ethnic composition of Banja Luka municipality in 1981.
No clear majority (Serbs, Croats, Muslims (Bosniaks), Yugoslavs)
Uninhabited or no data

At the first census, conducted by Austro-Hungarian authorities in 1879, Banja Luka had the following religious (ethnic) composition:

Banja Luka municipality - 86,209 citizens, Orthodox 74.46%, Muslims 14.33%, Catholics 10.52%

Banja Luka city - 13,566 citizens, Muslims 67.71%, 19.8% Orthodox.

As the city was industrialized and wider urbanization of the surrounding areas took place, Orthodox Serbs that typically inhabited surrounding rural areas (due to Ottoman feudal system) were incorporated into the city's urban structure. Bosnian Muslims claim that their drop of percentage in the city's population was partly influenced by the Agrarian Reform of 1918, which ordered major landowners to transfer land to those who tilled it, who in this region were mostly Orthodox Serbs. The Agrarian Reform was introduced as means to dismantle the old Bosnian feudal system. Bosnian Muslims claim that the reform was abused to change the ethnic makeup of the region in the long term. Bosnian Serbs claim that Agrarian Reform was introduced to return the land stolen from the native Orthodox and Catholic people by the Ottoman Empire. Because city was in the center of the Bosnian Krajina region, with a predominant Orthodox Serb majority, the Serb population of Banja Luka has been steadily increasing.

Banja Luka is the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Banja Luka and home to the Cathedral of St. Bonaventure.

During World War II most of Banja Luka's prominent Serbian and Sephardic Jewish families were deported to nearby Croatian concentration camps, such as Jasenovac and Stara Gradiska in Croatia. Today, Banja Luka's Jewish community is virtually non-existent. A spike in Serbian immigration was mostly noted after the earthquake of 1969, when the city has seen a boom in housing construction.

In 1991 the city of Banja Luka was still an ethnically mixed city (with a relative Serb majority), while on the municipal level there was an evident Serb majority of 54.6%.

[edit] Government

The building of the Assembly of the City of Banja Luka
The building of the Assembly of the City of Banja Luka

Banja Luka plays an important role on different levels of Bosnia and Herzegovina's government structures. Banja Luka is the center of government for the Municipality of Banja Luka.

A number of entity and state institutions are seated in the city. The Republika Srpska Government and the National Assembly are based in Banja Luka. The BiH State Agencies based in the city include the Indirect Taxation (VAT) Authority, the Deposit Insurance Agency as well as a branch of the Bosnian Central Bank (formerly the National Bank of Republika Srpska).

[edit] Economy

Although the city itself was not directly affected by the war in the early 1990s, Banja Luka's economy was. For four years, Banja Luka fell behind the world in key areas such as technology, resulting in a rather stagnant economy today.

In 1990, the Banja Luka region had exports worth 400 million US$. Although the economy today is a far cry from what it used to be, many of the industries are the same. Among the chief industries in Banja Luka are metal working, wood processing, leather, textiles, rubber processing, the tobacco industry, and food processing.

In recent years, financial services sector has gained in importance in the city. In 2002, trading began on the newly-established Banja Luka Stock Exchange. Since then, the stock exchange has gone from strength to strength. The number of companies listed, the trading volume and the number of investors have increased significantly. A number of big companies such as Telekom Srpske, Rafinerija ulja Modriča, Banjalučka pivara and Vitaminka are all listed on the exchange and are traded regularly. Investors, apart from those from Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia, now include a number of investment funds from the EU, Norway, USA, Japan and China.

A number of financial services regulators, such as the Republika Srpska Securities Commission and the RS Banking Agency are headquartered in Banja Luka. This, along with the fact that some of the major banks in Bosnia, the Deposit Insurance Agency and the Value-added tax (VAT) Authority are all based in the city, has helped Banja Luka establish itself as one of the main financial centres of the country.

[edit] Culture

Due to its long history, Banja Luka has a rich culture. A number of museums can be found in the city, including the Museum of Republika Srpska also known as the Museum of Bosanska Krajina, and the Ethnographic Museum, established in 1930. Banja Luka also has a national theatre, and library, both dating from the first half of the 20th century. There are numerous other museums and theatres in the city including the Museum of Modern Art of Republika Srpska.

Banski dvor
Banski dvor

One of the most famous cultural sites in Banja Luka is the cultural centre "Banski Dvor" (Halls of the Ban), built in the 1930s as a spot of residence for the Bans of the Vrbas Banovina. It is a beautiful building in the very center of the city. The National Assembly is inside, along with a concert hall, gallery, state television, and restaurant. Most of the main cultural and political leadership nowadays takes place inside of the building.

The relatively poorly preserved fortress Kastel is found in the center of the city. This medieval castle is one of Banja Luka’s main attractions but has recently become a gathering spot for drug addicts. Located on the bank of the Vrbas River, it gave specific charm to the city. During the summer some concerts took place in the fortress.

In the city there are many Cultural Artistic Associations. The oldest is RKUD "Pelagic" (1927), and it is the oldest institution of this kind in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

[edit] Nightlife

Banja Luka is a city of youth. It is a university city which currently hosts about 15,000 students, as well as 12,000 high school students.

City streets are lined with hundreds of café/bars, some with live music, others with DJ’s, rock music, as well as local folk music, which are open till late every night. Young people in Bosnia like to go out to have lengthy chats and watch people walking by as they drink coffee. In Banja Luka there are places such as KIC on Milana Rakica Street, Vienna, on the main street, and Kastel, within the grounds of the city’s medieval castle.

There are always a few nightclubs that are currently fashionable. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays are convenient as the clubs are less crowded. Saturdays are very busy, with the city clubs buzzing throughout the night. Many clubs are very popular for example Kruna, Tavita, Moloko, Irish pub "Orthodox celts" and Hard rock caffee. If you are planning to visit Banja Luka you have to see very good place to go out on every day in week which name is Lovac ( Lovac means Hunter). The bar `Lovac` is located in centre of Banja Luka with the live music. The most important thing about Banja Luka's night life is that you can't get bored-there's always some club to hang out.

[edit] Events

In the summer, there are many festivals going on, with live bands playing outdoor venues, DJ’s and dances put on. The main festivals include: Banja Luka Choir Gathering (April - May), Theater Festival "Teatar Fest" (May), The Month of Rock Music (June), Folklore Days Banja Luka (July - August, every Thursday), Summer on the Vrbas (July) Banja Luka Summer Games (August) as well as the Banja Luka Fashion Week.

[edit] Sport

Banja Luka has one major football stadium and several indoor sports halls. The local handball and football teams bear the traditional name Borac (fighter), though the basketball club was recently renamed to Banjalučka pivara, after the Banja Luka brewery.

The city has a long tradition of good handball players and teams. RK Borac was the European Champion in 1976, the European Vice-Champion in 1975 and the winner of the IHF Cup in 1991.

Recently, tennis has taken on a bigger role in the city. The local tennis tournament, "Memorijal Trive Vujića", has become professional and has been awarded ATP status in 2001, with the rank of a Challenger. The Banja Luka Challenger takes place in September each year. Also, in 2006, the Davis Cup matches of the Europe/Africa Zone Group III took place in the city. Apart from Bosnia and Herzegovina, the teams included Monaco, Estonia, Turkey, Lithuania, Moldova, Armenia and Andorra.

In 2005, the European Championships in Rafting were held on the river Vrbas. According to the International Rafting Federation: "The event was hugely successful and the hosts are to be praised for the exemplary manner in which they ran the event, managed the media and looked after the competitors, staff and spectators...". Many nations took part, with the Czech Republic being the most successful.

[edit] Tourism

The natural beauties of the surrounding area guarantee the city of Banja Luka a good position in tourism. Banja Luka has a number of hotels, the oldest one dating back to 1885. The city and surrounding area have a number of popular tourist attractions. Among the most famous are the pools, thermal springs, and spas in the region. The area is popular among nature lovers, while the city center is attractive to tourists due to its historical structures and many restaurants. Very beautifil place to see Banja Luka is Ban Hill. Really presentation of Banja Luka is fallwater of river Vrbas in place near Banja Luka which name is Krupa.

Rafting on the Vrbas is an underappreciated local tourist attraction.

The city was once nicknamed the "Green City", due to its parks, and over 10,000 trees.

[edit] Transportation

Banja Luka has one International Airport, but there is only a flight to and from Zürich on Wednesday and Saturday, and to Istanbul on Monday at 07.45 and back on Wednesday and Thursday. During the summer of 2005, it has a flight to and from Antalya, Turkey, once a week. Note: data about flights are taken from the official airport site for the date March 14, 2006. International bus services are available to and from Austria, Croatia, Germany, France, Italy, Montenegro, The Netherlands, Serbia, Sweden, Switzerland and Slovakia. Trains are available to Zagreb, Croatia and Belgrade, Serbia, and from there on to the rest of Europe.

[edit] International cooperation

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[edit] References

  1. ^ Ivan Lovrenović, " ‘Serb’ towns in Bosnia", BH Dani, 20 July 2001

[edit] External links

Political divisions of Bosnia and Herzegovina
Zastava Bosne i Hercegovine