Sarajevo reopens landmark city hall and library destroyed in war

Fri May 9, 2014 9:26am EDT
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By Daria Sito-Sucic

SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Sarajevo's City Hall, a stately neo-Moorish edifice marked by the violence of two 20th-century wars, has returned to its old glory after being destroyed by Serb shelling during the siege of the city in 1992.

The building, first opened in 1896, has been restored to mark the centenary of the start of World War One, triggered by the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand just after he left a reception there in June 1914.

Converted into the National Library in 1949, it went up in flames in August 1992, destroying almost two million books including many rare volumes reflecting its multicultural life under the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires.

Ceremonies to mark the reopening of "Vijecnica" (city hall), as it is known here, were due to take place later on Friday.

The building, which stands out in the city's old Turkish quarter with its dark orange and yellow horizontal stripes and Islamic-style arches, will house the national and university libraries, the city council and a museum about its own history.

"Vijecnica is a symbol of Sarajevo ... because the history of Vijecnica is the history of Sarajevo," said Mayor Ivo Komsic.

"I am so glad it will be opened again," said an elderly woman named Minka. "Especially because they rushed to destroy it but now they see it was in vain," she added, referring to the Serbs who had shelled the besieged city.


A combination photo shows the National Library burning after shelling in the besieged Bosnian capital of Sarajevo on August 26, 1992 (bottom), and after being renovated on May 8, 2014. REUTERS/Hidajet Delic (bottom)/Dado Ruvic