Sarajevo reopens landmark city hall and library destroyed in war

Fri May 9, 2014 4:09pm EDT
 
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By Daria Sito-Sucic

SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Sarajevo's City Hall, a building marked by two 20th-century wars, re-opened on Friday, restored to its former glory after being destroyed by Serb shelling of the besieged city in 1992.

The neo-Moorish 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 2 million books including many rare volumes reflecting its multicultural life under the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires.

"Tonight ... we mark the triumph of civilization over barbarism, of light over darkness, of life over death and the triumph of the idea of unity and co-existence over the idea of inhuman and unnatural divisions and clashes," said Bakir Izetbegovic, the Muslim Bosniak member of Bosnia's three-man inter-ethnic presidency.

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

But an absence of Bosnian Serb officials at the opening reflected the fact that Bosnia's three peoples still have conflicting visions of both the country's future and its past.

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The restored "Vijecnica" (city hall) is seen in Sarajevo May 8, 2014. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic