A brief background & history of Mostar

Mostar, city in southwestern Bosnia and Herzegovina, on the Neretva River. Mostar is the main city of Herzegovina, traditionally an administrative unit within the republic. The city’s economy is based on the textile, tobacco, and food-processing industries; there is also bauxite mining in the region. However, economic activity was seriously disrupted by war between the country’s three main ethnic groups, the Bosnian Muslims, Serbs, and Croats, which lasted from 1992 to 1995. The city is home to the University of Mostar (founded in 1977).

Mostar was founded in the 1400s and flourished during the succeeding four centuries of Ottoman rule. Along with the rest of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the city was occupied by Austria-Hungary in 1878; in 1918 Mostar was included in the newly established Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (later renamed Yugoslavia). In April 1992, shortly after Bosnia and Herzegovina declared its independence from Yugoslavia, Bosnian Serbs, backed by the Yugoslav People’s Army, launched an offensive in eastern Bosnia.

A federation was forged between Bosnian Croats and Muslims in March 1994, putting an end to the hostilities between them. Mostar suffered extensive physical damage as a result of the war and its population declined. Before the war, Mostar was almost evenly divided among Muslims, Croats, and Serbs. Today there are no Serbs in the city, and the Muslim and Croat populations are politically divided, with Muslims living on the devastated eastern bank of the Neretva, and Croats on the less damaged western bank; travel is restricted between the two sides of the city.

The war quickly spread to the Mostar region, where Bosnian Croats and Muslims fought against the Serbs. In July 1992, after the Serbs were defeated in Mostar, the Croats proclaimed their own state in the area, called the Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia, intending to annex it to Croatia. They established Mostar as their capital and set up a parliament there. By spring 1993 fighting had broken out between Muslims and Croats; the fighting was especially fierce around Mostar. In November Mostar’s most famous landmark—a single-arch bridge over the Neretva, designed by Turkish architect Mimar Hairedin in 1566—was destroyed by Bosnian Croat forces. By the end of the year, the Croats had largely asserted their control of the city.

The university continues to hold classes but must do so in private homes. Mostar came under the administration of the European Union (EU) in June 1994. In December 1996 the EU mandate ended, and the Bosnian government took over administration of the city. Population (1990 estimate) city, 63,427; (1991 estimate) metropolitan area, 126,067.