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Sarajevo is the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina and its leading political, socio-economic, educational and cultural center. Mathematically and geographically, the city center is located near the geographical coordinates of 43° 51’ N. and 18° 25’ E. The location of Sarajevo can be considered generally favorable, given its positioning in the central part of the country, and the fact that it is connected with other parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also with other European countries, with Sarajevo Airport being of the greatest importance. When it comes to the territorial scope of Sarajevo, then it should be noted that there are different definitions of the same. Until the beginning of the 1990s, the city of Sarajevo consisted of the following municipalities: Centar, Ilidža, Novi Grad, Novo Sarajevo, Stari Grad, Vogošća, Hadžići, Ilijaš, Pale and Trnovo. With the signing of the Dayton Agreement, the Sarajevo Canton was created, within which the City of Sarajevo was formed from four municipalities – Stari Grad, Centar, Novo Sarajevo and Novi Grad, with an area of 141 km².
According to the physiognomic regionalization of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the entire area of Sarajevo is located within the Mountain-Valley macroregion, which includes the upper parts of the Vrbas, Bosna and Drina basins. The basic determinant for the separation of this regional unit is the very pronounced dynamics of the terrain, i.e. the entanglement of high mountains and river valleys in a relatively small area. Almost the entire area of Sarajevo Canton is located in the Bosna River Basin.
The mountain-valley geography of Sarajevo created specific natural characteristics of the area it occupies. The city is located in the Sarajevo valley, which represents the southern end of a larger morphostructure, for which the name Sarajevo-Zenica valley is usually used. In geological terms, this area is called the Sarajevo-Zenica Neogene basin, since it is mostly formed of lake sediments from the Miocene. Flattened parts of this valley, such as Sarajevo plain is covered with alluvial deposits. The lowest parts of the city territory are located at an altitude of under 500 meters (the zone of Rajlovac and Reljevo), while some slope urban zones of the Old Town reach above 800 meters. The city center is located at an altitude of between 540 and 550 meters. Mount Trebević (1627 meters) is a dominant relief structure in the immediate vicinity of the city center, and in the wider surroundings there are mountains Igman, Bjelašnica, Jahorina, Ozren, and numerous hills such as Žuč, Hum, Grdonj, Kromolj, Mojmilo and others.
The climate position is defined by location in the southern part of the northern temperate climate zone. The Sarajevo valley is dominated by the temperate climate type Cfb, expressed through the four clearly differentiated seasons, slightly lower average temperatures compared to most other cities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the moderate annual rainfall (between 900 and 1000 millimeters). On the mountains around Sarajevo, the climate conditions change significantly due to the impact of altitude, and are characterized by significantly lower temperatures and a slightly higher amount of precipitation, which is especially true for a snow during winter. The winter period of the year is often critical in Sarajevo from the aspect of air quality, considering its valley topography. During the stable atmospheric conditions, a temperature inversion causes the impossibility of air pollutants to disperse from the valley, which then accumulate in the lower layers of the same, creating smog.
Since it is located in the contact zone between the limestone-dolomite and water-resistant geological formations, Sarajevo with its immediate surroundings is an area abundant in water. In this regard, the locality of Vrela Bosne west of the town, where Bosna, one of the largest rivers in Bosnia and Herzegovina, originates, should be especially emphasized. Miljacka is its right tributary, in which valley, between the narrow canyon of Bentbaša and wider segment of Sarajevo plain, the city itself has developed. This relatively short river is formed by the confluence of the Paljanska and Mokranjska Miljacka rivers, a few kilometers east of the city, and flows into Bosna near Butile in the northwestern part of the Sarajevo plain. Numerous streams that used to flow down the city slopes and flow into Miljacka, have been turned into underground sewage system due to the urbanization process. Within the same process, the Miljacka riverbed was concreted. Urbanization has significantly changed the pedological and vegetation characteristics of the densely populated Sarajevo valley. Nevertheless, most of the preserved original natural environment can be found in the protected areas (natural monuments) Skakavac and Vrelo Bosne, which are located in the immediate outskirts of the city. The Skakavac Natural Monument is named after one of the highest waterfalls in Bosnia and Herzegovina (98 meters). Trebević and Bentbaša were declared protected landscapes.
Thanks to its geographical position, the area of today’s Sarajevo was inhabited even in the prehistoric period. The first settlements date from the Late Stone Age – Neolithic, when the settlement of Butmir was formed along the Željeznica River. From the Bronze Age, settlements with a purpose of defence stand out, such as Gradac near Kotorac, Nakle near Vojkovići, Rogoš near Blažuj, or Vrutci near Vrelo Bosne. In the early Iron Age, Illyrians have founded the settlements of Debelo Brdo with Zlatište and Soukbunar, Gradac (above the streams Bistrik and Koševo), Nahorevo, Orlovac, Močila and others. In the first century of the new era, the area of today’s Sarajevo was inhabited by the Romans, who formed settlements at Debelo Brdo, Vratnik, Alipašin Most, Švrakino Selo, Blažuj and Stup. The main Roman settlement that had the status of a municipality and administrative center was Aquae S… (in the area of today’s Ilidža). The seventh century is the time of invasion of Slavs, who founded a parish spread over the Sarajevo Plain and the surrounding mountains called Vrhbosna with its capital – Hodidjed (most likely the site of today’s Bijela Tabija or in Bulozi). The parish consisted of a number of smaller villages, of which Brodac near Bentbaša stands out. From the mentioned village, a couple of centuries later, the formation of today’s Sarajevo will begin.
At the beginning of the 15th century, the parish of Vrhbosna was conquered by the Ottomans, but only in a formal sense, while their settlement began a little later. The presence of the Ottomans in this area is evident in their characteristical urbanization – clearly differentiated residential (mahala) and business (bazaar) zones. During this period, Sarajevo acquired new urban functions, and the middle phase of the 15th century is considered as the first phase of urban development, with the construction of the Gazi Isa-bey Ishaković waqf building. The year 1462 is taken as the year of the Sarajevo foundation, and Isa-bey Ishaković as its founder. During this period, Sarajevo acquired the status of a town and gained buildings that are centers of spiritual and material culture, such as Emperor’s Mosque, dam on Miljacka, Kolobara Inn and bezistan next to it, and even Baščaršija square. As the second phase of urban development, it was marked by Gazi Husrev-bey’s waqf, which also marks the beginning of the most significant period of town spatial expansion. During that period, the Bey’s mosque was built and around it a madrasa, two mausoleums, the Tašlihan caravanserai, a Turkish bath and many other buildings of social and economic significance. Sarajevo grew from a town into a city (šeher). Oriental Sarajevo reached the peak of urban development at the end of the 16th century, when it stretched from Bentbaša to present Marijin Dvor and had about 50,000 inhabitants, of various religious affiliations and social classes.
The Austro-Hungarian occupation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (in 1878) brought to Sarajevo a transition from an extremely feudal society to a capitalist system, which significantly affected the spatial image of the city. Due to its geographical position and historical background, Sarajevo kept the status of capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and all acquired Ottoman administrative institutions have been retained for the needs of the new government. Many new buildings have been built, such as: City Hall, Court, Post Office, Bank, Cathedral, National Museum, schools, railway stations, etc. During the 40 years of Austro-Hungarian rule, Sarajevo reached a population of 60,000 and an area of 13 km².
Between the two world wars, Sarajevo stagnated in territorial, economic and demographic terms. The new construction took place within the already existing city zone, inherited from the Austro-Hungarian period. After the Second World War, Sarajevo became the administrative center of the Socialist Republic. This period is characterized by rapid industrialization that entails processes such as deagrarization and urbanization, which resulted in inflows of a larger number of inhabitants into the city. This was mostly the rural population (rural-urban migration), by whose migration Sarajevo experienced sudden changes, such as demographic and economic growth. During this period, the city was divided into four counties (districts): I (Vratnik, Kovači and the eastern part of Center), II (western part of Center, northern part of Marijin Dvor and Bjelave), III (Bistrik, Čobanija and the southern part of Marijin Dvor) and IV (Novo Sarajevo, Kovačići and the Western part of Marijin Dvor). This division also marked beginning of the formation of city municipalities.
Sarajevo expanded significantly in later years, so in the 1970s it had an area of 650 km² (Centar, Ilidža, Novo Sarajevo and Vogošća). Pale, Hadžići, Ilijaš and Trnovo were annexed to Sarajevo in 1977, and a year later the municipality of Centar was divided into Centar and Stari Grad, and Novo Sarajevo into the municipality of the same name and Novi Grad. Architectural legacies from this period are: Koševo Stadium, Grbavica Stadium, cable car to Trebević, Bare City Cemetery, Skenderija, RTV Headquarter, Youth Theater and industrial companies such as Famos, Pretis, etc. All this development has positioned Sarajevo as an administrative, cultural and industrial center of the wider area of that time, thus creating preconditions for the candidacy to host the 14th Winter Olympic Games, which were held in the period from February 8th to 19th in 1984. Total of 1272 competitors from 49 world countries took part in the Games in six sports disciplines, and Sarajevo was proclaimed the best organizer of the Winter Olympic Games in history until then. The second half of the 1980s was marked by crises, both political and economic. Until the beginning of the war destruction (1992-1995), Sarajevo existed within the territorial borders from the end of the 1970s, and had a population of about 520,000. The war destruction and siege of the City left a significant mark on the spatial and functional aspect of the city. The Dayton Peace Agreement, signed in 1995, marked the end of the war, and Bosnia and Herzegovina was politically and territorially divided into two entities – Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska. The larger entity, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, is further divided into 10 cantons, i.e. territorial units, each of which has its own administrative seat. In this structure, the City of Sarajevo, consisting of four city municipalities (Stari Grad, Centar, Novo Sarajevo and Novi Grad), exists as the administrative center of Sarajevo Canton and Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as national capital. At the same time, it is the economic, cultural, educational, health and transport center of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
According to the last census from 2013, the City of Sarajevo has a population of 275,524 inhabitants, while the whole Sarajevo Canton has 413,593 inhabitants. Novi Grad stands out as the most populated municipality with 118,553 inhabitants, which is the carrier of almost 30% of total population of the Canton. The population densities of the City of Sarajevo (about 2000 people per square kilometer) and the Sarajevo Canton (324 people per square kilometer) are significantly above the national average, which makes this area part of the demographic backbone of the country. The most densely populated is municipality of Novo Sarajevo, which it also the most densely populated municipality in the entire country (almost 100 times higher than the national average), as well as highly urbanized neighborhoods such as Alipašino polje, Dobrinja, Otoka, etc. When it comes to the natural change of the population, Sarajevo Canton is characterized by two opposite demographic trends. While the City of Sarajevo records negative rates of natural change (with the exception of Novi Grad), the suburban municipalities (Ilidža, Vogošća, Hadžići and Ilijaš) are among the most demographically vital areas of Bosnia and Herzegovina. According to biological characteristics, the population of Sarajevo Canton is characterized by a stationary type of population (higher share of young people compared to the old population, which records a slight increase in recent years). When it comes to the mechanical movement of the population, Sarajevo is the immigration core of the country and the main center for internal migration. Taking into account the statistics of the relevant institutions, it is possible to interpret the results of domestic population movements, according to which Sarajevo records a positive net migration rate. However, these institutions do not have quantitative statistics or adequate mechanisms to measure the number of those who emigrated abroad.
Sarajevo, as the educational center of the country, is an area of concentration of highly educated population, so it is only in the school year 2017/18 about 29,000 students were enrolled in the higher education, of which about 86% at the University of Sarajevo.
The economic and social position of Sarajevo is determined by the fact that it is a capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In 2017, Sarajevo Canton achieved the value of GDP in the amount of 6.6 billion KM, which is 32.5% of the total gross domestic product of Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The structure of GDP is composed mostly by tertiary and quaternary activities, such as wholesale and retail trade, information, communications, while the share of 8% is generated by the activities of production and supply of electricity and gas. Secondary sector activities account for 16.4% of total GDP. Employment rate in 2017 was 66.4%, and the highest concentration of work force and employees is in the municipalities of Centar and Novi Grad. The population is mostly employed in the field of financial activities, hotels and restaurants. The percentage of 33% of total investments, 27% of all business subjects at the entity level, as well as 50% of the total number of all tourists who visited the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, speaks of its development and positioning in relation to other cantons and urban centers of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Data taken from the Sarajevo Canton Development Report, Sarajevo Canton Planning Institute, 2017). According to available indicators, Sarajevo is an area of concentration of basic economic potentials (population, employment, volume of foreign trade, etc.). The analysis of municipalities according to the development index (composite indicator calculated as a weighted average of several socio-economic indicators, such as employment or education structure) positions the municipalities of City of Sarajevo at the very top of administrative units ranking in Bosnia and Herzegovina, with Centar on 1st place.