Banja Luka is the second largest city in Bosnia and Herzegovina with a population of 196,500 (metro population 220,000). It is also the capital of the Republika Srpska entity and a region known as Bosanska Krajina. It houses the entity's government, while it is also the center of the Banja Luka Region, and a municipality of the same name. Banja Luka is famous for its culture and history, which dates back to the high middle ages. It is located in northwestern Bosnia, on the river Vrbas.
Geography and Climate
Banja Luka covers some 93.2 km² (57.9 mi²) of land in northwestern Bosnia on the river Vrbas. Latitude and longitude wise, Banja Luka is located at 44°78' N latitude and 17°19' E longitude.
The spring of the river Vrbas is located nearby, and the tributary rivers Suturlija, Crkvena, and Vrbanja flow into Vrbas in 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.
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 20°C (68°F). The coldest month of the year is January, where temperatures reach a near freezing 0.6°C (33°F).
Annual precipitation for Banja Luka is about 988mm. Banja Luka has an average of 52 rain days a year. Due to the city's high latitude, it snows in Banja Luka every year as well. Strong winds come from the north and northeast.
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 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 "an area close to water". The identity of the ban and the meadow in question remain uncertain, and a popular naive ethymology combines modern words banja ("bath" or "spa"), and luka ("port"),
During Ottoman rule, Banja Luka grew significantly in terms of importance. For a while, it was the seat of the Bosnian pashaluk, and the lords of the region built a variety of impressive structures that would make up the core of the city's old town. In 1688 the city was set to the torch by an Austrian army. For all its good to the region however, Banja Luka as a city wasn't modernized until rule by Austria_Hungary in the late 19th century.
Austrian occupation brought westernization to Banja Luka. Railroads, schools, factories, and infrastructure appeared and was developed. This led to a modern city of great importance, that after World War I became the center of the Vrbas province of the 1st Yugoslavia. During World War II, Banja Luka would be occupied by the Croatian Ustasha regime. It was liberated on April 22nd, 1945.
Aside from a devastating earthquake in 1969, Banja Luka's time in Yugoslavia was extremely beneficial. The city became far more urbanized as its population grew five fold. In the final years of the socialist Yugoslavia, Banja Luka's population was 150,000.
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 capitol of Republika Srpska. It is estimated that about 70,000 predominantly Bosniak and Croat residents were forced to leave the city between 1992-1995 as part of ethnic cleansing campaign of Republika Srpska. Some were taken to a nearby concentration camps Manjaca and Omarska while others are scattered througout the world. Banja Luka's Bosniak and Croat population is now much smaller than before the war. Many Serb refugees from Croatia and Muslim-Croat federation also moved to the city in the 1990s. As of 2004, one third of its current inhabitants are said to be "refugees" or "displaced persons".
The population of Banja Luka city 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. About 20% of Banja Luka's residents are unemployed.
According to the 1991 census, Banja Luka municipality had a population of some 195,139. Of these, 54.6% were Serbs, 14.8% were Croats, 14.6% were Bosniaks, 12.1% were "Yugoslavs", and 3.9% registered as others.
Banja Luka had one of the most dramatic demographic changes in last 100 years. This is most noticeable in its ethnic composition. At the first census that was conducted by Austria_Hungary authorities in 1879, Banja Luka had the following ethnic composition: Out of its 13,566 citizens, 67.71% were Bosniaks, 19.8% were Serbs and Montenegrins and 10.52% were Croats. The Bosniak natality had steadily declined since. First most dramatic decline occurred after 1918 when Bosnia and Herzegovina was included in the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (early Yugoslavia). Their sharp drop was due to Agrarian Reform of 1918 that confiscated the land owned by Bosniaks and given it to Serbian families. The actual numbers of Bosniaks was further obscured since they were stripped of their nationality in 1918 and had to declare themselves either as Serbs, Croats or undecideds until 1971. Serb population on the other hand has been steadily increasing:
A spike in Serb immigration was after the earthquake of 1969 when the city has seen a boom in housing construction. Also there was a steady movement of military personnel from Serbia and Montenegro that contributed to some 25,000 new Serb citizens to the city of Banja Luka. In 1991 the city of Banja Luka was still an ethnically mixed city while on the municipal level there was an evident Serb dominance of 54.6 %
Note: The population for 1969 and onwards represents the population of the entire Banja Luka Metropolitan area.
Banja Luka plays a very important role in government structures of Bosnia and Herzegovina on many different levels. Banja Luka is the center of government for the Municipality of Banja Luka and it is naturally the seat of its own city government. Also, in 2003 Banja Luka officialy became a capital of Republika Srpska. Furthermore, Banja Luka is split into a number of neighborhoods, which have a small amount of political power as well.
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, with the result being a rather stagnant economy today. A mere 20% or so of Banja Lukan citizens are unemployed.
In 1990, the Banja Luka region had an export worth of 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.
Due to its long history, Banja Luka has an equally long and rich culture. A number of museums can be found in the city, including the Museum of Republika Srpska aka Museum of Bosanska Krajina, and the Ethnographic Museum, established in 1930. Banja Luka also has a national theatre, and library, both also dating from the first half of the 20th century. There are numerous other museums and theatres in the city.Also there is Museum of Modern Art of Republika Srpska.
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 Vrbaš banovina. The well preserved fortress Kastel is found in the center of the city. 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 BiH.
All 16 mosques dating from 15th and 16th century in the city were razed to the ground by anonymous people at the time supported by the authorities of Republika Srpska as part of their ethnic cleansing campain. Among the destroyed mosques was Ferhadija mosque protected by UNESCO. Recent attempts to reconstruct the Ferhadija mosque resulted in mass riots by Serb nationalists on 7. May 2001. Some 4,000 Serb rioters beat and stoned three hundred elderly Bosniaks, participants of the ceremony commemorating the laying of the cornerstone for the reconstruction. At least eight people were taken to the Banja Luka hospital for medical treatment. One of them, Murat Badic, aged sixty-one, died on May 26 of head injuries.
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 natural lovers, while the city center is attractive to tourists due to its historical structures and many restaurants.
Banja Luka has one major football (soccer) stadium and several indoor sports halls. The local handball and soccer teams bear the traditional name Borac (fighter), though the basketball club was recently renamed to Banjalučka pivara, after the Banja Luka brewery.
The city was once nicknamed the "Green City", due to its trees (over 10,000 in number) and parks.
- Official page (http://www.banjaluka.rs.ba/_e/default.aspx)
- Guide through Banjaluka (http://www.banjalukaguide.com/)