History in Bosnia and Herzegovina is divisive and it depends on who you talk to and their ethnic background as to what edition of events you will be told.
The conflicts of the 1990’s have also had a hand in re-writing the history of this region, so we have chosen to take this extract from wikipedia to give you a general, unbiased overview of the area you will be based in during your time in this exciting country.
We are situated close to Banja Luka and the name “Banja Luka” was first mentioned in a document dated February 6, 1494, but Banja Luka’s history dates back to ancient times. There is a substantial evidence of the Roman presence in the region during the first few centuries A.D., including an old fort “Kastel” (Castra, lat.) in the centre of the city. The area of Banja Luka was entirely in the kingdom of Illyria, then a part of the Roman province of Illyricum, which split into the provinces of Pannonia and Dalmatia which Castra became part of.
Slavs settled in 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 is interpreted as “Ban’s meadow”, from the words ban (“a medieval dignitary”), and luka (“a valley” or “a meadow”). The identity of the ban and the meadow in question remain uncertain, and popular etymology combines the modern words banja (“bath” or “spa”), or bajna (“marvelous”) and luka (“port”). A different interpretation is suggested by the Hungarian name “Lukácsbanya”, i.e. “Luke’s Mine”, which is also the meaning of Slovak “Banja Luka”. In modern usage, the name is pronounced and usually declined (u Banjaluci) as one word, and often written as such; the citizens reportedly prefer the more correct form with inflected adjective (u Banjoj Luci).
Besides the “Kastel” fort (lat. Castra) there is also a Roman Catholic Franciscan monastery, built in the 20th century in Banja Luka’s neighbourhood of Petrićevac and an earlier Trappist monastery from the 19th century that lent its name to the neighbourhood of Trapisti and has left a large legacy in the area through its famous Trappist cheese and its beer production.
The former Ferhadija Mosque in Banja Luka
During Ottoman rule in Bosnia, Banja Luka was the seat of the Bosnian pashaluk, and the lords of the region built what is nowadays the main street of the city. The most prominent pasha was Ferhat-paša Sokolović, who ruled between 1566 and 1574. Like his brother, the Grand Vizier Mehmed-pasha Sokolović, Ferhat had been abducted, Islamized and recruited into Ottoman service. The Serbian Orthodox Patriarch of Peć, Makarije Sokolović, appointed by Mehmet Pasha, who with the support of the Sultan had revived the Peć patriachate, was a close relative.
Ferhat Pasha was one of the main founders of what was Banja Luka’s town core during the Ottoman rule. He built over 200 projects ranging from artisan and sales shops to wheat warehouses, baths and mosques. Among his more important constructions were the Ferhadija and Arnaudija mosques, the former, as tradition has it, erected with moneys from the Austrian Auersperg family paid to buy back Herbard von Auersperg’s head decapitated by Ferhat Beg after his victory at Croatian Budačka in 1575, and as ransom for the release of Herbard’s son, Wolf Engelbrecht von Auersperg, who had been taken captive in that battle.
During the construction of the mosques, plumbing infrastructure was laid that served the surrounding residential areas. All this stimulated the economic and urban development of Banja Luka, which soon became one of the leading commercial and political centres in Bosnia.
Banja Luka at the turn of the 20th century.
In 1688, the city was burned down by the Austrian army, but it quickly recovered. Later periodic intrusions by the Austrian army stimulated military developments in Banja Luka, which made it into a strategic military centre. Orthodox churches and monasteries near Banja Luka were built in the 19th century. Also, Sephardic Jews and Trappists migrated to the city in the 19th century and contributed to the early industrialisation of the region by building mills, breweries, brick factories, textile factories and other important structures.
For all its leadership to the region however, Banja Luka as a city was not modernised until Austro-Hungarian rule in the late 19th century. Austrian occupation brought westernisation to Banja Luka. Railroads, schools, factories, and infrastructure appeared, and were developed. This led to a modern city, which, after World War I, became the capital of the Vrbas Banovina, a province of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.
Banski dvor in Banja Luka
The provincial capital owed its rapid progress to the first Ban Svetislav Milosavljević. During that time the Banski dvor and its twin sister, the Administration building, the Serbian Orthodox Church of the Holy Trinity, a theatre and a museum were built, the Grammar School was renovated, the Teachers College enlarged, a city bridge was also built and the park renovated. 125 elementary schools were functioning in Banja Luka in 1930.
The revolutionary ideas of the time were incubated by the “Pelagić” association and the Students’ Club. Banja Luka naturally became the organisational centre of anti-fascist work in the region. During World War II, Banja Luka was occupied by the Croatian Ustashe regime. Most of Banja Luka’s noble Serbs and Sephardic Jewish families were deported to nearby Croatian concentration camps such as Jasenovac and Stara Gradiška. On February 7, 1942 the Ustaše forces, led by a Croatian Franciscan monk, Miroslav Filipović (aka Tomislav Filipović-Majstorović) killed numerous Serbs (among them children) in Drakulići, Motike and Šargovac (part of the Banja Luka municipality). The city’s Orthodox church of the Holy Trinity was totally demolished by the Ustashe occupation authorities.
The city was finally liberated on April 22, 1945. Banja Luka was the home of many World War II heroes, such as the brothers Vahida and Osman Maglajlić. The nursing school in Banja Luka carried their names, but during the Bosnian war it was changed by the Bosnian Serb authorities, as a part of the tremendous nationalism in the war-torn Bosnia and Herzegovina.
On 26 and 27 October 1969, two devastating earthquakes (6.0 and 6.4 on the Richter scale) damaged many buildings in Banja Luka. 15 people were killed, and over a thousand injured. A large building called Titanik in the centre of the town was razed to the ground, and the area was turned into a central public square. With contributions from all over Yugoslavia, Banja Luka was repaired and rebuilt. That was a period when a large Serb population moved to the city from the surrounding villages, and from distant areas in Herzegovina.