Banja Luka


Banja Luka or Banjaluka is a city settlement, i.e. a populated place within the city of Banja Luka as a local self-government unit in the Republic of Srpska (Bosnia and Herzegovina). It represents the political, administrative, financial, university and cultural center of the Republic of Srpska. According to data from 2013, Banja Luka with its wider area has 185,042 inhabitants.

Banja Luka used to be a strong economic center with developed mechanical, textile, food, wood processing and electrical industries. War events (1992-1995) and post-war social transition caused the decline of most industrial capacities and markets. Different cultures, customs and influences were intertwined in this city and its surroundings. All this left its mark on the architecture of certain parts of the city, but also on a large number of cultural and historical monuments as witnesses of different eras and human creativity. Due to numerous green areas (parks and alleys), Banja Luka is known as the city of greenery. Banja Luka City Day is April 22. On that day in 1945, the Sixth Krajina Brigade, headed by commander Milančić Miljević, marched triumphantly in Banja Luka, liberating it from the fascists.



The Museum of Republika Srpska inherited the Ethnographic Museum founded in 1930, and expanded its collections to the fields of archaeology, history, history of art and nature. The Museum of Contemporary Art of Republika Srpska, also known as MSURS, presents exhibitions of local and international artists.

Banja Luka houses the National Theater and the National Library, which date from the first half of the 20th century. In addition to the National Theater, the City Theater Jazavac and the Children's Theater of the Republic of Srpska also operate in Banja Luka. The seat of the Archives of the Republic of Srpska is located in a building known as the Imperial House, built around 1880. It has been in continuous public use longer than any other building in Banja Luka.

One of the most famous cultural centers of Banja Luka is "Banski Dvor", built in the 1930s as the seat of the bans of the Vrbaska banovina.

There are many cultural and artistic societies in the city. The oldest is RKUD Pelagić (founded in 1927), and it is also one of the oldest institutions of its kind in Bosnia and Herzegovina.



In the city and its surroundings, rich archaeological sites were discovered that speak of the original inhabitants of the area around Vrbas. A considerable fund of stone tools and weapons, which are assumed to have been used in the Late Paleolithic, was found on the territory of the Kastel fortress, in today's city center. In the same place, the existence of a Baden settlement from a slightly younger period, the Eneolithic (between 2000 and 1800 BC) was established. In addition to the remains of houses with wooden structures, plastered with mud, ceramic objects typical of that period were also discovered, such as cups with a tall cylindrical neck and ornaments, and conical clay weights, which could have been used in fishing or in primitive weaving technology.

The Roman general Germanicus occupied the area of ​​today's Banja Luka in the first years of the new era, after suppressing the famous Baton uprising. A Roman military camp, the Castra fortress (lat. Castrum Castra), was built on the site of Kastela, next to which a civilian settlement sprang up. Publius Cornelius Dolabella, the governor of Emperor Tiberius in the provinces of Illyricum and Dalmatia, built around the year 20 the Salt Road that connected Salona with Servicium, and Castra became an important urban settlement on that road. This can be concluded from the finds of late antique money, ceramics, stone, remains of brickyards, buildings and tombs in the city and nearby villages. Jupiter's altar from the second century was found near Kastel, which is kept in the National Museum in Sarajevo. The Romans discovered and used the healing properties of the thermo-mineral waters in Srpski Toplice, and at the springs in the vicinity of the city — Slatina and Laktaš.

The city was first mentioned under its current name in 1494, when the Hungarian king Vladislav II Jagiellon, in a charter addressed to the local commanders of the Jajačka banovina, mentioned the name of Juraj Mikulašić as castellan of Banja Luka. Linguists believe that the name of the city is derived from the word "ban" (that is, the archaic adjective "banja", meaning "bans") and "port", where port meant a meadow near the water. The town was located in the area of ​​Gornji Šeher, today Srpski toplica, on the left and right sides of Vrbas.

The Ottoman Empire
The Ottomans conquered Banja Luka in 1528. The city developed more strongly from 1553, when the seat of the Bosnian Sandžak was moved from Sarajevo to Banja Luka. The first sandjak-bey in Banja Luka was Sofi Mehmed Pasha. During his time, the volume of trade increased sharply, bridges over the Vrbas and a caravanserai were built. In the period from 1579 to 1587, Ferhat-paša Sokolović built a bazaar in an ideal area for settlement development, at the confluence of the Crkvena river with Vrbas (Donji Šeher). At that time, 216 public buildings were built, the most famous of which are: the Ferhadija mosque, a caravanserai, about 200 craft and trade shops, and granaries. In 1583, Banja Luka became the seat of the Bosnian Pashaluk, which it was until 1639.

During the Austrian-Turkish wars, Banja Luka was repeatedly devastated, and its population was killed or dispersed. The battle that took place around the Banjo Luka fortress in 1737 is particularly significant, in which both sides suffered heavy losses. In addition to military campaigns, Banja Luka was ravaged by large plague epidemics, the largest of which was between 1813 and 1816, as well as frequent devastating earthquakes. At the end of Turkish rule, the town had 1,126 houses, 103 of which were in the Serbian town. It is a significant road, with wide dimensions, planned in 1860 - today's Kralja Petra I street. With the construction of his store in Banja Luka, the Albanija building, in 1863, merchant Toma Radulović laid the foundations for the construction and urbanization of the street, which today represents Banja Luka's busiest promenade and shopping street - Gospodska Street (Veselina Masleše Street). This period of Banjo Luka's past was also marked by Vaso Pelagić, the first manager of the Orthodox seminary, founded in 1866. In 1867, Pelagić printed a "Handbook for Serbian-Bosnian, Herzegovinian, Old Serbian and Macedonian teachers" in Belgrade for school purposes and to spread education among the people. He received the rank of archimandrite in order to protect the seminary in Banja Luka from opponents from all three faiths, who did not like his free-spirited school program. The Muslim secondary school of the first level, Ruzdija, began its work in 1862. Banja Luka received a telegraph in 1866. The railway in Banja Luka was officially opened on 14.12.1872. according to one, i.e. 17.1.1873. according to other sources, when Banja Luka also got the Predgrađe railway station, and with the construction of a railway station in the city center, Banja Luka got a direct railway connection with Vienna and Budapest.


In 1878, Banja Luka was occupied by Austria-Hungary. Although it was the administrative center of the region during the Turkish rule, Banja Luka welcomed the Austro-Hungarian occupation of BiH as a backward oriental settlement with less than 10,000 inhabitants. Under the new government, the city made significant progress. It got new roads, water supply, sewerage, electric lighting (the first electric light bulb was lit in 1899, and since 1902 the city itself has been supplied), and the economy and trade developed. Timber wealth was extracted by railway, which was further distributed to all parts of the "Dual Monarchy". During the Austro-Hungarian rule, the first hospital was opened (1879), the Serbian reading room, in the former post office building (1879), a trade school (1885), a tobacco factory (1888), a railway station with a direct line to Vienna and Budapest (1891), the first city savings bank (1894), gymnasium ("Velika realka", 1895) and wood processing company "Bosna holc". The first car arrived in Banjaluk in 1908. The first cinema in Banja Luka, "Elektro-Bioskop", was opened in 1911 by Moritz Gottlieb, a watchmaker and jeweler, and the first shots of Banja Luka were taken by the company "Pate Frer". In the period 1884-1897, the city acquired a considerable number of shops, stores and various shops, and in 1881 the mining company "Bosna" was founded. Austro-Hungarian General Alfred von Jelzon initiated a campaign to plant rows of trees, in which 4,714 trees were planted by 1885, and Banja Luka became recognizable for its avenues, the total length of which was then 17 km. Today's Veselin Masleše Street, also known as Gospodska Street, takes on its final appearance at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. With the arrival of Austro-Hungarian rule, the city is progressing in terms of urbanization, and examples of European architecture are becoming more common. The most common styles in the architecture of the buildings of that time, except for religious buildings, are Neo-Renaissance, Classicism and Secession. Many of these buildings, commercial, residential, cultural, catering and other purposes, were lost forever due to the destruction of the First and Second World Wars and the devastating earthquake in 1969. The most significant Banjolu resident of that time is certainly the writer and public tribune Petar Kočić, born in nearby Stričići on Mount Manjača, who left a big and lasting mark on the cultural and political life of this region, as well as on Serbian literature in general.

The beginning of the First World War in Banja Luka was marked by the Great Traitor Process. Namely, after declaring war on Serbia, Austria-Hungary arrested 156 prominent Serbs in this city and accused them of high treason. In the final verdict, pronounced in 1916, 16 people were sentenced to death, and 87 received prison sentences. Alfonso XIII, the king of Spain at the time, succeeded in obtaining a pardon for those sentenced to death, through his mother, Maria Christina, who came from the Austrian court. Grateful Banja Luka still has a street in the very center of the city that bears the name of this ruler. Austro-Hungarian rule in Banja Luka ended with the entry of the Serbian army into the city on November 21, 1918.

Kingdom of Yugoslavia
"Golden age of Banja Luka", the historical period of the city in which it developed rapidly, especially during the administration of the energetic and enterprising Ban Svetislav Tisa Milosavljević, the first ban of the then Vrbaska banovina, where Banja Luka became the capital. Then the following buildings were built: the thermal power plant on Lauš (1923), the Institute of Hygiene (founded in 1929), the concreted City Bridge (1930), the Banska administration (1931), the Banski dvor (1932), the Palas hotel (1933), the Mortgage Bank (1936), Sokolski dom (consecrated in 1937), banovina hospital, National Theater of Vrbaske banovina (1930), music pavilion, first public telephone box (1937) and Church of the Holy Trinity, consecrated on Spasovna, May 18, 1939, which was demolished in the German bombing (today the Cathedral of Christ the Savior). According to a newspaper article, by 1937, 700 new buildings were erected for an estimated half a billion dinars. In 1931, it was proposed to establish a tram line, but the proposal was rejected, with the explanation "that Banja Luka does not need a tram and that there are more urgent needs". Several streets were paved, and Banja Luka got electric lighting and a telephone. A large number of new schools were opened (Lower Agricultural School, 1923), the Ethnographic Museum of Vrbaska Banovina (1930), the City Park was built, and the city bridge (Patra Bridge), one of the first projects of the engineer Branko Žeželj, was built. In architecture, apart from religious buildings, the style of modernity and Bauhaus is increasingly applied, although neo-renaissance, classicism and secession are still not absent. The city center took on its final appearance, with representative buildings and wide, modern streets and a modern city park (today's Petr Kočić Park), which gives Banja Luka the appearance of a modern European city. All this had an impact on the flourishing of the cultural life of Banja Luka.


Second World War
The progress of the city was stopped by the Second World War and the German bombing on April 9, 1941, which caused great destruction, and then the Allied bombing in 1944. During the Second World War, Banja Luka was part of the Independent State of Croatia. Many Serbian and Jewish families were expelled, and some of them ended up in the Jasenovac concentration camp. The once numerous Jewish community (mainly Sephardic) in Banja Luka has almost completely disappeared. Members of the "Chief's Bodyguard" (Pavelić's Guard) and the 8th Ustaše Battalion (battalion) committed the most massive one-day massacre in the Second World War at dawn on February 7, 1942 in the Banjoluč settlements Drakulić, Šargovac and Motike. In this massacre, around 2,500 men, women and children of Serbian nationality were killed with cold weapons. The perpetrators of this massacre were led by first lieutenant (captain) Josip Mišlov, accompanied by the priest of Petrićević, friar Tomislav Filipović. Very few witnesses survived, and this massacre was minimized and covered up for decades during the SFRY. In Banja Luka, immediately after the occupation, all the property of the Serbian Orthodox Church Municipality, the Diocesan Council and the Church Court, the Funeral Society "St. Pantelija", Serbian Reading Room, King Peter's Home, Sokol Home, Serbian Agricultural and Credit Cooperative, Serbian Singing Society "Prosvjeta", Serbian Credit Institute, Serbian Sisters' Circle, Farmer's Circle and others. The value of the confiscated property was 40 million dinars before the war. The process of forced conversion of Serbs to Catholicism is indicated by information from the Vrhbosna magazine, the official newspaper of the Vrhbosna Archdiocese, according to which the number of conversions to Catholicism in the Banjoluc diocese exceeded 70,000 in just a few weeks. Destroyed and impoverished, the city was liberated on April 22, 1945. In 1961, a monument was erected on the nearby Banj hill in memory of several thousand Krajina fighters who died in the Second World War.

SFR Yugoslavia
The life of Banja Luka in the socialist Yugoslav period could be divided into two periods: from 1945 until the devastating earthquake in 1969 and from 1969 until the outbreak of war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. By 1948, thirty state (public) companies were founded in Banja Luka, including: "Rudi Čajavec", "Krajina", "Vitaminka", "Autoprevoz"... In 1950, the company "Stočar" was declared the best purchasing company in Yugoslavia. After the liberation, the following organizations were active: the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, the People's Front, the Union of Trade Unions, the Union of Socialist Youth, the Union of Fighters, the Anti-Fascist Women's Front and some other organizations. The city center expanded territorially, and at the same time, the water supply and sewerage network. City lighting had 150 classic lighting fixtures in some initial period after liberation, and in 1965 there were already 1,500 lighting fixtures. Within the framework of the traditional and basic economic activities of the city — crafts and trade, the main post-war changes related to the new ownership character of the means of production. Therefore, the private sector was abolished and the general social sector was established. New craft companies were founded: "1. May", "29. November", "22. December", "Elmont", "Polyoremont", "Nova Radinost"...

The worst blow in the post-war period (SFRJ) to the city was the catastrophic earthquake in 1969, after which the city finally got its recognizable appearance and importance today. The year 1969 is deeply etched in the history of the city and the consciousness of the population. The most devastating blow hit the city on October 27, 1969. It started on the night of October 26 at 2:55 a.m. by a strong "previous impact"; the shaking continued until 8:53 a.m. when the city was hit by an earthquake measuring 8° on the Mercalli scale, i.e. 6° on the Richter scale, with the epicenter in the very center of the city (where the "Boska" department store building is located today). Thanks to timely measures, the number of human victims was reduced to a minimum (15 dead and close to 1,000 wounded). The material damage was enormous. In total, 112 economic organizations, 36,267 apartments, 131 school buildings, all cultural, social welfare, and public service facilities were damaged. The medical center was completely destroyed. The economy suffered significant losses. After the earthquake came the time of great reconstruction of the city, when many new buildings and residential areas were built.

In 1971, the settlement of Banja Luka was enlarged by annexing the former settlements of Brda, Bukvalek, Česma, Čifluk, Delibašino Selo, Derviši, Madjir, Novakovići, Petrićevac, Presnače, Rebrovac, Šibovi, Vrbanja and Vujinovići, and part of the settlement of Drakulić. This annexation was carried out before the population census in 1971, so in the period from 1961 to 1971, the largest increase in the number of inhabitants of the populated place Banja Luka was recorded, from 50,650 to 90,831.


Recent history
During the war conflict on the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1992-1995. there were no direct actions in Banja Luka, but there were significant changes in the national structure of the population. A large number of refugees and displaced Serbs came to the city, and a large number of Croats and Bosniaks also escaped from it. In addition, this period of Banjo Luka's history was marked by another tragic event. From May 22 to June 19, 1992, 12 newborns died in the Clinic for Children's Diseases in Banja Luka. Everyone needed oxygen for incubators. Due to the interruption of the corridor through Posavina towards Serbia, as a result of daily fighting, it was impossible to deliver oxygen by land, with which Banja Luka had been supplied until then.

The only possibility of supplying oxygen was by air, but the ban on flying over Bosnia and Herzegovina was in force. The plane with oxygen bottles was waiting for several days at the Batajnica airport for a special permission to take off from the UN Security Council. Despite numerous appeals for help, this approval never came.

With the establishment of the Republika Srpska, Banja Luka, as the largest urban settlement of this entity, became the seat of most of the republic's institutions. In 2007, the Administrative Center of the Government of the Republic of Srpska was officially opened in Banja Luka.


Getting here

By plane
Banja Luka has an airport about 23 km from the city center: There are (as of February 2020) flights from some European countries. Ryanair will fly to Banja Luka from Berlin, Brussels, Stockholm, Memmingen and Frankfurt Hahn, and Lauda will also fly from Vienna to Banja Luka from May 2020. There are other flights from Belgrade which are operated by Air Serbia.

By train
Rail traffic in Bosnia and Herzegovina is repeatedly affected by disruptions. Currently (2020) there are connections between Banja Luka and Sarajevo, Doboj, Novi Grad / Dobrljin and Bihac.

Railway station in Banja Luka: Prote Nikole Kostića bb, Tel: +387 (0) 51 301 229

The old station building from 1891 now houses the Museum of Contemporary Art of the Republika Srpska.

By bus
The best way to do this is by taking one of the numerous public buses that connect Banja Luka with all major cities in Bosnia and the surrounding countries. There are buses to Zagreb several times a day (travel time 3 hours) and even every hour to Belgrade (8 hours travel time via Brcko and Bjeljina). The buses are usually very inexpensive. You can also arrive by train or plane, but there are far fewer connections here. If you are arriving by car, you should note that the road signs, like everywhere else in the Republika Srpska, are almost without exception in Cyrillic. There are only a few streets with directions in English because of the Eufor troops. The bus and train stations are in the same location on the outskirts of Banja Luka. Numerous taxis stop there and it takes about 30 minutes to walk to the city center. Bus station in Banja Luka: Braće Podgornika bb, Tel: +387 (0) 51 922 000

Buses to Austria or Germany also run several times a week.

In the street
Numerous roads from Croatia, Serbia or the Federation lead to Banja Luka.

The recommended journey from Central Europe is via the Croatian A3 motorway (Zagreb-Belgrade) to the Gradiška exit. From there you cross the border on the E 661 and follow a newly built motorway after the border. Other highways to Banja Luka - for example from Jajce or Bijelina, are only two-lane. The signage is almost without exception in Cyrillic on the main routes.