Bihać (Serbian-Cyrillic Бихаћ; German outdated Wihitsch, Wihitz or Wihatsch) is a city in the extreme northwest of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is located near the border with Croatia on the Una River and is the capital of the Una-Sana canton in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The municipality of Bihać, which in addition to the actual city also includes the surrounding area, has around 61,000 inhabitants. More than 90% of the population are Bosniaks.
The Unatal seems to have been particularly important in prehistoric times. At Ripač, about 10 km southeast of Bihać, extensive pile dwellings have been found, which began in the Bronze Age. A little closer to Bihać, near Jezerine, a large cemetery from the La Tène period with numerous urns and valuable grave goods was discovered, and another in Ribić, a suburb of Bihać.
The city was first mentioned in a document from King Béla IV in 1260, where it is referred to as the property of the Cistercian monastery of Topusko. The city was called Castrum bichiciense in Latin documents and Wihitsch in German. In the Middle Ages, Bihać was temporarily the seat of the Croatian-Hungarian kings. King Béla IV had the city surrounded with a wall in the 13th century, which is where the ring road now runs. From the 13th to the 16th centuries, the Croatian Sabor met several times in Bihać. In 1592 the city was conquered by the Ottomans and became part of the Paschaliks Bosnia, whose history it has shared since then. As an Ottoman fortress near the border with the Austrian military border, Bihać was besieged more than 63 times by the Austrian armies during the Turkish wars, but was never captured. Bihać was then considered impregnable due to its high and strong walls.
As a result of the Berlin Treaty in 1878, the city, which was predominantly inhabited by Muslims, came under the administration of Austria-Hungary together with Bosnia-Herzegovina. But it was not until September 1878 that Bihać was captured by Austro-Hungarian troops under General Reinländer against fierce resistance. From 1888 the fortification walls were dismantled with the exception of a few remains.
1918 to 1990
After the end of the First World War and the subsequent collapse of Austria-Hungary, the city belonged to the newly founded Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, which was renamed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1929. Here Bihać became a district town in the Vrbas Banschaft. During the Second World War, Bihać was attacked by German troops on April 13, 1941 and then became part of the vassal state Independent State of Croatia, which was allied with National Socialist Germany. A memorial park designed by Bogdan Bogdanović was inaugurated in Garavice in 1981 for the victims of a massacre committed by the Ustaše in 1941.
Just a few days after the attack, resistance to the occupation formed in the city and its surroundings, which culminated in April 1942 with the partisans taking over the city and the proclamation of the Bihać Republic. On November 26 and 27, 1942, the first meeting of the Anti-Fascist Council for National Liberation of Yugoslavia (AVNOJ) took place here, which formed the basis for the later Yugoslav government under Tito. On January 29, 1943, the German troops succeeded in retaking the city. It remained under German occupation until it was liberated by the Yugoslav People's Liberation Army on March 28, 1945.
During the time of socialist Yugoslavia, Bihać belonged as a district town to the Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was newly formed within Yugoslavia, and developed into the economic and administrative center in northwestern Bosnia.
During the Bosnian War, the area around Bihać formed from 1992 to 1995 an enclave surrounded by Serb militias from the Republika Srpska on the one hand and the Republic of Serbian Krajina on the other, which was under the control of Bosnian government troops for the entire length of the war UN protection zone was declared. At times, those responsible around Fikret Abdić from the area north of the city agreed a separate peace with the besiegers. However, this was rejected by the leadership of the Bosnian army corps in Bihać, which temporarily led to fighting between Bosniak-dominated troops. In the summer of 1995, the situation in the Bihać enclave worsened dramatically. According to estimates by the UN at the time, around 150,000 refugees crowded the enclave, which was now increasingly under Serbian artillery fire and into which the Serbs were pushing their positions. International observers also anticipated a humanitarian catastrophe for Bihać as early as July 1995.
On August 4, 1995, the Croatian army began a large-scale military
offensive, Military Operation Oluja, with the recapture of the
Serb-occupied territories in Croatia. This operation lasted four
days; the entire Republic of Serbian Krajina was reintegrated into
Croatian territory. The impending danger for the previous enclave of
Bihać was averted at the last minute by this Croatian offensive. At
the same time, probably in a coordinated military operation,
Croatian and Bosnian units also fought successfully in western
Bosnia against the Serbian units, which saw themselves increasingly
on the defensive. In a few weeks the whole of western Bosnia was
again in the hands of the Bosnian-Croatian Federation, and the
Bosnian heartland could henceforth be reconnected with the Bihać
On July 24, 2014, Bihać was granted city status (degree) by the parliament of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Since the refugee crisis in Europe from 2015, Bihać has been used by migrants as a place to stay before crossing the border into the European Union. In the summer of 2019, reports of inhumane conditions in the Vučjak refugee camp located in the municipality attracted more media attention. According to eyewitnesses, there was no electricity, hardly enough food and no sanitary facilities. Almost all residents suffered from scabies and were otherwise ill. In November 2019, the regional government of the canton of Una-Sana imposed a curfew on Vučjak and another camp near Bihac after more crimes were recorded in the region and local residents protested. According to the Bosnian media, refugees mainly broke into houses and stole food and cars. There had also been violent conflicts among the refugees. After around 500 of the 600 migrants or residents in the camp went on a hunger strike on December 5th, Bosnia dissolved the refugee camp on December 10th. The 600 residents were taken to a former barracks.