Brief History of Banja Luka
Banja Luka Today
Banja Luka is the administrative centre of Republica Srpska and the second largest city in the country of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The population of Banja Luka is approximately 250 000 people.
Banja Luka's history dates back to ancient times. Although Banja Luka was first mentioned somewhere in the 15th century, there is substantial evidence of a Roman presence in the region during the first few centuries AD. This evidence includes an old fortress (Kastel) in the centre 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 AD, 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 origins of the name are debated to this day. Banja can mean "Bath"; perhaps a reference to the mineral springs in the region. It could also be an medieval form of a possessive adjective derived from the noun ban [governor], and luka [port] which could be due to the city's location on the Vrbas river. Finally, it may be the common archaic luka, of which there are thousands in Bosnia, meaning cultivable land, a meadow near water (in this case, of course, near the Vrbas). Hence: banova luka, the Ban’s meadow.
During the Turkish period (1528 – 1878), Banja Luka developed as a typically Muslim settlement (Gornji and Donji Šeher, Careva mahala...) and was an important military base. In the 16th century it was the centre of pashaluk (administrative subdivision of the Ottoman Empire), and a variety of period structures make the old town speak of the Ottoman rule and Turkish pashas. However, it was Austrian occupation in the 19th century that modernized the city of Banja Luka.
Under Austro-Hungary rule, Banja Luka flourished. Its industry started to develop, and its population grew. In 1879 Banja Luka had 9,560 inhabitants, and in 1910––14,800. Banja Luka became the centre of episcopate in 1881, Metropolithan’s seat in 1900, and Mufti’s seat in 1910. In the beginning of the 20th century it became the centre of lively political and cultural activities (the work of the writer Petar Kočić, journals Otadžbina, Razvitak…). After World War I Banja Luka became the center of the Vrbas province of the 1st Yugoslavia. During World War II, it was occupied by the Croatian Ustashas. It was liberated on April 22nd, 1945––known as the ‘liberation day’ of the city of Banja Luka.
Socialism & Yugoslavia
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. In the final years of the socialist Yugoslavia, Banja Luka's population was 150,000.
After the Tito era of 1948, Yugoslavs enjoyed many freedoms and were even allowed to travel out of the region and work in the West.
The Bosnian War
During the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina (1992-1995), Banja Luka suffered great human and material losses. The armed conflict involved Bosnia, Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Croatia. It is believed that the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina was a consequence of the instability in the wider region of the former Yugoslavia. Each involved country gave military and financial support to one force in Bosnia (Croatia to Croat forces, former Yugoslavia to Serb forces, and Bosnia to Bosnia government forces). The war was brought to an end after the signing of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina in Paris on 14 December 1995. Peace negotiations were held in Dayton, Ohio, the USA, so the accords are known as the Dayton Agreement.
Today Banja Luka is a growing city of youth, new beginnings and development. With the improving economy it has become a major construction site with many new projects under way. Investors from around the world are taking part in the great potential of the city and surrounding area. Tourism is becoming an increasingly growing industry. A large number of eco-tourism fans are discovering the best of Banja Luka. The number of cultural programs and events that include participants from other nations keeps the heartbeat of Banja Luka going strong.