Friday, July 23, 2004

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Mostar rebuilds its bridge

Statebuilding can be a slow, painful process, with lots of reverses, lots of buried tensions, lots of frustration. On the other hand, a lot of time, patience, and money can occsionally yield partially successes.

In that light, it's good to read this Reuters report from the Bosnian town of Mostar:

The city of Mostar, a symbol like Sarajevo of the bloody end of Yugoslavia, has joyfully unveiled its rebuilt 16th-century bridge which some hope can help reconcile its Muslims and Croats.

Almost 11 years after Bosnian Croat artillerymen shelled it to destruction, the new "Stari Most" (Old Bridge) was officially inaugurated at a spectacular ceremony attended by international guests and delegations on Friday.

Fireworks lit up the sky high above the elegant single-span bridge at the end of a programe which featured Beethoven's "Hymn of Joy" and nine of Mostar's legendary divers jumping into the green rushing waters of Neretva with torches in their hands....

Throughout the day, the 29-metre (95-foot) bridge was the focus of all attention in the eastern, Muslim quarter ahead of the ceremony. The narrow streets in the Old Town were packed despite scorching heat and heavy security.

Rusem Srakic, a Muslim taxi driver who has returned to live in the western, Croat part of the town, said he felt "as if I was being born again, just like Mostar is being born again".

Mostar's Muslim mayor, Hamdija Jahic, told Reuters earlier on Friday: "I think this is a new beginning, that's what citizens have been telling me too. You can feel a special atmosphere all over."

UNESCO and the World Bank were helped in the $15 million project by other institutions and governments including the Council of Europe, Croatia, Turkey and Italy.

The original bridge was commissioned by Suleiman the Magnificent about 100 years after Turkey's Ottoman empire claimed the Balkans.

It stood the tests of time and war until November 1993, when it succumbed to Bosnian Croat high explosives in an attack condemned globally as an act of sheer vandalism.

In a painstaking reconstruction, Turkish engineers and other experts used white marble from the original quarry nearby and a combination of old techniques and new technology to build an exact replica.

posted by Dan on 07.23.04 at 09:29 PM


I saw the bridge back in the 1980's when I visited Mostar. I am glad they rebuilt it.
However, the local Croats didn't love the bridge. They remember that the "muslims" used to hang Catholic priests from the bridge when the Turks still controlled the area.
Of course, in Dubrovnik, the tourguide also pointed out the history of Dubrovnik was that the Roman refugees from Illyrium settled in the north part of the small island off the coast, and two centuries later, the invading Slavs also made a town on that island...two centuries after that, the two towns grew together, and eventually became Dubrovnik..."but the rulers of Dubrovnik usually were chosen from those descended from the Roman settlers".
1200 years later, she still was annoyed that the mayor came from a different Dobrovnik ethnic group.

posted by: tioedong on 07.23.04 at 09:29 PM [permalink]

Turkey is a secular nation. The anti-intellectual and reactionary Muslims would have been unable to pull this off. I hope the citizens of Mostar realize this fact of life.

posted by: David Thomson on 07.23.04 at 09:29 PM [permalink]

Mr. Thompson:

You possess the remarkable ability of combining utter ignorance of Ottoman (and Balkan and European) history with the skill of proving that ignorance so consicuously using only three sentences. Bravo!

posted by: oneangryslav on 07.23.04 at 09:29 PM [permalink]

“Mr. Thompson:

You possess the remarkable ability of combining utter ignorance of Ottoman (and Balkan and European) history with the skill of proving that ignorance so consicuously using only three sentences. Bravo!”

I am very well aware of the past glories of the Islam world. However, it has accomplished virtually nothing in the last 400-500 years. Please note that the bridge was built in the 16th-century. Soon afterwards the Islamic leadership opted to embrace a reactionary mindset. It was Ataturk who realized that the Muslims needed to follow the lead of the West. What do you know about this great man? My guess is nothing at all. Perhaps the following link might be of value:

posted by: David Thomson on 07.23.04 at 09:29 PM [permalink]

I have some friends who came from Mostar as Muslim refugees. Bosnia was a mixed economy not unlike Austria with ownership of private property and businesses. Most people were not hardline Muslims, no head dresses, religious police, etc, more like Western style religion.

He used to repair TV's in Mostar, most goods were Western and openly available.

posted by: dispassionate on 07.23.04 at 09:29 PM [permalink]

I'd love to see the Hanging Gardens of Babylon recreated somehow.

posted by: renata on 07.23.04 at 09:29 PM [permalink]

It's a bridge. Who cares? Way to go, Europe: more time and money on a complete irrelevancy.

posted by: Ben on 07.23.04 at 09:29 PM [permalink]

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