The Siege of Sarajevo began twenty-two years ago, in April 1992, and lasted until February
1996—the longest siege of any capital city in the history of modern warfare. Sarajevo, now
capital of the independent nation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, has been a cultural, religious,
and commercial hub of the Balkans since the 15th Century. The siege was part of the Yugoslav
Wars—a series of complex ethnic conflicts fought between 1991 and 1995 following the
disintegration of Yugoslavia. The siege broke out when the European Community (now the
European Union or EU) recognized Bosnia’s independence. An estimated 18,000 Serb rebels,
led by Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladić, began bombarding Sarajevo with sniper shots and
shellfire from the hills surrounding the city. Their goal was to create a new Serbian state,
Prior to the conflict, the city was a cosmopolitan center of 525,980 inhabitants that
was approximately 50% Muslim, 30% Serb, 10% Yugoslav, 7% Croat and 3.5% Jewish.
According to a report for the United Nations Commission of Experts, nearly 10,000 persons
were killed or went missing during the siege, including over 1,500 children. An additional
56,000 persons were wounded, including nearly 15,000 children. An average of 329 shell
impacts hit the city each day, causing extensive damage to both civilian and cultural property;
the Council of Europe’s Committee on Culture and Education concluded that most
of the buildings in the city had been damaged to a greater or lesser degree. UNICEF
reported that of the estimated 65,000 to 80,000 children in the city, at least 40% had been
directly shot at by snipers; 51% had seen someone killed; 39% had seen one or more family
members killed; 19% had witnessed a massacre; 48% had their home occupied by someone
else; 73% had their home attacked or shelled; and 89% had lived in underground shelters.
The area has since stabilized, but the effects of the siege will no doubt be felt for generations.
• Bassiouni, M. Cherif, ed. Study of the battle and siege of Sarajevo, Final report of the United Nations
Commission of Experts. Bristol, UK: University of the West of England, http://www.ess.uwe.ac.uk/comexpert/
• “Chronology: What happened during the war in Bosnia?” Reuters 21 July 2008.
• Richards, Rogers. “Remember Sarajevo.” Digital Journalist, December 2003.
• Sarajevo Under Siege, 1992-1996. http://www.sa92.ba/v1/index.php
I have copied information from the One Maryland One Book 2012 booklet.
If you are a teacher and are considering adding The Cellist of Sarjevo to your curriculum there is a wealth of information to be gleaned. You may also find information via the Jericho Public Library databases. All you need to unlock these databases is you Jericho Public Library card.