Bosnia And Herzegovinia’s Design Legacy

The third edition of “Museum In Exile: Bosnia And Herzegovina In The Modern Era” by Asim Đelilović, (Buybook Sarajevo) is based on the first 2015 edition designed to represent the visual and industrial arts – a draft of history – of Bosnia and Herzgovina. It addresses the periods when designers made important contributions to European modernism and afterward. Including the Austro-Hungarian period (1878-1918), Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (1918-1929), kingdom of Yugoslavia (1929-1941), through the Socialist times to the present “Post-Dayton” period.

The images selected are more recent than the earliest entries into the Bosnia and Herzegovina canon, but serve to show how rich in design practice and thinking there was in this region and nations.

The Museum in Exile is a response to the horrors of war that felled the nation in the 1990s. But first a little history: In 1946 the People’s Republic (from 1963, Socialist Republic) of Bosnia and Herzegovina became one of the constituent republics of the Federal People’s (from 1963, Socialist Federal) Republic of Yugoslavia, and life in Bosnia and Herzegovina underwent all the social, economic, and political changes that were imposed on the whole of Yugoslavia by its new communist government.

Bosnia and Herzegovina was particularly affected by the abolition of many traditional Muslim institutions yet the official policy in the 1960s led to the acceptance of “Muslim” as a term denoting a national identity. By 1971 Muslims formed the largest part of the country. During the next 20 years many Serbs and Croats emigrated. In the 1991 census Muslims made up more than two-fifths of the Bosnian population.

In 1991 several self-styled “Serb Autonomous Regions” were declared in areas of Bosnia and Herzegovina with large Serb populations. Evidence emerged that the Yugoslav People’s Army was being used to send secret arms deliveries to the Bosnian Serbs from Belgrade (Serbia). In August full-scale war had broken out in Croatia, and the breakup of Yugoslavia was under way.

The European Community/European Union) recognized the independence of Croatia and Slovenia in December, it invited Bosnia and Herzegovina to apply for recognition also. A referendum on independence was held during 1992, although voting was obstructed in most Serb-populated areas and almost no Bosnian Serbs voted. Of the nearly two-thirds of the electorate that did cast a vote, almost all voted for independence, which President Izetbegović officially proclaimed on March 3, 1992.

Bosnia and Herzegovina’s independence was recognized by the United States and the European Community on April 7 and Bosnian Serb paramilitary forces immediately began firing on Sarajevo, bombardment of the city by Bosnian Serb units of the Yugoslav army began soon thereafter. During April many of the towns in eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina were attacked by a combination of paramilitary forces and Yugoslav army units. Most of the locals suffered ethnic cleansing. Within six weeks a coordinated offensive by the Yugoslav army, paramilitary groups, and local Bosnian Serb forces brought roughly two-thirds of Bosnian territory under Serb control. In May the army units and equipment in Bosnia and Herzegovina were placed under the command of a Bosnian Serb general and war criminal, Ratko Mladić.

The war was costly. It was originally estimated that at least 200,000 people were killed and more than 2,000,000 displaced during the 1992–95 war. Subsequent studies, however, concluded that the death toll was actually about 100,000. The Dayton Accords ended the conflict. Twenty years later the Museum in Exile began to piece together a design history. 

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