National Library Remembers Devastating Fire

Bosnia’s National and University Library staff marked 25 years since the library was nearly completely destroyed in fire caused by the shelling of the Sarajevo City Hall in 1992, early into the siege of Sarajevo.  

The library staff and guests remembered the days the library was set ablaze, the people who helped save the books, and urged the authorities to solve the financing and housing issues that the library copes with.

Ismet Ovčina, the director of national library, said that the issue of library’s “legal-financial status” remains unresolved, which makes the work at the library difficult. He commended the Bosnian civil affairs ministry for the effort towards finding a financing solution for the library and six other national institutions of culture, including the national museum and national gallery.

“During 72 years of its existence, the national and university library was bombed, set on fire, worked in difficult conditions and with irregular sources of financing, but it survived for the cultural and academic community in Bosnia,” said Ovčina.

The City Hall was rebuilt, but the archives destroyed can not be replaced

In June 2014, the library sued for the right to return to the City Hall. The library’s former home, reconstructed with the financial assistance from the European Union and reopened on the WW1 centenary, is now run by a company owned by the Sarajevo city administration.

Civil affairs minister Adil Osmanović said that the 1992 shelling and fire cost the library its irreplaceable archives.

“The City Hall building was rebuilt, the library collection was somewhat rebuilt, but unfortunately the archives destroyed can not be replaced,” he said.

The City Hall was shelled and destroyed by fire on August 25, 1992. According to UNESCO, 90 percent of its two million books perished in the flames. The building was reopened after reconstruction on June 28, 2014, on the occasion of the WW1 centenary.


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