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Bosnia: Destroyed Sarajevo library reopens

(Sarajevo) Sarajevo has reopened its reconstructed National Library building 22 years after the city landmark was destroyed during the Bosnian war along with its almost two million books and manuscripts.

The reopening comes in time for the June ceremonies marking the centenary of the assassination that ignited the First World War.

City authorities plan to have the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra perform inside the building on June 28, marking 100 years since Austro-Hungarian Crown Prince Franz Ferdinand von Habsburg walked out of the building and was shot dead by a Serb.

It took architects and builders 18 years to find documents and photos on the building’s 19th-century construction and put it back together the way it was before Serb shelling destroyed the landmark in 1992.

The building had no military significance and the library ruin turned into a symbol of what Sarajevans called “urbicide” – a term they used to describe primitive attackers destroying cultural achievements.

The repainting of 21,530 square feet (2,000 square metres) of arabesques on walls and ceilings took a year.

The reconstruction represents a victory “of life over death” and a proper answer “to those who thought they could burn libraries, kill people and destroy cities”, Bosnian president Bakir Izetbegovic said.

The library served first as the city hall when it was originally built 118 years ago by the Austro-Hungarian Empire in pseudo-Moorish style to reflect the multicultural character of a city in which the East and the West co-exist.

The European Union contributed more than half of the reconstruction cost of more than 16 million euro (£21 million).

Bosnia’s international administrator, Austrian diplomat Valentin Inzko, said: “This is about restoring the densely woven intellectual tapestry of our continent – a tapestry of diverse cultures and beliefs and peoples.”

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