On April 6, 1992 I was a Freshman in high school. I had never heard of Sarajevo; I had barely heard of Yugoslavia. I don’t remember the 1984 winter Olympics, which (to my recollection) is pretty much the only time the western world had noticed Sarajevo before 1992. Quite honestly, I didn’t follow the breakup of Yugoslavia at all. In fact, I was pretty fuzzy on the difference between The Balkans and The Baltics, they all merged in my mind into “troubled regions” of the former Soviet Bloc. It wasn’t until 2003, when I was traveling in Croatia, that I started to learn anything about this war.
Twenty years ago today the Siege of Sarajevo began. The day before Bosnia’s parliament had declared independence, but tensions were high. A peace march through the streets of Sarajevo drew a crowd of thousands, and six peace marchers were shot and killed by snipers. Those civilians are widely considered to be the first victims of the war.
The siege lasted 44 months, that is 11,825 days, the longest in modern history. The city of 380,000 was left without electricity, water or heat. An average of 330 shells a day hit the city, and snipers continued to pick off individuals.
In 1995, when the dust finally settled, 11,541 people had been killed in the siege.
To mark the twentieth anniversary exactly 11,541 empty red chairs were lined up in rows along Sarajevo’s main street — one for every man, woman and child who died.
The smaller red chairs represent the children.
The chairs stretched for over half a mile- 825 rows.
This memorial was organized by Haris Pašović one of Bosnia’s leading stage and film directors. He lived through the siege and knows how to make a visual statement. This is powerful art.
Photo one by Dado Ruvic from here, photo two by Dado Ruvic from here, photo three by Dado Ruvic from here, photo four by Amel Emric from here, photo five Reuters from here, photo six Reuters from here.