Fractured unity

abstract: Sarajevo is an evocative name. It conjures up the happy days when that city hosted the 1984 Olympics, but it also recalls the long years in the 1990s when the Serbs held it hostage as the world stood aghast. The most European of Muslim cities, Sarajevo was founded by the Ottomans and embellished by the Austro-Hungarian rulers. Their joint legacy is not just symbiotically diverse architecture; it is more the fault line of potential religious conflicts created by the mix of its Muslim and Christian residents. The Orthodox Serbs have now mostly retreated to Sarajevo’s suburbs. The Catholic Croatians seem to live in harmony with the large majority that is Muslim. They have even formed a nation-wide federation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Even their unity, however, is belied by the river Neretva that still segregates these two groups under the reconstructed fabled bridge in Mostar. Despair persists in Bosnia; it lends poignancy to the occasional sounds of hopeful joy one hears as in the music of the coastal town of Neum.

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