From Illyrian times until the Ottoman
invasion, the ancient settlement of Blagaj was the centre of
political power and Mostar was no more than a tiny
settlement along the banks of the Neretva.
It is believed that before Herzegovina fell to the Ottomans,
the settlement of Mostar had only 19 houses with a small
suspension bridge that united both banks. The men that
guarded this bridge were called mostari (bridge keepers)
and it is presumed that the town is named after them.
Herzegovina officially came under Ottoman rule in 1482.
It didn't take long for Mostar to become the centre of
Ottoman administrative and military rule in Herzegovina. The
old town (carsija) that developed around the new stone
bridge (Stari most) was completed by Dalmatian craftsmen,
under in Ottoman design, in 1566. This oriental part
of the city still preserves its old tradition of highly
skilled craftsmen in metal engraving, painting and
rug-weaving. With the old bridge at the centre, new mahalas
(quarters) began to spring up on both sides of the Neretva.
Mosques and medresas (religious schools) were
constructed as Islam spread through the growing town. In the
late 16th and early 17th centuries, many of Mostar's most
beautiful and significant Islamic structures were built.
During Ottoman times Mostar quickly became a key trading
partner with Dubrovnik and other coastal cities. Caravan
routes led directly to Mostar, carrying Dalmatian goods such
as olive oil, fish and linen. Cargoes of wool, meat, honey
and oats were shipped from Mostar towards the seaside
cities. You can still walk the streets of the old town and
find craftsmen and artisans of all sorts selling their
wares. The end of the 19th century marked the final decline
of the Ottomans, and after a three-year uprising throughout
the country from 1875 to 1878, the empire collapsed.
Opportunistic Austro-Hungary jumped right in and included
Bosnia and Herzegovina in its administrative region. A
railroad was constructed immediately, adding a European
flavor to the oriental town.
During the short reign of the Austro-Hungarians, a
public bath was built, many newspapers and periodicals were
established, more schools and bridges were erected and the
city expanded its road system. Christians also enjoyed
greater freedoms, particularly the Catholics. This period
saw the construction of several new cathedrals and churches
throughout the Mostar area. All along the outskirts of the
old town one can see the Viennese-style architecture from
this period. Austro-Hungarian rule ended with the
assassination of Prince Ferdinand in Sarajevo. In the
decades that followed, much of Bosnia and Herzegovina
experienced harsh economic and political struggles. With the
end of World War II and the victory of Tito's partisans came
a challenging but peaceful time. Mostar became one of the
major socialist strongholds in the former Yugoslavia. It had
the highest rate of mixed marriages and continued to be the
most important city of Herzegovina. The city enjoyed great
prosperity in the years leading up to the disintegration of