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Banja Luka (Town, Republika Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina)

БаЊа Лука

Last modified: 2024-07-06 by rob raeside
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[Flag] image by Tomislav Šipek, 9 July 2019

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Presentation of Banja Luka

The municipality of Banja Luka (138,963 inhabitants in 2014; 12,389 ha) is the second largest city in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the de facto capital of Republika Srpska. The government and the National Assembly of Republika Srpska are based in Banja Luka.

Banja Luka was first mentioned in the charter signed by the Hungarian King Ladislaus II Jagiellon in 1494, written in Latin and issued in Buda (present Budapest), although the city had existed even earlier. Prehistoric archaeological sites and the objects provide evidence that there were human settlements in this area in the Mousterian period back to 50.000 – 35.000 BC. In the antique period, the wider area of Banja Luka and western Bosnia was inhabited by the ancient tribes of Illyrians, known as Maezaei and Oseriates, which built numerous forts in the area. During The Great Illyrian Revolt (6-9 AC) the Romans conquered the Illyrians and founded the Illyricum province. A part of their administrative and military structure was the development of the network of roads along which many military camps (castra) and civilian settlements (municipia) were established.

After the fall of Roman Empire the area was settled by the Slavs who built early Slavic forts. In the medieval period Banja Luka and its surroundings flourished again, as evidenced by many written documents and remains of many fortified cities from the 12th-15th centuries. After the fall of the medieval Bosnian state and the arrival of the Turks in this area in 1525, Banja Luka gained in significance as a strategic stronghold disputed by the Ottoman and Hungarian empires. Banja Luka became particularly important during the reign of Ferhad Pasha Sokolović (1574-1588) (1574-1588), as the seat of an Ottoman administration unit (Bosnian Pashaluk). After 350 years of Turkish occupation the town was incorporated the Austro-Hungarian Empire for 40 years.
At the end of the First World War, Banja Luka was transferred to the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. In 1929 the town became the capital of the Vrbas Banate, a province of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, reaching its apogee. The first governor of Vrbas Banovina, Ban Svetislav Tisa Milosavljević (1929-1934) erected many buildings in the town, such as the administration known as Banski dvor, the National Theater, the Palace Hotel, the Sokolski Dom, the City Park, the Ethnographic Museum, schools, hospitals, etc. After the Second World War, Banja Luka flourished again but its development was stopped during the great earthquake in 1969 and the war in 1992-1995.
[Banja Luka Tourist Board]

Ivan Sache, 9 July 2019

Flag of Banja Luka

The flag of Banja Luka (photo) is a banner of the municipal arms adopted in 2017.
The Town Assembly adopted in its 13th session, held on 20 July 2017, the Statutory Decision on the town's symbols. The flag and arms were eventually adopted after several unsuccessful attempts, following the outlawing of the former symbols by the Constitutional Court of Republika Srpska in February 2013.
After a public debate, the coat of arms, designed by Dragomir Acović and initially adopted in April 2017 by the Town Assembly was slightly modified, Only the middle and greater coats of arms were modified while the lesser arms were left unchanged.
[N1 BH, 21 July 2017]

The flag is a banner of the lesser municipal arms. The arms feature the Kastel fortress over river Vrbas. The symmetrical blue shapes in the base of arms and flag are the prow-heads of dajak boats, the typical vessels used on the Vrbas river in the area of Banja Luka.

Fortress Kastel is the oldest historical monument in the town. The oldest traces of settlements on the territory of Banja Luka are the remnants of Neolithic settlement that were exactly found on the territory of the fortress. Erected in the central part of the city, the fortress dominates the left bank of river Vrbas. In the past, Kastel was a strong fortification that protected the basin of river Vrbas from enemy rush. The fortress, surrounded by thick stone walls on all sides, hosts the Institute for Protection of Cultural and Natural Heritage of Republika Srpska, established in 1976.
Although there is no conclusive data on the period of foundation of the fortress, circumstantial evidence indicate that exactly on this location there was a Roman settlement, Castra. Exposed to frequent rushes of Barbarian nations, the Romans were committed to defend the road that passed through the basin of the river Vrbas. Archaeological remains discovered on the territory of current Kastel include Roman ceramics, coinage and monuments. A particularly important finding is the antique altar dedicated to God Jupiter, found in 1885 during the construction of the bridge across river Crkvena.
Further on, on the territory of the fortress remains of Slavic settlements from the early Middle Ages (8th-12th centuries) were found. The town of Vrbas, part of the Bosnian medieval state, was allegedly located on the site of Kastel. Another hypothesis, however, identifies Vrbas with Podgradci in Potkozarje, also a part of Banja Luka.

Intensive construction of Kastel began in the last but one decade of the 16th century, during the reign of the Ottoman dynasty of Ferhad Pasha Sokolović (1574-1588). Sokolović firstly built his fortified tophane (arsenal) on the site of Kastel, which was turned some ten years later, turn into a fortified city with towers and gates, which was constantly increased. Since the fortress lies on the mouth of Crkvena into Vrbas, two bridges were constructed to access it. One crossed river Vrbas, near the current city bridge, while the other crossed river Crkvena. The bridge across the river Vrbas is known only from old engravings. Rivers Vrbas and Crkvena were connected by one huge retrenchment (ditch) so that the fortress was actually, at the time, a fortified island surrounded by the waters of the two rivers.
[Banja Luka Tourist Board]

On the greater arms, the shield is supported by Petar Kočić and Ban Milosavljević (see above), respectively.
Petar Kočić (1877-1916) was considered by Ivo Andrić (1892-1975, Nobel Prize in Literature 1961) "Bosnia's first genuine writer and artist". A fierce opponent to the Austro-Hungarian annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, he was one of the mentors of the Young Bosnia revolutionaries who organized the Sarajevo attempt in 1914. In 1906, he participated to the worker's strike in Sarajevo and delivered in Budapest a lecture on the struggle of Serbian people in Bosnia and Herzegovina. His articles crticizing the Mayor of Sarajevo, published in the newspaper Dan (The Day) caused his exile to Banja Luka. The next year, he founded the newspaper Otadžbina (Fatherland). Sentenced to jail as an opponent to Austria-Hungary, Kočić was jailed on 6 December 1907. Released one year later after the general amnesty declared by the Emperor, he edited in 1910 in Banja Luka a short-lived political and social review, Razvitak (Development). He was elected the same year at the Sarajevo Assembly, where he delivered on 16 October 1911 a famous speech calling for "starting together the struggle for the country's general interest". Suffering of dementia, Kočić was admitted at the Belgrade Psychiatric Hospital until his death.
Kočić's work,is composed of short stories (From the Mountains and Under the Mountains, I [1902], II [1904], and III [1905], and Zmijanje's Laments [1910], poems and a satiric play, "he Badger at the Court (1904). The latter work, which describes the adventures of David Štrbac facing the Imperial administration, gained great popularity (it was re-edited seven times until 1911) as a vivid critic of the symbols of the Austrian occupation.
[Serbica, University of Bordeaux

The Town Assembly adopted in its 14th session the Decision on the use of the symbol of the town of Banja Luka, which prescribes the rules of use and protection of the symbols of the town of Banja Luka.
The town's flag can be used on the town's official vehicles only when the vehicle is officially used by the Mayor or the President of the Assembly, if that use is compliant with this Decision.
[Dnevni avaz, 24 November 2017]

Tomislav Šipek, Tomislav Todorović & Ivan Sache, 18 July 2019

[Municipal flag] image by Tomislav Šipek, 26 June 2024

In addition to the flags displayed above, a white flag with a coat of arms is also used
Tomislav Šipek, 26 June 2024

Former symbols of Banja Luka

[Flag]     [Flag]     [Flag]     [Flag]

images by Željko Heimer, 21 January 2013

The former symbols of Banja Luka were prescribed in Article 6 of the Town Status Statut Grada Banja Luka, adopted on 30 November 2005 by the Town Council and published on 12 December 2005 in the Town official gazette Službeni glasnik Grada Banja Luka, No. 25 (text), although they were adopted earlier.
The rules of use of the symbols were prescribed by Decision Odluka o upotrebi simbola i imena Grada Banja Luka, adopted on 31 July 2008 and published on 5 Auguts 2008 in Službeni glasnik Grada Banja Luka, No. 24 (text). The Decision was amended by Odluka o izmjenama i dopunama Odluke o upotrebi simbola i imena Grada Banjaluka, adopted on 28 December 2010 and published the same day in Službeni glasnik Grada Banja Luka, No. 30 (text).

THe flag is described in the Statutes as follows:

The flag of the Town of Banja Luka is blue, rectangular in shape, with the ratio of sides two to one, with the Town coat of arms in the middle of the flag and the text beneath the arms: "Town of Banja Luka".

Željko Heimer, 21 January 2013

Unofficial variants

[Flag] image by Željko Heimer, 21 January 2013

The flag appears to have come in at least four versions:
1. as described above, with coloured arms (official);
2. as described above, with coloured arms but without the text (photo, photo);
3. monochrome, with white arms and without the text (photo);
4. monochrome vertical, with white arms and bilingual text, Serbian over English (photo);
5. white vertical, with coloured arms (photo).

The Book of Graphical Standards (Knjiga grafičkih standarda Grada Banja Luka, published in August 2011 by the Municipal admnistration (website), covers the various uses of the coat of arms (in colours, black and white, negative etc.) and its use together with inscriptions. From what is available on the website, the flag appears to be covered only marginally: it is shown only in vertical display, either with the full-coloured or the white-only versions of the arms. The text regarding the flag makes it clear that the Cyrillic and the Latin versions of the town's name inscribed beneath the coat of arms are equally valid. However, versions with inscriptions in Cyrillic and English have been reported in use, as well as some other with text (including also website URL). It is not clear if all these additional variations are indeed prescribed in the Book, but it is quite certain, from the Statutes and other descriptions, that the inscription should be under the coat of arms as a rule. We know that versions without inscription are in use as well. It may be that all these numerous variations are remnant from the "pre-standard" period and that they may eventually be replaced with prescribed only versions.

Aleksandar Nemet, Eugene Ipavec & Željko Heimer, 21 January 2013

Former coat of arms of Banja Luka

[Arms] image by Željko Heimer, 21 January 2013

The coat of arms was described in the Statutes as follows:

The coat of arms of the town consists of a blue field, in the shape of a shield, bordered by a gold band, with a view of the Ban's Palace in the upper part, as well as a chestnut leaf (symbol of Banja Luka aleja[?]), the castle (castrum), an ancient Roman fortress, and at the bottom of the shield, the stylized line of river Vrbas. The central part of the coat of arms symbolizes the foundations [floorplan] of the Sabor [meeting] church, white-colored, and in the middle of the foundations a cross, with the ocila, red-colored.

Aleksandar Nemet, Eugene Ipavec & Željko Heimer, 21 January 2013

Ban of the symbols of Banja Luka

The coat of arms of Banja Luka was declared illegal by the Constitutional Court of Republika Srpska (Nezavisne novine, 20 February 2013).

Amer Sulejmanagić, 21 February 2013

Republika Srpska's constitutional court ruled on Wednesday that the coats of arms and flags of Banja Luka and Nevesinje contain "symbols of the religious and national identity of the Bosnian Serb people alone" and are therefore unconstitutional.
"Considering that the symbols of local communities must contain the traditions and cultural and historical heritage of all their citizens, the constitutional court found that these symbols put members of the other two constitutional peoples [Bosniaks and Croats] and members of other ethnic groups in an unequal position," the verdict said.

The towns' coats of arms and flags feature four Cyrillic letters which represent a well-known Serbian slogan, ‘Only Unity Can Save the Serbs'. The court found that the symbols violate constitutional principles which guarantee human rights and freedoms for all citizens of Republika Srpska.
After the verdict, Banja Luka mayor Slobodan Gavranovic told local media that he was aware of the problem. "I will not comment on the court's decision, but we are ready and willing to find a new solution," said Gavranovic.

The Republika Srpska ministry responsible for local government claimed on Wednesday that the decision means that the current symbols effectively no longer exist, and that new ones will have to be adopted. Mujo Hadziomerovic, the president of the Bosniak Club of Delegates at Republika Srpska's people's council, which appealed to the court against the town symbols, said the verdict was just.
"We see there are problems with the symbols here. We have filed similar appeals for more than 35 municipalities. The current symbols usurp the rights of the other two constitutional peoples," said Hadziomerovic.
[Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, 21 February 2013]

Ivan Sache, 11 July 2019

Earlier coat of arms of Banja Luka

[Arms] image by Željko Heimer, 21 January 2013

The pre-war coat of arms exists in green (image, image) and red (image) versions.
This design is the origin of the new coat of arms, made more Serbian.

Aleksandar Nemet & Željko Heimer, 17 June 2009

University of Banja Luka

[Flag]    [Flag] images by Ivan Sache, 3 June 2018

The University of Banja Luka (UNIBL -Универзитет у Бањој Луци - Univerzitet u Banjoj Luci; website), established on 7 November 1975, is composed of 16 Faculties, 1 Academy and 1 Institute.

The flag of UNIBL (photo, photo) is blue with the university's seal.
The flag is also used, seemingly in a less official context, with a white ring around the emblem (photo).

Ivan Sache, 3 June 2018