Visit to the Historical Archive Sarajevo (HAS)

Visit to the Historical Archive Sarajevo (HAS)

Text: Goranka Ćejvanović / Photographs: Aleksandar Jakir, Goranka Ćejvanović

The Foundation and Activities of the Archives in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BuH)

The first official and legally established archival activities in Bosnia and Herzegovina began at the end of 1947 with the founding of the State Archives of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Then the municipal archives in Sarajevo, Banja Luka, Tuzla, Mostar etc. are formed. In pre-war Yugoslavia, the archival institutions established a structured scientific network, which was consequently destroyed at the beginning of the war in 1992. This not only resulted in the damage and partial destruction of the archives and libraries, but also in the loss of the financial resources and experts needed to build up the cultural legacy that remained after the war. During the war, the Bosnian-Herzegovinian archives remained mainly under regional ethnic military and paramilitary control.

In today’s Bosnia and Herzegovina, the archives are subject to either state, entity or cantonal legislation, depending on their affiliation. The technological and spatial conditions for the use of these archives can also vary, although it should be noted that the archive material is generally available to national and international researchers as well as private individuals.

The Historical Archive Sarajevo – Historijski Arhiv Sarajevo (HAS)

The HAS, which today is located in Alipašina 19 and belongs to the Sarajevo canton, was able to preserve the entire pre-war collection. It is also presented to the public in exhibitions according to various thematic focuses.

Within the framework of the workshop “Discursive inclusion and exclusion of Jews in the Balkans” which took place in Sarajevo from 03-09.-05.09.2018, the HAS was visited by some participants, students and professors: Besides the general information about the archive and its treasures, it was also important for us to receive some information about the Sephardic life in Sarajevo.

In quite a small space we were received by the director of the Fuad Archive Ohranović and his archivist Atif Mušinović and Admir Nezirović

But even if it seems to be furnished in a minimalist way, this archive houses an impressive archive that dates from the foundation of the city of Sarajevo (here only fragments), thus from the pre-Ottoman period until today. It thus shows the cultural, sociological, political and historical development of the city itself, as well as that of its inhabitants.

Here it should be particularly important that the University and National Library of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Gazi-Husrev Library (which has a large digital collection), with which the HAS cooperates closely, keep complementary collections.

In addition to the extensive Oriental Collection in Turkish and Arabic, including the transcript of Isa-Begs Vakufnama dating from 1461, documents of inestimable value are kept in the archive. These also include private and family collections, such as those of the historian Hamdija Kreševljaković.

Various archives from the Austro-Hungarian period, such as maps, magazines, decrees, etc., as well as the 1910 census are available to users. In this census not only the religious affiliations were recorded, but also the ownership conditions within the area between Vijećnica and Zemaljski muzej were documented. The HAS also houses the statistics of the 1925 population census and all the administrative documents of the NDH era.

The Sarajevo Sephardi and Laura Papo Bohoreta Manuscripts

The above-mentioned Census are of particular importance as it examines the demographic development, growth and decline of the Jewish community (Sephardi and Ashkenazzi) in various historical, economic and political contexts. But the HAS also preserves other diverse documents about the Sephardic Jews who settled here after the expulsion from Spain in the mid-16th century.

The manuscripts of the Sephardin, Laura Papo Bohoreta, who was born in Sarajevo in 1891, should be mentioned in particular, as the special feature of this manuscript lies on the one hand in its content and on the other in the language used. Laura Papo Bohoreta wrote her various documents in the Judeo-Spanish (Sephardic or Ladino) language, which is threatened by language death in present-day Bosnia and Herzegovina. In addition, the author and feminist includes the way of life and tradition of the Sephardic Jews in her literary works. One of her most important manuscripts is the monograph “”La mužer sef”.

One of her important manuscripts is the monograph “La mužer sefardi de Bosna”, which has also been translated into Bosnian (“Sefardska žena u Bosni”) thanks to the Romanist Muhamed Nezirović

On the occasion of the celebration of the 450th anniversary of the Sephardic community in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the HAS and the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Sarajevo, in cooperation with the local Embassy of the Kingdom of Spain, will publish the trilogy of Bohorea’s digitized manuscripts between 2015 and 2017.
In addition to the already mentioned monograph, the three volumes also publish poems, essays, dramas, including the famous drama “Esterka”, premiered in Sarajevo.

This three-volume publication “Laura Papo Bohoreta – rukopisi”, which is also increasingly important for scientific circles, not only bears witness to the traditional values of the Bosnian-Herzegovinian Sephardi, but also to a multicultural society in the region that has existed for centuries. Multiculturalism, as well as interreligious tolerance – especially in the city of Sarajevo – are also shown by other artifacts, especially the famous Sarajevo Haggadah with its unique history of survival, and (according to Andrić) “usnuli lavovi” (the sleeping lions) – the gravestones of the Jewish cemetery founded in 1630.