Mostar (Latin alphabet, in Cyrillic: Мостар) is a city and municipality in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the biggest and the most important city in the Herzegovina region and the center of the Herzegovina-Neretva Canton of the Federation. Mostar is situated on the Neretva river and is the fifth-largest city in the country. Mostar was named after “the bridge keepers” (natively: mostari) who guarded the Stari Most (Old Bridge) over Neretva river. The Old Bridge was built in the 16th century, during the Ottoman era, and it is one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks.
The names of two towns appear in medieval historical sources, along with their later medieval territories and properties – the towns of Nebojša and Cimski grad. In the early 15th century the late medieval župa (county) of Večenike covered the site of present-day Mostar along the right bank of the Neretva: Zahum, Cim, Ilići, Hraštani and Vojno. It was at the centre of this area, which belonged to the Radivojević’s in 1408, that Cim fort was built prior to 1443; it is referred to in a charter of King Alphonse V dating from 1454 as Pons (Bridge), for a bridge had already been built there. Prior to 1444, the Nebojša fort was built on the left bank of the Neretva, which belonged to the late medieval župa still known as Večenike or Večerić. The earliest documentary reference to Mostar as a settlement dates from April 3, 1452, when natives of Dubrovnik wrote to their fellow countrymen in the service of Đorđe Branković to say that Vladislav Hercegović had turned against his father and occupied Blagaj and other places, including “Duo Castelli al ponte de Neretua.”. In 1468 Mostar came under Ottoman rule. The urbanization of the settlement began, following the unwritten oriental rule, with a čaršija – the crafts and commercial centre of the settlement – and mahalas or residential quarters. In 1468 Mostar acquired the name Köprühisar, meaning fortress at the bridge, at the centre of which was a cluster of 15 houses.] In the late 16th century, Mostar was the chief administrative city for the Ottoman Empire in the Herzegovina region. The Austro-Hungarian Empire absorbed Mostar in 1878 and then it became part of Yugoslavia in the aftermath of World War I. The first church in the city of Mostar, a Serb Christian Orthodox Church, was built in Mostar during Austro-Hungarian occupation. Since 1881 Mostar has been the seat of the Bishopric of Mostar-Duvno. The city’s symbol, the “Old Bridge” (Stari Most) is one of the most important structures of the Ottoman era and was built by Mimar Hayrudin, a student of the famous Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan. In 1939, Mostar became part of the Banovina of Croatia and during World War II, was an important city in the Independent State of Croatia.
After World War II, Mostar developed a production of tobacco, bauxite, wine, aircraft and aluminium products. Several dams (“Grabovica”, “Salakovac”, “Mostar”) were built in the region to harness the hydroelectric power of the Neretva. The city was a major industrial and tourist center and prospered during the time of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
Mostar has architecturally noteworthy buildings in a wide range of styles. Though Mostar was officially part of the Ottoman Empire until the third quarter of the nineteenth century, all of the territories that would later become Bosnia and Herzegovina enjoyed an unusual measure of independence in the eighteenth and most of the nineteenth centuries. Historicist architectural styles reflected cosmopolitan interest and exposure to foreign aesthetic trends and were artfully merged with indigenous styles. Examples include the Italianate Franciscan church, the Ottoman Muslibegovica house, the Dalmatian Corovica House and an Orthodox church which was built as gift from the Sultan.
The Ottomans used monumental architecture to affirm, extend and consolidate their colonial holdings. Administrators and bureaucrats – many of them indigenous Bosnians and Herzegovinians who converted to Islam – founded mosque complexes that generally included Koranic schools, soup kitchens or markets.
During the period of Austro-Hungarian rule (1878–1918), Mostar’s city council cooperated with the Austro-Hungarians to implement sweeping reforms in city planning: broad avenues and an urban grid were imposed on the western bank of the Neretva, and significant investments were made in infrastructure, communications and housing. City administrators like Mustafa Mujaga Komadina were central players in these transformations, which facilitated growth and linked the eastern and western banks of the city. Noteworthy examples of Austro-Hungarian architecture include the Municipality building, which was designed by the architect Josip Vancas from Sarajevo, Residential districts around the Rondo, and the Gymnasium from 1902 designed by Franc Blazek.
Mostar cuisine is balanced between Western and Eastern influences. Traditional Mostar food is closely related to Turkish, Middle Eastern and other Mediterranean cuisines. However, due to years of Austrian rule and influence, there are also many culinary influences from Central Europe.
(the part about the War of Independence is omitted intentionally)