Sociology Mind
Vol.06 No.03(2016), Article ID:68124,16 pages

Monuments and Counter-Monument Sights in Post-Conflict Bosnia and Herzegovina: A Case Study of Gavrilo Princip’s Monuments

Maja Slijepcevic

Department of Communications, Media and Culture, Faculty of IR, Communications and Culture, Panteion University of Sociological and Political Sciences, Athens, Greece

Copyright © 2016 by author and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution International License (CC BY).

Received 7 February 2016; accepted 8 July 2016; published 11 July 2016


The ever-present need of remembering and reimagining the memory through the culture of building memorial sights, as markers of identity, at the places of extreme violence in the immediate aftermaths of the conflict de-escalation was a light motive for writing this paper. By allocating the empirical research on the ground of Bosnia and Herzegovina, there is a great opportunity to re-examine the dense perplexity of issues that are enhancing the momentum of the memory juxtaposed with the counter-memory, whereas different interest groups (political or civil) are simultaneously producing competing memories. The case study of BiH allows us to notice and highlight the multidimensionality of memory and counter-memory along the way of Bosnian postwar society towards the reconciliation, how it enables the identity building and the nation re-building during the processes of political consolidation and its didactic use for further conflict prevention. Using the discourses, visual materials and interviews from the field research adjusted on the post- conflict memory sites in Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina vs Republika Srpska (case study monuments of Gavrilo Principe in Sarajevo vs East Sarajevo), I would like to pinpoint the chasm between the actual purpose of memory sites that are built there after the conflict and the danger of them miscommunicating the conflict inflicted past that could possibly lead to a restoration of that latent conflict. Therefore, my research is concentrated on the coupled counter-memorial sites, which are of enormous importance for the process of reconciliation because of their role of keeping balance to the official narratives and memorials, despite of the fact that this role of them is usually neglected by scholars.


Bosnia and Herzegovina, Post-Conflict Memory, Cultural Heritage, Counter-Monuments/Memorials, Identity Building, Reconciliation

1. Introduction

“The past is full of life, eager to irritate us, provoke and insult us, tempt us to destroy or repaint it. The only reason people want to be masters of the future is to change the past. They are fighting for access to the laboratories where photographs are retouched and biographies and histories rewritten … The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.” (Kundera, 1981

A dissolution of Yugoslavia (Rogel, 1998) has resulted into the Bosnian war (from 1992 to 1995) (Donia & Fine, 2011), which over the time becomes a synonym of violent destruction of multicultural society, urbicid, (Bublin, 1999) and deliberates destruction of cultural heritage, with its final goal to be nothing less but the annihilation of a common Yugoslav identity and a collective memory.

Everything that had common denominator had to be “unmixed” and “undone”, while the three competing ethno-religious groups (Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs) inhabiting as majorities the Bosnian space where competing to refill the power vacuum created along the transition and practicing the “ethnic cleansing” of territories (Toal & Dahlman, 2011), in order to accomplish an “ethnic self -cleansing” (Bugarel, 2004). That “cleansed-self” will be a new base for nation building (Bosnian) and nation re-building (Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats) processes on each of their homogenized administrative unites (Anderson, 1983), determinated by Dayton Peace Framework(DPA)1.

1.1. Post-War Legacies in Bosnia and Herzegovina

In order to understand how labyrinthine these processes were, it is necessary to stress that DPA had fragmented Bosnia into two Entities (Appendix 1), a Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska, together with District Brcko. Thus the state was enclosed into the vicious circle of simultaneously overlapping processes for ethnic and nation building.

On the one hand, in the FBiH Entity Bosniaks and Croats, divided into 10 cantons, were shearing the public space, trying to build one mutual identity by differentiating themselves from Serbs and traditionally excluding each other from their joint narratives through the monumentalization and memorialisation. On the other hand, Serbs were building their own identity, completely excluding Bosniaks and Croats and accordingly to the needs of their political agenda calling up for the unity of Serb people on both sides of Drina river (Irredentism towards Serbia). All this as “politics win to extend boundaries of their culture to protect and impose their culture with the boundaries of their power” (Hobsbawm, 1990).

Since the last century, was characterized by multiple shifts of ideologies over the Bosnian sheared political space, the last identity which was encompassed into the memory of all Yugoslav people through shared culture, official narratives, pictures of grandiose monuments and memorials glorifying the “liberating” efforts of partisans had become a cornerstone during the “ethnocide” of 90s and in the aftermaths of the post-war reconstruction of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Bugarel, 2004).

Best witness of the “Cultural genocide” (De Condappa, 2006) that happened in Bosnia is the data collected at the Institute for Protection of Cultural, Natural and Historical Heritage of Bosnia and Herzegovina, where is give or take 1454 cultural monuments that were destroyed (1283 Islamic, 237 Catholic and 30 Orthodox) (Coelho et al., 2013). This information is punctual in comprehending the role that monuments had in Yugoslavian Politics and why they were chosen, without exception, by all the successor ethnic groups, to be groundwork for their post- war identity building. Regardless of that, Assmann (2005) argues that “a state is building monuments whose task is to direct a collective on to a specific memory, while at the same time building up a relationship of forgetting the monuments of the previous society” (Jan Assmann, 2005). This way, people are detached from their previous identity, narratives or memories, and streamed towards the creation of a new one.

As a result of those changes, that had deeply influenced a creation of a new Bosnian society encapsulated into new competing memories, monuments and counter-monuments, I am about to research the exact relation among the memory expressed through monuments and counter-monuments and the identity building in post-conflict Bosnia and Herzegovina.

1.2. Defining Monuments and Counter-Monuments

Terminus a quo in my research, will be a definition of the relation between the memory and a monument given by Young (1993), who argues that “... rather than embodying memory, the monument displaces it altogether, supplanting a community’s memory work with its own material form … perhaps the more memory comes to rest in its exteriorized forms, … the less it is experienced internally. For once we assignee a monumental form to memory, we have to some degree divested ourselves to the obligation to remember. In shouldering the memory- work, monuments may relieve viewers of their memory burden … the memorial operation remains self-contained and detached from our daily lives. Under the illusion that our memorial edifice will always be there to remind us, we take live of them and return only in our continuance. In fact the initial impulse to memorialize Events like Holocaust might actually spring form an opposite desire to forget them” (Young, 1993).

While for the counter-monument I will use the same scientist’s definition, describing them as “brazen, painfully self conscious memorial spaces conceived to challenge the very premises of their being”. Ergo they are working in opposition to each other as “the counter-monument seeks to reverse the usual process whereby a monument “seal(s) memory off from awareness altogether””. In other words, monument is relieving people of the memory burden, while a counter-monument returns that burden back to the people for revision. (Harris, 2010)

1.3. Research Question and Presentation of Case Study

Accordingly to this definitions and the already explained relation of monuments and counter-monuments with the formation of identity (ethnic and national) in post-conflict Bosnia and Herzegovina, my Research Question would be Are the memories returned to the shared public space through the process of building counter- memory sites in post-conflict Bosnia enforcing the reconciliation and building of the common identity or undermining the same process giving the advantage to the building of ethnic identities?

In order to answer it I have chosen the qualitative analysis and field work over the couples of monuments and counter-monuments which I consider very interesting and useful in order to answer my Research Question. Nearby I will give you the case study and a reasons why I chosen it over many others:

It is the last Yugoslav plaque of monument of Gavrilo Princip with at least two of its counter-monuments, the first of whom is the last plaque, brought up in Sarajevo (FBiH), at the original place of the monument but within modified context following the end of the last Bosnian war and the Gavrilo Princip monument in East Sarajevo (RS).

This case is very interesting, because the first plaque was originally built in Sarajevo by Austro-Hungarian Empire memorializing their Archduke and Douches that were assassinated by Gavrilo Princip. When system was changed, it was rebuild during the First Yugoslavia celebrating Gavrilo Princip. During the WWII it was again removed by Nazi and then rebuild two more times during the Second Yugoslavia, both times paying tribute to Princip. But it was again removed during the Bosnian war and again set in esteem of the Franc Ferdinand and his wife Sophie’s assassination and the “Vanished footprints” of Gavrilo Princip.

After the Bosnian conflict of 90s, a context of this monument was changed irreconcilably as its locus is incorporated into FBiH and Gavrilo who is perceived as an “Serb terrorist” (despite the fact he was declaring as Yugoslav) become “unwelcome” in the city and the new Bosniak narratives, together with the Serbs who are held responsible for 3 years of Sarajevo’s siege and exiled from the city by DPA. It become very intriguing, especially after the last year centenary celebration of the beginning of the WWI to whose protagonists this monument was originally dedicated. Hence I would like to research the relation of this monument to the identity building in post-conflict Bosnian context. The role that both, monuments and counter monuments (because their role switches depending weather we are looking at this phenomenon from FBiH or RS side) play in everyday lives of citizens and in building of their personal identities vs collective identities. As discourses over the issue had raised a lot of dust in academia, media and ethnic tensions both, locally and internationally and I would like to research a role that European narratives have played underpinning the local nationalism instead of their commitment to the building of common identity.

1.4. Research Hypothesis

This Bosnian metapuzzle is giving a great plurality of competing narratives, that are following the memory and counter-memory sites building or commemorations, as a cause for massive mobilization of population in Bosnia and Herzegovina. That directed me on staging an Qualitative Research on the localities where those memory sites are placed and to attempt through the Interviews and their Analysis, interdependent to the theoretical and literature background, to challenge my hypothesis.

1st Hypothesis: The existence of counter-memorial sites is enforcing more the identity building of the dominant group at the place of their existence than the group that is displaced/exiled.

2nd Hypothesis: Counter-monuments and memorials are enforcing rather ethnic then common national identity.

3nd Hypothesis: The politicization of the counter-memorial sites is a reason why they are transformed from memorial into counter-memorial sites, or otherwise (Depending from the public space and the official narrative we start to examining them).

2. Theorizing Memory and Collective Identity

In order to understand the theories over “collective memory” we are first to understand how an individual identity is transformed into group identity. Ericson claimed that the identity is formed through the interaction of the individual identity with its communal culture and that it prerequisite the committeemen to an ideological world view. While Marcia has developed this theory further stressing the importance of “means” and “committeemen” during the periods of crisis along the identity building process. Reconsidering multiethnic societies (with at least 2 or 3 ethnic groups), it has been found that contextual and historical aspects have enormous impact on the ethnic identity in two ways. Firstly through the balancing of majority and minority groups and then through the self-labeling of individuals inside its own ethnic group. In this circumstance, Pinney is arguing that “ethnic identity is constant variable, ranging from low identity to high identity”. (Hjort, 2004)

Over and above, we can conclude that the identity of every “Imagined Community” is determinated by its cultural roots, traditions and narratives trying to maintain and preserve its continuity. (Anderson, 1983)

Following that trace we come to the “collective memory” which, despite of its pervasiveness in scientific researches remains notoriously difficult to define what had implications on its relation along the building of collective identity.

During the 70s, following the Young’s theory of “Archetypes”, Halbwachs’ and Werburgs formed new theories namely “collective” and “social memory” by which they tempted to explain that inheritedness of “The specific character that a person derives from belonging to a distinct society and culture is not seen to maintain itself for generations as a result of phylogenetic evolution, but rather as a result of socialization and customs”. (Assmann & Czaplicka, 1995)

Halbwach was the first to use the term “collective memory”, complaining that his contemporaries were not ready to ascribe the memory to collectives, despite the fact that the same concept had preexisted in Archaic Greece and Western manuscripts. (Russell, 2006) Nevertheless, his main argument was that the collective memory is determinate by space and time, while “the leaders” are rearranging the past due to their current needs as part of the social narratives where “group constructs the memory and the individuals do the work of remembering”2. His concept was later developed by Serge Moscovici through his analysis of the “small changes in group thinking/behavior” (Oullete, 2010).

Next big contribution to the field of memory had come from Nora, who promoted the “historicization of memory”. His concept of collective memory was inspired with the modernization and industrialization processes and he distinguished three phases: a premodern or “a natural, unselfconscious” relation of people to their past where their continuity is ensured by the transmission of traditions, a modern or “first-order simulations of natural memory” where people were reconstructing the past because its traditionalization had lost the meaning along the modernization at the end of 19th century of Nation-state, and a postmodern or “second-order simulations of natural memory”, which came to the life because of the collapse of the nation-state along the 20th century of media producing the traditions that had nothing to do with real ones. (Lebow, Kansteiner, & Fogu (ed.), 2006)

This theory of “invented traditions” was confirmed and developed through Hobsbawm’s research over establishing a “rather fictitious” continuity relation with the suitable historical past, through the “quasi-obligatory” repetitiveness of new practice and rituals of symbolic nature which are brought by the political elites as a reference to the past. (Hobsbowm & Ranger, 1992)

As increasing number of scientists were seeing the “collective memory” as a political instrument, Werbang’s “iconic memory” and Mann’s “cultural memory” open a new direction among the theorists. Hence A. Assmann and J. Assmann had brought a new concept of three-dimensional interactions of time, identity and memory and personal, social and cultural, by fragmenting the Halbachs “collective memory” into “communicative memory” and “cultural memory” in order to elaborate more on the cultural concept of whom Halbachs’ theory was in shortage. (Assmann, 2008)

Culture as Memory (Assmann, 2008)

“Cultural memory” is an institutionalized picture of objects with symbolic meanings, transformable in order to minister the situation and responsible for ensuring the reproduction of their heritage to future generations. There “external objects are carriers of memory” that is shaping the personal memory and therefore the personal identity. Memory is used as metonym to the Prust’s medelaine, to describe the relation between the “remembering mind and the reminding object” during their material contact.

As a collectives don’t have memory, they attach themselves to symbolic objects “meant as reminders such as monument, museums, libraries, achieves and other mnemonic institutions” that are a foundations of their “cultural memory” which is in demand of institutionalized maintenance. It is differentiated from “communicative memory” and Halbwachs’ memory, which are temporal (migh last only 80 years), by the institutionalization that provides it with continuity through celebrations. But it is limited by the viability of societal frames, whose change is enforcing the forgetting of “cultural memory”.

In this terms, J. Assmann in one of his interviews while explaining the unifying character of “cultural memory” had made a reference to the Bosnian war and Sarajevo’s library destruction, perceiving it as deliberate erasure of memory in order of starting the new Serb’s identity building as “This was the strategy of the totalitarian regime to destroy the past, because if one controls the present, the past also gets under control, and if one controls the past, the future also gets under control”. (Meckien, 2013)

Nevertheless, “cultural memory” is not based on reconstructed past, but on premises of its remembrances. It might outstretch as long as the past can be contented as “ours”. Hence the group identity is formed from what has been saved of “cultural memory” as unforgotten. Due to this, it is obligatory “to remember in order to belong”.

The remembering of “cultural memory” is prophesied mostly through elitism, but it could be also enforced through the work of specialists such as rabbis, teachers, artists, and other in both, oral and literate societies.

All in all, “cultural memory” has a great capacity of transformation and transition, but the most usual are from “communicative memory” into it, and within the “cultural memory” from “latency or potentiality to manifestation and vice versa”.

3. Review of Literature

Bosnia’s turbulent history and frequent changes of dominant political ideologies had dictated the way that its monuments ware made up. It is due to those alterations that we can distinguish a variety of different influences portrayed through different monuments, depending to which phase of Bosnian History they belong. For the same reason, we can detect multiple changes in the appearance, the representation, memorialisation and the production of the meaning in the context of the same monuments.

The problem is that the post-war bloom of monuments building, which is following the general Balkan trend (Jukić et al., 2013), is uncontrolled as the information from the Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees, which is competent for the culture of memory in Bosnia witnesses that “Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees does not have enough time and resources to dedicate itself to collect that kind of data”. Therewithal the number of overall built monuments greatly exceeds the permits issued by 143 municipalities in Bosnia3.

As right before the warfare, Bosnian monuments had belonged to the common Yugoslav cultural heritage, it was logical that they were through, more or less, harmonized visualizations, supporting the ruling Politics of Yugoslavism. Hence, wars that followed were agitating as Todor Kuljic tends to call them a series of immense societal temblors which consequently resulted into the formation of new societies with its distinguishing newly imposed places of memory (Kuljic, 2006). Bosnian case is undoubtedly proving him right.

When the new political Ideologies had repressed the old ideology, new monuments had to be erected in order to give a symbolical meaning of belonging to the new public space. Hand in hand with that, the old meanings had to be reframed.

“You begin to liquidate a people by taking away its memory. You destroy its books, its culture, its History. And then others write new books for it, give another Culture to it, invent another History for it. Then the people slowly begin to forget what it is and what it was…” (Kundera, 1999)

Bavan (2006) is stressing the importance of the reconstruction of cultural heritage together with the viable environment, since their absence of symbols of previous memories is like exile from the collective identity for those who remember them (Bevan, 2006), what we can trace in the case study of Gavrilo Princip’s Monument site in Sarajevo and its counter-monument in East Sarajevo. Sarajevo as a divided city, is highly contested with ethnic markers of identity. On one hand is Sarajevo proper as a Bosniaks part of the city, Cantonal and State capital while on the the other hand is Serb part of East Sarajevo, which is struggling for development.

Following the tendency of building monuments after the WWI, during the 1917 Sarajevo got its most famous monument named “A monument of assassination”, which was firstly dedicated to Franc Ferdinand and his wife Sophie. It was already replaced in 1918, due to political changes, and the new plaque was marking “a historical place from which Gavrilo Princip had revoked” (“navjestio”) a liberty on the day of St. Vitus, the 28th of Jun 1914” (Custo, 2013). The original monument of Gavrilo Princip was built at the exact site of assassination of Franc Ferdinand, on the corner of the Latin bridge, which was renamed in Princip’s bridge during the 1920. Princip that way become “something of the national hero in a Yugoslav state for having risen up against foreign occupiers and for triggering a war that would lead to the formation of state uniting south Slavs”. (Makas & Conley, 2010)

The first plaque commemorating him was removed from the place of Ferdinand’s association during the 15th of August 1994, when Germans marched into Sarajevo and it was sent to Hitler as his birthday gift (Greble, 2011).

Čusto (2013) remarks that the inscription on the second plaque, dedicated to Princip, that was presented on the 7th May of 1945 and pinpointing the anti-fascistic engagement of Bosnian Youth with the “revolutionary act” of the same, was eight years later replaced by communists. As in their time Princip was celebrated for “expressing peoples protest against tyranny”. The plaque of his foots was added on the floor in front the Museum of Mlada Bosna following the occasion of UOSABIH opening. She elucidate that the last war had changed the view of his role and act in the history of the city. So, the last plaque was presented in 2007 with the simple statement of the act, in front of the newly renamed Museum of Austro-Hungarian Period 1787-1918. Her study of this monument is proving the fact that “actual regimes are shaping a collective memory from their ideological perspective” (Custo, 2013).

In his research, David James Smith (2010) reveals that “it was a common habit for the besieged citizens of Sarajevo to spit at footprints, or the plaque, or both, as they walked passed, during the years of war in mid 90s”. Despite of the fact that “the assassination had always been kept in Sarajevo, and never taken to the centre, to Belgrade, and celebrated there”, and the detail that “Gavro had never become a national hero”, his ghost is hunting Sarajevians as “any revival around Gavro would always be problematic simply because non-Serbs could not identify with him”. The researcher himself concludes that due to the ethnic conflict, Princip was for the second time proclaimed as a terrorist and “blank looks and overexpression of hostilities” of taxi drivers when asked to take him to his grave, proved that the traumas of the last war “would not be forgotten any time soon”. (Smith, 2010)

The change in competing identity buildings is also commented by Turan (2002), with regard to a Sarajevo film festival, reckoning that “film can only do so much in the city whose suffering has led to the removal of a Yugoslav monument Princip (now seen as a Serb nationalist, not a liberator) and the wholesale changing of names of streets and buildings (the festival’s headquarters hotel, once the Belgrade, is now the Bosnia) to fit new political realities”. To justify her clams she is using the example of the burnt Sarajevo two million item library, as an act to “obliterate Bosnian culture” and presents a plaque keeping “ “the Serbian Criminals” responsible and ending with the stark peroration “ Do not Forget. Remember and Warn”. (Turan, 2002).

How this process is fueling the post-conflict debates could be traced in Carole Rogel (1998) framing of this monument as supportive to the Serb nationalistic causes through the objection that Biljana Plavsic “took flowers and lit a candle at the monument of Gavrilo Princip, the assassin of Archduke Franc Ferdinand, on the anniversary of that Bosnian Serb’s birthday” (Rogel, 1998).

As the debates were burning during the last years preparation for the 100 years celebration, a famous Bosnian filmmaker Kusturica compares the act of ABiH and Izetbegovic’s removal of the footsteps and change of Pricips’s bridge name with fascistic act of removal of the first plaque in 1941. Stressing that they were assigned an Austrian citizen as advocate (Rudolf Zistler), who at the court proved that there was no legal base for the accusation against Princip “Nor Austrian or Hungarian parliaments had never voted the annexation of BIH and legally it had never become a part of the Austro Hungarian Empire. Concluding, a circumvention of ideas about the law and legality as a basic principle is not just a specificity of Balkan countries” (SRNA, 2014).

Mitrinovic is examining this politicization of rewriting of the plaque giving the weight to the fact that “a new principle, is like every principle, intolerant, rigid and in this case totally nationalistically polarized”, as the new plaque was written in Latinical alphabet and on English, under the pressing of Bosniak veteran’s organization (Zelene Beretke) and religious organizations (Mitranovic, 2003).

How the memories are reframed could be seen from Cerkez’s article, where the commemoration is divided onto Bosniak and Serb, terrorist vs hero celebrating. The background of Bosnian EU accessions, along the sounds of Vienna’s Philharmonic Orchestra from Bosniak part of Sarajevo are corrupted by “the two shoots” that followed the presentation of the new Princip’s monument in East Sarajevo. The absence of Serbs is portrayed as their separatism, just like in 1992. (Cerkez, 2014)

On the other hand, the fact that Princip’s role was used and abused on repeat throughout the Yugoslav history, had enabled a Serb nationalism to successfully defuse its propaganda and the rhetorical moral right over him. New Princip’s statue in East Sarajevo is therefore a personification of nationalism, waiting to transmit its “meanings” through “emotions” to the citizens. (Dickson, Blair, & Ott, 2010)

Prove to that are words of Dodik4 who during the opening ceremony of the new monument had declared “Serbs were expeled from Sarajevo during the homeland war. Very few members of a Serb nation stayed there. Their apartments, property and History were taken away from them. Hence we are opening the monument here and sending the message that we are proud on our History, on our fight for liberty, on everything that our predecessors were doing, and to fight the right on our identity”. Adding that “Monument is our clear message that our fight in the past was righteous, justified, legitimate and legal”5.

How effective device could be a nationalism along the identity building and public memory building shows a fact that there are now many statues of Princip, starting from the one built in Tovarisevo (Serbia)6, the new one in Sarajevo and one in Belgrade where he came as a “hero” after one century of traveling around7.

As it becomes clear from the abovementioned literature, both the last plaque that was brought up in 2007 and the monument in East Sarajevo are fulfilling the basic prerequisite of an counter-monument, that to talk about an silenced trauma. Even thought the pivotal context had been reframed, for Bosniaks it is now a trauma of being labeled for triggering the WWI and the “vanishing” of the last plaques, together with the new inscription in Latin alphabet along with the sounds of Vienna Orchestra is a try of Bosniak society to rebuild its identity relieved of that trauma. While, for Serbs it is a trauma of revolutionarism which is perceived as terrorism along with the trauma of “their History in exile”, where without historical continuity they are “rootless”. Therefore, the need for producing many Principes is everpresent in order to reaffirm their identity, since the Kosovo legacy is lost.

For all the above mentioned reasons it would be highly recommended to have more researches done on this topics focusing on the area of a whole Bosnia and Herzegovina as it is still under researched. In a very few researches of monuments that have been done by far concerning Bosnia, e.x. Custo’s research on comparison of prewar and postwar Monuments in Sarajevo is the most extensive, but it, like all the other researches upon the monuments in Bosnia, is focused only on monuments in one Entity(FBiH). Therefore this is the only research consisting a comparative analysis of monuments located in both Entities giving insihght in their prewar and postwar contexts and more researches including both Entities are needed in order to spread the light on the parallel processes that are taking place there. Also, Bosnian paradigm of paired monuments and counter-monu- ments is unique example in academia that could set a new stage in research worldwide as only researches upon monuments or counter-monuments were guided international and never a single research having the comparative analyses between those two categories.

4. Research Findings

Last year it happened that on the day of Commemoration of 28th June, the day when Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were murdered by Gavrilo Princip8. I found myself in Sarajevo doing my Master Thesis field research. While my topic was “Inter-ethnic relations and the problem of reconciliation in post-conflict Bosnia and Herzegovina” and the case study was Sarajevo vs East Sarajevo, I preceded to very interesting details around this event which have happened to (un) fortunately mobilized huge masses in both Entities.

Knowing that there will be many labeling of this Event I decided to do a small street research on it. I talked to the people on both sides, Sarajevo proper and the East Sarajevo and results I got did not surprised me very much thought they undoubtedly proved my hypothesis.

First of all, I went to the place where this event had unfolded at the exact time of shooting. To my surprise, huge mass of scientists and tourists who came to Sarajevo only for the Commemoration of Ferdinand’s death at that very day symbolizing the beginning of the WWI9 gathered in front of the Museum of Sarajevo10. Literary you could not breath from the over crowdedness and when the clock ticked 10:45, Franz Ferdinand’s car came in front of the Museum with three actors, a mail portraying the Archduke, a female as Duchess of Hohenberg and an old mail portraying Oscar Potiorec (Remak, 1959) (Figure 1 and Figure 2).

Figure 1. Picture is taken in front of the Museum of Sarajevo at the day of commemoration of 100 years of France Ferdinand and his wife Sophie assassination by Gavrilo Princip.

Figure 2. Picture is taken in front of the Museum of Sarajevo depicting how colorful were the people who came to this commemoration.

Watching carefully how the actors represent this Event, irrespective of the official FBIH framing of it, are dressed11 and looking how picturesque are the spectators, it is clear that this whole show was just satirizing the whole Event and together with it the European History, whose integral part Sarajevo is. There was no real simulation of Event, no shoots and no blood like Sarajevo had the assignment to rewrite its history before the eyes of a whole world and “clean itself” from partaking in this “shameful event” for whom nobody else but the Serbs is responsible. By rejecting the common past with “Serb Terrorists”, Sarajevians were publicly morning the Archduke and Duchesse (Figure 3).

Figure 3. Picture of wreath laid in commemoration of Franc Ferdinand and Sophie assassination in front of the Museum of Sarajevo.

Amra (51) from Sarajevo told me that day “Every morning I am passing by the place where Franc Ferdinand was assassinated and thinking of that Event … I am telling you in this war I lost first of all myself. A brother that I lost was one year younger than me and we were closely connected. But today, when I passed by the flowers I said” Oh my Ferdinand, if only you knew how many of them were also killed here “?” 12.

This might be very interesting for the research since many of Bosniaks started framing themselves as “victims” after this war and simultaneously framing Serbs as “perpetrators” deepening the gap between “us” and “them” that Bosnian war had obtruded. All this, despite of the historical fact that Bosniaks and Serbs were fighting and dying together while trying to guard Sarajevo from the forces that the same Ferdinand send to occupy them (Donia, 2006). Hence, suffering has become an integral part along the formation of Bosniak post-war collective identity, which was passed on the members of that group through everyday interactions, narratives and the politics of memorialisation. Pre-war monuments or their absence were de-contextualized of their pre-war meanings and that way officially orchestrated as a sources of identification and legitimization for the process of rebuilding of Bosniaks identity.

From the old Yugoslav monument witnessing of the revolutionary organization Mlada Bosna, which was due to the official Yugoslav politics to promote the unity and liberation and the monument of Gavrilo Princip, the original plaque was given as a gift to Hitler13 and after the Bosnian war only the picture of Princip’s footsteps have remained in front of the Museum of Sarajevo (Figure 4).

Figure 4. Picture of the footsteps of Gavrilo Princip in front of the Museum of Sarajevo.

As it is written on the newly placed picture of the old plaque, Princips’s footsteps have “vanished” from the original place around 1992 together with Yugoslavia, the Politics of Yugoslavism (Dejan, 2003) and the Sarajevian “multiculturalism”14 which were deliberately replaced alongside the radicalization of Bosniaks identity.

But the fact that he (Gavrilo Princip) existed continues to divide Sarajevians of non-Serb ethnicity. Especially the older generations which learned about him as the unifier through the Yugoslav Educational Policies and now they are called to see him as a “terrorist” due to the reversal of the official Yugoslav into official Bosniak narratives.

In the interview that I conducted with Dr. Spahic he argued that “We were practically warring here because of Globalization, not for some vital national political interests. Serbs were abused like back then when they were given weapons by England, France and Russia to clear away the Turks so that the three mentioned could wash their hands of Salonika’s Front. But Serbs wrote in their History how “we decided and defeated the Turks”. Then, the Serbs got Mlada Bosna, with the help of France secrete services and Russia in their try to destroy the Austro-Hungarian Empire when they found Gavrilo Princip. There were also non-Serbs in Mlada Bosna. Ivo Andric15 was there along with few Croats, Hungarians and Jews. But “we Serbs have started the WWI because we are the most important here”. That is how we mythologies our perdition, from Kosovo’s battle which we corrupted to be won while it was not even written in Turkish History. For them battle on Marica was more important, when they dispersed the Serbian Kindom16 Even Aldin (75) is sharing professors opinion declaring that “Look, Tito was born to love this country. Here nobody is born loving it. Even that assassination happened because something was bothering somebody. Again, it was invented by Serbs who were helped by Russia, and those young people were sworning in their name” 17.

From above mentioned, it is obvious that competing historical narratives were along the Bosniaks oppression and still are cornerstones undermining the reconciliation. What influence this process the most is the fact that Bosniaks have turned from Yugoslav’s minority group into Bosnia’s majority group (Appadurai, 2006) and now they are struggling for inventing traditions that will be longer and reached then Serbs. It might be that they did not burn Serb Churches in Sarajevo, showing some kind of tolerance in their try to keep the multiethnic epithet in city’s biography, but removing street names and monuments representing history figures of Serb background is also an act of “cleansing”.

What is the use of those Religious building when very small number of Serbs has stayed in Sarajevo and even lesser is visiting them? In contrast with religious buildings, monuments were more personalized. Talking the common past and their removal is official message of no shared future. Monuments are of course the easiest way to orchestrate one’s memory, since the man’s brain is constantly bombarded with thousands of information’s and the visual ones are “more easily remembered overall”18. Hence, the “vanished” Gavrilo Princip footsteps and the epithet of “terrorist” or the constant pinpointing of his connection to Serbs government are messages for Bosnianks not to identify with him, because his bad connotations are not characteristical for their group identity which is “tolerant”, “peaceful” and “victimized”. Not like Serbs which after hundred of year have show nothing less than being same as Princip, “terrorists”, “aggressors” through shooting on the opening of the New Gavrilo Princip’s monument in East Sarajevo and still because of their connection with Serbian government. It seems that the Acculturation has been fitted into the new Historical context which is abusing Cultural Memory all because of enforcement of the new Bosnian Identity, which is promoting the difference and exclusion of memory and monuments production.

Even though in Sarajevo was organized a “Peace Event 2014”19 on which numerous recognized local singers such as Dino Merlin, Bosnian cultural personas, international historians, politicians and citizens gave a presence, almost all my interviewers agreed that the money that was given for the organization of this Event should have been given to the victims of Bosnian floods and for that cause some of them took part in the protest organized on the opposite side of Princip’s bridge wearing masks with his face on it20. What is interesting is that people have started distancing themselves from the past and to show the humanity and give help during common misfortune (Figure 5).

Figure 5. Source: Anadolia.

In contrast to all this, at the Serb part of East Sarajevo on the day of commemoration of 100 years of the assassination a new counter-monument of Gavrilo Princip has been uncovered by the highest political representatives (Figure 6).

Figure 6. Presentation of Gavrilo Princip’s monument in Lukavica (East Sarajevo) Photo by Reuters.

The euphoria around that event was shared only among the officials from Republika Srpska and Serbia21, as one part of their delegation was present at the daily presentation of the monument and the other part was in Adnricgrad22. There, upon Kusturica’s idea, had been presented a reconstruction of the real Event, a per- formance titled as “The Rebelled Angels”23 and characterized by the scene where GPS led Franc Ferdinand right to his assassinators, as some Serb historians are arguing that the planning of assassination “was known to Germany” and Vienna. Hence Kusturica is trying to rewrite history and wash away the “terroristic” as a synonym given by Bosniaks and the rest of the world to the “romantic revolutionaries” who were presented as “Angels”. Kusturica as a creator of the entire city, the whole commemoration event and the performance is playing with the symbols which are revoking the retraditionalization of Serbs.

The very title of performance is directly framing the revolutionary character of the Mlada Bosna organization. In contrast to FBIH commemorations, Kusturica is including in his story Muhamed Mehmedbasic, a Muslim member of the assassinators group who was officially excluded from FBIH commemorations, giving this way a more inclusive dimension to his representation of the Event. Nevertheless, the place where he chooses to show the performance is incontrovertibly a city, which he himself builds in Visegrad, as one of very important historical places for both, Serbs and Muslims in Bosnia. Kusturica chosen Visegrad, from UNESCO list of World Heritage, famous for its beautiful Bridge on Drina24 which was built by Grand Vizier Mehmed Pasha Sokollu (Agoston & Masters, 2009) of Bosnian Muslim origin (who is also claimed by Serbs) and built, inside of it, his city named Andricgrad upon the only Yugoslav Nobelist (Ivo Andric) who was of Muslim origin, self declaring as a Yugoslavian and being claimed by Serbs (Abazovic & Velikonja (eds.), 2014)

Keeping in our mind the fact that a very creator of all this is Emir Kusturica, a Muslim who recalling his Serbian roots switched to Orthodoxy25 and that Visegrad was a place of ethnic cleansing during the last Bosnian war (Lieberman, 2013), from who’s Bosniak commentary Republika Srpska government had erased the word “genocide”26.

It is very obvious that this evening Event was organized to promote political bonds of Serbs from both sides of Drina river and to fortify the promotion of their common identity.

The displacement of the real commemoration from East Sarajevo, where the program of Princip monument presentation was very brief, to Andricgrad as a new Cultural Mecca of “all” Serbs was not organized by chance on the date of Franc Ferdinand’s assassination.

The 28th of June, (Geisler (ed.), 2004) was chosen purposely as it is a date deeply engraved in the memory of Serb people as a day of suffering, from Kosovo legacy till Princip, where through the continuum of “sacrificing” they were reimagining and justifying their “victimizations” in the name of the nation.

Through this kind of cultural engineering, a culture is directly employed in the process of identity building and history rewriting. It seems like the monument of Gavrilo Princip in East Sarajevo is built as a part of counter-monument that is represented with the picture of vanished Princip’s footsteps, and it is just a linkage to the Andricgrad. There, in a “pure Serb” surrounding, a “new memory” and representations of the same, are to be rested in peace, setting the foundation for a new SNSD politics of memory, looking towards Belgrade and moving away from Sarajevo.

For them, a Princip’s monument in East Sarajevo is clearly employed as identity marker, but the confusion that all this politicized praxes are enhancing is of the crucial significance on the everyday life of the people in all this localities.

When asked about the new Gavrilo Princip monument in East Sarajevo, Miladin (65) told me “ Hi is not terrorist. Those are just conspiration stories. He was a Yugoslavian by his declaration. Well if somebody sees it differently or if Big Powers need to wash their hands and find a culprits in smaller nations… He was a young man. Man who sacrificed himself. I am very glad that they built his monument in Sarajevo (East Sarajevo). From now on I will walk there every day and take my grandson with me”27. From Miladin’s words is obvious that the presence of the new monument, relieves him from the injustice that was “imposed” through the overall framing of this event from outside. Princip is for him a synonym of Serb existence in Sarajevo. While he is himself, displaced in East Sarajevo (Republika Srpska Entity) he feels that a newcomer Princip is in exile like him. He accepts it as long as the monument can give him the chance to identify himself with him. It is like in that exile he missed the roots to the History, which Princip’s monument mysteriously brings with him. Saying that he will take his grandson to see Princip is actually a transmission of memory and its directing his grandson towards a collective identity.

It might be said that Princip was Yugoslav, but since the roles in Bosnia are shared on ethnical bases and Yugoslavism is not any more on menu, it is questionable to what kind of identity will this monument associate the people? What will happen in the future when those who are old enough to have emotional attachment to the old Yugoslavia won’t be there anymore? Would their grandchildren rather be attached to Serbia as the cultural engineering is already attaching them?

What cannot be neglects is the fact that people who used to celebrate this event together are now sharply divided by ethnical lines. Dragan from Lukavica told me “It is different! We celebrate Gavrilo and they celebrate Ferdinand. Gavrilo is hero to us, and to them he is a terrorist. We think what we think is right and they think theirs is right. They are rewriting the History. I think it is stupid. We were learning together who is Gavrilo and all of the sudden they are changing it. He was a liberator and patriot. But for them now he is a terrorist, despite of the fact that just 30 years before he was a hero to them?”28.

To conclude, even if this research is very far from finished and it was done only on one locality, it is obvious that building of monuments and counter-monuments is directly affecting a daily life of people. Not just at the locality where they are build or erased, but also across the entire imagined community with the same national interests of self-identification.

Ipso facto, they are politicized for the mobilization of the overall nation due to the competing narratives and exclusionist aims. They can easily become goal of provocations, as it happened in Sarajevo at the day of the Centenary event when a group of Chetniks29 was taking pictures showing of Serb flag at the place where Franc Ferdinand was killed.

Regardless of that, it is fascinating that counter-monuments are actually labeling both, the national identity and the inclusivity. Sometimes that inclusivity can be partial and politicized, as it happened when during the day of celebration a Director of the Secretariat for Religions in Republika Srpska, Dragan Davidovic (Historian by profession) lied a flowers on the tomb of Muhamed Mehmedbasic, a Muslim member of Mlada Bosna30, or when Sarajevo people were protesting with Princip’s masks. But if in Andricgrad a former Muslim is fortifying a foundation of Serb identity formation, then it won’t be overoptimistic to believe that counter-monuments capacity for mobilization of masses could be directed toward reconciliation at some time in the near future.

5. Conclusion

From all that we can read above, it is crystal clear that a role of both, personal and collective memory is always politicized through the building of monuments. A new political ideologies that are seeking ways to be endorsed into the minds and hearts of masses are choosing a monumentalization following the motto of “one picture a thousand words” and abusing the opportunity to build, through the emotional attachment of people, a “material proves” for they sayings. That “fictitious” proves will be later reproduced through different channels like the education, narratives, religion (Armenian Church has declared the victims of Armenian Genocide as Saints)31, media, art or transmitted memory to the next generations by forming they collective identity.

As this recycled memory becomes over the time, a part of people’s everyday life and their “invented tradition” without having any real relation to the truth or the real traditions of their collective new ways of memorializations has to be found.

A big transposition in the way memory is produced came out from Germany after the end of the WWII in view of the urgent need to monumentalize and “commemorate its own misdeeds”. It started all with a monumentalization of Holocaust and was hastily converted into a new trend of bringing the silenced traumas and genocides into the light because of ethical self-awareness and not for didactic purposes, condemnation or seeking of the justice (Harris, 2010).

Many counter-monuments have been raised since then all over the world, but the things are becoming more perplexed and dangerous when monuments are substituted by counter-monuments in divided post-conflict societies such as Bosnian. Therefore, Bosnia and Herzegovina is a great showcase, where a great diversity of paradigms could be found.

In the case of Gavrilo Princip’s monument, we could see that in post-conflict context it has gained exclusive character. On one side, Bosniak identity is cleaned of its prewar existence, celebrating a new homogenization through monument’s exile. While, on the other side its exile from the original locus into the East Sarajevo is strengthening Serbs collective identity, memory and nationalism by directing them to the restoration of common identity and cultural memory with Serbs from Serbia, through cultural engineering of the Assassination event in Andricgrad.

Usually, counter-monuments are symbolizing a memory from which the official narratives and memory politics would like to be relieved of and by returning it to the spectators they are potentiating their active involvement in the reshaping of new memories and forgetting through a bottom-up approach. Unlike that, Bosnian case shows not only the transition and transformation abilities of cultural memory, but also of counter-monuments. Their changeability in my case study depends on the side from which we are observing them. Because of the sharp fragmentation of Bosnian society, counter-monuments are opposing the official memory politics at their locality, strengthening identity building of ethnic groups by excluding one another from the formation of the common identity. This case study monument is positioned in the Entity different then the ethnic group whose identity building it is strengthening more and shows that exile is the most effective tactic to enforce one’s identity, though they (monument and its counter monuments) are also used by the majority ethnic group for their ethnic building enforcement (Bosniaks in Sarajevo). Despite of the side they were observed, they were both ways exclusionists.

All in all, I am positive that despite of the division of cultural memory and common identity, that counter- monuments seem to be deepening in Bosnia, might they propone a new way of looking at them or new functions they could potentially serve in the future?

Cite this paper

Slijepcevic, M. (2016). Monuments and Counter-Monument Sights in Post-Conflict Bosnia and Herzegovina: A Case Study of Gavrilo Princip’s Monuments. Sociology Mind, 6, 114-129.


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Appendix I

Political System of Bosnia and Herzegovina32





4Republika Srpska Prime Minister.




8Gavrilo Princip was a member of Mlada Bosnia organization who killed Franz Ferdinand. During the First and Second Yugoslavia he was celebrated as a hero, despite of the deprecations of Muslims and Catholic who were citizens of First Yugoslavia. During the Bosnian war his role was again framed and reframed as a terrorist due to Bosniak and Croat narratives or a hero and revolutionary due to Serb’s narratives.

9Sarajevo was euphoric about this event as it is one of the biggest events in its History, despite the facts that scholars have proved that the beginning of the WWI would follow even if this event have not happened then and there. As the Big Powers were just looking for the pretext to start cleaning their dues.


11A female actor is wearing animal trousers.

12Amra’s brother was killed by Serbs at the beginning of the Bosnian war and this quotation is from the interview that I had with her in Sarajevo last year.




16Quotation from the interview that I carried out with prof. Dr. Besim Spahic.

17Quotations from the interview conducted with Altin.










27Quotation from the interview with Miladin during me field research.

28Quotations from the interview with Dragan during the field research.