Human settlements on the river Neretva, between the Hum Hill and the Velež Mountain, have existed since prehistory, as witnessed by discoveries of fortified enceintes and cemeteries. Evidence of Roman occupation was discovered beneath the present town.
As far as medieval Mostar goes, although the Christian basilicas of late antiquity remained in use, few historical sources were preserved and not much is known about this period. The name of Mostar was first mentioned in a document dating from 1474, taking its name from the bridge-keepers (mostari); this refers to the existence of a wooden bridge from the market on the left bank of the river which was used by traders, soldiers, and other travelers. During this time it was also the seat of a kadiluk (district with a regional judge). Since Mostar was on the trade route between the Adriatic and the mineral-rich regions of central Bosnia, the settlement began to spread to the right bank of the river.
Prior to the 1474 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 county (župa) of Večenike covered the site of the present-day Mostar along the right bank of the Neretva, including the sites of Zahum, Cim, Ilići, Raštani and Vojno. It was at the center of this area, which in 1408 belonged to Radivojević, that Cim fort was built (prior to 1443). Mostar is indirectly referred to in a 1454 charter of King Alfonso V of Aragon 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 county still known as Večenike or Večerić. The earliest documentary reference to Mostar as a settlement dates from 3 April 1452, when Ragusans wrote to their fellow countrymen in the service of Serbian Despot Đorđe Branković to say that Vladislav Hercegović had turned against his father Stjepan and occupied the town of Blagaj and other places, including “Duo Castelli al ponte de Neretua.”.
In 1468 the region came under Ottoman rule and the urbanization of the settlement began. It was named Köprühisar, meaning fortress at the bridge, at the centre of which was a cluster of 15 houses. Following the unwritten oriental rule, the town was organized into two distinct areas: čaršija, the crafts and commercial centre of the settlement, and mahala or a residential area.
The town was fortified between the years 1520 and 1566, and the wooden bridge was rebuilt in stone. The stone bridge, the Old Bridge (Stari Most), was erected in 1566 on the orders of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. 28 metres (92 feet) long and 20 metres (66 feet) high, quickly became a wonder in its own time. Later becoming the city's symbol, the Old Bridge is one of the most important structures of the Ottoman era and perhaps Bosnia's most recognizable architectural piece, and was designed by Mimar Hayruddin, a student and apprentice of the Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan. In the late 16th century, Köprühisar was one of the towns of the Sanjak of Herzegovina. The traveler Evliya Çelebi wrote in the 17th century that: the bridge is like a rainbow arch soaring up to the skies, extending from one cliff to the other....I, a poor and miserable slave of Allah, have passed through 16 countries, but I have never seen such a high bridge. It is thrown from rock to rock as high as the sky.
Austria-Hungary took control over Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1878 and ruled the country until the aftermath of World War I in 1918, when it became part of the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs and then Yugoslavia. During this period, Mostar was recognized as the unofficial capital of Herzegovina. The first church in the city of Mostar, a Serbian Orthodox Church, was built in 1834 during Ottoman rule. In 1881 the town became the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Mostar-Duvno and in 1939, it became a part of the Banovina of Croatia. During World War II Mostar was also an important city in the fascist Independent State of Croatia.
After World War II, Mostar developed a production of plastics, 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 economically during the time of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
After Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence from Yugoslavia in April 1992, the town was besieged by the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA), though clashes between the JNA and Croat forces started earlier. The Croats were organized into the Croatian Defence Council (HVO) and were joined by a sizable number of Bosniaks. The JNA artillery periodically shelled neighbourhoods outside of their control from early April.
On 7 June the Croatian Army (HV) launched an offensive codenamed Operation Jackal, the objective of which was to relieve Mostar and break the JNA siege of Dubrovnik. The offensive was supported by the HVO that attacked the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS) positions around Mostar. By 12 June the HVO secured the western part of the city and by 21 June the VRS was completely pushed out from the eastern part. Numerous religious buildings and most of the city's bridges were destroyed or severely damaged during the fighting. Among them were the Catholic Cathedral of Mary, Mother of the Church, the Franciscan Church and Monastery, the Bishop's Palace and 12 out of 14 mosques. After the VRS was pushed from the city, the Serbian Orthodox Žitomislić Monastery and the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity were demolished.
Throughout late 1992, tensions between Croats and Bosniaks increased in Mostar. In early 1993 the Croat–Bosniak War escalated and by mid-April 1993 Mostar had become a divided city with the western part dominated by HVO forces and the eastern part where the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (ARBiH) was largely concentrated. Fighting broke out in May when both sides of the city came under intense artillery fire. The city was divided along ethnic lines and both armies soon settled down. Future offensives usually resulted in a stalemate. In November, the Stari Most bridge was destroyed by an HVO tank. The Croat–Bosniak conflict ended with the signing of the Washington Agreement in 1994, and the Bosnian War ended with the Dayton Agreement in 1995. Around 2,000 people died in Mostar during the war.
Mostar has architecturally noteworthy buildings in a wide range of styles. 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 Muslibegovića house, the Dalmatian Corovic 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 people who converted from Christianity to Islam – founded mosque complexes that generally included Koranic schools, soup kitchens or markets.
Out of the thirteen original mosques dating from the 16th and 17th centuries, seven have been lost during the 20th century for ideological reasons or by bombardment. One of the two 19th-century Orthodox churches has also disappeared, while the early 20th-century synagogue, after suffering severe damage in the World War II, has been converted into a theatre. Several Ottoman inns also survived, along with other buildings from this period of Mostar's history, such as fountains and schools.
The majority of administrative buildings are from the Austro-Hungarian period and have neoclassical and Secessionist characteristics. A number of surviving late Ottoman houses demonstrate the component features of this form of domestic architecture – upper storey for residential use, hall, paved courtyard, and verandah on one or two storeys. The later 19th-century residential houses are predominantly in neoclassical style.
A number of early trading and craft buildings still exist, notably some low shops in wood or stone, stone storehouses, and a group of former tanneries round an open courtyard. Once again, the 19th-century commercial buildings are predominantly neoclassical. A number of elements of the early fortifications are visible. Namely the Hercegusa Tower dating from the medieval period, whereas the Ottoman defence edifices are represented by the Halebinovka and Tara Towers – the watchtowers on the ends of the Old Bridge, and a stretch of the ramparts.
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 Gimnazija Mostar from 1902 designed by František Blažek.
Between 1948 and 1974 the industrial base was expanded with construction of a metal-working factory, cotton textile mills, and an aluminum plant. Skilled workers, both men and women, entered the work force and the social and demographic profile of the city was broadened dramatically; between 1945 and 1980, Mostar’s population grew from 18,000 to 100,000.
Because Mostar’s eastern bank was burdened by inadequate infrastructure, the city expanded on the western bank with the construction of large residential blocks. Local architects favored an austere modernist aesthetic, prefabrication and repetitive modules. Commercial buildings in the functionalist style appeared on the historic eastern side of the city as well, replacing more intimate timber constructions that had survived since Ottoman times. In the 1970s and 1980s, a healthy local economy fueled by foreign investment spurred recognition and conservation of the city’s cultural heritage. An economically sustainable plan to preserve the old town of Mostar was implemented by the municipality, which drew thousands of tourists from the Adriatic coast and invigorated the economy of the city. The results of this ten-year project earned Mostar an Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 1986.
It is said that this was to be a test before the major construction of the Stari Most began. The Old Bridge was completed in 1566 and was hailed as one of the greatest architectural achievement in the Ottoman controlled Balkans. This single-arch stone bridge is an exact replica of the original bridge that stood for over 400 years and that was designed by Hajrudin, a student of the great Ottoman architect Sinan. It spans 28.7 metres (94 feet) of the Neretva river, 21 metres (69 feet) above the summer water level. The Halebija and Tara towers have always housed the guardians of the bridge and during Ottoman times were also used as storehouses for ammunition. The arch is a perfect semicircle 8.56 metres (28.1 feet) in width and 4.15 metres (13.6 feet) in height. The frontage and vault are made of regular stone cubes incorporated into the horizontal layers all along the vault. The space between vault, frontal walls and footpath is filled with cracked stone. The bridge footpath and the approaching roads are paved with cobblestones, as is the case with the main roads in the town. Stone steps enable people to ascend to the bridge either side. During the armed conflict between Bosniaks and Bosnian Croats in the Bosnian War in the 1990s, the bridge was destroyed by the HVO (Croatian Defence Council).
The Cejvan Cehaj Mosque, built in 1552, is the oldest mosque in Mostar. Later a madrasah (Islamic school) was built on the same compound. The Old Bazaar, Kujundziluk is named after the goldsmiths who traditionally created and sold their wares on this street, and still sells authentic paintings and copper or bronze carvings of the Stari Most, pomegranates (the natural symbol of Herzegovina) or the stećaks (medieval tombstones).
The Koski Mehmed Paša Mosque, built in 1617 is open to visitors. Visitors may enter the mosque and take photos free of charge. The minaret is also open to the public and is accessible from inside the mosque. Just around the corner from the mosque is the Tepa Market. This has been a busy marketplace since Ottoman times. It now sells mostly fresh produce grown in Herzegovina and, when in season, the figs and pomegranates are extremely popular. Local honey is also a prominent specialty, being produced all around Herzegovina.
Since the end of the wider war in 1995, great progress has been made in the reconstruction of the city of Mostar. The city was under direct monitoring from a European Union envoy, several elections were held and each nation was accommodated with regard to political control over the city. Over 15 million dollars has been spent on restoration.
A monumental project to rebuild the Old Bridge, which was destroyed during the Bosnian War, to the original design, and restore surrounding structures and historic neighbourhoods was initiated in 1999 and mostly completed by Spring 2004. The money for this reconstruction was donated by Spain (who had a sizable contingent of peacekeeping troops stationed in the surrounding area during the conflict), the United States, Turkey, Italy, the Netherlands, and Croatia. A grand opening was held on 23 July 2004 under heavy security.
In parallel with the restoration of the Old Bridge, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and the World Monuments Fund, with funding provided by the World Bank, undertook a five-year-long restoration and rehabilitation effort in historic Mostar. Realizing early on that the reconstruction of the bridge without an in-depth rehabilitation of the surrounding historic neighbourhoods would be devoid of context and meaning, they shaped the programme in such a way as to establish a framework of urban conservation schemes and individual restoration projects that would help regenerate the most significant areas of historic Mostar, and particularly the urban tissue around the Old Bridge. The project also resulted in the establishment of the Stari Grad Agency which has an important role in overseeing the ongoing implementation of the conservation plan, as well as operating and maintaining a series of restored historic buildings (including the Old Bridge complex) and promoting Mostar as a cultural and tourist destination. The official inauguration of the Stari grad Agency coincided with the opening ceremony of the Bridge.
In July 2005, UNESCO inscribed the Old Bridge and its closest vicinity onto the World Heritage List.
Dani Matice Hrvatske is one of city's significant cultural events and it is commonly sponsored by the Croatian Government and the Government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Mostar Summer is another umbrella event which includes Šantić Poetry Evenings, Mostar Summer Festival and Festival of Bosnia and Herzegovina choirs/ensembles. The city is a home of music festival called Melodije Mostara (Mostar Melodies) which has been held annually since 1995. Theatre festivals include Mostarska Liska (organized by the National Theatre Mostar) and The Mostar Spring (organized by the Matica hrvatska Mostar).
Mostar Art institutions include:
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. Some of the dishes include ćevapčići, burek, sarma, japrak, musaka, dolma, sujuk, sač, đuveč, and sataraš. Local desserts include baklava, hurmašice, sutlijaš, tulumbe, tufahije, and šampita.
Mostar's economy relies heavily on the aluminum and metal industry, banking services and telecommunication sector. The city is the seat of some of the country's largest corporations.
Along with Sarajevo, it is the largest financial center in Bosnia-Herzegovina, with two out of three largest banks in the country having their headquarters in Mostar. Bosnia-Herzegovina has three national electric, postal and telecommunication service corporations; one of them in each group has its seat in Mostar (electric service corporation 'Elektroprivreda HZHB', postal service company Hrvatska Pošta Mostar and HT Mostar, the third largest telecommunication company in the country). These three companies (along with banks and aluminium factory) make a vast portion of overall economic activity in the city. The private sector has seen a notable increase in small and medium enterprises over the past couple of years contributing to the positive business climate.
Considering the fact that three dams are situated on the city of Mostar’s territory, the city has a solid base for further development of production. There is also an ongoing project for the possible use of wind power and building of windmills.
Prior to the 1992–1995 Bosnian War, Mostar relied on other important companies which had been closed, damaged or downsized. They included SOKO (military aircraft factory), Fabrika duhana Mostar (tobacco industry), and Hepok (food industry). In 1981 Mostar's GDP per capita was 103% of the Yugoslav average
The only company from the former Yugoslavia, which still works well is Aluminij. Aluminij is one of the country's strongest companies and it has a number of international partners. The company steadily increases its annual production and it collaborates with leading global corporations such as Daimler Chrysler and Fiat. Aluminij is one of the most influential companies in the city, region, but also country. In relation to the current manufacturing capacity it generates an annual export of more than €150 million. The partners with which the Aluminij does business are renowned global companies, from which the most important are: Venture Coke Company L.L.C. (Venco-Conoco joint Venture) from the USA, Glencore International AG from Switzerland, Debis International trading GmbH, Daimler-Chrysler and VAW Aluminium Technologie GmbH from Germany, Hydro ASA from Norway, Fiat from Italy, and TLM-Šibenik from Croatia. Mostar area alone receives an income of €40 million annually from Aluminij.
Mostar also hosts the annual International Economic Fair Mostar ("Međunarodni sajam gospodarstva Mostar") which was first held in 1997. The Fair consist of several smaller sections: "The Economy Fair", "Wine Fair", "Book Fair" and "Food Day".
Nowadays, the City of Mostar with a total population of 105,797 according to the 2013 census results, consists of the following ethnic groups: Croats (48.4%); Bosniaks (44.1%) and Serbs (4.1%). The city of Mostar has the largest population of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina. As in many other cities, its demographic profile was significantly altered after the Bosnian War; in case of Mostar, most of the Serbs left the city.
According to the official data of the local elections of 2008, among 6 city election districts, three western ones (Croat-majority) had 53,917 registered voters, and those three on the east (Bosniak-majority) had 34,712 voters.
Mostar, and Herzegovina area in general, enjoy a modified Mediterranean climate, with cool, humid winters and hot, dry summers. In the summer months, occasional temperatures above 40 °C (104 °F) are not uncommon, with a record temperature of 46.2 °C (115.2 °F). The coldest month is January, averaging about 5 °C (41 °F), and the warmest month is July, averaging about 26 °C (78 °F). Mostar experiences a relatively dry season from June to September. The remainder of the year is wet and mild. The Köppen Climate Classification subtype for this climate is Cfa, which in this case is an "Oceanic climate with hot summers and Mediterranean tendency" (close to Csa subtype). Mostar is the sunniest city in the country with an average of 2291 solar hours a year. Snow is not uncommon but relatively rare and it usually melts within a few hours or days.
During the 2012 European cold wave, Mostar experienced unusually cold weather with freezing temperatures lasting for days and a record snow depth of 82.5 cm (32 in).
Mostar municipality is composed by the town itself and 56 villages and suburbs. They are:
Bačevići, Banjdol, Blagaj, Bogodol, Buna, Cim, Čule, Dobrč, Donja Drežnica, Donji Jasenjani, Dračevice, Gnojnice, Goranci, Gornja Drežnica, Gornje Gnojnice, Gornji Jasenjani, Gubavica, Hodbina, Humilišani, Ilići, Jasenica, Kosor, Kremenac, Krivodol, Kružanj, Kutilivač, Lakševine, Malo Polje, Miljkovići, Orlac, Ortiješ, Pijesci, Podgorani, Podgorje, Podvelež, Polog, Potoci, Prigrađani, Rabina, Raška Gora, Raštani, Ravni, Rodoč, Selište, Slipčići, Sovići, Sretnice, Striževo, Vihovići, Vojno, Vranjevići, Vrapčići, Vrdi, Željuša, Žitomislići and Žulja.
After the Bosnian War, following the Dayton Agreement, the villages of Kamena, Kokorina and Zijemlje were separated from Mostar to form the new municipality of Istočni Mostar (East Mostar), in the Republika Srpska.
The City of Mostar has the status of a municipality. The city government is led by the Mayor. The current Mayor of Mostar is Ljubo Bešlić (HDZ). The City Council is composed of 35 representatives, coming from the following political parties:
2008 constitutional crisis
According to the constitution, imposed by High Representative Paddy Ashdown on January 28, 2004 after local politicians failed to reach an agreement, the mayor of Mostar has to be elected by the city council with ⅔ majority. Ashdown abolished the six municipalities that were divided equally among Bosniaks and Croats and replaced them with six electoral units, ridding Mostar of duplicate institutions and costs. In the process Ashdown also reduced the number of elected officials from 194 to 35. According to the constitution the constitutive nations of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs) are guaranteed a minimum of four seats and a maximum of 15 seats. 18 deputies are elected by the election units: 3 deputies from each district and 15 deputies are elected at the level of entire city. This move was opposed by the Party for Democratic Action (SDA) and the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ).
In October 2008, there were elections for the city council. Relative winners were HDZ BiH with the greatest number of votes. However, neither party had enough votes to ensure election of the mayor from their party. The city council met 16 times without success. Eventually OHR was involved and High Representative made some minor changes to city's Statute. After that Ljubo Bešlić, running as a candidate of Croatian Democratic Union, was reelected as a mayor.
In a January 26 poll organized by the international community, 75 percent of Mostar’s citizens said that they support the idea of a unified city.
Statute of the City of Mostar
In 2011. the constitutional court declared current Statute as unconstitutional, because the numbers of deputies from city districts don't match the number of voters in each district. The City is waiting for the new Statute to be created, and many believe that such a thing will need to be carried by OHR. In November 2011 Roderick W. Moore, the Principal Deputy High Representative, emphasized the importance of the urgent acts towards adoption of the new, constitutional Statute.
Mostar has a number of various educational institutions. These include University of Mostar, University "Džemal Bijedić" of Mostar, United World College in Mostar, nineteen high-schools and twenty four elementary schools. High-schools include sixteen vocational schools and three gymnasiums.
All public schools in Mostar, both elementary and secondary education, are divided between Croat curriculum and Federal (unofficially Bosniak) curriculum schools. This ethnic division of schools was emplaced during the very first year of the Bosnian war and it continues, with some modifications, to this day. Today, the schools in Mostar and throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina are a site of struggle between ethno-national political elites in ways that reveals the precarious position of youth in the volatile nation building processes A partial exception to divided education is Gimnazija Mostar (also known as "Stara gimnazija") that implemented joint school administration and some joint student courses. However, Croat and Bosniak students in Gimanzija Mostar continue to have most courses according to the “national” curriculum, among them the so-called national subjects – history, literature, geography, and religion.
The country's higher education reform and the signing of the Bologna Process have forced both universities to put aside their rivalry to some extent and try to make themselves more competitive on a regional level.
University of Mostar is the second largest university in the country and the only Croatian language university in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was founded in 1977 as the University "Džemal Bijedić" of Mostar, but changed name in 1992. The origin of the university can be traced back to the Herzegovina Franciscan Theological School, which was founded in 1895 and closed in 1945, was the first higher education institution in Mostar. Today's University seal shows the building of the Franciscan Monastery.
University Džemal Bijedić of Mostar was founded in 1993. It employs around 250 professors and staff members. According to the Federal Office of Statistics, Džemal Bijedić University had 2,522 students enrolled during the 2012/2013 academic year.
As of 2015 school year, the University of Mostar had 10,712 students enrolled at eleven faculties making it the largest university in the city. Cumulatively, it has been attended by more than 40,000 students since the start of the Bologna process of education.
One of the most popular sports in Mostar is football. The two most successful teams are FK Velež Mostar and Zrinjski. FK Velež Mostar won the Yugoslav cup in 1981 and 1986 which was one of the most significant accomplishments this club has achieved. Today two teams from Mostar compete in the Premier League of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Since the Bosnian War each club has generally been supported by a particular ethnic group (Velež for the Bosniaks and Zrinjski for the Croats). The matches between the two clubs are some of the country's most intense matches.
Bijeli Brijeg Stadium (former stadium of FK Velež) and Vrapčići Stadium are the city's two main football grounds.
In basketball, HKK Zrinjski Mostar competes at the nation's highest level while the Zrinjski banner also represents the city in the top handball league. Vahid Halilhodžić, a former Bosnian football player who currently manages the Algerian national football team, started his professional career in FK Velež Mostar.
In 2011 rugby union football club RK Herceg was founded. It competes in national leagues of Bosnia & Herzegovina and in regional league Adria Sevens.
Mostar is an important tourist destination in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Mostar International Airport serves the city as well as the railway and bus stations which connect it to a number of national and international destinations. Mostar's old town is an important tourist destination with the Stari Most being its most recognizable feature.
Some noteworthy sites include Bishop’s Ordinariate building, the remains of an early Christian basilica at Cim, a hamam (Ottoman public bath), clock tower (sahat-kula), Synagogue (1889) and Jewish Memorial Cemetery, Nesuh-aga Vučjaković Mosque, Hadži-Kurt Mosque or Tabačica, Metropolitan's Palace (1908), Karagöz Bey Mosque (1557), Orthodox Church, Catholic Church and Franciscan Monastery, Ottoman Residences (16th–19th century), Crooked Bridge, Tara and Halebija Towers.
The World War II Partisan cemetery in Mostar, designed by the architect Bogdan Bogdanović, is another important symbol of the city. Its sacrosanct quality is derived from the unity of nature (water and greenery) with the architectural expression of the designer; the monument was inscribed on the list of National Monuments in 2006.
The Catholic pilgrimage site of Međugorje is also nearby as well as the Tekija Dervish Monastery in Blagaj, 13th-century town of Počitelj, Blagaj Fort (Stjepan-grad), Kravice Falls, seaside town of Neum, Roman villa rustica from the early fourth century Mogorjelo, Stolac with its stećak necropolis and the remains of an ancient Greek town of Daorson. Nearby sites also include the nature park called Hutovo Blato, archeological site Desilo, Lake Boračko as well as Vjetrenica cave, the largest and most important cave in Bosnia and Herzegovina.