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The Bosnian War, in photos  ‘Meduza’ marks the 25th anniversary of the end of Europe’s bloodiest interethnic conflict since World War II

Source: Meduza

On December 14, 1995, the Dayton Accords were signed in Paris, officially ending the Bosnian War — the bloodiest interethnic conflict in Europe since World War II, which saw about 100,000 people killed between 1992 and 1995. To mark the 25th anniversary of the end of the conflict, Meduza shares photographs from the three-and-a-half years of fighting. 

In February 1992, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s authorities announced an independence referendum. At this point, Slovenia and Croatia had already seceded from former socialist Yugoslavia, resulting in two other wars. The majority of Bosnian Muslims (who made up almost half of the local population) and Croatians (the third largest ethno-religious community in Bosnia and Herzegovina) voted in favor of secession. 

However, the Bosnian Serbs, who made up almost a third of the population, boycotted the referendum and refused to acknowledge the outcome of the vote. They announced the creation of their own independent Republika Srpska, which received support from the Serbian authorities led by President Slobodan Milošević. This was followed by the outbreak of the war.

The fighting was particularly brutal due to the fact that Bosnian Muslims, Serbs, and Croats lived in villages located several kilometers from each other, whereas in larger towns and cities members of these different groups lived side by side. Initially, the Serbs had the advantage in terms of strength and armaments — they made up the majority of soldiers and officers in the former Yugoslav People’s Army stationed in Bosnia. But the Bosnian Muslims and the Croats soon manage to restore parity between the forces.

At the beginning of the war, the Serbs besieged Bosnia and Herzegovina’s capital, Sarajevo, which was defended by Bosnian Muslims. They attacked the city from the surrounding hills with artillery fire and sniper shots almost without stopping. In the three years, nearly 9,000 people died in the city, a third of whom were civilians (the Serbs’ losses are estimated at about 3,000 people, with civilians also making up a third of the casualties).

Much of the hostilities consisted of indiscriminate shelling of cities and villages, as well as ethnic cleansing and genocide of civilians, which was carried out by all parties to the conflict without exception. The UN’s attempts to stop the massacres by establishing “Safe Areas” under the protection of peacekeepers didn’t always succeed.

In July 1995, the Serb forces took the mining town of Srebrenica — in just a few days, they killed around 8,000 local Muslims, including women and children. The UN’s peacekeepers, who were responsible for maintaining Srebrenica as a “safe area,” actually failed to prevent the mass shootings. Today, the Srebrenica massacre is considered the largest mass killing in Europe since World War II. 

The Siege of Sarajevo and the Srebrenica massacre were carried out by troops under the command of Ratko Mladić, who was sentenced to life in prison at an International Tribunal in the The Hague in 2017. 

The final episode of the war was the shelling of the Markale marketplace in Sarajevo in August 1995, which resulted in the deaths of 100 people. After blaming the Bosnian Serb forces for yet another massacre, NATO began intensively bombing their positions, eventually leading them to agree to negotiations.

As a result of the Dayton Accords, Bosnia and Herzegovina became a confederation made up of two parts: Republika Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The country’s supreme authority is a three-member Presidency that includes one representative from each ethno-religious group. The Bosnian Serbs initially refused to support the agreement, which they considered unfair, and empowered Serbian President Slobodan Milošević to represent their interests. He, in turn, signed the treaty. Eleven years later, Milošević, indicted for war crimes, died in The Hague. 

Many believed that the peace would be short-lived. Indeed, Bosnia and Herzegovina remains one of the least developed states in Europe, where mass unrest takes place periodically. Nevertheless, the peace has held to this day. 

Warning: The following contains photographs of violence and death.
A Bosnian weapons workshop in Sarajevo. September 1992.
Francoise De Mulder / Roger Viollet / Getty Images
Bosnia and Herzegovina’s parliament in Sarajevo following shelling. September 1992.
Mikhail Evstafiev / AFP / Scanpix / LETA
The Croatian city of Vukovar after the Serbian siege. March 1992.
Francoise De Mulder / Roger Viollet / Getty Images
Funeral announcements. Sarajevo, September 1992.
Francoise De Mulder / Roger Viollet / Getty Images
Citizens take refuge in a car during the shelling of Sarajevo. June 1992.
Christophe Simon / AFP / Scanpix / LETA
During the shelling of Sarajevo. March 1993.
Joel Robine / AFP / Scanpix / LETA
Soldiers from the Yugoslavian army after being released from the barracks, where Bosnian Muslim forces blocked them in for a month. June 1992.
Santiago Lyon / AP / Scanpix / LETA
A Serbian soldier during a battle in the Bosnian village of Gorica. October 1992.
Matija Kokovic / AP / Scanpix / LETA
A train carrying Bosnian refugees stopped in Croatia. July 1992.
Dino Fracchia / Alamy / Vida Press
Bosnian Muslim police officers prevent Croatian women from leaving Sarajevo during the siege. November 1992.
Laurent Rebours / AP / Scanpix / LETA
Residents of Sarajevo during the mortar shelling of a cemetary, where a funeral for one of the victims of the conflict was taking place. December 1992.
Vincent Amalvy / AFP / Scanpix / LETA
Croatian and Bosnian prisoners at a Serbian concentration camp located on mount Manjača. 1992.
Sovfoto / Universal Images Group / Getty Images
Refugees from Srebrenica. March 1993.
Pascal Guyot / AFP / Scanpix / LETA
Bosnian Muslim recruits undergoing military training in a former school. Sarajevo, May 1993.
Jerome Delay / AP / Scanpix / LETA
A Sarajevo resident on the city’s main street, Zmaja od Bosne, in April 1993. During the war, it was known as “Sniper Alley.” More than 200 civilians were killed there.
Michael Stravato / AP / Scanpix / LETA
The evacuation of refugees from Srebrenica by UN forces. April 1993.
Karsten Thielker / AP / Scanpix / LETA

This image is hidden because it contains content you may find disturbing

Deceased soldiers from the Bosnian army during a mass funeral. April 1993.
Jon Jones / Getty Images
A refugee child at a Bosnian Muslim camp in Zagreb, Croatia. 1993.
Kevin Weaver / Getty Images
Sarajevo resident. 1992.
Romano Cagnoni / Hulton Archive / Getty Images
A Bosnian from the city of Mostar (Bosnia and Herzegovina) tries to get water. February 1994.
Kevin Weaver / Getty Images
Alan and Denis, children of a Croatian mother and Bosnian Muslim father. They fled to Sarajevo from Croatian Dubrovnik. October 1993.
Kevin Weaver / Getty Images
The graves of Bosnian Muslims, Serbs, and Croats at the Zetra Olympic Hall arena, which was built for the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo. 1994.
Kevin Weaver / Getty Images
Commander of Republika Srpska’s Army, Ratko Mladić in Bosnia. April 1994.
Emil Vas / AP / Scanpix / LETA
The UN line dividing Serb and Bosnian positions in Sarajevo. April 1994.
Vladimir Velengurin / TASS

This image is hidden because it contains content you may find disturbing

The bodies of the dead being loaded into a truck after the shelling of the Markale market in Sarajevo. February 1994.
Laurent Rebours / AP / Scanpix / LETA
UN peacekeepers from the Netherlands. February 1994.
Ed Oudenaarden / AFP / Scanpix / LETA
A Russian volunteer who came to fight in the Bosnian War sits at the grave of deceased friend. He will be buried nearby a month later. June 1994.
Vladimir Velengurin / TASS / Scanpix / LETA
Traces of the fighting on a wall in Bosnia. 1994.
Robert Nickelsberg / Liaison / Hulton Archive / Getty Images
A child from Mostar. December 1994.
Residents of Sarajevo basking in the sun during a three-week truce. The wall behind them shows graffiti cursing the UN. 1994.
Enric F. Marti / AP / Scanpix / LETA
A club in Sarajevo. December 1994.
Roger Lemoyne / Liaison / Hulton Archive / Getty Images
Refugees from Srebrenica who found out about the murder of their relatives. June 1995.
Roger Hutchings / Alamy / Vida Press
The first Bosnian Muslims to break through the Serb side’s fortifications in Srebrenica en route to the city of Tuzla.
Roger Hutchings / Alamy / Vida Press
Refugees from Srebrenica at the UN airbase in Tuzla. July 1995.
Roger Hutchings / Alamy / Vida Press

This image is hidden because it contains content you may find disturbing

Croatian soldiers and a dead Serbian soldiers. August 1995.
Tom Dubravec / AFP / Scanpix / LETA
Bosnian Muslims with a captured Serbian flag in Zenica. October 1995.
David Brauchli / Hulton Archive / Getty Images
Traces of the executions of civilians near Srebrenica
ICNY / Everett Collection / Shutterstock / Vida Press
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