Situated on the banks of the enchanting River Una, Bihac has been equally blessed and cursed by its important strategic position and favorable conditions for life.
Bihac through time
The long and turbulent history has left its mark on this, in many ways, unique historic town, therefore, don't expect the "love at first sight"; Bihac needs a bit more than just a short visit and then the town and its residents will easily win your affection.
With these few lines we would like to draw your attention to the complex and turbulent history of the town whose name was mentioned for the first time back in 1260 in the charter of the Croatian - Hungarian king Bela IV as Wyhygh, and then cordially invite you to come and get firsthand experience of this charming old town on the banks of the beautiful river Una.
Favorable aspects of the physical environment that exist in our regional area attracted the first inhabitants as early as the Paleolithic times - the Old Stone Age.
From approximately 9th century BC, the area along the river Una was also inhabited by the ethnic group the Lapydes (or Lapodes), a very interesting and nonviolent Illyrian tribe which then inhabited the area bounded by the rivers Kupa and Una on the north and north-east side, and on the west side by the mountain of Velebit and the Vinodol area in the hinterland of Crikvenica on the Adriatic coast; for the most part these are today the areas of Lika and GorskI Kotar regions in the Republic of Croatia. The area of the River Una was characterized by their very interesting stilt settlements, elevated wooden houses raised on wooden stilts (poles) over or near River Una.
A nonviolent and very important spiritual and material culture of the Lapydes was equally exposed to the Mediterranean and continental influences which are reflected in their distinctive artistic expression. They resisted Roman attacks for a long time; moreover, they were considered a respectable opponent, but the situation changed permanently in the course of Octavian's Illyrian war (35–33 BC), after which the Lapodian territory remained permanently under Roman rule and the process of Romanization began.
Thanks to abundant archeological remains of the tribe, Bihac has become an important center of the lapodes' cultural heritage.
Today, you can learn more about the first known residents of these territories at the Museum of Una-Sana Canton in Bihac. Among other things, you can learn why they were one of the few, if not the only ethnic group in the area at that time, which did not lay weapons but decorative objects in their graves. In addition to the Lapydes, the Museum has other interesting selection of exhibits that will offer you a further, deeper insight into the turbulent history of this town and the region. Highly worth the visit!
Imperial Rome had brought suffering to many, including the Lapydes. The Roman general Octavian (who would later become the Emperor Augustus) started a major military operation in the province of Illyricum in 35 BC, to finally stabilize Roman control over it. Octavian’s military action (period 35 to 33 BC) was first concentrated on the coastal Illyrian tribes and then spread deep into Illyrian territory, where continental tribes (among them the Lapydes) offered much stronger resistance. It was then that Octavian finally conquered the strategically important Lapodian territory that he needed for further operations in southern Pannonia; the same fate befell the area of present-day Bihac which, along with other parts of the conquered territory, became part of the Roman province of Dalmatia. Late antique monuments found in the Bihac area testify to the arrival of the first Christians in the period of Early Christianity when the religion spread in the Greco-Roman world and beyond.
Many monuments have been preserved till the present days, including the walled spring of the famous thermal spring Gata Ilidza and a larger building near the source. According to a recent research, the Gata thermal spring water ranks 2nd in Europe for its quality and mineral ratio.
Middle Ages (5th - 15th Century)
The Middle Ages as a term traditionally refers to the period between Antiquity and the Modern Era. It began with the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476, and its end was marked by Columbus' discovery of America in 1492. Although originally carried negative connotations (it was called the Dark Ages), the tone softened over time.
It was during this period that most European nations sought their roots, but there was also a lot of controversy surrounding it. As the term originated in Western Europe (it has been in use since the second half of the 17th century), its application to other geographical and cultural areas had often been questioned, but over time this long medieval period of almost 1000 years had become accepted by historians and subdivided into the Early, High, and Late Middle Ages.
In the early 7th century during the migration of the early medieval Slavs (6th - 8th century), and the reign of the Emperor Heraclius, Croats of the southern group of Early Slavs came to the area of today's Bihac. Croats migrated from the north of the Old Continent (the area of White Croatia) and settled first along the east coast of the Adriatic Sea before spreading further into the continent (present-day territory of the Republic of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina), slowly merging with various ethnic and cultural groups they had encountered (e.g. Illyrians and Celts). This was the period of the reign of the Croatian kings and princes (from the late 8th century), very turbulent and with a lot of conflict. Under the rule of the king Tomislav of the royal House of Trpimirovic, a powerfull Croatian kingdom, Regnum Croatiae, is formed, with Bihac region as one of the prominent parts of the kingdom.
In 1102, the independent Kingdom of Croatia and Kingdom of Hungary entered a personal union, and in 1260 town’s name appeared for the first time in the charter of the Croatian - Hungarian king Bela IV as Wyhygh.
In 1262, two years after he mentioned town's name for the first time in his charter, the Croatian - Hungarian king Bela IV proclaimed Bihac a free royal town.
The freedom obtained by the charter referred to the freedom of trade and crafts, without the arbitrariness of the nobles, which helped Bihac to develop as an urban commercial and artisan town then well fortified with double ramparts with loopholes and round towers.
During this period, the town grew and proved even more attractive to many new settlers. This was the time of town’s constant progress and growth despite difficult circumstances so characteristic of the Middle Ages, a period that most of the old European nations remember as a period of frequent conflicts and almost constant struggles for numerous European thrones, including Croatian and Hungarian.
The town’s free royal status lasted until 1412, when the Croatian-Hungarian King Sigmund gifted it to the one of the leading Croatian aristocratic families - the noble Frankopan Family, under whose ownership the town remained until the 16th century.
The seal of the medieval town of Bihac with three towers, the middle one with the flag and inscription “The seal of the town of Bihac”, was preserved in the late 14th century Glagolitic charter (Glagolitic alphabet is the oldest known Slavic alphabet generally agreed to have been created in the 9th century by Saint Cyril, a Byzantine monk); the same motif has a present-day coat of arms of the Town of Bihac.
Today, you can still see the coat of arms of the house of Frankopan on the historic Captain’s tower in Bihac that today also holds an important part of the collection of the Museum of Una-Sana Canton. Highly worth visiting!
During this period Bihac is the location of several sessions of the Croatian parliament, which proves its important position in the Kingdom.
This is also the time of the increasingly difficult problems related to the invading Ottoman armies. At the end of 1526, following a heavy military defeat in the battle of Mohacs and the death of more than 20,000 soldiers and Louis II, King of Hungary and Croatia who died in an attempt to escape after a quick and short battle, Croatian and Hungarian nobles were seeking for ways to more effectively defend against the increasingly ruthless Ottoman invasion. The Croatian Parliament met at the end of 1526 and voted to enter into Treaty of Alliance with Austria and to elect Ferdinand I of the House of Habsburg for the King. Ferdinand was crowned on 1 January 1527 at Cetin.
Soon after the election of Ferdinand I, Bihac once again gains free royal town status and is under the direct rule of the king known as the Bihac captaincy.
From the mid-16th century, through the next one hundred years Bihac was resisting the attacks of the Ottoman Empire. The defenders resisted these onslaughts for a very long time and with great courage.
In 1592, 130 years after the fall of the medieval Bosnian state and 100 years after the Krbava battle, the resistance and defense led by the commander Josip Lamberg was broken under the attacks of the Ottoman leader Hasan-pasha Predojevic.
Curiously enough, it’s believed that the commander Predojevic was born in a small town of Sanski Most in Bosnia in an orthodox family, under the name Niko Predojevic. After the Ottomans conquered his region his life changed, he converted to Islam and acquired a new name, Hasan.
Starting with the earliest conquest in the 1350s and over the next three centuries, the Ottomans employed forced population transfers (in Turkish sϋrgϋn) resettling thousands and thousands of individuals, even whole communities, throughout the provinces and between continents, and all to serve one main goal - to build and maintain a growing empire. Rarely voluntary, sometimes stimulated by money and privileges, these transfers were mostly forced displacements of severely oppressed people who were at the disposal to the ruling power.
Many Muslim communities in conquered territories resulted largely from conversion rather than colonization. Nevertheless, in some areas they occurred on a scale large enough to create an effect on the demography.
As a strategically important site, Bihac continued to receive special attention and it soon regained its position as a leading trading center, now in the newly formed Bihac sanjak, an administrative district in the Ottoman Empire.
Border Between The Empires
In Bihac's close vicinity, on the Pljesivica plateau, was the border between the Austro-Hungarian and the Ottoman Empire with the important control station and headquarters Rastel (Raštel) in the mountain village of Zavalje, the former municipality in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Rastel was an important veterinary-sanitary control station and the medical control headquarters for people and goods coming from the Ottoman Empire.
The construction of the Rastel complex started in 1795; it was surrounded by 2, 5 m high wall with loopholes and known as a military headquarters, but also as the municipal seat, the seat of Zavalje Perish and many other public services. It was often demolished, sharing very much the same fate as other historic buildings in the region, and eventually burned to the ground in 1942. Despite the hostility between the two Empires, the Rastel Complex was the point of a dynamic commerce. You can learn more natural and historical, facts about Mount Licka Pljesivica and Rastel under - Explore Local.
The era of the Ottoman Rule began with the fall of Bihac in 1592 and lasted till 1878. The demographic composition of Bihac had also changed back then; a certain percentage of the native Croatian people died during the course of the battle, some fled, but many converted to Islam, although the Ottoman legal system allowed freedom of worship. The key was in, not so small, tax for non-Muslims! Namely, their legal system was of a religious nature and predominantly based on the Koran which allowed freedom of worship and protection for minorities and refugees, but only as long as the non-Muslims payed a tax known as jizyah (or yizya) that granted them freedom of worship, but also protection of life (against murder) and property (against plunder).
The new Ottoman culture was spreading; the town of Bihac was also changing and obtaining new zones:
- "čaršija" - the commercial, economic zone of the town
- "mahale" - residential zones.
The economic life was mainly based on liberal principles associated with free markets and private ownership of capital assets, but also characterized by social justice and measured by fair distribution of primary good, with basic liberties and opportunities. Nevertheless, there were at the same time various monopolies exercised by the Ottomans in their long domination over South East Europe, and the most lasting one was their monopoly over information and knowledge, which means control over people's lives and their future.
Today we can, and must, not only heal from our past, but learn from it and use only the best and the most positive experiences and knowledge to make a better and more just present and future. That is way we would like to draw your attention to one of the most famous architectural landmarks in Bihac, one with a unique synergy of West and East - the Mosque of Fethija.
Originally built as the catholic church of Anthony of Padua in 1266, this old sacral building was turned into a mosque soon after the Ottoman conquest of Bihac. Since the original church was built in a gothic style, you can today still see the gothic rosette above the entrance to the mosque and next to it - the minaret, a slender tower with a balcony from which a muezzin calls to prayer. Unique fusion of Western and Oriental elements and a great photo location!
There were once nine plates with coats of arms of the Croatian nobility inside the old church of St. Anthony of Padua; today they are stored in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The Ottoman culture, just like all other cultures that were present here, has left its permanent mark on this town and people who have lived here and made its own significant contribution to the creation of unique Bihac mentality and multicultural society.
In 1878, after the decision of the Berlin Congress, the town of Bihac was annexed by the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy and once again became a part of the Christian Europe. Forcibly conquered by one imperial power, annexed by the other imperial power, Bihac was always at the mercy of others. The town re-entered yet another conglomerate of different nations and kingdoms, but returned to then Triune Kingdom of Croatia, Slavonia and Dalmatia. According to many historians, the conglomerate of various nations was assembled in the interest of the Austrians and Hungarians, and often to the detriment of other member nations; the Monarchy lasted until 1918 and during thet time a new phase in the town's development began. Čaršija and mahala started to change into town districts, the old walls of the once free medieval royal town were partially demolished and the town started to build:
- public, cultural and educational institutions, a sewerage system, a water supply system, a electric power system, a new post office, a town park, a factory etc.
The terrible First World War is also taking place.
First and Second World War
Trying and turbulent history brings and imposes new political arrangements and associations for Bihac but also war conflicts, two horrible world wars. In the First World War, the town fought within the forces of the Monarchy, that is the Triune Kingdom of Croatia, Slavonia and Dalmatia, and at the dawn of the Second World War with the rest of the Triune Kingdom Bihac entered into new political arrangements.
Following the Croatian Parliament resolutions of October 29, 1918, the Triune Kingdom ended all legal relationships with the Kingdom of Hungary and the Empire of Austria, and entered into the sovereign State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs which hastily turned into the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes lacking important initial agreements on mutual relations and the political position of each concerning state before signing the Unification Treaty.
In 1929 the Kingdom of SHS changed its name to the Kingdom of Yugoslavia which was soon deviously subdivided into a system of nine bantes, provinces (cro. Banovina) at the expense of national borders; Bihac became a part of the Vrbas Banovina, and from 1941 a part of the Independent State of Croatia (ISC) as well as the rest of today's Bosnia and Herzegovina. However, the ISC fascist state was unacceptable to many, so the same historical period witnessed the strengthening of the anti-fascist resistance under the leadership of J.B. Tito (revolutionary, Yugoslav statesman, born in 1892 in the Croatian rural family in Kumrovec, Croatian Zagorje). Bihac, together with many Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats made a significant contribution to the fight against fascism.
The First Armed Anti-fascist Resistance Unit in Europe was founded in Croatia in the forest of Brezovica near Sisak on 22 June 1941, immediately after the German attack on the USSR, and in 1942 Bihac hosted the important First Session of the Anti-Fascist Council of National Liberation of Yugoslavia (AVNOJ).
In 1942, Bihac was within the liberated territories and as such a perfect location for the First Session of the Anti-Fascist Council of People's Liberation of Yugoslavia that took place on November 26 - 27, 1942. The Council was a political and representative body of the partisan movement which was the basis for the federal organization of post-war Yugoslavia (the Kingdom). With this event Bihać came on the list of towns that played key roles in the fight against fascism. Learn more about this important event and an equally important role of Bihac in the town's AVNOJ Museum.
From 1945 Bihać was a part of the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia, which in 1963 changed its name to the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Bihac was then placed within the borders of the newly founded Federal Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, one of the six (supposedly) equal republics.
Breakup of Yugoslavia
The beginning of the breakup of SFR Yugoslavia in 1991 was caused by numerous problems and unresolved political relations that had been accumulating since 1918; the aspiration of most republics to achieve greater independence, state decentralization, and the right to self-government were frequently overshadowed by the minority aim to strengthen state socialism based on strict centralism and absolute single-party controlled state.
The right to exercise their constitutional rights to independence and secession was first implemented by Slovenia and Croatia, and soon after those legal acts were used to justify a cruel military intervention by the highly instrumentalized SFRY people’s army against the citizens of these two republics first and then for the start of a dreadful war aggression mostly against Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Bihac was under siege, brutally attacked and tortured for about four years and its inhabitants lived through a real humanitarian hell. The world community didn't want to help those in need, but many wanted to sell their weapons instead, so it was left to Croatia to decide whether it wanted to help Bihac on its own. In the summer of 1995, the siege of Bihac was broken. Defenders of the Fifth Corps and the Croatian Defense Council from Bosnia and Herzegovina joined forces with the Army of the Republic of Croatia on the Korana River and together saved Bihac and its citizens from further severe suffering.
This old historical town has taken a huge hit with the loss of a large number of its residents and significant material damage. In addition to the terrible loss of human life, there was also a substantial loss of important documentation, including the extensive documentation of the research conducted in the area today covered by one of our 2Parks - the Una National Park.
The emotional, social, and spiritual wounds of numerous wars are very deep. Almost every generation in our regional area remembers one war trauma and they have all left deep marks on the collective consciousness, affecting the town and people's lives even till today - deep wounds take very long to heal.
Bihac is today the administrative, economic, and cultural center of the Una-Sana Canton in the most complex Bosnia and Herzegovina which consists of two entities: the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Republika Srpska (Bosnian Serb Republic).
The example of such an insanely “tailored” Bosnia and Herzegovina best shows that world’s policies towards the SE Europe have a larger ulterior agenda. To come up with an idea of "rewarding" an aggressor who carried out such horrific crimes against civilians, including women and children, who committed sexual violence, executed mass-killings at the level of both war crimes and crimes against humanity, all that in the heart of Europe at the end of the 20th century, means only one thing - to set the stage for another potential conflict. This agenda brings only enormous suffering, death and poverty to millions of people in the region, and to those who make such "peace" agreements - profit. To be a successful colonizer in modern times, you need to bring the "victim" to their knees: by deliberately provoked war, various crises or sanctions, and by further impoverishment through considerable palm-greasing and bribery, through incitement to disorder, corruption, injustice and inequality. In such conditions, modern colonizers easily gain management rights in key sectors because there are no necessary regulations that precisely define the boundary where the free market ends and important national interests and wealth begin.
Only we can put an end to this nightmare forever because as nations we have no enemies other than ourselves, others only exploit our weaknesses and therefore every effort to encourage the development of critical thinking and the awakening of a new consciousness is highly worth every effort, so that we can finally put an end to unnessesery suffering.
In front of this once thriving artisan & business town is a demanding and long road to recovery, but there is hope and recovery is possible. Developing an awareness of the importance of civic engagement and (pro) active participation in local decision-making processes that directly affect their lives and their present and future well-being is of vital importance. Just like any other society so deeply traumatized by multiple traumatic events, this beautiful old town and its citizens also deserve, and desperately need, transformative changes, a lot of strong will and patience to become aware of their potential and to realize that proactive citizens play a crucial role in local policy-making.
With the awakening of a new consciousness, there is absolutely no bigger priority than everlasting peace and unity; only under such conditions can we create a prosperous society that will benefit both humans and nature.
Despite all the traumas, the spirit of this old town is not broken. This is still a town that understands and nurtures multiculturalism, a town that loves and recognizes art, participates and enjoys a range of water and land sports, and still maintains the spirit of an old artisan town. With two enterprise zones Kamenica i Ripac and excellent road and rail connections to the rest of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as to Croatia and its ports on the Adriatic Sea, the town wants to stimulate local economic development and help induce new investment and job creation.
Several major development projects are offered to socially and environmentally oriented investors who will support green economic development and protection of natural resources:
- tourist - rehabilitation center "Terme Gata";
- tourist - recreational - skiing center "Duga Luka";
- tourist and sports airport "Golubic";
Support Bihac in making these changes, stay a bit longer to reveal the true face of ancient settlements and wonderful people who have prepared their products and services to visitors. Empower local communities to offer their best!
Get to know Krajina people, who are: warm-hearted, hospitable, honest, tolerant, great gourmands with a sense of humor and a unique West-East genetic combination!
Together for the environment
- recycling is a big problem in the town, so we urge you to remove all packaging possible prior to your trip;
- explore the town and the countryside on foot, bike or use a public transport - give your car a rest and help reduce car emissions;
- when shopping for your trip, choose items that come in compostable packaging;
- buy food items in bulk when possible, utilizing reusable bags and containers;
- bring reusable water bottles - avoid/reduce plastic use;
- use refillable coffee cups, most commercial cups are generally unrecyclable;
- be energy and water wise;
- take litter with you - please don't litter around;
- join our Green Mission! Thank you for Caring!
Explore Local represents a part of our natural and cultural heritage; for a fuller overview of the tangible and intangible heritage, see our Interactive Map under Experiences and Events and Activities Calendar with many suggestions for your itinerary.
Get your dose of inspiration and come visit Bihac, the open air museum, and its surroundings!
Welcome to the home of the Una National Park!