Visoko through History 

Photo: Former Yugoslavian president Jospi Broz Tito during a visit to Visoko. Visoko: remnants of the Butmir culture, an important intersection of Roman roads, Bosnian Kulin Ban's seat (ban = mediaeval Bosnia ruler), Treasure Nespina's tombstone, the first ban's court and Bosnian did's home (did = grandfather, chief priest in the mediaeval Bosnian church), charter to the people of Dubrovnik, Sibenik, Mostre - the first university on the Balkans, Royal City - a place where Bosnian rulers resided and were crowned, meeting place of the national assembly, a town of tolerance, a town of tradition, crafts and trade... Visoko is an unavoidable spot in the thousand-year long tradition of Bosnian state.

Owing primarily to its geographic position, natural advantages, climate and the wealth of water, fertile land and forests, as well as to the abundance of animals on nearby mountains, life in this region has been continuous throughout all epochs and civilizations, for over 7,000 years.

The latest archaeological research conducted on the Okoliste site, on the left bank of the river Bosnia in 2002, proved it once again.

The remnants of the found houses date from the later Neolithic and indicate extremely well conceived and organized life for the period. On of the crucial characteristics of this way of living is the exogamous marriage, which implies joining couples from different cultural groups, which -in turn - finally leads to the mixture of diverse cultures.

The excavated artifacts represent exceptionally valuable ceramic forms and ornaments, and are very important for the reconstruction of certain stages of Butmir culture, although they also include elements from somewhat older Mesolithic period.

As early as in the 10th century, Byzantine emperor Constantine Porphyrogenet VIIth uses the term 'Bosnia' to denote the central, i.e. main state of Bosnia. In his writing De administrando imperio, he uses this name for a small country ("horion Bosona") around the spring, upper an middle course of the river of the same name. The name 'Bosnia' was used, at the time, for the broader region of Visoko as the political centre of medieval Bosnia.

Various terms with the same meaning were used for Visoko and Bosnia at the time: Visoki, Vizoka, Bassinus, civitas Bosne, Bosnae, Boxena, horion Bosona, Bosnia.

As early as in 11th century, Bosnia aìhad its aristocracy - "magnates bosniae", and Bosnia appears on the historical stage as a strong state ad the centre of indigenous culture on the Balkans during Kulin ban's rule (1180-1204). In historical sources, Kulin ban is referred to as "Banus Culinus - dominus Bosniae", "Culin - magno bano Bosniae".

The prosperity of the life in Bosnia of the time is also witnessed by the saying which has survived in oral heritage for over a thousand years: "During Kulin-ban and good old days".

Characteristics of the Bosnian state of the time include the struggle between the Catholic community and heretic Bosnian church (Patharens, Bogumils). Ban Stjepan Kotromanic (1322-1353) - a ruler of medieval Bosnia, completely relies upon the Bosnian church. In one of his charters he calls his subjects "good Bosniacs".

The town - fortress of Visoki is first mentioned in papers of 1355, but it is known that is was built before, while the area under the town of Visoki - Podvisoki, is first mentioned in 1362.

The significance of Visoko in the 15th century is witnessed by the existence of custom duty, which mentions only Bosnian king's custom officers, and the colony of Dubrovnik people in Podvisoki, as well as by the highly developed trade with the Venetian state, Naples Kingdom, Dubrovnik Republic, Slavonia, Hungaria... Visoko is doubtlessly the biggest intersection of caravan roads of the time. Besides a series of reforms, Bosnian king Tvrtko the 1st (1353-1391) set a completely new basis for minting and publishing Bosnian money during his rule. It primarily includes leveling of the weight and value of Dubrovnik and Bosnian money, which allowed easier trade between Bosnia and Dubrovnik.

In 1377, Tvrtko was crowned as the "king of Serbia, Bosnia, Coast and Western sides" in Mile (Arnautovici). Thus, for the first time since they moved to these regions, Slavs found themselves in the same state, although they had already been divided into three religions and cultures: Bogumil, Catholic and Orthodox.

In 1909, during probing, graves of older generation of Bosnian rulers were found in Arnautovici. It was then that the famous king Tvrtko's cape was found under a stecak (Bosnia-specific tombstone), embroidered with golden thread, where the full coat of arms with the shield, veil, crown and plume were identified.

In the mid-15th century, the Bosnian state collapsed and Visoko, together with entire central Bosnia, fell under the Ottoman Empire. Bosnian and Herzegovinian county bey Ajas-bey is considered the founder of Visoko in the rivers Bosnia and Fojnica valley. The settlement develops rapidly nand gains the status of nahija includes over 160 inhabited localities situated in the area of present municipalities of Visoko, Breza, Kakanj, Ilijas, Fojnica, Kiseljak, Kresevo, Vares and Busovaca. Visoko eventually becomes the seat of kadiluk (district).

The arrival of Ottomans saw the continuation of handicrafts, with following crafts having been the best developed in Visoko: tanners, saddlers and, to a somewhat lesser degree, furriers, blanket-makers, and haircloth artisans. There were also some packsaddle makers, gunsmiths and butchers. This period also witnesses a significant development of pottery, chibouk (Turkish pipe) making and making of woolen items. In order to illustrate the degree of development of crafts in Visoko, tanners were processing 20,000 bovine and 60,000 sheep and goat hides annually, while opanak (peasant footwear) makers were producing up to a million pairs of opanaks.

Besides the above-mentioned developed trade with Dubrovnik Republic, trans-Adriatic trade and trade with other countries, it should be noted that leather items such as kajser (red tanned goat hide), white sahtijan (tanned goat hide) and white goat hide were exported to Austria, Germany and France. In Vienna stock market reports 1878 this Bosnian leather was registered under the name of 'Bosniaken-leder'. The traditional way of hide processing was discontinued in the mid-20th century.

 Postcard of old tree-lined road - promenade 1933

Despite the organized rebellion by Visoko people and inhabitants of other regions against Austrians during their advance from Kakanj, Bosnia was occupied by the Austro-Hungarian monarchy in 1878. Even in the new circumstances, Visoko was trying to maintain the previous significance. Unfortunately, Visoko was completely ruined in great fire - jangija (from Turkish yangin = fire) and it took a few years for the downtown marketplace to recover in the economic and any other sense. In this period, a few important buildings were constructed in Visoko, which have been preserved till today.

Besides certain obvious positive developments, it sound almost incredible that Austrians marked out a narrow-gauge railroad exactly across the middle of the Mile archaeological site although they knew the significance of this spot for the entire history of Bosnia and Herzegovina. When the railroad was dismantled, only a local country road remained.

This period also witnessed vibrant activity of various cultural and sport associations: Srpski soko, Muslimanski soko, Croatian society Napredak, Muslim societies Gajret, Preporod, Narodna uzdanica etc.

The forceful seizure of land from locals in the period after the First World War and the establishment of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenians, i.e. the Kingdom of Yugoslavia made life a lot more difficult, but the entrepreneurial Visoko people still managed, among other things, to open the first school of leather processing on the Balkans, in the third decade of the 20th century. The school was named the State School of Leather and Fur Processing. Indeed, the oldest record on leather processing operations in Visoko is found in a document of 1180 which is kept in the Vatican archives.

The traditional Visoko conviviality and tolerance was proven a myriad times and is well-known across the Balkans. Local population has always been friendly to newcomers regardless of their religion. This is confirmed by the centuries-long coexistence of different nations and religions and the existence of their religious and educational institutions which have been preserved to this day.

Thus a Madrasah with the library was erected in Visoko as early as in 1838, although its operations were discontinued a few times. The Orthodox primary school in Visoko was founded in 1860, when the works on the construction of the Orthodox church were completed. The Franciscan high school was founded in 1882 and moved to Visoko from Guca gora in 1900, when the newly-constructed building of the Franciscan high school for liberal arts was opened.

The period after the Second World War and the establishment of the federal, i.e. socialist Yugoslavia significantly changed the previous way of life. It witnessed the rapid industrialization and establishment of huge plants that became well-known all over the world, the most important being "KTK" leather and textile plant, "IGM" building material industry, "VITEX" food processing industry and "Kovina" metalworking plant.

During the aggression on the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (1992-1995) , most of the industrial facilities were destroyed. Nevertheless, the creativity of Visoko artisans still has an enviable level, which is confirmed by the fact that KTK modelers won the first prize for footwear design at the prestigious trade fair in Italy in 2002.


Tourist society of the municipality of Visoko

Written by: Prof. Senad J. Hodovic

Translation: M. Babic


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