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Foča throughout time - Part 2

Austro-Hungarian occupation

The Austrian period of city administration diametrically changed the appearance and socio-political structure of the city. Two iron bridges were built on the Drina River, while those on the Ćehotina River were not replaced, but remained in their original form. In economic terms, the exploitation of forest resources, which made the Foča region very rich, was emphasized. This period marks the beginning of new construction and the birth of the timber rafts on the Tara and Drina rivers (Used to transport timber from the dense unpopulated forests, to Foča). This new exploitation allowed for processing of raw materials into semi-finished wood products, which were then exported to all areas of the dual Monarchy. This period marks the beginning of the local timber industry, which experienced its zenith during communist times with the establishment of the “Maglić” timber company. This former giant ultimately failed to survive the turbulent times of changes resulting from the civil war in BiH after the breakup of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Or SFRY). During Austrian rule, a municipal building, a court, and some less popular institutions were established in Foča, such as the regional penitentiary.

In addition, the first ambulance was opened in Foča, which is actually the forerunner of today’s University Hospital. It is important to note that this ambulance-health center played a significant role in the care of NOB (resistance fighters) who suffered severe frostbite in the famous Igman march of 1942. During Austrian rule, Foča was on the border of the monarchy of the Kingdom of Montenegro. This fact was of crucial importance to the Austrian authorities in organizing special units known as the “Sukori”. It should be noted that these detachments were mainly composed of non-Serb populations and were among the first to be organized in the Foča region several years before the outbreak of World War I. In a sense, it should also be noted that in the so-called Foča area, the second Herzegovina uprising was played out in battles between the occupying Austro-Hungarian troops and the local rebels who disagreed with the provisions of the Berlin Congress. A memorial named the Albori fountain, was the endowment of an Austrian officer who was wounded in an offensive situated between Foča and Brod.  This fountain may be a unique testament to these events. During these times, authoritative control was in the hands of the so called “Šuckori”, who were Austrian auxiliary troops made up of local and loyal populations, who sought to further consolidate their rule in this region. At the same time, members of these detachments were remembered in folklore for atrocities they committed in this region prior to and during the First World War.


The First World War

The truth is that the Austro-Hungarians, at least in the initial phases of their rule, allowed the organization of various cultural societies. These societies were very diverse in character more generally, but also in national/ethnic character. Both Muslims and Serbs had their own societies that gathered an enviable number of followers. When we refer to the ethnic composition of the city and municipality of Foča, it must be said that it changed little during Austrian occupation. The main exception was due to the needs of the Austrian administrative apparatus, which imported a number of people with families who, in religious terms, belonged mainly to the Roman Catholic Church. Because of the needs of these people and because of the Austrian policy of changing the cultural, and religious environment, a Catholic church was built in the city. The church continued to exist until the Allied bombing of Foča, where it sustained significant damage and was then demolished shortly after the end of World War II. The end of World War I in Foča brought forth a different and new reality. The town was now a part of the newly formed “Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes” and by territorial division of the state was part of the “Zeta” Banovina (or Zeta region).

Kingdom of Yugoslavia

The historical development of Foča at the time when it was part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia (formerly the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes) was in a way rather predictable. Its economic and social development had continued to some extent as much as the new union allowed. The most important economic contribution of this period to the development of Foča was the construction of a railway. This railway, which ran from Ustiprača to Foča, was put into service in 1939. It followed the route that was inherited in modern times by the main road that connects Foča, Goražde and further to Višegrad or Rogatica. The remains of this railway are visible to this day, including many bridges and tunnels. Until 1977, the so called “Ćiro” (the name of the train) represented Foča’s most important traffic link with other centers in the former common state.

Second World War

The economic and industrial development of Foča was interrupted by extremely difficult and painful events on the territory of the municipality of Foča in the Second World War. Shortly after the attack by the Axis forces on the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, the kingdom capitulated and its territory was torn apart and divided between Nazi allies. In that division, Foča became part of the Independent State of Croatia, a Fascist puppet state. It is well known that this was an extremely cruel and criminal creation that showed its true face at the very beginning of its management of the city. The dynamic created by the “Ustasha” (Croatian Fascist) authorities and the crimes they committed upon the local population in the early days of their administration led to war in the city itself.  This resulted in retaliation against the Muslim population, many of whom were fascist supporters during this period in time. After the arrival of the “Partisans” (The Communist resistance fighters), upon their famous crossing of the wintry Mount Igman, the Foča regulations were passed. In addition to these regulations, a uniform rulebook on military ranks and their appearance was adopted for partisan military units. These ranks remained in force in partisan units until the end of the civil war which broke apart the communist state now known as Former Yugoslavia. During the second world war, the famous”Fifth Offensive” took place on the territory of the municipality in Sutjeska. This offensive, which aimed to destroy the Partisan units, was led by the Nazi occupying army.  This was one of the most violent and bloody battles within the territory of Yugoslavia in World War II. To this day, monuments, songs and legends exist surrounding the events of this battle, which the Partisan resistance managed to survive. The end of the war in Foča brought yet more tragedy. During the postwar period many atrocities were committed by communist forces upon the local population and in particular former members of the King’s Army (a faction of Serb fighters, which was unaffiliated with communist ideology)

The period of communism

In the post-war period, the reconstruction of the war-torn Foča took place in the thoughtful and carefully designed plans of the communist authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Industrial production grew significantly in the postwar period. The timber industry, mining, textile and electrical industries all had significant holdings in Foča. To a considerable extent, the attention of the authorities also turned to the possibilities of utilizing tourism as a great potential of the municipality. The establishment of the Sutjeska National Park in 1962 should definitely be noted in this context. The national park includes the Perucica rainforest, as well as a handful of mountain lakes and mountain peaks that now, once again, fascinate many visitors who venture to this isolated but beautiful region.

Disintegration of SFRY

The breakup of the SFRY and the war that followed left Foča divided and ultimately destroyed, with scars it has now been trying to heal for the nearly two decades. A novelty that emerged in Foča after the civil war in BiH was the establishment of two colleges in the city. These institutions were the School of Medicine and the college of Orthodox Theology. They have brought a youthful vibe to the city, which only motivated young people can bring. Beside this youthful regeneration, a new spirit exists in the streets of Foča which is fueled by the reappearance of foreign visitors, who are attracted by the natural beauties of the municipality.  

Though recovery has been slow and difficult for this battered and exhausted region of the world, summer months are now host to thousands of visitors from across the world. For the local population this has been a stimulus to both culture and wealth, which the town and municipality try to foster to the greatest extent possible. Today Foča is a welcoming and varied place where adventure and natural beauty lie around every corner.