Hamdija Kreševljaković

One of the many prominent figures from Sarajevo history is the historian, academic and one of the founders of the Scientific Society of BiH (a precursor to the BiH Academy of Science), Hamdija Kreševljaković.

He was born on Lubina St. in the Sarajevo neighborhood of Vratnik on September 18, 1888.

The search for knowledge

He first worked as a primary school teacher then later as a teacher in Sarajevo’s high schools, where he taught history, German, geography and pedagogy.

He always searched long and hard for knowledge. He taught himself many foreign languages, including German and Turkish, which he mastered so well that he could easily make use of archival material in these languages. He also knew Arabic, Norwegian and Ladino (used by Sephardic Jews).

His personal interests led him to research the socio-economic situation in BiH during the time of Ottoman rule. He worked diligently at gathering historical records and had an innate ability to get close to people and to collect their oral testimonies, after which he would corroborate the findings with other sources, while using them as precious sources in scientifically reconstructing crucial points from BiH’s history. During that time, he traveled a lot and even went as far as Iceland.

He published his findings in editions of publications by the Scientific Society, the National Museum, the Historical Society, the Oriental Institute, the Institute for the Protection of Monuments and the FNRJ Encyclopedia. It’s worth noting his engagement with the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of BiH, where he worked as a scientific assistant until his death.

Numerous scientific works

Kreševljaković wrote over 300 scientific papers which dealt with kapetanijas (Ottoman territorial units and hereditary chiefs), governorships, guilds (especially those in Sarajevo and Mostar) and was the author of many monographs on famous Bosnian towns (e.g. Kulen Vakuf) and famous families, such as the Čengić, Dženetić, Morić….

Having written so extensively, with much of his work now considered quite valuable, Kreševljaković came to develop his own particular style, which also had a literary value, as he painted a picture of bygone times in BiH.

He is considered one of the finest professors to ever teach at Gazi Husrev Bey’s Medresa and he laid the foundations for the modern approach to studying the history of BiH.

What set Kreševljaković apart from most other historians was the fact that he did not draw conclusions solely from the information he collected, so he didn’t fall into the trap of allowing the data to simply suit preconceived notions. He used the facts to create a good image, but he didn’t insert his own interpretation. It was for this reason that his work remained such a treasure trove of sources for later generations, as well as a solid basis for further research in shedding light on so many historical questions.

Given that Kreševljaković’s entire body of work focused on the history of BiH and its culture, civilization, administration and trades, today it is considered the most significant historical material on BiH during the Ottoman period.

Hamdija Kreševljaković died on July 9, 1959 and he left behind an indelible mark on Bosnian-Herzegovinian historiography.

Sarajevo has honored this great man by naming one of the streets in the center of the city after him, and a primary school in the Old Town also bears his name.