The old town of Doboj is located in northern Bosnia, in an area with wide geographical foothills. The significant geostrategic position around the mouths of the rivers Usora and Spreča was a decisive factor in the formation of the fortress from which today’s Doboj developed.
In 2005, the Commission for Protection of National Monuments of Bosnia and Herzegovina declared the Architectural ensemble “Old Town of Doboj in Doboj” a National Monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The monument consists of the ramparts and towers of the old town and the heritage pieces kept in the Native History Museum in Doboj.
The significance of the Old Town of Doboj, or Gradina as it is called, was also recognized by the Institute for the Protection and Use of the Cultural, Historical and Natural Heritage of the Tuzla Canton.
“The continuity of settlement around Doboj has been confirmed since the Old Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age. In Roman times, the areas around Doboj were in the border zone between the provinces of Pannonia and Dalmatia. A Roman military camp and a civilian settlement were built on Gradina in Makljenovac, about 4 km south of Doboj. In the medieval period, Doboj was located in the parish of Usora in the Bosnian medieval state. Doboj was in the possession of the Bosnian dynasty of Kotromanić – other cities were as well, such as fortifications in the valley of Bosnia,” says Semir Hadžimusić, Expert Associate for Cultural-Historical, Artistic and Monumental Heritage at the Tuzla Canton Institute.
As he says, Doboj was first mentioned in historical sources in 1415 in a letter from Dubrovnik merchants, although the fortress itself is much older. The letter, as the story goes, was written when King Zigmud was near Doboj with the Hungarian army. In 1449 an agreement was reached between the Bosnian king Stjepan Tomaš and Hungary on a joint military action against the Ottomans.
While rulers superseded one another in Bosnia, both in the Middle Ages and during the Ottoman occupation, the Doboj Fortress served them at all times.
“In the seventies of the 15th century, Doboj came under Ottoman rule, and together with other towns in the basin of Bosnia was annexed to the Bosnian Sandžak. After the Peace of Belgrade in 1739, the Doboj captaincy was established. According to the territory and the number of soldiers, it was one of the smaller captaincies. It included the city of Doboj and the surrounding area with 171 commanders and soldiers. The city of Doboj was abandoned in 1851 and since then it has not had a military-strategic function, so it has been left to the ravages of time,” says Hadžimusić.
An interesting description of the fortress from 1875 was given by John Arthur Evans, a famous English travel writer and archaeologist:
“When passing a turn in the road, the old castle of Doboj rose before us, finely seated on a canonical hill. […] We now directed our footsteps to the old castle that crowns the summit of the hill. The ‘‘Starigrad’’ as it is called here, is one of the most interesting historic relics in the whole of Bosnia. A glance from its moldering walls makes one realize the importance of its situation… The castle, therefore, was the key to the whole valley of the Bosna against a foe coming from the Hungarian plains, and commanded the highway through the province of Usora to the very heart of the Bosnian kingdom… The fortress under the Turks has begun to fall apart a long time ago, and now its ruins are already falling apart.”
However, not only did the fortress not collapse, but a whole settlement has developed around it, which has survived to this day.
“In the area around the Doboj Fortress there was a settlement of the same name which had a square in the Middle Ages, and with the arrival of the Ottomans the Selimiye Mosque was built next to it, as well as profane buildings in the new neighborhoods of the city of Doboj,” explains Hadžimusić.
Today, the Doboj fortress is a cultural and historical monument of high value, which imposes upon the characteristics of the modern city. Numerous cultural and entertainment events are held in the amphitheater of the fortress, and with panoramic binoculars it is possible to see all the beauties of the city of Doboj.
The Doboj Tourist Organization says that they are working on its improvement.
“Gradina is still in function, and this year we had really big plans in terms of the promotion and improvement of it, as well as certain innovations that we would include as content on Gradina. However, the period of stagnation caused by the pandemic affected the realization of our plans. But that does not mean that we will not continue with this project and that we will not offer our visitors additional facilities at our fortress,” says Adrijana Ristić, Director of the Doboj Tourist Organization.
She adds that the fortress is still open to visitors, and that it has been rearranged and cleaned. Entrance fees are not being charged at the moment.
“However, our focus is not on it being just clean so that people can come and take pictures. We want to offer additional content, a souvenir shop and domestic products,” explains Ristić.
The Doboj Tourist Organization also states that the most frequent tourists visiting this national monument are mostly from Doboj, but also from other parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
During the height of the tourist season, they have a lot of visitors from abroad, according to their data. The Doboj Fortress is visited by about 4,000-5,000 foreigners on average, and during the year they record a total of about 7,000 tourists.
“Foreigners are interested in almost every detail. They take photos, ask questions related to the history of the city’s origins, read information about the history and are certainly interested in getting acquainted with the cultural and historical background of the fortress,” says Ristić.
Young people from Doboj are proud of the historical heritage of their city and like to spend their free time on Gradina.
“I am partially familiar with the historical background of Gradina. However, I think it is quite important. This is a great tourist potential for Doboj, which has not been used in the right way. However, in addition to the profit it could bring, I believe that its historical and cultural significance for Doboj, as well as in the context of the entire history of Bosnia and Herzegovina, is very important,” said one young girl from Doboj.
The Old Town of Doboj is a national monument and significant asset of the cultural and historical heritage of Bosnia and Herzegovina. For years it has showed that it has great potential to become a tourist attraction for visitors from all over the world.