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Bosnia and Herzegovina


Country, Balkan Peninsula, southeastern Europe.

It is bounded by Serbia, Montenegro, and Croatia. Area: 19,772 sq mi (51,209 sq km). Population (2005 est.): 3,853,000. Capital: Sarajevo. Major ethnic groups include Bosniacs (Bosnian Muslims; about two-fifths of the population), Serbs (about one-third), and Croats (about one-fifth). Languages: Bosnian, Serbian, Croatian (all official). Religions: Christianity (mostly Eastern Orthodox; also Roman Catholic), Islam. Currency: marka. The country’s relief is largely mountainous, and elevations of more than 6,000 ft (1,800 m) are common. The land, drained by the Sava, Drina, and Neretva rivers and their tributaries, drops abruptly southward toward the Adriatic Sea. Agriculture is a mainstay of the economy; though the area possesses a variety of minerals, it remains one of the poorest regions of the former Yugoslavia. Bosnia and Herzegovina is a republic with two legislative houses; its chief of state is the chairman of the tripartite presidency, and the head of government is the chairman of the Council of Ministers. Habitation long predates the era of Roman rule, during which much of the country was included in the province of Dalmatia. Slav settlement began in the 6th century ad. For the next several centuries, parts of the region fell under the rule of Serbs, Croats, Hungarians, Venetians, and Byzantines. The Ottoman Turks invaded Bosnia in the 14th century, and after many battles it became a Turkish province in 1463. Herzegovina, then known as Hum, was taken in 1482. In the 16th and 17th centuries the area was an important Turkish outpost, constantly at war with the Habsburgs and Venice. During this period much of the population converted to Islam. At the Congress of Berlin after the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78, Bosnia and Herzegovina were assigned to Austria-Hungary, and they were annexed in 1908. Growing Serbian nationalism resulted in the 1914 assassination of the Austrian archduke Francis Ferdinand at Sarajevo by a Bosnian Serb, an event that precipitated World War I. After the war the area became part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. Following World War II, the twin territories became a republic of communist Yugoslavia. With the collapse of communist regimes in eastern Europe, Bosnia and Herzegovina declared its independence in 1992; its Serbian population objected, and conflict ensued among Serbs, Croats, and Muslims (see Bosnian conflict). A peace accord in 1995 established a loosely federated government roughly divided between the Muslim-Croat Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Serb Republic. In 1996 a NATO peacekeeping force was installed there.

Official name Bosna i Hercegovina (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Form of government emerging republic with bicameral legislature (House of Peoples [151]; House of Representatives [42])
Chiefs of state nominally a tripartite presidency
International authority 2
Head of government Prime Minister (Chairman of the Council of Ministers)
Capital Sarajevo
Official languages Bosnian; Croatian; Serbian
Official religion none
Monetary unit convertible marka (KM3, 4)
Population estimate (2008) 3,858,000
Total area (sq mi) 19,772
Total area (sq km) 51,209
1All seats are nonelective.

2High Representative of the international community per the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement/EU Special Representative.

3The KM is pegged to the euro.

4The euro also circulates as semiofficial legal tender.


country of the western Balkan Peninsula. The larger region of Bosnia occupies the northern and central parts of the republic, and Herzegovina occupies the south and southwest. The capital is Sarajevo.

The land has often felt the influences of stronger regional powers that have vied for control over it, and these influences have helped to create Bosnia and Herzegovina’s characteristically rich ethnic and cultural mix. Islam, Orthodox Christianity, and Roman Catholicism are all present, the three faiths corresponding to three major ethnic groups: Bosniacs, Serbs, and Croats, respectively. This multiethnic population, as well as the country’s historical and geographic position between Serbia and Croatia, has long made Bosnia and Herzegovina vulnerable to nationalist territorial aspirations. In 1918 it was incorporated into the newly created Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, and after World War II it became a constituent republic of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. After the disintegration of this state in 1991, Bosnia and Herzegovina gained independence, but it was immediately drawn into the broader Yugoslav war.

The roughly triangular-shaped Bosnia and Herzegovina is bordered on the north, west, and south by Croatia, on the east by Serbia, on the southeast by Montenegro, and on the southwest by the Adriatic Sea along a narrow extension of the country.

Bosnia and Herzegovina has a largely mountainous terrain. Numerous ranges, including the Plješivica, Grmeč, Klekovača, Vitorog, Cincar, and Raduša, run in a northwest-southeast direction. The highest peak, reaching 7,828 feet (2,386 metres), is Maglič, near the border with Montenegro. In the south and southwest is the Karst, a region of arid limestone plateaus that contain caves, potholes, and underground drainage. The uplands there are often bare and denuded (the result of deforestation and thin soils), but, between the ridges, depressions known as poljes are covered with alluvial soil that is suitable for agriculture. Elevations of more than 6,000 feet (1,800 metres) are common, and the plateaus descend abruptly toward the Adriatic Sea. The coastline, limited to a length of 12 miles (20 km) along the Adriatic Sea, is bounded on both sides by Croatia and contains no natural harbours. In central Bosnia the rocks and soils are less vulnerable to erosion, and the terrain there is characterized by rugged but green and often forested plateaus. In the north, narrow lowlands extend along the Sava River and its tributaries.

Geologic fault lines are widespread in the mountainous areas. In 1969 an earthquake destroyed 70 percent of the buildings in Banja Luka, and in 1992 a minor earthquake shook Sarajevo.

The principal rivers are the Sava, a tributary of the Danube, which forms the northern boundary with Croatia; the Bosna, Vrbas, and Una, which flow north and empty into the Sava; the Drina, which flows north, forms part of the eastern boundary with Serbia, and is a tributary of the Sava; and the Neretva, which flows from the southeast but assumes a sharp southwestern flow through the Karst region, continues through Croatia, and empties into the Adriatic Sea. Rivers in the Karst flow largely underground. Numerous glacial lakes dot the landscape. Bosnia and Herzegovina is also rich in natural springs, many of which are tapped for bottled mineral water or for popular thermal health spas.

Although situated close to the Mediterranean Sea, Bosnia and Herzegovina is largely cut off from its climatic influence by the Dinaric Alps. The weather in Bosnia resembles that of the southern Austrian highlands—generally mild, though apt to be bitterly cold in winter. In Banja Luka the coldest month is January, with an average temperature of about 32 °F (0 °C), and the warmest month is July, which averages about 72 °F (22 °C). During January and February Banja Luka receives the least amount of precipitation, and in May and June it experiences the heaviest rainfall.

Herzegovina has more affinity to the Dalmatian mountains, which are oppressively hot in summer. In Mostar, situated along the Neretva River near the Adriatic coast, the coldest month is January, averaging about 42 °F (6 °C), and the warmest month is July, averaging about 78 °F (26 °C). Mostar experiences a relatively dry season from June to September. The remainder of the year is wet, with the heaviest precipitation between October and January.

Plant and animal life
About half the country is forested with pine, beech, and oak. Fruits are common, among them grapes, apples, pears, and especially plums; these last are made into thick jam and slivovitz, a popular brandy. The country’s rich and varied wildlife includes bears, wolves, wild pigs, wildcats, chamois, otters, foxes, badgers, and falcons.

Ethnic groups and religions
Bosnia and Herzegovina is home to members of numerous ethnic groups. The three largest are the Bosniacs, Serbs, and Croats, who constitute about two-fifths, one-third, and one-fifth, respectively, of the population. Physically the three groups are indistinguishable; culturally the major difference between them is that of religious origin and affiliation. Serbs are primarily Serbian Orthodox, Croats Roman Catholic, and Bosniacs Muslim. Despite low attendance at church and mosque services, the association of religion with national identity has meant that religious identity has remained important. The demise of communism brought a religious revival within all three populations, partly in response to the end of official disapproval and partly in assertion of national identity.

The mother tongue of the vast majority is the Serbo-Croatian language, but it is now known as Serbian, Croatian, or Bosnian, depending on the speaker’s ethnic and political affiliation. There are some minor regional variations in pronunciation and vocabulary, but all variations spoken within Bosnia and Herzegovina are more similar to one another than they are to, for example, the speech of Belgrade (Serbia) or Zagreb (Croatia). A Latin and a Cyrillic alphabet exist, and both have been taught in schools and used in the press, but the rise of nationalism in the 1990s prompted a Serb alignment with Cyrillic and a Croat and Bosniac alignment with the Latin alphabet.

Settlement patterns
About two-thirds of the population is rural. The arid plateaus in the southern region are less populated than the more hospitable central and northern zones. Villages are of variable size; houses are either of the old small, steep-roofed variety or of the larger, multistoried modern type.

An urban-rural divide is a significant part of Bosnian culture, with urbanites tending to view villagers as primitives and villagers often defensive about this view and frequently anxious to move to town. During the 1960s and ’70s the urban population almost doubled. This shift particularly affected the economic and industrial centres of Sarajevo, Zenica, Tuzla, Banja Luka, and Mostar, around which sprawling suburbs of apartment blocks were built. Traditional settlement patterns were disrupted by the postindependence war, with the population of many cities swelled by refugees.

Patterns of ethnic distribution before 1992 created an intricate mosaic. Certain areas contained high concentrations of Serb, Croat, or Bosniac inhabitants, while in others there was no overall ethnic majority or only a very small one. Towns were ethnically mixed. Many larger villages also were mixed, although, in some of these, members of different ethnic groups tended to live at different ends or in different quarters. Most smaller villages were inhabited by only one group. Much of the violence of the postindependence war had the aim of creating ethnic purity in areas that once had a mixture of peoples. In addition to killing thousands, this “ethnic cleansing” displaced more than one-third of the population of Bosnia and Herzegovina either within its borders or abroad.

Demographic trends
When it was a part of the Yugoslav federation, Bosnia and Herzegovina had one of the lowest death rates and among the highest live birth rates of Yugoslavia’s republics, and its natural rate of increase in population was high in comparison with most of them. As a consequence the population was quite young, with more than one-quarter under the age of 15. Large numbers of citizens lived abroad as guest workers in western Europe. War radically altered this demographic situation, with the Bosniac population particularly affected.

As a republic of the Yugoslav federation, Bosnia and Herzegovina adhered to the unique economic system known as socialist self-management. In this system, business enterprises, banks, administration, social services, hospitals, and other working bodies were intended to be run by elected workers’ councils, which in turn elected the management boards of the bodies. In practice the level of workers’ control was extremely variable from enterprise to enterprise, since ordinary workers often were not motivated to participate except in matters such as hiring, firing, and benefits and in any case lacked the necessary time and information to make business decisions. In the 1980s Yugoslavia’s large foreign debt and rising inflation lowered the standard of living in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In the period immediately following the 1991 war in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s official economy collapsed. Huge increases in the price of oil, falling imports and exports, hyperinflation, shortages of food and medicine, insolvent banks, and unpaid pensions all resulted in a swelling black market, or informal economy. In addition, war after independence caused widespread destruction, and the eventual peace required a complete rebuilding of the economy.

Agriculture, forestry, and fishing
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a significant agricultural region, with some one-sixth of its land under cultivation. The most fertile soils are in the north, along the Sava River valley. In more-hilly areas land is employed for both cultivation and grazing. Principal crops are wheat, corn (maize), barley, soybeans, and potatoes. In Herzegovina and in the more sheltered areas of Bosnia, tobacco is grown. Sheep are the major livestock, although cattle and pigs also are raised. With about half the country forested, timber, as well as furniture and other wood products, has been a major export. Fishing potential remains underutilized.

Power and resources
Bosnia and Herzegovina has important reserves of iron ore around Banja Luka and in the Kozara Mountains, bauxite near Mostar, and lignite and bituminous coal in the regions around Sarajevo, Zenica, Tuzla, and the Kozara Mountains. Zinc, mercury, and manganese are present in smaller quantities. Forests of pine, beech, and oak provide an important source of timber. The country’s considerable hydroelectric potential has been increasingly exploited; there are more than a dozen hydroelectric and thermal power plants.

Manufacturing represents a large part of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s economy. Of the country’s significant mineral resources, iron, coal, and bauxite are the most exploited. Textiles, cement, armaments, food, chemicals, building materials, and cellulose and paper are produced in various parts of the country.

The major obstacle to communication in Bosnia and Herzegovina has always been the mountainous topography. In addition, much of the transportation infrastructure was destroyed in the postindependence war. The railway system, begun under Austro-Hungarian rule (1878–1918), connects Sarajevo with major towns to the north and with Zagreb and Belgrade. Another line runs south from Sarajevo to Mostar and on to Ploče on Croatia’s Adriatic coast. However, few lines are direct, and as a result roads of variable quality have in many cases been the preferred means of passenger and freight transportation. Scheduled air services connect Sarajevo with other Balkan capitals, such as Belgrade and Zagreb, as well as with other international destinations.

Constitutional framework
An agreement negotiated in Dayton, Ohio, U.S., in November 1995 established Bosnia and Herzegovina as a state composed of two largely autonomous entities, the Republika Srpska (Bosnian Serb Republic) and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The latter is a decentralized federation of Croats and Bosniacs. Each entity has its own legislature and president. The central institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina include a directly elected tripartite presidency, which rotates every eight months between one Bosniac, one Serb, and one Croat member. The presidency, as the head of state, appoints a multiethnic Council of Ministers. The chairman of the council, who is appointed by the presidency and approved by the national House of Representatives, serves as the head of government. The parliament is bicameral. Members are directly elected to the 42-seat lower house (House of Representatives), in which 28 seats are reserved for the federation and 14 for the Republika Srpska. Members of the upper house (the House of Peoples, with five members from each ethnic group) are chosen by the entity parliaments.

Political process
In 1990 the League of Communists of Yugoslavia fragmented, and multiparty elections were held in each of the country’s six constituent republics. In Bosnia and Herzegovina the national parties—the Bosniac Party of Democratic Action (Stranka Demokratske Akcije; SDA), the Serbian Democratic Party (Srpska Demokratska Stranka; SDS), and the Croatian Democratic Union (Hrvatska Demokratska Zajednica; HDZ)—formed a tacit electoral coalition. The three swept the elections for the bicameral parliament and for the seven-member multiethnic presidency, which had been established by constitutional amendment “to allay fears that any one ethnic group would become politically dominant.” They attempted to form a multiparty leadership, but their political and territorial ambitions (and those of their associates in Zagreb and Belgrade) were incompatible. The parliament failed to pass a single law, and war began in spring 1992. Following the establishment of peace in 1995, the nationalist SDS, HDZ, and SDA continued to win voter support, although other parties, such as the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (Stranka Nezavisnih Socijaldemokrata; SNSD), the Party for Bosnia and Herzegovina (Stranka za Bosnu i Hercegovinu; SBiH), and the Social Democratic Party (Socijaldemokratska Partija; SDP), also gained seats in the parliament.

The Yugoslav People’s Army was designed to repel invasion, and, as part of its strategy, it used the geographically central republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a storehouse for armaments and as the site of most military production. Bosnian Serb forces, aided by the Yugoslav People’s Army and fighting for a separate Serb state, appropriated most of this weaponry. Elsewhere, the Croatian Defense Council, aided by Zagreb, and the (mainly Bosniac) Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina were formed, but cooperation between them soon broke down. The Dayton agreement of 1995 provided for the state to retain two separate armies, one from the Republika Srpska and the other from the federation.

Cultural life
Daily life and social customs
Mediterranean, western European, and Turkish influences are all felt in the cultural life of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and there are considerable variations between traditional and modern and between rural and urban culture as well. Family ties are strong, and friendship and neighbourhood networks are well developed. Great value is placed on hospitality, spontaneity, and the gifts of storytelling and wit. Summer activities include strolling on town korza (promenades), and throughout the year popular meeting places are kafane (traditional coffeehouses) and kafići (modern café-bars). Bosnian cuisine is a matter of pride and displays its Turkish influence in stuffed vegetables, coffee, and sweet cakes of the baklava type, as well as in the national dish of ćevapi, or ćevapčići. These small rolls of seasoned ground meat, typically a mixture of beef and lamb, are grilled and usually served in a bread pocket. Folk songs remain popular and well-known.

The arts
During the 1970s Sarajevo, with a less repressive atmosphere than that of the Yugoslav capital of Belgrade, gave rise to a dissident rock-and-roll culture; the most popular band of the time, Bijelo Dugme (“White Button”), enjoyed a large following throughout the country. The city has produced other popular musical groups and artists, such as Zabranjeno Pušenje, Divlje Jagode, Elvis J. Kurtović, and Crvena Jabuka. International artists often tour the country, many times in the service of humanitarian causes. The Italian opera star Luciano Pavarotti lent his talent to raise funds for the Pavarotti Music Center in Mostar, an institution that offers courses in music, filmmaking, photography, and acting.

Sarajevo enjoys an active literary culture as well, with a number of publishing houses releasing contemporary and classic writing from the region. Popular writers include Amila Buturović, Semezdin Mehmedinović, and Fahrudin Zilkić. Ivo Andrić, born in Dolac, Bosnia, received the 1961 Nobel Prize for Literature. Andrić’s novels, such as Na Drini ćuprija (1945; The Bridge on the Drina), are concerned with the history of Bosnia. Before the onset of the civil war, Sarajevo was also an important film centre, made well-known internationally by the work of director Emir Kusturica, whose films depict the private face of Yugoslavia’s history; his Sječaš li se Dolly Bell? (Do You Remember Dolly Bell?) won the Golden Lion award at the 1981 Venice Film Festival.

Sports and recreation
Bosnians, like many Europeans, share a passion for football (soccer). The country fields dozens of professional and semiprofessional teams, and virtually no Bosnian village lacks a field and a few players willing to populate it. The civil war of the 1990s caused the Bosnian football league to break into three comparatively weak divisions along ethnic lines, with Bosniac, Serb, and Croat teams that rarely played against anyone not of their own allegiance. In 2000 the Croat and Bosniac divisions agreed to interethnic play, joined by the Serbian league in 2002. During the Yugoslav era Bosnia had powerful basketball players, and the sport is still widely popular. However, as with football, ethnic division plagued the sport in the 1990s.

During the period of Yugoslav rule, Bosnian athletes competed in many Olympic Games, and the Winter Games of 1984 were held in Sarajevo. (Sarajevo’s ski runs built for the Games were later used as firing ranges for Serb and Yugoslav army artillery during the civil war.) Newly independent Bosnia formed a national Olympic committee in 1992, which the International Olympic Committee recognized in 1993. Bosnia’s first Olympic appearance came in 1992 at Barcelona. Despite the ongoing war an interethnic team also participated in the 1994 Winter Games at Lillehammer, Norway.

Bosnia and Herzegovina features large national parks at Sutjeska and Kozara. Mountains and open spaces offer hiking, skiing, and hunting. Hunting is a popular pastime, and assorted hunting societies include thousands of members.

Media and publishing
In comparison with news outlets in much of eastern Europe, the news media in Yugoslavia were relatively independent, censorship being achieved more through implicit threat than through direct intervention. The warring factions during the civil war appropriated most media for the distribution of propaganda. Following the war the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska each began operating public radio and television stations. Numerous private stations also exist. Among the many newspapers, magazines, and journals circulating in Bosnia and Herzegovina are the Sarajevo dailies Oslobodjenje and Dnevni Avaz and the Banja Luka daily Nezavisne Novine.

Ancient and medieval periods
When the Romans extended their conquests into the territory of modern Bosnia during the 2nd and 1st centuries bc, the people they encountered there belonged mainly to Illyrian tribes. Most of the area of modern Bosnia was incorporated into the Roman province of Dalmatia. During the 4th and 5th centuries ad, Roman armies suffered heavy defeats in this region at the hands of invading Goths. When the Goths were eventually driven out of the Balkans by the Byzantine emperor Justinian I in the early 6th century, the Bosnian territory became, notionally at least, part of the Byzantine Empire.

Slavs began to settle in this territory during the 6th century. A second wave of Slavs in the 7th century included two powerful tribes, the Croats and the Serbs; Croats probably covered most of central, western, and northern Bosnia, while Serbs extended into the Drina River valley and modern Herzegovina. (The terms “Serb” and “Croat” were, in this period, tribal labels; they were subsequently used to refer to the inhabitants of Serbian or Croatian political entities and only later acquired the connotations of ethnic or national identity in the modern sense.)

During the late 8th and early 9th centuries, part of northwestern Bosnia was conquered by Charlemagne’s Franks; this area later became part of Croatia under King Tomislav. After Tomislav’s death in 928, much of Bosnia was taken over by a Serb princedom that acknowledged the sovereignty of the Byzantine Empire. The first recorded mention of Bosnia was written during this period by the Byzantine emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus, who described “Bosona” as a district in “baptized Serbia.” The district he referred to was an area much smaller than modern Bosnia and centred on the Bosna River. Soon after Constantine wrote those words, most of the modern territory of Bosnia reverted to Croatian rule.

During the 11th and 12th centuries Bosnia experienced rule by Byzantium through Croatian or Serb intermediaries, incorporation into a Serb kingdom that had expanded northward from the territory of modern Montenegro and Herzegovina, rule by Hungary, and a brief period of renewed Byzantine rule. After the death of the emperor Manuel I Comnenus in 1180, Byzantine rule fell away but government by Croatia or Hungary was not restored: a Bosnian territory (excluding much of modern Bosnia and all of Herzegovina) thus became, for the first time, an independent entity.

A Bosnian state of some kind existed during most of the period from 1180 to 1463, despite periodic aggression from the neighbouring kingdom of Hungary, which maintained a theoretical claim to sovereignty over Bosnia. Bosnia enjoyed periods of power and independence, especially under three prominent rulers: Ban Kulin (1180–1204), Ban Stjepan Kotromanić (1322–53), and King Tvrtko I (1353–91). Under Kotromanić, Bosnia expanded southward, incorporating the principality of Hum (modern Herzegovina). During the reign of Tvrtko I, Bosnia expanded farther south and acquired a portion of the Dalmatian coast. For a brief period in the late 14th century, Bosnia was the most powerful state in the western Balkans, though the Greater Bosnia of Tvrtko’s final decades was an exception: for most of the medieval period, Bosnia was mainly a landlocked state, isolated and protected by its impenetrable terrain.

One consequence of this isolation was the development of a distinctive Bosnian church. After the division between Roman and Eastern Orthodox Christianity, most of the Bosnian territory (excluding modern Herzegovina) had been Roman Catholic, but during the long period of isolation from Rome the Bosnian church fell into de facto schism, electing its own leaders from among the heads of the monastic houses. A combination of poor theological training, lax observances, and Eastern Orthodox practices led to frequent complaints from neighbouring areas, beginning in the 1190s, that the Bosnian church was infected with heresy. In 1203 a papal legate was sent to investigate these charges, and Ban Kulin gathered a special council at Bolino Polje (near modern Zenica), where the church leaders signed a declaration undertaking a series of reforms. Most involved correcting lax religious practices; in addition, however, they promised not to shelter heretics in their monasteries. The extent to which these reforms were observed is very uncertain, since over the following century the church in Bosnia became increasingly isolated. Occasional complaints from the 1280s onward still referred to “heretics” in Bosnia, and, by the time the Franciscan order began to operate there in 1340, the official view from Rome was that the entire Bosnian church had fallen into heresy, from which its members needed to be converted.

Since the mid-19th century, many historians have argued that the Bosnian church had adopted the extreme dualist heresy of the Bulgarian Bogomils. Evidence for this view came from the papal denunciations of the Bosnians, which sometimes accused them of Manichaeism, the dualist theology on which Bogomil beliefs were based. In addition, Italian and Dalmatian sources referred to the Bosnians as “Patarins,” a term used in Italy for a range of heretics including the Cathars, whose beliefs were linked to Bogomilism. However, more recent scholarship has suggested that the authors of those denunciations had little or no knowledge of the situation inside Bosnia and that confusion may have been caused by the existence of genuine dualist heretics on the Dalmatian coast. Furthermore, the surviving evidence of the religious practices of the Bosnian church shows that its members accepted many things that Bogomils fiercely rejected, such as the sign of the cross, the Old Testament, the mass, the use of church buildings, and the drinking of wine. The Bosnian church should thus be considered an essentially nonheretical branch of the Catholic church, based in monastic houses in which some Eastern Orthodox practices also were observed. During the 14th century the Franciscans established a network of friaries in Bosnia and spent more than a century trying to convert members of the Bosnian church to mainstream Catholicism. In 1459 this campaign received the full support of the Bosnian king, Stjepan Tomaš, who summoned the clergy of the Bosnian church and ordered them to convert to Catholicism or leave the kingdom. When most of the clergy converted, the back of the Bosnian church was broken.

The final decades of the medieval Bosnian state were troubled by civil war, Hungarian interference, and the threat of Turkish invasion. Turkish armies began raiding Serbia in the 1380s and crossed into Bosnian-ruled Hum (Herzegovina) in 1388; King Tvrtko I sent a large force to fight against them alongside the Serbian army at the Battle of Kosovo Polje in the following year. Tvrtko’s successor, King Ostoja, struggled for possession of the crown against Tvrtko’s illegitimate son, Tvrtko II, who was supported first by the Turks and then by the Hungarians after Ostoja’s death. The nobleman Stefan Vukčić also engaged in tactical alliances against the Bosnian rulers, establishing his own rule over the territory of Hum and giving himself the title herceg (duke), from which the name Herzegovina is derived. Turkish forces captured an important part of central Bosnia in 1448, centred on the settlement of Vrhbosna, which they developed into the city of Sarajevo. In 1463 they conquered most of the rest of Bosnia proper, although parts of Herzegovina and some northern areas of Bosnia were taken over by Hungary and remained under Hungarian control until the 1520s. Vukčić and his son were gradually forced out of their domains, and the last fortress in Herzegovina fell to the Turks in 1482.

Ottoman Bosnia
Bosnia was rapidly absorbed into the Ottoman Empire and was divided into military-administrative districts, or sanjaks (from Turkish sancàk, “banner”). In 1580 a broad area covering modern Bosnia and some surrounding areas of Croatia and Serbia was given the full status of an eyalet, or constituent province of the empire. Bosnia enjoyed this status as a distinct entity throughout the rest of the Ottoman period. The Bosnian eyalet was governed by a vizier and administered through a network of junior pashas and local judges. Land was distributed according to the Ottoman feudal system, in which the holder of a timar (estate) had to report for military duty, bringing and supporting other soldiers. A wide range of taxes was imposed, including the harač, a graduated poll tax on non-Muslims. The notorious system called devşirme was also introduced, under which Christian children were taken off for training in the imperial administration and the Janissary corps, an elite army division. In all these respects, conditions in Bosnia were similar to those in the other conquered areas of Europe.

In one crucial way, however, Bosnia differed from the other Balkan lands (except, later, Albania): a large part of the native population converted to Islam. This was a gradual development; it took more than a hundred years for Muslims to become an absolute majority. There was no mass conversion at the outset, and no mass emigration of Muslims from Turkey. The fundamental reason for the growth of such a large Muslim population in Bosnia may lie in the earlier religious history of the Bosnian state. Whereas neighbouring Serbia had benefited from a strong, territorially organized national church, Bosnia had seen competition in most areas between the Bosnian church and the Roman Catholic church, both of which operated only out of monastic houses. In Herzegovina a third church, the Serbian Orthodox, had also competed. Christianity was thus structurally weaker in Bosnia than in almost any other part of the Balkans. The motives that inclined Bosnians to adopt Islam were partly economic: the prosperous cities of Sarajevo and Mostar were mainly Muslim, and it was not possible to lead a full civic life there without converting to Islam. Other motives included the privileged legal status enjoyed by Muslims and, possibly, a desire to avoid the harač, though Muslims were subject, unlike Christians, both to the alms tax and to the duties of general military service. But the traditional belief that Bosnian noblemen converted en masse to Islam in order to keep their estates has been largely disproved by modern historians.

Another way in which Bosnia differed from other parts of the Ottoman Balkans is that for most of the Ottoman period Bosnia was a frontier province, facing two of the empire’s most important enemies, Austria-Hungary and Venice. To fill up depopulated areas of northern and western Bosnia, the Ottomans encouraged the migration of large numbers of hardy settlers with military skills from Serbia and Herzegovina. Many of these settlers were Vlachs, members of a pre-Slav Balkan population that had acquired a Latinate language and specialized in stock breeding, horse raising, long-distance trade, and fighting. Most were members of the Serbian Orthodox church. Before the Ottoman conquest, that church had had very few members in the Bosnian lands outside Herzegovina and the eastern strip of the Drina valley; there is no definite evidence of any Orthodox church buildings in central, northern, or western Bosnia before 1463. During the 16th century, however, several Orthodox monasteries were built in those parts of Bosnia, apparently to serve the newly settled Orthodox population there.

Major wars affecting Bosnia took place almost every two generations throughout the Ottoman period. Bosnia was an important recruiting ground for Süleyman I the Magnificent’s campaign to conquer Hungary (1520–33); there was fighting on Bosnia’s borders during his final Hungarian campaign of 1566; and the large-scale Habsburg-Ottoman conflict of 1593–1606 was sparked by fighting in the Bihać region of northwestern Bosnia. This war left Bosnia financially drained and militarily exhausted. A Venetian-Ottoman war began in the 1640s and lasted until 1669, involving heavy fighting and destruction in parts of western Bosnia. In the Habsburg-Ottoman war of 1683–99, Austria reconquered Ottoman Hungary and Slavonia, sending a flood of Muslim refugees (mainly converted Slavs) into Bosnia. In 1697 a small Austrian army under Prince Eugene of Savoy marched into the heart of Bosnia, put Sarajevo to the torch, and hurried back to Austrian territory, taking thousands of Catholic Bosnians. In the next major war (1714–18) Austria joined forces with Venice; at the Treaty of Passarowitz (Požarevac) in 1718, Venetian-ruled Dalmatia was allowed to extend its territory inland, reaching a line that since then has formed part of the southwestern border of Bosnia. Austria invaded Bosnia again in 1736 but was repelled by local forces; at the subsequent peace settlement (the Treaty of Belgrade, 1739), Austria gave up its claim to the territory south of the Sava River. This settlement formed the basis of the northern border of modern Bosnia. Austria seized more territory after invading Bosnia again in 1788, but it yielded up its gains at the peace settlement in 1791.

The chronic fighting weakened Bosnia. War necessitated increased taxation, causing tax revolts. Forced conscription and frequent plague epidemics led to a relative reduction in the Muslim population, which contributed its manpower to Ottoman campaigns throughout the empire and may have suffered disproportionately from the effects of plague in the cities. In the 18th century there was strong growth in the Christian population; by the end of the century the Muslims were probably no longer in the majority. The social consequences of war also included a change in the system of land tenure: increasingly, the old feudal timar estates were converted into a type of private estate known as a čiftlik, in response to the imperial treasury’s need for cash instead of old-style feudal service. The conditions of work demanded of the peasants on these estates were usually much more severe, and these peasants tended increasingly to be Christians, since Muslim peasants were able to acquire smallholdings in their own right.

Nevertheless, Ottoman Bosnia was not permanently sunk in misery. Descriptions of Sarajevo by visiting travelers portray it as one of the wonders of the Balkans, with fountains, bridges, schools, libraries, and mosques. Fine mosques were also built in towns such as Foča and Banja Luka. (Many of these buildings were systematically demolished by Serb forces in 1992–93.) Numerous works of poetry, philosophy, and theology were written. The cities of Sarajevo and Mostar, where such urban culture flourished, enjoyed a large degree of autonomy under elected officials. After the Bosnian viziers moved out of Sarajevo in the 1690s, they found it almost impossible to return, residing instead in the town of Travnik and exercising only limited power. Real local power passed increasingly into the hands of a type of hereditary official (unique to the Bosnian eyalet) known as a kapetan.

The existence of these powerful local institutions meant that Bosnia was well equipped to resist the reforming measures that the Ottoman sultans began to issue in the early 19th century. When Sultan Mahmud II reformed the military in 1826 and abolished the Janissary corps (which had acquired the status of a privileged social institution), the reform was fiercely resisted by local Janissaries in Bosnia. The Ottoman authorities mounted punitive campaigns against the Janissaries’ stronghold, Sarajevo, in 1827 and 1828. In 1831 a charismatic young kapetan called Husein seized power in Bosnia, imprisoning the vizier in Travnik. With an army of 25,000 men, Husein then marched into Kosovo to negotiate with the Ottoman grand vizier, demanding local autonomy for Bosnia and an end to the reform process there. But the grand vizier stirred up a rivalry between Husein and the leading kapetan of Herzegovina, Ali-aga Rizvanbegović, and in the following year Husein’s support melted away when a large Ottoman army entered Bosnia. Rizvanbegović’s reward was that Herzegovina was separated from the Bosnian eyalet as a distinct territory under his rule. Further reforms announced by Sultan Abdülmecid I, involving new rights for Christian subjects, a new basis for army conscription, and an end to the much-hated system of tax-farming, were either resisted or ignored by the powerful Bosnian landowners. During these final decades of Ottoman rule, Muslims were violently expelled from Serbia; the rise of Serbia as a quasi-autonomous Christian province made Bosnian Muslims feel more isolated and vulnerable, and the increasing role of foreign powers (especially Austria and Russia) as “protectors” of the interests of Christians in the Balkans also raised their suspicions. Bosnian landowners, feeling that they could no longer trust the Ottoman authorities in Constantinople (now Istanbul) to maintain their power, frequently turned to more repressive measures against their Christian subjects.

However, two Bosnian governors succeeded in forcing through some of the sultan’s reforms and curbing local resistance. The first of these, Omer-paša Latas, crushed a major rebellion in 1850–51 and revoked the separate status of Herzegovina. The second, Topal Osman-paša, introduced a new method of military conscription in 1865 and a completely new administrative system in 1866, dividing Bosnia into seven sanjaks and establishing a consultative assembly. He also built schools, roads, and a public hospital and allowed the two Christian communities to build new schools and churches of their own. Tax demands on Bosnian peasants continued to grow. In 1875 a revolt against the state tax collectors began among Christian peasants in the Nevesinje region of Herzegovina; unrest soon spread to other areas of Bosnia, and repressive force was applied both by the new Bosnian governor and by local landowners using their own irregular troops. Serbia and Montenegro declared war on the Ottoman Empire in 1876, and Russia came into the war on their behalf in the following year. When the Serbo-Turkish War ended in 1878, the other great powers of Europe intervened at the Congress of Berlin to counterbalance Russia’s new influence in the Balkans. The congress decided that Bosnia and Herzegovina, while remaining notionally under Turkish sovereignty, would be occupied and governed by Austria-Hungary. In 1878 Austro-Hungarian troops took control of Bosnia, overcoming vigorous resistance from local Bosnian forces; they also occupied the neighbouring sanjak of Novi Pazar, which had been one of the seven Bosnian sanjaks in the late Ottoman period.

Bosnia under Austro-Hungarian rule
Bosnia was declared a “crown land” and was governed by a special joint commission under the Common Ministry of Finance. The Ottoman administrative division of Bosnia was preserved, and Ottoman laws were only gradually replaced or supplemented. This policy of gradualism was the most striking aspect of Austro-Hungarian rule in Bosnia under the Common Finance Minister Benjamin Kállay, a specialist in Slav history who directed Bosnian policy from 1882 to 1903. Indeed, a common criticism of Austro-Hungarian rule was that little was done to resolve tensions between landlords and peasants. In other areas, however, Kállay’s rule was extremely active. A public works program was initiated, and by 1907 Bosnia had a well-developed infrastructure, including an extensive railway and road network. Mines and factories were developed, and agriculture was promoted with model farms and training colleges. Three high schools and nearly 200 primary schools were built, although compulsory education was not introduced until 1909.

While he succeeded in many of these areas of practical improvement, Kállay failed in his central political project: developing a Bosnian national consciousness to insulate the people of Bosnia from the growing movements of Croatian, Serbian, and Yugoslav (“South Slav”) nationalism. Catholic and Orthodox people of Bosnia had begun by the mid-19th century to identify themselves as “Croats” and “Serbs.” At the same time, Muslim intellectuals were campaigning for greater powers over the Islamic institutions of Bosnia, thereby becoming quasi-political representatives of a Muslim community with its own distinctive interests. During the first decade of the 20th century, “national organizations” of Muslims, Serbs, and Croats were set up that functioned as embryonic political parties. In response, Kállay’s successor, István, Baron von Burián, granted a degree of autonomy in religious affairs to both the Muslims and the Serbs.

In October 1908 nationalist feeling was strongly aroused by the sudden announcement that Bosnia would be fully annexed by Austria-Hungary. The decision, which caught other great powers by surprise and created a diplomatic crisis lasting many months, was prompted by the revolution of the Young Turks in Constantinople, who appeared ready to establish a more democratic regime in Turkey, which could then plausibly reclaim Turkish rights over Bosnia. Inside Bosnia, one effect of this change was beneficial: Burián felt able to promote democratic institutions, introducing a parliament there (with limited powers) in 1910. But the bitter resentment that the annexation caused among Serb and South Slav nationalists led to the growth of revolutionary groups and secret societies dedicated to the overthrow of Habsburg rule. One of these, Mlada Bosna (“Young Bosnia”), was especially active in Bosnian schools and universities. Tension was heightened by the First Balkan War of 1912–13, in which Serbia expanded southward, driving Turkish forces out of Kosovo, Novi Pazar, and Macedonia. In May 1913 the military governor of Bosnia, General Oskar Potiorek, declared a state of emergency, dissolving the parliament, closing down Serb cultural associations, and suspending the civil courts. The heir to the Habsburg throne, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, traveled to Bosnia to review a military exercise. He entered Sarajevo and was killed there on June 28, 1914, by a young assassin from the Mlada Bosna organization, Gavrilo Princip, who had received some assistance from inside Serbia. Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia one month later, precipitating World War I.

Bosnia was under military rule throughout World War I, and repressive measures were applied to those Bosnian Serbs whose loyalty was suspect. At the end of the war, Bosnian politicians from each of the three main communities followed the political leaders of Croatia and Slovenia in throwing off Habsburg rule and joining in the creation of a new South Slav state, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes.

Bosnia in the Yugoslav kingdom
When the constitution of this new state was finally settled in June 1921, Bosnia retained no formal status of its own; however, its outline was preserved on the map, in the form of six oblasti (provinces) corresponding to the sanjaks (excluding that of Novi Pazar) of the late Ottoman period. Serfdom was abolished, but Bosnia remained relatively undeveloped socially and politically. In the territorial division of 1929, Bosnia was divided between four other administrative districts and thus was wiped off the map. Further adjustments were made in 1939, with the creation of a special Croatian territory within Yugoslavia that included portions of Bosnian territory. In 1941, after the Axis invasion of Yugoslavia, the entire Bosnian territory was absorbed into the puppet state known as the Independent State of Croatia.

The killing that took place in Bosnia between 1941 and 1945 was terrible in both scale and complexity. The Ustaša, the fascist movement that ruled Croatia during the war, exterminated most of Bosnia’s 14,000 Jews and massacred Serbs on a large scale: more than 100,000 Serbs from Bosnia died, roughly half in death camps. Two organized resistance movements emerged, a Serbian royalist force known as the Chetniks, led by Draža Mihailović, and the communist Partisan force (including Serbs, Croats, and Muslims) led by Josip Broz Tito. The sharply divergent aims of the two movements resulted in a civil war. Royalist forces turned increasingly to German and Italian forces for assistance and committed atrocities against Bosnian Muslims; some Bosnian Muslims joined an SS division that operated in northern and eastern Bosnia for six months during 1944, exacting reprisals against the local Serb population. The Partisans liberated Sarajevo in April 1945 and declared a “people’s government” for Bosnia later that month. It is estimated that the total number of deaths in Bosnia during the war was 164,000 Serbs, 75,000 Muslims, and 64,000 Croats.

Bosnia in communist Yugoslavia
In 1946 the Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina became one of the constituent republics of the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia. Life in Bosnia underwent all the social, economic, and political changes that were imposed on the whole of Yugoslavia by its new communist government, but Bosnia was particularly affected by the abolition of many traditional Muslim institutions, such as Qurʾānic primary schools, rich charitable foundations, and dervish religious orders. However, a change of official policy in the 1960s led to the acceptance of “Muslim” as a term denoting a national identity: the phrase “Muslim in the ethnic sense” was used in the 1961 census, and in 1968 the Bosnian Central Committee decreed that “the Muslims are a distinct nation.” By 1971 Muslims formed the largest single component of the Bosnian population. During the next 20 years the Serb and Croat populations fell in absolute terms as many Serbs and Croats emigrated. In the 1991 census Muslims made up more than two-fifths of the Bosnian population, while Serbs made up slightly less than one-third and Croats one-sixth. From the mid-1990s, the term Bosniac had replaced Muslim as the name for this group.

In the 1980s the rapid decline of the Yugoslav economy led to widespread public dissatisfaction with the political system. This attitude, together with the manipulation of nationalist feelings by politicians, destabilized Yugoslav politics. Independent political parties appeared in 1988. In early 1990 multiparty elections were held in Slovenia and Croatia; when elections were held in Bosnia in December, new parties representing the three national communities gained seats in rough proportion to their populations. A tripartite coalition government was formed, with the Bosniac politician Alija Izetbegović leading a joint presidency. Growing tensions both inside and outside Bosnia, however, made cooperation with the Serbian Democratic Party, led by Radovan Karadžić, increasingly difficult.

In 1991 several self-styled “Serb Autonomous Regions” were declared in areas of Bosnia with large Serb populations. Evidence emerged that the Yugoslav People’s Army was being used to send secret arms deliveries to the Bosnian Serbs from Belgrade. In August the Serbian Democratic Party began boycotting the Bosnian presidency meetings; in October it removed its deputies from the Bosnian assembly and set up a “Serb National Assembly” in Banja Luka. By then full-scale war had broken out in Croatia, and the breakup of Yugoslavia was under way. Bosnia’s position became highly vulnerable. The possibility of partitioning Bosnia had been discussed during talks between the Croatian president, Franjo Tudjman, and the Serbian president, Slobodan Milošević, earlier in the year, and two Croat “communities” in northern and southwestern Bosnia, similar in some ways to the “Serb Autonomous Regions,” were proclaimed in November 1991. When the European Community (EC; now European Union) recognized the independence of Croatia and Slovenia in December, it invited Bosnia to apply for recognition also. A referendum on independence was held February 29–March 1, 1992, although Karadžić’s party obstructed voting in many Serb-populated areas. Nearly two-thirds of the electorate cast a vote; almost all voted for independence, which was officially proclaimed on March 3 by President Izetbegović.

Independence and war
Attempts by EC negotiators to promote a new division of Bosnia into ethnic “cantons” during February and March 1992 failed: different versions of these plans were rejected by each of the three main parties. When Bosnia’s independence was recognized by the United States and the EC on April 7, Serbian paramilitary forces immediately began firing on Sarajevo, and the bombardment of the city by heavy artillery began soon thereafter. During April many of the towns in eastern Bosnia with large Bosniac populations, such as Zvornik, Foča, and Višegrad, were attacked by a combination of paramilitary forces and Yugoslav army units. Most of the local Bosniac population was expelled from these areas, the first victims in Bosnia of a process described as “ethnic cleansing.” Within six weeks, a coordinated offensive by the Yugoslav army, Serbian paramilitary groups, and local Bosnian Serb forces left roughly two-thirds of Bosnian territory under Serbian control. In May the army units and equipment in Bosnia were placed under the command of a Bosnian Serb general, Ratko Mladić.

From the summer of 1992, the military situation remained fairly static. A hastily assembled Bosnian government army, together with some better-prepared Croat forces, held the front lines for the rest of that year, though its power was gradually eroded in parts of eastern Bosnia. The Bosnian government was weakened militarily by an international arms embargo and by a conflict in 1993–94 with Croat forces. In 1994, however, Croats and Bosniacs agreed to form a joint federation. The United Nations (UN) refused to intervene in the war in Bosnia, but its troops facilitated the delivery of humanitarian aid; the organization later extended its role to the protection of a number of UN-declared “safe areas.” Several peace proposals failed, largely because the Serbs refused to concede any territory (they controlled about 70 percent of land by 1994).

In May 1995 North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces launched air strikes on Serbian targets after the Serbian military refused to comply with a UN ultimatum. Further air strikes led to U.S.-sponsored peace talks in Dayton, Ohio, in November. The agreement that resulted from those talks called for a federalized Bosnia in which 51 percent of the land would constitute a Croat-Bosniac federation and 49 percent a Serb republic. To enforce the agreement, signed in December, a 60,000-member international force was deployed. It was originally estimated that at least 200,000 people were killed and more than 2,000,000 displaced during the 1992–95 war. Subsequent studies, however, concluded that the death toll was actually about 100,000.

Postwar Bosnia
An election in September 1996 produced a tripartite national presidency chaired by Izetbegović but including Croat and Serbian representatives. Karadžić had been indicted for war crimes and was prohibited from being a candidate, though he retained some support among Bosnian Serbs into the 21st century. (He eluded capture until his arrest in Belgrade, Serb., in July 2008.) The federal legislature, with seats apportioned to each ethnic group, was dominated by nationalist parties.

Noel R. Malcolm

Over the next several years the country experienced an uneasy peace. It received extensive international assistance, but the economy remained in shambles. Much of the workforce was unemployed—about 50 percent in the Bosniac-Croat federation and 70 percent in the Serb Republic. The two parts of the republic were largely autonomous, each having its own president and assembly. The national government was largely responsible for international affairs, and a representative of the international community was appointed to oversee the implementation of the peace agreement and act as the final authority. By the early 21st century, projects funded by the World Bank had succeeded in reconstructing much of the country’s infrastructure, and some political and economic reforms were implemented. Nevertheless, ethnic tensions continued to flare, and the long-term future of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina was questionable, as a vast majority of Croats and Serbs believed their future lay in independence or with Croatia and Serbia, respectively, rather than with the republic.




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