Bosnia and Herzegovina Religion

Islam and Christianity are about the same in Bosnia. The religious affiliation mainly follows the division into ethnic groups. Formally, state and religion are separate, but religious communities have great influence in society.

Civil war gave religion more room in people’s lives. In the past, many were not actively religious, but now religion reinforces their own identity and is part of Bosnian politics. Among Muslims, for example, it has become more common to observe Muslim customs as a headscarf for women, and many Qur’an schools have been opened.

Bosnia and Herzegovina Population Pyramid 2020

The three dominant peoples have come to belong to different religions by being governed by different empires. The Bosniaks, formerly called Muslims, converted to Islam during the Ottoman Empire. For the most part, they confess to Islam’s main focus on Sunni. The Serbs, through the influence of the Eastern Roman Empire, became Orthodox Christians and usually belong to the Serbian Orthodox Church. The Croats, who lived in the Habsburg Empire, are predominantly Roman Catholics (see also Ancient History).

  • Countryaah: Population statistics for 2020 and next 30 years in Bosnia and Herzegovina, covering demographics, population graphs, and official data for growth rates, population density, and death rates.



New government ready

December 23

Parliament approves the new government composed by Zoran Tegeltija, who was approved as Prime Minister at the beginning of the month. This puts a definitive and formal point for the post-election after the October 2018 elections.

Boycott of the Nobel Prize

December 10

Bosnia boycott the Nobel Prize ceremony in Stockholm, protesting that the 2019 Literature Prize was awarded to Austrian author Peter Handke. Protests have come from many directions against the Swedish Academy’s decision in October to award the prize to Handke, who is known for his support for the Serbs during the 1990s war in the Balkans and his admiration for the Serbian leader Slobodan Milosević. The awards ceremony is also boycotted by Albania, Kosovo, Croatia, Northern Macedonia and Turkey.

Criticized migrant camp is closed

December 11

Authorities close the criticized makeshift tent camp Vučjak (see November 2019) after moving nearly 800 migrants from there to camp closer to Sarajevo. During the year, 25,000 people are estimated to have passed through the camp, most of them men from Asia, the Middle East and North Africa.

New Prime Minister approved

December 5

Bosnian Serb politician Zoran Tegeltija is approved as head of government by Parliament and thus 14 months of attempts to form government appear to be over. Tegeltija now has 30 days to form a government. He was nominated by the members of the three-member presidency on November 19, after meeting with the head of the EU delegation in Bosnia and ambassadors from France, Italy, the UK, Germany and the US. The post-election deadlock has mainly been in disagreement over Bosnia’s approach to NATO, an issue that remains unsolved. Tegeltija has previously been Minister of Finance in Republika Srpska.


Humanitarian crisis threatens migrants

November 14

EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos warns that the approaching winter could lead to a humanitarian crisis for thousands of migrants stranded in Bosnia. A large number of migrants are found in informal tent camps, without proper protection against the forces of the weather. The largest of them, Vučjak, is built on a landfill near a field filled with land mines from the Civil War. In the camp both electricity and running water are missing. Over 20,000 migrants and asylum seekers have been trapped in Bosnia since the beginning of the year since Croatia prevented them from continuing entry into the EU. In addition to the EU, Human Rights Watch, the International Migration Organization (IOM) and the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR have criticized Bosnia for the migrant situation.

The French ambassador is called

November 8

The government requests a meeting with France’s ambassador Guillaume Rousson since French President Emmanuel Macron called Bosnia “a ticking bomb”. Rousson gets to meet Željko Komšić, who is serving president. Macron stated in The Economist magazine.


Ex-soldier is convicted of war crimes

October 30th

A former Bosnian Serb soldier extradited from France in 2018 is sentenced to 20 years in prison for war crimes by a Sarajevo court. The 64-year-old man receives the maximum penalty for his role in a massacre of dozens of people in Visegrad in eastern Bosnia in 1992. The victims were civilians who were locked in a house that was subsequently burned down. Two other soldiers were sentenced to life in 2012 and 27 years in prison by the UN General Court in The Hague.

Reverse homework from the European Court of Mostar elections

October 29th

The European Court of Human Rights criticizes Bosnia because no municipal elections have been held in Mostar since 2008. This means discrimination in the city that has been shared between Bosniaks and Croats since the war, the Court considers belonging to the Council of Europe but is independent. The Constitutional Court in Bosnia ruled in 2010 that the division of constituencies and the distribution of councilors was discriminatory, but the authorities have not acted on that verdict. Mostar has been governed by the same mayor since 2008, the last elected municipal council assembly’s term expired in 2012.


First Pride Parade in Sarajevo

September 8

Over 2,000 people take part in the first parade held in Sarajevo. More than 1100 police officers have been ordered out to monitor the march in support of LGBT -personers rights. Around 150 protesters gather to protest the march. Several Muslim associations and parties have tried to stop the parade in advance. Bosnia is the last of the former Yugoslav republics with a parade of parades.

UN call for compensation for rape victims

2 September

The UN Committee Against Torture (CAT Against Torture, CAT) calls on Bosnia to compensate a rape victim from the war in 1992–1995 and to offer free medical care and psychological help. The woman originally won a case in Bosnia in 2015 but never received the € 15,000 in damages she was awarded because the perpetrator lacked funds. The UN Committee now finds that the state is obliged to replace her. It is said to be the first time that CAT determines a case of sexual violence in connection with a conflict. CAT also calls on Bosnia to create a plan to compensate all victims of war crimes, even rapes. Around 20,000 women are estimated to have been raped during the war, but only 1,000 of them receive a smaller pension, as civilian victims of the war. Since 2015, 15 former soldiers have been sentenced to pay between 10,000 and 15,000 euros each to rape victims.


Agreement on a new central government

5 August

Ten months after the election, hopes are raised that the political deadlock has been broken: the three major parties SDA, SNSD and HDZ BiH – representing Bosniaks, Bosnians and Bosnians, respectively – have signed agreements to form a new central government (see October 7, 2018 and March 19, 2019). Government formation must be completed within 30 days, otherwise the agreement will fall.


Court reduces Netherlands liability in Srebrenica

July 19

The Supreme Court in the Netherlands reduces the country’s responsibility for events in Srebrenica in 1995, when a UN force failed to protect Muslims against the Bosnian Serb army during the Bosnian civil war. In total, up to 8,000 Muslims were murdered in Srebrenica, but the HD verdict concerns 350 people who in vain sought protection on the Dutch base. In the lower right, the Netherlands has been convicted of taking responsibility for 30 percent of damages to relatives. HD, which concluded that the UN soldiers had little opportunity to prevent massacres, reduces the proportion to 10 percent (see July 16, 2014).


The Council of Europe shuts down Bosnia

June 24th

THE COUNCIL OF EUROPEannounces that Bosnia will be suspended from the Parliamentary Assembly (Pace), due to the fact that no new members have been appointed after the October 2018 elections. Now the deadline expires. In an attempt to resolve the issue, the President of the upper house of the national parliament, Bakir Izetbegović, has called for an extra session. But the Serbian nationalist SNSD refuses to participate and the session becomes invalid. The SNSD refers to the fact that no national government has been formed since the elections, claims that it is the Bosnian party SDA’s fault and says that it is excluded to participate in Pace as long as there is no government. After the 2010 elections, it took just over 15 months to form a government in Bosnia, but then a delegation was appointed to Pace in time.

Disputed police reserve is withdrawn

June 24th

The government of Republika Srpska decides to scrap the plan to form a civilian police reserve force. The proposal to set up an aid force with 1,000 civilians was presented in April and has caused criticism, among other things, by UN High Representative Valentin Inzko. Bosnians who remember the violence that paramilitary groups waged during the 1990s war have also protested and threatened to form their own police reserve. New concern soon arises when it is instead talked about setting up a military police force, a “gendarmerie”.


Karadžić gets life imprisonment

March 20

Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžić is sentenced to life in prison by UN judge in The Hague. This means that the sentence is sharpened when the previous sentence was 40 years in prison (see March 2016).

Government agreement is stated closely

March 19

The leaders of the three dominant nationalist parties – Milorad Dodik (SNSD), Bakir Izetbegović (SDA) and Dragan Cović (HDZ BiH) – agree to start negotiations to form a Council of Ministers, five months after the October 2018 elections. According to Dodik, who is the Serbs’ representative in the Presidential Council, the parties agree that the Serbs should take up the post of head of government (titled President of the Council of Ministers). The nine ministries shall be divided equally among the three peoples.

Ultranationalist meeting condemned

March 10

A gathering of around 200 ultra-nationalist Serbs is followed by powerful condemnations in Bosnia and the outside world. The meeting of supporters of the Chetnik movement (see Older history) takes place in the town of Višegrad on the river Drina towards the border with Serbia, ahead of the anniversary of the founding of the movement after the Second World War. There are video recordings where the participants sing about how the blood should flow in Drina again. In Višegrad, massacres of Muslims were carried out in 1992, at the beginning of the war in Bosnia. Both Prime Minister Denis Zvizdić and EU Bosnia Ambassador Lars-Gunnar Wigemark, the High Representative’s Office and the US Embassy criticize the meeting.


Upper house clear in Federation

February 20th

The federation’s upper house is finally formed, just over four months after the October 2018 election. Thus, a step has been taken so that the members of the national parliament’s upper house can also be appointed (see Political system) and the chances also increase that a national government can be formed. The delay was due to the electoral law being rejected in the Constitutional Court (see May 8, 2018). Under international pressure, the Election Commission in December managed to make a decision that solved the problem. The decision was appealed, but now the Constitutional Court has decided the matter so that the members of the upper house could be appointed. Among the first items on the agenda will be the adoption of a budget for 2019. Both wages and social benefits have been withheld due to the lack of a budget.

Bosnia and Herzegovina Religion