Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina, Republic of Europe, in the Balkan Peninsula, borders Serbia and Montenegro in the east and southeast, Croatia in the north and west. The border of today’s Bosnia-Herzegovina is identical to the borders of the sub-republic of the same name in federal Yugoslavia, which lasted from 1945 to 1992.

The double name refers to the two historic areas of Bosnia and Herzegovina, both inhabited by Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks (Slavic Muslims). Of greater practical importance is the division of the country since 1995 into a Serbian part (Republika Srpska) and a Croat-Bosnian part (Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina).

Historically, Bosnia-Herzegovina has been at the intersection of Eastern and Western Christianity – and between Christianity and Islam. With the rise of nationalism in the 19th century, a development began where the country’s Roman Catholic population identified themselves as Croats and the Orthodox as Serbs. Gradually, it also developed among the Muslims, who were strongly influenced by Turkish culture, a national movement. When the Yugoslav federal state formation disintegrated in the early 1990s, from 1992 to 1995, Bosnia-Herzegovina became the scene of a very violent war between Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks.

The post-war peace treaty, the Dayton Agreement of 1995, put the country under international military and political-administrative control. The country has since been characterized by booming political tensions and a lack of economic development. The country has received massive aid since 1995, and is struggling with many of the side effects of aid, such as passivation and accelerated corruption.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Geography and environment

The northern part of the country – Bosnia – faces the Danube and the Pannonian plain. The most important river here is Sava with the bee rivers Una, Vrbas, Bosna and Drina. Hercegovina in the south faces the Mediterranean. This is where Neretva flows. In the karst karst areas, the underground river runs. Bosnia-Herzegovina has a 21.2-kilometer coastline at Neum, dividing the Croatian Dalmatia coast into two.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is a mountain country. The dinar Alps in the western part of the country are karst mountains, which are interrupted by the characteristic plain landscape – the Poles. The highest mountains are found in the middle of the country in Bosansko rudogorje (Bosnian ore mountains). Here lies the country’s highest mountain, Maglić, at 2386 meters above sea level.

Due to the mountain landscape, the climate is varied, but most of the country is continental with lots of snow and low winter temperatures, which is short. Summers are long and hot.

People and society

The common denominator of Bosnia and Herzegovina residents, regardless of ethnic origin, is Bosnian.

Bosnia and Herzegovina had census in 2013, the first since 1991 (ie before the Bosnia war ). As ethnic belonging is still a difficult topic in the country, the results have been the subject of controversy. The figures showed that the Bosniaks had come in the majority with 50.1 percent of the population, compared with 43.5 in the previous census. Similarly, the Serbs had declined from 31.2 in 1991 to 30.8 in 2013 and the Croats from 17.4 to 15.4. Other nationalities accounted for 2.7 per cent.

The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina had 2.2 million inhabitants in 2013. Republika Srpska had 1.2 million and the Brčko district 84,000 inhabitants. The total population is thus 3.5 million, which is 20 per cent less than in 1991.

Around 100,000 lost their lives during the wars in 1992–1995, of which just under 40,000 were civilians. Ethnic Bosniaks were clearly in the majority among the civilian and military victims.

In addition to the loss of human lives during the armed conflicts, the 2013 census showed that Bosnia and Herzegovina was still characterized by massive emigration to other parts of Europe. 196,000 of the total 3.5 million are Bosnians living abroad, but who have property in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The economic situation in the country means that 56.4 per cent of the population now lives abroad, according to figures from the Bosnian Ministry of Security (2017). Especially Germany, Austria, Serbia and Croatia Bosnians settle in.

The international community has been concerned that those who fled and emigrated during the Bosnia wars should be able to return to where they originally came from. This has been difficult to achieve, much because of local political opposition, but also because many refugees prefer to live where they now live. This also applies to internally displaced persons. They now often live more urban and form part of the ethnic population.

The international community has contributed large sums to the rebuilding of homes that were destroyed during the war, but has struggled with corruption by local Bosnian authorities.

The average life expectancy is estimated (2017) at 74.9 years for men and 80.2 years for women. It is estimated (2017) that 40 per cent live in urban areas.

State and politics

Bosnia-Herzegovina has a complicated political-administrative structure, laid down in the Dayton Agreement of 1995. It is a compromise between the aspirations of ethnic-territorial autonomy, especially promoted by Serbian and Croat groups, and the desire to preserve the integrity of Bosnia-Herzegovina as a state., which stands strong among the Bosniaks. The country is therefore divided into two so-called ‘entities’, Republika Srpska and Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina. In addition comes the Brčko district, which is formally subordinate to both entities, but governs itself.

Republika Sprska is divided into 63 municipalities and works inwardly as a unitary state. The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, on the other hand, as its name says, works inwardly as a federation. The “states” of the federation are made up of the ten cantons, some of which are defined as Bosnian, some as Croatian and still others as divided. The latter have complicated power-sharing schemes between the two ethnic groups. Legislation and administration may vary between cantons. With cantons, entities and the common-state level, there are a total of 14 prime ministers with a total of 200 ministries. The system is time consuming and expensive.

The presidential office alternates between elected representatives of the three constituent peoples, and changes every eight months within a four-year period. The National Assembly – Parliamentary skupština Bosne in Hercegovine – has two chambers. The lower chamber is called the House of Representatives (Predstavnički judgment / Zastupnički judgment) and has 42 members elected for four years in ratio elections. 28 of the members are elected from the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and 14 from the Republika Srpska.

The upper chamber is called the House of Nations (Dom naroda). It has 15 members. The Legislative Assembly of the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina elects five Bosniaks and five Croats from among its members, and similarly the Legislative Assembly of the Republika Srpska elects five Serbs.

Bosnia and Herzegovina’s formal institutions have been operating since 1995 under the supervision of the United Nations High Representative (Office of the High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, abbreviated OHR). The right-wing representative has had the authority to set aside elected politicians who violate the Dayton Agreement.

The country’s official goal is to join the EU, but is far from fulfilling the requirements. The EU’s role in the country is increasing and seems to take over some of the role of the UN High Representative. In 2011, a joint EU representative was established in the country to lead the work on membership preparation.

Bosnia and Herzegovina has been part of NATO ‘s Membership Action Plan from 2010, but integration with NATO is made more difficult by, among other things, NATO’s demand that defense installations must then be under the central authorities and not the entities, which Republika Srpska opposes.

Bosnia and Herzegovina was internationally recognized in 1992 and joined the UN and several UN special organizations, as well as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe ( OSCE ). The country signed a Partnership for Peace Agreement with NATO in 2006.


The slaves migrated into the area in the 600s, and a Bosnian state formation took shape in the 1100s under the ban of Kulin. This state formation reached its peak under King Trvtko in the late 1300s, but then came into dispute between the Venetians and the Ottomans. Since the great schismin the Christian church in 1054, Bosnia lay at the intersection of Eastern and Western Christianity, and after the Ottoman conquest of 1463 also between Islam and Christianity. The Ottomans introduced a stratified social form in which the local inhabitants who abandoned Christianity in favor of Islam could move up. By the early 1900s, this had led to a situation where 91 percent of landowners were Muslims and 74 percent of landless peasants were Orthodox Christians.

After the peace in Karlowitz (Sremski Karlovci) in 1699, when the Ottomans had to withdraw from Hungary, Bosnia became their advanced possession against Habsburg Europe and Venice. The area gained a strong military presence and immigrants from the Ottoman core areas. Along the border on the Habsburg side – die Militärgrenze – Orthodox Christian (Serbian) refugees settled down and defended the kingdom on behalf of the emperor and “Christianity”.

In 1878, the Congress of Berlin put the two Turkish provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina under Austrian-Hungarian supremacy, but until the annexation in 1908, the areas were still formally under the Ottomans. Austrian censuses in 1879 and 1893 showed that 43 percent were Orthodox Christians, 35-39 percent Muslims and about 18 percent Catholics. At the beginning of the 20th century, religion began to be linked to national belonging, so that Bosnian Orthodox increasingly saw themselves as Serbs and Catholics as Croats. The Muslims still saw themselves as Serbs of Muslim faith.

After the First World War, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was established, from the 1929 Kingdom of Yugoslavia. A central idea in this state formation was that the South Slavic peoples intertwined with religious beliefs and dialects. State formation was nevertheless marked by a tug of war between centralism and regionalism. The Serbs, who dominated the military and state apparatus, wanted unity, while the Croats wanted more autonomy. The radical land reform, which gave land to the small farmers, was a blow to the privileges of the Muslim landowners. These established the Yugoslav Muslim Union. Since the Muslims still did not consider themselves a nation, this organization was a supporter of Yugoslav community.

During World War II, Bosnia-Herzegovina was incorporated into the Croatian puppet state under Nazi Germany. It triggered massive extermination of Serbs, Jews and Romans. Bosnia became a core area for the Communist partisan movement, which in the rugged mountain landscape was given full prominence for being locally known. The Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia was declared in the Bosnian city of Jajce in 1943. Bosnia-Herzegovina was part of the new state with borders similar to those of six old Ottoman provinces.

While the other five sub-republics were ethnically defined, Bosnia and Herzegovina was to be for Serbs, Croats and Muslims alike. Bosnia and Herzegovina was thus the only sub-republic without one titular people. From 1961 the term ‘ethnic Muslim’ was introduced, and from 1968 the Muslims were considered ‘ nation ‘. In the 1971 census one could state ‘Musliman’ as a nationality, Yugoslavia’s sixth. Many Serbs in Yugoslavia saw this as yet another divide-and-rule action by dictator Tito to weaken their position. After the dissolution of Yugoslavia, the old Habsburg term ‘Bošnjak’ was introduced. The term is used not only about the Muslims of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also of the Muslims of Sandshak, the border area between Serbia and Montenegro. ‘Bosanac’ – Bosnian – is the common denominator for Bosnia and Herzegovina residents regardless of ethnic origin.

The wars in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1992–1995 ended in the Dayton Agreement. The settlement of war criminals has been central, and has been handled by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Political life has been marked by the struggle between the UN High Representative’s integrative efforts and the leaders of the nationally-oriented parties among Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats. Serbs and Croats in the country are massively voting for parties who want a strong degree of ethnically based autonomy. In 2013, the introduction of new ID cards was crippled by the fact that politicians did not agree on whether the social security number should indicate which entity the person belongs to.

Economy and business

In the decades following World War II, the laid-back but natural resource-rich Bosnia-Herzegovina benefited from massive transfers from the wealthier republics to industry, infrastructure and public administration. From the mid-1960s, a federal fund was established to support less developed parts of Yugoslavia. Bosnia and Herzegovina received 25 percent of the funds in this fund. Particular attention was paid to ore mining, coal, metallurgy. military industry and mechanical engineering. The 1984 Sarajevo Olympics gave the opportunity to show the world a modern sub-republic, where “East and West met”.

The dissolution of the Federation and the wars in Yugoslavia in the 1990s severely restored Bosnia and Herzegovina financially. Natural natural markets were far away, and the decade that the rest of Eastern and Central Europe spent on economic restructuring was wasted in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Key personnel emigrated or fled. At least 450,000 remained abroad even after the peace peace in 1995. Buildings and infrastructure were destroyed.

After the Bosnia wars in 1992–1995, the country received extensive foreign assistance to rebuild the country, and from 2000 support to build political and administrative institutions. Nevertheless, in 2013, the EU Statistics Office was able to state that Bosnia and Herzegovina has Europe’s lowest gross domestic product per capita, 72 percent below the EU average. At the end of 2012, 44.4 per cent of all persons of working age were unemployed.

Between 1994 and 2011, € 6.4 billion was invested in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s business sector, with Austria, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia as the most important investor countries.

Knowledge and culture

The school and university system was built up after 1945, among other things, with the aim of educating qualified personnel for the new industry and administration. The children begin their nine-year primary education when they are seven years old. Then there is a four-year high school with general-study preparation and vocational direction. The school is the scene of fierce rivalry between leading nationalist politicians for the three peoples. The history curriculum and writing norms differ greatly between Bosnian, Serbian and Croatian schools. There are eight universities in the country.

The so-called stečci are medieval tombstones. They have inscriptions with messages, such as the Nordic rune stones. Stećci is also found in neighboring countries, but most of them are in Herzegovina.

The author of The Bridge of Drina, Ivan Andrić, received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1961 and donated all the money to the development of the libraries in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Meša Selimović wrote the book Dervish and Death, which has been translated into many languages.

Bosnia and Herzegovina has an active music scene, much based on traditional oriental music. The melancholic and poetic love songs sevdalink are perhaps best known. The band Mostar Sevdah Reunion has made its mark on the world music scene with modernized versions of sevdalink.

The rocket groups Indexi and Bijelo Dugme put Bosnia-Herzegovina on the map in the Yugoslavia era. Goran Bregović is known as a guitarist from the rock band Bijelo Dugme and later for making music for the filmmaker Emir Kusturica. Kusturica’s award-winning film “In Gypsy’s Time” (Dom za vešanje) from 1988 features much of Sarajevo’s action.