Bosnia

Orientation

Identification. The name “Bosnia” is derived from the Bosna River, which cuts through the region.  Herzegovina takes its name from the word herceg, which designated the duke who ruled the southern part of the region until the Ottoman invasion in the fifteenth century. The two regions are culturally indistinguishable and for much of their history have been united under one government. Although cultural variations in Bosnia and Herzegovina are minimal, cultural identity is currently extremely divisive. The three main groups are Muslims (Bosniacs), Serbs, and Croats. Before the recent civil war, many areas of the country had mixed populations; now the population has become much more homogeneous in most regions.

Location and Geography. Bosnia is in southeastern Europe on the Balkan Peninsula, bordering Slovenia to the northwest, Croatia to the north, and Serbia and Montenegro to the south and southwest; it has a tiny coastline along the Adriatic Sea. The land area is 19,741 square miles (51,129 square kilometers). Herzegovina is the southern portion of the country; it is shaped like a triangle whose tip (surrounded by Croatia and Yugoslavia) touches the Adriatic. Northern Bosnia is characterized by plains and plateaus. The central and southern regions are mountainous. The Dinaric Alps that cover this area also extend southward into Serbia and Montenegro. These regions, including the area around Sarajevo, the capital, are conducive to skiing and other winter sports and before the civil war were a popular tourist destination. Much of the land (39 percent) is forested; only 14 percent is arable. Most of the farmland is in the northern part of the country.

The climate varies from cold winters and mild, rainy summers in the mountains to milder winters and hot, dry summers in the rest of the country and a more Mediterranean climate near the coast. The entire region is vulnerable to severe earthquakes. Bosnia also suffers from air and water pollution because of poorly regulated industrial production in the years before the civil war.

Demography. The population was 4,364,574 in 1991. A U.S. estimate of the population in July 2000 was 3,835,777; however, that figure is not reliable as a result of dislocations and deaths from military activity and ethnic cleansing. In 1991, approximately 44 percent of the people were Bosniac, 31 percent were Serb, 17 percent were Croat, 5.5 percent were Yugoslav (of mixed ethnicity), and 2.5 percent were of other ethnicities. Since that time, the Bosniac population has declined and that of the Serbs has risen because of ethnic cleansing by the Serbian army. (The terms “Bosniac” and “Muslim” often are used interchangeably; “Bosniac” refers more explicitly to an ethnicity, to avoid confusion with the term “Muslim,” which refers to any follower of the Islamic faith.)

Since 1995, the country has been internally divided into a Bosniac/Croat Federation, which controls 51 percent of the land and whose majority is Bosniac and Croat, and a Serb Republic, which has the other 49 percent and has a Serb majority. Herzegovina, which borders Croatia, has historically had a Croat majority.

Linguistic Affiliation. Croatian, Serbian, and Bosnian are virtually identical; the distinction among them is a matter of identity politics. Serbians write their language in the Cyrillic alphabet, whereas Croatian and Bosnian use the Latin script. Turkish and Albanian are spoken by a small minority.

History And Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. The first known inhabitants of the region were the Illyrians. The Romans conquered the area in 167 B.C.E. In 395 C.E. , the Roman Empire was split into Byzantium in the east and the Western Roman Empire in the west. The dividing line was the Drina River, which today forms the border between Bosnia and Serbia. Bosnia took on a special significance as the boundary region between the two empires.

The Slavs arrived in the Balkans around 600 C.E. , migrating from the north. Bosnia changed hands numerous times. It first gained independence from Serbia in 960, although the relationship with its neighbor to the south continued to be negotiated.

Bosnia became part of the Hungarian Empire in the thirteenth century and gained independence again in the early 1300s. Internal fighting continued, however, until the Bosnian king Steven Tvrtko united the country. In 1376, he declared himself ruler not just of Bosnia but of Serbia as well.

The Ottoman Empire began to attack the region in 1383, eventually incorporating Bosnia as a Turkish province. During the almost four hundred years in which the Ottomans dominated the area, Bosnians adopted many elements of Turkish culture, including religion; the majority of the people converted from Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodox Christianity to Islam. Because of Bosnia’s position on the border between the Islamic power to the east and the Christian nations to the west, the Turks held on to the area tenaciously, particularly as their empire began to weaken in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In the mid-nineteenth century, Bosnians joined Slavs from Serbia and Croatia in an uprising against the Turks. Austria-Hungary, with the aid of the Russians, took advantage of the Turks’ weakened position and invaded Bosnia-Herzegovina, annexing the region in 1908. The Bosnians were bitter at having repulsed the Turks only to be occupied by another outside force but were powerless to repel the new rulers.

In 1914, a Bosnian Serb nationalist assassinated Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, and Austria declared war on Serbia. World War I spread throughout Europe, ending four years later in the defeat of Austria-Hungary and its German allies. The Kingdom of the Serbs (Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, and Slovenia) was formed in 1918, and Bosnia was annexed to the new nation. Dissension continued among the different regions of the kingdom, and in an effort to establish unity King Alexander I renamed the country Yugoslavia in 1929. The extreme measures he took, which included abolishing the constitution, were largely unpopular, and Alexander was assassinated in 1934 by Croatian nationalists.

In the 1930s, fascism began to claim many adherents in Croatia, fueled by strong nationalist sentiments and in response to the Nazi movement in Germany. In 1941, Yugoslavia was thrust into World War II when Germany and Italy invaded the country. Thousands of people were killed, and Belgrade was destroyed. Yugoslav troops resisted the invasion but fell after eleven days of fighting. The Germans occupied the country, installing a puppet government in Croatia. Croatian troops took part in the German program of ethnic cleansing, killing thousands of Jews, Gypsies, Serbs, and members of other ethnic groups. Two main resistance movements arose. The Chetniks were Serbian nationalists; the Partisans, under the leadership of the communist Josip Broz Tito, attempted to unite Yugoslavs of all ethnicities. The two groups fought each other, which weakened them in their struggle against the foreign powers. The Partisans managed to expel the Germans only after the Allies offered their support to the group in 1943.

When the war ended in 1945, Tito declared himself president of Yugoslavia. He won an election several months later, after outlawing opposing parties. Bosnia-Herzegovina was granted the status of a republic in 1948.

Tito nationalized businesses and industry in a manner similar to the Soviet system; however, Tito’s Yugoslavia managed to maintain autonomy from the Soviet Union. He ruled with an iron fist, outlawing free speech and suppressing opposition to the regime. While ethnic and regional conflicts continued among the six republics (Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia, and Montenegro), Tito suppressed them before they became a threat to the unity of the country.

Tito died in 1980 and his government was replaced by another communist regime. Power rotated within a state presidency whose members included one representative of each of the six republics and two provinces. This system contributed to growing political instability, as did food shortages, economic hardship, and the example of crumbing regimes in other Eastern European countries.

By the late 1980s, there was a growing desire in most of the republics for more autonomy and democratization. In 1989, however, the nationalist Slobodan Milosevic won the presidency in Serbia. Milosevic, with his vision of a “Greater Serbia” free of all other ethnicities, manipulated the media and played on Serbians’ fears and nationalist sentiments.

Other Yugoslav republics held their first free elections in 1990. A nationalist party won in Croatia, and a Muslim party won in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The republics of Slovenia and Croatia declared independence in 1991. Because of its strong military and small population of Serbs, Milosevic allowed Slovenia to secede with little resistance. The Croatian declaration of independence, however, was met with a war that lasted into 1992.

In Bosnia, the Muslim party united with the Bosnian Croats and, after a public referendum, declared independence from Serbia in 1992. The Serbs in the republic’s parliament withdrew in protest, setting up their own legislature. Bosnia’s independence was recognized internationally, and the Muslim president promised that Bosnian Serbs would have equal rights. Those Serbs, however, supported by Milosevic, did not agree to negotiations. The Serbian army forced the Muslims out of northern and eastern Bosnia, the areas nearest to Serbia. They used brutal tactics, destroying villages and terrorizing civilians. Bosnians attempted to defend themselves but were overpowered by the Serbians’ superior military technology and equipment.

One of the tactics Serb forces used throughout the war was the systematic rape of Bosnian women. Commanders often ordered their soldiers to rape entire villages. This atrocity has left permanent scars on much of the population.

In November 1992, the presidents of Serbia and Croatia decided to divide Bosnia between them. This resulted in increased fighting between Croats and Muslims as well as between Muslims and Serbs. In that month, six thousand United Nations (UN) troops were deployed in Bosnia as peacekeepers and to ensure the delivery of aid shipments. The UN troops were powerless to act, however, and the atrocities continued.

Many cities were in a state of siege, including Sarajevo, Srebrenica, and Gorazde. There were extreme shortages of food, water, fuel, and other necessities. Those who chose to flee often ended up in refugee camps with dreadful living conditions; the unlucky were sent to Serb-run concentration camps where beatings, torture, and mass murder were common.

In 1993, the UN declared six “safe havens” in Bosnia where fighting was supposed to cease and the population would be protected. This policy proved ineffective, as war continued unabated in all six areas. After a Serb attack on a Sarajevo market that resulted in the death of sixty-eight civilians, the UN decided to step in more forcefully.

In August 1995 a peace conference was held in the United States, resulting in the Dayton Peace Accords, an agreement that Bosnia-Herzegovina would revert to the boundaries in place before the fighting began and that the country would be divided into two parts: the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (run jointly by Muslims and Croats) and the Serb Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The agreement was signed in December, and NATO forces were sent to maintain the peace. The NATO troops are still a significant presence in Bosnia, with approximately thirty-four thousand in the area. The peace is tenuous, however, and recent fighting between Muslims and Serbs in nearby Kosovo has exacerbated ethnic tensions.

National Identity. National identity for Bosnians is inextricably tied to ethnic and religious identity. The majority of Bosnians are Muslim, and their culture bears many traces of the Turkish civilization that predominated in the region for centuries. Bosnian Muslims tend to identify themselves in opposition to Serbia and its long-standing domination of the region. Bosnian Serbs, who are primarily Eastern Orthodox and share a culture with their Serb neighbors to the south, identify less as Bosnians and primarily as Serbs. Croats, who are mostly Roman Catholic, distinguish themselves from both Serbs and Bosnians. Before the civil war forced them into separate camps, all three groups also identified strongly as Bosnian.

Ethnic Relations. The entire Balkan region has historically been called the powder keg of Europe because of volatile relations both among local groups and with outside forces. Bosnia, however, has a long history of relatively peaceful coexistence among its three main ethnic groups. Before the 1990s, intermarriage was common, as were mixed communities. When Milosevic rose to power in Yugoslavia in 1989, his extremist politics stirred latent distrust among the ethnic groups. When Bosnia declared independence in 1992, his government began a campaign of “ethnic cleansing” that has left millions dead, wounded, or homeless. While it is the Serbs, with the backing of Milosevic, who have been responsible for most of the atrocities, Croats also have persecuted Bosnian Muslims.

Urbanism, Architecture, And The Use Of Space

Approximately 42 percent of the population lives in towns or cities. Sarajevo, near the center of the country in a valley of the Dinaric Alps, is the capital and largest city. Once a cultural center and tourist destination (it was the site of the 1984 Winter Olympics), it has been devastated by the civil war. Before the war, it was a vibrant, cosmopolitan mixture of the old and the new, with skyscrapers and modern buildings standing alongside ancient Turkish mosques and marketplaces. Today many of these buildings are in rubble, and food and electricity are in short supply. Despite its desperate situation, Sarajevo has taken in many refugees from other parts of the country. Even amid the destruction, however, there is evidence of Sarajevo’s glorious past. The Turkish Quarter boasts the Gazi

Bosnia still not a Part of the Europe Union

Just like Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina have also been recognized as a “potential candidate country” by the EU since 2003. The country did apply formally for the membership of EU in February 2016 with a response yet to be given from the EU Council.

Bosnia University

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Herzegovina University

Bosnia
The University of Herzegovina is the first privately licensed and accredited university in Herzegovina. It was founded in 2010.
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International University of Sarajevo (IUS)

Bosnia
The vision of IUS is to become an internationally recognized institution of higher education and research and a centre of excellence and quality through the shared efforts of the founders, academic and administrative staff, students and all stakeholders.