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World > Europe > Bosnia and Herzegovina > People (Notes)

Bosnia and Herzegovina - People (Notes)


PEOPLE AND HISTORICAL HIGHLIGHTS
The three main ethnic groups in present-day Bosnia and Herzegovina are Bosniak, Serb, and Croat, and languages are Bosnian, Serbian, and Croatian (formerly 'Serbo-Croatian'). Nationalities are Bosniak (Muslim), Bosnian Serb, and Bosnian Croat. Religions include Islam, Serb Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, Judaism, some Protestant sects, and some others.

For the first centuries of the Christian era, Bosnia was part of the Roman Empire. After the fall of Rome, Bosnia was contested by Byzantium and Rome's successors in the west. Slavs settled the region in the 7th century, and the kingdoms of Serbia and Croatia split control of Bosnia in the 9th century. The 11th and 12th centuries saw the rule of the region by the kingdom of Hungary. The medieval kingdom of Bosnia gained its independence around 1200 A.D. Bosnia remained independent until 1463, when Ottoman Turks conquered the region.

During Ottoman rule, many Bosnians converted from Christianity to Islam. Bosnia was under Ottoman rule until 1878, when it was given to Austria-Hungary as a colony. While those living in Bosnia came under the rule of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, South Slavs in Serbia and elsewhere were calling for a South Slav state. World War I began when Serb nationalist Gavrilo Princip assassinated the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. Following the Great War, Bosnia became part of the South Slav state of Yugoslavia, only to be given to the Nazi-puppet state, the Independent State of Croatia (NDH) in World War II. During this period, many atrocities were committed against Jews, Serbs, and others who resisted the occupation. The Cold War saw the establishment of the Communist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia under Josip Broz Tito, and the reestablishment of Bosnia as a republic with its medieval borders within the federation of Yugoslavia.

Yugoslavia's unraveling was hastened by Slobodan Milosevic's rise to power in 1986. Milosevic's embrace of Serb nationalism led to intrastate ethnic strife. Slovenia and Croatia both declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. On March 1, 1992, the Bosnian Government held a referendum on independence. Bosnia's parliament declared the republic's independence on April 5, 1992. However, this move was opposed by Serb representatives, who favored remaining in Yugoslavia. Bosnian Serbs, supported by neighboring Serbia, responded with armed force in an effort to partition the republic along ethnic lines to create a 'greater Serbia.' Full recognition of Bosnia and Herzegovina's independence by the United States and most European countries occurred on April 7, and Bosnia and Herzegovina was admitted to the United Nations on May 22, 1992.

In March 1994, Muslims and Croats in Bosnia signed an agreement creating the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. This narrowed the field of warring parties to two. The conflict continued through most of 1995, and many atrocities were committed, including acts of genocide committed by members of the Army of Republika Srpska in and around Srebrenica from July 12-22, 1995, where approximate 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were killed. The conflict ended with the November 21, 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement, which was formally signed on December 14, 1995 in Paris.

Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, the political and military leaders of the Bosnian Serb separatist movement, were indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (www.un.org/icty) in The Hague in July 1995 on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity stemming from their role in the Srebrenica massacre. Karadzic and Mladic remain at large.

Bosnia and Herzegovina today consists of two Entities--the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is largely Bosniak and Croat, and the Republika Srpska, which is primarily Serb. In July 2000, the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina rendered a decision whereby Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs are recognized as constituent people throughout the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In March 2002, this decision was formally recognized and agreed by the major political parties in both Entities.

The most recent national elections took place in October 2006, electing new state presidency members; Entity governments; and state, Entity, and cantonal parliaments. The traditionally nationalist parties (SDS, HDZ, SDA) lost ground to emerging opposition parties (SNSD, SBiH, HDZ-1990), although the opposition parties relied heavily on ethnically based messages to appeal to voters. A six-party coalition has formed a national government. The next national elections are scheduled for October 2010. Bosnia and Herzegovina introduced the direct election of mayors at municipal elections held in October 2004.

The international community retains an extraordinary civilian and military presence in BiH stemming from the Dayton Peace Accords. The Dayton Accords created the position of High Representative, an international official charged with overseeing implementation of the civilian aspects of the agreement. The current High Representative (since July 2007) is Slovakia's Miroslav Lajcak (www.ohr.int).

In December 1995, NATO deployed a 60,000-troop Implementation Force (IFOR) to oversee implementation of the military aspects of the peace agreement. IFOR transitioned into a smaller Stabilization Force (SFOR) in 2006. With the end of the SFOR mission in December 2005, the European Union (EU) assumed primary responsibility for military stabilization operations. Approximately 2,500 EU troops remain deployed in Bosnia (www.euforbih.org). NATO maintains a small headquarters operation with responsibility to assist with defense reform and efforts against persons indicted for war crimes and counterterrorism (www.afsouth.nato.int/NHQSA/index.htm).


Facts at a Glance: Geography - People - Government - Economy - Communications - Transportation - Military - Climate - Current Time - Ranking Positions
Notes and Commentary: People - Economy - Government and Political Conditions - Foreign Relations - Relations with U.S.



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