Bosnia and Herzegovina

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Bosna i Hercegovina
Босна и Херцеговина
Flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina Coat of Arms of Bosnia and Herzegovina
(Flag) (Coat of Arms)
Motto: none
Anthem: Intermeco
Location of Bosnia and Herzegovina
Capital Sarajevo
43°52′ N 18°25′ E
Largest city Sarajevo
Official languages Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian
Government Federal republic
Ivo Miro Jović1 (Croat)
Borislav Paravac (Serb)
Sulejman Tihić

Adnan Terzic

Independence From Yugoslavia:
5 April 1992
 • Total
 • Water (%)
51,129 km² (124th)
 • July 2005 est.
 • 1991 census
 • Density
4,025,4762 (120th)
79/km² (90th)
 • Total
 • Per capita
2004 estimate
$26.21 billion (90th)
$6,500 (101st)
Currency Convertible Mark (BAM)
Time zone
 • Summer (DST)
Internet TLD .ba
Calling code +387
1Current chairman of three-member rotating presidency.
2Population estimates vary greatly as no official census has been taken since 1991.

Bosnia and Herzegovina (locally: Bosna i Hercegovina/Босна и Херцеговина, most commonly abbreviated as BiH) is a triangular country in the western Balkans with an estimated population of between three and four million people. The country is the homeland of its three constitutional peoples; Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs, and is famous for its cultural and religious diversity. A citizen of Bosnia and Herzegovina, regardless of ethnicity, is usually identified as a Bosnian.

The country borders with Croatia in the west and Serbia and Montenegro in the east. It is virtually landlocked save for a small strip of land (about 20km) on the Adriatic sea, centered around the city of Neum. The interior of the country is heavily mountainous and divided by various rivers, most of which are nonnavigable. The nation's capital is Sarajevo, which is also its largest city.

Bosnia was formerly one of the six federal units constituting Yugoslavia. The republic gained its independence in the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s and, due to the Dayton Accords, is currently administered in a supervisory role by a High Representative selected by the UN Security Council. It is also decentralized and administratively divided into two entities, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska.



The first preserved mention of the name "Bosnia" lies in the De Administrando Imperio, a politico-geographical handbook written by Byzantine emperor Constantine VII in 958. The Chronicle of the Priest of Duklja from 1172-1196 also names Bosnia, and references an earlier source from the year 753. The exact meaning and origin of the word is unclear. The most popular theory holds that Bosnia comes from the name of the Bosna river around which it has been historically based. Philologist Anton Mayer proposed a connection with the indo-european root bos or bogh, meaning "running water". Certain Roman sources similarly mention Bathinus flumen, or the Illyrian word Bassinus, both of which would mean "running water" as well. Other theories involve the rare Latin term Bosina, meaning boundary, and possible slavic origins.

The origins of the word "Herzegovina" can be identified with more precision and certainty. During the Early Middle Ages the region was known as Hum or Zahumlje, named after the Zachlumoi tribe of Slavs which inhabited it. In the 1440s, the region was ruled by powerful nobleman Stjepan Vukčić Kosača. In a document sent to Friedrich III on January 20, 1448, Stjepan Vukčić Kosača called himself Herzog of Saint Sava, lord of Hum and Primorje, great duke of the Bosnian kingdom (Herzog means duke in German) and so the lands he controlled would later become known as Herzog's lands or Herzegovina.


Main article: History of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Pre-Slavic Period

Bosnia has been inhabited at least since Neolithic times. In the early Bronze Age, the Neolithic population was replaced by more warlike Indo-European tribes known as the Illyres or Illyrians. Several Illyrian tribes on the territory of today's Bosnia and Herzegovina deserve mention. The most important of them, the Dalmatae (after whom Dalmatia is probably named), lived throughout western Bosnia. In central Bosnia, the Daesitiates were predominant, while the Liburnae, famous for pillaging, lived in the northwest. The Ardiani, Daorsoi, and Labeatae also inhabited the region at this time. Celtic migrations in the 4th and BCE misplaced many Illyrian tribes from their former lands. However, some Celtic and Illyrian tribes mixed. One example is the Scrodisci, who lived on the northeastern fringe of present-day Bosnia.

The first conflict between the Illyrians and Romans began in 229 BCE. In these Illyrian Wars, which would last until 219 BCE, the Illyrians lost the Neretva river valley. The following 200 years marked numerous rebellions and uprisings. The last Illyrian rebellion occurred in the Vareš region, and was crushed by Emperor Tiberius in nine C.E. Illyria was divided and the northern strip of today's Bosnia along the south side of the Sava River became part of the new province of Pannonia, while the rest of what is today Bosnia, Herzegovina, Montenegro, Dalmatia, and western Serbia, became part of the Roman province of Dalmatia.

Latin-speaking settlers from all over the empire settled among the Illyrians, and Roman soldiers were encouraged to retire in the region. Christianity had already arrived in the region by the end of the 1st century, and numerous artifacts and objects from the time testify to this. Following events from the years 337 and 395 when the Empire split, Dalmatia and Pannonia were included in the Western Roman Empire. The region was conquered by the Ostrogoths in 455, and further exchanged hands between the Alans and Huns in the years to follow. By the 6th century, Emperor Justinian had re-conquered the area for the Byzantine Empire. The Slavs, who had originated in areas spanning modern-day southern Poland, were subjugated by the Eurasian Avars in the 6th century, and together they invaded the Eastern Roman Empire in the 6th and 7th centuries, settling in what are now Bosnia, Herzegovina, and the surrounding lands. The Serbs and Croats came in a second wave, invited by Emperor Heraclius to drive the Avars from Dalmatia.

Medieval Bosnia

Bosnia through history
Bosnia through history

The territories of today's Bosnia and Herzegovina were part of Illyria and later part of the Roman Empire (provinces Dalmatia and Pannonia). After the fall of Rome, the area was contested by the Byzantine Empire and Rome's successors in the West. Slavs settled the region in the 7th century. The first mention of the term Bosnia is in De Administrando Imperio, a book by Constantine Porphyrogenitus, Byzantine emperor and historian. The kingdoms of Serbia and Croatia split control of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the 9th century. The 11th and 12th centuries saw the rule of the region by the kingdom of Hungary.

The medieval banate of Bosnia gained autonomy by the end of the 12th century, and grew into an independent kingdom in 1377 under king Tvrtko Kotromanić. Bosnia remained independent up until 1463, when Ottoman Turks conquered the region and established the Ottoman province of Bosnia. In these times there also lived a certain number of adherents to the so-called Bosnian Church (variously referred to as krstjani, bogumili, etc) which belonged neither to the Western nor to the Eastern Christian churches.

During the four centuries of Ottoman rule, many Bosnians dropped their ties to Christianity in favor of Islam, including most of the faithful of the Bosnian Church. Bosnia was under Ottoman rule until 1878, when it became a colony under Austria-Hungary.

Modern Bosnia

While those living in Bosnia were from 1908 officially in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, South Slavs in Serbia and elsewhere were calling for a South Slav state. World War I began with the assassination in Sarajevo of Archduke Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne; the assassin was Gavrilo Princip, a member of the "Mlada Bosna" organization. Following the war, Bosnia became part of the South Slav kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later renamed to kingdom of Yugoslavia).

When Yugoslavia was invaded in World War II, all of BH was ceded to Nazi-puppet Croatia. On 25 November 1943 the Anti-Fascist Council of National Liberation of Yugoslavia with Marshall Tito at its helm held a founding conference in Jajce where Bosnia and Herzegovina was reestablished as a republic within the Yugoslavian federation in its Ottoman borders. The conference's conclusions were later confirmed by the Yugoslavian constitution. The 25th of November is considered a day of national statehood in Bosnia today. The Cold War saw the establishment of Communist Yugoslavia under Tito.

The Bosnian-Herzegovinian declaration of sovereignty in October of 1991 was followed by a referendum for independence from Yugoslavia in February 1992 boycotted by the Bosnian-Herzegovinian Serbs. Serbia and Bosnian Serbs responded shortly thereafter with armed attacks on Bosnian-Herzegovinian Croats and Bosniaks aimed at partitioning the republic along ethnic lines and joining Serb-held areas. The UNPROFOR (UN Protection Force) was deployed in Bosnia and Herzegovina in mid-1992. 1992 and 1993 saw the greatest bloodshed in Europe after 1945. Following the peace agreement proposal by Lord Owen in 1993, which practically intended to divide the country into three ethnically pure parts, an armed conflict developed between Bosniak and Croat units in a virtual territorial grab. It was later established that Croat military actions were directly supported by the government of Croatia which made this also an international conflict [1]. At that time about 70% of the country was in Serb control, about 20% in Croat and 10% in Bosniak (which represented 44% of the population before the war). In March 1994, Bosniaks and Croats reduced the number of warring factions from three to two by signing an agreement creating a joint Bosniak-Croat Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Each nation reported many casualties in the three sided conflict, in which the Bosniaks reported the highest number of deaths and casualties. However, the only case officially ruled by the U.N. Hague tribunal as genocide was the Srebrenica massacre of 1995. At the end of the war anywhere from 102,000 to 278,000 had been killed and more than 2 million people fled their homes (including over 1 million to neighboring nations and the west).

On November 21, 1995, in Dayton, Ohio, presidents of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Alija Izetbegović), Croatia (Franjo Tuđman), and Serbia (Slobodan Milošević) signed a peace agreement that brought a halt to the three years of war in the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (the final agreement was signed in Paris on 14 December 1995). The Dayton Agreement succeeded in ending the bloodshed in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and it institutionalized the division between the Bosnian-Herzegovinian Muslim and Croat entity - Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (51% of the territory), and the Bosnian-Herzegovinian Serb entity - Republika Srpska (49%).

The enforcement of the implementation of the Dayton Agreement was through a UN mandate using various multinational forces: NATO-led IFOR (Implementation Force), which transitioned to the SFOR (Stabilisation Force) the next year, which in turn transitioned to the EU-led EUFOR at end of 2004. The civil administration of Bosnia and Herzegovina is headed by the High Representative of the international community.

Today the Dayton agreement is considered by many as one of the most controversial pieces of legislature that resulted from the Bosnian War. According to most experts while on one hand Dayton agreement did successfully end the war on the other it legitimized territorial gains achieved through ethnic cleansing and genocide, and it created enormous bureaucratic obstacles for Bosnian Herzegovinian tendencies for European integration. As a result many reforms are taking place in Bosnia and Herzegovina today as part of the revisions to the Dayton agreement such as unifying of army and police forces and enforcing of state level institutions. However, the most controversial part and the main clause of the Dayton agreement that stipulated territorial and administrative division of the country still remains in force and unchanged.


Main article: Politics of Bosnia and Herzegovina

The Chair of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina rotates among three members (Bosniak, Serb, Croat), each elected as the Chair for a 8-month term within their 4-year term as a member. The three members of the Presidency are elected directly by the people (Federation votes for the Bosniak/Croat, Republika Srpska for the Serb). The Chair of the Council of Ministers is nominated by the Presidency and approved by the House of Representatives. He or she is then responsible for appointing a Foreign Minister, Minister of Foreign Trade, and others as appropriate.

The Parliamentary Assembly is the lawmaking body in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It consists of two houses: the House of Peoples and the House of Representatives. The House of Peoples includes 15 delegates, two-thirds of which come from the Federation (5 Croat and 5 Bosniaks) and one-third from the Republika Srpska (5 Serbs). The House of Representatives is composed of 42 Members, two-thirds elected from the Federation and one-third elected from the Republika Srpska.

The Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina is the supreme, final arbiter of legal matters. It is composed of nine members: four members are selected by the House of Representatives of the Federation, two by the Assembly of the Republika Srpska, and three by the President of the European Court of Human Rights after consultation with the Presidency.

Political divisions

Main article: Political divisions of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina is divided into the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska. The district of Brčko is part of both entities.

The Federation is further divided into ten cantons (each subdivided into municipalities):

The RS is divided into municipalities which are grouped into seven regions:


Map of Bosnia and Herzegovina
Map of Bosnia and Herzegovina
Red flower from central Bosnia
Red flower from central Bosnia
Mountains in Bosnia, view of mountain Kik (right mountain) which is 1000m and Rance (Suvi Vrh) to the left 1432m
Mountains in Bosnia, view of mountain Kik (right mountain) which is 1000m and Rance (Suvi Vrh) to the left 1432m

Main article: Geography of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia is located in the western Balkans, bordering Croatia to the north and south-west, and Serbia and Montenegro to the east. The country is mostly mountainous, encompassing the central Dinaric Alps. The northeastern parts reach into the Pannonian basin, while in the south it almost borders the Adriatic. The country has only 23 Km of coastline, around the town of Neum in the Herzegovina-Neretva Canton, although it's enclosed within Croatian territory and territorial waters.

The country's name comes from the two regions Bosnia and Herzegovina, which have a very vaguely defined border between them. Bosnia occupies roughly the northern two thirds of the country, while the southern third is Herzegovina.

The major cities are the capital Sarajevo, Banja Luka in the northwest region known as Bosanska Krajina, Tuzla in the northeast and Mostar, the capital of Herzegovina.

See also: List of cities in Bosnia and Herzegovina


Main article: Economy of Bosnia and Herzegovina

For the most part, agriculture has been in private hands, but farms have been small and inefficient, and food has traditionally been a net import for the republic. The centrally planned economy has resulted in some legacies in the economy. Industry is greatly overstaffed, reflecting the rigidity of the planned economy. Under Josip Broz Tito, military industries were pushed in the republic; Bosnia hosted a large share of Yugoslavia's defense plants. Two major export companies in former Yugoslavia had theirs headquarters in the capital Sarajevo; UNIS holding and Energoinvest.

During times of the former Yugoslavia, Bosnia and Herzegovina financed many large construction projects in former Yugoslavia and in other former Yugoslav republics. An example of this was the 'Bratstvo i jedinstvo' highway, which linked Ljubljana (Slovenia) - Zagreb (Croatia) - Belgrade (Serbia) - Skoplje (Macedonia). Even though Bosnia did not have anything to gain from this investment, as not even one single kilometer of that highway went through Bosnia and Herzegovina. Further projects, such as the construction of the so-called town of 'New Belgrade' (Serbia), Kosovo financing, and railway tracks near Belgrade - Bar in Serbia and Montenegro. This was due to the fact that the economy of the time was communist; with directives instead of a free economy like that in the West. In 1984, the capital, Sarajevo, was the host of the XIV Winter Olympic Games. A notable fact was that the games were the first 'profitable' games in terms of retrieving investment via profits.

Three years of war destroyed a large part of the economy and infrastructure in Bosnia and Herzegovina, causing unemployment to soar and production to fall. The war caused a death toll of approx. 102,000 people based on current information from researchers at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) at the Hague, The Netherlands). Furthermore, it displaced half of the population. Other sources place the figure between 150,000 - 278,000. With an uneasy peace in place (under the Dayton Accord), the economy has started to slowly recover, but the GDP remains below the 1990 level. Today Bosnia and Herzegovina has one of the best banking sectors in former Yugoslavia. The currency Konvertibilna marka KM or Bosnian Mark BAM, fixed to the euro (1:0.51) is also very stable.

Yearly inflation is the lowest compared to other countries which were a part of former Yugoslavia. The inflation rate was 1.9% in 2004 (source: CIA WFB), and international debt was approx. $2 billion; making it the smallest amount of debt owed from the former Yugoslav countries (Serbia and Montenegro's international debt is $15.2 billion). Real GDP growth rate is 5.0% for 2004 according to the Bosnian Central Bank of BiH and Statistical Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Top Foreign company investors in Bosnia and Herzegovina (1994-2004):

LNM Holding / KCIC Holland Antilles / Kuwait / Metal processing Hypo Alpe Adria Bank / Austria / Banking Unicredito / Transmadrid Italia / Spain / Banking Petrol / Slovenia / Trade Coca Cola Beverages Holdings / Holland / Food industry Deutsche Telekom / Germany / Telecommunication Heidelberger Zement / Germany / Construction materials Dubai I.B., A.I.B. and Islamic Development Bank / UAE and Saudi Arabia / Banking Alpha Baumanergement Gesellschaft / Austria / Tourism Bosmal / Malaysia-Bosnia and Herzegovina / Construction

Source: B&H Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations (2005)


Main article: Demographics of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Large population migrations durings the Yugoslav wars in the 1990s have caused a large demographic shift. No census was held since 1991 and is not planned for the near future due to political disagreements. Since censuses are the only statistical, inclusive, and objective way to analyze demographics, almost all of the post-war data is simply an estimate. Most sources, however, estimate the population at roughly 4 million (representing a decrease of 350,000 since 1991).

According to the 1991 census, Bosnia and Herzegovina had a population of 4,354,911. Ethnically, 43.7% were Muslims (now almost all them declare as Bosniaks), 31.3% Serbs, and 17.3% Croats, with 5.5% declaring themselves Yugoslavs.

There is a strong correlation between ethnic identity and religion: 88% of Croats are Roman Catholics, 90% of Bosniaks practice Islam, and 93% of Serbs are Orthodox Christians.

According to 2000 data from the CIA World Factbook, Bosnia and Herzegovina is ethnically 48% Bosniak, 37.1% Serb, 14.3% Croat, 0.6% other.


Main article: Education of Bosnia and Herzegovina

As part of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Bosnia enjoyed a highly-developed educational system. This system not only encouraged study and higher education, but it also respected academic achievements. Two of Bosnia’s natives were awarded Nobel Prizes from this era: Vladimir Prelog, for chemistry in 1975, and Ivo Andrić, for literature in 1961. This concentration of talent is remarkable in a country whose total population was severely depleted due to the diaspora of individuals fleeing during the recent war years. Bosnian college students abroad are today good and recognized students; most of them attend universities in North America and other European countries.

The recent war created a “brain drain” and resulted in many Bosnians working in high-tech, academic and professional occupations in North America, Europe and Australia. Such situation is viewed as an economic opportunity for building a vibrant economy in today’s Bosnia. However, only few of Bosnia’s diaspora are returning to Bosnia and Herzegovina with their experience, western education and exposure to modern business practices. Most still lack professional incentives to justify widespread and permanent return to their homeland.

Bosnia’s current educational system—with seven universities, one in every major city, plus satellite campuses—continues to turn out highly-educated graduates in math, science and literature. However, they have not been modernized in last 15 years due to war, various political and economic reasons and as a result do not meet Western educational standards which are part of criteria for EU membership. The need for reform of current Bosnian education system is generally aknowledged although specific methods for its change have still not been formulated.


Main article: Culture of Bosnia and Herzegovina

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