Skip to main content
Select Source:

Bosnia and Herzegovina



Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Republika Bosnia i Herzegovina

CAPITAL: Sarajevo

FLAG: Introduced in early 1998, the flag consists of a yellow triangle on a royal blue field, with a row of white stars running diagonally along the triangle's edge. The yellow triangle represents the country's three main ethnic groups, while the royal blue field and stars symbolize a possible future inclusion in the Council of Europe.

ANTHEM: Zemljo Tisucljetna (Thousand-Year-Old Land).

MONETARY UNIT: 1 convertible marka (km) = 100 convertible pfenniga. km1 = $0.00699 ($1 = km143) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the legal standard.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 12 January; Labor Days, 12 May; 27 July; 25 November.

TIME: 1 pm = noon GMT.


Bosnia and Herzegovina is located in southeastern Europe on the Balkan Peninsula, between Croatia and Serbia and Montenegro. Comparatively, Bosnia and Herzegovina is slightly smaller than the state of West Virginia, with a total area of 51,129 sq km (19,741 sq mi). Bosnia and Herzegovina shares boundaries with Croatia on the n, w, and s, Serbia and Montenegro on the e, and the Adriatic Sea on the s, with a total boundary length of 1,459 km (906 mi). Bosnia and Herzegovina's capital city, Sarajevo, is located near the center of the country.


The topography of Bosnia and Herzegovina features hills, mountains, and valleys. Approximately 50% of the land is forested. The country has three main geographic zones: high plains and plateaus along the northern border with Croatia, low mountains in the center, and the higher Dinaric Alps which cover the rest of the country. Approximately 10% of the land in Bosnia and Herzegovina is arable. Bosnia and Herzegovina's natural resources include coal, iron, bauxite, manganese, timber, wood products, copper, chromium, lead, and zinc. Bosnia and Herzegovina is subject to frequent and destructive earthquakes.


The climate features hot summers and cold winters. In higher elevations of the country, summers tend to be short and cold while winters tend to be long and severe. Along the coast, winters tend to be short and rainy. In July, the mean temperature is 22.5°c (72.5°f). January's mean temperature is 0°c (32°f). Annual rainfall averages roughly 62.5 cm (24.6 in).


The region's climate has given Bosnia and Herzegovina a wealth of diverse flora and fauna. Ferns, flowers, mosses, and common trees populate the landscape. Beech forests are found throughout the mountains, with spruce found at some higher altitudes. Wild animals include deer, brown bears, rabbits, fox, and wild boars.


Metallurgical plants contribute to air pollution. Ongoing interethnic civil strife has seriously damaged the country's infrastructure and led to water shortages. Urban landfill sites are limited. As of 2000, about 44.4% of the total land area is forested. Deforestation was not a significant problem. In 2003, only 0.5% of the total land area was protected. Hutovo Blato is a Ramsar wetland site. The Sutjeska National Park in the south covers an area of about 17,500 hectares (43,250 acres).

As of 2002, there were at least 72 species of mammals and 205 species of birds. According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included 8 types of mammals, 8 species of birds, 1 type of reptile, 1 species of amphibian, 11 species of fish, 10 other invertebrates, and 1 species of plant. Endangered species include the slender-billed curlew, Danube salmon, and the field adder.


The population of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 3,840,000, which placed it at number 125 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 12% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 18% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 94 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population growth rate for 200510 was expected to be 0.1%, a rate the government viewed as too low. The government is concerned about high numbers of working-age people leaving the country and problems with reproductive health care practices. (An estimated 30% of all pregnancies end in abortion.) The projected population for the year 2025 was 3,677,000. The population density was 75 per sq km (195 per sq mi).

The UN estimated that 43% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 1.45%. The capital city, Sarajevo, had a population of 579,000 in that year.

Civil strife greatly reduced the population through war, genocide, and emigration. When the Dayton Peace Agreement was signed in 1996, there were an estimated two million Bosnian refugees and displaced persons. That year, there were an estimated 25,000 more deaths than births, creating a population decrease of 1%. By 2006 the population was no longer declining, but massive emigration continued to be a concern for the country's economic future.


Many people living in Bosnia and Herzegovina fled the war that followed independence. In other countries, their numbers were lumped together with other refugees from "Yugoslavia" or "former Yugoslavia." As of 1999, more than 330,000 Bosnian refugees were still in need of a permanent home. An estimated 110,000 Bosnian refugees and 30,000 displaced people returned to their homes from outside and within Bosnia in 1998. Only some 41,000 minority returns occurred in 1998, and some 3,000 in 1999. In 2003, there were 330,000 internally displaced persons (IDP) within the country.

In 2005, the net migration rate was estimated as. 3 migrants per 1,000 population. Worker remittances in 2003 totaled $870 million. The government views the emigration level as unsatisfactory.


In 2002, about 48.3% of the people were Bosniak (Muslim) and 34% were Serbs. Croats made up about 15.4% of the populace.


Croatian, Serbian, and Bosnian are all spoken.


Throughout its history, ethnicity and religion have served as flash points for conflict and changes in government. Ethnic groups tend to be closely linked with distinct religious affiliations; however, the rate of active religious participation is considered to be low. The Bosniaks are generally Muslim. As such, nearly 40% of the population is Muslim. The Serbs are generally Serbian Orthodox, a faith practiced by about 31% of the population. Most of the Serbian Orthodox live in the Republika Srpska. The Croats are primarily Roman Catholic, a faith practiced by about 15% of the population. Protestants account for about 4% of the population. Missionary groups include Seventh-Day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Methodists, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), and Krishna Consciousness. There is a small Jewish community.

The constitution provides for freedom of religion and this right is generally respected in practice. In 2004, the state passed a Law on Religious Freedom which provides for greater freedom of religion and governs the legal licensing of religious groups.


Bosnia and Herzegovina's railway system, as of 2004, consisted of 1,021 km (634 mi) of standard gauge track, of which 795 km (494 mi) had been electrified. In 2002, there were 21,846 km (13,575 mi) of highways, of which 14,020 km (8,712 mi) were paved.

Ports include those at Bosanska Gradiska, Bosanski Brod, Bosanski Samac, and Brĉko. All are inland waterway ports on the Sava. However, none are fully operational. Large sections of the Sava are blocked by downed bridges, silt and debris. There is no merchant marine.

In 2004 there were an estimated 27 airports. Of these in 2005, eight had paved runways and there were also five heliports. In 2003, about 73,000 passengers were carried on scheduled flights.



Bosnia and Herzegovina occupies the area between historical Croatia-Slavonia to the north, Dalmatia to the south, and Serbia and Montenegro to the east/southeast. Populated in ancient times by Thracians, Illyrians, Celts, with Greek colonies since 400 bc, the area was taken over by the Romans around 168 bc. However, it took the Romans some one hundred and fifty years to gain control of the entire area, which they called Dalmatia Province. The most difficult aspect of their occupation was getting past the coastal cities to build roads to rich mining sites in the interior, which still maintained its native, Illyrian character in resistance to pressures to Romanize. Eventually, many Romanized Illyrians became important leaders in the Roman armies and administration and some even became emperors. The division of the Roman Empire into the western and eastern halves in ad 395 found Bosnia as the frontier land of the western half, since the dividing line ran south from Sirmium on the Sava river along the Drina River to Skadar Lake by the Adriatic coast.

Slavic tribes have been raiding and settling in the Balkan area in large numbers since the 5th century ad, moving in slowly from their original lands east of the Carpathian Mountains. These early Slavic settlers were joined in the 7th century ad by Croatian and Serbian tribes invited by Byzantine Emperor Heraclius to help him fight the Avars. The area of Bosnia and Herzegovina became the meeting ground of Croats (western area) and Serbs (eastern area). As medieval Bulgarians, Croatians, and Serbians developed their first states, Bosnia became a battleground among them and the Byzantine Empire. Christianization of the area was completed by the 9th century, when most of the Bosnian area came under the influence of Rome and Croats became Catholic, while most Serbs fell under the influence of the Byzantine Empire and became Eastern Orthodox.

The Bosnian area between the 9th and 11th centuries was essentially under Croatian influence when not conquered by Bulgarians, Serbs, or Byzantium. After Hungary and Croatia effected their royal union in ad 1102, Hungary took over Bosnia and the Dalmatian cities in 1136. Bosnia was then ruled by Croatian "Bans" under joint Hungarian-Croatian sovereignty. When the soldiers supplied by Ban Borić (r.11501167) to the Hungarian Army were defeated by Byzantium in 1167 at Zemun, Bosnia came under Byzantine rule. Hungary renewed its claim to Bosnia in 1185, during Ban Kulin's reign (11801204), which was marked by his independence from Hungary, partly due to the inaccessibility of its mountainous terrain.

Geography itself was an incentive to the local autonomy of Bosnia's individual regions of Podrina, Central Bosnia, Lower Bosnia, and Hum (today's Herzegovina). Each region had its own local hereditary nobility and customs, and was divided into districts (Župas ). The typical Bosnian family of this period had possession of its land without dependence on a feudal relationship to prince or king, as was the case in much of Europe. Bosnia was nominally Catholic under the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Dubrovnik, who would consecrate a Bishop of Bosnia, usually from local Bosnian priests. These Bosnian Catholics used a Slavic liturgy and a modified Cyrillic alphabet called "Bosaniča" and had no knowledge of Latin. The region of Hum, on the other hand, was settled by Serbs in the interior, was mixed Orthodox and Catholic in the coastal area and mostly ruled by princes of the Serbian dynasty (Nemanja) until 1326.

The Catholic Church in Bosnia was isolated from the coastal areas and had developed its own Slavic liturgy and practices. These customs were suspect to the Latin hierarchy in both Hungary and the coastal cities. Ignorance of the language and customs of simple people and poor communications generated rumors and accusations of heresy against the Bosnian Church and Ban Kulin, its supposed protector. Kulin called a Church Council in 1203 at Bolino Polje that declared its loyalty to the Pope and renounced errors in its practices. Reports of heresy in Bosnia persisted, possibly fanned by Hungary, and caused visits by Papal legates in the 1220s. By 1225 the Pope was calling on the Hungarians to launch a crusade against the Bosnia heretics. In 1233, the native Bishop of Bosnia was removed and a German Dominican appointed to replace him. In spite of Ban Ninoslav's (12331250) renunciation of the "heresy," the Hungarians undertook a crusade in 123541, accompanied by Dominicans who were already erecting a cathedral in Vrhbosna (today's Sarajevo) in 1238. The Hungarians used the crusade to take control of most of Bosnia, but had to retreat in 1241 because of the Tartars' attack on Hungary. This allowed the Bosnians to regain their independence and in 1248 the Pope sent a neutral team (a Franciscan and a Bishop from the coastal town of Senj) to investigate the situation but no report is extant.

The Hungarians insisted that the Bosnian Church, which they suspected of practicing dualist, Manichaeic beliefs tied to the Bogomils of Bulgaria and the French Cathars, be subjected to the Archbishop of Kalocsa in Hungary, who it was thought would intervene to end these heretical practices. In 1252, the Pope obliged. However, no Bishop was sent to Bosnia itselfonly to Djakovo in Slavoniaso this act had no impact on the Bosnian Church. The crusades against the Bosnian Church caused a deep animosity towards the Hungarians that in the long run weakened Bosnian's determination to resist the invasion of the Islamic Turks. Thus the Bosnian Church that professed to be loyal to Catholicism, even though it continued in its practice of ascetic and rather primitive rituals by its Catholic monastic order, was pushed into separation from Rome.

Around 1288, Stjepan Kotroman became Ban of the Northern Bosnia area. In his quest to consolidate all of Bosnia under his rule, though, he was challenged by the Šubić family of Croatia, who had taken over Western Bosnia. Paul I Šubić then expanded his family's area of control, becoming Ban of Bosnia and later, in 1305, Ban of All Bosnia. However, the power of the Šubić family declined in subsequent years, and Kotroman's son Stjepan Kotromanić was able to take control of Central Bosnia by 1318, serving as a vassal of the Croatian Ban of Bosnia, Mladen Šubić. Kotromanić then allied himself with Charles Robert, King of Hungary, to defeat Mladen Šubić, helping Kotromanić to consolidate his control over Bosnia, the Neretva River Delta, and over Hum, which he took in 1326 but lost in 1350 to Dušan the Great of Serbia. In recognition of the role the Hungarians had played in his consolidation of power in Bosnia, Ban Kotromanić gave his daughter Elizabeth into marriage to King Louis of Hungary in 1353, the year of his death.

Raised in the Orthodox faith, Kotromanić was converted to Catholicism by Franciscan fathers, an order he had allowed into Bosnia in 1342. The Franciscans concentrated their efforts at conversion on the members of the Bosnian Church (or Bogomili) and, by 1385, had built some 35 monasteries, four in Bosnia itself. Since most Franciscans were Italian and did not know the Slavic language, their effectiveness was not as great as it could have been and it was concentrated in the towns where numerous non-Bosnians had settled to ply their trades. During this period silver and other mines were opened which were administered by the townspeople of Dubrovnik. This influx of commerce helped in the development of prosperous towns in key locations and customs duties from increased trade enriched Bosnian nobles. A whole new class of native craftsmen developed in towns where foreign colonies also prospered and interacted with the native population, thus raising Bosnia's overall cultural level.

Kotromanić's heir was his nephew Tvrtko (r.135391) who would become the greatest ruler of Bosnia. Tvrtko could not command the loyalty of the nobles at first, however, and he soon lost the western part of Hum (1357) to Hungary as the dowry promised to King Louis of Hungary when he married Elizabeth, Kotromanić's daughter. But by 1363, Tvrtko had grown powerful enough to repel Hungarian attacks into Northern Bosnia. In 1366 Tvrtko fled to the Hungarian Court, having been unable to repress a revolt by his own nobles, and with Hungarian help regained his lands in 1367. In 1373 he obtained the upper Drina and Lim Rivers region. In 1377 he was crowned King of Bosnia and Serbia (his grandmother was a Nemanja) at the Mileševo monastery where Saint Sava, the founder of the Serbian Orthodox Church, was buried. Between 1378 and 1385, Tvrtko also gained control of the coastal territory of Trebinje and Konavli near Dubrovnik, along with the port city of Kotor. In 1389, Tvrtko sent his troops to support the Serbian armies of Prince Lazar and Vuk Branković at the legendary Battle of Kosovo Polje. The battle itself was a draw but it exhausted the Serbs' capability to resist the further Turkish invasions. The Turks retreated, having suffered the death of Sultan Murad I, assassinated by a Serbian military leader, and Tvrtko's commander at Kosovo claimed victory. Having sent such a message to Italy, Tvrtko was hailed as a savior of Christendom. He had made a first step towards a possible unification of Bosnia and Serbian lands, but the Turks, and then his own death in 1391, made it impossible.

Bosnia did not disintegrate after Tvrtko's death, but was held together through a Council of the key nobles. The Council elected weak kings to maintain their own power and privileges. Tvrtko had no legitimate descendants so his cousin Dabiša (r.139195) was elected, followed by his widow Helen of Hum (r.139598), and then Stjepan Ostoja (r.13981404), opposed by Tvrtko II (r.140409), probably Tvrtko I's illegitimate son. Between 1404 and 1443, Bosnia witnessed civil wars between factions of the nobles taking opposite sides in the Hungarian wars of succession. Thus Stjepan Ostoja was returned to the throne from 1409 to 1418, followed by Stjepan Ostojić (r.141821), then Tvrtko II again (r.142143). During this period the Turks participated in Bosnian affairs as paid mercenaries, through their own raids, and by taking sides in the struggles for the Bosnian throne. The Turks supported Tvrtko II, who managed to rule for over 20 years by recognizing the sovereignty of both the Hungarians and Turks, and playing one against the other. After the Turks' conquest of Serbia in 1439 made them direct neighbors of Bosnia along the Drina River, Turkish raids into Bosnia increased. The Ottomans assumed a key role in internal Bosnian affairs and became the mediator for Bosnian nobles' quarrels. The Bosnian nobles and their Council clung to their opposition to a centralized royal authority, even though it could have mounted a stronger defense against Hungarians and Turks. Thus Bosnia grew ever weaker with the skillful maneuvering of the Turks. Twenty years after Tvrtko II's death, in 1443, the Turks conquered an exhausted Bosnia with a surprise campaign.

Herzegovina (named after the ruler of Hum, Stefan Vukćić who called himself Herzeg/Duke) was occupied by the Turks gradually by 1482, and the two regions were subject to the Ottoman Empire for the next 400 years until the 1878 takeover by Austria.

Under Ottoman Rule

The mass conversion of Bosnian Christians to Islam, a rather unique phenomenon in European history, is explained by two schools of thought. The traditional view recognizes the existence of a strong Bogomil heresy of dualism and social protest. These Bosnian Christians, having been persecuted by both Catholic and Orthodox Churches and rulers, welcomed the Ottomans and easily converted in order to preserve their land holdings. In doing so, they became trusted Ottoman soldiers and administrators. The other school of thought denies the existence of a strong and influential Bogomil heresy, but defines the Bosnian Christian church as a nativistic, anti-Hungarian, loosely organized religion with a Catholic theological background and simple, peasant-based practices supported by its monastic order. The rulers/kings of Bosnia were Catholic (with the single exception of Ostoja) and very tolerant of the Orthodox and so-called Bosnian religions. However, these religious organizations had very few priests and monks, and therefore were not very strong. The Bosnian Church was practically eliminated in 1459 through conversions to official Catholicism, or the forced exile of its leadership. Thus, by the time of the Turkish conquest, the Bosnian Church had ceased to exist and the allure of privileged status under the Ottomans was too strong for many to resist.

Bosnia and Herzegovina was ruled by a Pasha or Vizier appointed by the Sultan and assisted by a Chancellor, supreme justice, and treasurer, each heading his own bureaucracy, both central and spread into eight districts (Sandžaks ). Justice was administered by a khadi who was both prosecutor and judge using the Koran for legal guidance, thus favoring Muslim subjects. Catholics, who were outside the established Orthodox and Jewish communities represented by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch and Chief Rabbi in Constantinople, were particularly exposed to arbitrary persecutions. In spite of all this, communities of followers of the Orthodox (Serbian) Church and Catholic (Croatian) Church survived into the late 19th century when in 1878 Austria obtained the authority to occupy Bosnia and Herzegovina, putting an end to four centuries of Ottoman rule. The Ottomans introduced in Bosnia and Herzegovina their administration, property concepts, and customs. The adherents to Islam were the ruling class, regardless of their national or ethnic backgrounds. Christian peasants practically became serfs to Muslim landlords while in the towns civil and military administrators had control over an increasingly Muslim population. Large numbers of Bosnians fled the Turkish takeover and settled in Venetian-occupied coastal areas where many continued the fight against the Turks as "Uskoki" raiders. Others emigrated north or west into Slavonia and Croatia and were organized as lifetime soldiers along military regions (Krajina ) in exchange for freemen status, land, and other privileges. On the Bosnian side, Christians were not required to enter military service, but the so-called "blood tax" took a heavy toll by turning boys forcibly into Muslim Janissariesprofessional soldiers converted to Islam who would generally forget their origins and become oppressors of the Sultan's subjects. Girls were sent to harems. Taxation became more and more oppressive, leading to revolts by the Christian peasantry that elicited bloody repressions.

Under Austro-Hungarian Rule

Historically both Croats and Serbs have competed for control over Bosnia. The Croats, who had included Bosnia in their medieval kingdom, could not effectively continue their rule once joined with the more powerful Hungarians in their royal union. The Serbs, on the other hand, were assisted by Hungary in their expansion at the expense of the Byzantine Empire. Later, they also received Hungarian support in their resistance to Turkish inroads and therefore could not invest their energies in Bosnia, in their view a "Hungarian" territory. Thus Bosnia was able to assert its own autonomy and individuality, but did not evolve into a separate nation. With the Austrian occupation, however, a new period began marked by a search for a Bosnian identity, supported by Austria who had an interest in countering the national unification ambitions of both Croats and Serbs.

The population of Bosnia and Herzegovina was divided into three major religious-ethnic groups: Croatian Catholics, Serbian Orthodox, and Bosnian Muslims. With the disappearance of the Bosnian Church just before the Ottoman occupation in 1463, most Bosnians were Croatian and Catholic, with a Serbian Orthodox population concentrated in Eastern Herzegovina and along the Drina River frontier with Serbia. The Serbs were mostly peasants, many of whom became serfs to Muslim landlords. Their priests, who were generally poorly educated, lived as peasants among them. Serbian urban dwellers, insignificant in number at first, grew to be an important factor by the late Ottoman period and developed their own churches and schools in the 19th century. Crafts and commerce were the main occupations of the new Serbian middle class.

Croats were also mostly peasants and, like the Serbs, became serfs to Muslim landlords. Members of the Franciscan order lived among the peasants, even though they also had built several monasteries in urban centers. There was almost no Croat middle class at the start of the Austrian period and the Catholic clergy was generally its advocate.

The Muslim group consisted of three social subgroups: the elites, the peasants, and urban lower classes. Most Muslims were peasants, but they were free peasants with a standard of living not better than that of the Christian serf-peasants. The Muslim hodžas (priests) lived among the peasants as peasants themselves. The second subgroup consisted of merchants, craftsmen, and artisans and were mostly concentrated in towns. Together with the urban lower classes, these two groups made up the Muslim majorities in most towns by 1878. The members of the Muslim elites were mostly religious functionaries, landowners, and commercial entrepreneurs, all favored by Islamic laws and traditions. Following the 1878 occupation, Austria recognized the right of Turkish functionaries to keep their posts, the right of Muslims to be in communication with their religious leaders in the Ottoman Empire, the right of Turkish currency to circulate in Bosnia, and also promised to respect all traditions and customs of the Bosnian Muslims. The Austrian approach to the administration of Bosnia and Herzegovina was close to the British colonial model that retained the existing elites and cultural individuality while gradually introducing Western administrative and education models.

Bosnia and Herzegovina was divided by the Turks into six administrative regions that were confirmed by Austria: Sarajevo, Travnik, Bihać, Donja Tuzla, Banja Luka, and Mostar (Herzegovina). Each was headed by a regional supervisor. Participation in cultural and religious organizations was encouraged, while engaging in politics was prohibited. The Austrians promoted a policy of equality between Christians and Muslims, banned organizations of an open political purpose, and prohibited the use of national names (Serb and Croat) for public institutions. At the same time, educational institutions designed to promote loyalty to Bosnia (and Austria) as such were encouraged. Censorship and other means were used to insulate Bosnians from the influence of their Croatian and Serbian co-nationals across the borders. By terminating the earlier Muslim secular/religious unity, many administrative and judicial functions were no longer carried out by the Muslim elites, but were instead presided over by the Austrian bureaucracy and judiciary, though a separate Muslim judiciary was continued. The Muslim landowners lost some privileges but were able to retain their land and the system of serfdom was allowed to continue.

A widespread and important institution supporting Muslim cultural life was the Vakif (Vakuf in Serbian/Croatian). The Vakuf was a revenue-producing property set up and administered as a family foundation for the support of specified causes. Once set up, a Vakuf could not be sold, bequeathed, or divided and was exempt from normal taxes. In 1878 it was estimated that one-fourth to one-third of usable land in Bosnia was tied to Vakufs. The administration of Vakufs was lax and open to much manipulation and abuse. The Austrian administration was able to establish effective controls over the Vakuf system by 1894 through a centralized commission and the involvement of prominent Muslims in the administration of Vakuf revenues in support of Islamic institutions.

The continuation of serfdom by the Austrian authorities was a deep disappointment for the peasants that were eagerly expecting emancipation. Abuses led to peasant revolts until the Austrians introduced cash payments of the tithe (one-tenth of harvest due to the state) and the appraising of harvest value as basis for payment in kind (one-third) to the landlord. A land-registry system was instituted in 1884, and landowners that could not prove legal ownership lost title to some properties. This policy generated wide discontent among Muslim landowners. Another cause of frequent disorders were cases of religious conversions. Under Muslim law, a Muslim convert to another faith was to be executed (this penalty was later eased to banishment). The Austrian policy of confessional equality required a freedom of religious conversion without any penalty and a conversion statute was issued in 1891.

The general aim of the Austrian administration was to guide the development of a coequal confessional society that would focus its efforts on cultural and economic progress without political and national assertiveness. Benjamin von Kallay, the first Austrian Chief Administrator for Bosnia and Herzegovina wanted to avoid anything that could lead to the creation of a separate Muslim nation in Bosnia. On the other hand, he was determined to insulate Bosnians from external developments in the South Slavic areas. Such a position was unrealistic, however, since all of the main groupsSerbs, Croats, and Muslimsidentified themselves with their own national/religious groups in the neighboring areas and had developed intense cultural/political relationships with them. Serbs looked at Serbia's successes and hoped for unification with their motherland. Croats followed closely the Croatian-Hungarian tensions and hoped likewise for their unification. The Muslim community, meanwhile, struggled for its own cultural/religious autonomy within a Bosnia that still recognized the Ottoman Sultan's sovereignty and looked to him for assistance.

The unilateral annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina to Austria in 1908 exacerbated Austria's relations with Serbia (and almost caused a war) and with the Hungarian half of the Hapsburg Crown that opposed the enlargement of the Slavic population of Austria-Hungary. Serbia's victories in the Balkan wars added fuel to the "Yugoslav" movement among the South Slavs of Austria, including Bosnia and Herzegovina. Here the Austrian administration countered the growing "Yugoslav" assertiveness with a "divide and rule" initiative of developing a separate "Bosnian" national consciousness which they hoped would tie together Serbs, Croats, and Muslims. All nationalist movements use elements of history to develop their own mythology to unite their members. Thus, the medieval Bosnian kingdom was the basis for development of a Bosnian national consciousness. It was opposed by most Serbs and Croats, who awaited unification with Serbia or Croatia, but gave some sense of security to the more isolated Muslim Bosnian community. Already by the beginning of the 20th century, separate ethnic organizations and related political associations had to be allowed. The 1908 annexation led to the promulgation of a constitution, legal recognition of political parties, and a Bosnian Parliament in 1910. The internal political liberalization then allowed the Austrian administration to concentrate on the repression of student radicals, internal and external terrorists, and other such perceived threats to their rule.

The Muslim community was split internally, with a leadership dominated by landowners and weakened by the forced emigration to Turkey of its top leaders. It finally came together in 1906 and formed the Muslim National Organization (Muslimanska Narodna Organizacija) as its political party, with the blessing of its émigré leaders in Istanbul. Intense negotiations with the Austrian administration produced agreements on religious and cultural autonomy as well as landowners' rights. The latter were a preeminent concern, and landowners were able to preserve their ownership rights based on Ottoman law and the peasants' payments of compulsory dues. The religious autonomy of the Muslim faith was assured by having the nominees for the top offices confirmed by the Sultan's religious head upon request by the Austrian Embassy in Istanbul. The same process was also used in matters of religious dogma and law.

Cultural autonomy for Muslims was affirmed through the streamlining of the preexisting vakuf system into local, regional, and central assemblies responsible for the operation of the vakufs and the related educational system. Overall, the Muslims of Bosnia had achieved their objectives: preserving their large landholdings with peasants still in a quasi-serfdom condition; assuring their cultural autonomy; and retaining access to the Sultan, head of a foreign country, in matters of their religious hierarchies. Politically, the Muslim National Organization participated in the first parliament as part of the majority supportive of the Austrian government.

Serbs and Croats had also formed political organizations, the nature of which reflected Bosnia's peculiar ethnic and socio-political conditions. The Serbian National Organization (Srpska Narodna Organizacija) was founded in 1907 as a coalition of three factions. The Croatian National Community (Hrvatska Narodna Zajednica) was formed in 1908 by liberal Croat intellectuals, followed in 1910 by the Croatian Catholic Association (Hrvatska Katolička Udruga). A cross-ethnic Social Democratic party, formed in 1909, failed to win any seats in the Parliament. A Muslim Progressive Party, formed in 1908, found hardly any support even after changing its name to the Muslim Independent Party. The Muslims were more conservative and were opposed to the agrarian reform demanded by the Serbs and Croats, who each continued to favor an association or unification with their respective "Mother Country." Croats asserted the Croatian character of Bosnia based on its Croatian past, while Serbs just as adamantly claimed its Serbian character and supported Serbia's "Greater Serbia" policies.

Given the demographics of Bosnia and Herzegovina (1910 census: Serbian Orthodox, 43%; Croat Catholics, 23%; Muslims, 32%) each side needed the support of the Muslims who, though pressured to declare themselves Serbs or Croats, very seldom would do so and would rather keep their own separate identity. Up until the Balkan wars, Muslims and Serbs would support one another hoping for some kind of political autonomy. Croats advocated unification with Croatia and a trialist reorganization of the Hapsburg Monarchy, giving the united South Slavs a coequal status with Austrians and Hungarians. Any cooperation by the Muslims was predicated on support for the continuation of serfdom. This stance prevented cooperation with the Croatian Catholic Association, which insisted on agrarian reform and the termination of serfdom.

With the Serbian victories and Ottoman defeat in the Balkan wars, Serbs became more assertive and Croats more willing to cooperate with them in the growing enthusiasm generated by the idea of "Yugoslavism." A parliamentary majority of Serbs and Croats could have effected the liberation of the peasants in 1913 but the Hungarians opposed it. The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand on 28 June 1914, and World War I, combined to make the issue moot when the Parliament was adjourned. The assassination of the Archduke was apparently the work of members of the "Young Bosnia" students association supported (unofficially) by Serbia through its extremist conspiratorial associations, the "Black Hand" and the "Serbian National Defense." The Austrian ultimatum to Serbia was extremely harsh but Serbia met all the conditions that did not violate its sovereignty. Austria nevertheless declared war and immediately attacked Serbia. The Serbian community of Bosnia and Herzegovina was subjected to a regime of terror and indiscriminate executions by the Austrian authorities. Serbian leaders were subjected to trials, court martial proceedings, and infamous concentrations camps where internees died of epidemics and starvation.

First (Royal) Yugoslavia

Throughout World War I, Bosnians fought in Austrian units, particularly on the Italian front until Austria's surrender. The Bosnian National Council decided to unite with the Kingdom of Serbia, as Vojvodina did and the Montenegrin assembly did on 24 November 1918. On 27 November 1918 the delegation from the Zagrebbased National Council of the Slovenes, Croats, and Serbs also requested unification with Serbia of the Slovene, Croat, and Serbian lands of Austria-Hungary. Following the Declaration of Union on 1 December 1918, a provisional government was set made up of representatives of Serbia and the National Council, with other groups added later. A provisional Assembly was also convened consisting of members of the Serbian Parliament, nominees from the National Council and other regional Assemblies such as Bosnia and Herzegovina and Vojvodina. In November 1920 a Constituent Assembly was elected and functioned as both the legislature and constitutional convention. Bosnian Serbs supported the Serbian Agrarian Party, while two Muslim parties, the National Muslim Organization from Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Džemijet Party of the Kosovo and Macedonia Muslims had seats in the assembly. Croats, on the other hand, joined the mainstream parties of Croatia.

By joining the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes in 1918, Bosnia and Herzegovina ceased to exist as a distinct political/historical unit, particularly since the heads of local governments were appointed by and directly accountable to the central government in Belgrade. After 10 years of a tumultuous parliamentary history culminating in the assassination of Croatian deputies, King Alexander dissolved parliament and disbanded all political parties, establishing a royal dictatorship in 1929. He then reorganized the country into a "Yugoslavia" made up of nine administrative regions (banovine ) named after rivers. What once was Bosnia and Herzegovina was split among four of the new units (Vrbaska, Drinska, Primorska, and Zetska). Serb and Croat peasants were finally freed from their feudal obligations to Muslim landlords through the agrarian reforms decreed in 1919 and slowly implemented over the next 20 years. Except for Bosnia and Herzegovina and Dalmatia, land held by ex-enemies (Austrians, Hungarians, Turks) were expropriated without compensation and redistributed to the peasants1.75 million of them plus 2.8 million dependents. As a result, the average size of agricultural holdings fell to 15 acres, causing inefficiencies and very low yields per acre. Peasants were forced to borrow even to buy food and necessities. They fell deeply in debt, both to local shopkeepers who charged 100200% interest and to banks that charged exorbitant rates up to 50%. In comparison, peasant cooperatives in Slovenia used single digit interest rates.

Politically, the Muslim Organization, as a small party, allied itself mostly with the Slovene People's Party and either the Serbian Democratic or Radical parties in order to participate in a series of governments before the 1929 royal dictatorship was implemented. The Muslim Organization's main goals were to obtain the best possible compensation for land expropriated from Bosnia's Muslim landowners and to preserve the Muslims' cultural identity. In 1932, Muslim leaders joined the Croats, Slovenes, and some Liberal Serbs in issuing the Zagreb manifesto calling for an end to the King's dictatorship and for democratization and regional autonomies. For this the centralist regime interned and imprisoned several of the leaders and instituted wider repressions. Following the assassination of King Alexander in 1934 in Marseille, France, the Croat Peasants Party was joined by the Muslims, Serbian Agrarians, and Serbian Democrats in opposition to the Centralists, winning 38% of the votes in spite of the government's intimidating tactics. With the opposition refusing to take part in the parliament, a new government was formed by the Serbian Radicals with the inclusion of the Muslims and the Slovene People's Party.

This new coalition government lasted until 1939, but was never able to resolve the "Croatian" autonomy issue. In addition, while under the leadership of Milan Stojadinović, Yugoslavia's foreign policy moved the country closer to Italy and Germany. Meanwhile a growing consensus had developed that the "Croatian" question had to be solved, particularly in view of the aggressive ambitions of Yugoslavia's neighbors. Thus, the Regent Prince Paul and Dr. Vladimir Maćek, leader of the Croatian Peasant Party, worked with the Minister of Social Policy, Dragiša Cvetković, on an agreement establishing a Croatian Banovina made up of the historical regions of Croatia-Slavonia and Dalmatia along with parts of Vojvodina, Srem, and Bosnia. The president of the senate, Monsignor Anton Korošec (also leader of the Slovene People's Party), engineered the resignation of five ministers, two Slovenes, two Muslim, and Dragiša Cvetković. Regent Paul then called on Cvetković to form a new government. Dr. Maćek became vice-premier and Ivan Subašić was named Ban of the autonomous Croatian Banovina, which was given its own Sabor (parliament). The Croatian parties considered this development as a positive first phase towards their goal of an independent Croatia that would incorporate all of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Serbian centralists, on the other hand, saw this phase as a threat to their own designs of incorporating Bosnia and Herzegovina (and Serb populated areas of Croatia) into a "Greater Serbia" unit of Yugoslavia. Thus, on the eve of World War II, the stage was set for a direct confrontation between the independent minded Croatians and centralistic Serbs. The Muslims of Bosnia were caught in their crossfire.

World War II

Germany, Italy, and their allies Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria, attacked Yugoslavia on 6 April 1941 and divided the country among themselves. The Croatian terrorist Ustaša organization collaborated with the aggressors and was allowed to proclaim an Independent State of Croatia on 10 April 1941. This new state incorporated the old Croatian Banovina in addition to all of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Of its total population of 6.3 million, one-third were Serbian and 750,000 were Muslim. Once entrenched in power, the Ustaša troops began implementing their plan for "cleansing" their Greater Croatia of the Serbian population by the use of terror, mass deportations, and genocidal massacres later condemned by the Nürnberg Court.

The Serbian population responded in kind with its Cetnik formations and by joining the Partisan resistance movement led by Josip Broz-Tito, head of the Yugoslav Communist Party. Bosnia and Herzegovina suffered terrible losses in several German-led offensives against Bosnian resistance, and in the internecine civil war among Communist-dominated Partisans, nationalist Cetniks (mostly Serbs), and Croatian Ustaše and home guard units. The Muslim population in particular was caught in the middle between the Ustaše and the Serbian Cetniks. The Ustaše considered the Muslims of Croatian origin and expected them to collaborate with the Ustaša regime. The Serbian Cetniks, on the other hand, viewed most Muslims as the hated Turks and Ustaša collaborators, and therefore engaged in slaughters of Muslims, particularly in Eastern Bosnia around the cities of Foča and Goražde.

The political programs of the Cetniks and Partisans were a reflection of the old centralist (Serbian) hegemony and the Federalist positions of the prewar opposition parties. Thus the Partisan resistance, though aiming at a revolutionary power grab, offered a federated Yugoslavia made up of individual republics for each national groupSerbs, Croats, Slovenes, newly recognized Macedonians and Montenegrins. To avoid a battle over a Serbian-Croatian border issue, Bosnia and Herzegovina was resurrected as a buffer area between Serbia and Croatia. It would also allow (again) for the cultural autonomy of the Muslim population. The Allied and Soviet support the Partisans received enabled them to prevail, and they organized Socialist Yugoslavia as a Federative People's Republic with Bosnia and Herzegovina as one of the constituent republics approximately within the boundaries of the former Austrian province.

When Soviet armies entered Yugoslavia from Romania and Bulgaria in the fall of 1944Marshal Tito with themmilitary units and civilians that had opposed the partisans had no choice but retreat to Austria or Italy to save themselves. Among them were the Cetnik units of Draža Mihajlović, and "home guards" from Serbia, Croatia, and Slovenia that had been under German control but were pro-Allies in their convictions and hopes. Also in retreat were the units of the Croatian Ustaša that had collaborated with Italy and Germany in order to achieve (and control) an "independent" greater Croatia, and in the process had committed terrible and large-scale massacres of Serbs, Jews, Gypsies, and others who opposed them. Of course, Serbs and Partisans counteracted and a fratricidal civil war raged over Yugoslavia, pitting Croats against Serbs, Communists against Nationalists. These skirmishes not only wasted countless lives, they used up the energy and property that could have been used instead against the occupiers. After the end of the war, the Communist-led forces took control of all of Yugoslavia and instituted a violent dictatorship that committed systematic crimes and human rights violations on an unexpectedly large scale. Thousands upon thousands of their former opponents were returned from Austria by British military authorities only to be tortured and massacred by Partisan executioners.

Second (Communist) Yugoslavia

Such was the background for the formation of the second Yugoslavia as a Federative People's Republic of five nationsSlovenes, Croats, Serbs, Macedonians, and Montenegrinsand Bosnia and Herzegovina as a buffer area with its mix of Serb, Muslim, and Croat populations. The problem of large Hungarian and Muslim Albanian populations in Serbia was solved by creating the autonomous region of Vojvodina (Hungarian minority) and Kosovo (Muslim Albanian majority) to assure their political and cultural development. Tito attempted a balancing act to satisfy most of the nationality issues that were carried over unresolved from the first Yugoslavia, but failed to satisfy anyone.

Compared to pre-1941 Yugoslavia where Serbs enjoyed their controlling role, the numerically stronger Serbs in the new Yugoslavia had "lost" the Macedonian area they considered "Southern Serbia"; they had lost the opportunity to incorporate Montenegro into Serbia; they had lost direct control over the Hungarian minority in Vojvodina and Muslim Albanians of Kosovo (viewed as the cradle of the Serbian nation since the Middle Ages); they could not longer incorporate into Serbia the large Serbian populated areas of Bosnia; and they had not obtained an autonomous region for the large minority Serbian population within the Croatian Republic. The Croats, while gaining back from Hungary the Medjumurje area and from Italy the cities of Rijeka (Fiume), Zadar (Zara), some Dalmatian islands, and the Istrian Peninsula, had "lost" the Srem area to Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, which had been part of the World War II "independent" Croatian state under the Ustaša leadership. In addition, the Croats were confronted with a deeply resentful Serbian minority that became ever more pervasive in public administrative and security positions. The Slovenes had obtained back from Hungary the Prekmurje enclave and from Italy most of the Slovenian lands taken over by Italy following World War I (Julian Region and Northern Istria). Italy retained control over the "Venetian Slovenia" area, the Gorizia area, and the port city of Trieste. (Trieste was initially part of the UN protected "Free Territory of Trieste," split in 1954 between Italy and Yugoslavia, with Trieste itself given to Italy.) Nor were the Slovenian claims to the southern Carinthia area of Austria satisfied. The "loss" of Trieste was a bitter pill for the Slovenes and many blamed it on the fact that Tito's Yugoslavia was, initially, Stalin's advance threat to Western Europe, thus making Western Europe and the United States more supportive of Italy.

The official position of the Marxist Yugoslav regime was that national rivalries and conflicting interests would gradually diminish through their sublimation into a new Socialist order. Without capitalism, nationalism was supposed to wither away. Therefore, in the name of their "unity and brotherhood" motto, any "nationalistic" expression of concern was prohibited and repressed by the dictatorial and centralized regime of the "League of Yugoslav Communists" acting through the "Socialist Alliance" as its mass front organization. As a constituent Republic of the Federal Yugoslavia, Bosnia and Herzegovina shared in the history of the second experiment in "Yugoslavism."

After a short postwar "coalition" government period, the elections of 11 November 1945, boycotted by the noncommunist "coalition" parties, gave the Communist-led People's Front 90% of the vote. A Constituent Assembly met on November 29 and abolished the monarchy, establishing the Federative People's Republic of Yugoslavia. In January 1946, a new constitution was adopted, based on the 1936 Soviet constitution. The Stalin-engineered expulsion of Yugoslavia from the Soviet-dominated Cominform Group in 1948 was actually a blessing for Yugoslavia after its leadership was able to survive Stalin's pressures. Survival had to be justified, both practically and in theory, by developing a "road to Socialism" based on Yugoslavia's own circumstances. This new "road map" evolved rather quickly in response to some of Stalin's accusations and Yugoslavia's need to perform a balancing act between the NATO alliance and the Soviet bloc. Having taken over all power after World War II, the Communist dictatorship under Tito pushed the nationalization of the economy through a policy of forced industrialization, to be supported by the collectivization of agriculture.

The agricultural reform of 194546 (limited private ownership of a maximum of 35 hectares (85 acres) and a limited free market after the initial forced delivery of quotas to the state at very low prices) had to be abandoned because of the strong passive, but at times active, resistance by the peasants. The actual collectivization efforts were initiated in 1949 using welfare benefits and lower taxes as incentives along with direct coercion. But collectivization had to be abandoned by 1958 simply because its inefficiency and low productivity could not support the concentrated effort of industrial development.

By the 1950s, Yugoslavia had initiated the development of its internal trademark: self-management of enterprises through workers councils and local decision-making as the road to Marx's "withering away of the state." Following the failure of the first fiveyear plan (194751), the second five-year plan (195761) was completed in four years by relying on the well-established selfmanagement system. Economic targets were set from the local to the republic level and then coordinated by a Federal Planning Institute to meet an overall national economic strategy. This system supported a period of very rapid industrial growth in the 1950s. But a high consumption rate encouraged a volume of imports, largely financed by foreign loans, far in excess of exports. In addition, inefficient and low-productivity industries were kept in place through public subsidies, cheap credit, and other artificial protective measures that led to a serious crisis by 1961.

Reforms were necessary and, by 1965, "market socialism" was introduced with laws that abolished most price controls and halved import duties while withdrawing export subsidies. After necessary amounts were left with the earning enterprise, the rest of the earned foreign currencies were deposited with the national bank and used by the state, other enterprises, or were used to assist less developed areas. Councils were given more decision-making power on investing their earnings. They also tended to vote for higher salaries in order to meet steep increases in the cost of living. Unemployment grew rapidly even though "political factories" were still subsidized. The government thus relaxed its restrictions to allow labor migration particularly to West Germany where workers were needed for its thriving economy. Foreign investment was encouraged up to 49% in joint enterprises, and barriers to the movement of people and exchange of ideas were largely removed. The role of trade unions continued to be one of transmission of instructions from government to workers, allocation of perks along with the education/training of workers, monitoring legislation, and overall protection of the self-management system. Strikes were legally neither allowed nor forbidden butuntil the 1958 miners strike in Trbovlje, Sloveniawere not publicly acknowledged and were suppressed. After 1958, strikes were tolerated as an indication of problems to be resolved. Unions, however, did not initiate strikes but were expected to convince workers to go back to work.

Having survived its expulsion from the Cominform in 1948 and Stalin's attempts to take control, Yugoslavia began to develop a foreign policy independent of the Soviet Union. By mid-1949 Yugoslavia ceased its support of the Greek Communists in their civil war against the then Royalist government of Greece. In October 1949, Yugoslavia was elected to one of the nonpermanent seats on the UN Security Council and openly condemned North Korea's aggression toward South Korea. Following the "rapprochement" opening with the Soviet Union initiated by Nikita Khrushchev and his 1956 denunciation of Stalin, Tito intensified his work on developing the movement of nonaligned "third world" nations. This would become Yugoslavia's external trademark, in cooperation with Nehru of India, Nasser of Egypt, and others. With the September 1961 Belgrade summit conference of nonaligned nations, Tito became the recognized leader of the movement. The nonaligned position served Tito's Yugoslavia well by allowing Tito to draw on economic and political support from the Western powers while neutralizing any aggressiveness from the Soviet bloc. While Tito had acquiesced, reluctantly, to the 1956 Soviet invasion of Hungary for fear of chaos and its liberalizing impact on Yugoslavia, he condemned the Soviet invasion of Dubček's Czechoslovakia in 1968, as did Romania's Ceausescu, both fearing their countries might be the next in line for "corrective" action by the Red Army and the Warsaw Pact. Just before his death on 4 May 1980, Tito also condemned the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Yugoslavia actively participated in the 1975 Helsinki Conference and agreements and the first 197778 review conference that took place in Belgrade, even though Yugoslavia's one-party communist regime perpetrated and condoned numerous human rights violations. Overall, in the 1970s and 1980s, Yugoslavia maintained fairly good relations with its neighboring states by playing down or solving pending disputessuch as the Trieste issue with Italy in 1975and by developing cooperative projects and increased trade.

Ravaged by the war, occupation, resistance, and civil war losses and preoccupied with carrying out the elimination of all actual and potential opposition, the Communist government faced the double task of building its Socialist economy while rebuilding the country. As an integral part of the Yugoslav federation, Bosnia and Herzegovina was, naturally, impacted by Yugoslavia's internal and external political developments. The main problems facing communist Yugoslavia and Bosnia and Herzegovina were essentially the same as the unresolved ones under Royalist Yugoslavia. As the "Royal Yugoslavism" had failed in its assimilative efforts, so did the "Socialist Yugoslavism" fail to overcome the forces of nationalism. Bosnia and Herzegovina differs from the other republics because its area has been the meeting ground of Serbian and Croatian nationalist claims, with the Muslims as a third party, pulled to both sides. Centuries of coexistence of the three major national groups had made Bosnia and Herzegovina into a territorial maze where no boundaries could be drawn to clearly separate Serbs, Croats, and Muslims without resorting to violence and forced movements of people. The inability to negotiate a peaceful partition of Bosnia and Herzegovina between Serbia and Croatia doomed the first interwar Yugoslavia to failure. The Socialist experiment with "Yugoslavism" in post-World War II Yugoslavia was particularly relevant to the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina where the increasing incidence of intermarriage, particularly between Serbs and Croats, caused the introduction of the "Yugoslav" category with the 1961 census. By 1981 the "Yugoslav" category was selected by 1.2 million citizens (5.4% of the total population), a large increase over the 273,077 number in 1971. Muslims, not impacted much by intermarriage, have also been recognized since 1971 as a separate "people" and numbered two million in 1981 in Yugoslavia. The 1991 census showed the population of Bosnia and Herzegovina consisting mainly of Muslims (43.7%), Serbs (31.4%), and Croats (17.3%) with 6% "Yugoslavs" out of a total population of 4,364,000.

Bosnia as a political unit has existed since at least 1150. Headed by a Ban in the Croatian tradition, Bosnia lasted for over 300 years with an increasing degree of independence from Hungary through King Tvrtko I and his successors until the occupation by the Ottoman Turks in 1463 (1482 for Herzegovina). Bosnia and Herzegovina was then ruled by the Turks for 415 years until 1878, and by Austria-Hungary for 40 years until 1918. Bosnia and Herzegovina ceased to be a separate political unit only for the 27 years of the first Yugoslavia (19181945) and became again a separate unit for 47 years as one of the republics of the Federal Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia until 1992. Yet, in spite of an 800-year history of common development, the Serbs, Croats, and Muslims of Bosnia and Herzegovina never assimilated into a single nation. Bosnia was initially settled by Croats who became Catholic and then by Orthodox Serbs escaping from the Turks. Under the Turks, large numbers converted to Islam and, in spite of a common language, their religious and cultural differences kept the Serbs, Croats, and Muslims apart through history so that Bosnia and Herzegovina has been more a geographic-political notion than a unified nation.

Consequently, while the resurgent nationalism was galvanizing Croatia into an intensifying confrontation with Serbia, the Bosnian leadership had to keep an internal balance by joining one or the other side depending on its own interests. Bosnia and Herzegovina was torn between the two opposing "liberal" and "conservative/centralist" coalitions. In terms of widening civil and political liberties, Bosnia and Herzegovina usually supported in most cases the liberal group. Its own economic needs as a less developed area, however, pulled it into the conservative coalition with Serbia in order to keep the source of development funds flowing to itself, Montenegro, Macedonia, and Serbia (for the Kosovo region). Also, the "Yugoslav" framework was for Bosnia and Herzegovina an assurance against its possible, and very likely bloody, partitioning between Serbia and Croatia.

The liberal group, centered in Slovenia and Croatia, grew stronger on the basis of the deepening resentment against forced subsidizing of less-developed areas of the federation and buildup of the Yugoslav army. Finally, the increased political and economic autonomy enjoyed by the Republics after the 1974 constitution and particularly following Tito's death in 1980, assisted in turning Tito's motto of "unity and brotherhood" into "freedom and democracy" to be achieved through either a confederated rearrangement of Yugoslavia or by complete independence of the Republics. The debate over the reforms of the 1960s had led to a closer scrutinynot only of the economic system, but also of the decision-making process at the republic and federal levels, particularly the investment of funds to less developed areas that Slovenia and Croatia felt were very poorly managed, if not squandered. Other issues of direct impact on Bosnia and Herzegovina fueled acrimony between individual nations, such as the 1967 Declaration in Zagreb claiming a Croatian linguistic and literary tradition separate from the Serbian one, thus undermining the validity of the "Serbo-Croatian" language. Also, Kosovo Albanians and Montenegrins, along with Slovenes and Croats, began to assert their national rights as superior to their rights as Yugoslav nationals.

The Eighth Congress of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia (LCY) in December 1964 acknowledged that ethnic prejudice and antagonisms existed in socialist Yugoslavia. The Congress went on record against the position that Yugoslavia's nations had become obsolete and were disintegrating into a socialist "Yugoslavism." Thus the republics, based on individual nations, became bastions of a strong Federalism that advocated the devolution and decentralization of authority from the federal to the republic level. "Yugoslav Socialist Patriotism" was at times defined as a deep feeling for one's own national identity within the socialist self-management of Yugoslavia.

Economic reforms were the other focus of the Eighth LCY Congress led by Croatia and Slovenia, with emphasis on efficiencies and local economic development decisions with profit criteria as their basis. The liberal bloc (Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, Vojvodina) prevailed over the conservative group and the reforms of 1965 did away with central investment planning and political factories. The positions of the two blocks hardened into a nationalliberal coalition that viewed the conservative, centralist group led by Serbia as the Greater Serbian attempt at majority domination.

To the conservative centralists the devolution of power to the republic level meant the subordination of the broad "Yugoslav" and "Socialist" interests to the narrower "nationalist" interest of republic national majorities. With the Croat League of Communists taking the liberal position in 1970, nationalism was rehabilitated as long as it didn't slide into chauvinism. Thus the "Croatian Spring" bloomed and impacted all the other republics of Yugoslavia. Meanwhile, as the result of a series of 196768 constitutional amendments that limited federal power in favor of the republics and autonomous provinces, the federal government was seen by liberals more as an inter-republican problem-solving mechanism bordering on a confederacy. A network of inter-republican committees established by mid-1971 proved to be very efficient at resolving a large number of difficult issues in a short time. The coalition of liberals and nationalists in Croatia generated sharp condemnation in Serbia, where its own brand of nationalism grew stronger, but as part of a conservative-centralist alliance. Thus the liberal/federalist versus conservative/centralist opposition became entangled in the rising nationalism within each opposing bloc. The devolution of power in economic decision-making spearheaded by the Slovenes assisted in the "federalization" of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia. This resulted in a league of quasi-sovereign republican parties. Under strong prodding from the Croats, the party agreed in 1970 to the principle of unanimity for decision making that, in practice, meant a veto power for each republic. However, the concentration of economic resources in Serbian hands continued with Belgrade banks controlling half of total credits and some 80% of foreign credits. This was also combined with the fear of Serbian political and cultural domination. The Croats were particularly sensitive regarding language, alarmed by the use of the Serbian version of Serbo-Croatian as the norm with the Croatian version as a deviation. The language controversy thus exacerbated the economic and political tensions, leading to easily inflamed ethnic confrontations.

Particularly difficult was the situation in Croatia and Serbia because of issues relating to their ethnic minoritiesSerbian in Croatia and Hungarian/Albanian in Serbia. Serbs in Croatia sided with the Croat conservatives and sought a constitutional amendment guaranteeing their own national identity and rights and, in the process, they challenged the "sovereignty" of the Croatian nation and state, as well as its right to self-determination, including the right to secession. The conservatives won and the amendment declared that "the Socialist Republic of Croatia (was) the national state of the Croatian nation, the state of the Serbian nation in Croatia, and the state of the nationalities inhabiting it."

Meanwhile Slovenia, not burdened by large minorities, developed a similar liberal and nationalist direction along with Croatia. This fostered an incipient separatist sentiment opposed by both the liberal and conservative party wings. Led by Stane Kavčić, head of the Slovenian government, the liberal wing gained as much political local latitude from the federal level as possible during "Slovenian Spring" of the early 1970s. By the summer of 1971, the Serbian party leadership was pressuring President Tito to put an end to the "dangerous" development of Croatian nationalism. While Tito wavered because of his support for the balancing system of autonomous republic units, the situation quickly reached critical proportions also in terms of the direct interests of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Croat nationalists, complaining about discrimination against Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina, demanded the incorporation of Western Herzegovina into Croatia. Serbia countered by claiming Southeastern Herzegovina for itself. Croats also advanced many economic and political claims: to a larger share of their foreign currency earnings, to the issuance of their own currency, to establishment of their own national bank to negotiate foreign loans, to the printing of Croatian postage stamps, to a Croatian army and to recognition of the Croatian Sabor (Assembly) as the highest Croatian political body and, finally, to Croatian secession and complete independence.

Confronted with such intensive agitation, the liberal Croatian party leadership could not back down and did not try to restrain the public demands nor the widespread university students' strike of November 1971. This situation caused the loss of support from the liberal party wings of Slovenia and even Macedonia. At this point Tito intervened, condemned the Croatian liberal leadership on 1 December 1971 and supported the conservative wing. The liberal leadership group resigned on 12 December 1971. When Croatian students demonstrated and demanded an independent Croatia, the Yugoslav army was ready to move in if necessary. A wholesale purge of the party liberals followed, with tens of thousands expelled from the party. Key functionaries lost their positions, while several thousands were imprisoned (including Franjo Tudjman who later became president in independent Croatia). Leading Croatian nationalist organizations and their publications were closed. On 8 May 1972 the Croatian party also expelled its liberal wing leaders and the purge of nationalists continued through 1973 in Croatia, as well as in Slovenia and Macedonia. However, the issues and sentiments raised during the "Slovene and Croat Springs" of 196971 did not disappear. Tito and the conservatives were forced to satisfy nominally some demands and the 1974 constitution was an attempt to resolve the strained inter-republican relations as each republic pursued its own interests over and above a conceivable overall "Yugoslav" interest.

Beginning in 1986, work began on amendments to the 1974 constitution. They created a furor, particularly in Slovenia. Opposition was strongest to the amendments that proposed creation of a unified legal system, central control of transportation and communication, centralizing the economy into a unified market, and granting more control to Serbia over its autonomous provinces of Kosovo and Vojvodina. These changes were seen as being accomplished at the expense of the individual republics. A recentralization of the League of Communists was also recommended but opposed by liberal/nationalist groups.

By 1989, the relations between Slovenia and Serbia reached a crisis point, especially following the Serbian assumption of control in the Kosovo and Vojvodina provinces (as well as in Montenegro). Serbian President Milošević's tactics were extremely distasteful to the Slovenians and the use of force against the Albanian population of the Kosovo province worried the Slovenes (and Croats) about the possible use of force by Serbia against Slovenia itself. The tensions with Serbia convinced the Slovenian leadership of the need to take protective measures and, in September 1989, draft amendments to the constitution of Slovenia were published. These included the right to secession, the sole right of the Slovenian legislature to introduce martial law and to control the deployment of armed forces in Slovenia.

A last attempt at salvaging Yugoslavia was to be made as the extraordinary Congress of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia convened in January 1990 to review proposed reforms such as free multiparty elections and freedom of speech. The Slovenian delegation attempted to broaden the spectrum of reforms but was rebuffed and walked out on 23 January 1990, pulling out of the Yugoslav League. The Slovenian Communists then renamed their party the Party for Democratic Renewal. On 10 April 1990 the first free elections since before World War II were held in Slovenia. A coalition of six newly formed democratic parties, called Demos, won 55% of the votes, with the remainder going to the Party for Democratic Renewal, the former Communists, 17%; the Socialist Party, 5%; and the Liberal Democratic Party (heir to the Slovenia Youth Organization), 15%. The Demos coalition organized the first freely elected Slovenian government of the post-Communist era with Dr. Lojze Peterle as the prime minister.

Milan Kučan, former head of the League of Communists of Slovenia, was elected president with 54% of the vote. His election was seen as recognition of his efforts to effect a bloodless transfer of power from a monopoly by the Communist party to a free multiparty system and his standing up to the recentralizing attempts by Serbia.

All of these developments had also a deep impact on Bosnia and Herzegovina. When the Antifascist Council of the National Liberation of Yugoslavia (AVNOJ) proclaimed the federal principle on 29 November 1943, Bosnia and Herzegovina was included as one of the constituent republics of post-World War II Yugoslavia. Muslims were not considered a "nation" yet. Serbs claimed that Muslims were Islamized Serbs, and Croats claimed that Muslims were descendants of the Croatian Bosnian Church that had converted to Islam. The Muslims themselves, meanwhile, claimed their own separate identity and were recognized as equal to Serbs and Croats.

The sense of Muslim identity grew stronger and incorporated demands for Muslim institutions parallel to the Serbian and Croatian ones. Muslims sought to define themselves as the only "true" Bosnians and thus a call to define Bosnia and Herzegovina as a "Muslim" Republic. Muslim activist groups multiplied during the 1970s and 1980s.

Since the 1970s and into the late 1980s the Muslims' self-assertiveness as an ethnic community grew ever stronger and was viewed as a balancing element between Serbs and Croats. As the winds of change away from communism swept the western republics of Slovenia and Croatia in 1989 and 1990, Bosnia and Herzegovina also was preparing for multiparty elections to be held on 18 November 1990. Meanwhile, across Bosnia and Herzegovina's borders with Croatia, the Serbian population was clamoring for its own cultural and political autonomy. Serbs perceived threats from the Croatian Democratic Union, the winner in the April 1990 elections in Croatia.

By July 1990, a Bosnia and Herzegovina branch of the Croatiabased Serbian Democratic Party had become very active in the 18 Bosnian communes with Serbian majorities adjacent to the Croatia Krajina (border area). By the fall of 1990, the program of the Serbian Democratic Party in Croatia had advanced a plan to include the Bosnian Serbs into a joint Krajina state, which would have a federal arrangement with Serbia proper. This arrangement, it was hoped, would undercut any thoughts of a confederation of Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Such a confederation, however, was favored by the Party of Democratic Action (Muslim) and the Croatian Democratic Union. In spite of their differences in long-term goals, the three nationalist parties were committed to the continuation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and to the termination of Communist rule. On 1 August 1990, Bosnia and Herzegovina declared itself a "sovereign and democratic state." The former Communist Party became the Party of Democratic Change, while Yugoslavia's Prime Minister Marković formed the Alliance of Reform Forces that advocated his economic reforms. The Muslim Party, Serbian Party, and Croatian Democratic Union then formed a coalition government with Alija Izetbegović of the Muslim Party as President of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Independence and War

Meanwhile, Slovenia and Croatia had published a joint proposal in October 1990 for a confederation of Yugoslavia as a last attempt at a negotiated solution, but to no avail. The Slovenian legislature also adopted a draft constitution in October proclaiming that "Slovenia will become an independent state." On 23 December 1990, a plebiscite was held on Slovenia's "disassociation" from Yugoslavia if a confederation solution could not be negotiated within a sixmonth period. An overwhelming majority of voters approved the secession provision. Slovenia declared its independence on 25 June 1991. On 27 June 1991, the Yugoslav Army tried to seize control of Slovenia and its borders with Italy, Austria, and Hungary under the pretext that it was its constitutional duty to assure the integrity of Socialist Yugoslavia. The Yugoslav Army units were surprised by the resistance they encountered from the Slovenian "territorial guards" which surrounded Yugoslav Army tank units, isolated them, and engaged in close combat, mostly along border checkpoints. These battles ended in most cases with Yugoslav units surrendering to the Slovenian forces. The war in Slovenia was ended in 10 days due to the intervention of the European Community; a cease-fire was declared, which gave time to the Yugoslav Army to retreat from Slovenia by the end of October 1991.

The coalition government of Bosnia and Herzegovina had a very difficult time maintaining the spirit of ethnic cooperation won in its elections, while the situation in Slovenia and Croatia was moving to the point of no return with their declaration of independence of 25 June 1991 and the wars that followed. Particularly worrisome were the clashes in Croatia between Serbian paramilitary forces and Croatian police and the intervention of the Yugoslav Army in order to "keep the peace." Another element that worried the Bosnian government was the concentration of Yugoslav Army units in Bosnia and Herzegovina following their retreat first from Slovenia and then from Croatia. In October 1991, the Serbian Democratic Party held a plebiscite in the two-thirds of Bosnian territory under Serbian control and announced the establishment of a Serbian Republic inside Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In December 1991, the Bosnian Parliament passed a Declaration of Sovereignty and President Izetbegović submitted to the European Community an application for international recognition of Bosnia and Herzegovina as an independent nation. A referendum on independence was held on 29 February 1992. With the Serbs abstaining in opposition to the secession from Yugoslavia, Muslims and Croats approved an independent Bosnia and Herzegovina by a vote of 99.7%. In reaction to the referendum, Serbs proceeded to prepare for war in close cooperation with the Yugoslav army.

On 1 March 1992 in Sarajevo a Serbian wedding party was fired upon. This was the spark that ignited armed confrontations in Sarajevo and other areas of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Bosnian Serbs by late March of 1992, formally established their own "Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina." The international recognition of Bosnia and Herzegovina by the European Community and the United States (along with the recognition of Slovenia and Croatia) was issued on 6 April 1992. This action was viewed as another affront to the Serbs, and gave more impetus to Serbian determination to oppose the further splitting of Yugoslavia that would cause the final separation of Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina from Serbia proper. The bond among the Serbs of Croatia and Bosnia with the Serbian government controlled by Slobodan Milošević, and with the Yugoslav Army was firmly cemented. The decision of Serbia, along with the Serbs of Bosnia and Croatia, to take advantage of Yugoslavia's demise and try to unite Serbian territories in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina with Serbia proper precipitated the wars in Croatia first and then in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Desperate acts by Serbs engaged in "ethnic cleansing" (torching, and systematic rape and executions in imitation of the World War II Ustaša tactics) revolted the whole world and elicited retaliation by the initially allied Croats and Muslims.

War spread in Bosnia in mid-1992 with the relentless bombardment of Sarajevo by Serbs and the brutal use of "ethnic cleansing," primarily by Serbs intent on freeing the areas along the Drina River of Muslim inhabitants. Croats and Muslims retaliated in kind, if not in degree, while Serbs took over control of some 70% of the country and used concentration camps and raping of women as systematic terror tactics to achieve their "cleansing" goals. Croats kept control of western Herzegovina, while their Muslim allies tried to resist Serbian attacks on mostly Muslim cities and towns full of refugees exposed to shelling and starvation while the world watched in horror. The European Community, the United States, the UN, and NATO coordinated peacekeeping efforts, dangerous air deliveries to Sarajevo, airdrops of food and medicinal supplies to keep the people of Sarajevo from dying of starvation and sicknesses.

The various plans proposing the division of Bosnia and Herzegovina into three ethnic cantons were not acceptable to the winning Serbian side. The cantonization plans were also a partial cause for the breakdown of the Muslim-Croatian alliance when the two sides began fighting over areas of mixed Croat and Muslim populations. One such area was the city of Mostar in Herzegovina, where the Croats had established the Croatian union of "Herzeg-Bosnia," later named the state of Herzeg-Bosnia. Finally, under the threat of air strikes from NATO, the Serbs agreed to stop the shelling of Sarajevo and hand over (or remove) their heavy artillery by February 1994, so Sarajevo could get a respite from its bloody siege of several years. A truce was implemented by mid-February 1994 and was barely holding while continuing negotiations were taking place that, on US initiative, brought Croats and Muslims back together on a confederation plan accepted by the two sides and signed in Washington on 18 March 1994.

In July 1994, the EC, the United States, and Russia agreed on a partition plan giving the Croat-Muslim side 51% of the land, with 49% offered to the Bosnian Serbs who, holding 70%, would need to give up a large area under their control. As of the end of July 1994, the Bosnian Serbs' parliament had rejected the plan and had resumed occasional sniping and mortar shelling of Sarajevo, shooting at UN peacekeepers and supply airplanes, and blocking of the single access road to Sarajevo. After almost two-and-a-half years of war, destruction, and terrible suffering imposed on the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the efforts of the international community and its very cumbersome decision-making process had brought Bosnia and Herzegovina back to the partitioning plan originally agreed on at a Lisbon meeting in February 1992. In the fall of 1994, President Milošević of Serbia had closed the borders between Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina in order to stop any further assistance to the "Republika Srpska" that he himself helped establish. President Milošević agreed to "extricate" Serbia from its direct support for the Bosnian Serbs in the hope that a compromise partitioning plan that would allow each side to "confederate" with Croatia and Serbia respectively and would offer both sides the opportunity to turn their energies to positive efforts of physical and psychological reconstruction.

The quest to create a "Greater Serbia" continued into July 1995, when Bosnian Serbs overran the UN protected areas of Srebrenica and Zepa, extending their territory near the Croatian border. Over 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were summarily executed at Srebrenica. In retaliation, NATO forces initiated air raids on Bosnian Serb positions on 30 August 1995. Two weeks later, Bosnian Serb forces began lifting their siege on Sarajevo, and agreed to enter into negotiations on the future of Bosnia. Pressured by air strikes and diplomacy, Serb leaders joined authorities from Croatia and Bosnia in Dayton, Ohio, for US-sponsored peace talks.

The Dayton Accords

After three years of war, the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina was completed on 21 November 1995 in Dayton, Ohio. Signed in Paris in mid-December, the agreement called for 60,000 NATO peacekeepers to oversee the disarming process. The agreement, known as the Dayton Accords, provided for the continuity of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a single state with two constituent entities: the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBH) and the Republika Srpska (RS). The FBH occupies the 51% of the territory with a Bosniak (Muslim) and Croat majority, while the RS occupies the remaining 49% with a Bosnian Serb majority. Following the signing of the Dayton Accords, the UN economic sanctions against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Bosnian Serb party were suspended, and the arms embargo was lifted (except for heavy weapons). During 1996, the NATO-led Implementation Force assisted with the military aspects of the Dayton Accords to provide stability in order to facilitate civilian reconstruction and the return of refugees and displaced persons. Elections were scheduled and conducted on 11 September 1996.

In March 1996, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia filed its first charges against Serbian soldiers accused of committing atrocities in Bosnia. Among those cited were Serb generals Djordje Djukic and Ratko Mladic, and the former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic. In May 1997, the tribunal completed its first trial with a conviction of a Bosnian Serb police officer for murdering two Muslim policemen and the torture of Muslim civilians.

Casualty estimates from the war vary from as low as 25,000 to over 250,000 persons. Some three million people became refugees or internally displaced persons. About 320,000 Bosnians had taken refuge in Germany during the war. However, the refugees returned to find a significant housing shortage and massive unemployment. Moreover, the goals of the Dayton Accords to encourage the rebuilding of multi-ethnic communities have not been realized. Bosnian Serb and Bosnian Croat leaders continued to reinforce ethnic partitions and resisted cooperation with Bosniaks to carry out the peace agreement.

Despite the Dayton Accords, outbreaks of violence persisted. The legacy of centuries of confrontations by the Austro-Hungarian, Russian, and Turkish Empires in the Balkans continued to haunt the area and a rekindling of the conflict was almost inevitable. In June 1998 NATO peacekeeping forces decided to extend their stay until a more stable peace was achieved. General elections held in 1998 were relatively quiet, but tensions in the Kosovo region increased as Yugoslav forces attacked Kosovar rebels. In March 1999 NATO jets downed two Yugoslav MiG fighters, allegedly thwarting an attempted attack on peacekeeping forces. Fighting between Serbs and ethnic Albanians in Kosovo raged as NATO aircraft bombed the area. Russia attempted to pass a resolution in the UN Security Council to forbid further bombing runs by NATO warplanes, but failed. Violent conflicts dissipated through the next year, as the International Court of Justice furthered reparations for crimes, and Yugoslavia agreed to a peace plan on 3 June 1999.

Bosnia and Croatia signed a border agreement in July 1999. The strategically located city of Brčkopreviously Serb-ruled, and a main site of contention between the country's factionsreceived a Muslim-Croat/Serb coalition government in March 1999 from the Hague International Court of Justice. Officials from the Serb Republic were disturbed because this portion of land was the one territorial link between the western and eastern portions of the Republic. In 1999, NATO began reducing the 25-nation peacekeeping force by one-third over a period of six months. Mass gravesites continued to be unearthed in northeastern Bosnia, near Sarajevo and in Srebrenica as numerous war criminals were arrested and brought to trial at the Hague.

Municipal elections were held in March 2000, and general elections took place that November. The November elections resulted in a win for the Serbian nationalist Serb Democratic Party (SDS), formerly lead by Karadzic, in the Republika Srpska; the Croatian nationalist HDZ party won among ethnic Croat voters; but the reformist Social Democratic Party narrowly beat the Bosnian Muslim nationalist Party of Democratic Action (SDA) party in certain areas of the Federation. In May 2001, Bosnian Serbs used force to break up ceremonies marking the rebuilding of two destroyed mosques in Banja Luka and Trebinje.

Parliamentary, presidential, and municipal elections were held in October 2002, and nationalists strengthened their positions. The work of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia at The Hague continued. In 2001, former Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic surrendered to the tribunal, but pleaded not guilty to charges of genocide; however, in October 2002, she changed her plea to one of guilty of crimes against humanity, and was sentenced to 11 years in prison. In early 2001, a verdict against three Bosnian Serbs found guilty of torturing and raping Bosnian Muslim women marked the first time the tribunal called rape a crime against humanity. Later that year the tribunal found Bosnian Serb general Radislav Krstic guilty of genocide for his role in the massacre at Srebrenica; he was sentenced to 46 years in prison.

In May 1999, former Yugoslav President Milošević was indicted by the tribunal for war crimes committed in Kosovo; he was subsequently indicted for crimes committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, including charges of genocide carried out in Bosnia and Herzegovina from 199295. His trial began in February 2002. In December 2004, the NATO-led Stabilization Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina (SFOR), whose goal was to deter renewed hostilities, concluded its mission. Peacekeeping operations were taken up by the European Union Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina (EUFOR). In June 2005, a Bosnian armed unit with members from all three main ethnic groups left for Iraq, to support the US-led coalition at war there.


Several proposals contributed to the current system of government, which was outlined through the Dayton Accords of 1995. The February 1992 Lisbon proposal first suggested the partitioning of Bosnia and Herzegovina into "ethnic cantons," but was rejected by the Muslim side. The Vance-Owen proposal of early January 1993 dividing Bosnia and Herzegovina, still a unified state, into nine "ethnic majority" provinces with Sarajevo as a central weak government district was accepted by Croats and Muslims on 7 January 1993 and ratified on 20 January 1993 by the Bosnian Serbs' Parliament with a 55-to-15 vote in spite of deep misgivings. However, two key events delayed the necessary detailed implementation discussions: Croat forces' attacks on Muslims in Bosnia and Herzegovina and on Serbs in Croatia, and the new administration of US President Bill Clinton, from whom the Bosnian Muslims hoped to obtain stronger support, even military intervention. Thus by mid-March 1993, only the Croats had agreed to the three essential points of the Vance-Owen proposal, namely the Constitutional Principles (10 provinces), the Military Arrangements, and the detailed map of the 10 provinces. On 25 March 1993 the Bosnian Muslims agreed to all the terms, but the Bosnian Serb legislature on 2 April 1993 rejected the revised 10-province map and the Vance-Owen plan was scuttled.

The Owen-Stoltenberg plan was based on a June 1993 proposal in Geneva by Presidents Tudjman and Milošević about partitioning Bosnia and Herzegovina into three ethnic-based "states." Owen-Stoltenberg announced the new plan in August 1993 indicating that the three ethnic states were realistically based on the acceptance of Serbian and Croatian territorial "conquests." At the same time the Croat Bosnian "parliament" announced the establishment of the "State of Herzeg-Bosnia" and the Croatian Democratic Alliance withdrew its members from the Bosnian Parliament. The Bosnian Parliament then rejected the Owen-Stoltenberg Plan while seeking further negotiations on the Muslim state's territory and clarifications on the international status of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The next plan, developed with the more proactive participation of the United States and bringing together again the Croats and Muslims into a federation of their own, was signed in Washington on 18 March 1994 following the Sarajevo cease-fire of 17 March. On 31 March 1994 the Bosnian assembly in Sarajevo approved the new constitutional provisions establishing a Federation of Muslims and Croats with the presidency to alternate between Croats and Muslims. The Geneva contact group (United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia) agreed on a new partition plan in July 1994 that divided Bosnia and Herzegovina: 51% to the joint Muslim-Croat federation and 49% to the Serbs.

Under the Dayton Accords, a constitution for Bosnia and Herzegovina was established that recognized a single state with two constituent entities. The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBH) incorporated the 51% of the country with a Bosnian Muslim and Bosnian Croat majority, while the Republika Srpska (RS) occupied the 49% of the country with a Bosnian Serb majority. The constitution specified a central government with a bicameral legislature, a three-member presidency comprised of a member of each major ethnic group, a council of ministers, a constitutional court, and a central bank. The bicameral Parliamentary Assembly consists of a House of Peoples, with 15 delegates, and the House of Representatives, with 42 members. In each house, two-thirds of the representatives are from the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and one-third from the Republika Srpska.

As a result of the Dayton Accords, Bosnia and Herzegovina is administered in a supervisory role by a High Representative chosen by the UN Security Council. As of 2005, that representative was Paddy Ashdown.

Elections for central and federation-level canton offices were conducted on 14 September 1996 as specified by the Dayton Accords. Alija Izetbegović, Momcilo Krajisnik, and Kresimir Zubak were elected to the presidency representing respectively the Bosniaks (Muslims), Serbs, and Croats. Izetbegović was named Chair in accordance with the new constitution. Krajisnik, later accused of joining Karadzic in siphoning off million of dollars in potential tax revenue through gasoline and cigarette monopolies, boycotted the council after one meeting, paralyzing the government.

Izetbegović was reelected to the Muslim seat of the joint presidency in the September 1998 elections; Ante Jelavic won the Croat seat; and Zivko Radisic, the Serb seat. An eight-month chairpersonship rotates among the three joint presidents. Elections were held in 2002. Sulejman Tihić won the Muslim seat; Dragan Cović, the Croat seat; and Mirko Sarović, the Serb seat. In April 2003, Sarović resigned following a report by Western intelligence agencies regarding an affair involving illegal military exports to Iraq and allegations of spying on international officials. He was replaced by Borislav Paravac. In March 2005, High Representative Paddy Ashdown removed Dragan Cović from the presidency, who faced corruption charges. He was replaced by Ivo Miro Jović.

The FBH government has a president and a bicameral parliament (House of Representatives and House of Peoples). The RS government has a president and a unicameral legislature (National Assembly). As a result of a 2002 constitutional reform process, an RS Council of Peoples was established in the RS National Assembly. In 2003, High Representative Paddy Ashdown abolished the Supreme Defense Council of the RS, and altered the constitutions of the RS and FBH, removing all reference to statehood from both.


Three main political parties wield significant political power at all levels of government. The Serb Democratic Party (SDS) dominates the Republika Srpska, the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) is the main Bosniak (Muslim) nationalist party, and the Croatian Democratic Union of Bosnia and Herzegovina (HDZ) represents Croat areas. However, a reformist party, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the FBH is gaining in popularity. Other parties include: Party for Bosnia and Herzegovina (SBIH); Civic Democratic Party (GDS); Croatian Peasants' Party of BIH (HSS); Croat Christian Democratic Union of Bosnia and Herzegovina (HKDU); Croat Party of Rights (HSP); Independent Social Democratic Party (SNSD); Liberal Bosniak Organization (LBO); Liberal Party (LS); Muslim-Bosniak Organization (MBO); Republican Party of Bosnia and Herzegovina (RP); Serb Civic Council (SGV); Socialist Party of Republika Srpska (SPRS); Serb Radical Party (SRS); Democratic Socialist Party (DSP); Social Democrats of Bosnia Herzegovina; Party for Democratic Progress (PDP); National Democratic Union (DNZ); Social Democratic Union (SDU): Serb National Alliance (SNS); and the Coalition for a United and Democratic BIH (coalition of SDA, SBIH, LS, and GDS). Parliamentary elections were held on 5 October 2002, and seats in the House of Representatives were distributed as follows: SDA, 10 seats; the SBiH, 6 seats; the SDS, 5 seats; HDZ, 5 seats; the SDP, 4 seats; the SNSD, 3 seats; the PDP, 2 seats; and 6 other parties took 1 seat each.


Bosnia and Herzegovina is divided into the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBH) and the Republika Srpska (RS). The FBH is further divided into 10 cantons: Goražde, Livno, Middle Bosnia, Neretva, Posavina, Sarajevo, Tuzla Podrinje, Una Sana, West Herzegovina, and Zenica Doboj. There are also municipal governments. Brčko district, in northeastern Bosnia, is an administrative unit under the sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina; it is not part of either the RS or the FBH, and the district remains under international supervision.


The 1995 Dayton Accords established a constitution including a Constitutional Court composed of nine members. The Constitutional Court's original jurisdiction lies in deciding any constitutional dispute that arises between the FBH and the RS or between Bosnia and Herzegovina and one or both of the FBH and the RS. The Court also has appellate jurisdiction within the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, although it is subject to influence by nationalist elements, political parties, and the executive branch. Original court jurisdiction exists in both municipal and cantonal courts (10 in the FBH); the RS has 5 municipal courts and district courts. Appeals in the FBH are taken to the Federation Supreme Court, and in the RS to the RS Supreme Court. The constitution provides for open and public trials. The legal system is based on civil law system.


As of 2005, the armed forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) consisted of 24,672 active personnel, of which the army is the largest service with 16,400. However, the country is composed of two political entities: the Muslim and Croat-based Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Serb-based Republika Srpska. As a result, the country's armed forces, as well as its equipment, are divided between the two entities. In December 2003, the Bosnian parliament passed a law that established a chain of command that went from the State Presidency to the Ministry of Defense, then to the Joint Staff, then to a joint Operational Command, and from there, down to the armed forces of each entity. In 2005, the Federation Army (excluding 40,000 reservists) had 16,400 active personnel, supported by 188 main battle tanks, 35 armored infantry fighting vehicles, 129 armored personnel carriers, and more than 946 artillery pieces. The Army of the Republika Srpska had 8,200 active personnel and 20,000 reservists. Equipment included 137 main battle tanks, 74 armored infantry fighting vehicles, 74 armored personnel carriers, and 500 artillery pieces. The (Serb) air wing includes 14 combat capable aircraft, of which there are 13 fighter ground attack aircraft. Under the Dayton Peace Accord (1995) and the Common Defence Policy (2001) the armed forces are being reduced. Defense spending in 2005 totaled $143 million.


Bosnia and Herzegovina was admitted to the United Nations on 22 May 1992 and serves in several specialized agencies, such as the FAO, IAEA, UNESCO, UNIDO, and WHO. The country is an observer in the WTO. Bosnia and Herzegovina joined the OSCE on 30 April 1992. The country is also a member of G-77, the Council of Europe, the Southeast Europe Cooperation Initiative (SECI), and the Central European Initiative. Bosnia and Herzegovina is an observer in the OAS and the OIC. The country is part of the Nonaligned Movement and has supported UN efforts in Ethiopia and Eritrea (est. 2000) and the DROC (est. 1999). Diplomatic relations with Croatia, Albania, and Serbia and Montenegro have been stable since the signing of Dayton Accords (1995). In environmental cooperation, Bosnia and Herzegovina is part of the Basel Convention, the Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution, Ramsar, the Montréal Protocol, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and the UN Convention son the Law of the Sea and Climate Change.


Before the war, Bosnia and Herzegovina ranked next to Macedonia as the poorest republic of the former Yugoslav SFR. Although industry accounted for over 50% of GDP, Bosnia and Herzegovina was primarily agricultural. Farms were small and inefficient, thus necessitating food imports. Industry was greatly overstaffed, with Bosnia and Herzegovina accounting for much of the former Yugoslav SFR's metallic ore and coal production. Timber production and textiles also were important.

The destructive impact of the war on the economy led to a 75% drop in GDP. Since the Dayton Accords of 1995, trade increased in Croat areas, and significant growth began in Muslim areas. Reconstruction programs initiated by the international community financed the construction of infrastructure and provided loans to the manufacturing sector. External aid amounted to $5 billion between 199599. This aid caused growth rates to increase to 30%, but as of 2003, that rate had stabilized to around 6%. Actual GDP growth by that year had reached half its prewar level.

Privatization has been slow and Western financial organizations are increasing calls for reform in this area, especially in telecommunications and energy. (The private sector accounts for only 35% of the economy.) Foreign direct investment remains low, due in part to corruption and many layers of bureaucracy. Tax reform is needed, as is reform of the banking industry and the financial services sector. In 2002, the government adopted a poverty reduction strategy designed to create more jobs and increase exports. As foreign aid declines in coming years, Bosnia and Herzegovina will need to increase exports to generate hard currency revenues. Some progress was made in this area in 2001 with exports of clothing, furniture, and leather goods.

The economic rate of recovery has been spectacular and encouraging in subsequent years. Thus, the GDP growth rate improved from 5.6% in 2002, to 7.0% in 2003, and 8.3% in 2004; it was expected to grow even further, at 9.5%, in 2005. Unemployment, similar to most former Yugoslav republics, save Slovenia, remains a major problem. In 2004, the unemployment rate was 44%, although many of the officially jobless are thought to be working within the grey economy. Inflation has decreased to insignificant levels (0.8% in 2004), and it may pose a problem to the country's export sector.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Bosnia and Herzegovina's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $28.3 billion. Bosnia has a large informal sector that could also be as much as 50% of official GDP. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $6,800. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 5.2%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 1.4%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 14.2% of GDP, industry 30.8%, and services 55%.

According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $1.178 billion or about $307 per capita and accounted for approximately 16.9% of GDP. Foreign aid receipts amounted to about $130 per capita.

The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Bosnia and Herzegovina totaled $6.4 billion or about $1,670 per capita based on a GDP of $7.0 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings.

It was estimated that in 2004 about 25% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.


The labor force in 2002 numbered 1.026 million. As of end 2004, the official unemployment rate stood at an estimated 45.5%. However, the actual unemployment rate may be between 25% and 30%, due to the so-called "gray economy." There is no data available as to the occupational breakdown of the Bosnian work force.

All workers are legally entitled to form or join unions and to strike, but labor activity is limited due to high unemployment rates and economic hardship. Unions are highly politicized and are formed along ethnic lines. Strikes were used frequently in 2001 as a form of protest against arrears in salaries and overdue wages.

The minimum employment age in the Bosnian-Croat Federation and the Republika Srpska entities is 15. However, many younger children often assist with family agricultural work and minors between the ages of 15 and 18, in order to work, must provide a valid health certificate. As of 2005, the minimum wage was $193 per month in the Federation and $51 in Republika Srpska. The legal workweek in both entities is 40 hours, although seasonal workers may work up to 60 hours per week. Laws in both entities require a 30-minute rest period during the work day. Safety and health regulations are generally ignored due to the economic devastation of war.


About 21.3% (1,030,000 hectares/2,545,000 acres) of the total area was considered arable land in 2002. About 4% of the economically active population was engaged in agriculture in 2003. During the disintegration of Yugoslavia, civil fighting in the major agricultural areas often interrupted harvests and caused considerable loss of field crops. Principal crops harvested in 2004 included (in 1,000 tons): corn, 800; wheat, 250; potatoes, 350; fruit, 157; oats, 55; and rye, 12.


There are some 1.2 million hectares (three million acres) of permanent pastureland, representing about 23.5% of the total land area. Because of the breakup of Yugoslavia and subsequent civil war, the livestock population fell significantly during the 1990s. In 2004, the livestock inventory included (in 1,000s): sheep, 670; cattle, 440; pigs, 300; horses, 18; and chickens, 4,700.

Production of meat fell from 158,000 tons in 1990 to 24,000 tons in 1999, and amounted to 32,300 tons in 2004. In 2004, milk production was 460,000 tons; egg production was 15,100 tons during that time.


With no ports on its 20 km (12 mi) of Adriatic coastline, marine fishing is not commercially significant. Inland fishing occurs on the Sava, Una, and Drina Rivers. The total catch in 2003 was 8,635 tons, 77% from inland waters.


About 2.7 million hectares (6.7 million acres) are forested, accounting for nearly 53% of the total land area. Much of the output is used for fuel. In 2003, forest product imports totaled $24 million; exports, $65.3 million.


Bosnia and Herzegovina's mineral resources include iron ore, lead, zinc, manganese, and bauxite. Iron ore production was centered in Varescaron, Jablanica, Ljubija, and Radovan; lead and zinc ore was mined at Olovo, Varescaron, and Srebrenica; manganese ore operations were centered at Bosanska Krupa; bauxite deposits were worked at Vlasenica, Zvornik, and Banja Luka; substantial nickel deposits had been worked near Visegrad; and substantial nickel deposits had been worked near Visegrad. Energoinvest operated a lead-zinc mine at Srebrenica, a manganese mine at Buzim, bauxite mines in many locations, alumina plants at Birac-Zvornik and Mostar, an aluminum smelter at Mostar, and a petroleum refinery at Bosanski Brod. Before the civil war, Bosnia and Herzegovina was a major center for metallurgical industries in the former Yugoslavia and a major producer of bauxite, alumina, and aluminum. Mineral production in 2003 were, in metric tons: iron ore, 126,929; bauxite, 229,317; lead, (none reported for 2003); zinc, (none reported for 2003); salt, 84,000; crude gypsum, 77,500; ceramic clay, 35,861; and ornamental stone, 35,800 sq m. Other nonfuel mineral resources included asbestos, barite, bentonite, kaolin, lime, magnesite, ammonia nitrogen, glass sand, sand and gravel, soda ash, caustic soda, and crushed and brown stone. Capacity utilization in industrial minerals mining has fallen and modernization and privatization were essential for long-term viability.


As of 2002, total electrical capacity was 3.950 million kW. Generation for that year amounted to 10.401 billion kWh, of which 5.215 billion kWh was hydroelectric and 5.186 billion kWh were produced by conventional thermal plants. Electrical generation was irregular during the civil conflict of the early to mid-1990s. Total electricity consumption in 2000 was 2.6 billion kWh. In 2002, consumption had risen to 8.559 billion kWh.

Brown coal and lignite mines are located around Tuzla. Coal production is consumed primarily by the country's thermal electric power stations. A petroleum refinery at Bosanski Brod reportedly had an annual capacity of 100 million tons in 1995, and depends entirely on imports; however, the refinery was extensively damaged in April 1993 during local fighting.


Mining and mining-related activities make up the bulk of Bosnia and Herzegovina's industry. Steel production, vehicle assembly, textiles, tobacco products, wooden furniture, and domestic appliances are also important industries. Industrial capacity, largely damaged or shut down in 1995 because of the civil war, has increased. In 1998, industrial production grew an estimated 35%. Nevertheless, this figure remains lower than the pre-1992 rate, and in 2001, output stood only about half its prewar level. In the Republika Srpska, the Serb Democratic Party controls every significant production facility, government department, and state institution. Privatization began in 1999, but as of 2001, only 7 of 138 strategic enterprises had been sold. Large gains were made in the export of clothing, furniture, and leather goods in 2001. The construction sector in 2002 held promise for growth, as projects to improve infrastructure were underway.

Industrial production growth in 2004 was outpaced by the GDP growth rate, reaching only 5.5%, as opposed to 8.3%. This is an indicator that industry was outperformed by the services sector, which contributed 55% to the overall GDP; industry came in second with a 30.8% share in the GDP composition; agriculture contributed 14.2%. The industrial output growth seemed to recover in 2005, with strong performances by the manufacturing and mining sectors.


Scientific and engineering education is provided at the universities of Sarajevo, Banja Luka, and Tuzla (founded in 1948, 1975, and 1976, respectively). The Institute for Thermal and Nuclear Technology, founded in 1961, is located in Sarajevo. Leading professional groups include the Society of Mathematicians, Physicists and Astronomers, the Union of Engineers and Technicians, and the Medical Society of Bosnia and Herzegovina, all headquartered in Sarajevo.


Bosnia and Herzegovina is still struggling with efforts to move from socialism to private sector, market-led capitalism. Commerce has been severely restricted by the ongoing interethnic civil strife. In the Bosnian Serb area, senior police commanders and officials in the governing Serb Democratic Party have a monopoly on cigarette and gasoline sales. Retail establishments tend to be very small with limited inventories; however, some large shopping centers are gaining ground. Direct marketing and sales are also gaining in popularity. Installment plans and financing, even for very low cost items, is common, since credit is not widely available or accepted.

Though postwar reconstruction is nearly complete, as of 2002, the country's economy still depended heavily on foreign aid. With the establishment of the Central Bank and currency board in 1997, inflation has since been brought under control; however, unemployment is still high, at about 40% in 2002. As of 2002, the private sector only accounts for about 35% of the economy.


Due to the UN trade embargo, international trade with Bosnia and Herzegovina was limited during the civil war. In 2000, exports amounted to nearly $1 billion, up from less than $400 million in 1998. Clothing, furniture, and leather goods led this upswing in export revenues. Exports went mainly to Italy, Yugoslavia, and Switzerland. Imports in 2000 totaled $3.6 billion, with Croatia, Italy,

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 1,027.5 3,311.9 -2,284.4
Croatia 208.2 642.6 -434.4
Germany 191.7 476.0 -284.3
Italy-San Marino-Holy See 144.5 354.4 -209.9
Switzerland-Liechtenstein 124.6 68.3 56.3
Slovenia 109.1 347.5 -238.4
Serbia and Montenegro 92.3 64.4 27.9
Austria 40.8 150.3 -109.5
France-Monaco 10.6 66.5 -55.9
Luxembourg 10.2 10.2
Macedonia 9.4 13.5 -4.1
() data not available or not significant.

and Slovenia supplying 21%, 16%, and 14% of the total value, respectively.

Before the war, manufactured goods accounted for 31% of exports; machinery and transport equipment, 20.8%; raw materials, 18%; other manufactured products, 17.3%; chemicals, 9.4%; fuel and lubricants, 1.2%; and food and live animals, 1.2%. Fuels and lubricants made up 32% of annual imports before the war; machinery and transport equipment, 23.3%; other manufactured items, 21.3%; chemicals, 10%; raw materials, 6.7%; food and live animals, 5.5%; and beverages and tobacco, 1.9%.

Exports totaled $1.7 billion (FOBFree on Board) in 2004, and mainly went to Italy (22.3%), Croatia (21.1%), Germany (20.8%), Austria (7.4%), Slovenia (7.1%), and Hungary (4.8%). Base metals topped the list of exports, with 24.9% of total exports; followed by wood and wood products (15.2%); mineral products (11.8%); and chemicals (7.5%). Imports were more than three times as high as exports, at $5.2 billion, and mainly came from Croatia (23.8%), Slovenia (15.8%), Germany (14.8%), Italy (11.4%), Austria (6.6%), and Hungary (6.1%). The most import import commodities were machinery (15.5%), mineral products (12.7%), foodstuffs (11.7%), and chemicals (9.4%).


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reported that in 2001 the purchasing power parity of Bosnia and Herzegovina's exports was $1.1 billion while imports totaled $3.1 billion resulting in a trade deficit of $2 billion. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2001 Bosnia and Herzegovina had exports of goods totaling $1.17 billion and imports totaling $3.92 billion. The services credit totaled $288 million and debit $228 million. Although Bosnia and Herzegovina runs large trade deficits, due to low domestic production, the gap between imports and exports in the early 2000s was narrowing steadily. Export growth in 2001 was fueled by duty-free access of Bosnian exports to the EU.

Exports of goods and services totaled $2.1 billion (FOBFree on Board) in 2004, up from $1.5 billion in 2003. Imports grew from $5.6 billion in 2003, to $6.7 billion in 2004. The resource balance was on a negative upsurge, growing from -$4.1 billion in 2003, to a whopping -$4.6 billion in 2004. A similar trend was registered for the current account balance, which deteriorated from

Current Account -2,096.0
    Balance on goods -3,927.9
      Imports -5,425.9
      Exports 1,498.0
    Balance on services 190.7
    Balance on income 242.7
    Current transfers 1,398.6
Capital Account 478.8
Financial Account 931.9
    Direct investment abroad
    Direct investment in Bosnia and Herzegovina 381.8
    Portfolio investment assets
    Portfolio investment liabilities
    Financial derivatives
    Other investment assets 135.9
    Other investment liabilities 414.2
Net Errors and Omissions 414.9
Reserves and Related Items 270.4
() data not available or not significant.

-$1.7 billion in 2003, to -$1.9 billion in 2004. The national reserves (including gold) were $1.8 billion in 2003, covering approximately 4 months of imports; in 2004, they grew to $2.4 billion.


The central bank of Bosnia and Herzegovina is the National Bank of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In June 1992 Yugoslavia's central bank refused to issue Yugoslavian dinars in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Commercial banks in the country include Privredna Banka Sarajevo, Hrvatsk A Banka d.d. Mostar, and Investiciono-Komercijalua Banka d.d. Zenica.

In 1996, Croatian dinars were used in Croat-held areas for currency, presumably to be replaced by new Croatian kuna. Old and new Serbian dinars were used in Serb-held areas. Hard currencies, such as the deutschmark, supplanted local currencies in areas held by the Bosnian government. In April 1997 the presidential council agreed on a single currency, the konvertibilni marka (KM), for both the Muslim/Croat and Bosnian Serb parts of the country.

Bank privatization is problematic, but improving. Some of the state-owned banks targeted for privatization were actually privatized during the war. Many are considered insolvent, but in 2001, individual bank deposits in Federation banks were up 178%. The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $1.3 billion. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $2.2 billion.


No recent information is available.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Bosnia and Herzegovina's central government took in revenues of approximately $4.3 billion and had expenditures of $4.4 billion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$28 million. Total external debt was $3.1 billion.


Current information is unavailable due to civil unrest.


Bosnia has signed free trade agreements with Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro, and Slovenia. Tariff rates for imports from other countries are zero, 5% or 10%, depending on the good, with consumption and luxury goods generally receiving the higher rates.


Private investment plummeted during the civil war, when UN sanctions were in force. The conclusion of the Dayton Peace Accords in 1995 brought positive changes in the investment climate. In May 1998, a law on foreign direct investment (FDI) was passed and in June 1998, a law on privatization. While privatization of small and medium enterprises made good progress, the state of larger strategic firms has progressed more slowly. As of spring 2002, only 7 of 138 large state-owned enterprises had been sold and only 35% of the economy had been privatized. The largest foreign sale was the Zenica Steel Mill, which became the BH Steel Company in a joint venture with Kuwait Consulting and Investment Company (KCIC) in which both sides put up $60 million (KCIC paid $12 million in 1999 and took over $48 million of debt).

In 1997, only $1 million of FDI flowed into Bosnia and Herzegovina, but this jumped to $54.6 million in 1998 and then to $148.8 million in 1999. A decline occurred in 2001 to $131.5 million (when riots broke out in two Republika Srpska towns over the rebuilding of mosques), but the numbers recovered to $164 million. The overwhelming majority of foreign investment into Bosnia and Herzegovina comes from aid groups and international financial institutions.

From 1994 to 2002, over half (55.5%) of FDI was in manufacturing, thanks primarily to the BH Steel Company venture. Banking has received 16.5% (mainly from Dubai, Austria, and Croatia); services, 6.8%; trade, 6.2%; transport, 0.9%; and tourism, 0.7%.

Previous years have seen Bosnia and Herzegovina take on major changes in an attempt to attract foreign investors. A liberal State Foreign Investment Policy Law, a common currency, and a more streamlined trade and customs policy were some of the most noteworthy attempts to increase capital inflows. However, these efforts failed to bring about the desired resultan indicator that more changes of the legal framework and business environment have to be undertaken. Foreign investments totaled around $1.9 billion in 2003. In the first nine months of 2004, $367 million in FDI came into the country, with 60% of these inflows going to the banking sector.


Following the 1995 peace agreement, economic assistance was expected to lay the groundwork for a revival of the economy. The actual distribution of assistance to particular entities or areas was tied to the government's compliance with the Dayton Accords. Into 2005, privatization and reconstruction were ongoing. The absence of a single market in Bosnia and Herzegovina is an obstacle to economic development, as is the lack of legal certainty and a high degree of bureaucratization. A central bank was established in 1997, and a new currency launched in 1998. Successful debt negotiations have been held with the London Club and the Paris Club.

In 2004, Bosnia and Herzegovina scored an important increase in economic output, but the GDP was still below prewar levels. Apart from a series of systemic and political problems, the country has to fight rampant unemployment, a large underground economy, and an inflation level that was not helping the already low export levels. However, one of Bosnia's long-term goals is EU integration. A series of planned privatizations and restructurings in the energy, transportation, telecommunication, and construction sectors were expected to jump-start the economy and create a circle of cumulative causations that will attract future investments in the future.


Social welfare systems have been in crisis since the wars of the 1990s. International efforts are in place to shift from humanitarian aid to a sustainable social welfare system. There is also an effort to reformulate disability pensions.

Although gender discrimination is proscribed by the 2003 Law on Gender Equality, the extent of legal and social discrimination against women varies by region. Women in urban areas pursue professional careers in such areas as law, medicine, and academia, while their rural counterparts are often relegated to the margins of public life. Violence against women remains underreported and there are accounts of police inaction in domestic situations. It was estimated in 2004 that over 25% of families experiences domestic violence. The problem is more significant in rural areas, and is exacerbated by poverty and alcoholism. Trafficking of women remains a major problem in the region.

All sides were guilty of human rights atrocities in the war and its aftermath. By 1995, it was estimated that up to two-thirds of the country's prewar population have become refugees or displaced persons. Women were targeted for cruel treatment during the war, and Serb forces systematically used rape as a tool to accelerate ethnic cleansing. The worst single incident of genocide in Europe since World War II occurred in the Bosnian "safe haven" of Srebrenica in 1995. Over 7,000 men and boys were massacred at Srebrenica. As of 2005, many if not most of the perpetrators of these vicious acts remain unpunished.

Human rights abuses have continued in the political entities established by the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords. Discrimination and harassment of minority ethnic groups remain a huge problem in all regions. There are widespread reports of police brutality and corruption, and prison standards are poor. However, human rights groups are able to operate without government restrictions.


There were over 200,000 war-related deaths in the 1990s (120,000 in 1992 alone) and many Bosnians were permanently disabled. Besides causing hundreds of thousands of deaths and injuries, the Bosnian war destroyed much of the health care infrastructure. Many hospitals were destroyed and infant mortality rates increased.

In 2005, the average life expectancy was 78 years. The infant mortality rate was 11 deaths per 1,000 live births in that year. In 2002 the birth rate was estimated at 13 per 1,000 people and the death rate was 8 per 1,000. In 1999, an estimated 83% of children under one had a measles vaccination and 90% of children were immunized for diphtheria. In 1999, there were 87 cases of tuberculosis per 100,000 people.

Salaries for health care providers are low, and medical equipment is outdated. As of 2004, there were an estimated 134 physicians, 411 nurses, 16 dentists, and 9 pharmacists per 100,000 people. Primary care is provided through health centers (dom zdravlyas ) and outpatient branches called ambulantas. As of 1999 there were 87 dom zdravlyas in the Bosnian Federation, staffed by general practitioners and nurses, providing primary care, preventive care, health education, and rehabilitation. Among the secondary and tertiary care facilities in the Republika Srpska is one in Banja Luka that has 1,327 beds and one in Sarajevo with 776 beds. The country has five medical schools. Health expenditure was estimated at 8% of GDP.

The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 0.10 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 900 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 100 deaths from AIDS in 2003.


There is a chronic housing shortage in Bosnia and Herzegovina, since a majority of all homes, and even a few entire towns, were destroyed during the civil war in the period 19921995. Over two million people were forced from their homes during that time and about 65% of the housing stock was destroyed or seriously damaged. Since 1998, over 100,000 housing units have been repaired in some way, but many existing homes are still in serious need of repair and utilities are not always available. With the help of international assistance programs, only about half of the nation's refugees and displaced residents were able to return to their homes by 2001.


Before the Bosnian war of the early 1990s, the area covered by present-day Bosnia and Herzegovina had 641 primary and 243 secondary schools. By 1996, these totals had been reduced to 270 primary and 141 secondary schools. There were fewer than 200,000 primary pupils, taught by 8,000 teachers, and 65,500 secondary students, with 4,100 teachers.

Education at the elementary level is free and compulsory for students between the ages of 6 and 15. At the secondary level, children have the option to take up general education (gymnasium), vocational, or technical. General secondary lasts for four years and qualifies the students for university education. In 2001 the government began a modernization program for primary and secondary education, covering curriculum, special needs education, in-service teacher training, and other areas. The academic year runs from October to July. The languages of instructions are Croatian and Serbian. Education is administered by the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sports. Each of the country's 10 cantons also has its own education ministry.

There are four main universities: the University of Banja Luka (founded in 1975); the University of Mostar (founded in 1977); the University of Tuzla (founded in 1976); and the University of Sarajevo (founded in 1949), which offers programs in the social sciences, humanities, sciences, medicine, law, and engineering. Several other academies have been founded throughout the country since 1993. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 95.6%, with 98.4% for males and 91.1% for females.


Numerous historic sites have been damaged by war, including the National and University Library of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which sustained major damage and a large loss of materials in a 1992 bombing. Outside groups, such as UNESCO, have since been working to rebuild the National Library. In Banja Luka, there is an important university and public library founded in 1936, and holding 226,000 volumes with an impressive collection of Eastern manuscripts. The University of Sarajevo also housed an impressive library, but it was badly damaged during the civil war. The National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina has a library with 162,000 volumes.

Prior to the 1992 war, Sarajevo was a major cultural center in the Balkans. It still hosts nearly a dozen museums, including the Museum of the Old Orthodox Church, the Museum of Young Bosnia, the State Museum, and the Museum of the City of Sarajevo, as well as Bosnia's National Museum. In the provinces are the Museum of the National Struggle for Liberation in Jajce and the Museum of Herzegovina in Mostar.


In general, the telephone and telegraph network is in need of modernization and expansion. Service in many urban centers is said to be below the level of other former Yugoslav republics. In 2003, there were an estimated 245 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were approximately 274 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.

There are over 200 commercial radio and television stations, but the most influential stations are those operated by the Public Broadcasting Service of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serb Republic Radio-TV. In 2003, there were an estimated 243 radios for every 1,000 people. The number of television sets in use was unavailable in the same survey. Also in 2003, about 26 of every 1,000 people reported having access to the Internet. There were 15 secure Internet servers in the country in 2004.

In Sarajevo, the daily newspaper Oslobodjenje (Liberation ) managed to publish continuously throughout the siege of that city despite power and phone line outages, newsprint shortages, and direct attacks on its offices. Founded in 1943 as a Nazi resistance publication, Oslobodjenje, which is published in Serbo-Croatian, had a circulation of 56,000 in 2002. In 1993, two of its editors received international recognition from the World Press Review.

The constitution signed in Dayton, Ohio, on 21 November 1995, provides for freedom of speech and the press. However, the extreme ethnic segregation in various regions is reported to put the media in each area under considerable regional restrictions. The development of independent media is beginning to be implemented, through the sponsorship of private organizations, cultural societies, and political parties, along with Western aid organizations.


The Bosnia and Herzegovina Chamber of Commerce promotes trade and commerce in world markets. There are some professional associations, particularly those representing medical professionals in specialized fields.

There are over a dozen learned societies in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Research institutions in the country are concentrated in the areas of nuclear technology, meteorology, historical monument preservation, and language.

Youth organizations include the Student Union of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Council of Scout Associations. There are a number of sports associations, including those dedicated to such favorite pastimes as tennis, skating, and handball. There is also an active committee of the Special Olympics.

There is a national chapter of UNICEF and the Red Cross Society. Volunteer service organizations, such as the Lions Clubs International, are also present.


Civil war has limited the development of a tourism industry in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Sarajevo, the capital city, is growing as a tourist attraction. The city was the site of the 1984 Winter Olympics. In 2003, there were about 165,000 tourist arrivals. Tourist receipts totaled $258 million.

According to the US Department of State, the cost of staying in Sarajevo in 2005 was about $172 per day.


Dr. Alija Izetbegović (19252003) was the president of Bosnia and Herzegovina from 199196, and was a member of the threeman presidency from 19962000 until he stepped down due to ill heath. Dzemd Bijedic (19171977) was a leader of Yugoslavia from 1971 until 1977, when he was killed in a plane crash. The 1914 assassination of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo led to WW I.


Bosnia and Herzegovina has no territories or colonies.


Allen, Beverly. Rape Warfare: The Hidden Genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996.

Andjelic, Neven. Bosnia-Herzegovina: The End of a Legacy. London: Frank Cass, 2003.

Bose, Sumantra. Bosnia after Dayton: Nationalist Partition and International Intervention. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Cousens, Elizabeth M. Toward Peace in Bosnia: Implementing the Dayton Accords. Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner, 2001.

Cuvalo, Ante. Historical Dictionary of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow, 1997.

Doubt, Keith. Sociology after Bosnia and Kosovo: Recovering Justice. Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield, 2000.

Filipovic, Zlata. Zlata's Diary: A Child's Life in Sarajevo. New York: Viking, 1994.

Frucht, Richard (ed.). Eastern Europe: An Introduction to the People, Lands, and Culture. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 2005.

Jones, Lynne. Then They Started Shooting: Growing Up in Wartime Bosnia. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2004.

King, David C. Bosnia and Herzegovina. New York: Marshall Cavendish Benchmark, 2005.

Lovrenovic, Ivan. Bosnia: A Cultural History. New York: New York University Press, 2001.

Mahmutcehajic, Rusmir. Bosnia the Good: Tolerance and Tradition. New York: Central European University Press, 2000.

McElrath, Karen (ed.). HIV and AIDS: A Global View. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2002.

Pinson, Mark (ed.) The Muslims of Bosnia-Herzegovina: Their Historic Development from the Middle Ages to the Dissolution of Yugoslavia. 2nd ed., Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1996.

Pejanovic, Mirko. Through Bosnian Eyes: The Political Memoir of a Bosnian Serb. West Lafayette, Ind.: Purdue University Press, 2004.

Sacco, Joe. War's End: Profiles from Bosnia, 19951996. Montréal: Drawn and Quarterly, 2005.

Schuman, Michael. Bosnia and Herzegovina. New York: Facts On File, 2004.

Terry, Sara. Aftermath: Bosnia's Long Road to Peace. New York: Channel Photographics, 2005.

Velikonja, Mitja. Religious Separation and Political Intolerance in Bosnia-Herzegovina. College Station, Tex.: Texas A and M University Press, 2003.

Yugoslavia, the Former and Future: Reflections by Scholars from the Region. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1995.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Bosnia and Herzegovina." Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations. . 23 Jul. 2018 <>.

"Bosnia and Herzegovina." Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations. . (July 23, 2018).

"Bosnia and Herzegovina." Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations. . Retrieved July 23, 2018 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Basic Data
Official Country Name: Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina
Region: Europe
Population: 3,835,777
Language(s): Croatian, Serbian, Bosnian
Literacy Rate: NA

History & Background

Bosnia and Herzegovina (Bosna i Hercegovina, designated here as BiH), once a culturally rich jewel of the Balkan republics in the former Yugoslavia, suffered dramatically during the 1990s from a tragic civil war involving its three main ethnic groupsSerbs, Bosnian Muslims ("Bosniacs"), and Croats. The war impacted all aspects of Bosnian society and dramatically reduced the material and social quality of life in the country. Similarly, the war reshaped the percentages and numbers of ethnic minorities living in the country as well as the personal and professional relationships between members of various ethnic groups. In 1991 approximately 31 percent of the Bosnian population was Serb, 17 percent was Croat, and 44 percent was Bosniac, with 5.5 percent of the population considering themselves "Yugoslav" and 2.5 percent belonging to other ethnic minorities such as Roma/Sinti and Jews. About 27 percent of marriages were "mixed" across ethnic lines in 1991, and Bosnia and Herzegovina was well known for the compatible ethnic blending of the inhabitants in many of its towns and villages. Following the radical social, economic, and political transformations that occurred throughout Eastern Europe in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the break-up of the Soviet Union in August of 1991, and a build-up of ethnic tensions in Yugoslavia (a six republic federation created by outside powers in 1918 at the end of the first World War), Bosnia and Herzegovina declared its independence from Yugoslavia in October 1991. By 1992 BiH was engulfed in a genocidal civil war, with significant outside military intervention from the Serbian army of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

Heavy shelling and violent attacks by the three warring sides destroyed the people, land, and social infrastructure of BiH, including the education system, between March 1992 and October 1995. Violence subsided only with a ceasefire declared in October 1995 when representatives from the three warring sides (Bosnian Muslims, Croats, and Serbs) met in Dayton, Ohio to develop a peace accord. This peace agreement, known officially as the "General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina" (unofficially, as the "Comprehensive Peace Agreement" or "Dayton Accords") was signed in Paris in December 1995. A freshly written Constitution for BiH was annexed to the peace agreement.

The Constitution developed as part of the Dayton Accords detailed a complete restructuring of the government of BiH, with Bosnia and Herzegovina to be kept intact as a single country with internationally recognized exterior boundaries equivalent to those standing before the war and the internal boundaries significantly realigned. The Dayton agreement recognized 51 percent of the territory of BiH as belonging to the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Federacija Bosna i Hercegovina, designated here as FBH), whose population is mainly Bosnian Muslim or Croat, and 49 percent of BiH as belonging to the Serbian Republic (Republika Srpska, designated here as RS), where the majority of the population is Serbian. ("Herzegovina" refers to a region just south of the country's border with Croatia in northern BiH where the majority of the population is Croat.) In addition to the two Entities, the northeastern Bosnian town of Brcko was demilitarized in March 2000 and is now recognized as a self-governing administrative unit under the jurisdiction of the national state, neither part of FBH nor of RS.

Each of the two sub-national territories, FBH and RS, is known as an "Entity," with Bosnia and Herzegovina itself considered a single, unified national state. In turn, the Federation (i.e., the Muslim/Croat majority Entity) is subdivided into ten Cantons where political power is relatively decentralized for many government functions. The Serb Republic is not subdivided. However, at both the national level and in both the FBH and the RS, much political control remains centralized with key policy decisions issuing from the national government organs and from each Entity's governing structures. At the national level, economic and foreign policy are decided by the national government organs of BiH. Based on the Dayton Accords, internal affairs, including education policies, are left to the Entities, and in the case of the Federation, in large measure to the ten Cantons. However, due to the problems arising from the operation of two entirely parallel educational systems and, in the case of FBH, ten subsystems, efforts were being made by the year 2000with substantial encouragement and financial support from international organizations such as the World Bank, the European Union, the Council of Europe, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, and the United Nations Development Programmeto redesign the country's education system and administrative structures, to upgrade and modernize teacher training, teaching methods, the curriculum, and textbooks, and generally to reform schools and improve the quality of instruction. (The World Bank loan of $10.6 million for the Education Development Project, for example, was designed to improve primary education and teacher training and, more specifically, was to be used to 1) finance grants for schools, teacher training (both pre-service and in-service), and scholarships; 2) define and assess performance standards in primary and secondary schools and to harmonize them with European standards; 3) provide technical assistance and training for academics to improve higher education; and 4) provide data for a Poverty Reduction Strategy and conduct a Living Standards Measurement Study.)

By early 2001, nearly 10 years after Bosnia and Herzegovina's declaration of independence from Yugoslavia, the ethnic make-up of BiH had changed rather significantly from the pre-war situation, along with the residential concentrations of the various ethnic groups living in different parts of the country. In 2001 approximately 40 percent of BiH's population was Serb, about 22 percent Croat, and about 38 percent Bosniac, the large number of war casualties and population displacements caused by the war having altered the ethnic mix. Regarding religion, the composition of BiH is approximately 40 percent Muslim, 31 percent Orthodox, 15 percent Roman Catholic, 4 percent Protestant, and 10 percent other (including some Jewish).

The population of BiH, estimated at about 3.8 to 4.2 million in 2000, had recovered in numbers almost to its pre-war size of 4.4 million, though the population had dropped dramatically in the 1990s due to the numbers of Bosnians who were killed in the war (about 250,000) or who fled the country (about 1.2 million). During the 1990s about two-thirds of the population in the 20- to 40-year-old range left the country. In 1999 only 3.5 million people were estimated to be living in Bosnia. In addition to those killed, more than 200,000 Bosnians were wounded in the war, and 13,000 were permanently disabled, including thousands of children. Within the country, about 850,000 people were still displaced (living outside their home communities) in 2001. (An official population census was to have been taken in 2001 but was postponed to 2003, making it very difficult to provide accurate statistics concerning the population and school enrollments or attainment, graduation, and literacy rates.) Approximately 60 percent of Bosnia's population lived in urban areas in 1999, at which time BiH had a population density of about 72 persons per square kilometer.

By 2000 BiH had a growth rate of about 3.1 percent, which was in part due to the increasing return of refugees who had been living abroad during the war. The fertility rate in BiH in 2000 was about 1.71 percent. Approximately 20 percent of Bosnians in the year 2000 were 14-years-old or younger while 71 percent of the population was between 15 and 64 years of age and about 9 percent was 65 or older. BiH had an infant-mortality rate of 15 per 1000 live births in 2000 and an under 5 years child-mortality rate of 18 per 1000. The average lifespan of Bosnians in the year 2000 was about 71.5 years (68.8 years for men and 74.4 for women).

Geographically speaking, BiH is an almost entirely land-locked country with only about 20 kilometers of coastline, though the country is situated close to the Adriatic Sea. BiH is bordered on the west and the north by Croatia, while Serbia (one of the two states remaining in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 2001) is located on its eastern side and Montenegro (the other remaining Yugoslavian state) is to its southeast. Measuring 15,209 square kilometers, BiH is slightly smaller than the U.S. state of West Virginia. The terrain of BiH is primarily mountains and valleys with large forested areas, especially in the RS; the highest elevation is Maglic at 2.386 meters high.

For centuries the Bosnian economy was primarily agricultural. The primary agricultural products were wheat, corn, fruit, vegetables, and livestock. In the decades before the war of the 1990s BiH became increasingly industrialized, producing wood products, furniture, and military equipment for the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia due to the prevalence of forests and metallic ores in the country. In 1996 about 23 percent of the Bosnian workforce was employed in industry, 58 percent in services, and just 19 percent in agriculture. After the war, as international donors infused substantial financial support to restart BiH's economy and State and Entity officials and international actors collaboratively developed new plans to prepare BiH's population for employment, this balance was expected to shift even further toward the service sector, though the transformation was anticipated to be gradual. By 1999 the Bosnian economy was growing at an annual rate of roughly 5 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP). However, a sizable black market also was in operation, as well as a "gray market" of workers who were paid but did not receive job-related benefits. Furthermore, many of those legally employed waited long periods for delayed paychecks, a situation that may have discouraged many from seeking regular employment. The unemployment rate in the country was about 35 to 40 percent in 1999. BiH's annual per capita income (i.e., the gross domestic product per person in U.S. dollars) was only $1,030 in 1999a substantial drop from the per capita income level of $2,400 in 1990, but a significant rise from the immediate post-war rate of $456 in late 1995. (Per capita income in the Republika Srpska for 1999 was significantly higher: US$1,934.) International donor aid accounted for about 30 percent of the GDP in BiH in 2000. Before the war Bosnia and Herzegovina was the second-poorest republic of the six member states in Yugoslavia. About 27 percent of Bosnians were living below the relative poverty line in 2001, while 11 percent were living in extreme poverty. Regional disparities are quite apparent in the standard of living in different parts of the country; about half the population of RS in 2001 was living below the poverty line whereas in Sarajevo (the Federation's capital city) and West Herzegovina (one of the Croat-majority areas) fewer people were living in poverty.

Constitutional & Legal Foundations

Bosnia and Herzegovina is an emerging democracy governed by a complex array of structures at the State, Entity, and Cantonal levels. The basis for the educational structures at the State level, in each of the two Entities, and in the ten Cantons of the Federation is laid out in the Constitution prepared as part of the 1995 Dayton Accords. In addition to the governing organs whose members are selected and elected by Bosnians, the post-war government of BiH includes the non-Bosnian Office of the High Representative, designed to oversee the implementation of the Dayton Accords and to monitor progress toward ethnic reintegration and the just and peaceful resettlement of Bosnia's large population of refugees and internally displaced people. Whereas a sizable UN peacekeeping force was deployed throughout Bosnia after the war to ensure the country's stability and to prevent a return to ethnic violence, by the late 1990s a Stabilization Force (SFOR) led by NATO was in place in the country to implement the military side of the Dayton Accords and to protect the security of civilians as the country moved toward reconstruction and rehabilitation. In addition, an International Police Task Force (IPTF) was established by the United Nations in an Annex to the Dayton Accords to monitor local police and provide them with training and advice as well as to investigate alleged abuses of human rights. Human rights conditions in the country remained difficult in the late 1990s; as of 2001 security forces in the countryincluding the regular police, "special" or secret police, and the armies maintained by the two Entitiescontinued to provoke complaints from Bosnians of human rights abuses, largely involving police brutality.

A very helpful chart depicting the complex layout of BiH's principal governing structures at the national level and the Entity levels is provided by the Bosnian Embassy on their website ( As the chart graphically shows, the Bosnian people elect the three member rotating Presidency (consisting of one Bosniac, one Serb, and one Croat, where the President rotates every eight months) to a four year term. In turn, the Presidency appoints the members of the Council of Ministers for BiH, who are approved by the national, 42 member House of Representatives and who report to the national, 15 member House of People, the second national level legislative chamber (consisting of 5 Bosniacs, 5 Serbs, and 5 Croats elected for 2 year terms).

The voters of the Federation directly elect 28 members of the national House of Representatives (who serve 2 year terms) as well as the 140 members of the Federation's own House of Representatives (who also serve for 2 years). The Federation's House of Representatives and the Federation's House of Nations (consisting of 30 Bosniacs, 30 Croats, and 14 others) constitute the 2 chambers of the Federation's legislature. The Federation has its own Presidency for the Entity, a two member Presidency consisting of one Bosniac and one Croat elected for a two year term and rotating between President and Vice President every six months.

The Serbian Republic has its own unicameral legislature, the RS National Assembly, consisting of 83 members elected for 2 year terms by the voters of the RS. The members of this Assembly elect the RS's members of the national House of Representatives and also select the RS members for the national House of People. The RS has its own Entity President, one person elected for a two year term.

In addition to the executive and legislative branches of government, BiH has a judicial branch consisting of a Constitutional Court of nine members, four of them selected by the Federation's House of Representatives, two by the RS's National Assembly, and three non-Bosnians selected by the president of the European Court of Human Rights. The judiciary at the national level is supplemented by judicial organs in each of the Entities as well as by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague, leading at times to confusion by Bosnian authorities as to which rules apply to which situations in terms of arrests and detention. According to the U.S. Department of State in early 2001, the judiciary in both the RS and the Federation was unduly influenced by the dominant political parties and by the executive branch. In addition to rather widespread problems of discrimination against women and violence against them, especially domestic violence, minorities were often subject to severe discrimination in Serb and Croat majority areas and to a lesser extent in Bosniac majority areas. This was especially the case for refugees and the internally displaced, many of whom had not yet returned to their home communities or who had returned to areas now controlled by a different ethnic group than lived there in pre-war days. Job discrimination and discrimination in education have plagued many people in BiH since the war and are not likely to be fully addressed until better arrangements are made by the nationalist parties in power to ensure the fair distribution of employment and education benefits to all people living in Bosniaincluding those who belong to none of the three major ethnic groups.

Although Bosnia has made some progress in rebuilding schools and beginning education reforms since the war ended, progress has been slowed by the conflicts and contradictions existing between the two parallel education systems of RS and FBH; by the presence of ten separate educational systems across the Federation's ten Cantons; by the clashing co-existence of pre-war and more recent educational laws, teaching methods, and curricula; and perhaps most significantly, by the presence and resistance of ethnic nationalist individuals and political parties among the Serbs, Croats, and Bosniacs who wish to impose their own particularistic interpretations of history and of the war on their communities and the curricula in their schools. Especially problematic in terms of subject matter has been the teaching of recent history, notably the war period of the 1990s. Certain international organizations and experts have called for a moratorium on the teaching of the history of this period in the country until a combination of international historians and local experts can thoroughly revise the history texts and curricula used in Bosnian schools so that teaching is accurate and can impartially reflect what transpired before and during the war years. However, this recommendation for a moratorium has been met with heavy protests and resistance from ethnic nationalists interested in preserving their own interpretations of Bosnian history and warrelated events and promulgating their biased views in Bosnia's schools.

In 2001 international education specialists and Bosnian educators, government officials, and pedagogical researchers continued to work collaboratively to revise offensive textbooks throughout Bosnia and to remove passages of inaccurate, inflammatory, and/or nationalist writing from the books and curricula used in schools. Rewriting texts and removing objectionable material from the teaching curricula was begun in August 1999 after the three education ministers in the countrythe Minister and Deputy Minister of Education for the Federation and the Minister of Education for the RSresponded to international pressure and finally signed an agreement concerning the excision of objectionable passages and the identification of other passages as debatable. Based on an agreement made by the Minister of Education in May 2000, this work was to be completed by the end of June 2000 with substantial improvements in the quality of textbooks made by the end of the year 2000.

At the turn of the millennium, the focus of educational reforms in Bosnia and Herzegovina was on rebuilding schools, retraining teachers, improving the curriculum, reducing the number of subjects taught in the schools so as to increase educational quality and efficiency, and developing more functional vocational education systems at both secondary and higher levels of instruction, including at the level of adult education, so that workers with employable skills could be trained for the newly reviving Bosnian economy. In general, a major emphasis of educational reform work was being placed on unifying the school systems operating in the country and dismantling the often conflicting parallel systems that had developed between the two Entities and across the ten Cantons. The duplication and mismatching of educational programs and schools in the separately developed systems around Bosnia and Herzegovina were making the return and reintegration of refugees and internally displaced Bosnians especially problematic. Since the languages and subjects taught in one part of the country were not matched by those taught in other places, students seeking to transfer from one community and educational system to another often experienced rejection and/or confusion. Furthermore, since examinations, diplomas, and credentials were not uniformly established or awarded across the various educational systems, problems often have arisen for graduates seeking to work in another part of the country from where the original exams had been taken or diplomas and credentials had been awarded. In the year 2000 the RS developed three new laws concerning education in primary and secondary schools and at higher levels of education. A new strategy for vocational education in the RS had been defined and adopted by the Entity government in 1999. In turn, FBH had ten different laws pertaining to vocational education in secondary schools, one for each of its ten cantons. Major reforms were being planned by the World Bank and other international partners of Bosnian education officials through their collaborative work with Bosnian teachers and administrators by early 2001, when special efforts began to address in earnest the problem of harmonizing the various conflicting educational systems and the problems of ethnic segregation and discrimination that appeared to be widespread. Roma and Jews were especially marginalized in the education systems that had developed after the war.

Educational SystemOverview

During the period of post-war recovery in Bosnia and Herzegovina, education is viewed as a very crucial component in the reconstruction and rehabilitation process. As a potential means of helping children and youth of different ethnic backgrounds to practice tolerance and understanding and of helping adults to reconcile their differences, communities to stabilize, and ethnic minorities to live safely with the dominant majority in each part of the country, educationand especially "civic education"is seen as essential. International observers and Bosnian educators attuned to the need to foster a multiethnic society have expressed the belief that carefully planned and implemented educational programs may promote democratization and facilitate the reintegration and resettlement of refugees and the internally displaced. Moreover, educational programs are viewed not only as important for the children and youth of BiH but also for Bosnian adults, many of whom must retrain for new labor market conditions and a less-industrially based economy.

Few international data sources on population and education-related issues contain statistics for Bosnia in the post-1995 period, making an accurate depiction of the status of education in the country extremely challenging. Nonetheless, it was apparent at the turn of the new millennium that the status of BiH's schools remained quite poor, judging from the reports of a number of international donor agencies and organizations working with national and local authorities in BiH to reconstruct and reinvigorate the educational system. The World Bank, the European Commission, the Council of Europe, several UN agencies, international organizations like the International Foundation for Election Systems, and private donors such as the Soros Foundation have been instrumental in fostering educational reform and reconstruction in the country, providing a combination of funding and technical advisors to improve education in BiH. In 1996 BiH became a member of the World Bank (with membership retroactive to 1993) and the country began receiving massive amounts of international assistance to recover from the war. The 26 initial reconstruction grants given to BiH by the World Bank to catalyze the rebuilding of social infrastructure included grants for educational programming. Additionally, the European Training Foundation (ETF) of the European Commission dedicated significant resources and expertise to promoting improved vocational training in the country at both secondary and higher levels. As part of the assistance from ETF, a National Bosnian Observatory was established in Mostar in the FBH in 1999 with a branch office in Banja Luka, the capital of the RS. The Observatory was charged with the following tasks in collaboration with national education authorities and international "social partners": 1) to gather, analyze, and distribute information about vocational training, the labor market, and the implementation and assessment of education reform; 2) to serve as a contact point for national and international actors concerning information on vocational training and the labor market; 3) to conduct studies and prepare evaluation papers and policy reports pertaining to vocational training that could be used by the Bosnian authorities to develop and improve programming; 4) to assess developments in vocational training and the labor market; 5) to link up educational institutions with labor market institutions; and 6) to store data concerning social partners and institutions.

Free and compulsory education is provided by both Entities in BiH for all children between the ages of 7 and 15 or for the 8 years of primary schooling. By 2000 approximately 98 percent of adult males and 89 percent of adult females were considered literate. School enrollments at the primary level were estimated to be about 100 percent for both boys and girls; general enrollment statistics at the secondary level were not available.

Language of Instruction: Three versions of the Serbo-Croat language ("Serbian," "Croatian," and "Bosniac") are used in BiH's schoolsessentially, variants of the same language that were developed in conjunction with the nationalistic campaigns that swept the country in the 1990s. Despite their differences, the three versions of Serbo-Croat are mutually comprehensible. The languages of instruction in specific geographical areas typify the ethnic composition of those areas, although according to BiH's new Constitution of 1995 all areas should provide educational opportunities to all minority groups. In 2001 both the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets were in use in Bosnian schools, with both scripts legally mandated for all students to learn.

Unfortunately, during the post-war years, Bosnian schools often have failed to provide instruction in the home language of some of their students, a defect that hopefully will be addressed and at least partially corrected in the reforms taking place at the State, Entity, and Cantonal levels from the year 2000 on as the educational systems are harmonized into one cohesive system. Linguistic and cultural rights had not yet been clarified in the context of education at the turn of the millennium due to situations of ethnic dominance and the continuing nationalistic influence of dominant majorities throughout the country. Lluís Maria de Puig of Spain, education rapporteur for the Council of Europe's Committee on Culture and Education, studied the country's educational system through in-depth interviews with education specialists, government administrators, and international experts working in BiH and wrote in the Committee's March 2000 report, "Language, and more generally, education policies have become a vehicle for promoting 'national' separation. The political struggle within education manifests itself both in the context of 'national subjects'history, language and literature and social studiesand in the desire for political control of the three separate education systems (created by the Serbs, Croats, and Bosniacs in the country)." Educational programs serving the needs of all children, including ethnic minorities, thus had not been fully or adequately developed by the year 2000. This is likely to change, though perhaps gradually, as national and international partners in education continue to work together to improve the Bosnian education system.

Preprimary & Primary Education

While several conflicting education systems existed in BiH in the year 2000 and a campaign was beginning among national educators and administrators and international partners to harmonize the systems, the following description of the levels of education provided in Bosnian schools generally applied to schools throughout the country in the year 2000.

From ages one to three, children may attend daycare centers that emphasize physical care. Children ages three to six or seven may attend kindergarten. "Special kindergartens" also exist for children ages three to seven (or nine). In the RS 41 public kindergartens and 2 private ones were in operation in the 1999-2000 school year, educating 5,987 children; with 772 kindergarten teachers in the RS, the pupil to teacher ratio was 7.76.

Compulsory schooling begins at age 7, when children begin primary school, and lasts for 8 years to age 15. Primary schooling is typically divided into 2 tiers: a first tier for ages 7 to 11, with children taught in classes, and a second tier for pupils ages 11 to 15, where subjects become the focus of educational arrangements. Special primary education is provided from ages 7 (or 9) to 15. Alongside the regular public schools where the full range of academic subjects are taught, parallel schools exist for teaching music and ballet at the primary level. All together, approximately 21,000 primary teachers provided education to pupils between the ages of 7 and 15 in BiH in the year 2000. During the 1999-2000 school year in the RS, 7,059 teachers in 196 public primary schools provided education to 124,305 pupils (60,418 in the lower-primary grades, grades 1 to 4, and 63,887 in the upper-primary grades, grades 5 to 8).

Secondary Education

Between the ages of 15 and 18 or 19 (sometimes 20), students attend the third tier of schooling, 3V (vocational) or 3G (general or gymnasium). Again, special education is provided at the secondary level for students between the ages of 15 and 18. Students in the 3G tier take four years of instruction in academic subjects, after which they take examinations that lead to their admission to institutions of higher education. Students in the 3V tier take either three or four (sometimes five) years of training in vocational areas. In the Federation, attending Teacher school at the secondary level, which lasts four years, is one option for students. In both Entities secondary students can follow educational programs in Arts, Music, and Ballet schools (lasting four years), Religion schools (four or five years), Technical and related schools (lasting four years), and Crafts schools (lasting three years). Students in the Crafts schools take terminal exams that permit them to practice their craft commercially if they are qualified and/or to move on to higher education as Professional Craftsmen through a course and examination program lasting two years coupled with two more years of practical experience. Students in the four year technical-training programs at the secondary level take exams that allow them to go on to higher education training in their field. Other secondary students (e.g. those in the Gymnasium programs and the Teacher schools) take exams at the completion of their studies that permit them to enter appropriate institutions of higher education. Among the types of vocational education provided at the secondary level is religious education, which is offered through religion schools for students ages 15 to 19 in FBH and for students ages 15 up to 20 in RS.

In the year 2000, almost 9,000 secondary teachers were teaching students in BiH (both Entities). The number of teachers was about 3,400 in the RS, where 54,232 students were enrolled in a total of 92 public secondary schools in 1999-2000, yielding a student to teacher ratio of 16.1. Secondary level vocational students accounted for about 75 percent of all secondary students in the Federation in the 1998-1999 academic year and numbered 82,605 (for the Federation alone), with a pupil to teacher ratio of 21 to 1. As to vocational schools at the secondary level, the Federation had 37 types of technical and related schools covering 120 crafts and technical professions in the year 2000, while the RS had comparable programs in about 14 occupational areas for over 100 professions that year.

Higher Education

Higher education can take several forms in BiH. Students who have pursued an academic program or an art, music, or ballet-focused course of study at the secondary level are eligible for admission to Faculties of higher education or Art Academies after successfully passing their exams. These programs last three to six years in the Federation and four to six years in the RS. Pedagogical Academies and Senior Secondary Schools are another option for students graduating from the secondary education programs in BiH; programs in these institutions last two years. The final levels of higher education include Masters degree programs (lasting two years) or Specialization studies (lasting one year), with the Masters programs followed by doctoral studies for some students leading to the Ph.D. degree. In the RS 13,883 postsecondary students were enrolled in 2 public universities (including 28 faculties, schools, and academies) and 4 public non-university educational institutions during the 1999-2000 academic year.

Foreign Students: Before the war Yugoslavian universities and schools, including the renowned University of Sarajevo, attracted many foreign students, including students from developing countries who received academic grants from the formerly socialist government of Yugoslavia. However, because of the widespread destruction of schools, universities, and libraries during the war and the general degradation of economic and social conditions in the country, this picture of foreign enrollment in Bosnian educational institutions changed completely in the 1990s. In contrast, many Bosnia students found placements in colleges and universities abroad, often sponsored by international peace and development-related organizations such as the Fellowship of Reconciliation.

Administration, Finance, & Educational Research

Government Educational Agencies: The three Ministers of Education in charge of planning and implementing education policy in the country are the Minister and Deputy Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sports of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Minister of Education of the Republika Srpska. According to the Constitution of 1995 attached to the Dayton Accords, administration of education in Bosnia and Herzegovina is the responsibility of the two Entities, and in the case of the Federation, the ten Cantons as well. In some parts of the country, Canton-level legislation specifies that educational authority further rests at the municipal level. This has led to a confusing array of responsibilities and government agencies in charge of various aspects of education in the country with often overlapping and contradictory responsibilities, visions, and priorities. In the March 2000 report of the Council of Europe's Committee on Culture and Education, de Puig wrote, "It is increasingly openly acknowledged that the current Bosnian Constitution, as annexed to the Dayton Agreements, is in practice an obstacle to the country's proper functioning." De Puig explained that since 1992, three separate educational systems had established themselves in the country: 1) in the Republika Srpska the education system had been "imported from Serbia and uses texts from Belgrade, the Cyrillic alphabet and the 'Serb language,"' 2) in the three Croat-majority Cantons of the Federation, in parts of two other Cantons, and in the Catholic schools set up by Croatians around the country, a Croatian system was in place, "using school books from Zagreb, the Latin alphabet, and the 'Croat language,"' and 3) a third system developed by Bosniacs in Sarajevo was also in place which used the "Bosniac language" and textbooks produced in Sarajevo while the city was under siege.

By May 2000 the three education ministers in BiH had met and agreed to the following measures aimed at eliminating ethnic segregation and harmonizing the disparate education systems into one integrated system: 1) revision of textbooks to remove objectionable material and improve their quality; 2) creation of a Curriculum Harmonisation Board consisting of one representative of the Ministry, one representative from a Pedagogical Institute for each community, and representatives of the international community to coordinate curricula, exchange information about the education systems, and recommend ways to streamline the teaching of subjects throughout the curricula; 3) development by each ethnic group of curricular modules reflecting the group's culture, language, and literature and the needs of the Roma/Sinti minority and other minorities in BiH, with the modules to be integrated into the curricula of the other two major ethic groups; 4) teaching of both the Cyrillic and Latin alphabets, the shared linguistic, literary, and cultural heritage of the three main ethnic communities, and all major religions practiced in BiH; 5) introduction of "shared, core elements" into all curricula to foster "a sense of common identity and citizenship of Bosnia and Herzegovina" among all students in Bosnia, drawing upon European educational experience and practice, and replacement of the old civic defense/social studies courses with a new Human Rights and Civic Education course; 6) hiring of teachers from the different ethnic groups constituting the Bosnian population to teach in a multiethnic system where teachers are not segregated by ethnicity; 7) recognition of pupils' educational certificates and records and of teachers' and teacher-trainers' qualifications throughout the country, regardless of their place of origin within the country; 8) removal of national subjects textbooks that emphasize one ethnic group and do not refer to BiH as a whole or as the country in which instruction is being given; and 9) peaceful negotiation of all outstanding cases of school crises. This agreement was the product of meetings facilitated by the Office of the High Representative in Sarajevo and other representatives of the international community working to improve the quality of education in BiH and to smooth the way for the education system to be better integrated and more functional.

Educational Budgets: In 1998 BiH spent about 10.8 percent of the national budget on education. That same year, about 4.8 percent of the Federation's budget was spent on education. In the year 2000 about 17 percent of the budget of the RS was planned for educational expenditures, with 4 percent of the Entity's budget reserved for secondary education. In the RS about US$51.7 million was spent on education by the Entity government (including expenditures for the Ministry of Education itself and for primary, secondary, and tertiary education but not including expenditures for secondary-education material expenses, which are the responsibility of the municipalities); about 83 percent of this $51.7 million covered salaries. In general, greater expenditures have been made in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina than in the Republika Srpska on education.

Financing education in BiH is accomplished through taxation and other public financing measures; contributions from private and international donors; legacies, gifts, and foundations; and the sales of school products and services, intellectual services, and material goods. As an indication of the scale of international support given to the reconstruction of schools and the education system in BiH in recent years, it can be noted that the World Bank loan approved in May 2000 for the Education Development Project in BiH was valued at US$10.6 million, with the total project expected to cost $14.6 million (and much of the additional $4 million expected to come from other international partners).

Nonformal Education

Adult Education: In addition to the vocational training efforts already mentioned above, some of them directed toward increasing the employability of adults, continuing education programs for adults were in the process of being developed in the year 2000 through the collaborative efforts of education authorities in BiH and international specialists in education. Besides these programs, civic education programs designed to promote ethnic tolerance, democratic participation, and human rights were developed and implemented throughout the country from the late 1990s on, receiving international funding support and technical assistance from international nongovernmental organizations like the Open Society Institute and the International Foundation for Election Systems.

Distance Education (TV, Radio, and Internet): Distance education has been recommended in BiH as one possible means of addressing the educational needs of the refugees and internally displaced who have not yet returned to their home communities or been fully resettled and reintegrated. Thirty-three television stations and 292 "repeaters" broadcasted television programming in BiH just before the end of the war, in September 1995. About 940,000 radios were in use in 1997; one year later eight AM radio stations, 16 FM radio stations, and 1 short-wave radio station were transmitting broadcasts throughout the country. In 1999 two Internet service providers were operating in the country.


In March 2000 the Council of Europe's Committee on Culture and Education recommended that the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe do the following to improve education in Bosnian schools: 1) provide funding for the Council to continue to offer key support to the education sector in BiH, 2) work with the High Representative and international organizations operating in BiH to reinterpret the Dayton Accords so education planning, implementation, and management responsibilities will be better distributed at the Canton, Entity, and State levels; 3) coordinate the work of the Council and other international organizations to link international funding with Bosnian compliance with prior conditions set by international donors concerning such issues as textbook improvements, ethnic desegregation, coordination, and language policies; 4) continue to encourage a moratorium on teaching about the 1990s war so that historians from all of BiH's ethnic communities can work together with international experts to develop a commonly agreed-upon approach to teaching recent history; 5) provide moral and material support for local educational initiatives, especially those that counteract ethnic segregation; 6) continue to support multiethnic pilot projects in education and consider expanding these in places where the greatest impact may be had, such as Brcko and Mostar; 7) make sure that all ethnic communities, including minorities besides the three major ethnic groups, can exercise their rights to education via a multiethnic perspective; 8) suggest administrative, financial, and legislative solutions to establish a cost-effective system of higher education capable of meeting current and future needs; and 9) "consider using distance learning to overcome ethnic segregation at university level."

As the international community progressively disengages itself from providing funding and technical assistance to Bosnia and Herzegovina in the coming years, and once the country becomes more economically secure and has overcome the fragmentation it suffered during the recent years of violent ethnic conflict, it is hoped that educational authorities will be able to envision a future for the children and youth of their country that includes multiethnic cooperation and the protection of human rights, regardless of the ethnic group to which a person belongs. To this end, the views of the Council of Europe's Committee on Culture and Education on the complexity and significance of educational reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina, expressed in their March 2000 report to the Council, come to mind: "Achieving the transition to a more integrated education systemor at least the more effective co-ordination of parallel systemsis an immensely difficult task which necessitates complex planning in stages and the restoration of confidence between the different communities. In the present post-war context, where most of the country's regions continue to be divided along ethnic lines, few issues can have a higher priority."


Amnesty International. Amnesty International Report 2001. Available from

Borcanin, Natasa, Stephen H. Connolly, and Edgar Morgan. Bosnia and Herzegovina: Civic Education Program for 1999-2000, July 2000. Available from

[email protected] Culture, Academia and Daily Life, 2001. Available from

Bosnian Embassy, 2001. Available from

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices2000: Bosnia and Herzegovina. U.S. Department of State, February 2001. Available from

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The World Factbook 2000. Directorate of Intelligence, 1 January 2001. Available from

Committee on Culture and Education and Rapporteur Mr. Lluís Maria de Puig. "Education in Bosnia and Herzegovina." Parliamentary Assembly, Council of Europe, 14 March 2000. Available from

The European Commission. The EU and South Eastern Europe, 2001. Available from

European Training Foundation. Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2001. Available from

European Training Foundation. ETF Activities: Guide to the European Training Foundation's Support to Vocational Education and TrainingLabour Market Reform Process in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2001. Available from

European Training Foundation. Vocational Education and Training in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2001. Available from

European Union. Bosnia and Herzegovina: A Major Post-War Reconstruction Programme, 2001. Available from

Gakovic, Aleksandra. Statistical data for background purposes of OECD reviewCountry: Bosnia and HerzegovinaRepublic of Srpska. Centre for Educational Policy of Studies, Faculty of Education, University of Ljubljana, December 2000. Available from

Human Rights Watch. World Report 2001. Available from

Office of the High Representative. Meeting of the Conference of the Ministers of Education of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Declaration and Agreement, 10 May 2000, Sarajevo. Available from

Open Society Institute. Step by Step Program in BosniaHercegovina, 2001. Available from

South East European Educational Cooperation Network. Educational Development in Post Crisis Situations, 2001. Available from

UNICEF. Bosnia and Herzegovina, December 2000. Available from

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Terminal Project Report: Conclusions and Recommendations, 2001. Available from

World Bank Group. Bosnia and Herzegovina at a Glance, September 2000. Available from

. Bosnia and Herzegovina Data Profile. World Development Indicators Database, July 2000. Available from

. Country Brief: Bosnia and Herzegovina, September 2000. Available from

. Education Development Project, 2001. Available from

Barbara Lakeberg Dridi

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Bosnia and Herzegovina." World Education Encyclopedia. . 23 Jul. 2018 <>.

"Bosnia and Herzegovina." World Education Encyclopedia. . (July 23, 2018).

"Bosnia and Herzegovina." World Education Encyclopedia. . Retrieved July 23, 2018 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Bosnia and Herzegovina


Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Republika Bosnia i Herzegovina



Bosnia and Herzegovina is in southeastern Europe. It is bound on the north and west by Croatia, the southwest by Croatia and the Adriatic Sea, and on the east by Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro). The country has an area of 51,129 square kilometers (19,741 square miles), which is slightly smaller than West Virginia, and has a tiny coastline of 20 kilometers (13 miles). The capital, Sarajevo, is in the east-central part of the country, and other prominent cities include Zenica, Banja Luka, Mostar, and Tuzla.


The population of Bosnia and Herzegovina was estimated at 3,922,205 in July 2001; however, this estimation may include significant errors because of the dislocations and ethnic cleansing from the Bosnian civil war (1992-95). In contrast, the country had a population of 4,364,574, according to the 1991 census. The civil war caused hundreds of thousands of casualties and forced many others to flee. By 1998, the population had decreased by an estimated 1 million people.

With an estimated birth rate of 12.86 and death rate of 7.99 per 1,000 inhabitants, Bosnia (the shortened name for the whole country) has an estimated population growth rate of 1.38 percent. The population is young, with 20 percent below the age of 14 and just 9 percent over 65. Bosnia's population density in 1998 was estimated at 66 people per square kilometer (170 per square mile). In 1997, 42 percent of the population lived in urban areas.

Bosnia's major ethnic groups are Muslims (Bosniaks), Serbs, and Croats. The Serbs are traditionally Orthodox Christians, and the Croats are Roman Catholics. Muslims are descendants of former Christian Slavs who converted to Islam during the 15th and 16th centuries (under Ottoman rule). In 1991, the population consisted of 44 percent Muslims, 31 percent Serbs, and 17 percent Croats. In 1995, the population consisted of 40 percent Muslims, 38 percent Serbs, and 22 percent Croats. Events leading to this population change include the immigration of approximately 200,000 ethnic Serbs from Croatia and the deaths of about 7.4 percent of the pre-war Muslim population and 7.1 percent of the pre-war Serb population during the savage civil war. Bosnia and Herzegovina's populations of Serbs, Croats, and Muslims will likely embroil the country in struggles with its more powerful neighboring republics. Bosnian Serbs, for example, may continue to push for annexation to a "Greater Serbia."


Prior to becoming independent in 1992, Bosnia and Herzegovina was the second poorest republic in the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Before the inter-ethnic war (1992-95), the economy was devoted to mining, forestry, agriculture, light and heavy manufacturing, and particularly armaments. Unlike many Eastern European countries, Bosnia and Herzegovina's farmland was never collectivized by the communist regime. Agriculture was insufficiently developed, and the country heavily imported food, while its military industry was overstressed. The breakup of old Yugoslavia, the disruption of traditional markets and economic links, and the savage civil war caused industrial and agricultural output to plummet by four-fifths by 1995. Since 1996, production has recovered somewhat; however, the gross domestic product (GDP) remains far below its pre-war level.

By the time the civil war broke out in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the inflation rate was about 120 percent. During the war, inflation skyrocketed to over 1,000 percent. Unemployment was about 30 percent when the war began, but by 1995, it rose to 75 percent. All sectors of the economy were badly hurt, and 45 percent of industrial plants and 75 percent of the oil refineries were incapacitated.

When the war ended in 1995, the country was united under a federal government but split into 2 legal entities: the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska (The Serb Republic). The end of fighting made some recovery possible, especially in construction, trade, services, and traditional light industries. The division between the Federation and the Serb Republic proved to be a significant obstacle to reconstruction. The Serb Republic included most of the agricultural land and mineral deposits. In contrast, most heavy industry and power plants were within the Federation. This division made the most basic economic functions, such as the distribution of electricity, dependent on good cooperation between the once warring entities.

Economic data on each of Bosnia's 2 units are of little use because they do not reflect the black market , and national-level statistics are not published. The country's external debt was estimated at US$3.2 billion in 2000 and US$1.2 billion of international aid is now being pledged to help the country's finances. Bosnia also receives substantial reconstruction assistance and humanitarian aid from the international community.


In 1990, Bosnia and Herzegovina seceded from Yugoslavia (which further dissolved into Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, and a new Federal Republic of Yugoslavia comprised of Serbia and Montenegro). The newly independent Bosnia and Herzegovina could not maintain cooperation between 3 of its ethnic groups: the Serbs wanted to unite with Serbia, the Croats wanted to unite with Croatia, and the Muslims wanted Bosnia and Herzegovina to unite as an independent state. The differing opinions sparked a bloody civil war.

Between 1992 and 1995, the 2 areas of Bosnia and Herzegovina were almost devastated by inter-ethnic carnage that stunned the world. International mediation efforts helped bring about the Dayton accord, which ended the civil war in 1995 by dividing the country into 2 ethnic entities: the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Serb Republic. The government established has been labeled an "emerging democracy."

The country has a federal government and 2 administrative divisions: the Bosniak/Croat-led Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Bosnian Serb-led Serb Republic. (There is also a self-governing administrative unit called Brcko, which is under the authority of the sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina but is not a part of the Federation or the Serb Republic.)

The presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina is held by 3 officials (1 Bosnian Muslim, 1 Croat, and 1 Serb), who are elected to a 4-year term and rotate the chair-manship of the presidency every 8 months. Both the Federation and the Serb Republic elect presidents of their own administrative entities. The country is still establishing laws for voting and terms of the legislature, which has been created as a national bicameral Parliamentary Assembly. The Federation also has a bicameral legislature, and the Serb Republic is served by its own National Assembly. The judiciary system is similarly split between federal and administrative jurisdiction. There is a Constitutional Court heading the federal judiciary, and the entities have their own supreme courts and a number of lower courts. (In 2000, the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina ruled that the new governmental structure of Bosnia and Herzegovina had undermined the country's ethnic base and should be changed to reflect the multi-ethnic character of the country.)

Bosnia's political life is still highly fragmented and organized strictly along ethnic lines. These political parties include the Croatian Democratic Union; the New Croatian Initiative; the Party of Democratic Action; the Party for Bosnia and Herzegovina; the Social Democratic Party; the Democratic Socialist Party of Republika Srpska; the Party of Democratic Progress; the Party of Independent Social Democrats; the Serb Democratic Party; the Serbian People's Alliance; the Serbian Radical Party of Republika Srpska; and the Socialist Party of Republika Srpska. In 2000, the Muslim Party of Democratic Action, the Serb Democratic Party, and the Croatian Democratic Union again won the general election. These major parties were previously influential in leading major ethnic groups in the civil war.

The government plays a large role in the economy. Although 90 percent of businesses are private, the largest conglomerates remain state-owned. Corrupt leaders often arbitrarily apply taxes and regulations, and the black market is a significant economic factor. Privatization legislation exists, but disposing of state assets is slow and often receives much resistance. This situation is particularly prevalent in the utilities sector that is entirely controlled by party oligarchs. In mass privatization, free company vouchers or privatization funds shares are distributed to the public. Foreign investors are attracted to cash privatization because it generates fresh foreign currency inflows and brings western technology to important companies. However, due to lack of interest, results to this tender have been modest. Between May 1999 and September 2000, more than 1,000 small enterprises were listed for privatization; however, only 200 were sold during this time.

In 2002 a comprehensive tax administration reform is expected to create a more business-friendly environment and to attract foreign investment. But foreign investment relies on continued political stability. The implementation of democratic governments in neighboring nations is expected to improve privatization efforts within Bosnia and Herzegovina and to limit the risk of renewed political instability.


The country's infrastructure , including highways, railroads, and communication networks were severely

Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Bosnia & Herzegovina 152 248 41 N/A 7 N/A N/A 1.38 4
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Yugoslavia 107 297 259 N/A 23 1.9 18.8 7.65 80
Croatia 115 336 272 N/A 41 11.2 111.6 25.94 200
aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
bData are from the Internet Software Consortium ( and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

damaged by the war. In 1991, Bosnia had 21,168 kilometers (13,154 miles) of highways, half of which were paved. The war destroyed 35 percent of these highways and 40 percent of their bridges. The railroads had 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) of track, three-quarters electrified, and damage to the system was estimated at US$1 billion. Sarajevo's international airport was destroyed in the fighting. From 1995 to 1998, more than US$1 billion in foreign aid was provided to rebuild the infrastructure, and much is being done to reconnect the telecommunications networks. A US$20 million loan from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development should aid in this process; however, ethnic divisions have hampered reconstruction. Guiding and implementing projects through conflicting local interests, jurisdictions, price structures, and corruption schemes is complex and often time consuming.

Electricity is produced in coal burning (32 percent) and hydroelectric (68 percent) plants. Because of the war, electricity-generating capacity declined by four-fifths. Most hydroelectric plants are in the Croat-controlled area. Therefore, close cooperation across Muslim-and Serb-held territory is essential for power distribution. Electricity prices vary substantially, with the Serb Republic subsidizing them heavily within its area. Hydropower Tyrol (Austria) is investing US$6 million in the Federation's 4 hydroelectric facilities.


The distribution of the labor force and the contribution of the economy's different sectors have been difficult to estimate because of the internal conflicts in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Labor force information is limited to that estimated in 1990, when 48 percent of the labor force was employed in industry and 11 percent in agriculture. By 1996, the GDP contribution was divided as follows: 19 percent in agriculture, 23 percent in industry and utilities, and 58 percent in services. The war caused the leading industriesparticularly armaments to suffer greatly, and the disruption of economic links between the units, sanctioned by the Dayton accord, further decreased the economy's viability.


As a part of the former Yugoslavia's socialist regime, agriculture was in private hands. Unlike other Eastern European countries, farms were small and inefficient. The republic has been, and still is, a net importer of food, relying on foreign supply for more than half of its food. The mountainous and rugged terrain is much less suitable for agriculture than Croatia and Serbia. Still the agriculture sector has traditionally produced wheat, corn, fruits, vegetables, tobacco, and livestock. The war and ethnic cleansing obliterated many Bosnian farms and severely affected the production of tobacco, the principal cash crop .


Under socialism, Bosnia specialized in mineral products; metals (steel, lead, zinc, aluminum); timber; manufactured goods (furniture, domestic appliances, and leather goods); and accounted for 40 percent of the former Yugoslavia's military production. Like Serbia and Montenegro, the industry wanted to counter unemployment and employed more workers than it really needed. Traditionally, the industrial bases were divided: heavy industry was in the Federation, and light industry was in the Serb Republic.

Most of the country's industry was damaged by the war, and in late 1995, manufacturing dropped to one-tenth of the pre-war level. Although destruction between regions varied, companies suffered because of disrupted supplier and buyer links. Given the low base, post-war industrial recovery was notable; however, it was limited to metal and wood processing, food, beverages, textiles, and clothing. Most factories are still operating at a fraction of their capacity.

In 1999, food processing accounted for 14 percent of the Federation's manufacturing production, metals for 13.4 percent, and wood processing for 5.4 percent. Recovery was much slower in engineering, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals. The Unis Vogosca company in the Federation and Germany's Volkswagen set up a joint venture to assemble Skoda cars, but had disappointing results. During this year, the Federation also established a consortium to manufacture tractors and other agricultural machinery. Construction grew, driven by housing reconstruction, and in 1999, Germany's Heidelberger Zement acquired a 51 percent stake in one of the cement plants, Kakanj. Consumer goods represent about 30 percent of total manufacturing output.

The government does not pursue a specific industrial policy. Trade is liberalized , there is no particular policy for protecting local companies, and domestic producers are exposed to foreign competition. Foreign investors are cautious in investing, donors favor the private sector , and large state-owned enterprises find it difficult to restart work because of lack of capital, technology, and extensive markets.


As in the former Yugoslavia, banks in the Federation and the Serb Republic are still too numerous, small, and undercapitalized. The political units have reached an agreement to allow Federation banks to operate in the Serb Republic as local ones. However, this arrangement may only add to the already over-banked sector. Although bank consolidation is needed for the gradual emergence of a sound banking system that will fuel investment and consumer spending and reinvigorate the economy, the government is more actively concerned with bank privatization.

Tourism has suffered from destruction and the general feeling of political instability. However, it has been recorded that domestic tourist visits have increased to the tiny Herzegovinian stretch of the Adriatic coast, and the number of lakeside resorts and foreign tourists has also increased. Before the war, Bosnia tourism was not as significant for the economy as in Croatia and Slovenia. However, it was given impetus as Sarajevo hosted the 1984 Winter Olympics and became internationally well known for its mountain resorts and colorful multicultural atmosphere. However, many tourist attractions were destroyed in the shelling of the city during the war.

Retail was well developed and to a large extent privatized before the war. It has since contracted because of the declining demand. The black market is still an important player in the economy. In contrast to Slovenia and Macedonia, foreign investment is limited.


In 1990, Bosnia imported US$1.9 billion worth of fuel, machinery, transportation equipment, manufactured products, chemicals, and food. It exported about US$2.1 billion worth of manufactured products, machinery, and raw materials. The war almost wiped out Bosnian foreign trade. As the economy was destroyed, Yugoslavia and Croatia imposed blockades and cut supply routes. In 1996, imports still totaled about US$1.9 billion, but exports were down to US$171 million. In 2000, exports grew to US$950 million, and imports remained much higher at US$2.45 billion.

From 1996 to 2000, the scope of the trade deficit amounted to well over US$1 billion yearly. This amount is huge for the size of the economy. Because of Bosnia's need to import vital commodities such as fuel, equipment, and food out of the limited international credit available, it is more heavily dependent on foreign aid from donor countries and international organizations than other former Yugoslav republics.

Metals and wood products were the most important components of Bosnia's exports in 2000, while electricity exports declined during and after the war. The EU accounted for 39 percent of the Federation exports in 2000 and leading trade partners included Croatia, Switzerland, Italy, and Germany (for the Federation), and Yugoslavia, Italy, Slovenia, and Hungary (for the Serb Republic).


After the ethnic leaders failed to agree on a new currency, the UN introduced in 1998 a new currency, the

Exchange rates: Bosnia
marka per US$1
Jan 2001 2.086
2000 2.124
1999 1.837
1998 1.760
1997 1.734
1996 0.015
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

convertible mark. The convertible mark was fixed to the German mark. It gained acceptance, and the Central Bank of Bosnia and Herzegovina increased its reserves. Yugoslav dinars still circulate in the Serb Republic, and the Croatian kuna is used in the Croat areas of the Federation.

The government is still hoping to increase its capitalization by pressing for the privatization of the numerous small commercial banks. Raiffeisen Zentralbank Oesterreich, an Austrian bank, recently acquired many banks, including the Market Banka. The Austrian bank has also submitted privatization papers to the government bank privatization unit. It is not clear whether this will attract foreign attention, because the banking sector is weak and the economy is being reconstructed slowly.


Before 1991, Bosnians, like most Yugoslavs, enjoyed a modestly prosperous life under the socialist governments, and Sarajevo citizens were proud hosts of the 1984 Winter Olympics. However, the war and the collapse of the economy ruined living standards. While average incomes sharply declined, prices of goods soared, particularly on the black market. Health, education, and welfare slipped into disaster. Physical survival was the only agenda for many Bosnians during the atrocities. While poverty grew, warlords, corrupt politicians, and officials

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000
Bosnia & Herzegovina N/A 1,690 1,720 1,770 1,700
United States 28,600 30,200 31,500 33,900 36,200
Yugoslavia N/A 2,280 2,300 1,800 2,300
Croatia 4,300 4,500 5,100 5,100 5,800
Note: Data are estimates.
SOURCE: Handbook of the Nations, 17th,18th, 19th and 20theditions for 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999 data; CIA World Factbook 2001 [Online] for 2000 data.

made fortunes off looting and smuggling, and this caused an attitude of widespread resignation. After the war, the power of the party oligarchies remained almost unchallenged and was perpetuated by the country's highly complex ethnic-based political structure. Ethnic party elites still control much of the economy and oppose privatization in the most lucrative sectors such as energy.


In 1999, unemployment was estimated at 40 percent. Employees were irregularly paid their wages which provoked waves of strikes in both the Federation and the Serb Republic. When paid, the average monthly wage in the more affluent Federation was US$194 in mid-2000, up by 8.4 percent from 1999, and inflation remained low. Wages and prices varied significantly by region. In the Federation, an average net wage in March 2000 bought 52kg of butter; in January 1998, 37 kg. In the Serb Republic, the March 2000 average net wage bought 26.6 kg of butter, in December 1998, 14.5 kg.

The limited scope of recovery has resulted in modest job generation, with most growth occurring in the public administration. The World Bank (WB) announced a US$15 million program to re-deploy unemployed ex-soldiers and insists that current labor laws and regulations, a legacy from the old socialist system, are now inappropriate. The WB provides generous severance payments for employees and keeps unpaid workers on waiting lists rather than laying them off. However some believe this will burden the companies, blur unemployment numbers, and impair labor mobility .


6TH-7TH CENTURY A.D. Slavic tribes, including Serbs and Croats, settle in the present territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

958. The name Bosnia is used to denote the land. Most Slavic inhabitants belong to the Roman Catholic Church.

1180. Ban (a feudal title of nobility) Kulin creates an independent Bosnian state, and feudal agrarian economy develops.

1326. Ban Stephen Kotromanic unites Bosnia and Hum, which later becomes Herzegovina.

1463-83. Bosnia and Herzegovina are conquered by the Ottoman Empire, and large numbers of Christians are converted to Islam. Predominant Muslim feudal lords rule over a poor and Christian peasantry.

1878. After the European Congress at Berlin, the country is taken over by Austria-Hungary, but Muslims and Orthodox Christians resist occupation. The new regime promotes modern economic development.

1908. Austria-Hungary officially annexes Bosnia.

1914. Austria-Hungary starts World War I by declaring war on Serbia; most Bosnian Serbs, Croats, and Muslims remain loyal to Austria-Hungary.

1918. After World War I, Bosnia becomes part of the new Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (renamed Yugoslavia in 1929); the economy suffers from the loss of Austro-Hungarian markets.

1941. Yugoslavia breaks up during World War II, and Nazi Germany makes Bosnia part of the Independent State of Croatia.

1945. Germany is defeated, and Bosnia joins socialist Yugoslavia as a constituent republic.

1945-80. Yugoslavia develops a socialist economy.

1980. Communist dictator Josip Broz Tito dies, and the socialist economy of Yugoslavia begins to decline. Serb nationalism begins to rise, and non-Serbs grow dissatisfied with the Federation.

1990. In a multiparty parliamentary election in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Muslim Party of Democratic Action, led by Alija Izetbegovic, wins 34 percent of the seats; the Serbian Democratic Party, led by Radovan Karadzic, takes 30 percent; and the Croatian Democratic Union gets 18 percent. Izetbegovic becomes president of a 7-member tri-national presidency.

1991. Bosnia and Herzegovina declares independence from Yugoslavia, which is confirmed by a referendum in 1992. Bosnian Serbs, led by Karadzic and backed by neighboring Serbia and the pro-Serb Yugoslav army, start an armed offensive aimed at forming a greater Serbia and thus cause the bloody Bosnian civil war.

1994. Muslims and Croats create a Muslim-Croat Federation.

1995. In Dayton, Ohio, the warring parties sign a peace agreement, and Bosnia and Herzegovina is divided between the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and a Serb Republic. A NATO-led peacekeeping force (IFOR) of 60,000 is deployed to implement the agreement, and an international high representative is appointed.

1996. A Stabilization Force (SFOR) of 19,000 (as of late 2000) troopsto prevent new inter-ethnic hostilitiessucceeds IFOR.


In Bosnia and Herzegovina, economic reform is at the core of the international community's strategy. Over the next few years, the government will accentuate tax reform, improve the tax administration system, aid financial sector reform and encourage privatization. Labor regulations and the pension system will also be thoroughly restructured . Foreign investment will be encouraged, but future support from international financial institutions will be dependent on the success of the reforms. In the long term, it is hoped that reconstruction, reform, and EU integration will bring more peace and prosperity to what is considered to be Europe's most troubled land after World War II.


Bosnia and Herzegovina has no territories or colonies.


Donia, Robert J. Bosnia and Hercegovina: A Tradition Betrayed. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994.

Economist Intelligence Unit. Bosnia and Herzegovina. <>. Accessed December 2000.

Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Bosnia and Herzegovina. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2000.

Malcolm, Noel. Bosnia: A Short History. New York: New YorkUniversity Press, 1996.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2001. <>. Accessed October 2001.

U.S. Department of State. FY 2000 Country Commercial Guide: Bosnia and Herzegovina. <>. Accessed December 2000.

Valentin Hadjiyski




Marka (KM). One convertible marka equals 100 convertible pfenniga.


Manufactured goods, metals (aluminum, lead, zinc, steel), wood products, electricity, fruit and tobacco.


Fuel, machinery, transportation equipment, manufactured products, chemicals, and food.


US$6.5 billion (purchasing power parity, 2000 est.).


Exports: US$950 million (f.o.b., 2000 est.). Imports: US$2.45 billion (f.o.b., 2000 est.).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Bosnia and Herzegovina." Worldmark Encyclopedia of National Economies. . 23 Jul. 2018 <>.

"Bosnia and Herzegovina." Worldmark Encyclopedia of National Economies. . (July 23, 2018).

"Bosnia and Herzegovina." Worldmark Encyclopedia of National Economies. . Retrieved July 23, 2018 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.



Basic Data

Official Country Name: Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina
Region (Map name): Europe
Population: 3,922,205
Language(s): Croatian, Serbian, Bosnian
Literacy rate: NA
Area: 51,129 sq km
GDP: 4,394 (US$ millions)
Number of Television Stations: 33
Number of Radio Stations: 25
Number of Radio Receivers: 940,000
Radio Receivers per 1,000: 239.7

Background & General Characteristics

Until the late 1990s, most Bosnians were identified simply as Bosnians. However, since the end of the war and the division of Yugoslavia, Bosnians have become more divided along ethnic and religious lines. Most (more than 95 percent) speak the same language, Bosnian or Serbo-Croatian, and most share the same ethnic racial background. Where they are divided is in their religions. Bosnians of Catholic faith, or whose ancestors were Catholic, are identified as Bosnian Croats, and make up 17 percent of the population. Those with Eastern Orthodox backgrounds are Bosnian Serbs, and comprise 31 percent of the population. The largest group is the Muslim Slavs, descendent from Christian Bosnians who approximately 500 years ago adopted Islam, with 44 percent of the population. Although the country is increasingly secular, strong hatred remains between the three groups.

Bosnia-Herzegovina's dynamic press has been characterized by diversity and change, and has been extremely influential in the political development and public opinion of the country, although it still has not been effective in the citizenry's understanding of its rights and national identity.

The Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH) press had during the early 1980s potential to become an independent, vibrant and a free voice of the people; however, media in general became a propaganda tool during the war which ultimately split Yugoslavia. The media became dependent, not only on political bankrolls, but upon the fast and loose reporting style of the propaganda machine. Even now, accuracy and fact checking are not widely valued, and most print and electronic media remain extremely slanted and divided politically and ethnically. Since 1995, and the signing of the Dayton Peace Accord, BiH has remained mainly peaceful, but journalists have had some difficulty adjusting to press freedoms and their new roles in post-war news gathering and delivery. Readers are as reluctant to cross over to objective media as reporters are to adopt fair reporting styles and policies necessary to establishing a democracy. The tendency on the part of readers has been to continue to purchase newspapers and magazines which are aimed primarily at their specific political party or ethnic/religious demographic.

After the war heavy nationalist attitudes took hold. Fear and ethnic and religious bigotry negatively impacted the press, even though prior to the 1990s, the press had been very diverse despite a long history of dictatorship and censorship. From 1945 to 1990, although religious freedoms were terribly impacted throughout Yugoslavia (Muslims, Christians and Jews alike were banned from public worship), cultural freedoms (an active press included) were fully supported both philosophically and financially by the government. A long economic boom in the Communist country also helped support emerging media. Unfortunately, during the time of political unrest and war, the media also became a tool for differing political parties. Parties and governments supported media that espoused their political views, and punished, in direct financial actions as well as intimidation, those who did not. Those that complied became dependent on the political funding. They also became dependent upon easy-to-get information, and never questioned its truth or validity. Even though journalists in BiH can take advantage of Freedom of Information laws, many do not because they are largely untrained in the concept and practice.

Although technically BiH has a free, or partially free, press guaranteed by its Constitution, in practice the press is still heavily controlled by the government, and by advertisers or vendors who will not support publications with editorial opinions that differ from their own ideologies. State-supported businesses are prohibited from advertising in independent, non-government newspapers and electronic media.

The BiH media landscape is highly saturated. In a country of approximately 4 million, there are 376 media groups in BiH: 138 newspapers and reviews, 168 radio stations, 59 television stations and 11 news and photo agencies. Although on the surface those figures are impressive for a country that is still relatively new to having and supporting a free press, they represent a significant decrease from the BiH press' most active and diverse period. Ironically, the war which divided Yugoslavia (into the current countries of BiH, Croatia, and Slovenia) nearly destroyed the media. Newspapers were, before the war, largely subsidized or completely supported by the government. In the age of democracy and a free press, many businesses, particularly during lean economic times, have found survival impossible. For example, in Sarajevo alone there are three daily newspapers and five newsmagazines. The over-saturation is forcing the media industry to consolidate, but the independent media in particular are ill equipped to deal with consolidation. Many of the media are over-or under-staffed, and many are managed poorly and lack proper technology. Further, limited understanding of still-developing media laws and the media's new and emerging role in a developing free society negatively impacts publishers' ability to effectively manage their businesses. The newly-created press laws made survival even more difficult as censorship, sometimes blatant and at other times subtle, has remained very much a reality.

In 1991 there were 377 newspapers and publications. The diverse media was a key player in the early stages of the socialist system's disintegration. Young journalists in the early 1990s launched opposition newspapers, and in the fall of 1990 the first multi-party elections were held in Yugoslavia. During that tumultuous time, the press was fairly free-swinging, and although it had been censored and controlled previously, during the war years, papers from a wide variety of political slants and ethnic backgrounds published and survived, or even in a few cases flourished. However, after the country's first free elections, many newspapers were punished by government officials who had faced opposition in the media. Newspapers that espoused philosophies opposite theirs, or who had dared criticize candidates and officials, were suddenly raided, and audited and fined. In other cases journalists were sued for libel, threatened, or physically assaulted. However, as professional associations develop, media professionals will benefit from more education and legal support.

The BiH media is still largely under the influence of the government, and of political parties, and most independent newspapers suffer lower circulation and fewer resources. Dnevni Avaz had been prior to 1999 controlled mainly by the Party of Democratic Action (Stranka Demokratske Akcije, SDA), but distanced itself and adopted more fair and professional reporting standards. It remains the most widely circulated daily paper in BiH. Dani and Slobodna Bosna are the most influential independent magazines in the BiH federation. The weekly newsmagazine Reporter is the most influential independent weekly.

Two true independents, Oslobodjenje and Vecernje Novine, combined have lower circulation with 25,000 readers than their former SDA supporter Dnevni Avaz with 30,000 readers.

Economic Framework

Bosnians are still suffering the aftermath of the war. Unemployment is highnearly 50 percentand earnings are low. Many major cities are being rebuilt from ruins after being bombed. Prior to the war, employment was high in the mainly industrial country. Earnings were fair in the Bosnian region, though not as high as in the former Yugoslavia's northernmost area, Slovenia.

Press Laws

Government officials are still in the process of developing media and press laws. Most of the media and press laws were formed in 1995 with the signing of the Dayton peace agreement. The Constitution provided for a free press and by law prohibited censorship, but did not properly protect media professionals or provide for adequate flow of information between state and press. Further, the financial structure of most media was not yet ready to sustain a free press and break free from government support and subsidy.

Following the Dayton agreement, the government failed to comply with free press provisions, and it was not until the late 1990s that the government began to view seriously the importance of a free press. The shift in attitude came only after years of pressure from European and American democratic countries.

In 1999 the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights directed the BiH government to decriminalize libel and defamation. Prior to that, libel laws were so restrictive that journalists and publishers could be sued for exorbitant amounts of money for honest criticism of the government and its leadership. Steep fines and court actions created a serious chilling effect in the media, and virtually prohibited the media from engaging in honest journalistic pursuits.

In 1999 and 2000, the process had come to a halt, and the media was largely adhering to the draconian laws imposed in pre-war Yugoslavia. The former laws restricted the information flow from the government to the media.

Even newer laws negatively impact the media. The laws were designed to protect the country's current government in light of the threat of NATO military strikes. Under the Public Information Act of 1998, the public and government officials can still sue the media for publishing material that is not patriotic, or is "against the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of the country." Further, rebroadcasts of foreign media and news services are strictly banned.

The law, which has been criticized as "extremely vague and selectively enforced," makes it "practically impossible to engage in any type of journalist work," according to the U.S. State Department. Further, libel laws only apply to independent newspapers, not to government-sponsored papers. Approximately 25 percent of BiH newspapers are independent and some of the state-run papers are partly privatized.

When NATO bombing began in 1999, independent media outlets were shut down completely. Journalists were not allowed to report on the military, or on casualties, and the media was generally censored during that time. When the bombing concluded, more than one third of all the radio and television stations failed to resume operations.

The laws are changing slowly. In July 1999, the United Nations called for new legislation to deal with defamation and libel. In 2000, a new Freedom of Information law was passed, guaranteeing access to official government records.


Although technically BiH has a free, or partially free, press guaranteed by its Constitution, in practice the press is still heavily controlled by the government, and by advertisers or vendors who will not support publications with editorial opinions that differ from their own ideologies. State-supported businesses are prohibited from advertising in independent, non-government newspapers and electronic media. Further, the media professionals themselves have had some difficulty adjusting to the concept and practice of a free press, designed to educate rather than to persuade readers or create nationalist sentiment.

Under the Dayton Accords, peacekeeping forces have the authority to monitor and penalize the news media. Although used rarely, it remains as a pressure with which journalists must contend. Two agencies have been developed for regulating print and electronic media. In 2000, the Council for the Press was formed. The Communications Regulatory Agency (the CRA) had been operating for several years prior to the print counterpart's development.

The primary difference between the two is that the CRA may discipline outlets while the Council has no sanctions at its disposal, and cannot, for example, prevent a paper from printing. The CRA, however, can close outlets which are in violation of media laws.

The Council oversees voluntary compliance with laws and journalistic standards, while the CRA was given the task of cleaning up the saturated and cluttered broadcast scene. Broadcasters who continue to air inflammatory and unprofessional programming are shut down. While it seems backward that a government agency is given this power after the war (during the war the press had free reign to print or broadcast whatever it pleased, and was often encouraged to become the mouthpiece for various political parties) the goal is to establish a fair, democratic and professional press.

However, media professionals in BiH, accustomed to political divisiveness and bickering, complain the CRA is too heavily controlled by foreign entities and adheres too strictly to foreign press objectives, which are generally more similar to the western world's concept of a free and democratic society. They have therefore resisted compliance with the new standards and media laws.

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Legislation passed in 1998 guarantees the press access to public information, however, they must request in writing the documents they need. Although the government has only recently began complying with FOIA legislation, perhaps the even greater issue is journalists unfamiliarity with the types of information available to them, and the process for requesting such material. The shortcomings on the part of the media professionals are generally caused by lack of training and reporting in a free press society.

Attitude Toward Foreign Media

Media professionals and consumers alike are distrustful of foreign media. During the war, foreign media professionals fell for different public relations efforts, though the BiH media professionals fell just as hard.

Most notably was the news coverage generated by the American public relations firm, Ruder Finn, hired on behalf of Serbia's enemies. The firm has been accused by some of exaggerating and dramatizing circumstances and events during the war, which foreign journalists, particularly Americans, reported as fact. According to National Post reporter Isabel Vincent, one of the firm's best customers was Kosovo, which paid the firm more than $230,000 in six months.

"For that Ruder Finn focused its efforts on building international support for actions designed to prevent 'ethnic cleansing' by Serb forces in Kosovo," Vincent reported. Bosnian journalists and readers alike grew wary of foreign media, and Vincent quoted one Bosnian reporter as saying, "You people in the international press really don't know what you are writing about. You buy into to the whole Ruder Finn line, and you don't really do any independent reporting. That's the reason I really don't believe in a free international press."

Broadcast Media

The largest broadcasters in BiH are Radio Television Bosnia and Herzegovina (RTV BiH) and Radio and Television of Republika Srpska (RTRS). According to the U.S. State Department, the international community launched the Open Broadcast Network (OBN) in 1997 as a cross-entity broadcaster and source of objective news and public affairs programming. However, only a minority of viewers watches the OBN as their primary source of news. Independent outlets include TV Hayat, Studio 99, OBN Banja Luka affiliate Alternative TV, and other small stations throughout the country. Of the smaller stations, most of which were municipal stations prior to 1995, some have been partially privatized, but none have been fully privatized, and as yet the ownership status of nearly all is still unclear.

The matter of privatization will likely be sorted out in the first part of the twenty-first century. The media industry began a restructuring in July 1999, and it has yet to be fully implemented. Under the restructuring the state-run broadcast industry was to be liquidated, including the liquidation of RTV BiH, and to create a statewide public broadcasting corporation, The Public Broadcasting System of Bosnia and Herzegovina (PBS BiH). Elements of OBN will be incorporated into PBS BiH, but details have not yet been fully determined.

As part by the OBN of the restructuring new guidelines have been established and "programming must be based on truth, must respect human dignity and different opinions and convictions, and must promote the highest standards of human rights, peace and social justice, international understanding, protection of the democratic freedoms and environment protection."

Radio broadcasting in BiH is diverse. According to the State Department, opposition viewpoints are reflected in the news programs of independent broadcasters. Independent or opposition radio stations broadcast in BiH, and Radio Pegas report a wide variety of political opinions. Local radio stations broadcast in Croat-majority areas, but they are highly nationalistic. Local Croat authorities do not tolerate opposition viewpoints. One exception is Studio 88, in Mostar, which broadcasts reports from both sides of the ethnically divided city.

The Independent Media Commission was established in 1998 and is empowered to regulate broadcasting and other media. The IMC licenses broadcasters, determines licensing fees, establishes the spectra for stations, and monitors adherence to codes of practice. The IMC also controls punishment of broadcasters for noncompliance. Warnings, fines, suspension and termination of licenses, equipment seizures and shut-downs are among their tools for controlling the broadcast media.

Although incidents of selective enforcement have decreased since 1995, the number of fines in the year 2001 was still substantial, and the broadcast media is often left wondering exactly where their boundaries lie.

Education and Training

As yet, major associations and organizations within BiH are still not developed, although the international community has stepped forward to assist in training, developing media policy and even in financing struggling papers.

Although several international media groups are trying to establish a journalism training program in Sarajevo, very little training is available, and media professionals by and large are unaware of the country's new media laws and how they impact their rights and ability to work. The journalism outlets that currently exist have largely been tainted by years of corruption and government censorship and financial control. Many talented journalists left Bosnia-Herzegovina during that period when they were restricted and forced to become part of the propaganda machine during the war. Still others were fired by their editors or publishers, when political parties threatened or pressured them to quiet dissenting or even fair-minded journalists. There are few experienced professional mentors with an understanding of a balanced press left to train young journalists in BiH.


Although the media in Bosnia-Herzegovina remains weak and generally poor, a few examples of progress have emerged, particularly since 1998 and the adoption of a few still-developing media laws.

Still, a few factors will continue to plague the media scene for several years. First are the poor management practices in the media. During a period of consolidation of the media, few publishers are prepared. They lack business skills and financial resources to survive, and the financial infrastructure is not equipped to support them.

Another factor is the aftermath of the war, and how the country suffered as it remained in survival mode for most of the 1990s. There is a serious lack of educated and talented journalists in the country, and most young journalists learned their trade during the war years, and are not prepared to write objective news. They are still eager to be spoon-fed their information from official outlets, which are often not above spinning stories to the point of being untruthful.

Further, the country is technologically disadvantaged. Many media have not the resources to purchase and maintain advanced computer hardware and software, and few journalists are trained to use the technology available to them.

Although a variety of media are available, Bosnians have few choices in independent and fair media outlets. Broadcast media in particular are still heavily dominated by the government and its influence, and Bosnians are bombarded with slanted and narrow views in the media.

Significant Dates

  • October 1999: The Nezavisne Novine editor-in-chief lost both legs in a car bomb. Later the following year, he was threatened numerous times by unknown people. In June, 2000, authorities arrested six people for attempted blackmail, but although they were also suspects in the acts against the editor, police were not able to charge them with the bombing.
  • October 1999: Oslobodjenje is forced to reduce its staff from 250 to 160, in the wake of poor economic conditions. Prior to the war, the paper was the largest daily in Bosnia, selling 60,000 copies daily. In 1999, circulation dropped to about 14,000.
  • April 2000: A Dnevni Avaz journalist is assaulted by the driver of Federation Prime Minister Edhem Bicakcic after the journalist wrote articles criticizing Bicakcic.
  • June 2000: Edin Avdic, a journalist from the weekly Slobodna Bosna, was assaulted outside his home after receiving threats from the Chief of Cultural Affairs. The victim claimed the Chief, Muhamed Korda, demanded he stop writing articles about the cultural activities of the government, and had threatened to kill him if he would not stop.
  • June 2000: Tax authorities raided, without explanation or court order, the daily Dnevni Avaz. Distribution of the paper was delayed and the authority billed the paper $450,000 for 1998 unpaid taxes. The raid came after the newspaper's split from partisan reporting in favor of the nationalist SDA (the Party of Democratic Action) party, and adopted a more neutral and fair reporting style. Prior to the raid, the paper had been threatened. The paper's editor in chief said the reason for the raid and the audit was a series of stories and editorials about corruption, implicating SDA leadership.
  • August 2000: A journalist from the Ljubisa Lazic was assaulted after a series of threats and harassment by Marko Asanin, president of the regional board of the Srpsko Sarajevo Independent Party of Social Democrats. Asanin had previously attempted to exclude local media from assembly sessions.
  • May 2001: Daily paper, Oslobodjenje, stopped publishing for the first time in nearly 60 years. The closure was due to an employee strike. The paper resumed printing one week later, and the labor dispute was resolved. Among employee complaints were late paychecks, and 20-percent pay cuts. Employees argued they had tolerated the financial instability during the war, but some five years later, were still waiting to be compensated fairly.


Aumente, Jerome. "Profile in Courage," Committee to Protect Journalists, CPJ Online. 15 December 1999. Available from

"Bosnia and Herzegovina Media Analysis," IREXProMedia. April 2000.

"Bosnia 2001 World Press Freedom Review," 2002. Available from

Gjelten, Tom. Sarajevo Daily: A City and its Newspaper Under Seige. New York: Harper Collins Publishers Inc., 1995.

Glenny, Marsha. The Fall of Yugoslavia. New York: Penguin Books, 1992.

Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, "Bosnia and HerzegovinaRepublika Srpska: Freedom of expression and access to information." November 1999.

Howard, Ross. "Mediate the Conflict," Radio Netherlands. 22 March 2002.

Ivanova, Tanja. "Sarajevo: Newspapers in the Wringer," AIM Press. 25 Oct. 2001. Available from

Perenti, Michael. To Kill a Nation. New York: Verso, 2000.

"U.S. Department of State Report: Bosnia and Herzegovina," 23 Feb. 2001. Available from

Vincent, Isabel. "International media under attack in Serbia," National Post. 23 November 1998.

Carol Marshall

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Bosnia-Herzegovina." World Press Encyclopedia. . 23 Jul. 2018 <>.

"Bosnia-Herzegovina." World Press Encyclopedia. . (July 23, 2018).

"Bosnia-Herzegovina." World Press Encyclopedia. . Retrieved July 23, 2018 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Bosnia and Herzegovina


Major City:

Other Cities:
Banja Luka, Bihać, Jajce, Mostar, Tuzla


BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA is one of the former republics in the old six-member Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Beginning in late March 1992, a civil war erupted throughout Bosnia with ethnic Serb guerrillas and allies in the Serb-dominated Yugoslav National Army fighting Moslem Slavs and ethnic Croats over proposed independence from Yugoslavia. Ethnic Serbs living in Bosnia feared that Serb political and civil rights would be violated in an independent Bosnian state. In early April 1992, Bosnia and Herzegovina declared its independence from Yugoslavia. Throughout 1992 and early 1993, vicious ethnic warfare continued in Bosnia. By early 1993, Serbian forces controlled roughly 70 percent of Bosnia. Although all sides have committed atrocities against civilians, the Serbs were accused by the United Nations, the European Community, and the United States of the rape of thousands of non-Serbian women and creating large prison camps where prisoners were tortured and executed. The Serbs also implemented a policy of "ethnic cleansing," which involves the forcible deportation of non-Serbs from Serbian-controlled areas. All of these actions by the Serbs led to widespread condemnation from the world community. In March 1993, the United States airdropped relief supplies to Muslim towns under siege by Serbian forces. Also in March 1993, the United Nations Security Council authorized the imposition of a no-fly zone over Bosnia and Herzegovina. In July 1995, Bosnian Serbs overran UN-protected "safe areas." NATO leaders initiated air raids, and Serbs lifted their siege of Sarajevo. In September 1995, leaders of Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia agreed to a new governmental structure for Bosnia and Herzegovina. In November 1995, the presidents of Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia signed a U.S.-sponsored peace agreement in Dayton, Ohio. The first elections under the Dayton accord were held in December 1996.

Editor's Note: The city and country profile information contained in this entry reflect the conditions in Bosnia and Herzegovina prior to the outbreak of civil war in 1992.



Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, is situated in a valley near the Miljacka River. In 1998, Sarajevo and its metropolitan area had a combined population of estimated at 496,000. However, data dealing with population numbers has been subject to error because of dislocation from the civil war.

Sarajevo is the government, commercial, and cultural center of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Several major industrial firms are located either in or near the city. Industries in Sarajevo include communications plants, a furniture factory, a brewery, a tobacco factory, and a sugar beet refinery. The University of Sarajevo is here, as are the Bosnian Assembly and the republic's government, and both the Bosnian National Theater and National Museum.

Socially and culturally, Sarajevo still maintains much of the flavor of its Turkish pastthe area was occupied by Turkey for almost 500 years. Among the more than 70 mosques in the city, the largest is the Gazi Husref Bey Mosque. Constructed in the 16th century, the Gazi Husref Bey Mosque is a beautiful structure adorned with tiled walls, exquisite Persian carpets and prayer rugs, and a large domed ceiling. The Gazi Husref Bey Mosque also has one of oldest known copies of the Koran.

During much of the year, Sarajevo is covered in a gray mist, and its dark, cobblestone streets and winding river give it an Old World feeling. The fascinating central bazaar and ubiquitous coffee houses add to the atmosphere.

Awarded to Austria-Hungary in 1878 by the Congress of Berlin, Sarajevo remained under Austrian rule until 1918, when it became part of Yugoslavia. It was the scene of the street-corner assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914an act which precipitated World War I. During the Second World War, the city was occupied for four years by the Germans. Sarajevo was heavily damaged during World War II, but was extensively rebuilt.

Sarajevo was the site of the 1984 Winter Olympics.

No English-language education is available in Sarajevo. Association with other Americans is not extensive, since only a few U.S. citizens live here. There is an authorized source of foreign information. In Serbo-Croatian, it is known as the Ameri éki Center.

During the civil war, Sarajevo was under siege by Serbian forces. Artillery and sniper attacks were launched almost daily against Sarajevo from the surrounding hillsides, causing heavy civilian casualties and destroying many buildings. The city's electrical, transportation, sanitation, and telecommunications systems were decimated.

Recreation and Entertainment

Travelers can use three tennis courts in the summer. No other public recreational facilities are available, but hiking and horseback riding can be arranged. The mountains of Bosnia offer extensive opportunities for touring, fishing, hiking, and hunting. Overnight camping is allowed only in designated camping areas. Hunting and fishing permits are required, and big-game hunting (deer, bear, etc.) can be expensive. The Adriatic coast, only four hours from Sarajevo by car, offers excellent resorts. Ocean fishing is allowed without permit.

The National Theater of Bosnia provides a full season (September to May) of opera, drama, and symphony concerts. Movie theaters show late-release films from many countries, with about 60 percent of the films in English.

Sarajevo has a number of museums that are of interest to visitors. The Museum of the Young Bosnia Movement (Muzejmlade Bosne ) contains exhibits of photographs and personal artifacts of Gavrilo Princip, the man responsible for the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Princip and his colleagues have long been regarded as national heroes in Bosnia. Two footprints, believed to mark the spot from which Princip shot the Archduke, are located outside of the museum. Another museum, the Regional Museum (Zemaljski Muzej ), contains Roman relics, medieval tomb-stones, and ethnographic exhibits which chronicle the folklore of Bosnia. The Regional Museum also has excellent natural history and archaeological exhibits and a beautiful botanical garden. The Jewish Museum (Muzej Jevreja ) details the arrival of Jews in Sarajevo in 1550 and has several exhibits of Jewish life in Bosnia. The museum contains a book entitled "Twelve Thousand Dead," which lists the names of Jews killed during World War II by the Nazis and their collaborators.


BANJA LUKA is situated on the Vrbas River in northern Bosnia-Hercegovina. The city is thought to date back to a Roman fort, but was historically important during the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries when it was the site of several battles between the Turks and the Austrians. Although Banja Luka was struck by an earthquake in 1969, the city retains several of its Turkish vestiges. The old fortress, Kastel, is of special interest; Dzamija Ferhadija, the mosque of Ferhat-Beg, is one of Bosnia's best examples of Turkish architecture, with its decorative arabesques and inscriptions from the Koran. Today, Banja Luka manufactures leather goods; industries include an iron factory. The city has wide, tree-lined streets and attractive parks. There are thermal springs in the area. Banja Luka is a good starting point for trips through the scenic Vrbas Valley, south of the town of Jajce. Banja Luka had an estimated population of 179,000 in 2002.

The city of BIHAĆ is situated in northwestern Bosnia and Herzegovina on the banks of the Una River. Bihaćwas founded in 1260 and was controlled at various times in history by Hungarians and Turks. Today, Bihać is the home of productive textile and timber industries.

JAJCE , located in north-central Bosnia and Herzegovina, has been occupied at various times in history by the Turks, Hungarians, and Austrians. The city is now a tourist center with Turkish wooden water mills, medieval fortifications, mosques, and Oriental-style houses that are of interest to visitors. Jajce has an important chemical manufacturing industry.

Situated 50 miles southwest of Sarajevo, MOSTAR is on the Neretva River in western Bosnia and Herzegovina. Formerly the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Sarajevo is its capital today), Mostar is the chief town in the area, surrounded by vineyards. The city produces wine, textiles, and tobacco. Mostar has many examples of Turkish architecture, built in 1566. It features a tower on each end and a stone bridge that arches nearly 30 yards across Neretva River. Mostar is a good starting point for excursions into the surrounding countryside. At Pocitelj, 19 miles southwest, there is an interesting combination of Mediterranean and Turkish buildings. In Radimlja, 25 miles southeast, is the necropolis of the heretical Bogomils, an orthodox sect, whose elaborately carved tombstonesstecci are among the most beautiful of their kind. In 2002, Mostar had an estimated population of 120,000.

TUZLA , located 50 miles north-northeast of Sarajevo, is noted for its salt mines. The city was founded in the 10th century and was controlled throughout history by the Turks and Hungarians and became a part of Yugoslavia in 1918. Tuzla is a transportation and trading center for the surrounding region.


Geography and Climate

Bosnia and Herzegovina is a triangular-shaped land located in the heart of the old Yugoslav federation. The country is surrounded on three sides by Croatia and is bordered on the east by Serbia and the southeast by Montenegro. Bosnia and Herzegovina is nearly landlocked and has a coastline of only 12 miles (20 kilometers).

The topography of Bosnia and Herzegovina consists primarily of mountains and forests. However, the country also has fertile valleys which contain arable land. Several rivers, the Drina, Bosna, Una, and Vrbas, are located within Bosnia and Herzegovina. The country is subject to frequent and destructive earthquakes.

Bosnia and Herzegovina's climate is generally characterized by hot summers and cold winters. In areas of high elevation, summers tend to be short and cold while winters are long and severe. Along Bosnia and Herzegovina's small Adriatic coast, winters are mild and rainy.


In 2001, Bosnia and Herzegovina had an estimated population of 3,922,000. Of this total, approximately 31 percent were Serb, 44 percent were Bosniak, and 17 percent were percent ethnic Croat. All three ethnic groups speak Serbo-Croatian (often called Bosnian), which is Bosnia and Herzegovina's official language.

Three different religions are practiced within Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bosnian Croats are predominantly Roman Catholic, while Bosnian Serbs are typically adherents of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Bosnian Muslims are generally members of the Sunni sect. Approximately four percent of Bosnians belong to Protestant denominations.


Under the Dayton accords of 1995, a constitution for Bosnia and Herzegovina was established that recognized a single state with two constituent entities. The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBH) incorporates the 51 percent of the country with a Bosnian Muslim and Bosnian Croat majority, while the Republika Srpska (RS) occupies the 49 percent of the country with a Bosnian Serb majority.

The constitution calls for a central government with a bicameral legislature and a three-member presidency comprised of a member of each ethnic group. The constituent government of the FBH utilizes a parliament and a presidentially-appointed prime minister, currently Zlatko Lagumdzija, while the RS has a proportionally-elected parliament and two vice-presidents who serve under the president.

The flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina consists of a yellow triangle on a royal blue field, with a row of white stars arranged on the diagonal.

Commerce and Industry

Bosnia and Herzegovina ranked next to Macedonia as the poorest component in the old Yugoslav federation. Traditionally, agriculture has been the mainstay of Bosnia and Herzegovina's economy. The foothills of northern Bosnia support orchards, vineyards, livestock, and some wheat and corn production. Although agriculture has been almost all in private hands, farms have been small and inefficient. Therefore, Bosnia has been forced over the years to import roughly half of its food needs.

Several manufacturing industries are located in Bosnia and Herzegovina. These industries produce wooden furniture, textiles, carpets, tobacco products, and automobiles. Bosnia and Herzegovina had a large armaments industry. Bosnia and Herzegovina is rich in minerals, particularly coal, iron ore, zinc, manganese, lead, and bauxite. This mineral wealth led to the development of a productive mining industry.

The war's destruction caused the gross domestic product (GDP) to drop 75 percent. Since 1995, trade has increased in the Croat and Muslim areas. Reconstruction programs initiated by the international community have financed the construction of infrastructure and provided loans to the manufacturing sector.


The quality of roadways in Bosnia and Herzegovina ranges from generally good to poor. Bosnia and Herzegovina's principal highway stretches 113 miles (183 kilometers) from Sarajevo to the Adriatic coast. Trips to Zagreb (Croatia) and Belgrade (Serbia) can be made only on rough secondary roads. Bus service is available between Sarajevo and Mostar. In 2000, Bosnia and Herzegovina had a total of 13,569 miles (21,846 kilometers) of roadway. Of this total, 64 percent were paved.

Train service is available between Sarajevo and Mostar, and between Mostar and the Croatian city of Kardeljevo. Railway links connect Sarajevo with Belgrade and Zagreb.

Sarajevo has an international airport located approximately six miles (10 kilometers) southwest of the city.


Bosnia's telephone and telegraph network is in need of modernization and expansion, with many urban areas being below average compared with services in other former Yugoslav republics. Communications and capabilities in Sarajevo and other Bosnian cities were nearly destroyed during the country's civil war.

There are no English-language newspapers, periodicals, or books published in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Radio and television broadcasts are controlled by Radio-Television Sarajevo. All broadcasts are in Serbo-Croatian.

Bosnia and Herzegovina uses the metric system.


Although the U.S. government recognized the independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina on April 7, 1992, the Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens not to travel to Bosnia and Herzegovina at this time because of widespread fighting throughout the country. The Department of State strongly recommends that U.S. citizens in Bosnia and Herzegovina consider leaving the country as soon as possible. A state of violence resulting in deaths, destruction, food shortages, and travel disruptions affecting roads, airports, and railways make travel anywhere in the country extremely hazardous. In particular, the Department of State advises against travel to western Herzegovina, including West Mostar, Livno, and Grude, all of which are located in areas which have seen heavy fighting. An estimated one million unmarked landmines still remain throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina. Special care should be taken near former confrontation lines.

Travelers should be aware that there is no direct air service between the U.S. and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Commercial service is limited, and travelers should be prepared for delayed and canceled flights.

An increased number of cases of the disease "Q Fever" has been reported recently in various areas of Bosnia and Herzegovina. This is an animal disease which can infect humans through raw or undercooked meat, unpasteurized dairy products, and dust from areas where infected animals, mostly sheep, goats and cattle, are found.

Bosnia and Herzegovina has a cash economy; credit cards are rarely accepted. Traveler's checks may be cashed at major banks, but often with a delay of three to four weeks. The official currency is the convertible mark, but German marks are accepted in most shops.

The U.S. has recently opened an Embassy in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina. U.S. citizens experiencing difficulties in Bosnia and Herzegovina should contact the U.S. Embassy for assistance. All U.S. citizens who remain in Bosnia and Herzegovina despite this warning are urged to register their whereabouts with the U.S. Embassy, including an emergency telephone number so that attempts can be made to contact them if necessary.

The U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo is located at Alipasina 43; telephone: 445-700.


Jan. 1/2 New Year's Day

March 1 Independence Day

May 1Labor Day

May 9Victory Day

Nov. 25Day of the Republic


The following titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country:

Andric, Ivo. The Development of Spiritual Life in Bosnia under the Influence of Turkish Rule. Edited and translated by Zelimir B. Juricic and John F. Loud. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1991.

Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States 1992. London: Europa Publications, Ltd., 1992.

Manuel, D. Medjugorje under Siege.Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 1992.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Bosnia and Herzegovina." Cities of the World. . 23 Jul. 2018 <>.

"Bosnia and Herzegovina." Cities of the World. . (July 23, 2018).

"Bosnia and Herzegovina." Cities of the World. . Retrieved July 23, 2018 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina (bŏz´nēə, hĕrtsəgōvē´nə), Serbo-Croatian Bosna i Hercegovina, country (2013 pop. 3,791,622), 19,741 sq mi (51,129 sq km), on the Balkan peninsula, S Europe. It is bounded by Croatia on the west and north, Serbia on the northeast, and Montenegro on the southeast. A narrow, undeveloped outlet to the Adriatic along the Neretva River in the southwest is its only direct outlet to the sea. The country is commonly referred to as Bosnia. Sarajevo is its capital.

Land and People

The Yugoslav republic that became the present country was formed from two historical regions—Bosnia in the north, with Sarajevo as its chief city; and Herzegovina in the south, with Mostar as its chief city. Other important cities are Banja Luka, Tuzla, and Zenica. Lying mostly in the Dinaric Alps, the nation has no coastal ports. The Sava (and its tributaries) and the Neretva are the chief rivers; there are river ports on the Sava. Much of the area is forested, and timber is an important product of Bosnia. Much of Herzegovina's terrain is denuded.

The ethnically diverse population speaks Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian (all dialects of Serbo-Croatian). The country's Bosniaks (about 48%, mainly Muslim), Serbs (about 37% of the population, largely Eastern Orthodox), and Croats (about 14%, mostly Roman Catholics) formerly formed a complex patchwork, but civil war and the flight of refugees forcibly segregated much of the population. Some inhabitants have gradually returned to their pre-conflict places of residence since the fighting's end.


Never particularly robust, Bosnia and Herzegovina's economy was shattered by the civil war that broke out after independence. Historically, the economy has depended on agriculture, although it now provides less than half of the country's food needs. Wheat, corn, oats, and barley are the principal products of Bosnia and tobacco, cotton, fruits, and grapes of Herzegovina. Livestock is also raised. Mining is important, and there are significant deposits of lignite, iron ore, bauxite, copper, lead, zinc, manganese, and other minerals. Vehicle and aircraft assembly, oil refining, and the manufacture of steel, textiles, tobacco products, wooden furniture, and domestic appliances are important. There has been some development of the country's hydroelectric resources. Metals, clothing, and wood products are exported, and machinery, chemicals, fuels, and foodstuffs are imported. The main trading partners are Croatia, Italy, Slovenia, and Germany.


Bosnia is governed under constitution included in the Dayton Agreement, signed 1995; a high representative of the Peace Implementation Council (the nations overseeing the peace process) is the final authority on the civilian aspects of the settlement, and has the power to dismiss elected Bosnian officials. There is a three-member presidency, made up of one Bosniak, one Croat, and one Serb, whose chairman (rotated every eight months) is head of state. The head of government is the chairman of the Council of Ministers. The bicameral Parliamentary Assembly consists of the 42-seat, popularly elected House of Representatives and the 15-seat, indirectly elected House of Peoples. Adminstratively, the country is divided into the Bosniak and Croat Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Serb-led Serbian Republic; additionally, the Brčko district is an internationally supervised district.


Early History

The area was part of the Roman province of Illyricum. Bosnia was settled by Serbs in the 7th cent.; it appeared as an independent country by the 12th cent. but later at times acknowledged the kings of Hungary as suzerains. Medieval Bosnia reached the height of its power in the second half of the 14th cent., when it controlled many surrounding territories. Bosnia also annexed the duchy of Hum, which, however, regained autonomy in 1448 and became known as Herzegovina. During this period the region was weakened by religious strife among Roman Catholics, Orthodox, and Bogomils. Thus disunited, Bosnia fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1463. Herzegovina held out until 1482, when it too was occupied and joined administratively to Bosnia. The nobility and a large part of the peasantry accepted Islam.

Foreign Domination

Bosnia and Herzegovina's economy declined in the 1700s as the Ottoman Empire suffered losses in Europe. Physical remoteness facilitated the retention of medieval social structure, including serfdom (remnants of which lasted until the 20th cent.). Frustration with Ottoman rule resulted in a revolt in the early 1830s, led by Husein Gradaščević, that unsuccessfully sought autonomy for Bosnia. Refusal by the Turkish to institute reforms led to a peasant uprising in 1875 that soon came to involve outside powers and led to the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78. After the war, the Congress of Berlin (1878) placed Bosnia and Herzegovina under Austro-Hungarian administration and occupation, while recognizing the sovereignty of the Ottoman sultan. Austria-Hungary improved economic conditions in the area but sought unsuccessfully to combat rising Serb nationalism, which mounted further when Bosnia and Herzegovina were completely annexed in 1908.

The assassination (1914) of Archduke Francis Ferdinand by a Serb nationalist in Sarajevo precipitated World War I. In 1918, Bosnia and Herzegovina were annexed to Serbia. The dismemberment of Yugoslavia during World War II led to Bosnia and Herzegovina's incorporation into the German puppet state of Croatia. Much partisan guerrilla warfare raged in the mountains of Bosnia during the war. In 1946, Bosnia and Herzegovina became one of the six constituent republics of Yugoslavia. Under the Communist regime Bosnia remained relatively undeveloped. Economic problems and ethnic quarrels during the 1980s led to widespread dissatisfaction with the central government.

Independence and Civil War

In Oct., 1991, following the secession of Slovenia, Croatia, and Macedonia, the Croats and Bosniaks of Bosnia and Herzegovina, fearing Serbian domination, voted for a declaration of independence from Yugoslavia. In 1992, the sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina was recognized by the European Community (now the European Union) and the United States, and it entered the United Nations. Many Bosnian Serbs opposed the new republic, in which they were a minority, and Serb troops, both from Serbia and Bosnia, began to carve out the Serb-populated areas and declared the Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Croats in Bosnia, also fearing Bosniak domination, declared their own Croatian Community of Herceg-Bosna.

An arms embargo reinforced the disparity between the well-armed Serbs and their foes, and Bosniaks were forced from their homes and towns as part of an "ethnic cleansing" policy carried out mostly by the Serbs. Thousands were killed, many were placed in detention camps, and many more fled the country. (Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžić was among a number of Serbs later indicted in absentia by a United Nations tribunal for war crimes; he was finally arrested and extradited to The Hague by Serbia in 2008.) The major Western powers rejected military intervention but endorsed the establishment of six "safe areas" with a United Nations presence, where Bosniaks would supposedly not be attacked.

Fighting between Bosniaks and Croats intensified in 1993. Shelling, mainly by Serb forces, destroyed much of Sarajevo and laid waste to other cities throughout the country. In 1994, Yugoslavian and Croatian forces fought in support of Bosnian Serbs and Croats, respectively. The Bosnian government army launched major offensives from Bihac and elsewhere, and the balance of power among Serbs, Croats, and Bosniaks shifted from time to time.

In 1994, Bosniaks and Bosnian Croats agreed to a cease-fire and established a joint Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. During 1995, Serb forces shelled the besieged Sarajevo and launched attacks on the UN-proclaimed "safe areas" of Tuzla, Zepa, and Srebrenica. There were mass deportations of Bosniaks and widespread instances of rape and execution of civilians, especially in Srebrenica. Croat and Bosniak forces later made heavy inroads against Serbs in western Bosnia. An estimated 97,000 to 110,000 persons died during the years of fighting; roughly two thirds of those who died were Bosniaks.

In late 1995, the Bosniak-dominated Bosnian government and the leaders of Croatia and Serbia met under U.S. auspices in Dayton, Ohio, and negotiated a peace accord. It called for a Bosnian republic with a central government and two semiautonomous regions, roughly equal in size, one dominated by Serbs, the other by Bosniaks and Croats in federation. The accord provided for the dispatch of NATO-led troops for peacekeeping purposes; the forces originally were to stay until June, 1998. In addition, a high representative of the Peace Implementation Council (the nations overseeing the peace process) is the final authority on the civilian aspects of the settlement, and has the power to dismiss elected Bosnian officials. The accord was implemented and conditions have slowly improved.

Bosnian disillusionment with the moderates who had held power since 1998 resulted in electoral victories for the ethnic nationalist parties in the 2002. The peacekeeping forces Bosnia were transferred in 2004 from NATO's leadership to the European Union's. In 2006 the International Court of Justice began hearing Bosnia's genocide case against Serbia. The charges, which were first filed in 1993, accused Serbia of state-planned genocide against Bosnian Muslims. The court, which had limited access to internal Serbian evidence, did not find Serbia guilty of genocide (which would have required proving intent on the part of Serbia's leaders) but did find (2007) that Serbia had violated international law when it failed to prevent or prosecute those responsible for genocide against the Bosniaks.

Bosnian political leaders agreed in Mar., 2006, to constitutional revisions that would establish a single-person presidency and move the country toward a strong-prime-minister parliamentary system. The changes, designed to strengthen the central government, were also intended to promote Bosnia's accession to the European Union and NATO. The following month, however, the reforms failed to win the required two-thirds majority in the parliament.

Much distrust remains among Bosnia's three communities, whose members now typically live in areas that are largely ethnically homogeneous, and the Oct., 2006, presidential and parliamentary elections for the central government reinforced and even exacerbated ethnic divisions. In Apr., 2008, the parliament approved the unification of Bosnia's police forces, but the watered-down law largely left Serb police forces outside central control. The European Court of Human Rights ruled in Dec., 2009, that Bosnia's constitution contains unlawful and discriminatory provisions and called for it to be revised, but the process of doing so proved difficult and prolonged.

In the Oct., 2010, elections, moderate candidates won the Muslim and Croat presidency seats, but the Serb seat was won by a nationalist. The formation of a new central government was not achieved, however, until Feb., 2012, and in June disputes over the budget threatened the government. Dissatisfaction with the government and corrupt politicians led to mass protests and riots in Feb., 2014, mainly in Muslim and Croat areas. In the subsequent October elections, nationalist parties did well among all three ethnic groups. Austrian diplomat Valentin Inzko has been the international high representative since Mar., 2009.


See B. E. Schmitt, The Annexation of Bosnia, 1908–1909 (1937, repr. 1971); J. G. Wilkinson, Dalmatia and Montenegro (2 vol., 1848; repr. 1971); L. J. Cohen, Political Cohesion in a Fragile Mosaic: The Yugoslav Experience (1983); H. Lydall, Yugoslavia in Crisis (1989); N. Malcom, Bosnia: A Short History (1996); D. Rohde, Endgame: The Betrayal and Fall of Srebrenica (1997).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Bosnia and Herzegovina." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . 23 Jul. 2018 <>.

"Bosnia and Herzegovina." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . (July 23, 2018).

"Bosnia and Herzegovina." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved July 23, 2018 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Official name : Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Area: 51,129 square kilometers (19,741 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Mount Maglic (2,386 meters / 7,828 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres: Northern and Western

Time zone: 1 p.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: 325 kilometers (202 miles) from north to south; 325 kilometers (202 miles) from east to west

Land boundaries: 1,459 kilometers (907 miles) total boundary length; Croatia, 932 kilometers (579 miles); Serbia and Montenegro, 527 kilometers (327 miles)

Coastline: 20 kilometers (12 miles)

Territorial sea limits: None


The nation of Bosnia and Herzegovina is located in southeastern Europe on the Balkan Peninsula, between the countries of Croatia, Serbia, and Montenegro. With a total area of 51,129 square kilometers (19,741 square miles), the country is slightly smaller than the state of West Virginia.


Bosnia and Herzegovina has no outside territories or dependencies.


Most of the country has hot summers and cold winters. Areas of higher elevation have shorter, cooler summers and longer, severe winters. The areas closer to the coast have mild, rainy winters. Annual rainfall is about 62.5 centimeters (24.6 inches).

Season Months Average Temperature in Sarajevo
Summer June to August 18.1°C (64.6°F)
Winter November to March 0°C (32°F)


The Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina lies inland along the eastern side of the Adriatic Sea, at the intersection of central Europe and the Mediterranean Sea. High plains and plateaus are in northern Croatia, between Bodanska Gradiška and Bijeljina.

The central region, between Banja Luka and Sarajevo, has low mountains; the higher Dinaric Alps cover the southwestern edge of the country.

Tectonic fault lines run through the central part of the country, from Bodanska Gradiška to Sarajevo, and also exist in the northwest corner between the Sana and Unac Rivers. A thrust fault also runs through southern Bosnia and Herzegovina in the vicinity of Mostar. These structural seams in Earth's crust periodically shift, causing tremors and occasional destructive earthquakes.


Seacoast and Undersea Features

The Adriatic coast of Bosnia and Herzegovina is only 20 kilometers (12 miles) long. There is one main town, Neum, on the coast, but the area is not suitable for shipping.

The Adriatic Sea is an extension of the Mediterranean Sea. It separates Italy from Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, and Albania. It is about 772 kilometers (480 miles) long with an average width of 160 kilometers (100 miles), covering an area of about 160,000 square kilometers (60,000 square miles).


The country's largest lake is Buško Blato, which has a surface area of 55.8 square kilometers (21.5 square miles). It lies 716.6 meters (2,351.2 feet) above sea level within the Dinaric Alps and has a maximum depth of 17.3 meters (56.8 feet). Jablaničko Jezero is a long, narrow lake that lies at the bend of the Neretva River, southwest of Sarajevo.

Smaller lakes include Bilecko, Matura, Vijaka, Sanicani, Busko, Plivsko, Deransko, Boracko, and Ramsko.


The Sava River, the longest river in the country, travels 947 kilometers (589 miles). The first 221 kilometers (137 miles) flows through Slovenia, and the remaining 727 kilometers (452 miles) forms the border between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina (as well as a small section of Serbia and Montenegro), eventually joining the Danube River.

The Bosna River (245 kilometers/152 miles) begins near Sarajevo and flows northward to the Sava. The Drina River (346 kilometers/215 miles) forms much of the border with Serbia and Montenegro and crosses through a southeastern segment of Bosnia and Herzegovina.


There are no desert regions in Bosnia and Herzegovina.


The Peri-Pannonian Plain, near the northern border with Croatia, contains the country's most fertile soils, used for farmland and grazing. The plain was once occupied by an ancient sea that was filled in with rich soil carried from the mountains by the rivers and deposited on the plains.

The region contains wide valley basins, alluvial plains (areas where soil has been carried and deposited by rivers), sandy dunes, and low, rolling hills covered with fertile loam (a light soil mixture). In general, the area is low and flat.


About two-thirds of Bosnia and Herzegovina is mountainous. There are sixty-four mountains, with some peaks exceeding 1,500 meters (4,922 feet) above sea level. Mount Maglic, at 2,386 meters (7,828 feet), is the highest peak in the country, lying in the southeast adjacent to the Serbia and Montenegro border. Nearby are the country's second and third highest mountains: Volujakat 2,336 meters (7,664 feet) and Velika Ljubušnjaat 2,238 meters (7,343 feet).

The Dinaric Alps consist of ridges that run parallel to the coast. The limestone ranges of the Dinaric Alps, referred to as karst or karstland, are marked by underground drainage channels, formed by water seepage down through the soluble limestone. Over the years, this water seepage has formed many large depressions and left the surface dry.

Beech forests cover much of the mountainous areas; mixed forests of beech, fir, and spruce blanket the higher mountains. Mount Maglic lies within the Sutjeska National Park, the country's oldest national park, which also contains the old-growth Perucica forest.


At 1,300 meters (4,265 feet) deep, Tara Canyon is Europe's deepest canyon. The canyon follows the Tara River along the southeastern border with Yugoslavia.


There are no plateau regions in Bosnia and Herzegovina.


The sixteenth-century Mostar Bridge, destroyed by Croatian forces in violent conflict during 1993, was being rebuilt as of 2002. The bridge, measuring 20 meters (66 feet) in height and 30 meters (100 feet) in length, was first built in 1566 by Mimar Hajrudin, an Ottoman Empire architect.



Brân, Zoë. After Yugoslavia. Oakland, CA: Lonely Planet, 2001.

Filipovic, Zlata. Zlata's Diary: A Child's Life in Sarajevo. New York: Viking, 1994.

Lovrenovic, Ivan. Bosnia: A Cultural History. New York: New York University Press, 2001.

Malcolm, Noel. Bosnia: A Short History. New York: New York University Press, 1996.

Web Sites

The Embassy of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Washington, D.C. (accessed June 1, 2003).

Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina Government. (accessed April 29, 2002).

Republic of Srpska Government. (accessed April 29, 2003).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Bosnia and Herzegovina." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of Physical Geography. . 23 Jul. 2018 <>.

"Bosnia and Herzegovina." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of Physical Geography. . (July 23, 2018).

"Bosnia and Herzegovina." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of Physical Geography. . Retrieved July 23, 2018 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.



Country statistics


51,129sq km (19,745 sq mi) 3,835,777

capital (population):

Sarajevo (434,000)



ethnic groups:

Bosniac 46%, Serb 31%,

Croat 14%


Bosnian, Serbian, Croatian


Sunni Muslim 43%, Serbian Orthodox 30%, Roman Catholic 18%



Balkan republic in se Europe. Bosnia-Herzegovina is one of the five republics that emerged from the break-up of the former Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia (see Serbia and Montenegro). It consists of two main regions – Bosnia in the n, with Sarajevo as the capital; and Herzegovina in the s, with Mostar the main city. The e half of the nation is dominated by the Dinaric Alps, which slope down gradually to the w. The River Sava, a tributary of the Danube, forms most of its n border with Croatia. Bosnia-Herzegovina has a narrow, 20km (13mi), outlet to the Adriatic Sea at Neum.

Climate and Vegetation

Coastal areas experience dry, sunny summers and mild, moist winters. Inland, the climate is more extreme, with hot, dry summers and bitterly cold winters. Forests of beech, oak, and pine grow in the n. The sw is an arid limestone plateau, interspersed with farmland.

History and Politics

Slavs settled in the region c.1400 years ago. Bosnia was settled by Serbs in the 7th century and conquered by Ottoman Turks in 1463. The persistence of serfdom led to a peasant revolt (1875). The Congress of Berlin (1878) handed Bosnia-Herzegovina to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which annexed it in 1908. Serbian nationalism intensified. The assassination (1914) of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo precipitated World War 1.

In 1918 Serbia annexed Bosnia-Herzegovina and incorporated it into Yugoslavia in 1929. In World War 2 the region formed part of the German puppet state of Croatia. In 1946 Bosnia-Herzegovina became a constituent republic of Tito's socialist federal republic. In 1991 the republic disintegrated with the secession of Croatia, Slovenia and Macedonia. Fearing the creation of a Greater Serbia, Croats and Muslims pushed for independence.

In March 1992 a referendum, boycotted by Serbian parties, voted for independence. Alija Izetbegović became president of the new nation. War broke out between Bosnian government forces and the Serb-dominated Federal Yugoslav Army (JNA). The JNA overran the republic and besieged the government in Sarajevo. International pressure forced the JNA to withdraw. The JNA supplied weapons to Bosnian Serbs, who established a separate Serb republic led by Radovan Karadžić (August 1992). Serbs forced Muslims from their villages in a deliberate act of ‘ethnic cleansing’. In 1992 the UN deployed peacekeeping forces to distribute humanitarian aid to Sarajevo. In 1993 the UN declared a number of ‘safe havens’ – government-held enclaves to protect Muslims. In 1994, Bosnian Serbs attacked the enclaves of Sarajevo and Gorazde, prompting UN air-strikes. In 1995 Bosnian Serb forces, led by Ratko Mladić, attacked the safe haven of Srebrenica, massacring 8000 Muslims. The governments of Bosnia and Bosnian Croats called a cease-fire and the formation of a Muslim-Croat Federation. The federation launched a major offensive, forcing Bosnian Serbs to negotiate.

The Dayton Peace Accord (December 1995) preserved Bosnia-Herzegovina as a single state, but partitioned it between the Muslim-Croat Federation (51%) and Bosnian Serbs (Republika Srpska, 49%). The three-year conflict claimed more than 200,000 lives. NATO deployed 60,000 troops as part of a Peace Implementation Force (IFOR). Karadžić and Mladić were indicted for war crimes and c.21,000 NATO troops remained as a ‘stabilization’ force (SFOR). The republic has a tripartite presidency (Bosnian Muslim, Serb, and Croat). In 2000, Izetbegović resigned from the presidency. An international tribunal in The Hague tried those suspected of war crimes.


The war shattered the relatively undeveloped economy (2000 GDP per capita, US$1700), and the country largely depends on international aid.

Political map

Physical map


Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Bosnia-Herzegovina." World Encyclopedia. . 23 Jul. 2018 <>.

"Bosnia-Herzegovina." World Encyclopedia. . (July 23, 2018).

"Bosnia-Herzegovina." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved July 23, 2018 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Culture Name

Bosnian; Herzegovinan


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.

Symbolism. The flag is blue, with a yellow isosceles triangle to the upper right and seven five-pointed white stars and two half stars along the hypotenuse of the triangle.

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 Husrev-Bey mosque, which dates back to the sixteenth century. The religious architecture is varied and impressive; in addition to mosques, there are several Orthodox churches, a cathedral, and a Sephardic Jewish synagogue. The city also has a history museum and a national art gallery.

Mostar, the largest city in the Herzegovina region, also has been devastated by the civil war. Other major cities include Banja Luka, Zenica, and Tuzla. Before the war, housing in the cities consisted primarily of concrete apartment buildings. Many of those structures were destroyed during the war, and despite efforts at rebuilding, many remain unlivable. People have been forced into crowded living situations with little privacy.

In rural areas, which are much less densely populated, the effects of war have been less extreme. Most of those houses are small structures of stone or wood. Before the war, the majority of them were equipped with electricity and running water.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. Bosnian food has been influenced by both Turkish and Eastern European cuisine. Grilled meat is popular, as are cabbage-based dishes. Bosanski Ionac is a cabbage and meat stew. Cevapcici are lamb sausages that often are eaten with a flat bread called somun. Pastries, both sweet and savory, are common; burek and pida (layered cheese or meat pies), zeljanica (spinach pie), and sirnica (cheese pie) are served as main dishes. Baklava, a Turkish pastry made of phyllo dough layered with nuts and honey, is a popular dessert, as is an apple cake called tufahije. Kefir, a thin yogurt drink, is popular, as are Turkish coffee and a kind of tea called salep. Homemade brandy, called rakija, is a popular alcoholic drink. Alcohol use is down since the rise in Muslim influence, and in certain areas of the country drinking has been prohibited.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. For Bosnian Muslims, the end of Ramadan (a month of fasting from sunrise to sunset) is celebrated with a large family meal and with Turkish-style sweets and pastries. Both Catholics and Eastern Orthodox believers celebrate Easter with special breads and elaborately decorated eggs. Christmas is an occasion for special family meals among the Christian population.

Basic Economy. Bosnia is the second poorest republic of the former Yugoslavia. The agricultural sector, which accounts for 19 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP), does not produce enough to meet demand, and the country must import food. Industrial production fell 80 percent between 1990 and 1995 because of the civil war, and while it recovered somewhat between 1996 and 1998, the GDP is still significantly lower than it was in 1990. The unemployment rate is between 35 and 40 percent. Bosnia receives large amounts of money in the form of reconstruction assistance and humanitarian aid. In June 1998, a new currency, the convertible mark, replaced the dinar, which had been completely devalued as a result of inflation.

Land Tenure and Property. Tito nationalized many of Yugoslavia's farms into collectives. This proved unsuccessful, and he modified the system by giving farmers more control over production. Today, many farms are privately owned. While 90 percent of the country's firms are private, the large government conglomerates are still in place. This has hindered progress toward privatization, as has widespread corruption.

Commercial Activities. Crops produced for domestic sale include corn, barley, oats, wheat, potatoes, and fruits. The war has caused severe shortages of food, electricity, and other goods. There is an active black market on which some otherwise unavailable goods can be bought for exorbitant prices.

Major Industries. The main industries are mining (coal, iron ore, lead), vehicle assembly, textiles, domestic appliances, oil refining, and military supplies. Much of the production capacity has been damaged or shut down since the early 1990s. There is a negative growth rate of 5 to 10 percent in the country's industries.

Trade. The main imports are raw materials, petroleum-based fuels, and consumer goods. The primary exports are machinery, clothing and footwear, and chemicals. Other republics of the former Yugoslavia and Western European nations are the main trading partners. During the war, Serbia and Croatia placed strict restrictions on trade with Bosnia, further damaging the economy.

Division of Labor. Under communism, the composition of the workforce shifted from an agricultural base to an industrial one. The more desirable jobs in government often were obtained through connections. Today, as the economy is beginning to recover from the civil war, jobs are difficult to come by in many fields, and connections are still useful.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. Before World War II, peasants formed the base of society, with a small upper class composed of government workers, professionals, merchants, and artisans and an even smaller middle class. Under communism, education, party membership, and rapid industrialization offered possibilities for upward mobility. The majority of the people had a comfortable lifestyle. The civil war drastically decreased the overall standard of living, and shortages and inflation have made necessary items unaffordable or unavailable. This situation has created more extreme differences between the rich and the poor, as those who have access to goods can hoard them and sell them for exorbitant rates. In general, the war stripped even the richest citizens of their wealth and left the majority of the population destitute.

Symbols of Social Stratification. Under Tito, Yugoslavia had a higher standard of living than did most countries in Eastern Europe; it was not uncommon for people in the cities to have cars, televisions, and other goods and appliances. The upper classes and higher-echelon government workers had more possessions and a higher standard of living. Today, luxuries of any sort are rare.

People generally dress in Western-style clothing. Muslim women can be distinguished by their attire; while they do not wear the full body covering common in other Islamic countries, they usually cover their heads with scarves. Traditional Serbian and Croatian costumes include caps, white blouses, and elaborately embroidered vests; they can be distinguished by the type of embroidery and other small variations. These outfits are worn only for special occasions such as weddings and festivals.

Political Life

Government. The legislature is bicameral. In the National House of Representatives, or Vijece Opcina, two-thirds of the seats are designated for the Bosniac/Croat Federation and one-third for the Serbian Republic; in the House of Peoples, or Vijece Gradanstvo, each ethnic group is guaranteed five seats. The presidency rotates every eight months among members of the three groups. These three presidents are elected by popular vote for four-year terms.

Leadership and Political Officials. Since the war, politics has splintered along ethnic lines. More than twenty political parties are represented in the government, most of them identified as Bosnian Muslim, Serb, or Croat. Bosnians are currently extremely wary of trusting a leader from a different ethnic group to represent their interests.

Social Problems and Control. The high rate of unemployment has led to an increase in crimes such as petty theft and carjacking. Unexploded land mines throughout the country are still a major concern. The Federation and the Republic have separate legal systems with trial and appellate courts.

One of the primary concerns today is prosecuting war criminals. An international war tribunal at the Hague has tried some perpetrators, but many others remain at large, including Slobodan Milosevic.

Military Activity. The Federation Army consists of separate Croatian and Bosniac elements. The Bosniac Army (the official army of the Federation) consists of forty thousand troops; the Croatians have sixteen thousand. The Army of the Serb Republic is composed solely of Bosnian Serbs and numbers around thirty thousand. Both federation and republican forces have air and air defense components that are subordinate to ground forces.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

Tito instituted a welfare system that provided for the poor, the elderly, and the mentally and physically disabled. His government also guaranteed women maternity leave and paid leave when their children were sick.

In independent Bosnia, the Muslim, Croat, and Serbian administrations provide aid for their respective populations. In the 1990s, the majority of the money for social services came from foreign aid organizations rather than from the government.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

A number of international humanitarian groups have provided aid to help the country recover from the civil war. One of the largest of these groups is the International Committee of the Red Cross, which, in addition to providing aid and aid workers, investigated Serbian violations of the Geneva Conventions during the war. Other active groups include Christian Relief, World Vision, the International Medical Corps, and numerous religious, governmental, and humanitarian associations.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. Women are responsible for all domestic tasks, including cooking, cleaning, and child rearing. Women who work outside the home generally have lower-paying and lower-status jobs than men do. Since the economic devastation of the civil war, men are more likely to occupy the few jobs that are available, and more women have returned to the traditional roles of housewife and mother. Women are more equally represented in agriculture than they are in other fields, and the majority of elementary schoolteachers are women.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. Bosnia has a patriarchal tradition in which women are expected to be subservient to men. Both the Eastern European and Islamic traditions have contributed to this situation. Under Tito's administration, women were given complete civil and political rights. Educational and lifestyle opportunities have increased significantly since that time, although there are still disparities.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Marriages are not arranged, and love matches are the norm. In 1991, before the civil war, 40 percent of the marriages registered involved ethnically mixed couples. Since that time, mixed marriages have become extremely rare. Despite Muslim sanctioning of polygamy, the custom was practiced in only one region of the country and currently is not practiced at all. It used to be customary for a bride's parents to give the couple a specially woven dowry rug containing the couple's initials and the wedding date.

Domestic Unit. The traditional domestic unit often includes parents, grandparents, and young children. This pattern has been disrupted in many cases, as the war forced thousands of people to flee their homes. Many were relocated to refugee camps or other countries, and thousands more were sent to concentration camps. Many mixed families have been torn apart by ethnic hatred, as children and spouses are forced to choose between ethnic affiliation and family ties.

Inheritance. Traditionally, inheritance follows a system of primogeniture, passing from the father to the oldest son. Under communism it was legal for women to inherit property.

Kin Groups. As in the neighboring Slavic countries, Bosnians traditionally lived in zadruga, agricultural communities that ranged from two or three related nuclear families to as many as a hundred. Those communities were patriarchal and hierarchical in organization, with a male gospodar as the head. Most important decisions were made communally by the male members. While zadruga no longer exist in their original form, a person's extended family is still considered extremely important, especially in rural areas.


Infant Care. Tito's government, which encouraged women to work outside the home, established state-run day-care centers for young children.

Child Rearing and Education. The current generation of children has witnessed unspeakable atrocities. Children were a prime target of snipers, especially in Sarajevo. Survivors suffer flashbacks, nightmares, and severe depression; in one survey, 90 percent of children surveyed in Sarajevo declared that they did not want to live. The country will be dealing with the effect of the war on these children for years.

Education is free and mandatory for children between the ages of seven and fourteen. There are Muslim schools where students study the Koran and Islamic law in addition to secular subjects and where boys and girls are taught in separate classrooms.

The educational system has been hard hit by the war. Schools were common targets of Serb mortar attacks, and many were forced to close. Some makeshift schools were organized in homes, but many children were left with no access to education. Since 1995, many schools have reopened.

Higher Education. The country has universities at Sarajevo, Banja Luka, Tuzla, and Mostar. After the civil war, the university in Mostar split into a Croat university in the western part of the city and a Muslim university in the eastern part.


Bosnians are known as a friendly, hospitable people. In Muslim houses, it is traditional to remove one's shoes and put on a pair of slippers. Kissing is a common form of greeting for both men and women. Three kisses on alternating cheeks are customary. Visiting is a common pastime. When entering a home as a guest, one often brings a small present. Hosts are expected to serve a meal or refreshment.


Religious Beliefs. Forty percent of the population is Muslim, 31 percent is Eastern Orthodox, 15 percent is Roman Catholic, and 4 percent is Protestant; 10 percent of the people follow other religions. Most of the population is not particularly observant, but religion is an important aspect of national identity. (Islam is associated with the Bosniacs, Eastern Orthodox with the Serbs, and Catholicism with the Croatians.)

Icons, which are images representing Christ, angels, saints, and other holy figures, hold an important place in Orthodox practice and are considered a connection between the earthly and spiritual realms.

Religious Practitioners. The central religious figures in Islam are called muezzins, scholars of the Koran who call the faithful to prayer. The Koran is seen as the ultimate authority in the religion. In the Eastern Orthodox religion, priests are the primary religious authorities; they are permitted to marry. The Eastern Orthodox religion does not recognize the authority of the Pope but follows a group of patriarchs who have equal status.

Rituals and Holy Places. Mosques are Muslim houses of worship. It is customary to remove one's shoes before entering. The prayer hall has no pews or seats; instead, worshipers kneel on prayer rugs. After Ramadan, people exchange small gifts, visit friends, and have a large family meal.

Eastern Orthodox religious ceremonies are held in elaborate, beautifully designed churches, many of which date back hundreds of years. Each family has a patron saint who is honored once a year in a large celebration called Krsna Slava. A candle is lit in the saint's honor, and special foods are consumed. Christmas (observed 6 and 7 January in the Orthodox Church) is a major holiday. Christmas Eve, called Badnje Vece, is celebrated with a large bonfire in the churchyard and the singing of hymns. In addition to church services, Easter is celebrated by dying eggs and performing traditional kolo dances.

Death and the Afterlife. Christians and Muslims mourn the death of a loved one by dressing in black and paying visits to the family of the deceased.

In the Eastern Orthodox tradition, funerals are large, elaborate occasions. In the cemetery, a spread of salads and roasted meats is presented in honor of the deceased; this is repeated a year after the death, at which point the gravestone is placed in the ground. Gravestones often bear photographs as well as inscriptions.

Medicine and Health Care

Tito's government significantly raised the standard of health, eliminating diseases such as typhus, tuberculosis, and whooping cough. More medical workers were trained, facilities were improved, and educational campaigns raised the general awareness of the population regarding health issues.

Many of the nation's health problems today stem from the destruction caused by the civil war. The medical system has been hard hit; facilities have been destroyed, and staffing and supplies are inadequate to deal with the enormous number of casualties. Despite the health workers and aid sent by charitable organizations, these problems continue to plague the health care system and have left it unable to meet even the basic medical needs of the population.

Secular Celebrations

The main secular holidays are New Year's Day, 1 January; Republic Day, 9 January (25 November in the Federation); Independence Day, 1 March; Day of the Army, 15 April; Labor Day, 1 May; and Victory Day, 4 May. There is an annual Sarajevo Film Festival in late August and a Winter Festival in February and March that is observed with theatrical and musical performances.

The Arts and Humanities

Support for the Arts. Under communism, artists who glorified the state received government funding; most other expression was censored. Since that time, artists have been given more creative freedom, although the religious establishment has used its political power to influence the art that is produced. There is virtually no money from public or private sources to support the arts.

Literature. The national literary tradition can be traced back to epic stories that were set to music and passed orally from one generation to the next. While not as prevalent today, this art form was still widely practiced as recently as the 1950s. Contemporary literature is concerned with history and identity politics. The most famous Bosnian writer is Ivo Andric, a Serbian Catholic who was raised in Bosnia and won the Nobel Prize in 1961 for the historical novel Bridge over the Drina. Mesa Selimovic, another novelist, was raised a Muslim but proclaimed himself a Serbian writer. Much of the literature produced in recent years has consisted of nonfiction accounts of the war. One such work is that of Zlata Filipovic, a twelve-year old girl whose diary describes everyday life in besieged Sarajevo.

Graphic Arts. Sarajevo and Mostar are well known for the wool rugs and carpets their artisans produce. Turkish influence is evident in the bright colors and geometric designs. Calligraphy and metalwork also reflect traditional Islamic styles. Silk embroidery is a traditional women's art. Contemporary graphic artists have used bullets, shrapnel, broken glass, ash, and other debris to make powerful statements.

The film director Emir Kusturica, a Bosnian with a Muslim background, achieved international acclaim for his 1984 film When Father Went Away on Business, which was nominated for an Academy Award in the United States. Since the civil war, Kusturica's work has been condemned by Muslim authorities, and he has moved to Serbia.

Performance Arts. Music in urban areas has strong echoes of the Turkish tradition. Singing is accompanied by the saz, a type of lute. In rural areas, the music draws more on Slavic influences. Ravne pesme is a "flat song" with little variation; ganga is a polyphonic song that sounds like shouting. The main instruments are the shargija (similar to the saz), the diple (a droneless bagpipe), and a wooden flute. Epic poems are performed to the accompaniment of a one-stringed fiddled called a gusle. Sevdalinka songs (from the Turkish word for love) are sentimental melodies usually sung by young women. They are performed throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina and have a strong cultural resonance in the entire country.

There are a variety of folk dances. Some are similar to the Serbian and Croatian forms. The nijemo kolo is a circle dance performed to foot stamping rather than music. There are also different line dances, some performed by men and others by women. Rock 'n' roll and popular dancing are popular and in some cases are replacing the more traditional forms.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

The physical and social sciences are virtually nonexistent since the civil war, and there are no funds available for these pursuits. The National and University Library was destroyed by Serbian bombings in 1992 and has not been rebuilt.


Benedek, Wolfgang, ed. Human Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina after Dayton: From Theory to Practice 1999.

Bildt, Carl. Peace Journey: The Struggle for Peace in Bosnia, 1998.

Campbell, David. National Deconstruction: Violence, Identity, and Justice in Bosnia, 1998.

Chandler, David. Bosnia: Faking Democracy after Dayton, 1999.

"The Dismantled State of Bosnia." The Economist, June 28, 1997.

Doubt, Keith. Sociology after Bosnia and Kosovo: Recovering Justice, 2000.

Filipovic, Zlata. Zlata's Diary: A Child's Life in Sarajevo, 1994.

Glenny, Mischa. The Balkans: Nationalism, War, and the Great Powers, 18041999, 2000.

Hemon, Aleksander. Question in Bosnia, 2000.

Malcolm, Noel. Bosnia, A Short History 1994.

Mazower, Mark. The Balkans: A Short History, 2000.

Milojkovíc-Djuríc, Jelena. Panslavism and National Identity in Russia and the Balkans, 18301880: Images of the Self and Others, 1994.

Mojzes, Paul, ed. Religion and War in Bosnia, 1998.

"A Precarious Peace." The Economist, January 24, 1998.

Thompson, Mark. Forging War: The Media in Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia-Hercegovina, 1999.

Web Sites

U.S. State Department, Central Intelligence Agency. "Bosnia."

Eleanor Stanford

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Bosnia and Herzegovina." Countries and Their Cultures. . 23 Jul. 2018 <>.

"Bosnia and Herzegovina." Countries and Their Cultures. . (July 23, 2018).

"Bosnia and Herzegovina." Countries and Their Cultures. . Retrieved July 23, 2018 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina


The people who live in Bosnia and Herzegovina are commonly referred to as Bosnians. About half are Muslim, one-third are Serbs, and almost 20 percent are Croats. Just over 5 percent of the population describe themselves as Yugoslavs.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Bosnia and Herzegovina." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . 23 Jul. 2018 <>.

"Bosnia and Herzegovina." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . (July 23, 2018).

"Bosnia and Herzegovina." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . Retrieved July 23, 2018 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.



BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA. SeeYugoslavia, Relations with .

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Bosnia-Herzegovina." Dictionary of American History. . 23 Jul. 2018 <>.

"Bosnia-Herzegovina." Dictionary of American History. . (July 23, 2018).

"Bosnia-Herzegovina." Dictionary of American History. . Retrieved July 23, 2018 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.