Bosnia and Herzegovina is a region that traces permanent human settlement back to the Neolithic age, during and after which it was populated by several Illyrian and Celtic civilizations. Culturally, politically, and socially, the country has a rich history, having been first settled by the Slavic peoples that populate the area today from the 6th through to the 9th centuries. In the 12th century the Banate of Bosnia was established, which evolved into the Kingdom of Bosnia in the 14th century, after which it was annexed into the Ottoman Empire, under whose rule it would remain from the mid-15th to the late 19th centuries. The Ottomans brought Islam to the region, and altered much of the cultural and social outlook of the country. This was followed by annexation into the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, which lasted up until World War I. In the interwar period, Bosnia and Herzegovina was part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and after World War II, it was granted full republic status in the newly formed Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Following the dissolution of Yugoslavia, the republic proclaimed independence in 1992, which was followed by the Bosnian War, lasting until late 1995.
Today, the country maintains high literacy, life expectancy and education levels and is one of the most frequently visited countries in the region, projected to have the third highest tourism growth rate in the world between 1995 and 2020. Bosnia and Herzegovina is known for its natural environment and cultural heritage inherited from six historical civilizations, its cuisine, winter sports, its eclectic and unique music, architecture and its festivals, some of which are the largest and most prominent of their kind in Southeastern Europe. The country is home to three main ethnic groups or, officially, constituent peoples, as specified in the constitution. Bosniaks are the largest group of the three, with Serbs second and Croats third. A native of Bosnia and Herzegovina, regardless of ethnicity, is identified in English as a Bosnian. The terms Herzegovinian and Bosnian are maintained as a regional rather than ethnic distinction, and the region of Herzegovina has no precisely defined borders of its own. Moreover, the country was simply called "Bosnia" until the Austro-Hungarian occupation at the end of the 19th century.
Bosnia and Herzegovina has a bicameral legislature and a three-member Presidency composed of a member of each major ethnic group. However, the central government's power is highly limited, as the country is largely decentralized and comprises two autonomous entities: the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska, with a third region, the Brčko District, governed under local government. The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina is itself complex and consists of 10 cantons. The country is a potential candidate for membership to the European Union and has been a candidate for North Atlantic Treaty Organisation membership since April 2010, when it received a Membership Action Plan at a summit in Tallinn. Additionally, the country has been a member of the Council of Europe since April 2002 and a founding member of the Mediterranean Union upon its establishment in July 2008.
The first preserved widely acknowledged mention of Bosnia is in De Administrando Imperio, a politico-geographical handbook written by the Byzantine emperor Constantine VII in the mid-10th century (between 948 and 952) describing the "small land" (χωρίον in Greek) of "Bosona" (Βοσώνα). The name is believed to have been derived from the hydronym of the river Bosna coursing through the Bosnian heartland. According to philologist Anton Mayer the name Bosna could be derived from Illyrian "Bass-an-as" which would be a diversion of the Proto-Indo-European root "bos" or "bogh", meaning "the running water". According to English medievalist William Miller the Slavic settlers in Bosnia "adapted the Latin designation [...] Basante, to their own idiom by calling the stream Bosna and themselves Bosniaks [...]".
The name Herzegovina ("herzog's [land]", from German word for "duke") originates from Bosnian magnate Stephen Vukčić Kosača's title, "Herceg (Herzog) of Hum and the Coast" (1448). Hum, formerly Zahumlje, was an early medieval principality that was conquered by the Bosnian Banate in the first half of the 14th century. The region was administered by the Ottomans as the Sanjak of Herzegovina (Hersek) within the Eyalet of Bosnia up until the formation of the short-lived Herzegovina Eyalet in the 1830s, which was remerged in the 1850s, after which the entity became commonly known as "Bosnia and Herzegovina".
On initial proclamation of independence in 1992, the country's official name was the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina but following the 1995 Dayton Agreement and the new constitution that accompanied it the name was officially changed to Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Bosnia has been inhabited since at latest the Neolithic age. The earliest Neolithic population became known in the Antiquity as the Illyrians. Celtic migrations in the 4th century BC were also notable. Concrete historical evidence for this period is scarce, but overall it appears that the region was populated by a number of different people speaking distinct languages. Conflict between the Illyrians and Romans started in 229 BC, but Rome did not complete its annexation of the region until AD 9. It was precisely in modern-day Bosnia and Herzegovina that Rome fought one of the most difficult battles in its history since the Punic Wars, as described by the Roman historian Suetonius. This was the Roman campaign against Illyricum, known as Bellum Batonianum. The conflict arose after an attempt to recruit Illyrians, and a revolt spanned for four years (6–9 AD), after which they were subdued. In the Roman period, Latin-speaking settlers from the entire Roman Empire settled among the Illyrians, and Roman soldiers were encouraged to retire in the region. Following the split of the Empire between 337 and 395 AD, Dalmatia and Pannonia became parts of the Western Roman Empire. Some claim that the region was conquered by the Ostrogoths in 455 AD. It subsequently changed hands between the Alans and the Huns. By the 6th century, Emperor Justinian had reconquered the area for the Byzantine Empire. Slavs overwhelmed the Balkans in the 6th and 7th centuries. Illyrian cultural traits were adopted by the South Slavs, as evidenced in certain customs and traditions, placenames, etc. Timothy Gregory explains:
The Early Slavs raided the Western Balkans, including Bosnia, in the 6th and early 7th century (amid the Migration Period), and were composed of small tribal units drawn from a single Slavic confederation known to the Byzantines as the Sclaveni (whilst the related Antes, roughly speaking, colonized the eastern portions of the Balkans). Tribes recorded by the ethnonyms of "Serb" and "Croat" are described as a second, latter, migration of different people during the second quarter of the 7th century who do not seem to have been particularly numerous; these early "Serb" and "Croat" tribes, whose exact identity is subject to scholarly debate, came to predominate over the Slavs in the neighbouring regions. The bulk of Bosnia proper, however, appears to have been a territory between Serb and Croat rule and is not enumerated as one of the regions settled by those tribes.
Bosnia is first mentioned as a land (horion Bosona) in Byzantine Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus' De Administrando Imperio in the mid 10th century, at the end of a chapter (Chap. 32) entitled "Of the Serbs and the country in which they now dwell". This has been scholarly interpreted in several ways and used especially by the Serb national ideologists to prove Bosnia as originally a "Serb" land. Other scholars have asserted the inclusion of Bosnia into Chapter 32 to merely be the result of Serbian Grand Duke Časlav's temporary rule over Bosnia at the time, while also pointing out that Porphyrogenitus does not say anywhere explicitly that Bosnia is a "Serb land". In fact, the very translation of the critical sentence in which the word Bosona (Bosnia) appears is subject to varying interpretation.
In time, Bosnia would come to form a unit under its own ruler calling himself Bosnian. Bosnia, along with other territories, became part of Duklja in the 11th century, although it retained its own nobility and institutions.
In the High Middle Ages political circumstance led to the area being contested between the Kingdom of Hungary and the Byzantine Empire. Following another shift of power between the two in the early 12th century, Bosnia found itself outside the control of both and emerged as the Banate of Bosnia (under the rule of local bans). The first Bosnian ban known by name was Ban Borić. The second was Ban Kulin whose rule marked the start of a controversy involving the Bosnian Church – considered heretical by the Roman Catholic Church. In response to Hungarian attempts to use church politics regarding the issue as a way to reclaim sovereignty over Bosnia, Kulin held a council of local church leaders to renounce the heresy and embraced Catholicism in 1203. Despite this, Hungarian ambitions remained unchanged long after Kulin's death in 1204, waning only after an unsuccessful invasion in 1254. During this time the population was called Dobri Bošnjani ("Good Bosnians"). The names Serb and Croat, though occasionally appearing in peripheral areas, were not used in Bosnia proper.
Bosnian history from then until the early 14th century was marked by a power struggle between the Šubić and Kotromanić families. This conflict came to an end in 1322, when Stephen II Kotromanić became Ban. By the time of his death in 1353, he was successful in annexing territories to the north and west, as well as Zahumlje and parts of Dalmatia. He was succeeded by his ambitious nephew Tvrtko who, following a prolonged struggle with nobility and inter-family strife, gained full control of the country in 1367. By the year 1377, Bosnia was elevated into a kingdom with the coronation of Tvrtko as the first Bosnian King in Mile near Visoko in the Bosnian heartland.
Following his death in 1391 however, Bosnia fell into a long period of decline. The Ottoman Empire had already started its conquest of Europe and posed a major threat to the Balkans throughout the first half of the 15th century. Finally, after decades of political and social instability, the Kingdom of Bosnia ceased to exist in 1463 after its conquest by the Ottoman Empire.
The Ottoman conquest of Bosnia marked a new era in the country's history and introduced drastic changes in the political and cultural landscape. The Ottomans allowed for the preservation of Bosnia's identity by incorporating it as an integral province of the Ottoman Empire with its historical name and territorial integrity — a unique case among subjugated states in the Balkans.
Within Bosnia the Ottomans introduced a number of key changes in the territory's socio-political administration; including a new landholding system, a reorganization of administrative units, and a complex system of social differentiation by class and religious affiliation.
The four centuries of Ottoman rule also had a drastic impact on Bosnia's population make-up, which changed several times as a result of the empire's conquests, frequent wars with European powers, forced and economic migrations, and epidemics. A native Slavic-speaking Muslim community emerged and eventually became the largest of the ethno-religious groups due to lack of strong Christian church organizations and continuous rivalry between the Orthodox and Catholic churches, while the indigenous Bosnian Church disappeared altogether (ostensibly by conversion of its members to Islam). The Ottomans referred to them as kristianlar while the Orthodox and Catholics were called gebir or kafir, meaning "unbeliever". The Bosnian Franciscans (and the Catholic population as a whole) were protected by official imperial decrees and in accordance and full extent of Ottoman laws, however in effect, these often merely affected arbitrary rule and behavior of powerful local elite.
As the Ottoman Empire continued their rule in the Balkans (Rumelia), Bosnia was somewhat relieved of the pressures of being a frontier province, and experienced a period of general welfare. A number of cities, such as Sarajevo and Mostar, were established and grew into regional centers of trade and urban culture and were then visited by Ottoman traveler Evliya Çelebi in 1648. Within these cities, various Ottoman Sultans financed the construction of many works of Bosnian architecture such as the country's first library in Sarajevo, madrassas, a school of Sufi philosophy, and a clock tower (Sahat Kula), bridges such as the Stari Most, the Tsar's Mosque and the Gazi Husrev-beg's Mosque.
Furthermore, several Bosnian Muslims played influential roles in the Ottoman Empire's cultural and political history during this time. Bosnian recruits formed a large component of the Ottoman ranks in the battles of Mohács and Krbava field, while numerous other Bosnians rose through the ranks of the Ottoman military to occupy the highest positions of power in the Empire, including admirals such as Matrakçı Nasuh; generals such as Isa-Beg Isaković, Gazi Husrev-beg and Hasan Predojević and Sarı Süleyman Paşa; administrators such as Ferhat-paša Sokolović and Osman Gradaščević; and Grand Viziers such as the influential Mehmed Paša Sokolović and Damad Ibrahim Pasha. Some Bosnians emerged as Sufi mystics, scholars such as Muhamed Hevaji Uskufi Bosnevi, Ali Džabič; and poets in the Turkish, Albanian, Arabic, and Persian languages.
However, by the late 17th century the Empire's military misfortunes caught up with the country, and the conclusion of the Great Turkish War with the treaty of Karlowitz in 1699 once again made Bosnia the Empire's westernmost province. The following century was marked by further military failures, numerous revolts within Bosnia, and several outbursts of plague. The Porte's efforts at modernizing the Ottoman state were met with distrust growing to hostility in Bosnia, where local aristocrats stood to lose much through the proposed reforms.
This, combined with frustrations over territorial, political concessions in the north-east, and the plight of Slavic Muslim refugees arriving from the Sanjak of Smederevo into Bosnia Eyalet, culminated in a partially unsuccessful revolt by Husein Gradaščević, who endorsed a multicultural Bosnia Eyalet autonomous from the authoritarian rule of the Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II, who persecuted, executed and abolished the Janissaries and reduced the role of autonomous Pashas in Rumelia. Mahmud II sent his Grand Vizier to subdue Bosnia Eyalet and succeeded only with the reluctant assistance of Ali-paša Rizvanbegović. Related rebellions would be extinguished by 1850, but the situation continued to deteriorate. Later agrarian unrest eventually sparked the Herzegovinian rebellion, a widespread peasant uprising, in 1875. The conflict rapidly spread and came to involve several Balkan states and Great Powers, a situation which eventually led to the Congress of Berlin and the Treaty of Berlin in 1878.
At the Congress of Berlin in 1878, the Austro-Hungarian Foreign Minister Gyula Andrássy obtained the occupation and administration of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and he also obtained the right to station garrisons in the Sanjak of Novi Pazar, which remained under Ottoman administration. The Sanjak preserved the separation of Serbia and Montenegro, and the Austro-Hungarian garrisons there would open the way for a dash to Salonika that "would bring the western half of the Balkans under permanent Austrian influence." "High [Austro-Hungarian] military authorities desired [an...] immediate major expedition with Salonika as its objective."
On 28 September 1878, the Finance Minister, Koloman von Zell, threatened to resign if the army, backed by the Archduke Albert, were allowed to advance to Salonika. In the session of the Hungarian Parliament of 5 November 1878 the Opposition proposed that the Foreign Minister should be impeached for violating the constitution with his policy during the Near East Crisis and by the occupation of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The motion lost 179 to 95. The gravest accusations were raised by the opposition rank and file against Andrassy.
Although an Austro-Hungarian side quickly came to an agreement with Bosnians, tensions remained in certain parts of the country (particularly the south) and a mass emigration of predominantly Slavic dissidents occurred. However, a state of relative stability was reached soon enough and Austro-Hungarian authorities were able to embark on a number of social and administrative reforms which intended to make Bosnia and Herzegovina into a "model colony".
With the aim of establishing the province as a stable political model that would help dissipate rising South Slav nationalism, Habsburg rule did much to codify laws, to introduce new political practices, and to provide for modernisation. The Austro-Hungarian Empire built the three Roman Catholic churches in Sarajevo and these three churches are among only 20 Catholic churches in the state of Bosnia.
In 1881, within three years of formal occupation of Bosnia Herzegovina, Austria-Hungary obtained German and the more important Russian approval of the annexation of these provinces at a time that suited Vienna. This mandate was formally ratified by the Dreikaiserbund (Three Emperor's Treaty) on 18 June of that year. Upon the accession of Czar Nicholas II, however, the Russians reneged on the agreement, asserting in 1897 the need for special scrutiny of the Bosnian Annexation issue at an unspecified future date.
External matters began to affect the Bosnian Protectorate, however, and its relationship with Austria-Hungary. A bloody coup occurred in Serbia, on 10 June 1903, which brought a radical anti-Austrian government into power in Belgrade. Also, the revolt in the Ottoman Empire in 1908, raised concerns that the Istanbul government might seek the outright return of Bosnia Herzegovina. These factors caused the Austrian-Hungarian government to seek a permanent resolution of the Bosnian question sooner, rather than later.
On 2 July 1908, in response to the pressing of the Austrian-Hungarian claim, the Russian Imperial Foreign Minister Alexander Izvolsky offered to support the Bosnian annexation in return for Vienna's support for Russia's bid for naval access through the Dardanelles Straits into the Mediterranean. With the Russians being, at least, provisionally willing to keep their word over Bosnia Herzegovina for the first time in 11 years, Austria-Hungary waited and then published the annexation proclamation on 6 October 1908. The international furor over the annexation announcement caused Izvolsky to drop the Dardanelles Straits question, altogether, in an effort to obtain a European conference over the Bosnian Annexation. This conference never materialized and without British or French support, the Russians and their client state, Serbia, were compelled to accept the Austrian-Hungarian annexation of Bosnia Herzegovina in March 1909.
Political tensions culminated on 28 June 1914, when a Yugoslav nationalist youth named Gavrilo Princip, a member of the secret Serbian-supported movement, Young Bosnia, assassinated the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, in Sarajevo—an event that proved to be the spark that set off World War I. At the end of the war, the Bosniaks had lost more men per capita than any other ethnic group in the Habsburg Empire whilst serving in the Bosnian-Herzegovinian Infantry (known as Bosniaken) of the Austro-Hungarian Army. Nonetheless, Bosnia and Herzegovina as a whole managed to escape the conflict relatively unscathed.
The Austro-Hungarian authorities established an auxiliary militia known as the Schutzkorps with a moot role in the empire's policy of anti-Serb repression. Schutzkorps, predominantly recruited among the Muslim (Bosniak) population, were tasked with hunting down rebel Serbs (the Chetniks and Komiti) and became known for their persecution of Serbs particularly in Serb populated areas of eastern Bosnia, where they partly retaliated against Serbian Chetniks who in fall 1914 had carried out attacks against the Muslim population in the area. The proceedings of the Austro-Hungarian authorities led to around 5,500 citizens of Serb ethnicity in Bosnia and Herzegovina being arrested, and between 700 and 2,200 died in prison while 460 were executed. Around 5,200 Serb families were forcibly expelled from Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Following World War I, Bosnia and Herzegovina joined the South Slav Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (soon renamed Yugoslavia). Political life in Bosnia at this time was marked by two major trends: social and economic unrest over property redistribution, and formation of several political parties that frequently changed coalitions and alliances with parties in other Yugoslav regions. The dominant ideological conflict of the Yugoslav state, between Croatian regionalism and Serbian centralization, was approached differently by Bosnia's major ethnic groups and was dependent on the overall political atmosphere. The political reforms brought about in the newly established Yugoslavian kingdom saw few benefits for the Bosniaks; according to the 1910 final census of land ownership and population according to religious affiliation conducted in Austro-Hungary, Muslims (Bosniaks) owned 91.1%, Orthodox Serbians owned 6.0%, Croatian Catholics owned 2.6% and others, 0.3% of the property. Following the reforms Bosnian Muslims had a total of 1,175,305 hectares of agricultural and forest land taken away from them.
Although the initial split of the country into 33 oblasts erased the presence of traditional geographic entities from the map, the efforts of Bosnian politicians such as Mehmed Spaho ensured that the six oblasts carved up from Bosnia and Herzegovina corresponded to the six sanjaks from Ottoman times and, thus, matched the country's traditional boundary as a whole.
The establishment of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1929, however, brought the redrawing of administrative regions into banates or banovinas that purposely avoided all historical and ethnic lines, removing any trace of a Bosnian entity. Serbo-Croat tensions over the structuring of the Yugoslav state continued, with the concept of a separate Bosnian division receiving little or no consideration.
The Cvetković-Maček Agreement that created the Croatian banate in 1939 encouraged what was essentially a partition of Bosnia between Croatia and Serbia. However the rising threat of Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany forced Yugoslav politicians to shift their attention. Following a period that saw attempts at appeasement, the signing of the Tripartite Treaty, and a coup d'état, Yugoslavia was finally invaded by Germany on 6 April 1941.
Once the kingdom of Yugoslavia was conquered by Nazi forces in World War II, all of Bosnia was ceded to the Nazi puppet regime, the Independent State of Croatia (NDH). The NDH leaders embarked on a campaign of extermination of Serbs, Jews, Romani, Croats who opposed the regime, communists and large numbers of Josip Broz Tito's Partisans by setting up a number of death camps. An estimated 209,000 Serbs and Montenegrins were killed on the territory of Bosnia-Herzegovina during the war. The Ustaše recognized both Roman Catholicism and Islam as the national religions, but held the position that Eastern Orthodoxy, as a symbol of Serbian identity, was their greatest foe. Although Croats were by far the largest ethnic group to constitute the Ustaše, the Vice President of the NDH and leader of the Yugoslav Muslim Organization Džafer Kulenović was a Muslim, and Muslims (Bosniaks) in total comprised nearly 12% of the Ustaše military and civil service authority.
Many Serbs themselves took up arms and joined the Chetniks, a Serb nationalist movement with the aim of establishing an ethnically homogeneous 'Greater Serbian' state. The Chetniks were responsible for widespread persecution and murder of non-Serbs and communist sympathizers, with the Muslim population of Bosnia, Herzegovina and Sandžak being a primary target. Once captured, Muslim villagers were systematically massacred by the Chetniks. Of the 75,000 Muslims who lost their lives in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the war, approximately 30,000 (mostly civilians) were killed by the Chetniks. Later, a number of Muslims served in Nazi Waffen-SS units. Between 64,000 and 79,000 Bosnian Croats also perished from April 1941 to May 1945. Of these, about 18,000 were killed by the Chetniks.
On 12 October 1941, a group of 108 notable Muslim citizens of Sarajevo signed the Resolution of Sarajevo Muslims by which they condemned the persecution of Serbs organized by the Ustaše, made distinction between Muslims who participated in such persecutions and whole Muslim population, presented information about the persecutions of Muslims by Serbs and requested security for all citizens of the country, regardless of their identity.
Starting in 1941, Yugoslav communists under the leadership of Josip Broz Tito organized their own multi-ethnic resistance group, the partisans, who fought against both Axis and Chetnik forces. On 29 November 1943 the Anti-Fascist Council of National Liberation of Yugoslavia with Tito at its helm held a founding conference in Jajce where Bosnia and Herzegovina was reestablished as a republic within the Yugoslavian federation in its Habsburg borders.
Military success eventually prompted the Allies to support the Partisans, but Tito declined their offer to help and relied on his own forces instead. All the major military offensives by the antifascist movement of Yugoslavia against Nazis and their local supporters were conducted in Bosnia-Herzegovina and its peoples bore the brunt of fighting. More than 300,000 people died in Bosnia and Herzegovina in World War II. At the end of the war the establishment of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, with the constitution of 1946, officially made Bosnia and Herzegovina one of six constituent republics in the new state.
Due to its central geographic position within the Yugoslavian federation, post-war Bosnia was selected as a base for the development of the military defense industry. This contributed to a large concentration of arms and military personnel in Bosnia; a significant factor in the war that followed the break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. However, Bosnia's existence within Yugoslavia, for the large part, was a peaceful and very prosperous country, with high employment, a strong industrial and export oriented economy, good education system and social and medical security for every citizen of S. R. Bosnia and Herzegovina. Several international corporations operated in Bosnia— Volkswagen (car factory in Sarajevo, from 1972), Coca-Cola (from 1975), SKF Sweden (from 1967), Marlboro, (a tobacco factory in Sarajevo), and Holiday Inn hotels. Sarajevo was the site of the 1984 Winter Olympics.
During the 1950s and 1960s Bosnia was a political backwater of the Republic of Yugoslavia. In the 1970s a strong Bosnian political elite arose, fueled in part by Tito's leadership in the Non-Aligned Movement and Bosnians serving in Yugoslavia's diplomatic corps. While working within the Socialist system, politicians such as Džemal Bijedić, Branko Mikulić and Hamdija Pozderac reinforced and protected the sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Their efforts proved key during the turbulent period following Tito's death in 1980, and are today considered some of the early steps towards Bosnian independence. However, the republic did not escape the increasingly nationalistic climate of the time. With the fall of the Soviet Union and the start of the break-up of Yugoslavia, doctrine of tolerance began to lose its potency, creating an opportunity for nationalist elements in the society to spread their influence.
On 18 November 1990, multi-party parliamentary elections were held throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina. A second round followed on 25 November, resulting in a national assembly where communist power was replaced by a coalition of three ethnically-based parties. Following Slovenia and Croatia's declarations of independence from Yugoslavia, a significant split developed among the residents of Bosnia and Herzegovina on the issue of whether to remain within Yugoslavia (overwhelmingly favored by Serbs) or seek independence (overwhelmingly favored by Bosniaks and Croats).
The Serb members of parliament, consisting mainly of the Serb Democratic Party members, abandoned the central parliament in Sarajevo, and formed the Assembly of the Serb People of Bosnia and Herzegovina on 24 October 1991, which marked the end of the tri-ethnic coalition that governed after the elections in 1990. This Assembly established the Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina on 9 January 1992, which was renamed Republika Srpska in August 1992. On 18 November 1991, the party branch in Bosnia and Herzegovina of the ruling party in the Republic of Croatia, the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), proclaimed the existence of the Croatian Community of Herzeg-Bosnia, with the Croatian Defence Council (HVO) as its military branch. It went unrecognized by the Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which declared it illegal.
A declaration of the sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina on 15 October 1991 was followed by a referendum for independence on 29 February/1 March 1992, which was boycotted by the great majority of Serbs. The turnout in the independence referendum was 63.4 percent and 99.7 percent of voters voted for independence. Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence on 3 March 1992 and received international recognition the following month on 6 April 1992. The Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina was subsequently admitted as a member state of the United Nations on 22 May 1992.
Serbian leader Slobodan Milošević and Croatian leader Franjo Tuđman are believed to have agreed on a partition of Bosnia and Herzegovina in March 1991, with the aim of establishing Greater Serbia and Greater Croatia. Following Bosnia and Herzegovina's declaration of independence, Bosnian Serb militias mobilized in different parts of the country. Government forces were poorly equipped and unprepared for the war. International recognition of Bosnia and Herzegovina increased diplomatic pressure for the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) to withdraw from the republic's territory, which they officially did in June 1992. The Bosnian Serb members of the JNA simply changed insignia, formed the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS), and continued fighting. Armed and equipped from JNA stockpiles in Bosnia, supported by volunteers and various paramilitary forces from Serbia, and receiving extensive humanitarian, logistical and financial support from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Republika Srpska's offensives in 1992 managed to place much of the country under its control. The Bosnian Serb advance was accompanied by the ethnic cleansing of Bosniaks and Bosnian Croats from VRS-controlled areas. This was accompanied by the establishment of concentration camps, in which inmates were subjected to violence and abuse, including rape. The ethnic cleansing culminated in the Srebrenica massacre of more than 8,000 Bosniak men and boys in July 1995, which was ruled to have been a genocide by the ICTY. Bosniak and Bosnian Croat forces also committed war crimes against civilians from different ethnic groups, though on a smaller scale. Most of the Bosniak and Croat atrocities were committed during the Bosniak-Croat war, a sub-conflict of the Bosnian War which pitted the ARBiH against the HVO. The Bosniak-Croat conflict ended in March 1994, with the signing of the Washington Agreement, leading to the creation of a joint Bosniak-Croat Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which amalgamated HVO-held territory with that held by the ARBiH.
Following the Srebrenica massacre, NATO launched a bombing campaign against Republika Srpska in August 1995. The bombing, together with a joint HV/HVO/ARBiH ground offensive in western Bosnia, convinced the Bosnian Serb leadership to consider a negotiated settlement, which manifested itself in the Dayton Agreement of December 1995. The agreement brought an end to active combat and roughly established the basic political structure of the present-day state. A NATO-led peacekeeping force was immediately dispatched to the country to enforce the agreement. An estimated 100,000 people were killed in the war, about two-thirds of whom were Bosniak. An additional 2.2 million citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina of all ethnicities were displaced.
According to a number of International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) judgements, the conflict involved Bosnia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (subsequently Serbia and Montenegro) as well as Croatia. Dozens of Bosnian Serb officials and soldiers have been convicted for their role in war crimes and crimes against humanity during the conflict, as well as for the genocide in Srebrenica. High-ranking Croat and Bosniak officials have also been convicted or indicted for war crimes. The remains of victims are still being unearthed two decades later. After the war, the Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina brought a lawsuit against Serbia before the International Court of Justice (ICJ), accusing the country of genocide. In 2007, the ICJ exonerated Serbia of direct responsibility for the genocide committed by Bosnian Serb forces in Srebrenica, but concluded that the country had not done enough to prevent the massacre.
On 4 February 2014, the protests against the government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, one of the country's two entities, dubbed the Bosnian Spring, the name being taken from the Arab Spring, began in the northern town of Tuzla. Workers from several factories which were privatised and which have now gone bankrupt united to demand action over jobs, unpaid salaries and pensions. Soon protests spread to the rest of the Federation, with violent clashes reported in close to 20 towns, the biggest of which were Sarajevo, Zenica, Mostar, Bihać, Brčko and Tuzla. The Bosnian news media reported that hundreds of people had been injured during the protests, including dozens of police officers, with bursts of violence in Sarajevo, in the northern city of Tuzla, in Mostar in the south, and in Zenica in central Bosnia. The same level of unrest or activism did not occur in the Republika Srpska, but hundreds of people also gathered in support of protests in the town of Banja Luka against its separate government.
The protests marked the largest outbreak of public anger over high unemployment and two decades of political inertia in the country since the end of the Bosnian War in 1995.
Bosnia is located in the western Balkans, bordering Croatia (932 km or 579 mi) to the north and west, Serbia (302 km or 188 mi) to the east, and Montenegro (225 km or 140 mi) to the southeast. It has a coastline about 20 kilometres (12 miles) long surrounding the city of Neum. It lies between latitudes 42° and 46° N, and longitudes 15° and 20° E.
The country's name comes from the two regions Bosnia and Herzegovina, which have a very vaguely defined border between them. Bosnia occupies the northern areas which are roughly four-fifths of the entire country, while Herzegovina occupies the rest in the southern part of the country.
The country is mostly mountainous, encompassing the central Dinaric Alps. The northeastern parts reach into the Pannonian Plain, while in the south it borders the Adriatic. The Dinaric Alps generally run in a southeast-northwest direction, and get higher towards the south. The highest point of the country is the peak of Maglić at 2,386 metres (7,828.1 feet), on the Montenegrin border. Major mountains include Kozara, Grmeč, Vlašić, Čvrsnica, Prenj, Romanija, Jahorina, Bjelašnica and Treskavica.
Overall, close to 50% of Bosnia and Herzegovina is forested. Most forest areas are in the centre, east and west parts of Bosnia. Herzegovina has drier Mediterranean climate, with dominant karst topography. Northern Bosnia (Posavina) contains very fertile agricultural land along the River Sava and the corresponding area is heavily farmed. This farmland is a part of the Pannonian Plain stretching into neighboring Croatia and Serbia. The country has only 20 kilometres (12 miles) of coastline, around the town of Neum in the Herzegovina-Neretva Canton. Although the city is surrounded by Croatian peninsulas, by international law, Bosnia and Herzegovina has a right of passage to the outer sea.
Sarajevo is the capital and largest city. Other major cities are Banja Luka in the northwest region known as Bosanska Krajina, Bijeljina and Tuzla in the northeast, Zenica and Doboj in the central part of Bosnia and Mostar, the largest city in Herzegovina.
There are seven major rivers in Bosnia and Herzegovina:
Phytogeographically, Bosnia and Herzegovina belongs to the Boreal Kingdom and is shared between the Illyrian province of the Circumboreal Region and Adriatic province of the Mediterranean Region. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina can be subdivided into three ecoregions: the Pannonian mixed forests, Dinaric Mountains mixed forests and Illyrian deciduous forests.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a liberal democracy. It has several levels of political structuring, according to the Dayton accord. The most important of these levels is the division of the country into two entities: Republika Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina covers 51% of Bosnia and Herzegovina's total area, while Republika Srpska covers 49%. The entities, based largely on the territories held by the two warring sides at the time, were formally established by the Dayton peace agreement in 1995 because of the tremendous changes in Bosnia and Herzegovina's ethnic structure. Since 1996, the power of the entities relative to the State government has decreased significantly. Nonetheless, entities still have numerous powers to themselves. The Brčko District in the north of the country was created in 2000, out of land from both entities. It officially belongs to both, but is governed by neither, and functions under a decentralized system of local government. For election purposes, Brčko District voters can choose to participate in either the Federation or Republika Srpska elections. The Brčko District has been praised for maintaining a multiethnic population and a level of prosperity significantly above the national average.
The third level of Bosnia and Herzegovina's political subdivision is manifested in cantons. They are unique to the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina entity, which consists of ten of them. All of them have their own cantonal government, which is under the law of the Federation as a whole. Some cantons are ethnically mixed and have special laws implemented to ensure the equality of all constituent people.
The fourth level of political division in Bosnia and Herzegovina is the municipalities. The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina is divided in 74 municipalities, and Republika Srpska in 63. Municipalities also have their own local government, and are typically based on the most significant city or place in their territory. As such, many municipalities have a long tradition and history with their present boundaries. Some others, however, were only created following the recent war after traditional municipalities were split by the Inter-Entity Boundary Line. Each canton in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina consists of several municipalities, which are divided into local communities.
Besides entities, cantons, and municipalities, Bosnia and Herzegovina also has four "official" cities. These are: Banja Luka, Mostar, Sarajevo, and East Sarajevo. The territory and government of the cities of Banja Luka and Mostar corresponds to the municipalities of the same name, while the cities of Sarajevo and East Sarajevo officially consist of several municipalities. Cities have their own city government whose power is in between that of the municipalities and cantons (or the entity, in the case of Republika Srpska).
As a result of the Dayton Accords, the civilian peace implementation is supervised by the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina selected by the Peace Implementation Council. The High Representative has many governmental and legislative powers, including the dismissal of elected and non-elected officials. More recently, several central institutions have been established (such as defense ministry, security ministry, state court, indirect taxation service and so on) in the process of transferring part of the jurisdiction from the entities to the state.
The representation of the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina is by elites who represent the country's three major groups, with each having a guaranteed share of power.
The Chair of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina rotates among three members (Bosniak, Serb, Croat), each elected as the Chair for an eight-month term within their four-year term as a member. The three members of the Presidency are elected directly by the people with Federation voters voting for the Bosniak and the Croat, and the Republika Srpska voters for the Serb.
The Chair of the Council of Ministers is nominated by the Presidency and approved by the House of Representatives. He or she is then responsible for appointing a Foreign Minister, Minister of Foreign Trade, and others as appropriate.
The Parliamentary Assembly is the lawmaking body in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It consists of two houses: the House of Peoples and the House of Representatives. The House of Peoples has 15 delegates chosen by parliaments of the entities, two-thirds of which come from the Federation (5 Croat and 5 Bosniaks) and one-third from the Republika Srpska (5 Serbs). The House of Representatives is composed of 42 Members elected by the people under a form of proportional representation (PR), two-thirds elected from the Federation and one-third elected from the Republika Srpska.
The Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina is the supreme, final arbiter of legal matters. It is composed of nine members: four members are selected by the House of Representatives of the Federation, two by the Assembly of the Republika Srpska, and three by the President of the European Court of Human Rights after consultation with the Presidency, but cannot be Bosnian citizens.
However, the highest political authority in the country is the High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the chief executive officer for the international civilian presence in the country and is selected by the European Union. Since 1995, the High Representative has been able to bypass the elected parliamentary assembly, and since 1997 has been able to remove elected officials. The methods selected by the High Representative have been criticized as undemocratic. International supervision is to end when the country is deemed politically and democratically stable and self-sustaining.
The Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina were unified into a single entity in 2005, with the merger of the Army of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Army of Republika Srpska, which had defended their respective regions. The Ministry of Defense was founded in 2004.
The Bosnian military consists of the Bosnian Ground Forces and Air Force and Air Defense. The Ground Forces number 14,725 active and 7,000 reserve personnel. They are armed with a mix of American, Yugoslavian, Soviet, and European-made weaponry, vehicles, and military equipment. The Air Force and Air Defense Forces have 3,000 personnel and about 62 aircraft. The Air Defense Forces operate MANPAD hand-held missiles, surface-to-air missile (SAM) batteries, anti-aircraft cannons, and radar. The Army has recently adopted remodeled MARPAT uniforms, used by Bosnian soldiers serving with ISAF in Afghanistan. A domestic production program is now underway to ensure that army units are equipped with the correct ammunition.
Beginning in 2007, the Ministry of Defence of Bosnia and Herzegovina undertook the army's first ever international assistance mission, enlisting the military to serve with ISAF peace missions to Afghanistan, Iraq and the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2007. Five officers, acting as officers/advisors, served in the Democratic Republic of Congo. 45 soldiers, mostly acting as base security and medical assistants, served in Afghanistan. 85 Bosnian soldiers served as base security in Iraq, occasionally conducting infantry patrols there as well. All three deployed groups have been commended by their respective international forces as well as the Ministry of Defence of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The international assistance operations are still ongoing.
The Air Force and Anti-Aircraft Defence Brigade of Bosnia and Herzegovina was formed when elements of the Army of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska Air Force were merged in 2006. The Air Force has seen improvements in the last few years with added funds for aircraft repairs and improved cooperation with the Ground Forces as well as to the citizens of the country. The Ministry of Defense of Bosnia and Herzegovina is currently pursuing the acquisition of new aircraft including helicopters and perhaps even fighter jets.
EU integration is one of the main political objectives of Bosnia and Herzegovina; it initiated the Stabilisation and Association Process in 2007. Countries participating in the SAP have been offered the possibility to become, once they fulfill the necessary conditions, Member States of the EU. Bosnia and Herzegovina is therefore a potential candidate country for EU accession. The implementation of the Dayton Accords of 1995 has focused the efforts of policymakers in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the international community, on regional stabilization in the countries-successors of the former Yugoslavia. Within Bosnia and Herzegovina, relations with its neighbors of Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro have been fairly stable since the signing of the Dayton Agreement in 1995.
On 23 April 2010, Bosnia and Herzegovina received the Membership Action Plan from NATO, which is the last step before full membership in the alliance. Full membership was expected in 2014 or 2015, depending on the progress of reforms.
They are also a member of the Group of 77.
According to the 1991 census, Bosnia and Herzegovina had a population of 4,377,000, while the 1996 UNHCR unofficial census showed a decrease to 3,920,000. Large population migrations during the Yugoslav wars in the 1990s have caused demographic shifts in the country. Between 1991 and 2013, political disagreements made it impossible to organize a census. A census had been planned for 2011, and then for 2012, but was delayed until October 2013. The 2013 census found a total population of 3,791,622 people in 1.16 million households; 585,411 fewer people than the 1991 census.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is home to three ethnic "constituent peoples", who are Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats, plus a number of smaller groups including Jews and Roma. According to data from 2013 census published by the Agency for Statistics of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bosniaks constitute 50.11% of the population, Serbs 30.78%, Croats 15.43%, and others form 2.73%, with the remaining respondents not declaring their ethnicity or not answering. The census results are contested by the Republika Srpska statistical office and by Bosnian Serb politicians. The dispute over the census concerns the inclusion of non-permanent Bosnian residents in the figures, which Republika Srpska officials oppose. The European Union's statistics office, Eurostat, concluded in May 2016 that the census methodology used by the Bosnian statistical agency is in line with international recommendations.
According to the 2013 census, Islam is the majority faith in Bosnia and Herzegovina, making up 51% of the population. 46% of the population identify as Christian; of these, the Serbian Orthodox Church makes up the largest group, accounting for 31% of the population (of whom most identify as Serbs), and the Roman Catholic Church 15% (of whom most identify as Croats). The smallest groups are Agnosticism 0.3%, Atheism 0.8% and other 1.15%, with the remainder not declaring their religion or not answering 1.1%. A 2012 survey found that 54% of Bosnia's Muslims are non-denominational Muslims, while 38% follow Sunnism.
Bosnia's constitution does not specify any official languages. However, academics Hilary Footitt and Michael Kelly note that the Dayton Agreement states that it is "done in Bosnian, Croatian, English and Serbian", and they describe this as the "de facto recognition of three official languages" at the state level. The equal status of Bosnian, Serbian and Croatian was verified by the Constitutional Court in 2000. It ruled that the provisions of the Federation and Republika Srpska constitutions on language were incompatible with the state constitution, since they only recognised "Bosniak" and Croatian (in the case of the Federation) and Serbian (in the case of Republika Srpska) as official languages at the entity level. As a result, the wording of the entity constitutions was changed and all three languages were made official in both entities. The three languages are mutually intelligible and were previously known collectively as Serbo-Croatian. Use of one of the three languages has become a marker of ethnic identity. Michael Kelly and Catherine Baker argue: "The three official languages of today's Bosnian state...represent the symbolic assertion of national identity over the pragmatism of mutual intelligibility".
According to the 1992 European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, Bosnia and Herzegovina recognizes the following minority languages: Albanian, Montenegrin, Czech, Italian, Hungarian, Macedonian, German, Polish, Romani, Romanian, Rysin, Slovak, Slovene, Turkish, Ukrainian and Jewish (Yiddish and Ladino). The German minority in Bosnia and Herzegovina are mostly remnants of Donauschwaben (Danube Swabians), who settled in the area after the Habsburg monarchy claimed the Balkans from the Ottoman Empire. Due to expulsions and (forced) assimilation after the two World Wars, the number of ethnic Germans in Bosnia and Herzegovina was drastically diminished.
According to the results of the 2013 census, 52.86% of the population consider their mother tongue to be Bosnian, 30.76% Serbian, 14.6% Croatian and 1.57% another language, with 0.21% not giving an answer.
Sarajevo is home to 438,443 inhabitants in its urban area.