History of Bosnia and Herzegovina - History

History of Bosnia and Herzegovina - History

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It geographic location has placed the region squarely in the midst of European political power struggles for hundreds of years. Racial divisions, made worse by ever-changing borders and religious rivalries: Muslim, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodoxy. While Yugoslavia kept the peace under Marshall Tito (and for a time after his death, as well) the fall of Communism signaled the beginning of the end for the tenuous unity of the area. In 1992, Bosnia and Herzegovina voted for independence, but the military (of Yugoslavia and mostly Serb) refused to recognize this move and began the siege of Sarajevo. Horrific episodes of so-called "ethnic cleansing" began as the Serbs attempted to clear Bosnia of Muslims and Croats. In 1995, a peace accord was finally signed dividing the region into a Serb republic and a Muslim-Croat federation, which would be governed under the same president and legislature. UN peacekeeping have been in the area since 1995.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina make up a triangular-shaped republic, about half the size of Kentucky, on the Balkan peninsula. The Bosnian region in the north is mountainous and covered with thick forests. The Herzegovina region in the south is largely rugged, flat farmland. It has a narrow coastline without natural harbors stretching 13 mi (20 km) along the Adriatic Sea.


Emerging democracy, with a rotating, tripartite presidency divided between predominantly Serb, Croatian, and Bosnian political parties.


Called Illyricum in ancient times, the area now called Bosnia and Herzegovina was conquered by the Romans in the 2nd and 1st centuries B.C. and folded into the Roman province of Dalmatia. In the 4th and 5th centuries A.D. , Goths overran that portion of the declining Roman Empire and occupied the area until the 6th century, when the Byzantine Empire claimed it. Slavs began settling the region during the 7th century. Around 1200, Bosnia won independence from Hungary and endured as an independent Christian state for some 260 years.

The expansion of the Ottoman Empire into the Balkans introduced another cultural, political, and religious framework. The Turks defeated the Serbs at the famous battle of Kosovo in 1389. They conquered Bosnia in 1463. During the roughly 450 years Bosnia and Herzegovina were under Ottoman rule, many Christian Slavs became Muslim. A Bosnian Islamic elite gradually developed and ruled the country on behalf of the Turkish overlords. As the borders of the Ottoman Empire began to shrink in the 19th century, Muslims from elsewhere in the Balkans migrated to Bosnia. Bosnia also developed a sizable Jewish population, with many Jews settling in Sarajevo after their expulsion from Spain in 1492. However, through the 19th century the term Bosnian commonly included residents of all faiths. A relatively secular society, intermarriage among religious groups was not uncommon.

Neighboring Serbia and Montenegro fought against the Ottoman Empire in 1876 and were aided by the Russians, their fellow Slavs. At the Congress of Berlin in 1878, following the end of the Russo-Turkish War (1877?1878), Austria-Hungary was given a mandate to occupy and govern Bosnia and Herzegovina, in an effort by Europe to ensure that Russia did not dominate the Balkans. Although the provinces were still officially part of the Ottoman Empire, they were annexed by the Austro-Hungarian Empire on Oct. 7, 1908. As a result, relations with Serbia, which had claims on Bosnia and Herzegovina, became embittered. The hostility between the two countries climaxed in the assassination of Austrian archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, by a Serbian nationalist. This event precipitated the start of World War I (1914?1918). Bosnia and Herzegovina were annexed to Serbia as part of the newly formed Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes on Oct. 26, 1918. The name was later changed to Yugoslavia in 1929.

When Germany invaded Yugoslavia in 1941, Bosnia and Herzegovina were made part of Nazi-controlled Croatia. During the German and Italian occupation, Bosnian and Herzegovinian resistance fighters fought a fierce guerrilla war against the Ustachi, the Croatian Fascist troops. At the end of World War II, Bosnia and Herzegovina were reunited into a single state as one of the six republics of the newly reestablished Communist Yugoslavia under Marshall Tito. His authoritarian control kept the ethnic enmity of his patchwork nation in check. Tito died in 1980, and with growing economic dissatisfaction and the fall of the iron curtain over the next decade, Yugoslavia began to splinter.

In Dec. 1991, Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence from Yugoslavia and asked for recognition by the European Union (EU). In a March 1992 referendum, Bosnian voters chose independence, and President Alija Izetbegovic declared the nation an independent state. Unlike the other former Yugoslav states, which were generally composed of a dominant ethnic group, Bosnia was an ethnic tangle of Muslims (44%), Serbs (31%), and Croats (17%), and this mix contributed to the duration and savagery of its fight for independence.

Ethnic Antgonism Erupts in War

Both the Croatian and Serbian presidents had planned to partition Bosnia between themselves. Attempting to carve out their own enclaves, the Serbian minority, with the help of the Serbian Yugoslav army, took the offensive and laid siege, particularly on Sarajevo, and began its ruthless campaigns of ethnic cleansing, which involved the expulsion or massacre of Muslims. Croats also began carving out their own communities. By the end of Aug. 1992, rebel Bosnian Serbs had conquered over 60% of Bosnia. The war did not begin to wane until NATO stepped in, bombing Serb positions in Bosnia in Aug. and Sept. 1995. Serbs entered the UN safe havens of Tuzla, Zepa, and Srebrenica, where they murdered thousands. About 250,000 died in the war between 1992 and 1995.

U.S.-sponsored peace talks in Dayton, Ohio, led to an agreement in 1995 that called for a Muslim-Croat federation and a Serb entity within the larger federation of Bosnia. Sixty thousand NATO troops were to supervise its implementation. Fighting abated and orderly elections were held in Sept. 1996. President Izetbegovic, a Bosnian Muslim, or Bosniak, won the majority of votes to become the leader of the three-member presidency, each representing one of the three ethnic groups.

But this alliance of unreconstructed enemies had little success in creating a working government or keeping violent clashes in check. The terms of the Dec. 1995 Dayton Peace Accord were largely ignored by Bosnian Serbs, with its former president, arch-nationalist Radovan Karadzic, still in de facto control of the Serbian enclave. Many indicted war criminals, including Karadzic, remain at large. NATO proved to be a largely ineffective peacekeeping force.

After the Dayton Peace Accord, Challenges Remain

The crucial priorities facing postwar Bosnian leaders were rebuilding the economy, resettling the estimated one million refugees still displaced, and establishing a working government. Progress on these goals has been minimal, and a massive corruption scandal uncovered in 1999 severely tested the goodwill of the international community.

In 1994, the UN's International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia opened in The Hague, Netherlands. In Aug. 2001, Radislav Drstic, a Bosnian Serb general, was found guilty of genocide in the killing of up to 8,000 Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica in 1995. It was the first genocide conviction in Europe since the UN genocide treaty was drawn up in 1951. In 2001, the trial of former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic began. He was charged with crimes against humanity. The expensive and lengthy trial ended without a verdict when he died in March 2006.

Under pressure from Paddy Ashdown, the international administrator of Bosnia authorized under the Dayton Accord, Bosnian Serb leaders finally admitted in June 2004 that Serbian troops were responsible for the massacre of up to 8,000 Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica in 1995. Until then, Serb leaders had refused to acknowledge guilt in the worst civilian massacre since World War II. In Feb. 2007, the International Court of Justice ruled that the massacre was genocide, but stopped short of saying Serbia was directly responsible. The decision spared Serbia from having to pay war reparations to Bosnia. The court's president, Judge Rosalyn Higgins, however, criticized Serbia for not preventing the genocide. The court also ordered Serbia to turn over Bosnian Serb leaders, including Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karakzic, who are accused of orchestrating the genocide and other crimes. Bosnians expressed disappointment with the ruling they had demanded that Serbia pay war reparations.

In Dec. 2004, the European Union officially took over NATO's peacekeeping mission in Bosnia. It is the largest peacekeeping operation the EU has undertaken. In March 2005, Ashdown, the international administrator, sacked Dragan Covic, the Croat member of the presidency, charging him with corruption and abuse of office. Covic became the third member of the Bosnian presidency forced to resign since the tripartite presidency was established.

Small Steps Toward Inclusion in the EU

Elections in Oct. 2006 reinforced the lingering ethnic tensions in the country. The Serbian coalition, which favors an independent state, narrowly defeated the Muslim-Croat Federation that prefers moving toward a more unified country. In Jan. 2007, Bosnian Serb Nikola Spiric took over as prime minister and formed a new government. He resigned in Nov. 2007 to protest reforms introduced by an international envoy, who was appointed under the Dayton Accords by the UN and the European Union and has the power to enact legislation and dismiss ministers. Spiric said the reforms, which the EU said would help the country's entrance into the organization, would diminish the influence of Bosnian Serbs and enhance those of other ethnic groups. Crisis was averted later in November, when Spiric and the country's Croat and Muslim leaders agreed on a series of reforms approved by Parliament.

On July 21, 2008, Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb president during the war in Bosnia in the 1990s, was charged with genocide, persecution, deportation, and other crimes against non-Serb civilians. Karadzic orchestrated the massacre of almost 8,000 Muslim men and boys in 1995 in Srebrenica. He was found outside Belgrade. The arrest will likely bring Serbia closer to joining the European Union.

Since the presidential and parliamentary elections in 2010, Bosnia had been in a political deadlock, without a government. In Dec. 2011, the Bosniak, Serb and Croatian communities successfully produced a government, bringing the country a little closer to EU membership.

In Oct. 2012, the former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic began his defence at his war crimes trial in The Hague. Karadzic stands accused of ten charges of genocide and crimes against humanity during the war in the 1990s, including the Srebrenica massacre and the siege of Sarajevo.

2014 Brings Worst Flooding in a Century

In May 2014, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina were hit with the heaviest rains and flooding in over a century. Electricity was lost in several towns and villages. At least 44 people were killed in the flooding, and authorities believed that the death toll could rise. Serbia's Prime Minister Aleksander Vucic declared a state of emergency for the whole country. During a news conference, Vucic said, "This is the greatest flooding disaster ever. Not only in the past 100 years this has never happened in Serbia's history."

In Bosnia, rivers surpassed record levels and army helicopters had to evacuate dozens stranded in their homes in the town of Maglaj. Authorities could not reach Doboj, a town in northern Bosnia, because all roads leading to the town were washed out. The government sent troops to central and eastern towns where thousands had to be evacuated, their homes destroyed by the floods. Sarajevo meteorologist Zeljko Majstorovic said, "This is the worst rainfall in Bosnia since 1894, when weather measurements started to be recorded."

In Nov. 2014, the new presidency took office. Mladen Ivani? was named chairman of the presidency. Dragan ?ovi? and Bakir Izetbegovi? would serve with him as members of the presidency. Three months later, Denis Zvizdic was named prime minister.

Federation Elects New Entity

In Feb. 2015, the Federation parliament confirmed Marinko Cavara, of the Croatian Democratic Union, as federation president. Melika Mahmutbegovic, from the Bosniak Party of Democratic Action, and Milan Dunovic, from the Democratic Front, were also confirmed as Bosniak and Serb vice presidents.

The appointments were another big step by the country towards forming governments. Having a Federation entity would now enable a state government, called the Council of Ministers, to be formed. "We will soon have a government and start solving the accumulated problems," Cavara said after his confirmation.

On July 17, 2015, Dragan ?ovi? became chairman of the presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, succeeding Mladen Ivani?. Along with Bakir Izetbegovi?, Ivani? would serve as a member of the presidency, a three-member body which serves as head of state collectively.

The Constitution of 1995

As part of the Dayton Accords, the current constitution was signed in Paris on 14 December 1995 by three former presidents of countries who had been involved in the war, as well as several representatives of the international community. The constitution of 1995 emphasizes in its preamble the break with the communist past and contains sensitive provisions on ethnic representation in the country’s different institutions and bodies of government. It lists fifteen international human rights agreements that are to apply in Bosnia and Herzegovina and moreover provides for specific human rights and fundamental freedoms to all persons in the country, which cannot be abolished or eliminated through an amendment to the Constitution. A system of division of power is introduced, distributing power among the country’s geographic and ethnic entities, as well as between the three branches of government at state level. The country was subdivided in two entities: The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (divided into 10 cantons) and the Republika Srpska. The entities have responsibilities in the field of taxation, except indirect taxation, business development, and general legislation. In 2000, the constitutional court decided a landmark case on the provisions of the entities’ constitutions regarding the “constituency” of peoples, obliging the two entities to amend their constitutions to guarantee the full equality of the country’s three “constituent peoples” (Bosniacs, Croats and Serbs) throughout its territory. Attempts to amend the constitution in 2006 have not been successful, although recommended and partly requested by the international community. On 16 June 2008, the European Union and Bosnia and Herzegovina signed the Stabilization and Association Agreement and the Interim Agreement on trade and trade-related issues.

The Executive

The constitution includes a collegial three-person presidency, consisting of one Bosniac, one Croat and one Serb, each of them serving for four years. The Bosniac and Croat members are directly elected from the territory of the Federation whilst the Serb member is elected from the territory of the Republika Srpska. Members of the presidency may be reelected once and are then ineligible for four years. A chair, who is selected by rotation or determined by the parliamentary assembly in case of no consensus, heads the presidency. However, decisions in the presidency shall be by consensus, otherwise by a majority of the members. If the decision is seen to be “destructive of a vital interest” the dissenting member may appeal it within three days. A two-thirds majority of the legislature from the dissenting member’s respective territory is then allowed to nullify the decision. According to paragraph 3 of Article V, the presidency is competent to conduct foreign policy appoint ambassadors negotiate, denounce and ratify treaties execute parliamentary decisions, as well as propose an annual budget. In addition, the members of the presidency are given “civilian command authority over armed forces”. However, neither of the entities is allowed to use force against another entity without the consent of the government of the latter and of the presidency.

The chair of the council of ministers, nominated by the presidency, selects the other members of the council with the approval of the House of Representatives. Not more than two-thirds of the members shall be appointed from the territory of the Federation. The council’s task is to carry out “the policies and decisions of Bosnia and Herzegovina”. If a vote of no-confidence is passed by the parliamentary assembly, the council of ministers is required to resign.

The Legislature

The constitution provides for a bicameral parliament, comprising a lower chamber, the House of Representatives, and an upper chamber, the House of Peoples. It enjoys institutional autonomy, and has a moderate amount of power over the executive. The legislature enacts legislation in order to implement decisions of the presidency or to carry out its own duties under the constitution. Its competencies include the power to amend the constitution, approve international treaties and the annual budget, appoint members of the judiciary, grant amnesties and pardons and approve presidential declarations of war. Moreover, it is allowed to issue a vote of no-confidence against the council of ministers. The approval of both chambers is needed for all legislation. Similar to the decisions of the presidency, an act can be annulled if a majority of the respective members of parliament declares it to be “destructive of a vital interest” of the people. A joint commission, or under specific circumstances the constitutional court, has to resolve the dispute in case a majority of the members of parliament of another entity objects to the declaration.

The Judiciary

The constitutional court, a body of nine members, has original and final jurisdiction over all matters relating to the interpretation of the constitution. Four members are elected by the house of representatives of the Federation, two members by the Assembly of the Republika Srpska, and three members are designated by the president of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) after consultation with the presidency. The ECHR may not select judges who are citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina or of any neighboring country. The first judges of the court were appointed for five years. Judges appointed thereafter, however, stay in office until the age of 70. The court is competent to hear appeals over issues under the constitution arising out of judgments of any other court. In addition, any court in Bosnia and Herzegovina may ask the court to review the constitutionality of laws, on whose validity its decision depends, with the constitution, with the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and its Protocols, or with the laws of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The court is granted exclusive jurisdiction on disputes between entities or between the country and entities as well as on disputes between state’s institutions. The latter disputes may only be referred to the court by certain officials or bodies.

History of Bosnia and Herzegovina

In ancient times, Bosnia and Herzegovina was called Illyricum. It was taken over by the Roman Empire. They were conquered in the 1st and 2nd centuries A.D. The Romans occupied the area until their fall in the 6th century, but only to be conquered by the Byzantine Empire. After that era it was a part of Hungary. Around 1200 A.D., they revolted and won their independence. They went on to become a Christian state for some 260 years. This was during the crusades where the Europeans would travel around and kill those not a part of the Catholic Church.

After that era, the Ottoman Empire was on the rise. It headed towards the Balkans, which due to cultural diffusion introduced new culture and ways of life to that area. The Turkish defeated the Serbians at the great battle of Kosovo in 1389. They later conquered Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1463. They spread the teachings of Muhammad the prophet and Muslim ways in that area. Jewish people also flooded into the area of Sarajevo (the capital). As parts of the Ottoman borders shrank, Bosnia-occupied parts shrank apart. Some countries next to Bosnia fought for their land, like Serbia and Montenegro. At the Berlin Congress in 1878, after the Russo-Turkish War, Austria-Hungary was given the rights to occupy and govern Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bosnia was still with the Ottoman Empire and Austria-Hungary annexed them. This brought them into a feud with the Serbs and caused one Serb nationalist to assassinate the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo on June 18, 1914. This assassination was one of the causes of World War I. Bosnia and Herzegovina was annexed to Serbia. The newly formed kingdom was called Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. Later it changed to Yugoslavia.

When Yugoslavia was invaded by Nazi Germany 1941, Bosnia and Herzegovina was made a part of Nazi-controlled Croatia. Resistance fighters of Bosnia fought against fascist troops from Croatia in guerrilla battles. At the end of World War II, they were reunited back into Yugoslavia but this time under communist rule. Their leader at this point was Marshall Tito. As Marshall Tito died, so did the economy. Economic dissatisfaction grew in Yugoslavia and the Berlin Wall came down, marking an end to an era of the communist rule in much of East Europe.

Yugoslavia began to fall apart. In December 1991, Bosnia was on the brink of war as they declared independence from Yugoslavia. They demanded recognition into the European Union. In 1992, the Bosnian president, Alija Izetbegovic, declared independence. Both Croatia and Serbia claimed parts of Bosnia and had a war to see who occupies Bosnia. Serbia started to execute Muslims. The United Nations stepped in and started to bomb Serbian camps because of the terror-like things the Serbs were doing. The United States set up a peace talk headquarters in Dayton, Ohio. In 1995, the war ended. The Muslim Bosnian President is still in power and a three-part democracy was set up in Bosnia. These three countries still face problems after the war and NATO takes over peace acts. They are now producing a new government through a time of deadlock and the Bosnian Serb president in charge for counts of genocide was found in Belgrade on put on trial. They are currently working for a spot in the European Union.

Bosnia and Herzegovina — History and Culture

Bosnia and Herzegovina’s colorful past is evident in its centuries-old architectural marvels, art scene and cuisine. There are three main constituent peoples in the country, namely the Bosniaks, the Serbs, and the Croats, and each group maintains its ethnic distinction. Turkish influence is evident in many elements of culture as the country was occupied by the Ottomans for almost 400 years. This caused the population to develop diverse religious sects, including Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox Christianity, and Islam.


The current Bosnia and Herzegovina is a product of an interesting cultural, political, and social story. It started with the emergence of Illyrian civilizations, which evolved into the Bosnian Kingdom. The kingdom eventually became an annexation of the Ottoman Empire and later, the Austro Hungarian Monarchy. Long years of war followed, from WWI to the fight for independence in the mid-1990’s.

Bosnia was under different empires throughout its history. It was first occupied by the Romans, then the Slavs and the Hungarians, until the Ottomans began attacking the region in the late 1300’s. Ottoman domination caused a great shift in the culture, beliefs and norms of the people, evident in the fascinating mix of religious architecture throughout the country, especially in the old district of the capital. As Ottoman rule weakened, Bosnians joined forces with the Slavs from Croatia and Serbia in an uprising against the Turks. They were victorious in driving away the Ottomans, but Bosnians found themselves under new rulers.

After WWI, the Kingdom of the Serbs—which included Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, and Serbia—was formed and Bosnia was annexed as a new nation. The country was renamed Yugoslavia in 1929. The region saw the horror of ethnic cleansing, and resistance movements emerged between Chetniks (Serbian nationalists) and the Partisans of Yugoslavia. The war ended in favor of the Partisans, and Bosnia-Herzegovina became a republic three years later. All six republics (Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Macedonia) were under the communist leadership of Josip Broz Tito, who ruled with an oppressive hand. This led to a strong fight for autonomy, especially after the political instability and economic hardship brought on by Tito’s death in 1980.

Nationalist Slobodan Milosevic assumed presidency in Serbia in 1989 and ruled on a vision of a Greater Serbia that was free from all other ethnicities. Following elections in the other Yugoslav republics, a Muslim party won in Bosnia and Herzegovina, while the nationalists claimed victory in Croatia. Slovenia and Croatia declared independence and were granted freedom from Serbia in 1991 and 1992, respectively. Bosnia, however, was left stuck between the two, and was eventually divided. This triggered the Bosnian War for independence between Croats and the Muslims of Bosnia, and between the Muslims of Bosnia and the Serbs which lasted until the mid-1990’s.

The Historical Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Sarajevo) contains nearly half a million historical artifacts that epitomize the long, gruesome and rich history of the country. More interesting relics can be found in the Museum of the National Struggle for Liberation (Jajce). Monuments and memorials stand as a testament to the triumphs and tribulations of war and revolution that eventually led to the country’s freedom.


Bosnian and Herzegovinian culture is heavily influenced by its rich heritage. Cultural diversity is the very core of the country. The population is divided into many groups, but a majority of them are Bosnians, Serbs, and Croats. People of Jewish, Albanian, Romanian, and Turkish descent live peacefully alongside other groups despite differences in their beliefs. Their diversity is also evident in social norms, religious and cultural festivities, music, art, and cuisine.

Regional dances and folk costumes are a treat to watch, and you’ll see a lot of them during festivals. Often dancers are linked together either by holding hands or by gripping strings of beads, handkerchiefs, or a piece of each other’s clothing as a sign of unity. These performances are accompanied by traditional instruments like flutes, drums, lyres, and violins.

There is strong religious influence in the art and architecture of the country. Among its many attractions are medieval tombstones that can be traced back to the Bosnian Kingdom. Art in the form of early church paintings and carved panels showcase various religious icons of biblical study and saints associated with Catholic and Orthodox churches, synagogues, and mosques. Centuries-old religious buildings are also proof of the diverse culture, along with many other religious landmarks like Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque (Sarajevo), which is the largest Muslim landmark in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Kingdom of Yugoslavia (1918–41)

Following World War I, Bosnia was incorporated into 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 the Agrarian Reform of 1918–19 manifested through mass colonization and property confiscation [8] also formation of several political parties that frequently changed coalitions and alliances with parties in other Yugoslav regions. [5] 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. [1] 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. [1]

The establishment of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1929, however, brought the redrawing of administrative regions into banates that purposely avoided all historical and ethnic lines, removing any trace of a Bosnian entity. [1] 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 famous Cvetković-Maček agreement that created the Croatian banate in 1939 encouraged what was essentially a partition of Bosnia between Croatia and Serbia. [7] However, outside political circumstances forced Yugoslav politicians to shift their attention to the rising threat posed by Adolf Hitler‘s Nazi Germany. Following a period that saw attempts at appeasement, the joining of the Tripartite Pact, and a coup d’état, Yugoslavia was finally invaded by Germany on 6 April 1941. [1]

The History of Bosnia & Herzegovina

A timeline mapping the history of Bosnia & Herzegovina.


The Slavs spread to inhabit the Balkans during the 6th century. South Slavic ethnic groups lived mainly in Bosnia and Herzegovina, with a minority present in other countries of the Balkan Peninsula, including Serbia, Montenegro, and Croatia. Bosnia eventually became contested between the Kingdom of Hungary and the Byzantine Empire.


After the death of Tvrtko I, and the subsequent collapse of the Kingdom of Bosnia, Murat I began his conquest of Bosnia. The Ottomans brought significant changes to the region, particularly with the introduction of Islam. By the early 1600s, almost two thirds of the population was Muslim. 


The Turkish revolution of 1908 to overthrow the Sultan’s autocratic power resulted in the imminent demise of Ottoman rule. Upon hearing that the Turk troops were marching on Istanbul, Abdul Hamid II surrendered. He was confined to captivity in Salonica until 1912, when he was returned to captivity in Istanbul.


Following Bulgaria’s declaration of Independence from the Ottoman Empire, on the 6th of October 1908, the Austro-Hungarian Empire announced the annexation of Bosnia. As a direct violation of the Treaty of Berlin, this led to political uproar. The reaction towards the annexation of Bosnia would later prove to be a contributing cause to World War I.


An alliance was formed against the Ottoman Empire by Bulgaria, Greece, Montenegro and Serbia. The League managed to obtain control over all European Ottoman conquests. However, the differences between the allies soon resurfaced and the League promptly disintegrated. Soon thereafter, Bulgaria attacked its allies, instigating the Second Balkan War.


In June 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated, alongside his wife. Shot dead by Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian Serb, the political motive behind the assassination was simple: to break off Austria-Hungary’s South-Slav provinces, so that they could become part of Greater Serbia or Yugoslavia. The attack led to the outbreak of World War I.


At the end of World War I, Emperor Franz Joseph I’s Austro-Hungarian empire collapsed. This was owing to the growing opposition parties who supported the separatism of ethnic minorities, and opposed the monarchy as a form of government. In 1918, Bosnia became part of The Kingdom of Croats, Serbs and Slovenes, later renamed The Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

A Short History of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country with one of the richest history in the world. It was called Illyricum in ancient times when the Illyres or Illyrians (warlike Indo-European tribes) replaced the Neolithic population. Celtic migrated to the country and disposes some Illyrians and mixed with the natives in the 4th and 3rd centuries. Romans conquered the country in the late 2nd and 1st centuries B.C. Christianity entered the region in the end of the 1st century. The region of Dalmatia and Pannonia were included in the Western Roman Empire when the Roman Empire splits. The Ostrogoths conquered the region in 455 and embraced other tribes like the Alans and Huns. Emperor Justinian and the Byzantine Empire conquered the land in the late 6th century. Then Slavs invaded the Eastern Roman Empire in the 6th and 7th centuries settling it now as Bosnia and Herzegovina and the surrounding lands.

The first notable Bosnian ruler was Ban Kulin that strengthened the country&rsquos economy over nearly 3 decades and maintained peace and stability through out the country. The Ottoman Empire conquest of Europe in the first half of the 15th century posed a major threat to the Balkans. Bosnia fell in the year 1463 followed by Herzegovina in the year 1482. It marked a new era in the country that introduced another cultural, political, and religious framework.

Austria-Hungary was given the mandate to occupy and govern Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1878 after the nearby countries fought, which aided by the Russians, the Ottoman Empire. The country was officially one of the 6 constituent republics that were established at the end of the war. The establishment was the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes that later changed to Yugoslavia. When the Germany occupied Yugoslavia in the World War II, Bosnia and Herzegovina were made part of Nazi-controlled Croatia. Bosnia and Herzegovina declared there independence from Yugoslavia in Dec. 1991.

Mr. Thierry Domin
First published in
SFOR Informer#120, August 22, 2001

Chapter 4
The Austro-Hungarian Era in Bosnia

The end of the Ottoman Empire
During the 18th Century, and in the first half of the 19th Century, the Bosnians engaged in defensive wars against Austria and Venice, and at the same time also demanded autonomous status within the Ottoman Empire. Adopted Ottoman institutions (landowners, captains, janissaries) were by that time accepted as Bosnian. There were numerous reforms and rebellions, such as the movement of Husein Bey Gradascevic (1831-32) which finally defined the extent of Bosnian autonomy within the Ottoman Empire. During the 1860s, the reforms undertaken brought Bosnia certain provincial autonomy.
By the time of the Crimean war against Russia in 1853, the Ottoman Empire had begun to lose power in the region, allowing Russia to gain influence in the Balkans, particularly with Serbia and Montenegro. In 1877 the Russians successfully waged war against the Ottomans along the Danube and in Armenia. However, Russia declared that the Balkan matter was something for Europe to settle.
1878, a key-date
The beginning of the 19th century ushered in what historians’ call “the people’s spring ” in Western Europe. Countries gained inspiration from the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Empire’s ideals behind the nation-state. Serbs, Bosnians and Croats also took part in this movement, as they claimed more liberty and independence. Serbs rose up against the Ottomans at the beginning of the century, finally gaining their independence. The Hungarians were in conflict against the Austrians when the Croats revolted against them.
The Austro-Hungarian Empire under the Hapsburg dynasty began to make incursions into the Balkans at this time. Austria supported the Serbian kingdom after its struggle for independence from the Turks, expanding into three adjacent regions with a significant Serb minority – the predominantly Hungarian Vojvodina in the north, the mainly Bosnian-Muslim Sandzak in the west, and the Albanian-Muslim Kosovo in the south. After the Christian Rebellion (1875-78) in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the great Eastern Crisis began, and culminated in the Berlin Congress (1878) which gave a mandate to Austria-Hungary to occupy the country. At the Congress of Berlin in 1878, Bosnia and most of Serbia was put under the “occupation and administration” of Austria, while legally still being part of Turkey. After great resistance, mostly by the Bosniacs, the Austro-Hungarian Empire established its authority in Bosnia, leaving the country as “Corpus Separatum” within its historical borders. “Corpus Separatum” meant that Bosnia was granted substantial autonomy and belonged neither to Austria nor to Hungary. Thus, Bosnia entered the group of countries known as European countries.
Austria’s annexation of Bosnia in 1908 prevented both Serbia and the Ottoman Empire from claiming this province. Two years later, Bosnia established its Parliament to include representation of all its nations. During the years of the Austro-Hungarian power, Bosnia and Herzegovina experienced important changes in both the economic and cultural sense. It was at this time that Croatian intellectuals first came up with an idea for an independent state for all south Slavs or “Yugo - Slavia.”
Sarajevo, where WW I started
In 1914 Serbia demanded access to the Adriatic Sea, thus increasing tensions between both countries. World War I is said to have started in Sarajevo with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in the summer of 1914. On June 28 (the anniversary of the battle of “Kosovo Polje” in 1389), the successor to the Austrian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, was murdered in Sarajevo. The assassin was a Serb student, Gavrilo Princip, a member of the Black Hand, a radical Serbian group whose goal was to detach Bosnia from Austria and give it to Serbia.
Austria declared war on Serbia as a result of the Archduke’s assassination, thus triggering a deadly chain of events. Russia supported Serbia Germany mobilized in support of Austria against Russia France mobilized against Germany. Germany then attacked France through Belgium, and England declared war against Germany. These events all took place between July 28 and Aug. 4, 1914.
In World War I, Serbs fought alongside the allies while Croats sided with Germany and Austria-Hungary. The majority of Bosnians remained loyal to the Austro-Hungarian State, though some Muslims did serve in the Serbian army. World War I was brutal in the Balkans, with heavy losses suffered by all. A large number of Bosnian-Serbs were either forcefully evicted from Bosnia to Serbia and Montenegro, or killed.

Washington Irving Story: The Devil And Tom Walker

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