The fertile areas of northeastern Bosnia seem to have constituted the demographic center of the area already during prehistoric times, while Hercegovina’s karst landscape has long been sparsely populated. Of the Stone Age periods, the Middle Paleolithic and especially the Late Paleolithic (about 40,000–9000 BC) are fairly well studied. As in other parts of the Balkan Peninsula, the Mesolithic is a poorly known period with few finds.
The agricultural revolution reached Herzegovina from the Adriatic coast, while in Bosnia agriculture was introduced from the east via the starčevo culture (see Starčevo). See abbreviationfinder for geography, history, society, politics, and economy of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Copper utensils probably began to exist as early as the 4000s BC.
Northeastern Bosnia’s close connection with the central cultural areas of the Balkans is again significant in the finds from about 2000 BC. The older Bronze Age is still unexplored (predominantly burial tombs), while the younger Bronze Age (ca. 1500–800 BC) is well documented in eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina.
From the end of the Bronze Age and the beginning of the Iron Age, the influence of the eastern alpine’s hall state culture is clearly noticeable. Towards the end of the Hall State Period (400 BC), a marked Greek cultural influence from the coastal land was noticed, which increased sharply in the following century. The indigenous population at that time consisted of Illyrian tribes (see Illyrians and Illyricum).
Bosnia and Herzegovina was finally conquered by the Romans 9 AD and was organized in the province of Dalmatia.
- COUNTRYAAH.COM: Provides latest population data about Bosnia and Herzegovina. Lists by Year from 1950 to 2020. Also includes major cities by population.
Today, Bosnia and Herzegovina came to be inhabited by immigrant slaves in the 500s, who were mixed with local groups. The country was ruled by župans (princes), most of whom had been incorporated into the Catholic Church in the 9th century. However, there was no profound cultural attraction to the West; during the Middle Ages, the area served rather as a borderland between the Catholic and the Orthodox culture. Already in the 9th century, both Croatian and Serbian rulers tried to subjugate parts of Bosnia. At the beginning of the 12th century, the Zupans recognized Hungary’s supremacy, and in 1168 the Serbs conquered the southern area of Hum.
Around 1318, Stefan (Stjepan) Kotromanić was banned (ruler) over Bosnia. He returned to Hum in 1326. Trade with the outside world was favored by the opening of silver and lead mines. Stefan’s son Tvrtko I (1353–91) was crowned 1377 as Bosnia’s first king. However, the kingdom was affected by civil war in the 15th century, and in 1448 one of the warring princes proclaimed Herceg (‘Duke’) of Hum, which was therefore called Hercegovina (‘Duchy’). The internal divide weakened the country, and in 1463 it was subverted by the Ottoman Empire. Hungary, however, recaptured parts of the country for a time. Herzegovina eventually fell to the Turks in 1492 or 1493, while the Hungarians retained parts of northern Bosnia until the 1520s.
During the Ottoman Empire (1463-1877)
After the Ottoman conquest, the Islamization of Bosnia began. The Muslim element was reinforced by refugees in the late 17th century, when the Ottoman Empire lost Hungary, Slavonia and Croatia. At the border with the Habsburg Empire, which, following the peace in Karlowitz (Sremski Karlovci) in 1699, followed the river Sava, a void had arisen after those who had fled the Ottomans. Orthodox Vlacher was used to repopulate the empty border areas, especially in northwestern Bosnia. As a result, the religious map in the Western Balkans changed. Orthodox Christianity was established in the west, far away from its traditional areas. As the majority of South Slavic Orthodox Christians in the Western Balkans belonged to the Serbian Patriarchate in Peć, the Vlachs gained a Serbian national consciousness over time through their church organization.
During the Ottoman era, the non-Muslim population was organized in the millet, a kind of administrative unit. Each millet cared for himself but responded through his religious leaders to the Sultan. Turkish became the language of administration and the military. Religious literature was written in Arabic and fiction in Persian. In addition to these languages, the population also used its Slavic language, which was written in Cyrillic and later Arabic letters. Conservative Muslim landowners, who, through hereditary offices, handled the tax collection, revolted in 1821 and 1831 against the Sultan’s reform efforts. It was not until 1850 that the Sultan succeeded in regaining control of Bosnia and introducing a new centralized administration.
Austrian control (1878-1918)
The double-monarchy Austria-Hungary already dominated parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina during the short 18th century. After several insurgency attempts in Bosnia in the middle of the century, the double monarchy of the Berlin Congress in 1878 got its occupation of Turkish Bosnia approved. In 1908, Bosnia and Herzegovina was annexed and formally became part of Austria-Hungary. In order to prevent Serbian claims in this area, Austria-Hungary sought to stimulate regional identity and play Croatians and Serbs against each other. Ethnic and religious contradictions were reinforced by the introduction of a formally autonomous parliament, which divided places between Croats (Catholics), Serbs (Orthodox Christians) and Muslims.
When the Habsburg throne Franz Ferdinand came to Sarajevo in 1914, plans were made to bring all parts of the Slavic majority of Austria-Hungary together into an autonomous territory. This was in conflict with Serbian wishes to form a South Slavic state and Franz Ferdinand was murdered by Gavrilo Princip, a member of the Serbian organization Black Hand. The “Scots in Sarajevo” became the prelude to the First World War.
Bosnia and Herzegovina became part of the new state of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, from 1929 the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, under the Serbian monarch Aleksandar Karadjordjević. Two years after the outbreak of World War II, Yugoslavia was divided between the Axis powers and most of Bosnia and Herzegovina became part of so-called Free Croatia, which with Nazi support was ruled by the fascist Ustaša under Ante Pavelić. Bosnia and Herzegovina became the basis for the resistance movement and was badly affected by both the German anti-guerrilla war and the settlements between the communist partisans, pro-Serb četnici and Ustaša. A new federal and socialist Yugoslav state was founded by party leader Tito (really Josip Broz) in 1943, and Bosnia and Herzegovina became one of Yugoslavia’s six sub-republics with the borders of before 1918. After the communist struggle in 1948, when Stalin broke with Tito, Bosnia and Herzegovina received a large part of Yugoslavia’s arms production.
At the disintegration of Yugoslavia in 1990, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s leaders sought to preserve the federation for the longest time. The Republic transitioned to a multi-party system, marked by parliamentary elections in November – December 1990. The results of the three largest parties came to reflect the ethnic divide: the predominantly Muslim party received 34%, the Serbian 30% and the Croatian 18% of the mandate. By electing a Muslim, Alija Izetbegović, to become president, a Croat to the Prime Minister and a Serb to the President, the Republic sought to maintain the balance between the peoples.
After Croatia and Slovenia finally left Yugoslavia in 1991, Bosnian Serbs began to establish so-called autonomous territories in September of that year. The Bosnian Parliament issued a declaration of sovereignty during the Serbian resistance in October. Following a referendum boycotted by the Serbs, Bosnia and Herzegovina was declared independent in April 1992.
Independent State (1992–)
The new state was recognized by the EU in April 1992. By this time, the Serbian areas had already asked the federal army to intervene and after recognition, the many Bosnian Serbs in the army were sent with their weapons “home” to Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Bosnian government was therefore faced with a superior opponent. After a few months of fighting, 2/3 of the new state was controlled by Serbian forces; see further the Yugoslav wars. The UN boycott of the former Yugoslavia impeded effective defense of the new state, while the Bosnian Serb forces could count on the support of the federal army. Bosnia and Herzegovina had previously been used by the UN as a starting point for peacekeeping work in Croatia. The UN troops deployed in Bosnia and Herzegovina to protect relief transports were too lightly armed and had too unclear instructions to intervene. In 1993, fierce fighting broke out between Bosnia-Croatian unions and the government side, which had previously collaborated. The fighting was temporarily suspended since the United States forced a federation between Bosniaks and Bosnians. Only after ethnic cleansing and war crimes affected public opinion did NATO flights in 1995 partially stop the fighting by introducing a flight ban. However, the so-called safe zones for the civilian population established by the UN could not be kept, but in several cases were taken over by Bosnian Serb troops, after which large sections of the population were murdered. In the city of Srebrenica alone, 7,000-8,000 Muslim boys and men were killed.
Following several failed mediation attempts, the Dayton Agreement in November 1995 confirmed the actual division between the three parties that had already taken place. An international troop force, IFOR (later SFOR), was responsible for the fighting not breaking out again. The civil administration was to be built up and elections held in 1996. Parliamentary elections were also held in September, but the postponed municipal elections could not be held until September 1997. One joint election for Bosnia and Herzegovina (with a collective presidential office – a Croat, a Muslim and a serb) was held in September 1998.
The foreign presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina after the war, on the one hand, has prevented new battles from breaking out and contributed to the reconstruction of the country. On the other hand, it has made Bosnia and Herzegovina something of an international protectorate, both financially and politically dependent on the outside world. In fact, they have ended up in a sort of step 22: many Bosnian politicians do not take their job seriously as long as the international High Representative still has the final say in all decisions; At the same time, despite the wishes of the international community to remove the post as soon as possible, the High Representative is needed, as long as the Bosnian politicians act as they do.
The Dayton Agreement, which ended the war and was certainly the best that could be achieved at the time, has also through its construction come to cement the division between the people groups that once helped to trigger the war. In all elections since the end of the war, the various ethnic groups have voted largely according to ethnic lines. Proposals for amendments to the Dayton Agreement, such as the abolition of the strict ethnic divide in all areas, have been put forward by some politicians and supported by the international community. However, these have been counteracted by minority groups who are afraid to have less to say about it.
After all, some progress has been made. For example, in 2003, they managed to establish a joint defense leadership for the two entities. The compact opposition, not least in the Serbian Republic, to cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague has diminished and a number of suspected war criminals have been brought to trial. In the summer of 2008, the former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžić was arrested and in the spring of 2011, the Bosnian Serb so-called commanders and the one considered responsible for the Srebrenica massacre, Ratko Mladić; both had remained hidden in Serbia.
At the end of 2008, a so-called Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU came into force. But from there to start negotiations for a membership, the step is big. The EU believes that Bosnia and Herzegovina’s willingness to reform is “very limited” and that the political climate has deteriorated more recently. After the parliamentary elections in autumn 2010, for example, it took more than a year for a government to come together, and then after pressure from the international community. Only then was the budget for 2011 adopted, which meant, among other things, that government employees could finally get their salaries. However, the coalition government has had major problems holding together.
However, there are indications that the Bosnians have begun to tire of the ineffective political system but, above all, of political corruption. Bosnian politicians have never really had to take responsibility for the policies they have pursued, as they have always had the High Representative (see above). However, they have earned high salaries and a number of benefits, which have been costly for the poor country.
At the end of 2012, thousands of teachers and police officers in the Serbian Republic participated in a protest demonstration, after ten percent pay cuts were announced for civil servants. In June 2013, thousands of people outside the parliament in Sarajevo demonstrated, since a seriously ill child was unable to leave the country for qualified medical care abroad because it lacked ID documents; The reason for this was that the politicians could not agree on a new law on social security numbers, which meant that newborns did not receive any ID documents. The most widespread unrest since the 1990s war broke out in February 2014 in the city of Tuzla and then spread throughout the Bosnian-Croatian entity; in many places they became violent but eventually turned into peaceful protests. Enraged and frustrated people protested against missing wages and pensions, against the generally poor economy and high unemployment, not least among the young. The protests had no ethnic undertones but were rooted in a general dissatisfaction. There was talk of a “Bosnian spring” but eventually the protest movement slowed. In many places, so-called citizen plenums were established, where everyone who wanted to participate could discuss and propose changes and improvements and on how to put pressure on politicians to take them. However, no major changes have taken place, and it was difficult to say how big long-term impressions the protest movement, which lacked leaders, would make on the policy in Bosnia. It was clear that most politicians did not want to see any changes, as they would risk losing power and privileges. New parliamentary and presidential elections were planned for autumn 2014.