Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country of Europe
with a surface area of 51,197 km² (density of 90.28 inhab./km²). The population of Bosnia and Herzegovina is 4,622,163 inhabitants in the last census.The capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina is the city of Sarajevo which has 305,342 inhabitants. The President of the Council of Ministers is Vjekoslav Bevanda.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia - Herzegovina, or more precisely Bosnia and Herzegovina, is a country located in Southern Europe, in the Balkan Peninsula. It shares borders with Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro and opens onto the Adriatic Sea.
This independent Republic since 1992 is made up of two regions, Bosnia and Herzegovina, which were united into a single geopolitical entity during the Middle Ages. To use only the name of "Bosnia" to designate the whole country is therefore a mistake often made. However, all the inhabitants of Bosnia and Herzegovina are called "Bosnians".
It is also important to differentiate the name of the State from that of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, one of the three non-independent territorial entities of the country formed as a result of the Dayton Accords marking the end of the war in Bosnia- Herzegovina from 1992 to 1995. The other two entities are the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is recognized as an autonomous territorial community and the Brčko District is recognized as a neutral and autonomous territory.
Bosnia and Herzegovina at a glance
Capital city: Sarajevo
Administrative divisions: 10 cantons in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and 63 municipalities in the Serbian Republic of Bosnia
Population: more than 3 million inhabitants
Main languages: Bosnian, Serbian, Croatian
Main Religions: Christianity and Islam
Current High Representative: Valentin Inzko
Currency: Mark convertible (1 mark convertible = 100 fening)
Conversion into euro: 100 convertible marks = 51 euros
Tourism: no restrictions except in mined areas
One country, three entities
Bosnia and Herzegovina consists of two historical regions, Bosnia which occupies 80% of the territory and, in the south, Herzegovina.
With only 20 kilometers of coastline, the country is virtually landlocked in the Balkan Peninsula.
The three autonomous entities share the entire territory:
• The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (formerly the Croat-Muslim Federation or the Croatian-Bosnian Federation) occupies just over half of the country's territory on the western front (including access to the Adriatic the capital of Sarajevo, which is also the capital of the country)
• The Bosnian Serb Republic, divided into two parts on both sides of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and separated by the Brčko District occupies 48.5% of the territory. Its capital is Banja Luka.
• The Brčko District forms a small enclave in the country. It was granted a special status in 1999 because it is managed by the mayor of the city of Brčko under the supervision of a representative of the UN, who is itself a member of the Office of the High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, from the country. This small neutral and autonomous territory is the subject of a controversy in the country, the Serbian Republic of Bosnia considering itself wronged in the division of the territories.
The relief of Bosnia and Herzegovina is mainly mountainous, its highest peak, Mount Maglic, peaks at 2,386 meters above sea level. The country is crossed by the Dinaric Alps, an important massif of average altitude located in the western part of the Balkans, extending from Slovenia to Albania along a north-west/south-east axis. The massif extends into a series of small islands in the Adriatic Sea, from the ancient peaks that are now submerged.
The rugged terrain of the Dinaric Alps makes communications difficult, which explains the history of settlement in the region, which has long been fragmented into many ethnic groups, each with its own culture and beliefs.
Most of the country is covered with beech and conifer forests and pastures. Only the summits of the Dinaric Alps above 1,600 meters of altitude emerge from this abundant vegetation.
In the north of the country, the relief is less rugged and gives rise to large fertile plains irrigated by rivers including the Save, an important tributary of the Danube. These cultivable lands form part of the Pannonian plain, a vast sedimentary basin, a vestige of an ancient shallow sea that covered the center and southeast of Europe during the Miocene and Pliocene periods.
The plains of the north and the southern part of the country benefiting from a climate of the Mediterranean type are areas with high agricultural activity.
Because of its biodiversity and the presence of several endangered animal species in its territory, Bosnia and Herzegovina has many natural parks and reserves as well as several RAMSAR zones (protected by the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Particularly as waterfowl habitat) and IBA (Important Bird Areas).
A total of 7 plant species and 259 animal species are placed under protection. This list includes the Edelweiss, the Lesser White-fronted Goose, the Imperial Eagle, the Curly Pelican and the Alpine Newt.
The parks and reserves managers must also ensure the protection of important natural sites, springs, caves, waterfalls and lakes that enliven the landscape.
If the region around the coast and the city of Mostar benefits from a Mediterranean but rainy climate, the temperatures will cool in the center of the country as the altitude rises. The winters are harsh in a large part of the country that is experiencing long periods of frost and snow. With an altitude of 650 meters, the capital Sarajevo has an average temperature of 19 °, with summer heat periods and frost in winter.
The northern part of the country has a continental type climate with marked seasons with averages of temperature reaching 20% in summer and 0 in winter and the rains less abundant than in the south.
The culture of Butmir
The settlement of Bosnia and Herzegovina probably dates back to around 16,000 BCE when the nomadic peoples settled in the south of the country. The paleolithic engravings and the wall paintings were discovered in 1975 in the Badanj Cave and corroborate this hypothesis.
But the first true civilization of the country dates from the Neolithic when the culture of Butmir begins in the vicinity of 5,000 BC. The first vestiges of this culture were discovered at the end of the 19th century during the construction of a new wing of the University of Sarajevo. The excavation campaigns resulted in the discovery of an important archaeological material, including a few pieces of pottery with original decoration. Even if the Cretan influence was for a time considered, the hypothesis of a unique culture and specific to the region is privileged.
Several villages of Butmir culture have been uncovered. They covered a few hectares of land and the houses aligned were protected by the ditches. The inhabitants mainly subsisted from the hunting and the breeding.
The Illyrian period
This first endemic culture disappeared around 1300 BC when Illyrians, a tribal people of Indo-European origin, appeared in the 20th century BCE, settled along the shore of the Adriatic Sea and in the mountainous massifs of the western part of the country. At the same time, the eastern region, and more particularly the banks of the Save, is occupied by the Scordisci. The origin of this people is the subject of controversy. Some historians believe that it is also Illyrian, while others are inclined to a Celtic origin, a version already found in the writings of the Greek geographer Strabo.
The Roman period
Illyria was unified by King Bardylis and reached its apogee during the 4th century BC before being conquered in -358 by Philip II of Macedonia, the father of Alexander the Great. Philip II. Then extended his kingdom to Greece and Thrace, and set out to assault the Persians. At his death, his son undertook to completely overcome the Achaemenid Persian Empire, continuing its expansion to the banks of the Indus.
Meanwhile, the Romans land in small islands, shelters of Illyrian pirates and in the south of the country. They hunt the Greeks who had founded several colonies in the kingdom of Illyria and, in the 3rd century BC, occupied the entire coastline of Dalmatia, an Illyrian region, thus securing the Adriatic Sea. They then attacked the Kingdom of Macedonia, which had been weakened since the death of Alexander the Great and the difficulties of his succession. Macedonia became a Roman province in 148 BC.
Strongly occupied by the Wars of Gaul, the Romans continued their expansion to the interior of Illyrian lands only between -13 and 9 AD. The Roman province of Illyricum is divided into two parts, Pannonia and Dalmatia, which corresponds approximately to the present borders of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Dalmatia was given the status of imperial province in the year 10 and chose the city of Solin as its capital (currently in Croatia).
The end of the Western Roman Empire
The Romans remained masters of these regions until the 4th century when the successive invasions of the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths put an end to a long period of peace in favor of the weakening and division of the Roman Empire. The Germanic peoples and the Huns then occupied the Balkans and continued their invasions, seizing Rome in 410. The Roman Empire of the West collapsed and the last emperor, Romulus Augustule, was deposed in 476.
This situation benefited the Byzantine Empire and the Emperor Justinian pursued a policy of expansion by relying on two of his generals, Narses and Belisarius, which he charged to reconquer the territories occupied by the Germanic peoples.
Thus, in 535, General Bélisaire took over the southern part of Dalmatia (now Herzegovina) while Pannonia and northern Dalmatia fell into the hands of the Lombards who coveted Italy.
The Slavic period
The Lombards leave the country leaving the place to the Avars, a Turkish tribe, who continue their invasions in Europe, seizing and ravaging many territories including Dalmatia in 569. Allied with the Sassanid Persians, the Avars will try to Attacking the Byzantine Empire but were defeated before Constantinople in 626.
This defeat marks the beginning of the collapse of the Avar Empire which cannot withstand the attacks of the Slavic peoples organized in kingdoms in central and Eastern Europe. The Avars entrenched themselves in Hungary but ended up being encompassed by the Franks at the beginning of the 9th century.
Meanwhile, the Slavs have seized the land abandoned by the Avars. The Croats occupy the south-west of the country while the Slavons settle north and south-west and the Sorbs in the center and east. It was at this time that the word "Serbo-Croatian" used to designate the Slavic language was used.
The Banat of Bosnia
The various Slavic principalities will try to ally themselves with the great powers that share the world and Bosnia and Herzegovina is split into two, divided between the Byzantine Empire and Hungary when King Bela II invades Bosnia. Its heir Ladislas II of Hungary receives the title of ban of Bosnia in 1136.
Because of their remoteness and the rugged terrain of their mountains, the regions of Bosnia and Herzegovina retain great autonomy from the Byzantine Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary. Thus, when Byzantium annexed the Bosnian territories belonging to Hungary in 1166, the emperor chose to appoint the Bosnian Kulin as head of the Bosnian banat.
The ban Kulin will however change sides 20 years later and ask for Hungary's help to attack the Byzantine Empire, with the support of the Serbs.
In 1189 a charter was signed in order to define the borders of Bosnia formed by the Drina, the Save and the Una and the trade agreements concluded with the Republic of Dubrovnik (or Ragusa) which had liberated itself from the Byzantine yoke. This "Kulin Charter" is considered the first act of the independence of the country.
The conflicts of religion
Kulin is also known to have participated in the development of the Bogomilist religion, a heterodox Christian movement founded by the Bulgarian pope Bogomil, who is distinguished by a dualistic doctrine and a rejection of the constituted authorities. The bogomile Serbs persecuted for heresy in their country are welcomed by the ban Kulin, a choice that will reverberate in the cultural identity of the country.
Moreover, the Hungarians who cannot completely control Bosnia will take advantage of the situation to accuse it of posing a danger to the papacy. Ban Kulin and his relatives must acknowledge their mistakes and turn to the Roman Catholic Church.
His successor and son followed the same path as him, imposing Catholicism as the official religion of Bosnia. He was deposed and replaced by a nobleman who became ban Ninoslav in 1232 by the religious leaders of the country who did not want to be controlled by Rome.
At the same time, the King of Hungary offers, with the support of Pope Gregory IX, the Bosnian banat to Coloman of Galicia, former King of Galicia-Volhynia and Duke of Slavonia, Croatia and Dalmatia. It thus becomes the real ban of Bosnia a title also coveted by the heir of the Kulinic dynasty, Sibislav, prince of Usora.
The Pope appoints the Grand Master of the Order of Friars Preachers (future Dominicans) Johannes von Wildeshausen as Bishop of Bosnia in place of the bishop of Bosnian origin suspected of heresy.
The newly elected bishop and Coloman of Galicia then lead a crusade in Bosnia, bringing the country to fire and blood. At the end of it, Ninoslav's cousin and fervent Catholic, Prijezda became the ban chosen by Coloman, but he finally had to withdraw from Bosnia in 1241 when the Turkish Tartars invaded Eastern Europe and invaded Hungary in particular. Ninoslav took advantage of the situation to take over the reins of power and to restore peace with Hungary.
After his death, the country was the object of an important power quarrel and two dynasties clashed, on one side the Kotromanic (descendants of Prijezda) and the Subic, a Croatian line that proclaimed lords of Bosnia in 1299. The issue is not only political but also religious, the Subic wishing to drive out the Bosnian Bogomils and the Kotromanic who welcome the heretics into their ranks.
The Kingdom of Bosnia
Finally, the banat was ceded by the Subic in 1320 to the Kotromanic who convert to Catholicism in order to offer peace to the country. In 1377 Ban Stefan Tvrko was crowned and became the first king of Bosnia. He also claims the crown of Serbia but the title "Bosnae and Serbieae regibus" will remain purely theoretical. In reality, he will never be able to take the power of this country but on the other hand he will a little bit enlarge the kingdom of Bosnia.
The Duchy of Herzegovina
After the death of Tvrko 1st, the country will again weaken and the lords of Zachlumie occupying the land of Hum in the south-west of the country will take advantage of it to place themselves under the protection of Herzog (duke) Stefan Vukčić. The latter rejected the authority of the Bosnian Catholic King Etienne-Thomas, that triggered a civil war, at the end of which the Duke retained his lands which took the name of Herzegovina for the first time in 1448 (duke's lands) and that will subsequently be annexed to Serbia.
The Ottoman Period
The country as we know it now is thus divided when in 1463 the Ottoman Turks invaded the kingdom of Bosnia and the Duchy of Herzegovina. The last Bosnian king, Etienne Tomaševič capitulates and is executed by order of the Sultan.
The Bosnian and Herzegovinian lands are grouped in the Bosnian sandjak itself integrated into the Pachalik (territory ruled by a Pasha) of Roumelia which then comprises all the Balkan territories belonging to the Ottomans.
When Roumelia was split into several parts by the end of the 16th century, Bosnia itself became a pachalik composed of 7 sandjaks. In addition to the territories of present-day Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Bosnian Pachalik includes parts of Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro.
In the 18th century, the Ottomans faced successively the Venetian-Austro-Ottoman war (1714-1718) and the Austro-Turkish war (1735 to 1739). The treaties that put an end to these two conflicts modify the boundaries of the different powers involved. After being briefly annexed by the Austrians between the two wars, Bosnian lands became Ottoman.
The Ottoman occupation has resulted in the Islamization of a large part of the population and the proliferation of mosques and Koranic schools throughout the country which displeases the peasants who remained Christians and who cannot reach the high offices nor extend their lands. The great landed estates all belong to the converts.
This situation led to revolts in the 1830s and 1870s. At the same time, the Ottomans had to undergo further attacks by Serbia and Montenegro, which demanded Bosnia and Herzegovina respectively. This conflict, initially limited territorially, will ultimately lead to a new war following the massacre of the populations by the "bachi-bouzouks" (Turkish mercenaries) and the intervention of Russia and Austria-Hungary.
The Ottoman Empire must at the same time settle international conflicts and try to bring calm to Constantinople, its own capital, due to several putsches.
In 1877, Russia attacked the Turks on two flanks at the same time, in the Caucasus and in the Balkans. In six months, they managed to bend the Ottomans who demanded an armistice in January 1878.
The Treaty of San Stefano redistributes the Balkan territories. Bosnia and Herzegovina was granted autonomy to the detriment of Austria-Hungary since these territories had been promised to it by Russia. The clauses of the treaty of San Stefano granting too much power to the Russians are swept away by a new treaty signed during the Congress of Berlin.
Bosnia and Herzegovina was officially annexed by Austria-Hungary in 1908. France, Italy and the United Kingdom also got several important territories, which provoked the anger of Russia but also of Serbia, Ambition with the aim of annexing all the Slavic territories.
The borders of Europe are completely turned upside down and the maps are redistributed on the eve of the First World War.
The World Wars, the birth of Yugoslavia
On June 28th, 1914, Sarajevo was the scene of the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand, the Crown Prince of the Austro-Hungarian Empire who had come to attend the military maneuvers in Bosnia, and his wife Sophie. Austria-Hungary immediately declares war on the Kingdom of Serbia, thus setting in motion the process of the international conflict.
At the end of the First World War, the Habsburg dynasty collapsed and Austria-Hungary was fragmented. The Slovenes, the Croats and the Serbs meet in one state, represented by the Yugoslav committee charged with defending the interests of the Slavs of the south of the former empire.
The Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes which includes Serbia, Montenegro, Vojvodina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Slovenia became Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1929.
Because of the disparities between different peoples, the tensions quickly appear within the Kingdom, which becomes a true dictatorship.
It is in a difficult context and the tensions between "pro-allies" and "pro-Axis" that the Second World War begins. Hitler on his way to Greece crossed the borders of Yugoslavia in April 1941, marking the end of the neutrality of the country, its dismantling and its sharing.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is attached to the independent state of Croatia in the hands of the Ustashis, members of a separatist, anti-Semitic and fascist movement backed by the Nazis. Serbs, Gypsies and Jews residing in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina are massacred or deported to the concentration camps.
At the end of the war, the Ustashis who do not manage to flee the country are handed over to the Communists who execute them without further form of trial.
In 1945, Marshal Tito, perceived as a liberator, took over the power of Yugoslavia, which became the People's Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia from 1963), a Communist state but completely independent of Russia.
At that time, Yugoslavia included six republics, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia.
The end of Yugoslavia and the independence
These republics will want to leave the federation after the death of Tito, in 1980 and the different nationalist movements are born.
During the 1990s, the wars of Yugoslavia erupted, fueled by the differences in language, religion and culture of the republics. They will be particularly deadly and will cause a large migratory wave. The conflict originally concerned Serbia and Croatia, but Bosnia and Herzegovina, recognized as independent in 1992, soon entered a war.
The Dayton Accords of December 14th 1995 put an end to a war that claimed more than 150,000 lives, including a majority of civilians in three years.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is divided between the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and an international force is deployed in the country to monitor the implementation of the agreements.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a multiparty federal republic with a parliamentary regime.
The executive is entrusted to the government headed by the Presidency and the Council of Ministers. The High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina (currently Valentin Inzko) currently holds the highest authority in the country and can take decisions or set aside decisions taken by Parliament. However, he must be accountable to the UN Security Council.
The Presidency is made up of three members representing the three nationalities of the country: a Bosnian (currently Bakir Izetbegovic) and a Croat (Dragan Coviv) elected by the inhabitants of the Federation and a Serb (Mladen Ivanic). They are all three elected for four years and exercise power in turns for 8 months.
The legislative power is exercised jointly by the government and the parliament composed of the House of Representatives and the House of Peoples.
The judicial power is provided by the Constitutional Court and the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
An economy struggling to recover
Despite a stable growth rate at present, Bosnia and Herzegovina's economy still suffers from the war years and the unemployment remains very high, reaching more than 40% of the population.
Since 2014, the country has applied for membership of the European Union and the considerable efforts have been made to revitalize the economy and diversify resources, in particular by foreign investors and tourism. The social, political and economic reforms funded in part by the IMF have already been undertaken.
The agriculture (maize, fruit, vegetables and livestock), which is largely privatized, accounts for only 8% of the country's GDP, which has to import a large part of its food needs.
The tertiary sector (trade, transport and construction) accounts for approximately 65% of GDP while industry (metallurgy, wood, chemicals, textiles,) contributes 27%.
A great cultural diversity
The total population of Bosnia and Herzegovina exceeds 3,800,000 inhabitants but the natural increase is negative due to a fertility rate of 1.28 children per woman.
For the greater part of its history, the country has suffered from inter-ethnic and religious tensions, and even extermination. The policy of "ethnic cleansing" that was carried out from the end of the 19th century to the aftermath of the Second World War and during the wars of Yugoslavia caused many displacements of populations and ethnic groupings by region. It is estimated that three million people have been voluntarily or forcibly displaced in the interior of the country and more than one and a half million people have sought refuge abroad. More than 300,000 people were also killed, sometimes simply because they were part of a mixed family.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is populated by three large ethnic groups: Bosnians, which account for slightly more than half of the total population, the Serbs (31%) and the Croatians (15%).
These figures are however approximate because the government refuses to carry out a census that could confirm the ethnic cleansing suffered by the population.
Bosnians and Croatians live mainly in the Federation while the Serbs occupy the Serbian Republic of Bosnia.
The three communities are also differentiated by their religion. Bosnians are predominantly Muslim, Serbs are mostly Orthodox Christians and Croatians are predominantly Christian Catholics.
And if all have the same official language, Bosnian-Croatian-Montenegrin-Serbian known by the abbreviation BCMS, the inhabitants of Bosnia and Herzegovina speak Bosnian, Croatian or Serbian according to their community affiliation. These different spoken languages, however, are very close and are only differentiated by a few lexical notions. On the other hand, if Croatians and Bosnians use the Latin alphabet, the Serbs generally use the Serbian Cyrillic alphabet derived from the Russian alphabet and the Serbian alphabet.
All these religious, cultural and ethnic differences are reflected in the cuisine which has also undergone Austro-Hungarian, Slavic and Turkish influences, witnessing its turbulent history. Yaourts, leaves of vines, slippers stuffed with meat or cheese called bureks, pitas are regularly found on the menu.
The typical dishes of Bosnia and Herzegovina are made from grilled meats or fish, sometimes skewers. The vegetables are relatively rare with only salads in summer and the soups in winter.
The favorite drinks of the population are products made from fermented milk (yogurts or kefirs) and Turkish coffee, strong and thick. Non-Muslims also enjoy the beer, the raki and the fruit brandies.
Despite its desire to open up to tourism, the inter-community tensions are still perennial in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The tourists are recommended to refrain from taking a stand for either community.
Greater vigilance is recommended when traveling in border areas and more generally in non-urban areas due to the presence of many areas that have not yet been cleared.
The crime is relatively low in the country but we deplore the acts of petty delinquency, pickpockets, theft in cars.... targeting the tourists.
The unorganized tourism (hiking, unsupervised water activities ...) presents many risks due to the presence of wild animals (bears, wolves, snakes, wild dogs) in the forest or in isolated countryside, drowning in underground cavities and the presence of mines.
The tourists whose stay is less than three months can travel with a passport or an identity card in validation.
Bosnia and Herzegovina does not yet offer a first-class infrastructure to tourists but is developing rapidly since the country is at peace.
The lovers of hiking and nature are as much conquered as the enthusiasts of history and architectural heritage.
From the great wilderness to the charm of the villages, to the power of the fortresses and the castles, and the diversity of churches, mosques and synagogues, Bosnia and Herzegovina reflects its multicultural history.
Not to be missed: the artificial lake of Jablanica, the extraordinary city of Mostar inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage List, which owes its Turkish architecture to its geographical location on the ancient frontier of the Ottoman Empire. The old fortified city of Trebinje, not forgetting the capital Sarajevo which was able to reborn from its ashes after the war.
Finally, the only seaside resort of the country, Neum attracts tourists in search of the mild Mediterranean climate and nautical activities.