Bosnia & Herzegovina

Bosnia & Herzegovina

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10 Inspiring Bosnians Who Changed the World

People are often unfamiliar with inspiring people born in Bosnia who left their mark on the world. Perhaps you may know about Franz Ferdinand’s assassination or the Bosnian War criminals presently in the media. But, this negative public image is not only a misrepresentation, the depiction glides over others’ achievements. Here are 10 of the most inspiring people to come from Bosnia, who you should know about.

Product Details

The History of Bosnia & Herzegovina 2nd ed. is a brilliant, enlightening book that traces the origins of the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina from the days of the first humans in Europe to the modern era. Thoughtfully written, this eloquent narrative presents a refreshing perspective on history, drawing on academic research from hundreds of sources and modern scientific analysis.

About the Author:

Irfan Mirza is a two-time international award winning writer, college lecturer, and Chair of Education at the Bosnian American Institute. He published his first book on Bosnia-Herzegovina at the start of the war in April 1992. From '92 to '94, he served as a humanitarian program director followed by becoming an advisor to the UN in Bosnia-Herzegovina. After nearly three decades of immersion in the Bosnian culture and four years of historical research, Irfan Mirza was able to compound his effort into a publicly-available book. The book costs USD$ 60, which includes library post in the US. In Canada, the cost is CDN$60 + CDN$10 shipping. Profits from US sales go to the Bosnian American Institute (BAI). Profits from Canada go to the Institute for Research of Genocide Canada (IGC). We hope to have a similar licensing model for sales in BiH to benefit Zemajski Muzej.

  • OFFICIAL NAME: Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • FORM OF GOVERNMENT: Emerging federal democratic republic
  • CAPITAL: Sarajevo
  • POPULATION: 3,849,891
  • OFFICIAL LANGUAGES: Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian
  • MONEY: Convertible Mark
  • AREA: 19,767 square miles (51,197 square kilometers)
  • MAJOR RIVERS: Sava River, Neretva River


Bosnia and Herzegovina is bordered by Croatia, Serbia, and Montenegro, and has a narrow stretch of land along the Adriatic Sea.

The country consists of numerous mountains. The Dinaric Alps stretch along the western border. The mountainous areas are earthquake-prone. An earthquake in 1969 caused widespread building damage in the city of Banja Luka.

Forest covers half the land in Bosnia and Herzegovina and natural springs are found throughout the country.

Map created by National Geographic Maps


Bosnia and Herzegovina is a diverse country made up of a mix of Bosniaks, Serbs, and Croats, and people of other ethnicities who follow a mix of Muslim, Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and other faiths.

Family and friends play an important role for people in Bosnia and Herzegovina and hospitality is common. People often meet at local coffee shops or cafés, known as kafanes and kafićis.

Popular foods include baklava, a type of sweet cake, and stuffed vegetables, both of which have Turkish roots.


Around 40 percent of Bosnia and Herzegovina is covered in forest, consisting of oak, pine, and beech trees. Plums, grapes, pears, and apples are common in the country.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is abundant in wildlife, which includes bears, wolves, foxes, otters, and falcons.

A pilot project in the sustainable collection of wild plants in Bosnia and Herzegovina proved successful in 2009 with the possibility of its use as a model for conservation in other European countries.


Bosina and Herzegovina is split into two regions that govern themselves independently, each having its own president. As a result of tensions that remain among the country's three main ethnic communities, the president is elected as part of a tripartite presidency, whereby a Bosniak, Serb, and Croat president rotate, each serving eight months.

Agriculture plays a major role in Bosnia and Herzegovina's economy, with some 50 percent of the land used to raise livestock or grow crops. Some of the main crops include corn, wheat, cotton, and fruit.


Bosnia and Herzegovina's history extends way back to the time of Roman conquest in the first and second centuries B.C. Later, in the sixth century, the area of Bosnia would become part of the Byzantine Empire. The area of Herzegovina came to being in 1448, joining Bosnia later that century under Turkish rule.

The Russo-Turkish War broke out in 1877 and resulted in Bosnia and Herzegovina being placed under the rule of Austria-Hungary the following year. Following World War I and the collapse of Austria-Hungary, Bosnia and Herzegovina fell into the hands of Serbia. During World War II, Bosnia and Herzegovina was incorporated into pro-Hitler Croatia and later became one of six member states of Yugoslavia.

Attempting to free themselves from Yugoslavia and avoid Serbian rule, Bosnaks and Croats voted for independence in 1991. Though the vote was recognized internationally, local Serbs and troops from Serbia fought to declare their rule of the country and were met with resistance by Bosnaks. War lasted for several years and two million people were displaced from their homes as a result.

War came to an end in 1995 after a treaty, the Dayton Agreement, was established. The treaty continues to be enforced by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). What remains is a fractured state, consisting of two independent regions, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Serb Republic of Bosnia Herzegovina.

History of Bosnia and Herzegovina

In the first centuries AD, the area of ​​today’s Bosnia and Herzegovina was part of the Roman Empire. It was mostly inhabited by the Illyrians. After the fall of the empire, Byzantine Empire, and the Western heirs of Rome claimed Bosnia. The Slavs settled here in the 7th century, finding in these areas parts of Illyrian and Thracian tribes that were romanized, and upon arrival of the Slavs they retreated mainly in the mountains.

Slavs call them Vlachs according to old German word Wallach, which means Roman. In their ethno-genesis, Bosnian Slavs – Bošnjani (Bosnians), later Bosniaks or Bosnian Muslims, as central South Slavic people, mingled very little with other nations, which is not the case with the surrounding South Slavs, in whose ethno genesis the share of non-Slavic element is quite significant – in the east Greeks, Albanians, Aromanians, Romanians, and others, and in the west Germans, Italians, Hungarians, Czechs, and others. Opinion of majority of Croatian and Serbian historians is that the Kingdom of Serbia and Croatia ruled parts of Bosnia during the 9th century, and that in the 11th and 12th century Hungarian Kingdom masters over Bosnia.

However, the majority of Bosnian historians considered that Bosnia has been an independent state since 9th century. On the other hand, Serbian and Croatian historians believe that the medieval Bosnian state acquired its independence around 1200, basing its thesis on unverified documents of the Catholic and Orthodox churches, and that during this period its indigenous Bosniak people grew here. At first, rulers of Bosnia were bans, first famous ban of Bosnia was Ban Borić, then Kulin Ban, and after the coronation of Ban Tvrtko and Kotromanić, in 1377, the rulers of Bosnia become kings. Bosnia preserved independence until the arrival of the Ottomans in 1463, when officially it became part of the Ottoman Empire.

During the Ottoman rule in Bosnia, many Bosnians rejected Christianity and converted to Islam. At the same time, Vlachs, who later became Serbs, for the first time, appear in some parts of the former Bosnian eyalet, while many Bosnians move out to the west and north. This development of demography is the root of nowadays people of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Many Bosniaks belonged to the Bosniak nobility, so that already in the first half of the 16th century many beys and military leaders in Ottoman Europe were from Bosnia (e.g. Mehmed Paša Sokolović and Gazi Husrev-bey).

In the 16th and 17th century, Bosniaks were part of the Ottoman army, and the most important roles in government of Bosnian eyalet usually belonged to Bosniaks. Many of the families, who converted to Islam early, were very powerful, and for a long time this retained feudal relations between Bosniaks and other nations.

Ottoman failures against second regional power in this part of Europe, Austria, move the border between the Ottoman Empire and the rest of the Europe, which now again arrived at the gate of Bosnia, whereby the overall situation in the country deteriorated. With the constant attacks and the economic crisis disaffection was spreading, thus in the first half of the 19th century, Sultan tried to make reforms several times, but captains in Bosnia answered to this by riots. The most famous is rebellion of Husein-kapetan Gradaščević in 1831. After Ottomans defeated them, military resistance of Bosniaks ended, while the empire was still weakening. At the same time, Serbian and Croatian national movements exert strong pressure on the Bosniaks, so that many Bosniaks based on religion or something else went to Serbian or Croatian national corpus, and the number of Serbs and Croats in Bosnia grew.

In 1878, by the decision of the Berlin Congress, Bosnia becomes an integral part of the dual kingdom of Austria-Hungary. Parallel to this, in the neighboring states, Slavic national movements develop, those worked on the unification of all South Slavs in the southeast of Europe. The cause of the First World War was the assassination in Sarajevo in the summer of 1914, which was done by Gavrilo Princip, a member of the revolutionary youth movement “Young Bosnia” (Mlada Bosna). He shot and killed the Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his pregnant wife. The trigger for the first major confrontation of global dimensions was thus found.

At the end of the First World War and the collapse of Austro-Hungarian Empire, Bosnia and Herzegovina enters the beginning of the State of Slovenes, Croats, and Serbs, and then the newly created Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, which is from 1929 called the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. After increased industrialization and the general expansion of Bosnian society during the Austro-Hungarian era, during the first Yugoslavia Bosnia and Herzegovina regresses economically, which creates the basis for social discontent and unrest, which will later follow.

After the collapse of parliamentary democracy and the 6 January Dictatorship in 1929 there were new administrative and political changes in the country. Yugoslavia got nine banovinas, which formally divided Bosnia and Herzegovina. In its historical form the area of ​​Bosnia and Herzegovina was given to four different banovinas, which were named after the geographical and historical regions. Vrbas, Drina, Zeta, and Littoral Banovina should have, according to the original idea of ​​ Yugoslav King Alexander I, suppressed regional and national identity, and put in the foreground unique Yugoslav identity.

In 1939 Agreement Cvetkovic-Macek resulted in creation of the Croatian Banovina, it was given parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina, mainly those which already belonged to the Littoral Banovina and parts of the country on the north, along the Sava River.

At the beginning of the Second World War under the leadership of Ante Pavelić, on 10 th of April 1941 Independent State of Croatia (NDH) was established, and entire Bosnia and Herzegovina was a part of it. A significant part of the Bosnian Croats participate as members of the military of NDH Ustashe, Croatian Home Guard, while a handful of Bosniaks has leading positions in the government as ministers in the government, for example Osman Kulenović and Džafer Bey Kulenović. Certain number of Serbs fought on the side of the Chetniks, and participated in the persecution of Croats and Bosniaks. Ustashes persecuted and killed Serbs, Romani people, Jews, and communists.

Yet, a large part of Bosniaks, Bosnian Serbs, and Bosnian Croats actively participate in the anti-fascist movement of Josip Broz Tito, giving a significant contribution to the National Liberation War and the final liberation of the whole country from foreign invaders. Thus, Bosnia and Herzegovina can boast that it is one of the first countries of the antifascist coalition in imprisoned Europe 1941-1945.

On the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina some of the fiercest battles, during World War II, in South East Europe, were led (Neretva, Kozara, Sutjeska, Drvar). In Mrkonjic Grad on 25 th of November 1943, the foundations of modern Bosnia and Herzegovina were laid on the first State Anti-fascist Council for the National Liberation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. While in Jajce, on 29 th of November of the same year, on the second session of Anti-Fascist Council for the National Liberation of Yugoslavia basis of the new, socialist Yugoslavia were set, within which Bosnia and Herzegovina was one of six equal republics.

In the time from 1945 to the early 1990s, the Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina experienced rapid industrialization, modernization, and urbanization, and parallel to this country’s institutions were established, underlining its statehood and institutional independence. In this era the Academy of Arts and Sciences, University of Sarajevo, Banja Luka, Mostar and Tuzla, Sarajevo Radio and Television, and many other national and cultural institutions were established. 1971 brought the recognition of Muslims as the sixth nation in the former country, who with Serbs and Croats, were one of the constituent peoples of the Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Yugoslavia.

In 1984, the capital city of the Republic, Sarajevo hosted the 14th Winter Olympic Games, sports event of peace and friendship, which raised the prestige of the city and the country abroad. During the 1980s, Sarajevo and Bosnia and Herzegovina, became center of the pop culture in Yugoslavia. Here created some of the most popular local filmmakers (Kusturica, Kenović), and pop and rock groups from here were the most important in the country. The rich literary tradition continues during the seventies and eighties in the masterpieces, which continue there, where once stopped the Bosnian most significant authors like Ivo Andrić (Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature) and Meša Selimović.

In October 1991, the Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina voted sovereignty, followed by a referendum for independence in February 1992. Serb population largely boycotted the referendum. Immediately after the declaration of independence and international recognition of the country in April 1992, started the aggression of Serbia and Montenegro to the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina became part of the United Nations on 22 nd of May 1992, but regardless of this ruthless aggression continued.

In 1991, Croatian President Franjo Tuđman, entered into an agreement on the division of Bosnia and Herzegovina with Serbian President Milošević, during the well-known meeting in Karađorđevo. Today, there are numerous documents on the division of Bosnia and Herzegovina, among which the most important are the transcripts of Franjo Tuđman, and the testimony of Stjepan Mesić, former president of Yugoslavia, Ante Marković, former Prime Minister of Yugoslavia, and many other witnesses of time.

The war lasts until 1995, in which Bosniaks were killed, over which the genocide and ethnic cleansing was committed, Serbs and Croats have suffered great losses too. All three peoples in the country experience war in different ways, seeing in it threat to its national interest. So, for majority of Serbs this was the war for the fatherland, for majority of Croats this was patriotic war, and the truth is that this was the war initiated for the sake of the objectives of projects in neighboring countries and the strengthening of nationalism. In early 1992 historical name of Bosniaks was back in use, as the name of the nation, which replaced its former religious label “Muslim”. Intervention of international military ended the war, and Bosnia and Herzegovina has maintained its statehood and historical continuity.

In the American city of Dayton, on 21 st of November 1995, all sides conflicted in the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina signed the peace agreement, which unofficially ended the war. The final agreement was signed in Paris on 14 th of December 1995. The Dayton agreement was confirmed Bosnia and Herzegovina as an independent and sovereign state in Europe. According to this agreement, Bosnia and Herzegovina consists of two administrative units: the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republic of Srpska, and Brčko District, which has a special status and does not belong to any entity.

Bosnia and Herzegovina: History

Bosnia and Herzegovina is annexed into the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in Sarajevo by a Bosnian Serb student, sparks World War I.

Following defeat in World War I, the Austro-Hungarian Empire collapses. Bosnia and Herzegovina joins the newly formed Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is annexed by Nazi Germany's Croatian puppet state.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is liberated at the close of World War II and goes on to join the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Croatia declares independence from Yugoslavia.

Bosnia and Herzegovina declares itself an independent nation. A war with the Serbs immediately follows with the newly proclaimed Serb Republic immediately taking control of over half of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The signing of the Dayton Peace Accords in Paris marks the end of the Bosnian War. The agreement called for the division of Bosnia and Herzegovina into two approximately equal sized entities, one for Bosnian Muslims and Croats, the other for Serbs.

Massive protests occur in Tuzla and the capital city of Sarajevo over the high unemployment rate, which citizens view as a result of government corruption.

Bosnia and Herzegovina signs a stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union. The agreement raises the possibility that Bosnia and Herzegovina could join the EU if key political and economic reforms are carried out.

Bosnia and Herzegovina submits a formal application to join the European Union.

Bosnia and Herzegovina: A Jolt of Balkan History

A land nested in the very core of the tempestuous Balkans is an expression of its diversity, paradoxes, hopes and fears. It was in its capital Sarajevo where the smoldering fire of European restlessness turned into the inferno of the first global conflict in human history. Only a few decades later, the Balkan maze reshaped itself in the aftershock of WW2 and transformed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia into a Socialist Federal Republic. Tensions have always been brewing under the surface in this part of the Europe. The travesties of the 1990s only exposed the deep fractures of its ethnic divides.

Once the whirlwind of the Balkan war subsided, Bosnia and Herzegovina emerged out of the former Yugoslavia as a curious federation of Muslim Bosnians, alongside Christian Serbs and Croats. This was solidified through a mind-boggling institutional structure in an effort to prioritize dialogue over conflict. Against all the odds, the country succeeded at managing its differences and has been growing in confidence ever since. Today, it is the pursuer of the ultimate international stamp of recognition: European Union membership.

Marked by the cruelties of the many transitions, Bosnia and Herzegovina is the embodiment of the ‘round table’ idea. Mr Branko Neskovic shares the bewildering fusion that Bosnia and Herzegovina was born out of, as well as its unique perspective on Europe. The overwhelming principle that guides his words is that of talking to one another. It is no wonder this is important to a country where failure to do so has cost over a 100,000 lives.

The Balkan region has been a place of connection, but also of separation for centuries.

It has been critical to Europe, as well as Asia throughout history because of its location. Being at the crossroads of the world has been a mixed blessing for us bringing both diversity and openness, as well as wars and subjugation. My country is once again rising in importance today. Bosnia forms the energy bloodline of the region, it is also Europe’s transport corridor, connecting the south with the rest of the old continent.

Bosnia and Herzegovina saw many regimes and empires playing their games on our territory.

We were governed by the Ottoman Empire for half a millennium. Then we were incorporated into Austria-Hungary at the cost of two wars that pushed the Ottomans back to Asia. We hardly recovered from that when Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo and the WW1 erupted.

My country faced a huge dilemma.

Having a large Serbian population meant that our soldiers, who fought in the ranks of Austro-Hungarian army, did not want to fight Serbians. To us they were not the enemy. Many found themselves punished for their disobedience to the emperor. Once this ordeal was over, our country was absorbed into the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

At the dusk of WW2, Bosnia and Herzegovina became a republic within the newly reinvented Yugoslavia.

Josip Tito, the President of former Yugoslavia, was a great historical leader. He put himself and his country between the East and the West. He navigated the fine line well, working with the advantages from the West, while maintaining good relations with the East.

When the Cold War ended in 1989, the geopolitical powers of the day did not want Yugoslavia to continue to exist.

One by one, the republics proclaimed their independence, including Bosnia and Herzegovina. However, Yugoslavia had a strong military industry and a potent army. To hold such a concentration of guns in one place is never good thing for anyone.

A terrible war and a dark chapter in our history followed.

We had a referendum in which Muslims and Croats voted for independence, but Serbs wanted to stay in. A bloody conflict was born.

100 days of talking is better than a single day of war.

After three and a half years of a fighting one another, our people grew tired. We were forced to sit down and finally find a solution. My personal opinion is that we could and should have done this without a war.

Both Yugoslavia and the EU made a grave mistake.

Yugoslavia’s mistake was not to join the EU right away. The EU’s mistake was failing to foresee what would happen if no solutions were found for our region. It was the mutual error, that brought about a devastating war in the 1990s.

The EU would have benefitted from incorporating Yugoslavia.

If Yugoslavia became a member of the EU, the border of Europe would run through the Adriatic Sea, the Aegean Sea and the Black Sea, making its defence that much easier. This would have helped to tackle the refugee crisis in much more efficient way as well.

It puzzles many that we went into a war so as to gain independence and now we want to join another union.

This is difficult to explain. Some political leaders made grave mistakes during that sad period of our history and we ended up in war because it. Yet, we know that only a big country can protect us.

I worry about the development in Catalonia.

I can easily recognise the warning signs. Whatever the reason behind the rift and the plan to harmonize them, there needs to be respect on each side. In addition to a calm willingness to get together and discuss their differences opinion and future options.

Today, Bosnia and Herzegovina, a country of 3.5 million is made up of Serbs, Croats and Bosnians.

After the war, the Dayton Peace Agreement laid the basis of the state composed of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina comprised mostly of Bosnians and Croats and Republika Srpska dominated by Serbs. Each have a president, parliament and government with 16 ministries. On top of that, the Federation is divided into 10 cantons each with its own government. On the common level, we have a presidency and a Council of Ministers presiding over 9 ministries.

It is a perhaps the most complicated system of government in the world.

However, it does reflect the historic and ethnical intricacies of my country.

We hope to start negotiations to join the EU by the end of 2019

Nearly 80 % of our people want to join the EU. Brexit has not changed this. Our people want to feel safer which is no surprise when you look at our turbulent history and the last war. The EU is also a promise of a better life.

The European Union is not complete without the West Balkans.

Brussel’s work will not be done before these countries all join in. In return, we can offer Europe our young educated and highly skilled work force, not to mention our natural resources.

Sow good seeds, not the bad ones

Many cultures, religions and influences have passed through this land, each leaving something behind. We need to pick the best of each and create a new beautiful mosaic. I look at the future of my country with much optimism.

People need to talk more.

I believe that we must focus on what is good in others. Notice what is bad, but not to channel our attention and energy to that. It is counterproductive. Fear is not the way forward, it does not allow for countries to grow and societies to become better. It is up to us how we see things and the world.

It is our responsibility to be positive.

Politics and political science have accompanied Mr Neskovic since the first day of his university years. Education smoothly translated into a series of prestigious political posts in the young Bosnia and Herzegovina, including that of the Head of Prime Minister’s Office. Consequently, the experience with domestic affairs elevated Mr Neskovic to lead his country’s diplomatic mission in Romania as the Ambassador. Upon return, he performed a number of key roles within the government apparatus of Bosnia and Herzegovina before coming to the UK in 2015.

Bosnia and Herzegovina Country Profile

CountryBosnia and Herzegovina
CurrencyBosnia-Herzegovina Convertible Marka
FounderAlija Izetbegović

Bosnia and Herzegovina Culture

Religion in Bosnia and Herzegovina

45% Muslim, 36% Orthodox, 15% Roman Catholic, 4% Protestant, Jews and other denominations.

Social Conventions in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina is characterised by its ethnic and religious diversity and visitors should respect the customs and traditions of the various ethnic and religious groups. The main ethnic groups are the Bosniaks (48%, also sometimes referred to as Bosnian Muslims), the Serbs (37.1%) and the Croats (14.3%). Visitors should be aware that drinking alcohol in public may be considered offensive by more orthodox Muslims. Visitors should avoid expressing opinions about the war or other sensitive issues.

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