Bosnia and the Balkan Wars

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina (bŏz´nēə, hĕrtsəgōvē´nə), Serbo-Croatian Bosna i Hercegovina, country (2013 pop. 3,791,622), 19,741 sq mi (51,129 sq km), on the Balkan peninsula, S Europe. It is bounded by Croatia on the west and north, Serbia on the northeast, and Montenegro on the southeast. A narrow, undeveloped outlet to the Adriatic along the Neretva River in the southwest is its only direct outlet to the sea. The country is commonly referred to as Bosnia. Sarajevo is its capital.

Land and People

The Yugoslav republic that became the present country was formed from two historical regions—Bosnia in the north, with Sarajevo as its chief city; and Herzegovina in the south, with Mostar as its chief city. Other important cities are Banja Luka, Tuzla, and Zenica. Lying mostly in the Dinaric Alps, the nation has no coastal ports. The Sava (and its tributaries) and the Neretva are the chief rivers; there are river ports on the Sava. Much of the area is forested, and timber is an important product of Bosnia. Much of Herzegovina's terrain is denuded.

The ethnically diverse population speaks Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian (all dialects of Serbo-Croatian). The country's Bosniaks (about 48%, mainly Muslim), Serbs (about 37% of the population, largely Eastern Orthodox), and Croats (about 14%, mostly Roman Catholics) formerly formed a complex patchwork, but civil war and the flight of refugees forcibly segregated much of the population. Some inhabitants have gradually returned to their pre-conflict places of residence since the fighting's end.

Economy

Never particularly robust, Bosnia and Herzegovina's economy was shattered by the civil war that broke out after independence. Historically, the economy has depended on agriculture, although it now provides less than half of the country's food needs. Wheat, corn, oats, and barley are the principal products of Bosnia and tobacco, cotton, fruits, and grapes of Herzegovina. Livestock is also raised. Mining is important, and there are significant deposits of lignite, iron ore, bauxite, copper, lead, zinc, manganese, and other minerals. Vehicle and aircraft assembly, oil refining, and the manufacture of steel, textiles, tobacco products, wooden furniture, and domestic appliances are important. There has been some development of the country's hydroelectric resources. Metals, clothing, and wood products are exported, and machinery, chemicals, fuels, and foodstuffs are imported. The main trading partners are Croatia, Italy, Slovenia, and Germany.

Government

Bosnia is governed under constitution included in the Dayton Agreement, signed 1995; a high representative of the Peace Implementation Council (the nations overseeing the peace process) is the final authority on the civilian aspects of the settlement, and has the power to dismiss elected Bosnian officials. There is a three-member presidency, made up of one Bosniak, one Croat, and one Serb, whose chairman (rotated every eight months) is head of state. The head of government is the chairman of the Council of Ministers. The bicameral Parliamentary Assembly consists of the 42-seat, popularly elected House of Representatives and the 15-seat, indirectly elected House of Peoples. Adminstratively, the country is divided into the Bosniak and Croat Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Serb-led Serbian Republic; additionally, the Brčko district is an internationally supervised district.

History

Early History

The area was part of the Roman province of Illyricum. Bosnia was settled by Serbs in the 7th cent.; it appeared as an independent country by the 12th cent. but later at times acknowledged the kings of Hungary as suzerains. Medieval Bosnia reached the height of its power in the second half of the 14th cent., when it controlled many surrounding territories. Bosnia also annexed the duchy of Hum, which, however, regained autonomy in 1448 and became known as Herzegovina. During this period the region was weakened by religious strife among Roman Catholics, Orthodox, and Bogomils. Thus disunited, Bosnia fell to the Turks in 1463. Herzegovina held out until 1482, when it too was occupied and joined administratively to Bosnia. The nobility and a large part of the peasantry accepted Islam.

Foreign Domination

Under Turkish rule, Bosnia and Herzegovina's economy declined. Physical remoteness facilitated the retention of medieval social structure, including serfdom (remnants of which lasted until the 20th cent.). Refusal by the Turkish to institute reforms led to a peasant uprising (1875) that soon came to involve outside powers and led to the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78. After the war, the Congress of Berlin (1878) placed Bosnia and Herzegovina under Austro-Hungarian administration and occupation, while recognizing the sovereignty of the Turkish sultan. Austria-Hungary improved economic conditions in the area but sought unsuccessfully to combat rising Serb nationalism, which mounted further when Bosnia and Herzegovina were completely annexed in 1908.

The assassination (1914) of Archduke Francis Ferdinand by a Serb nationalist in Sarajevo precipitated World War I. In 1918, Bosnia and Herzegovina were annexed to Serbia. The dismemberment of Yugoslavia during World War II led to Bosnia and Herzegovina's incorporation into the German puppet state of Croatia. Much partisan guerrilla warfare raged in the mountains of Bosnia during the war. In 1946, Bosnia and Herzegovina became one of the six constituent republics of Yugoslavia. Under the Communist regime Bosnia remained relatively undeveloped. Economic problems and ethnic quarrels during the 1980s led to widespread dissatisfaction with the central government.

Independence and Civil War

In Oct., 1991, following the secession of Slovenia, Croatia, and Macedonia, the Croats and Bosniaks of Bosnia and Herzegovina, fearing Serbian domination, voted for a declaration of independence from Yugoslavia. In 1992, the sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina was recognized by the European Community (now the European Union) and the United States, and it entered the United Nations. Many Bosnian Serbs opposed the new republic, in which they were a minority, and Serb troops, both from Serbia and Bosnia, began to carve out the Serb-populated areas and declared the Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Croats in Bosnia, also fearing Bosniak domination, declared their own Croatian Community of Herceg-Bosna.

An arms embargo reinforced the disparity between the well-armed Serbs and their foes, and Bosniaks were forced from their homes and towns as part of an "ethnic cleansing" policy carried out mostly by the Serbs. Thousands were killed, many were placed in detention camps, and many more fled the country. (Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžić was among a number of Serbs later indicted in absentia by a United Nations tribunal for war crimes; he was finally arrested and extradited to The Hague by Serbia in 2008.) The major Western powers rejected military intervention but endorsed the establishment of six "safe areas" with a United Nations presence, where Bosniaks would supposedly not be attacked.

Fighting between Bosniaks and Croats intensified in 1993. Shelling, mainly by Serb forces, destroyed much of Sarajevo and laid waste to other cities throughout the country. In 1994, Yugoslavian and Croatian forces fought in support of Bosnian Serbs and Croats, respectively. The Bosnian government army launched major offensives from Bihac and elsewhere, and the balance of power among Serbs, Croats, and Bosniaks shifted from time to time.

In 1994, Bosniaks and Bosnian Croats agreed to a cease-fire and established a joint Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. During 1995, Serb forces shelled the besieged Sarajevo and launched attacks on the UN-proclaimed "safe areas" of Tuzla, Zepa, and Srebrenica. There were mass deportations of Bosniaks and widespread instances of rape and execution of civilians, especially in Srebrenica. Croat and Bosniak forces later made heavy inroads against Serbs in western Bosnia. An estimated 97,000 to 110,000 persons died during the years of fighting; roughly two thirds of those who died were Bosniaks.

In late 1995, the Bosniak-dominated Bosnian government and the leaders of Croatia and Serbia met under U.S. auspices in Dayton, Ohio, and negotiated a peace accord. It called for a Bosnian republic with a central government and two semiautonomous regions, roughly equal in size, one dominated by Serbs, the other by Bosniaks and Croats in federation. The accord provided for the dispatch of NATO-led troops for peacekeeping purposes; the forces originally were to stay until June, 1998. In addition, a high representative of the Peace Implementation Council (the nations overseeing the peace process) is the final authority on the civilian aspects of the settlement, and has the power to dismiss elected Bosnian officials. The accord was implemented and conditions have slowly improved.

Bosnian disillusionment with the moderates who had held power since 1998 resulted in electoral victories for the ethnic nationalist parties in the 2002. The peacekeeping forces Bosnia were transferred in 2004 from NATO's leadership to the European Union's. In 2006 the International Court of Justice began hearing Bosnia's genocide case against Serbia. The charges, which were first filed in 1993, accused Serbia of state-planned genocide against Bosnian Muslims. The court, which had limited access to internal Serbian evidence, did not find Serbia guilty of genocide (which would have required proving intent on the part of Serbia's leaders) but did find (2007) that Serbia had violated international law when it failed to prevent or prosecute those responsible for genocide against the Bosniaks.

Bosnian political leaders agreed in Mar., 2006, to constitutional revisions that would establish a single-person presidency and move the country toward a strong-prime-minister parliamentary system. The changes, designed to strengthen the central government, were also intended to promote Bosnia's accession to the European Union and NATO. The following month, however, the reforms failed to win the required two-thirds majority in the parliament.

Much distrust remains among Bosnia's three communities, whose members now typically live in areas that are largely ethnically homogeneous, and the Oct., 2006, presidential and parliamentary elections for the central government reinforced and even exacerbated ethnic divisions. In Apr., 2008, the parliament approved the unification of Bosnia's police forces, but the watered-down law largely left Serb police forces outside central control. Austrian diplomat Valentin Inzko became the international high representative in Mar., 2009. The European Court of Human Rights ruled in Dec., 2009, that Bosnia's constitution contains unlawful and discriminatory provisions and called for it to be revised, but the process of doing so proved difficult and prolonged, extending into 2012. In the Oct., 2010, elections, moderate candidates won the Muslim and Croat presidency seats, but the Serb seat was won by a nationalist. The formation of a new central government was not achieved, however, until Feb., 2012, and in June disputes over the budget threatened the government.

Bibliography

See B. E. Schmitt, The Annexation of Bosnia, 1908–1909 (1937, repr. 1971); J. G. Wilkinson, Dalmatia and Montenegro (2 vol., 1848; repr. 1971); L. J. Cohen, Political Cohesion in a Fragile Mosaic: The Yugoslav Experience (1983); H. Lydall, Yugoslavia in Crisis (1989); N. Malcom, Bosnia: A Short History (1996); D. Rohde, Endgame: The Betrayal and Fall of Srebrenica (1997).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Genocide in Bosnia: The Policy of "Ethnic Cleansing"
Norman Cigar.
Texas A&M University Press, 1995
The Black Book of Bosnia: The Consequences of Appeasement
Nader Mousavizadeh.
Basic Books, 1996
The Bosnian Muslims: Denial of a Nation
Francine Friedman.
Westview Press, 1996
Civil-Military Relations in the Soviet and Yugoslav Successor States
Constantine P. Danopoulos; Daniel Zirker.
Westview Press, 1996
Balkan Tragedy: Chaos and Dissolution after the Cold War
Susan L. Woodward.
Brookings Institution, 1995
Bosnia and the New Collective Security
Elinor C. Sloan.
Praeger, 1998
Broken Bonds: Yugoslavia's Disintegration and Balkan Politics in Transition
Lenard J. Cohen.
Westview Press, 1995 (2nd edition)
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 9 "The Bosnian Cauldron: An Endless Endgame"
Yugoslavia, the Former and Future: Reflections by Scholars from the Region
Payam Akhavan; Robert Howse.
Brookings Institution, 1995
The Tenth Circle of Hell: A Memoir of Life in the Death Camps of Bosnia
Rezak HukanociĆ; Ammiel Alcalay.
Basic Books, 1996
Waging Modern War: Bosnia, Kosovo, and the Future of Combat
General Wesley K. Clark.
Public Affairs, 2001
Toward Peace in Bosnia: Implementing the Dayton Accords
Elizabeth M. Cousens; Charles K. Cater.
Lynne Rienner, 2001
Yugoslavia's Wars: The Problem from Hell
Stephen J. Blank.
Strategic Studies Institute, 1995
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