Academic journal article East European Quarterly

The Emergence of the First Muslim Party in Bosnia-Hercegovina

Academic journal article East European Quarterly

The Emergence of the First Muslim Party in Bosnia-Hercegovina

Article excerpt


The occupation of Bosnia-Hercegovina by the Austro-Hungarian Empire in accordance with the Berlin Congress (1878) represents a crucial development in the history of the Bosnian Muslims.(1) As a result of this occupation. the Double Monarchy, for the first time in her long history, became the ruler of a large number of Muslims. On the other hand, Bosnian Muslims, who had enjoyed Ottoman Islamic rule for centuries. became subjects of a Catholic monarchy. The greatest fear of the Muslims was to be stripped of their privileges and to be treated equally with kmets (tenants in Bosnia-Hercegovina).(2)

Of particular importance is the period between 1882 and 1903 under the rule of Joint Minister of finance(3) (Gemeinsames Finanzminister) Benjamin Kallay. He aimed at creating a "Bosnian nation," based on loyalty to Bosnia-Hercegovina. to counterbalance the Serbian and Croatian nationalisms, which had been gaining strength since the turn of the century. Bosnian Muslims, who had been historically the ruling religious group in Bosnia-Hercegovina and did not have a strong national consciousness, constituted the key element of a policy aimed at maintaining the political and social status quo. Within the framework of this nationalities-policy, the Austro-Hungarian administration tried to raise the cultural and social level of the Muslims. However, the Muslims, who had first lost their political dominance and later their economic privileges, engaged m a cultural and religious struggle against the new administration.

The Muslim opposition to the occupation of Bosnia-Hercegovina manifested itself first in a military form. The Austro-Hungarian divisions, consisting of 72,000 men and officers, succeeded in occupying the country after months of heavy fighting. The clashes between the Austro-Hungarian army and the Muslim guerrillas continued in eastern Bosnia even after the occupation of Sarajevo on 19 August 1878. The Muslims constituted the backbone of this resistance, with the exception of minor Serbian resistance in some regions. The Muslim guerrillas were mainly peasants, craftsmen, and artisans, while the majority of the big landowners in Sarajevo ignored the resistance and distanced themselves from it.(4)

One of the main characteristics of the Austro-Hungarian rule in Bosnia-Hercegovina was the emigration tendency among the Muslims. The emigration of the Muslims from Bosnia-Hercegovina, which was limited to the high-ranking officials and local notables in the early occupation years, increased following the promulgation of a law in 1881 requiring the compulsory military service of the Muslims in the Austro-Hungarian army. It is difficult to estimate the total number of the Muslims who emigrated from Bosnia-Hercegovina during the Austro-Hungarian period, since official statistics began to be kept by the government only after 1883. It may have amounted approximately 150,000.(5)

The Austro-Hungarian government paid close attention to the Muslim emigration.(6) The government had eased the legal conditions of emigration from the country in the early occupation years, but the continuing increase in emigration compelled the Austrians to take some measures to curb it. In some reports prepared by the government, the Ottoman administration was held responsible for this development.(7) The Ottoman documents, on the other hand, reveal that the Ottomans saw in the Bosnian Muslims a powerful ally against the Austro-Hungarian government and basically did not favor their emigration.(8) Interestingly enough, both of the empires accused each other of inciting the Muslims to emigrate.

The uprising of 1882-was the most serious opposition that the government had faced in l 878. It took place as a reaction against the law of 1881 regulating military service. Contrary to the previous one this law did not allow exemption to families dependent on their sons for their agricultural activities. …

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