Bosnia and Herzegovina – State flag

In February 1998, Bosnia and Herzegovina received a new flag at the request of the International High Commissioner. The flag should be acceptable to both Muslims, Croats and Serbs; The European flag is a model. The blue color, together with the stars, symbolizes Bosnia and Herzegovina’s place in Europe. The yellow triangle marks the geographical outline of the country.

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Bosnia and Herzegovina – prehistory

The oldest finds belong to the culture moustérien and are found in the valley at the lower reaches of the Bosnia River, where later settlements from both the Aurignacian and Gravettian cultures from the Late Paleolithic are also known. Finds from the Mesolithic with microliters are known from both caves and settlements in the open country. In the Neolithic, approximately 6000-4000 BC, Bosnia and Herzegovina each formed its own cultural area. In Bosnia, the first peasants belonged to the Starčevo culture. From a later stage are finds from Butmir, known for its richly ornamented pottery and clay figures. In Herzegovina, the first peasants were oriented towards the coast and used the so-called Impresso pottery. In the Copper Stone Age, approximately 4000-2500 BC, Bosnia came under the influence of Baden-Kostolac and the Vučedol cultures. The population moved from the valleys to high-altitude places that could be better defended. The same settlement pattern is found in the Bronze Age, approximately 2500-700 BC, when an independent metal production developed on the basis of local deposits of copper, gold and silver, to which is added iron, which became important after approximately 700 BC Many thousands of burial mounds are found in the Glasinac area of ​​eastern Bosnia. The rich burials suggest that the area from the early Bronze Age until approximately 500 BC was dominated by warlords. Greek imported goods appear in grave finds from Herzegovina approximately 600-400 BC In northern Bosnia, at Donja Dolina along the river Sava were extensive lakefront settlements that were inhabited from approximately 1200 BC until Roman colonization.

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Bosnia and Herzegovina – History

According to a2zgov, Bosnia-Herzegovina was part of Illyria in ancient times. From the year 9 AD. the Romans gained firm control of the area, and the Latin language gradually became widespread. Administratively, the area was divided between the provinces of Dalmatia and Pannonia. In the 300’s and 400’s. it was invaded by Goths and shortly after 600 by slaves, who made the whole area homogeneously Slavic-speaking.

The name Bosnia is derived from the river Bosna and first appears in the 900’s. in Byzantine sources. I 1100-t. both Hungary and the Byzantine Empire tried to gain control of the area, which was religiously dominated by a particular sect, the Bogomils.

Hungary weakened in the 1200’s. of the ravages of the Mongols, but in the east a new great power emerged, which culminated in the 1300’s, Serbia. Its power, however, crumbled after the death of Emperor Stefan Uroš 4. Dušan in 1355, giving the Bosnian ban (Viceroy) Tvrtko the opportunity to create an independent kingdom, which in 1377 gained papal recognition. Tvrtko I was a great conqueror, and his empire developed into a Greater Bosnia, which at his death in 1391, in addition to present-day Bosnia, included southern Dalmatia and part of Montenegro.. Subsequent rulers again approached Hungary under the impression of the growing threat from the Turks, and Bosnia survived as an independent empire until the last king, Stefan Tomašević, fell to the Turks in 1463. However, it took a few more years before the whole of Bosnia was occupied by the Turks. In the southern part of the country, which had previously been separated under the name Herzegovina as a special duchy, a few castles persisted until the 1480’s. The last Hungarian stronghold in northern Bosnia did not fall until 1528.

In the aftermath of the Turkish conquest, a large part of the Bosnian population converted to Islam, unlike the population in most other parts of the Balkans, which may be due to the fact that the teachings of the Bogomils seem to have certain similarities with those of the conquerors. However, it is also possible that these were just ordinary Christians who converted to Islam out of opportunism. This is today the prevailing view among Serbs and Croats, while the Muslim population in general has endorsed the Bogomil theory and sees itself as the true heirs of medieval Bosnia.

In the 1500’s. the Turks conquered most of Hungary, and Bosnia was thus no longer a front area. With a few modifications, Bosnia’s modern borders did not emerge until 1699 at the Peace of Karlowitz between the Austrian Habsburgs, the Ottoman Turks, and the Republic of Venice, which then ruled most of Dalmatia. The peace affirmed the Turks’ loss of Hungary, and then Bosnia became Islam’s advanced bastion in Europe.

Strong urban growth took place, not least in administrative centers such as Banja Luka, Travnik, Sarajevo and Mostar, and it was especially the cities that gained a dominant Islamic character. Up to approximately In 1800, there was a fairly good relationship between the various population groups, and the area had a high degree of local autonomy in relation to the government in Istanbul. During the 1800’s. however, the government reduced local self-determination, leading to demands for independence as well as social tensions and uprisings. In 1875 a peasant uprising developed into a confrontation between the military and mainly Christian peasants; it triggered foreign intervention.

In 1878, Austria-Hungary occupied the area to create “peace and order”. In fact, it was seceded from the Ottoman Empire and in 1908 formally annexed by Austria-Hungary. This created violent outrage, especially in Serbia, where it had been imagined that the area would be Serbian when the Turkish rule in the Balkans finally collapsed. That was the background for the Serbian student Gavrilo Princip’s assassination attempt on the Austro-Hungarian heir to the throne Frans Ferdinand and his wife Sophie von Chotek, when the couple was on an official visit to Sarajevo on June 28, 1914. The shots triggered the diplomatic crisis that led to the outbreak of the first World War.

World War I led to the defeat and dissolution of Austria-Hungary and to the disappearance of Bosnia as an administrative unit. The provincial borders of the New South Slavic Kingdom (from 1929 Yugoslavia) were drawn across the old borders. The Croatian majority territories of Bosnia and Herzegovina were largely incorporated into the Croatian-dominated neighboring provinces, which in 1939 were merged into a large Croatian province that included significant parts of Herzegovina. The Muslims of Bosnia-Herzegovina had become a forgotten group.

Until 1929, the new South Slavic kingdom called itself the “Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes”, and the Muslims in Bosnia then had to find out for themselves whether they would consider themselves Serbs or Croats. It fell many hard to choose. Among the most culturally Western-oriented Muslims, however, there was a tendency to prefer Croatian nationality and to write in Latin letters.

During World War II, the fascist Croatian state under its “leader” Ante Pavelić conquered all of former Bosnia-Herzegovina and launched a war of extermination against the large Serb population in the area. The goal was formulated as follows: One third of the Serbs were to be made Croats by conversion to Catholicism, one third were to be expelled and the last third annihilated. The alphabet of the Serbs, the Cyrillic, was banned.

As for the Muslims, the position of the Croatian fascists was less unequivocal. Some of the Croatian leaders were in favor of a Croatian state with two religions, Catholicism and Islam, and to demonstrate this program, a large art gallery in Zagreb was transformed into a mosque. Others, especially among the Croatian terrorist troops, Ustaša, believed that Bosnia-Herzegovina should be made a purely Catholic country.

Bosnia and Herzegovina became the most abused part of Yugoslavia during World War II. It was here that the communist-led partisans under Tito built up their power base. I Jajcein Bosnia, on 29 November 1943, the basis for a Yugoslav Federal Republic was formed, based on equality between nations. Bosnia-Herzegovina became in 1945 one of six new Yugoslav republics within the borders from before 1918 with some adjustments. The national affiliation of citizens took place mainly for statistical reasons. It was not until 1971 that the term “muslimani” was used as the official statistical category. The Muslims now became Bosnia and Herzegovina’s largest population group, while the Serbs took second place. However, the new ethnic category did not matter as long as the Communist Party ruled Bosnia.

Bosnia was not at the forefront of the political and later military struggles that led to the real disintegration of Yugoslavia in 1991. But as the secession of the Western Republics (Slovenia and Croatia) became an inevitable fact and they approached international recognition, the Muslim leadership did not want to stay back with Serbia in a Yugoslav federal state.

Independence and Civil War 1991-95

Behind the reluctance of the Bosnian government in the beginning lay the fear that the war would spread to the republic. The preconditions for this, however, had already been created in the first multi-party election towards the end of 1990, when the former ruling transnational Communist Party received only 14 of the 240 seats in parliament. Largest party became the Muslim Party for Democratic Action with 86 seats; then followed the Serbian Democratic Party with 72 seats and the Croatian Democratic Community with 44 seats. The Muslims could thus form a majority with one of the other national parties, while these together with the Communists could only gain a majority against the Muslims.

The retaliation of the Serbian nationalists was to refuse to recognize an independent Bosnian state in which they would constitute a minority; both among Serbs and Croats gained the powers that preferred a real dissolution of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Muslim-led Bosnian government, on the other hand, clung to the integrated state, as did many Bosnians across national borders, not least in Sarajevo. Large peace demonstrations were held as late as April 1992.

Then it was over too. Snipers opened fire on a large unarmed, transnational peace demonstration in Sarajevo, killing many. The war was on, and 6.-7. April 1992, a number of states, including EU member states, recognized the independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The war in Bosnia-Herzegovina began in April 1992 and lasted until November 1995. It was triggered by the opposition between Bosnian-Croatian and Bosnian (Muslim) politicians following the republic’s withdrawal from Yugoslavia and the Bosnian Serb politicians’ assertion of the right to, in these circumstances, to secede from Bosnia-Herzegovina and join Serbs in other parts of what was then Yugoslavia. The war broke out in connection with the EU countries’ recognition of Bosnia and Herzegovina as an independent state on April 6, 1992. In May 1992, the Yugoslav Federal Army withdrew from Bosnia, but instead, with the support of Serbia, a local Bosnian Serb army was formed, led by Bosnian Serbian officers from the Federal Army and under the political leadership of Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadžić.. The problem for the Bosnian Serbian leadership was that the Serbian populated areas did not constitute a uniform, cohesive area, but that the population groups lived scattered among themselves and the cities were totally mixed. Therefore, it sought to gain control of a cohesive area, partly by purely military means, partly by displacing non-Serbian sections of the population. A similar policy was soon taken up by the Bosnian-Croatian leaders, while the Bosnian leadership in Sarajevo fought for the principle of an undivided multi-ethnic Bosnia-Herzegovina. It appealed to the UN, the EU and NATO for support, primarily diplomatic backing and arms supplies to the newly formed Bosnian government army, which defended the scattered areas still under Sarajevo’s control. A peace proposal, the Vance-Owen plan, was stranded in May-June 1993 on Bosnian Serb resistance and lack of American support, and the war continued unabated, with foreign countries increasingly turning against the Bosnian Serbs’ efforts to eliminate the Bosnian enclaves in eastern and western Bosnia and the continued shelling of Sarajevo. Extensive ethnic cleansing took place, and what was actually a war against the civilian population was also reflected in the worst massacres in Europe since World War II, including the massacre of Bosnian Serb forces in July 1995 by more than 7000 Bosnian men in Srebrenica. In 1994, at the initiative of the United States, an alliance was created between Croats and Bosniaks, and their forces, which received increasing foreign support, carried out in the autumn of 1995 a decisive military breakthrough, which reduced the Serb-controlled areas from approximately 70% to approximately 45% of the Republic.

After the Civil War

At the US- brokered Dayton Agreement in November 1995, the Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian presidents agreed on an externally united Bosnia-Herzegovina, internally divided into two entities. Military security had to be taken care of by international forces and an international politician oversaw the normalization of society. At the first, internationally monitored elections in 1996, nationalist parties dominated, and it was very slow to establish cooperation across ethnic boundaries.

Supported by the fall of the nationalist regimes in 2000 in Croatia and Serbia, the process of integration has been partially strengthened, although the political structure based on the division into two political “units”, the Serbian Republika Srpska and the Croatian-Bosnian Federacija, is causing difficulties. Under the international protectorate, the UN “High Representative”, Britain’s Paddy Ashdown, has repeatedly intervened against corrupt politicians and officials who have been forced to resign and in a number of cases brought to justice.

The international military force SFOR (Stabilization Force) of approximately 12,000 men were replaced in 2004 by an EU force (EUFOR) of 7000 men. In 2005, a merger of the military units of the Federation and Republika Srpska was finally effected under pressure from both NATO and the EU. At the same time, a joint foreign service for Bosnia and Herzegovina has been set up; thus, there are now ethnically mixed staff at the republic’s embassies abroad. When Bosnian police raided an Islamist terrorist group in 2005 with the help of Danish and Swedish police, it was the fruit of expanded and improved police cooperation.

In 2005, a new chamber was opened by the Bosnian Supreme Court in Sarajevo specifically to deal with war crimes as a relief to the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal (ICTY) in The Hague. There have since been a number of convictions, including by Radovan Karadžić’s party colleague and successor as President of Republika Srpska, Biljana Plavšić. Karadžić himself was arrested in Belgrade in July 2008 by the Serbian authorities and in 2016 received a sentence of 40 years in prison at the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague, while his military commander-in-chief, General Ratko Mladić, was first captured on May 26, 2011 by Serbian police. One week later, he too was extradited to the UN war crimes tribunal.

The possibility of long-term normalization and European integration of Bosnia and Herzegovina seems to be a collaboration between all three population groups for e.g. to attract foreign capital. It is especially the youth of Bosnia who dream of a Balkans and a Europe without internal borders, while the contradictions of the war are still nurtured by nationalist circles. The problems are particularly visible in the school system, where students are distributed according to ethnic background, and where, among other things. history teaching is strongly influenced by its own ethnically determined perception of history and religion. The return of refugees and displaced persons to their former homes is slow, and in some places foreign-funded private schools in practice counteract the integration of children into the local community.