Bosnia and Herzegovina is relatively a new independent member in the world atlas. Also known as ‘Bosna i Hercegovina’, the country declared its sovereignty in October 1991. The independence from the former Yugoslavia came on 3rd March 1992. Today, Bosnia and Herzegovina is commonly referred to as Bosnia and the citizens, regardless of ethnicity, are usually identified as a Bosnian.
It is situated on the Balkan peninsula of South Europe. Sarajevo is the capital and largest city.
This triangular mountainous country is famous for its religious diversity and tolerance, which was once an issue of civil disturbances. Bosnia is home to mainly three major ethnic groups; Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs. These groups speak the same language, called Serbo-Croatian or sometimes Bosnian.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is believed to be a country at crossroads. Located between Croatia and Serbia, it's been a zone of contention since the time of the Occident and Orient rulers who began arm-wrestling for it. The colourful people and their multi-cultural milieu are a consequence of time to time in invasion of different communities that expanded and contracted in the Balkans over centuries.
Bosnia and Herzegovina originally belonged to one of the six federal units of Yugoslav republic. 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. It shares its border with Croatia on the west and north and Serbia and Montenegro on the east. The Pannonian basin covers the northeastern parts. A narrow, undeveloped outlet to the Adriatic along the Neretva River in the southwest is its only direct outlet to the sea.
Lying mostly in the Dinaric Alps, the nation is mostly mountainous and has no coastal ports. The Sava and its tributaries and the Neretva are the chief rivers. There are river ports on the Sava. The Bosnian region in the north is mountainous and covered with thick forests. It covers northern two thirds of the country. Timber is an important product of Bosnia. The southern third is Herzegovina. The terrain here in the south is largely rugged, flat farmland. It has a narrow coastline without natural harbors stretching along the Adriatic Sea.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is spread across an area of 51,129 sq kms. and has a population capacity of approximately 4,025,476. Apart from the capital city of Sarajevo, other important cities are Banja Luka, Tuzla, and Zenica. The ethnically diverse population speaks Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian. 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 coexisted peacefully. But civil war and its atrocities divided much of the population. Some inhabitants have gradually returned to their pre-conflict places of residence since the fighting's end.
The climate in Bosnia and Herzegovina is more or less moderate. The summers are usually hot and winters are cold, and, of course, at the high elevations it is chilling. The coastline on the Adriatic shores has Mediterranean weather.
The Old Bridge of Mostar
Since the time of unknown, the Balkans has been at crossroads of religions and civilizations. Known as Illyricum in ancient times, the area now called Bosnia and Herzegovina was conquered by the Romans in the 2nd and 1st centuries B.C. Serbs settled in Bosnia in the 7th century.
The 11th and 12th centuries saw the rule of the region by the kingdom of Hungary. Around 1200, Bosnia won independence from Hungary and endured as an independent Christian state for some 260 years. But Bosnia fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1463. Herzegovina held out until 1482, when it too was occupied and joined administratively to Bosnia. During this period a large part of the peasantry converted to Islam from Christianity. Bosnia was under Ottoman rule until 1878, when it became a colony under Austria-Hungary.
They were annexed by the Austro-Hungarian Empire on Oct. 7, 1908. As a result, relations with Serbia, which had claims on Bosnia and Herzegovina, became embittered. The assassination (1914) of Archduke Francis Ferdinand by a Serb nationalist in Sarajevo sparked World War I. Bosnia and Herzegovina were annexed to Serbia on Oct. 26, 1918 that later changed its name to Yugoslavia in 1929.
But when Germany invaded Yugoslavia in 1941, Bosnia and Herzegovina were made part of Nazi-controlled Croatia. At the end of World War II, Bosnia and Herzegovina were reunited into a single state as one of the six republics of the newly reestablished Communist Yugoslavia. In Dec. 1991, Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence from Yugoslavia and asked for recognition by the European Union (EU). In a March 1992 referendum, Bosnian voters chose independence.
But Civil wars continued inside the country. Finally an U.S.-sponsored peace talks in Dayton, Ohio, led to an agreement in 1995 that ended the war. Sixty thousand NATO troops were deployed to supervise its implementation that dropped an iron curtain to decade long blood shed. Fighting abated and orderly elections were held in Sept. 1996.
Bosnia and Herzegovina's economy hardly recovered after the civil war. Traditionally, the economy has depended on agriculture, although it now provides less than half of the country's food needs. Industry is greatly overstaffed, reflecting the rigidity of the planned economy.
Corn, wheat, oats, and barley are the principal products of Bosnia and tobacco, cotton, fruits, and grapes of Herzegovina. Mining, steel, textiles, wood products, rugs, timber, machinery, and transportation equipment are its most significant products, and there has been some development of its hydroelectric resources. The XIV Winter Olympic Games held at the capital Sarajevo in 1984, proved to be a profitable venture for the country. But things are looking up now with aid from the EU, the World Bank and United States of America. The tourist industry in Bosnia and Herzegovina is expanding capitalizing on eco-tourism.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is divided into the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska. After centuries of invasions and ethnic clashes the country settled for stability following the Dayton Treaty. To keep balance, the Chair of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina rotates among three members each representing Bosniak, Serb, Croat community. The people select them for an 8-month term within their 4-year term as a member.
The Presidency enjoys the power to nominate the Chair of the Council of Ministers that gets approved by the House of Representatives. It is also responsible for appointing a Foreign Minister, Minister of Foreign Trade etc.
The Parliamentary Assembly consists of two houses: the House of Peoples and the House of Representatives. It is the lawmaking body in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Equal representations of ethnic groups are visible here too. The House of Peoples includes 15 delegates, two-thirds of which come from the Federation (5 Croat and 5 Bosniaks) and one-third from the Republika Srpska (5 Serbs). The House of Representatives is constituted of 42 Members, two-thirds elected from the Federation and one-third elected from the Republika Srpska.
In the field of judiciary, the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina is the supreme authority and final arbiter of legal matters. Total nine members head the judicial section of the country. Out of these, four members are selected by the House of Representatives of the Federation, two by the Assembly of the Republika Srpska, and three by the President of the European Court of Human Rights following a consultation with the Presidency.