History in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Edit This
photo_1
Bosnia & Herzegovina is country with one of the richest history in world. It has always been a place where many cultures meet, stay unchanged, or mixing become a new culture never seen before. Bosnia & Herzegovina's cultural and historical treasure is very good kept, and gives you an opportunity to see all historical ages, from ancient history until the newest events, all over the country. A main mark of Bosnian-Herzegovinian history is that it has always been the product of many nations that have made up Bosnia & Herzegovina. Even today, Bosnia & Herzegovina has three official nations(Serbs, Bosniaks and Croats), three official languages(Serbian, Bosnian and Croatian) and three official religions (Orthodoxy, Islam and Catholicism). These are the real riches of this country and it makes it one of the most interesting but the least known of tourist destinations.   Some finds near Sarajevo prove that the territory of Bosnia & Herzegovina was populated during the Stone Age. The leap from Neanderthal man in the middle Palaeolithic, to the homosapiens of the Late Palaeolithic is signifed by the first cave drawings of that period, some of which are found in Badanj Cave near Stolac in Herzegovina. This rare sample is dated at 12 000 BC and there have been similar finds in only three other locations : Spain, France and Italy. Much of the fine pottery, arts and craft of this age are on display in the National Museum in Sarajevo.   The ancient settlement of Butmir, presently a suburb south of Sarajevo at the base of Igman Mountain, can alone testify to the craftsmanship achieved in that territory by neolithic man. This unique neolithic culture disappeared from Bosnia & Herzegovina without trace somewhere between the third and second millennia.                           

A great metamorphosis swept across Bosnia & Herzegovina in a movement that began with the arrival of nomadic tribes from the Black Sea steppes. With their arrival in the Balkans came a new Copper Age. This Aeneolithic period saw a parallel development of stone and metal. The use of metal became increasingly valued for weapon-making into the Bronze Age as well-armed tribes from west Pannonia expanded south and southeast towards the end of the second millennium. Wars became more frequent, and Bosnia became very popular for the sanctuary it provided with its deep, thick forests and rugged mountains, that stayed the same even today.  

In the first few centuries of the first millennium in Bosnia & Herzegovina came tribes collectively called Illyrians. They stayed on this area for a few centuries, and left many indications of way of their life. So, there are still a few archaeological sites that mark the Illyrian civilisation in Bosnia & Herzegovina. Many of the Illyrian fortifications were expanded upon by the Romans and later by the Bosnian aristocracy and the Ottomans. New research, however, has uncovered a fascinating aspect of Illyria. At Vranduk in central Bosnia, Blagaj near the Buna River in Herzegovina and the Cyclopean walls at Osanići near Stolac, finds have indicated that the culture of antiquity came to Bosnia & Herzegovina before the Romans, most likely in Hellenistic form.   Much of the Illyrian culture will forever remain a mystery but one cannot deny the spiritual and cultural impact it has had, even almost two millennia after its disappearance.   After several centuries of drastic social change in Europe, a melange of cultures made their mark on present-day Bosnia & Herzegovina. Basilicas from the late Roman period can be found, as their use was continued by the new settlements of Slavs. Remains can be found in Čapljina, Blagaj and Ljubuški in Herzegovina; Breza, Zenica, Travnik and Kiseljak in central Bosnia, and Banja Luka and Mrkonjić Grad in the northwest of the country.

With the fall of the western empire the new era in Bosnia & Herzegovina was largely dominated by the Slavs. From the 6th century onwards sizeable Slav migrations came from the east. The first recorded evidence of Bosnia & Herzegovina under the Slavs dates from the 10th century. Several centuries later a Byzantine writer stated that «Bosnia is not a vassal state but it is independent, the people lead their own life and rule themselves.»   Graveyards have become the most accurate source for study of the culture of this time. Archaeological digs in older necropolises have unearthed locally made jewellery and weapons from the Slav period. A unique aspect of this time was the development of skilled work with stone. This art would later surface in what is seen today as a national trademark of Bosnia & Herzegovina – the stećak (plural stećci ). These medieval tombstones were elaborately carved with drawings depicting aspects of Christian and pagan beliefs. Stećci   date from 11th to the 13th centuries and can be found today in dozens of locations all over   and only in Bosnia & Herzegovina. The tombstones are unique in world and mark early Slavic heritage.

The spiritual culture that developed in medieval Bosnia was very similar to that of its Illyrian predecessors. There was a large degree of cultural resistance and fierce independence that resulted in a creative mould of Christianity. In a relatively inaccessible and isolated area emerged what was to be one of zhe most unique forms of Christianity in medieval Europe – the Bosnian Church. While still influenced by the great divide and spread of Orthodoxy and Catholicism the Bosnian Church, along with its own alphabet – Bosančica (similar to both Glagolithic and Cyrillic) – fluorished in the medieval Bosnian state. In an era that saw Europe dominated by religious exclusiveness, Bosnia was able to maintain a high level of secularism in all spheres of life. The followers of this unique church have often been called bogomils .   Ban Kulin is one of the most important persons in hole history of Bosnia & Herzegovina. He was Bosnian king from 1180 to 1204, and most important act that he did was the his charter that he signed with Ragusa (present-day Dubrovnik). That charter is a real proof of the Bosnian existance. It was made on 29th August 1189, and it is the oldest written document on Balkan, and one of the oldest in Europe. Its importance is that it was written in Bosnian letter ( Bosančica ), and in this charter Ban Kulin represents himself as «Bosnian king». At the age of only 15 King Stephen Tvrtko inherited a country where his youth made it impossible to prove his political and military authority. The first 14 years of his «rule» were troublesome times but with the help of the Hungarian king he was able to assert his leadership, and in 1367 Tvrtko expanded the kingdom, making Bosnia the most powerful state in the western Balkans at the end of the 14th century. By assisting the Serbian nobleman Lazar Hrebljanović to carve out territory in Serbia, Tvrtko was rewarded with large swathes of land in Hum (today Herzegovina), Zeta (Montenegro), southern Dalmatia and the Sandžak of Novi Pazar (present-day Serbia).   Bosnia & Herzegovina is a living gallery of the stone art of the Middle ages. Over 60,000 stećci tombstones are dotted throughout the country with the largest necropolis at Radimlja near Herzegovinian town Stolac. Whether or not the mystery of the stećci is ever solved, they remain a national symbol of Bosnia & Herzegovina.

In the summer of 1463 the Turkish arm, after years of penetration into Bosnian territory, captured the Bosnian banate and the region around Sarajevo. These lands would be under firm Turkish control for the next four centuries. Herzegovina also succeeded in repelling the Turks for a time after 1463. Herceg Stephen Vukčić held most of Herzegovina for the next two years, until another swarming invasion sent him into exile in Novi (today Herceg Novi). His son Vlatko attempted to enlist the help of the Hungarians and Venetians but internal strife with local noblemen and neighbourning Ragusa enabled the Ottomans to take a strong hold by the 1470s, and in 1482 the last fortress in Herzegovina was overrun. Most of Bosnia & Herzegovina's present-day cities and towns were created during the Ottoman period. A focus on building towns and constructing roads and bridges to   connect these towns brought the whole country, for the first, into an urbanised sphere. Never before had any central administration effectively embarked on a vision of a building a country. Islamic art and culture added a remarkable aspect to life in Bosnia & Herzegovina. The Orthodox Church and the introduction for a new   Jewish community enyojed growth and prosperity within the empire, unlike the often brutal feudal systems seen else where in Europe at that time. One of the most priceless articles in the National Museum of Bosnia & Herzegovina is the Hebrew codex Haggadah . Several synagogues and hrams were built. The Jews of Bosnia & Herzegovina, from an early stage after their arrival, played an important role in the cultural and religious life of the cities where they settled.   Russia had declared war no the Ottoman Empire ni 1877, and the earlier plans of the Austrians and Rusians would soon become reality. By October 20 1878 the total occupation of Bosnia & Herzegovina was complete. A new era under Austro-Hungarian rule began.

With not a moment's rest, the fate of Bosnia & Herzegovina transferred from one foreign occupier to the next. The Austro-Hungarians wasted no time in establishing their rule. The Congress of Berlin in 1878 redrew the map of Balkans, already established by Russian interest in the San Stefano Treaty earlier that year, and approved the Austro-Hungarian occupation of Bosnia & Herzegovina.   The next 40 years, half spent as an occupied province and the latter half as an anexed state, saw one of the most profound transformations of internal politics in Bosnia & Herzegovina's history. When the occupation army arrived in Bosnia & Herzegovina the struggle had already begun for national identity among the three groups: Orthodox (Serb), Catholic (Croat) and Muslim. The most visible changes under Austro-Hungarian occupation occured in everyday life where more European styles of architecture, cuisine, behaviour and dress were introduced. In 1910 an assassination attempt on Emperor Franz Joseph was organised for his visit. In the same year the governor of Bosnia & Herzegovina, general Marijan Varešanin was shot, and on June 28 1914 a young Serbian nationalist by the name of Gavrilo Princip shot Prince Ferdinand and his pregnant wife dead on the streets of Sarajevo. This event not only sparked the end of Austro-Hungarian rule in Bosnia & Herzegovina, but also led to the large political disagreements between the great powers that proceded the first battles of World War I.

Bosnia & Herzegovina entered the kingdom with a severely depleted population, a depressed social and economic atmosphere and strained religious and ethnic relations after 40 years of Austro-Hungarian rule. Many argues were during this period, and the only reason was – the constitution. Serb side wanted centralistic state, but the other side (Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia and Slovenia) wanted decentralistic state with some kind of   autonomy of all states inside the   Kingdom of   SHS. Later on Serbian King renamed this country into «Yugoslavia».   The new government tried to continue a conciliatory policy towards Germany but ten days alter on April 6 massive bombing on Belgarde began and Yugoslavia was invaded by German, Bulgarian, Hungarian and Italian forces. The «resistance» lasted 11 days until the Yugoslav army surrendered to the German High Command.                   

Depending on who you talk to, Tito was either a monstrous communist dictator or a peacekeeping socialist visionary. At the end of World War II , Yugoslavia, like much of Europe, was a mess. By the mid-fifties, religous life in Yugoslavia had improved, with new laws that alowed freedom of religion, although the state was mandated with directing and controling these institutions.   Massive changes to the infrastructure, particularly road systems, opened impenetrable Bosnia & Herzegovina for the first time. The National Roads Launch of 1968 aimed at connecting every town in the country with asphalt roads. Almost a thousand schools and libraries were built. The library programme was largely funded by Nobel Laureate Ivo Andrić, who donated half of his prize money to the project. Schools in rural areas and small villages were established as were small medical clinics or ambulanta . The university system was expanded from Sarajevo to Banja Luka, Tuzla, Mostar, Zenica and other major cities in Bosnia & Herzegovina.   For the average person in Bosnia & Herzegovina, life was good. People had jobs, relatively comfortable lifestyles and were free to travel and work abroad.   1984 in Sarajevo were held XIV Winter Olympic Games. These Games were the best organised ever in history of Olympic Games. There was a recordable number of competitors, journalists and visitors.

After the death of Tito in 1980, Bosnia & Herzegovina contiunued to enjoy relative prosperity.. The deeping crisis in Kosovo in the early eighties, however, gave further fuel to the Serbian nationalist cause. By the mid 1980s, the economicsituationin Yugoslavia began to deteriorate. In 1987 inflation rose 120% and by the next year that rate had doubled. In 1989 strikes against the local aprty leaders in Vojvodina and Montenegro set the stage for the new leader of the Serbian Communists – Slobodan Milošević. He clearly had an agenda of transformation in Serbia and he quickly set to replacing party leaders with his own supporters.   Talk of independence increased in Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia & Herzegovina in 1990, and at 14th Congress of the league of Coummunists of Yugoslavia President Slobodan Milošević, backed by the Yugoslav Peoples Army (JNA), issued a warning that republics seeking indepedence would face border changes on the assumption that anywhere a Serb lived was part of Serbia.   In Bosnia & Herzegovina the situation was still relatively calm. The communist party had almost vanished and the country was governed by three parties: Party of Democratic Action (SDA), the Serb Democratic Party (SDS) led by indicted war criminal Radovan Karadžić, and Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) which was a branch of Franjo Tuđman's Croatia proper party.   As in Slovenia and Croatia, a referendum for independence was held, in March 1992. The Bosnian Croats and Muslims voted in favour, while the majority of the Serbian population boycotted the vote. Of   Bosnia & Herzegovina's population 65% called for independence and, despite Serbian threats, Bosnia & Herzegovina declared independence. On April 6 1992 the European Union and the United Nations recognised Bosnia & Herzegovina as an independent state. On the same day the JNA and Serbian paramilitaries attcaked Sarajevo.   Tens of thousansds of Sarajevans of all nationalities took the streets to protest in front of barricades.As they peacefully marched toward the barricades a sniper from the hill fired into the crowd, killing a Serbian woman from Sarajevo and a Muslim girl from Dubrovnik.This sparked the beginning of what would be a long and brutal campaign against Bosnia & Herzegovina's non-Serb population.   In less than a year Yugoslavia saw three of its six republics secede. Macedonia followed suit and UN force was sent to intersect any pending ambitions Serbia had on Macedonia. Serbia and Montenegro, together with the provinces of Vojvodina and Kosovo, were now all that remained of Yugoslavia.                                     

«Freedom» for Bosnia & Herzegovina was greeted with a genocide that had not been seen on European soil since the extermination of the Jews in World War II. The well-planned tactics of Milošević and his regime were designed to encompas all lands where Serbs lived into one Greater Serbia. These territories included large swathes of the Krajina, Slavonia in Croatia and all of Bosnia & Herzegovina.   By the end of 1992 over 70& of Bosnia & Herzegovina was occupied by Serbian forces and over a million Bosniaks and Croats had fled the country. After President Mitterand of France visited Sarajevo most Bosnians and Herzegovinians, including President of Bosnia & Herzegovina Alija Izetbegović, believed that the West would not allow this horror to continue. They were mistaken. Instead of any action designed to stop the slaughter of innocent civilians, the French President recommended that a large United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) be sent to Bosnia & Herzegovina. They were sent to «keep peace»   with no peace to keep.   Over, 7,000 people were eventually massacred at Srebrenica in 1995, under the «protection» of UN forces. In Omarska, Trnopolje, Manjača and other concetration camps in Serb-held territory, through which over a million civilians were processed as part of a systematic plan of ethnic cleansing, UNPROFOR simply never arrived.   Approximately 10,000 civilians, including 1,500 children, were killed in Sarajevo alone, while it was under UN protection. The fate of populations in the other «safe zones» was no better. UN convoys raeched these enclaves only at the whim of the Serbs.   The newspaper Oslobođenje , meaning Freedom, did not miss a single day of print despite the lack of paper and supplies. Cultural life did not die during these times, it fluorished in the most defiant form of non-violent resistance. Bosnians walked through the hail of gunfire to have coffee with a friend and held a Miss Sarajevo beauty pageant in a basemant during one of the worst periods of the war. Peace contract was signed on 21th November 1995 in Dayton, Ohio.   The spirit of a multi-ethnic community never died. Hundreds of thousands of Bosnians and Herzegovinians – Bosniak, Serb and Croat – lost their lives, some in the most horrific ways imaginable. And although in some circles the madness of ethnic purity still exists you will find that in most places in Bosnia & Herzegovina today people are determined to live a normal life again, and to live together ... as they always have.

Years just after the war were one the hardest moments in history of Bosnia & Herzegovina. Started rehabilitation and rebuilting era in this country. Today, 11 years after the war Bosnia & Herzegovina become one of the most succesful countries in world, and many countries use it as an example of great and quite fast growing from nothing to something. Economy of Bosnia & Herzegovina is with the biggest growth rate in world and makes Bosnia & Herzegovina medium developed country. Sarajevo is the fastest changing city in world, and it is a wonderful capital, one of the most interesting in Europe. Where else you would find Orthodox and Catholic churches, a mosque and a sinagogue side by side in the same square?! Only in Sarajevo!   More then one million refugees backed to their homes, almost all roads and bulidings in whole country are renovated, new factories are opening and life is becoming better and better. More than a decade after the war, you'll be pleasantly surprised by a mosaic of landscapes and a warm welcome. Some American explorers put Bosnia & Herzegovina on the list of three most interesting countries in world and they expect the biggest growth rate of tourist in this country.

Contributors
February 16, 2006 change by giorgio

More Bosnia and Herzegovina History Guides

Where World66 helps you find the best deals on Bosnia and Herzegovina Hotels