Geography and Landscape


Bosnia and Herzegovina (officially: Republika Bosna i Hercegovina) is a republic in the western Balkans.

Bosnia and Herzegovina Satellite photoBosnia and Herzegovina Satellite photoPhoto:Public domain

The total area of Bosnia-Herzegovina is 51,129 km2. Bosnia-Herzegovina is bordered to the west and north by Croatia (932 km) and to the east and south by Serbia and Montenegro (527 km). In the southwest, Bosnia-Herzegovina just borders the Adriatic Sea (20 km).


Bosnia and Herzegovina LandscapeBosnia and Herzegovina LandscapePhoto:Michal Klajban CC 4.0 International no changes made

Most of the country is hilly and mountainous in many places. The border area with Croatia is formed by the porous limestone Dinaric Alps, which are part of the Yugoslav karst region. This karst landscape consists of jagged rock formations, which are characterized by many caves and rivers. The rivers are a continuation of underground waterways.

The northern part, between the higher parts and the river Sava, is largely covered with forest. The eastern landscape is determined by high plains (polje) with impermeable soils and many lakes, between steep mountain walls. The often very fertile "polja" can sometimes be hundreds of square kilometers in size. Some examples of large poljes are the Livansko Polje near the city of Livno and Popovo Polje near the city of Trebinje.

The main rivers are the Sava (945 km), a tributary of the Danube, and the Drina (346 km). The Sava forms the border with Croatia in the north and the Drina along the eastern border with Serbia. The north-south flowing Vrbaš (240 km) and Bosna (245 km) are tributaries of the Sava. Almost all of Bosnia-Herzegovina's major rivers run from the mountains to the low plains in the north, where they end in the Sava. Only the Neretva (218 km) ends in the Adriatic Sea towards the south. Europe's longest underground river, the Trebisnjica, flows underground through Bosnia and rises above the ground at Dubrovnik, Croatia.

Sutjeska Bosnia and HerzegovinaSutjeska Bosnia and HerzegovinaPhoto:Xinem Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic no changes made

Some lakes in Herzegovina only exist during the winter; when the snow melts and the underground rivers find their way up, they fill up. In the dry summer months the lakes completely disappear again.

In the southeast of Herzegovina is Sutjeska National Park, the oldest national park in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Here is also the highest mountain in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Maglic (2387 m). There are also peaks of over 2000 meters around Mostar in the south and around the capital Sarajevo. In the southwest on the border with Croatia are the Dinaric Alps with peaks of an average of 1500 meters.

Bosnia-Herzegovina also regularly has weak earthquakes that cause little damage. An exception to this happened in 1969, when an earthquake destroyed most of the buildings in the northern city of Banja Luka.

Climate and Weather

Bosnia and Herzegovina has a continental climate with warm summers and cold snowy winters. And that is more like the climate of continental Europe than the Mediterranean climate of nearby countries like Italy or Greece. Cold or warm outliers can easily occur in spring. Moreover, the weather can also vary considerably per region.

Banja Luka in winter Bosnia and HerzegovinaBanja Luka in winter Bosnia and HerzegovinaPhoto:Rade Nagraisalovic CC 4.0 International no changes

It is generally cooler in the north than in the south. For example, daytime temperatures in January in the northern Banja Luka are around 0 °C and in Mostar, near the Adriatic coast, around 6 ° C. In summer, it reaches a maximum of 22 °C in Banja Luka and 38 °C in Mostar.

In the mountains, the summers are cooler and the winters longer and more severe. The short coastline has a milder, Mediterranean climate.

In the north, most rain falls in the summer, in the south during the autumn and winter. Because westerly winds blow, most of the rain falls on the western side of the Dinaric Alps. Here an average of about 1500 mm falls, in some areas on the leeward side falls only about 500 mm.

Plants and Animals


Jasmine Bosnia and HerzegovinaJasmine Bosnia and HerzegovinaPhoto:Fanghong CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Bosnia-Herzegovina has about 3500 plant species and is very wooded; about half of the country is covered with forests. They are mainly pine, beech and oak forests. Fig trees and cypresses are also found in Herzegovina.

Common plants and shrubs include jasmine, oleander, and juniper.

The forest areas can be divided into three zones. Up to 762 meters in the north of the country, on the sunny slopes, we find mainly oak forests and on the shady slopes beech forests. Further south (up to 1524 meters), in the center of the country, the oaks are replaced by beech, elm, ash, spruce and pine trees. The third zone, up to 1,829 meters, is characterized by spruce, pine and other coniferous species. Chestnuts, aspens, willows, birch, alder, juniper and yew trees are found in all three zones. Rowan, hazel and wild fruit trees (including pear and plum) are mainly distributed on the lower slopes.


Wild Boar Bosnia and HerzegovinaWild Boar Bosnia and HerzegovinaPhoto:Valentin Panzirsch CC 3.0 Austria no changes made

There is a rich and varied animal life in Bosnia and Herzegovina. There are wolves, wild boars, lynxes, wild cats, otters, foxes, golden jackals, badgers, falcons and a rare bear here and there. Furthermore, many sheep are kept and the Lipizzan horse was imported from Austria in the 19th century.

Dangerous are the poisonous horned viper and the European viper.

Common birds include eagles, hawks, pheasants, mallards and storks.


Antiquity and Middle Ages

Map of the Bosnian KingdomMap of the Bosnian KingdomPhoto:Bratislav Tabaš CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Archaeologists have found evidence that people lived in these regions as early as 200,000 years ago. These people lived in the Paleolithic era and were hunters and gatherers.

Bosnia and Herzegovina and the western Balkans were inhabited by the Illyrians, an Indo-European speaking people, in the centuries before the beginning of our era. This people was often attacked by Celts and Greeks at that time.

In 9 AD. the last great revolt of the Illyrians against the Romans was crushed and the present area was settled in the Roman provinces of Dalmatia and Pannonia. The Romans provided a period of reasonable stability, but that changed when the Roman Empire collapsed.

In the sixth century the first agricultural Slavs arrived in the Balkans, at about the same time as the Avar warrior people. The Avars were chased away, but followed by Serbs and Croats, probably from Poland and the Czech Republic. The Serbs settled in the southeast of the Balkans, the Croats in the western part, including much of what is now Bosnia-Herzegovina. These peoples mixed with the Slavs and were soon Christianized.

Bosnia was first mentioned in written sources in 958, and was at that time dominated by the Serbs. After the Serbs, Bosnia-Herzegovina was dominated by various peoples: first by Croats for a period and then by Bulgars for a short while. In the second half of the 12th century, authority in Bosnia and Herzegovina was disputed by the Byzantine Empire and Hungary.

In 1180, the first Bosnian monarch Ban Kulin declared independence from Hungary. Due to the increasing trade with Dubrovnik and Venice, prosperity in the area increased. After the death of Kulin, Bosnia and Herzegovina became a plaything of noble families, which led to the reign of Ban Stjepan Kotromanic in 1322. It was he who added the region of Herzegovina to Bosnia and under his rule it went very well in an economic sense, but also in terms of tranquility and peace.

The next ruler, Tvrtko I Kotromanic, expanded Bosnia with Croatia and large parts of the Dalmatian coast. He entered into a treaty with the Serbian ruler Lazar and subsequently crowned himself king of Bosnia and Serbia. After the death of Kotromanic in 1391 an unclear transition situation arose, which lasted until the arrival of the Turks.

Turkish rule

The Ottoman Turks soon conquered large parts of the Balkans, but it was not until 1463 that they brought Bosnia under their rule. In that time Islam also made its appearance in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Turks turned strategically located Bosnia-Herzegovina into a pure conquest and also demand that many ten-year-old boys in Istanbul be trained for the Turkish army (the so-called "devsirme")

From 1683, the once powerful Ottoman Empire slowly fell into decline. They suffered some major defeats against the Austrians and the siege of Vienna also failed completely. Only in 1878 the Turks were finally defeated, after an uprising that had already started in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1875 and spread to Serbia and Montenegro. When the revolt threatened to be crushed, Russia intervened. The Austro-Hungarian Habsburgs allowed this interference, on the condition that only the eastern Balkans could fall within the Russian sphere of influence; Bosnia and Herzegovina would then join Austria. All of these battlegrounds created unprecedented migration flows that continue to cause problems in the Balkans to this day.

First World War

Bosnia World War I Bosnia World War IPhoto:Public domain

At the Congress of Berlin in 1878, Bosnia and Herzegovina was placed under Austrian rule, but the Muslim population was still loyal to the Turkish sultan. Meanwhile, the Serbs suffered greatly from the Habsburg rule. When Bosnia-Herzegovina was definitively annexed by Austria-Hungary in 1908, the South Slavic (Yugoslavian) population's aversion towards its rulers grew. In 1914, the Habsburg Crown Prince Frans Ferdinand was shot dead by the Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip, which later turned out to be the start of the First World War. Serbia declared war on the Netherlands, after which the conflict spread like an inkblot. Ultimately, 32 countries would participate in the war, including the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, and Germany. The Netherlands remained neutral.

At the end of World War I, the "Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes" was established, but that cooperation did not last long. The Serbs wanted a centrally managed state, the Croats and Slovenes wanted a loose federal structure. Bosnia did not appear at all in this chapter and was considered by the Croats and the Serbs to be Greater Croatia and Greater Serbia respectively. In 1929 the Serbian king Alexander proclaimed the royal dictatorship and the young parliament is already exit. Its name was changed to "Kingdom of Yugoslavia" and the borders of Bosnia and Herzegovina are removed from this unitary state. In 1934 Alexander was murdered by Croatian nationalists.


Flag of the Cetniks of Bosnia and HerzegovinaFlag of the Cetniks of Bosnia and HerzegovinaPhoto:Voytek s in the public domain

In April 1941, Yugoslavia surrendered to the Germans and Bosnia and Herzegovina was incorporated into the "Independent State of Croatia". This fascist Greater Croatia became a nightmare for the Roma, Jews and Serbs, who were murdered, deported or forced to convert to Catholicism. These atrocities were committed by the Croatian fascists or "Ustaša".

The resistance against the fascists was led by Serbian "Cetniks" and by the partisans (Serbs, Croats and Muslims) of the communist Soviet Union-oriented Josip Broz, better known as Tito. The fascists make many victims, but the resistance groups are also fighting a fierce battle for hegemony. Tito and his partisans eventually won the mutual battle, also because the Cetniks collaborated with the Germans. On April 6, 1945, Tito's partisans marched into Sarajevo and Yugoslavia was liberated.

Period Tito

Bosnia and Herzegovina TitoBosnia and Herzegovina TitoPhoto:Public domain

Tito automatically became the new political leader and dealt with bloody remnants of the Ustaca, Cetniks and Yugoslav royalists. In a relatively short time he managed to establish a socialist society in which "everyone" was equal and benefited from the rapidly increasing prosperity. Bosnia-Herzegovina was given the status of constituent republic within the federation of Yugoslavia and participated in the economic revival.

Yet after Tito's death in 1980 and the ensuing power vacuum, it quickly became clear that the Yugoslav "unity" was not at all well. In 1984 the 14th Winter Olympics were held in Sarajevo.

Yugoslavia is falling apart

Bosnia and Herzegovina Sarajevo warBosnia and Herzegovina Sarajevo warPhoto:Mikhail Evstafiev CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Due to the liberalization of Gorbachev in the Soviet Union and the fall of the wall in Berlin, nationalism also emerged in Yugoslavia and political parties with a strong nationalist slant were established in the various republics. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, these were Alija Izetbegovic's Islamic SDA (Democratic Action Party), Radovan Karadžic's SDS (Serbian Democratic Party), and Stjepan Kljuic's HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union), which was in fact directly controlled by Croatia. The November 1990 elections were a huge success (86% of the vote) for the nationalist Izetbegovic, who subsequently became president. In March 1991, consultations took place between Tudjman and Milosevic on a division of Bosnia and Herzegovina between Croatia and Serbia. Karadžic, the leader of the Bosnian Serbs, started this division and proclaimed parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the north and west as "Serbian Autonomous Areas". President Izetbegovic, meanwhile, anxiously tried to keep his country's borders together, also because he feared the fate of the Muslims.

In 1992 Slovenia and Croatia seceded from Yugoslavia after some fighting and were recognized as independent countries by the European Union on January 15, 1992. Bosnia-Herzegovina was then faced with the difficult choice of either extending independence or joining Milosevic's "Greater Serbia". Choosing independence undoubtedly meant choosing war with Milosevic. Despite calls for boycotts of the elections and intimidation practices, the population voted almost unanimously in favor of independence.

From the day the referendum results were announced, March 2, 1992, Bosnia and Herzegovina was heading straight for civil war, as expected. Serb paramilitaries soon took up positions in Sarajevo, and in late March, Karadzic unilaterally proclaimed the Bosnian Serb Republic ("Republika Srpska") in the Serb Autonomous Territories. In June, Mate Boban's nationalist Croats proclaimed the "Croatian Community of Herzeg-Bosna". Serb paramilitaries and Bosnian Serbs attacked Muslims in several cities, resulting in deaths. The Federal Yugoslav Army even bombed the city of Zvornik.

Despite the very tense situation, on April 6, 1992, the European Union recognized Bosnia and Herzegovina as an independent country. Despite the arms boycott of the United Nations, the Yugoslav army had so many weapons that approximately 70% of the Bosnian territory was quickly conquered.

The Muslims and Bosnian Croats initially fought side by side against the common enemy, but the Croats had a double agenda. A division of Bosnia-Herzegovina into a Greater Croatia would also bring them many benefits. Gradually their attitude towards Muslims changed and in early 1993 very violent armed conflicts arose between the Muslims and the Bosnian Croats. This infighting lasted until 1994; under pressure from the United States, the two fighting parties decided to work together again. Meanwhile, the historic city of Sarajevo was under constant attack by the Serbs, killing thousands of people. This would eventually lead to military intervention by NATO. In May and August 1995, the fighting turned when the Croats, with American support, managed to expel the Serbs from Croatia. At the same time, violence in the Krajina, the border region between Croatia and Bosnia, increased enormously. Many fled to Serbia and the Republic of Srpska, chased by the Bosnian army. The Americans feared huge flows of refugees and put pressure on the Bosnians to stop their advance. The fall of Srebrenica and the subsequent genocide of the Bosnian Serbs also brought the warring parties back to the negotiating table and on 21 November 1995 the Dayton peace agreement was concluded. Only then did it become clear what the consequences were of the battle: hundreds of thousands of deaths and injuries, and more than two million homeless people and refugees. The entire infrastructure had disappeared and basic items such as clean water, gas and electricity were almost impossible to obtain.

After the 1995 agreement, NATO brought peace to the area. The SFOR force finally created a fairly stable situation, and the United Nations provided an International Police Task Force (IPTF) to get the local police back on their feet. From 1996 onwards, the OSCE organized elections and the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, was given the lead to ensure the return of the many refugees.

The current state is divided into part for the Serbs, the Republic of Srpska, and part for the Croats and the Bosniaks (Bosniak Muslims), the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the so-called entities.

Yet all citizens have the opportunity to live wherever they want. The weak central government is headed by a presidium of three people: a Bosnjak, a Croat and a Serb.

The two entities each have their own government, president, army and parliament. Furthermore, there is a separate district around the city of Brcko in the northeast, with self-government, but under the central presidium.

The parliamentary elections of September 14, 1996 were won by the Muslim-dominated Party for Democratic Action (SDA), which subsequently provided Alija Izetbegovic as president of the three-member presidium. In January 1997, the first federal Bosnian government was formed, with the dividing lines between the parties mainly running along ethnic lines.

In parliamentary elections in 1998, the three largest ethnic parties, the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS), the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) and the SDA were unable to maintain their majority in the central federation. The SDA then formed a coalition with parties that deviated from the ethnic principle in Bosnian politics and that supported the development of Bosnia-Herzegovina as a sovereign and democratic state.

Meanwhile, the country's economic situation hardly improved. Many young people and the better educated preferred to emigrate and many refugees did not return from abroad.

2000 to present

Srebrenica Bosnia and Herzegovina Srebrenica Bosnia and HerzegovinaPhoto:Michael Büker CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

On June 21, the Security Council renewed the mandate of the SFOR peacekeeping force and the 1,600-man police force.

In March 2000, a 'donor conference' for the Balkans was held in Brussels, which failed to allay the concerns of the international world about developments in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Reforms were too slow for that to happen, there was still far too much bureaucracy and the country was ravaged by corruption and widespread smuggling. The EU High Representative, Wolfgang Petritsch, repeatedly stressed the need for state formation. After the elections in Croatia, January 2000, and the fall of Miloseviæ on October 5, the chances of the state formation desired by the European Union seemed to be approaching.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia made itself heard with convictions of Croatian General Blaskic and Bosnian Croats Kordic and Cerkez. The trial of General Radislav Krstic, held partly responsible for the mass murder of more than 7,000 Muslim men, was also opened.

In 2000 more than 20,000 refugees returned to Bosnia-Herzegovina, but due to the poor economic situation more than 300,000 refugees continued to live abroad for the time being. Important for the refugees was the ruling of the Constitutional Court that Serbs, Muslims and Croats had equal rights everywhere in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Until then, Serbs in Republika Srpska and the Muslims and Croats within the Federation each had separate status.

On June 22, 2000, parliament approved the new government of the non-party Prime Minister Spasoje Tusevljak, who saw the restoration of the deplorable economy as its main task. In April, divisions along ethnic lines in local elections again became apparent, and the parliamentary elections in November also confirmed this image of political support through ethnic lines. No party obtained an absolute majority. The OSCE punished various parties for violating electoral rules.

On October 14, Head of State Izetbegovic resigned, and his place in the three-member state presidency was taken by Halid Genjac of the Muslim PDA.

At an administrative level things did not go well in Bosnia and Herzegovina. At the beginning of 2001, the Croatian Ante Jelavic was expelled from the reigning triumvirate for alleged obstruction of the multi-ethnic government. Wolfgang Petritsch, the High Representative of the international community, warned the Bosnian Serbs to stop their obstruction against the federal state of Bosnia. Police authorities were often fired on charges of corruption.

Zlatko Lagumdzija was elected Prime Minister by the reigning triumvirate in July to replace Bozidar Matic who has resigned. The moderate Croat Jozo Krizanovic joined the triumvirate to replace Ante Jelavic.

In November, former President Milosevic of Yugoslavia was charged with committing genocide during the Bosnian War. Ex-president of the Serbian Republic Biljana Plavsic volunteered. In June, Muslim Fikret Abdic suspected of war crimes was arrested.

Bosnian Serb Stevan Todorovic was sentenced to ten years in prison, but three Bosnian Croats were acquitted on appeal of the murder of hundreds of Muslims near the village of Ahmici in 1993. Bosnian Serb general Radislav Krstic was eventually sentenced to 35 years in prison for his part in the genocide at the Muslim enclave Srebrenica. Three generals during the war, Hadzihasanovic, Alagic and Kubura, were transferred to The Hague.

The socio-economic situation hardly improved in 2001. More than 80% of the population was still living below the poverty line and corruption and smuggling were among the most important economic acts. The informal economy comprised 40 to 60% of all economic activity. The main railway line between Croatia and Bosnia was reopened in June.

More than 30,000 refugees returned to the Muslim-Croat Federation and 18,000 to the Serbian Republic.

The UN Security Council renewed the mandate for the international police mission in July 2002. The mission, consisting of more than 1,500 men, was tasked with training the multi-ethnic police.

On February 12, 2002, the trial against Slobodan Milosevic was opened in The Hague. A number of prominent individuals have been called to testify against the former President of Yugoslavia, including Paddy Ashdown and Ibrahim Rugova, President of Kosovo. Ex-president of the Republika Srpska Biljana Plavsic, however, refused to testify against Milosevic.

Bosnia and Herzegovina Yugoslavia Tribunal The HagueBosnia and Herzegovina Yugoslavia Tribunal The HaguePhoto:Julian Nyca CC 4.0 International no changes made

In May 2002, former Deputy Prime Minister of Yugoslavia, Nikolai Sainovic, who was suspected of war crimes, arrived in The Hague. In July 2002, a new mass grave was discovered near Zvornik with probably more than 100 Srebrenica victims.

Elections to the federal parliament were gloriously won by nationalist parties such as the Serbian SDS, the Croatian HDZ and the SDA of the Muslims. Voting was again clear along ethnic lines, which of course did not promote state formation.

On April 2, the chairman of the lead triumvirate in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mirko Sarovic, resigned over possible involvement in illegal arms transfers to Iraq. The appointment of his successor, Borislav Paravac, confirmed the deteriorating relations between the ethnic groups.

In July, 282 victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre were reburied in Srebrenica. The remains of 5,000 victims had been recovered since 1995 and 1,620 bodies had been identified.

In November 2003, the President of Serbia and Montenegro, Svetozar Marovic, visited the Bosnian capital Sarajevo. He publicly apologized for crimes committed by Serbs in the war in Bosnia (1992-1995). The visit was part of efforts to improve relations between the two countries.

In October, 78-year-old former Muslim President of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Alija Izetbegovic, one of the signatories of the Dayton Agreement, passed away.

Biljana Plavsic, ex-president of the Serbian Republic in Bosnia, was sentenced to 11 years in prison by the Yugoslavia Tribunal in February 2003. Bosnian Serb Milomir Stakic was sentenced to life for crimes against humanity. It was the first time that the tribunal had imposed a life sentence.

For his role in Srebrenica, Bosnian Serb Momir Nikolic was sentenced to 27 years in prison. Bosnian Serb Dragan Nikolic was sentenced to 23 years in prison. Nikolic was the first suspect to be charged by the tribunal in 1994.

Mass graves from the Civil War period were still uncovered, but the two main suspects, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, were still unsuccessful.

The economy grew by more than 3% in 2003, a decrease compared to 2002. The necessary reforms were again hampered by ethnic rivalry.

General elections were again held on 5 October 2002, the first to be organized by the BiH authorities themselves, rather than by the OSCE. To increase the effectiveness, the mandate of the new directors, at both national and entity level, was extended from two to four years. The number of registered voters was 2.35 million. Noteworthy was the drop in the number of registered out-of-country voters from 230,000 (in November 2000) to 58,000. The Netherlands sent 15 short-term observers.

The turnout was low, approximately 55%. Young people in particular ignored the ballot box. The result showed a major defeat for the multi-ethnic and reform party SDP, leader of the Alliance for Change. SDA, SDS and HDZ - the three major nationalist parties that won the first free elections in BiH in 1990 and largely dominated domestic politics until 1998 (SDS) and 2000 (SDA and HDZ) respectively - returned together in the state presidency.

Pady Ashdown Bosnia and Herzegovina Pady Ashdown Bosnia and HerzegovinaPhoto:Financial Times photos CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Then UN High Representative Paddy Ashdown interpreted the result not as a return to "old" nationalism, but as a protest against the lack of improvements the previous administration had made. After a difficult cabinet formation, a new government took office in the spring of 2003, in which mainly the three old nationalist parties SDA, HDZ and SDS were in charge.

In December 2004, HV Ashdown was forced to remove from office a number of officials in the RS who did not cooperate sufficiently with the Yugoslavia Tribunal. Collaboration with the tribunal (tracing and arresting war crimes suspects, cooperating with investigations, fighting the criminal networks supporting the suspects) is an international obligation for BiH, which is also strongly emphasized by NATO and the EU. The performance in the RS in this area has improved due to the high international pressure and the sanctions of the HR.

HV Schwarz-Schilling, when he took office in January 2006, indicated that he only wanted to use his "Bonn powers" in very limited cases. The Bosnian authorities must now be given and take responsibility for the various reform processes themselves. Politics in BiH is still mainly conducted on an ethnic basis. Important reforms in the fields of education, public broadcasting and police are therefore experiencing significant delays or even come to a standstill.

Elections in 2006 and 2008 are won by nationalist parties and run along ethnic lines. In July 2008, the people of Sarajevo took to the streets at the news of Karadzic's arrest. In March 2009, Valentin Inzko becomes the new UN High Representative. In February 2010, the Bosnian Serbs passed a law making it easier to hold referendums on national issues. This is seen as a potential opportunity to pave the way for a Bosnian Serb Republic. The 2010 elections do not produce clear winners. In May 2011, the Bosnian Serb Rtako Mladic is arrested in Serbia, he is one of the most wanted war crimes suspects. At the end of 2011, the parties agree to form a new central government. In January 2012, Croatian Vjekoslav Bevanda becomes prime minister.

In May 2012, the trial of Mladic at the Yugoslavia Tribunal starts. In February 2014 there have been riots over protests against corruption and high unemployment. In May 2014, the country was hit by the greatest flood of modern times, with more than half a million people forced to leave their homes. In October, the Party of Democratic Action wins the elections. Denis Zvizdic will become the new Prime Minister in February 2015. In February 2016, Bosnia and Herzegovina officially applies to join the EU. In March 2016, the former leader Karadcic was found guilty by the UN Tribunal in The Hague of genocide and war crimes and sentenced to 40 years in prison. In November 2017, after a lengthy trial, Mladic was found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity and sentenced to life.

Bosnia and Herzogevina has a three member presidency (1 Bosniak and 1 Croat elected from the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and 1 Serb elected from the Republika Srpska) directly elected by simple majority popular vote for a 4-year term (eligible for a second term, but then ineligible for 4 years); the presidency chairpersonship rotates every 8 months with the new member of the presidency elected with the highest number of votes starting the new mandate as chair; election last held on 7 October 2018

The presidents are Zeljko KOMSIC (chairman since 20 July 2021; presidency member since 20 November 2018 - Croat seat); Sefik DZAFEROVIC (presidency member since 20 November 2018 - Bosniak seat); Milorad DODIK (presidency member since 20 November 2018 - Serb seat). Next elections are to be held in October 2022.


Composition and distribution

Bosnian Folk DancesBosnian Folk DancesPhoto:Snapshots Of The Past CC2.0 Generic no changes made

Before the 1992-1995 civil war, 44% of the population was Bosnian Muslims (now Bosnjaks), 31% Serbs, 17% Croats, 6% 'Yugoslavs' and the remaining 2% Montenegrins, Roma, Albanians and Ukrainians. Today, the distribution is roughly: 50% Bosniacs (the religion-neutral name of the group previously classified as Muslims), 31% Serbs, 15% Croats and 4% others.

Before the war, the different population groups lived all over the country and there were many mixed neighborhoods, especially in the larger cities. Today the country is highly segregated: the Bosjaks live mainly in the northwest and in the center, the Croats in the west, the far northeast and in the center, the Serbs in the north and the east.

The Roma (formerly called Gypsies) have lived in Bosnia-Herzegovina since the 14th century. With several tens of thousands of people, they are the largest minority in the country.

In 1941 most of the Jewish community was deported and murdered. At the moment there are between 500-1000 Jews living in Bosnia.

It is estimated that as a result of the violence of war and the policy of ethnic cleansing during the war, approximately 60% of the population of that time was expelled from home and home. More than 250,000 refugees have been killed or are missing. Approx. 1.3 million people fled within Bosnia and Herzegovina and 1.2 people fled abroad.

After the war, many returned, but encountered new difficulties. Refugees returning to places dominated by their ethnic communities had the least problem. However, people returning to areas that had changed ethnic majority through the war were now in the minority there. These people also had little to expect from the government.

Young families with small children moved en masse from the countryside to the city. From the signing of the Dayton Agreement to the end of February 2002, 834,000 displaced persons and refugees have returned. It is estimated that approximately 700,000 displaced persons will never return to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Many families are incomplete because the husband has died; women and children are often severely traumatized. Help for these people is inadequate.

Demographic data

In Bosnia-Herzegovina, there were 3,856,181 million people in 2017. The population density is approximately 75 inhabitants per km2.

Population growth was -0.16% in 2017.

The average life expectancy is 73.9 years for men and 80.3 years for women.

Population composition: 0-14 years 13.3%, 15-64 years 72.3%, 65+ 14.4%. (2017)

Bosnia and Herzegovina has a birth rate of 8.8 births per 1000 inhabitants and a death rate of 10 per 1000 inhabitants. (2017)

The infant mortality rate is 5.5 children per 1,000 live births. (2017)


Bosnian Language MapBosnian Language MapPhoto:Public domain

To satisfy every population group, Bosnia-Herzegovina has had three official languages since 1991: Bosnian, Serbian and Croatian, three variants of Serbo-Croatian, which hardly differ from one another, comparable to the differences between English and American.

Serbo-Croatian is a Slavic language and is related to Slovenian, Macedonian, Bulgarian, Polish, Czech, Slovak, Ukrainian and Belarusian. Serbian (Ekavski) and Croatian (Ijekavski) are in fact dialects of each other. The difference is that many Croatian words with a letter "j" or the sound "ij" appear in the first syllable have a Serbian equivalent, but without these letter (s).

Some examples:

Bosnian has many Turkish words, a holdover from Turkish rule. Serbs and Croats have purified their language more in order to distinguish themselves from the others.

Serbian is often written in the Cyrillic script (Bosancica); Bosnian and Croatian in Latin.

The Cyrillic script dates back to the ninth century and was designed by two Byzantine missionaries, Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius. The Cyrillic script is based on Greek and Hebrew letters.

Common names in Bosnia and Herzegovina


Three religions BosniaThree religions BosniaPhoto:Mazbln CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Generally speaking, the Bosniaks have Islam (40% of the population) as their religion, which has its roots in the centuries-long rule by Ottomans, the Croats are Roman Catholic (15%) and the Serbs are Serbian Orthodox (31%). ). Characteristic of Bosnia-Herzegovina is the fact that the faith emphasizes ethnic identity.

Four percent of the population is Protestant and the other ten percent is Jewish, not religious or another religion.

Religious practice is on the back burner of all religions, caused by the communist regime when religion was discouraged. Religious practice has been reviving since the 1990s, especially among young Croatians in Herzegovina.

Hundreds of mosques and other sacred sites were destroyed during the war. About 200 Catholic and 30 Orthodox churches were also destroyed during that period. It is still the case that in areas where people form an ethnic or religious minority, the practice of one's religion is not always appreciated, sometimes leading to violence.

Medjugorje is a mountain village in southwestern Bosnia-Herzegovina. It became world famous for a series of apparitions of Mary that are said to have taken place there since 1981. Since then it has become a famous pilgrimage site. The Catholic Church has not recognized this pilgrimage site so far.


State structure

Presidential building Sarajevo Presidential building SarajevoPhoto:Ex13 CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Bosnia and Herzegovina has been an independent country since 1992. According to the Dayton Peace Agreement (1995), it is a federative republic consisting of two autonomous states or 'entities': the Muslim-Croat Federation (51% of the area) and the Bosnian Serb Republic (Republika Srpska, 49%). Both states have their own president, government and parliament.

The three members of the State Presidency, a Muslim and a Croat from the Federation and a Serb from the Republika Srpska, are directly elected by members of the three largest ethnic groups. The presidency rotates among the members of the presidency every eight months.

The European Union and the United Nations monitor compliance with the peace agreement and have the power to dismiss administrators.

SFOR's many thousands of NATO troops must prevent new hostilities. On April 2, 2003, High Representative Ashdown amended the constitutions of the Serbian Republic and the Muslim-Croat Federation by moving control of the armies of both entities to the state presidency.

The central government of Bosnia and Herzegovina consists of two chambers with legislative power (the People's Chamber with 15 members and the House of Representatives with 42 members), a three-person Presidium, a Council of Ministers, a Constitutional Court and a Central Bank. All these bodies are based on the principle of ethnic equal representation. The central government is responsible for foreign policy, foreign trade, import duties, immigration policy, monetary policy, international law, aviation, communications, financing the government and entering into agreements with other states or international organizations. Both entities have their own armies, which are, however, under the authority of the Presidium of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Muslim-Croat Federation has a rotating presidency. Legislative power in the Federation consists of two chambers: the Federation House of Representatives (140 seats) and the People's Chamber (30 Muslims, 30 Croats and 20 others).

The Republika Srpska has a president and a vice-president who is directly elected for a four-year term. The National Assembly of Republika Srpska is elected on the basis of proportional representation and has 83 members. For the current political situation, see chapter history.

Administrative division

Bosnia and Herzegovina Administrative DivisionBosnia and Herzegovina Administrative DivisionPhoto:Bennet Schulte CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Bosnia-Herzegovina is divided into ten cantons, each with its own parliament and administration. All functions and powers not explicitly attributed to the central institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the Dayton Agreement are vested in the entities.

Within the Muslim-Croat Federation, functions and powers that are not explicitly attributed to it fall under the cantons.

Bosansko-PodriniskiGoražde505 km236.000
HercegbosanskiLivno4.934 km284.000
Hercegovacko-NeretvanskiMostar4.401 km2218.000
PosavskiOrašje325 km244.000
SarajevoSarajevo1.277 km2402.000
SrednjebosanskiTravnik3.189 km2241.000
TuzlanskiTuzla2.649 km2515.000
Unsko-SanskiBihac4.125 km2308.000
Zapadno-HercegovackiLjubuški1.362 km282.000
Zenjcko-DobojskiZenica3.343 km2400.000


Mostar UniversityMostar University Bosnia and HerzegovinePhoto:Yerevani Axjik CC 4.0 International no changes made

From the age of seven, children are obliged to participate in eight-year primary education. After primary education, they can opt for three or four years of secondary education, possibly followed by vocational training. University education lasts 4-6 years with possibly further specialization. Bosnia and Herzegovina has four universities. The University of Sarajevo (1949) is the oldest, Mostar, Tuzla and Banja Luka were all founded in the 1970s.

Both entities each have their own Ministry of Education, while Croatian and Bosnian education is also provided in all cantons.

To make it even more complicated, all cantons have their own legislation that regulates education. The schools in the Bosnian cantons work with federal school materials; learning materials from Croatia are used in the Croatian cantons.

In the Republic of Srpska, education is fully regulated by the Ministry of Education.

In the Brcko district, innovative legislation ensures that students of different nationalities are taught together. For example, they must learn technical terms in three different languages and be able to use both alphabets. The intention is to increasingly arrange this type of education centrally and introduce it locally.

In April 2002, with the signing of the so-called Mrakovica-Sarajevo Agreement, a compromise was reached on a number of constitutional amendments, which had been negotiated following a decision of the Constitutional Court two years earlier. The constitution included the principle that BiH has three constituent population groups. This new constitutional provision has far-reaching consequences, as it regulates the political representation of the three population groups in those areas where they are a minority (i.e., for example, compulsory inclusion of Muslims in the RS parliament and vice versa in the parliament of the RS). Federation). The governments formed on the basis of the election results of October 5, 2002 are the first to be covered by the new rules.


The 1992-1995 war on Bosnian territory had an extremely unpleasant aftermath for the Netherlands due to the tragic fall of the Srebrenica Muslim enclave in 1995.

Dutch UN soldiers were supposed to protect this so-called "safe area", but despite that, about 7,500 Muslims were murdered by the Bosnian Serbs. In 2002 the long-awaited NIOD report was published, the conclusions of which forced Prime Minister Kok's cabinet to resign. Commander in Chief Van Baal also resigned after heavy pressure.



Bosnia and Herzogevina Export Bosnia and Herzogevina ExportPhoto:R Haussmann, Cesar Hidalgo, et. al. CC 3.0no changes made

Bosnia and Herzegovina has long been a backward country economically. Bosnia and Herzegovina was a country of peasants, with many small, barely viable businesses. Bosnia-Herzegovina, along with Macedonia, was one of the poorest countries in the former Yugoslavia. Only after the Second World War did the economic situation improve due to the strong promotion of industry and the exploitation of mineral resources such as coal, lignite, lead, silver and manganese.

The struggling economy was completely destroyed again by the civil war. Approx. 80% of the industrial potential was destroyed and in the countryside large tracts of land became unusable for agriculture by the mines. Moreover, the infrastructure had largely disappeared and almost half of the population had fled.

Immediately after the Dayton Agreement, however, reconstruction started again, with the help of international donors. They made 1.5 billion dollars available for projects.

Despite this strong support, the economy continued to falter, not least due to ongoing smuggling practices and corruption at all levels of society. The tense situation between the various population groups prevents successful cooperation, which is necessary to get the economy back on track. As a result of all this, almost half of the labor force is still unemployed and an even greater percentage of the population lives below the poverty line. The only bright spot in this situation is that many of the unemployed participate in the informal economy, which involves a lot of money. The government now has the task of including all those jobs in the formal economy, so that the economy can pick up again.

Guest workers

Since the 1950s, many Bosnian Yugoslavs have been looking for work on the Dutch and German labor market. As a result, unemployment fell sharply in the Netherlands, but also had a negative effect on the quality of labor and labor productivity in Bosnia itself.

However, the money that was sent back to their own country ensured that the position of the families in Bosnia was improved and the balance of payments could be put in order.

Economic sectors

Bosnia and Herzegovina Infrastructure Bosnia and Herzegovina InfrastructurePhoto:Eao-be CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Approx. 13,000 km2 of agricultural land (mainly in the Sava and Drina valleys) is occupied by meadows of moderate quality; About the same amount of agricultural land is used for arable farming and horticulture, with wheat, maize, potatoes, sugar beets, tobacco and grapes as the main products. Fruit cultivation (especially plums, half of which is converted into spirits) is concentrated in Central and Northern Bosnia, tobacco is grown in the poljes, vineyards are predominantly located in Herzegovina. Agriculture is predominantly small-scale and not very efficient.

Approx. 35% of the country is covered with forests. Hence, forestry provides an important part of the national product.

There is also some metal, textile, chemical, sugar and tobacco industry. The most important stocks of iron ore are in Bosnia, one at Vares, one at Ljubija. Due to the presence of many raw materials, the metal industry and mining in principle have a lot of potential, but must be modernized quickly. Cooperation with foreign companies and attracting new capital is a precondition. However, the industry will never thrive unless transport options improve. Most roads are very bad and many waterways are still dangerous because of the mines.

The main trading partners for exports are Italy, Croatia, and Germany. The main export products are industrial products (aluminum), raw materials, transport equipment and machinery.

The main trading partners for imports are Croatia, Slovenia, Germany and Italy. The main import products are machinery and transport equipment, industrial products, food and live animals.

Holidays and Sightseeing

Mostar Stari Most Bosnia and HerzegovinaMostar Stari Most Bosnia and HerzegovinaPhoto:BáthoryPéter CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Bosnia-Herzegovina is not yet a holiday destination that attracts large numbers of tourists, but the country is becoming increasingly popular, because it has a lot to offer in terms of nature and culture. Winter sports enthusiasts can also go to Bosnia and Herzegovina, because there are plenty of modern winter sports facilities around the capital Sarajevo. But rafters, canoeists and mountain climbers also get their money's worth in Bosnia-Herzegovina.To the southeast of Ljubuski are the Kravica waterfalls, which plunge down a hundred meters wide. The Old Town of Mostar, consisting of pre-Ottoman, East Ottoman, Mediterranean and West European architectural features, and the Mostar Bridge (Stari Most) over the Neretva River, largely destroyed in the war but rebuilt, stand up the World Heritage List of UNESCO since 2005. Another bridge that has been included on the World Heritage List since 2007 is the one in the town of Visegrad, the Mehmed Paša Sokolovic Bridge over the river Drina.

Sarajevo Bosnia and Herzegovina Sarajevo Bosnia and HerzegovinaPhoto:Bjoertvedt CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The most special area of Sarajevo is the 15th-century old town Bašcaršija, the historical and cultural center of the city and therefore the main attraction of Sarajevo. The large 16th-century mosque Gazi Husrev Bey is special, and the oldest Orthodox Serbian church dates from the 14th century. You can ski just outside Sarajevo on the Olympic slopes of Jahorina and Bjelasnica; snowboarders can indulge themselves in the vicinity of Vlasic.

Sutjeska Nationaal Park Bosnia and Herzegovina Sutjeska Nationaal Park Bosnia and HerzegovinaPhoto:Erwan Martin CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Sutjeska National Park is home to another of two European primeval forests, called Perucica. Other national parks are Kozara and the swampy Hutovo Blato. Kraljeva Sutjeska was one of the last places where the Bosnian kings resided and thus one bastion of Bosnian history, with a medieval fortress, a Franciscan monastery and one of the oldest mosques in the country.

Pocitelj Bosnia and Herzegovina

Pocitelj Bosnia and HerzegovinaPhoto:Mediha CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Pocitelj has a stunningly beautiful oriental architecture and the city still has an Ottoman atmosphere. It is also special that the oldest artists' colony in Southeast Europe is located here. The most striking structure is the Sahat-kula, a fortress that towers high above the city. Located in the Serbian part of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Jajce was one of the last strongholds of the Bosnian kings before the Ottomans invaded in 1528; just outside the center of the town, a 22 meter high waterfall plunges into the Pliva River. Not far outside Jajce is the Pliva Lake District, one of the best places in the world for fly fishing.

Neum is a seaside resort on the Adriatic Sea, ideally located between the Croatian cities of Split and Dubrovnik, and the sheltered bay of Neum is not affected by strong sea winds. The Una is a beautiful river that forms a harmonious whole with people, fish, birds, willows, bridges and old mills.

Medjugorje Bosnia and Herzegovina Medjugorje Bosnia and HerzegovinaPhoto: Gnuckx in the public domain

Medugorje has been a famous Roman Catholic pilgrimage site since a series of apparitions of Mary took place in 1981. One of the most famous buildings in Bosnia and Herzegovina is an old Turkish monastery near the town of Blagaj. Tvrdoš is a 15th-century Serbian Orthodox monastery near the town of Trebinje, where the original 4th-century Roman foundations can still be seen. Prusac is the largest Muslim pilgrimage site in Europe, pilgrims have been coming to the holy place Ajvatovica for more than 500 years.

Click the menu button at the top left of the screen for more information


Campschreur, W. / Bosnië-Herzegovina : mensen, politiek, economie, cultuur, milieu
Koninklijk Instituut voor de Tropen : Novib

Gabrielpillai, M. / Bosnia and Herzegovina
Gareth Stevens Publishing

Milivojevic, J. / Bosnia and Herzegovina
Children’s Press

Phillips, D. / Bosnia and Herzegovina
Chelsea House Publishers

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated December 2021
Copyright: Team Landenweb