More Facts & Figures
National Name: Bosna i
Current government officials
Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian
Bosniak 48%, Serb 37.1%, Croat 14.3%, other
National Day, November 25
Islam 40%, Orthodox 31%, Roman Catholic 15%,
Literacy rate: 96.7.
Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2011
est.): $31.72 billion; per
capita $8,200. Real growth rate: 2.2%. Inflation: 3.8%. Unemployment: 43.3% official rate. Arable land:
19.61%. Agriculture: wheat, corn, fruits, vegetables; livestock.
Labor force: 2.6 million (2010); agriculture 20.5%,
industry 32.6%, services 47% Industries: steel, coal, iron
ore, lead, zinc, manganese, bauxite, vehicle assembly, textiles,
tobacco products, wooden furniture, tank and aircraft assembly,
domestic appliances, oil refining. Natural resources: coal,
iron ore, bauxite, copper, lead, zinc, chromite, cobalt, manganese,
nickel, clay, gypsum, salt, sand, forests, hydropower.
Exports: $5.579 billion (2011 est.): metals, clothing,
wood products. Imports: $10.38 billion (2011 est.):
machinery and equipment, chemicals, fuels, foodstuffs. Major
trading partners: Italy, Croatia, Germany, Austria, Slovenia,
Communications: Telephones: main lines
in use: 998,600 (2010); mobile cellular: 3.014 million (2010).
Broadcast media: 3 public TV broadcasters: Radio and TV of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Federation TV (operating 2 networks), and Republika Srpska Radio-TV; a local commercial network of 5 TV stations; 3 private, near-national TV stations and dozens of small independent TV stations broadcasting; 3 large public radio broadcasters and a large number of private radio stations (2010). Internet hosts: 146,152 (2011). Internet users:
1.422 million (2009).
Transportation: Railways: total: 601
km (electrified 392 km) (2009). Highways: total: 22,926 km;
paved: 19,426 km; unpaved: 3,500 km (2010). Waterways:
Sava River (northern border) open to shipping but use limited
and terminals: Bosanska Gradiska, Bosanski Brod, Bosanski Samac,
and Brcko (all inland waterway ports on the Sava), Orasje.
Airports: 25 (2010).
International disputes: Serbia delimited about half of the boundary with Bosnia and Herzegovina, but sections along the Drina River remain in dispute.
Major sources and definitions
Bosnia and Herzegovina make up a
triangular-shaped republic, about half the size of Kentucky, on the Balkan
peninsula. The Bosnian region in the north is mountainous and covered with
thick forests. The Herzegovina region in the south is largely rugged, flat
farmland. It has a narrow coastline without natural harbors stretching 13
mi (20 km) along the Adriatic Sea.
Emerging democracy, with a rotating, tripartite
presidency divided between predominantly Serb, Croatian, and Bosnian
Called Illyricum in ancient times, the area now
called Bosnia and Herzegovina was conquered by the Romans in the 2nd and
1st centuries B.C. and folded into the Roman
province of Dalmatia. In the 4th and 5th centuries A.D., Goths overran that portion of the declining
Roman Empire and occupied the area until the 6th century, when the
Byzantine Empire claimed it. Slavs began settling the region during the
7th century. Around 1200, Bosnia won independence from Hungary and endured
as an independent Christian state for some 260 years.
The expansion of the Ottoman Empire into the
Balkans introduced another cultural, political, and religious framework.
The Turks defeated the Serbs at the famous battle of Kosovo in 1389. They
conquered Bosnia in 1463. During the roughly 450 years Bosnia and
Herzegovina were under Ottoman rule, many Christian Slavs became Muslim. A
Bosnian Islamic elite gradually developed and ruled the country on behalf
of the Turkish overlords. As the borders of the Ottoman Empire began to
shrink in the 19th century, Muslims from elsewhere in the Balkans migrated
to Bosnia. Bosnia also developed a sizable Jewish population, with many
Jews settling in Sarajevo after their expulsion from Spain in 1492.
However, through the 19th century the term Bosnian commonly
included residents of all faiths. A relatively secular society,
intermarriage among religious groups was not uncommon.
Neighboring Serbia and Montenegro fought against
the Ottoman Empire in 1876 and were aided by the Russians, their fellow
Slavs. At the Congress of Berlin in 1878, following the end of the
Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878), Austria-Hungary was given a mandate to
occupy and govern Bosnia and Herzegovina, in an effort by Europe to ensure
that Russia did not dominate the Balkans. Although the provinces were
still officially part of the Ottoman Empire, 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
hostility between the two countries climaxed in the assassination of
Austrian archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, by a
Serbian nationalist. This event precipitated the start of World War I
(1914–1918). Bosnia and Herzegovina were annexed to Serbia as part of the
newly formed Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes on Oct. 26, 1918. The
name was later changed to Yugoslavia in 1929.
When Germany invaded Yugoslavia in 1941, Bosnia
and Herzegovina were made part of Nazi-controlled Croatia. During the
German and Italian occupation, Bosnian and Herzegovinian resistance
fighters fought a fierce guerrilla war against the Ustachi, the Croatian
Fascist troops. 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 under Marshall Tito. His authoritarian
control kept the ethnic enmity of his patchwork nation in check. Tito
died in 1980, and with growing economic dissatisfaction and the fall of
the iron curtain over the next decade, Yugoslavia began to splinter.
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,
and President Alija Izetbegovic declared the nation an independent state. Unlike
the other former Yugoslav states, which were generally composed of a
dominant ethnic group, Bosnia was an ethnic tangle of Muslims (44%), Serbs
(31%), and Croats (17%), and this mix contributed to the duration and
savagery of its fight for independence.
Ethnic Antgonism Erupts in War
Both the Croatian and Serbian presidents had
planned to partition Bosnia between themselves. Attempting to carve out
their own enclaves, the Serbian minority, with the help of the Serbian
Yugoslav army, took the offensive and laid siege, particularly on
Sarajevo, and began its ruthless campaigns of ethnic cleansing, which
involved the expulsion or massacre of Muslims. Croats also began carving
out their own communities. By the end of Aug. 1992, rebel Bosnian Serbs
had conquered over 60% of Bosnia. The war did not begin to wane until NATO
stepped in, bombing Serb positions in Bosnia in Aug. and Sept. 1995. Serbs
entered the UN safe havens of Tuzla, Zepa, and Srebrenica, where they
murdered thousands. About 250,000 died in the war between 1992 and
U.S.-sponsored peace talks in Dayton, Ohio, led
to an agreement in 1995 that called for a Muslim-Croat federation and a
Serb entity within the larger federation of Bosnia. Sixty thousand NATO
troops were to supervise its implementation. Fighting abated and orderly
elections were held in Sept. 1996. President Izetbegovic, a Bosnian
Muslim, or Bosniak, won the majority of votes to become the leader of the
three-member presidency, each representing one of the three ethnic
But this alliance of unreconstructed enemies had
little success in creating a working government or keeping violent clashes
in check. The terms of the Dec. 1995 Dayton Peace Accord were largely
ignored by Bosnian Serbs, with its former president, arch-nationalist
Radovan Karadzic, still in de facto control of the Serbian enclave. Many
indicted war criminals, including Karadzic, remain at large. NATO proved
to be a largely ineffective peacekeeping force.
After the Dayton Peace Accord, Challenges Remain
The crucial priorities facing postwar Bosnian
leaders were rebuilding the economy, resettling the estimated one million
refugees still displaced, and establishing a working government. Progress
on these goals has been minimal, and a massive corruption scandal
uncovered in 1999 severely tested the goodwill of the international
In 1994, the UN's International Criminal
Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia opened in The Hague, Netherlands. In
Aug. 2001, Radislav Drstic, a Bosnian Serb general, was found guilty of
genocide in the killing of up to 8,000 Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica in
1995. It was the first genocide conviction in Europe since the UN genocide
treaty was drawn up in 1951. In 2001, the trial of former Serbian
president Slobodan Milosevic began. He was charged with crimes against
humanity. The expensive and lengthy trial ended without a verdict when he
died in March 2006.
Under pressure from Paddy Ashdown, the
international administrator of Bosnia authorized under the Dayton Accord,
Bosnian Serb leaders finally admitted in June 2004 that Serbian troops
were responsible for the massacre of up to 8,000 Bosnian Muslims in
Srebrenica in 1995. Until then, Serb leaders had refused to acknowledge
guilt in the worst civilian massacre since World War II. In Feb. 2007, the
International Court of Justice ruled that the massacre was genocide, but
stopped short of saying Serbia was directly responsible. The decision
spared Serbia from having to pay war reparations to Bosnia. The court's
president, Judge Rosalyn Higgins, however, criticized Serbia for not
preventing the genocide. The court also ordered Serbia to turn over
Bosnian Serb leaders, including Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karakzic, who are
accused of orchestrating the genocide and other crimes. Bosnians expressed
disappointment with the ruling; they had demanded that Serbia pay war
In Dec. 2004, the European Union officially took
over NATO's peacekeeping mission in Bosnia. It is the largest peacekeeping
operation the EU has undertaken. In March 2005, Ashdown, the international
administrator, sacked Dragan Covic, the Croat member of the presidency,
charging him with corruption and abuse of office. Covic became the third
member of the Bosnian presidency forced to resign since the tripartite
presidency was established.
Small Steps Toward Inclusion in the EU
Elections in Oct. 2006 reinforced the
lingering ethnic tensions in the country. The Serbian coalition, which
favors an independent state, narrowly defeated the Muslim-Croat Federation
that prefers moving toward a more unified country. In Jan. 2007,
Bosnian Serb Nikola Spiric took over as prime minister and formed a new
government. He resigned in Nov. 2007 to protest reforms introduced by
an international envoy, who was appointed under the Dayton Accords by the
UN and the European Union and has the power to enact legislation and
dismiss ministers. Spiric said the reforms, which the EU said would help
the country's entrance into the organization, would diminish the influence
of Bosnian Serbs and enhance those of other ethnic groups. Crisis was
averted later in November, when Spiric and the country's Croat and Muslim
leaders agreed on a series of reforms approved by Parliament.
On July 21, 2008, Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb president during the war in Bosnia in the 1990s, was charged with genocide, persecution, deportation, and other crimes against non-Serb civilians. Karadzic orchestrated the massacre of almost 8,000 Muslim men and boys in 1995 in Srebrenica. He was found outside Belgrade. The arrest will likely bring Serbia closer to joining the European Union.
Since the presidential and parliamentary elections in 2010, Bosnia had been in a political deadlock, without a government. In Dec. 2011, the Bosniak, Serb and Croatian communities successfully produced a government, bringing the country a little closer to EU membership.
In Oct. 2012, the former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic began his defence at his war crimes trial in The Hague. Karadzic stands accused of ten charges of genocide and crimes against humanity during the war in the 1990s, including the Srebrenica massacre and the siege of Sarajevo.
2014 Brings Worst Flooding in a Century
In May 2014, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina were hit with the heaviest rains and flooding in over a century. Electricity was lost in several towns and villages. At least 44 people were killed in the flooding, and authorities believed that the death toll could rise. Serbia's Prime Minister Aleksander Vucic declared a state of emergency for the whole country. During a news conference, Vucic said, "This is the greatest flooding disaster ever. Not only in the past 100 years; this has never happened in Serbia's history."
In Bosnia, rivers surpassed record levels and army helicopters had to evacuate dozens stranded in their homes in the town of Maglaj. Authorities could not reach Doboj, a town in northern Bosnia, because all roads leading to the town were washed out. The government sent troops to central and eastern towns where thousands had to be evacuated, their homes destroyed by the floods. Sarajevo meteorologist Zeljko Majstorovic said, "This is the worst rainfall in Bosnia since 1894, when weather measurements started to be recorded."
In Nov. 2014, the new presidency took office. Mladen Ivanić was named chairman of the presidency. Dragan Čović and Bakir Izetbegović would serve with him as members of the presidency. Three months later, Denis Zvizdic was named prime minister.
Federation Elects New Entity
In Feb. 2015, the Federation parliament confirmed Marinko Cavara, of the Croatian Democratic Union, as federation president. Melika Mahmutbegovic, from the Bosniak Party of Democratic Action, and Milan Dunovic, from the Democratic Front, were also confirmed as Bosniak and Serb vice presidents.
The appointments were another big step by the country towards forming governments. Having a Federation entity would now enable a state government, called the Council of Ministers, to be formed. "We will soon have a government and start solving the accumulated problems," Cavara said after his confirmation.
On July 17, 2015, Dragan Čović became chairman of the presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, succeeding Mladen Ivanić. Along with Bakir Izetbegović, Ivanić would serve as a member of the presidency, a three-member body which serves as head of state collectively.
See also Encyclopedia: Bosnia and Herzegovina
U.S. State Dept.
Country Notes: Bosnia and Herzegovina
Agency for Statistics
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