The Yugoslav republic that became 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. Other important cities are Banja Luka, Tuzla, and Zenica. Lying mostly in the Dinaric Alps, the nation has no coastal ports. The Sava (and its tributaries) and the Neretva are the chief rivers; there are river ports on the Sava. Much of the area is forested, and timber is an important product of Bosnia. Much of Herzegovina's terrain is denuded.
The ethnically diverse population speaks Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian (all dialects of Serbo-Croatian). 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 formed a complex patchwork, but civil war and the flight of refugees forcibly segregated much of the population. Some inhabitants have gradually returned to their pre-conflict places of residence since the fighting's end.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.