Bosnia and Herzegovina occupies the area between historical Croatia-Slavonia to the north, Dalmatia to the south, and Serbia and Montenegro to the east/southeast. Populated in ancient times by Thracians, Illyrians, Celts, with Greek colonies since 400 BC , the area was taken over by the Romans around 168 BC . However, it took the Romans some one hundred and fifty years to gain control of the entire area, which they called Dalmatia Province. The most difficult aspect of their occupation was getting past the coastal cities to build roads to rich mining sites in the interior, which still maintained its native, Illyrian character in resistance to pressures to Romanize. Eventually, many Romanized Illyrians became important leaders in the Roman armies and administration and some even became emperors. The division of the Roman Empire into the western and eastern halves in AD 395 found Bosnia as the frontier land of the western half, since the dividing line ran south from Sirmium on the Sava river along the Drina River to Skadar Lake by the Adriatic coast.
Slavic tribes have been raiding and settling in the Balkan area in large numbers since the 5th century ad, moving in slowly from their original lands east of the Carpathian Mountains. These early Slavic settlers were joined in the 7th century AD by Croatian and Serbian tribes invited by Byzantine Emperor Heraclius to help him fight the Avars. The area of Bosnia and Herzegovina became the meeting ground of Croats (western area) and Serbs (eastern area). As medieval Bulgarians, Croatians, and Serbians developed their first states, Bosnia became a battleground among them and the Byzantine Empire. Christianization of the area was completed by the ninth century, when most of the Bosnian area came under the influence of Rome and Croats became Catholic, while most Serbs fell under the influence of the Byzantine Empire and became Eastern Orthodox.
The Bosnian area between the 9th and 11th centuries was essentially under Croatian influence when not conquered by Bulgarians, Serbs, or Byzantium. After Hungary and Croatia effected their royal union in AD 1102, Hungary took over Bosnia and the Dalmatian cities in 1136. Bosnia was then ruled by Croatian "Bans" under joint Hungarian-Croatian sovereignty. When the soldiers supplied by Ban Borić (r.1150–1167) to the Hungarian Army were defeated by Byzantium in 1167 at Zemun, Bosnia came under Byzantine rule. Hungary renewed its claim to Bosnia in 1185, during Ban Kulin's reign (1180–1204), which was marked by his independence from Hungary, partly due to the inaccessibility of its mountainous terrain.
Geography itself was an incentive to the local autonomy of Bosnia's individual regions of Podrina, Central Bosnia, Lower Bosnia, and Hum (today's Herzegovina). Each region had its own local hereditary nobility and customs, and was divided into districts ("zupas"). The typical Bosnian family of this period had possession of its land without dependence on a feudal relationship to prince or king, as was the case in much of Europe. Bosnia was nominally Catholic under the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Dubrovnik, who would consecrate a Bishop of Bosnia, usually from local Bosnian priests. These Bosnian Catholics used a Slavic liturgy and a modified cyrillic alphabet called "Bosanica" and had no knowledge of Latin. The region of Hum, on the other hand, was settled by Serbs in the interior, was mixed Orthodox and Catholic in the coastal area and mostly ruled by princes of the Serbian dynasty (Nemanja) until 1326.
The Catholic Church in Bosnia was isolated from the coastal areas and had developed its own Slavic liturgy and practices. These customs were suspect to the Latin hierarchy in both Hungary and the coastal cities. Ignorance of the language and customs of simple people and poor communications generated rumors and accusations of heresy against the Bosnian Church and
Ban Kulin, its supposed protector. Kulin called a Church Council in 1203 at Bolino Polje that declared its loyalty to the Pope and renounced errors in its practices. Reports of heresy in Bosnia persisted, possibly fanned by Hungary, and caused visits by Papal legates in the 1220s. By 1225 the Pope was calling on the Hungarians to launch a crusade against the Bosnia heretics. In 1233, the native Bishop of Bosnia was removed and a German Dominican appointed to replace him. In spite of Ban Ninoslav's (1233–1250) renunciation of the "heresy," the Hungarians undertook a crusade in 1235–41, accompanied by Dominicans who were already erecting a cathedral in Vrhbosna (today's Sarajevo) in 1238. The Hungarians used the crusade to take control of most of Bosnia, but had to retreat in 1241 because of the Tartars attack on Hungary. This allowed the Bosnians to regain their independence and in 1248 the Pope sent a neutral team (a Franciscan and a Bishop from the coastal town of Senj) to investigate the situation but no report is extant.
The Hungarians insisted that the Bosnian Church, which they suspected of practicing dualist, Manichaeic beliefs tied to the Bogomils of Bulgaria and the French Cathars, be subjected to the Archbishop of Kalocsa in Hungary, who it was thought would intervene to end these heretical practices. In 1252, the Pope obliged. However, no Bishop was sent to Bosnia itself—only to Djakovo in Slavonia—so this act had no impact on the Bosnian Church. The crusades against the Bosnian Church caused a deep animosity towards the Hungarians that in the long run weakened Bosnian's determination to resist the invasion of the Islamic Turks. Thus the Bosnian Church that professed to be loyal to Catholicism, even though it continued in its practice of ascetic and rather primitive rituals by its Catholic monastic order, was pushed into separation from Rome.
Around 1288, Stjepan Kotroman became Ban of the Northern Bosnia area. In his quest to consolidate all of Bosnia under his rule, though, he was challenged by the Šubić family of Croatia, who had taken over Western Bosnia. Paul I Šubić then expanded his family's area of control, becoming Ban of Bosnia and later, in 1305, Ban of All Bosnia. However, the power of the Šubić family declined in subsequent years, and Kotroman's son Stjepan Kotromanić was able to take control of Central Bosnia by 1318, serving as a vassal of the Croatian Ban of Bosnia, Mladen Šubić. Kotromanić then allied himself with Charles Robert, King of Hungary, to defeat Mladen Šubić, helping Kotromanić to consolidate his control over Bosnia, the Neretva River Delta, and over Hum, which he took in 1326 but lost in 1350 to Dušan the Great of Serbia. In recognition of the role the Hungarians had played in his consolidation of power in Bosnia, Ban Kotromanić gave his daughter Elizabeth into marriage to King Louis of Hungary in 1353, the year of his death.
Raised in the Orthodox faith, Kotromanić was converted to Catholicism by Franciscan fathers, an order he had allowed into Bosnia in 1342. The Franciscans concentrated their efforts at conversion on the members of the Bosnian Church (or "Bogomili") and, by 1385, had built some 35 monasteries, four in Bosnia itself. Since most Franciscans were Italian and did not know the Slavic language, their effectiveness was not as great as it could have been and it was concentrated in the towns where numerous non-Bosnians had settled to ply their trades. During this period silver and other mines were opened which were administered by the townspeople of Dubrovnik. This influx of commerce helped in the development of prosperous towns in key locations and customs duties from increased trade enriched Bosnian nobles. A whole new class of native craftsmen developed in towns where foreign colonies also prospered and interacted with the native population, thus raising Bosnia's overall cultural level.
Kotromanić's heir was his nephew Tvrtko (r.1353–91) who would become the greatest ruler of Bosnia. Tvrtko could not command the loyalty of the nobles at first, however, and he soon lost the western part of Hum (1357) to Hungary as the dowry promised to King Louis of Hungary when he married Elizabeth, Kotromanić's daughter. But by 1363, Tvrtko had grown powerful enough to repel Hungarian attacks into Northern Bosnia. In 1366 Tvrtko fled to the Hungarian Court, having been unable to repress a revolt by his own nobles, and with Hungarian help regained his lands in 1367. In 1373 he obtained the upper Drina and Lim Rivers region. In 1377 he was crowned King of Bosnia and Serbia (his grandmother was a Nemanja) at the Mileševo monastery where Saint Sava, the founder of the Serbian Orthodox Church, was buried. Between 1378 and 1385, Tvrtko also gained control of the coastal territory of Trebinje and Konavli near Dubrovnik, along with the port city of Kotor. In 1389, Tvrtko sent his troops to support the Serbian armies of Prince Lazar and Vuk Branković at the legendary Battle of Kosovo Polje. The battle itself was a draw but it exhausted the Serbs' capability to resist the further Turkish invasions. The Turks retreated, having suffered the death of Sultan Murad I, assassinated by a Serbian military leader, and Tvrtko's commander at Kosovo claimed victory. Having sent such a message to Italy, Tvrtko was hailed as a savior of Christendom. He had made a first step towards a possible unification of Bosnia and Serbian lands, but the Turks, and then his own death in 1391, made it impossible.
Bosnia did not disintegrate after Tvrtko's death, but was held together through a Council of the key nobles. The Council elected weak kings to maintain their own power and privileges. Tvrtko had no legitimate descendants so his cousin Dabiša (r.1391–95) was elected, followed by his widow Helen of Hum (r.1395–98), and then Stjepan Ostoja (r.1398–1404), opposed by Tvrtko II (r.1404–09), probably Tvrtko I's illegitimate son. Between 1404 and 1443, Bosnia witnessed civil wars between factions of the nobles taking opposite sides in the Hungarian wars of succession. Thus Stjepan Ostoja was returned to the throne from 1409 to 1418, followed by Stjepan Ostojić (r.1418–21), then Tvrtko II again (r.1421–43). During this period the Turks participated in Bosnian affairs as paid mercenaries, through their own raids, and by taking sides in the struggles for the Bosnian throne. The Turks supported Tvrtko II, who managed to rule for over twenty years by recognizing the sovereignty of both the Hungarians and Turks, and playing one against the other. After the Turks' conquest of Serbia in 1439 made them direct neighbors of Bosnia along the Drina River, Turkish raids into Bosnia increased. The Ottomans assumed a key role in internal Bosnian affairs and became the mediator for Bosnian nobles' quarrels. The Bosnian nobles and their Council clung to their opposition to a centralized royal authority, even though it could have mounted a stronger defense against Hungarians and Turks. Thus Bosnia grew ever weaker with the skillful maneuvering of the Turks. Twenty years after Tvrtko II's death, in 1443, the Turks conquered an exhausted Bosnia with a surprise campaign.
Herzegovina (named after the ruler of Hum, Stefan Vukcić who called himself Herzeg/Duke) was occupied by the Turks gradually by 1482, and the two regions were subject to the Ottoman Empire for the next 400 years until the 1878 takeover by Austria.
The mass conversion of Bosnian Christians to Islam, a rather unique phenomenon in European history, is explained by two schools of thought. The traditional view recognizes the existence of a strong "Bogomil" heresy of dualism and social protest. These Bosnian Christians, having been persecuted by both Catholic and Orthodox Churches and rulers, welcomed the Ottomans and easily converted in order to preserve their land holdings. In doing so, they became trusted Ottoman soldiers and administrators. The other school of thought denies the existence of a strong and influential "Bogomil" heresy, but defines the Bosnian Christian church as a nativistic, anti-Hungarian, loosely organized religion with a Catholic theological background and simple, peasant-based practices supported by its monastic order. The rulers/kings of Bosnia were Catholic (with the single exception of Ostoja) and very tolerant of the Orthodox and so-called Bosnian religions. However, these religious organizations had very few priests and monks, and therefore were not very strong. The Bosnian Church was practically eliminated in 1459 through conversions to official Catholicism, or the forced exile of its leadership. Thus, by the time of the Turkish conquest, the Bosnian Church had ceased to exist and the allure of privileged status under the Ottomans was too strong for many to resist.
Bosnia and Herzegovina was ruled by a "Pasha" or "Vizier" appointed by the Sultan and assisted by a Chancellor, supreme justice, and treasurer, each heading his own bureaucracy, both central and spread into eight districts ("Sandzaks"). Justice was administered by a "Khadi" who was both prosecutor and judge using the Koran for legal guidance, thus favoring Muslim subjects. Catholics, who were outside the established Orthodox and Jewish communities represented by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch and Chief Rabbi in Constantinople, were particularly exposed to arbitrary persecutions. In spite of all this, communities of followers of the Orthodox (Serbian) Church and Catholic (Croatian) Church survived into the late 19th century when in 1878 Austria obtained the authority to occupy Bosnia and Herzegovina, putting an end to four centuries of Ottoman rule. The Ottomans introduced in Bosnia and Herzegovina their administration, property concepts, and customs. The adherents to Islam were the ruling class, regardless of their national or ethnic backgrounds. Christian peasants practically became serfs to Muslim landlords while in the towns civil and military administrators had control over an increasingly Muslim population. Large numbers of Bosnians fled the Turkish takeover and settled in Venetian-occupied coastal areas where many continued the fight against the Turks as "Uskoki" raiders. Others emigrated north or west into Slavonia and Croatia and were organized as lifetime soldiers along military regions ("Krajina") in exchange for freemen status, land, and other privileges. On the Bosnian side, Christians were not required to enter military service, but the so-called "blood tax" took a heavy toll by turning boys forcibly into Muslim "Janissaries"—professional soldiers converted to Islam who would generally forget their origins and become oppressors of the Sultan's subjects. Girls were sent to harems. Taxation became more and more oppressive, leading to revolts by the Christian peasantry that elicited bloody repressions.
Historically both Croats and Serbs have competed for control over Bosnia. The Croats, who had included Bosnia in their medieval kingdom, could not effectively continue their rule once joined with the more powerful Hungarians in their royal union. The Serbs, on the other hand, were assisted by Hungary in their expansion at the expense of the Byzantine Empire. Later, they also received Hungarian support in their resistance to Turkish inroads and therefore could not invest their energies in Bosnia, in their view a "Hungarian" territory. Thus Bosnia was able to assert its own autonomy and individuality, but did not evolve into a separate nation. With the Austrian occupation, however, a new period began marked by a search for a Bosnian identity, supported by Austria who had an interest in countering the national unification ambitions of both Croats and Serbs.
The population of Bosnia and Herzegovina was divided into three major religious-ethnic groups: Croatian Catholics, Serbian Orthodox, and Bosnian Muslims. With the disappearance of the Bosnian Church just before the Ottoman occupation in 1463, most Bosnians were Croatian and Catholic, with a Serbian Orthodox population concentrated in Eastern Herzegovina and along the Drina River frontier with Serbia. The Serbs were mostly peasants, many of whom became serfs to Muslim landlords. Their priests, who were generally poorly educated, lived as peasants among them. Serbian urban dwellers, insignificant in number at first, grew to be an important factor by the late Ottoman period and developed their own churches and schools in the 19th century. Crafts and commerce were the main occupations of the new Serbian middle class.
Croats were also mostly peasants and, like the Serbs, became serfs to Muslim landlords. Members of the Franciscan order lived among the peasants, even though they also had built several monasteries in urban centers. There was almost no Croat middle class at the start of the Austrian period and the Catholic clergy was generally its advocate.
The Muslim group consisted of three social subgroups: the elites, the peasants, and urban lower classes. Most Muslims were peasants, but they were free peasants with a standard of living not better than that of the Christian serf-peasants. The Muslim "Hodzas" (priests) lived among the peasants as peasants themselves. The second subgroup consisted of merchants, craftsmen and artisans and were mostly concentrated in towns. Together with the urban lower classes, these two groups made up the Muslim majorities in most towns by 1878. The members of the Muslim elites were mostly religious functionaries, landowners, and commercial entrepreneurs, all favored by Islamic laws and traditions. Following the 1878 occupation, Austria recognized the right of Turkish functionaries to keep their posts, the right of Muslims to be in communication with their religious leaders in the Ottoman Empire, the right of Turkish currency to circulate in Bosnia, and also promised to respect all traditions and customs of the Bosnian Muslims. The Austrian approach to the administration of Bosnia and Herzegovina was close to the British colonial model that retained the existing elites and cultural individuality while gradually introducing Western administrative and education models.
Bosnia and Herzegovina was divided by the Turks into six administrative regions that were confirmed by Austria: Sarajevo, Travnik, Bihać, Donja Tuzla, Banja Luka, and Mostar (Herzegovina). Each was headed by a regional supervisor. Participation in cultural and religious organizations was encouraged, while engaging in politics was prohibited. The Austrians promoted a policy of equality between Christians and Muslims, banned organizations of an open political purpose, and prohibited the use of national names (Serb and Croat) for public institutions. At the same time, educational institutions designed to promote loyalty to Bosnia (and Austria) as such were encouraged. Censorship and other means were used to insulate Bosnians from the influence of their Croatian and Serbian conationals across the borders. By terminating the earlier Muslim secular/religious unity, many administrative and judicial functions were no longer carried out by the Muslim elites, but were instead presided over by the Austrian bureaucracy and judiciary, though a separate Muslim Judiciary was continued. The Muslim landowners lost some privileges but were able to retain their land and the system of serfdom was allowed to continue.
A widespread and important institution supporting Muslim cultural life was the "Vakif" (Vakuf in Serbian/Croatian). The Vakuf was a revenue-producing property set up and administered as a family foundation for the support of specified causes. Once set up, a Vakuf could not be sold, bequeathed, or divided and was exempt from normal taxes. In 1878 it was estimated that one-fourth to one-third of usable land in Bosnia was tied to Vakufs. The administration of Vakufs was lax and open to much manipulation and abuse. The Austrian administration was able to establish effective controls over the Vakuf system by 1894 through a centralized commission and the involvement of prominent Muslims in the administration of Vakuf revenues in support of Islamic institutions.
The continuation of serfdom by the Austrian authorities was a deep disappointment for the peasants that were eagerly expecting emancipation. Abuses led to peasant revolts until the Austrians introduced cash payments of the tithe (one tenth of harvest due to the state) and the appraising of harvest value as basis for payment in kind (one third) to the landlord. A land-registry system was instituted in 1884, and landowners that could not prove legal ownership lost title to some properties. This policy generated wide discontent among Muslim landowners. Another cause of frequent disorders were cases of religious conversions. Under Muslim law, a Muslim convert to another faith was to be executed (this penalty was later eased to banishment). The Austrian policy of confessional equality required a freedom of religious conversion without any penalty and a conversion statute was issued in 1891.
The general aim of the Austrian administration was to guide the development of a coequal confessional society that would focus its efforts on cultural and economic progress without political and national assertiveness. Benjamin von Kallay, the first Austrian Chief Administrator for Bosnia and Herzegovina wanted to avoid anything that could lead to the creation of a separate Muslim nation in Bosnia. On the other hand, he was determined to insulate Bosnians from external developments in the South Slavic areas. Such a position was unrealistic, however, since all of the main groups—Serbs, Croats, and Muslims—identified themselves with their own national/religious groups in the neighboring areas and had developed intense cultural/political relationships with them. Serbs looked at Serbia's successes and hoped for unification with their motherland. Croats followed closely the Croatian-Hungarian tensions and hoped likewise for their unification. The Muslim community, meanwhile, struggled for its own cultural/religious autonomy within a Bosnia that still recognized the Ottoman Sultan's sovereignty and looked to him for assistance.
The unilateral annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina to Austria in 1908 exacerbated Austria's relations with Serbia (and almost caused a war) and with the Hungarian half of the Hapsburg Crown that opposed the enlargement of the Slavic population of Austria-Hungary. Serbia's victories in the Balkan wars added fuel to the "Yugoslav" movement among the South Slavs of Austria, including Bosnia and Herzegovina. Here the Austrian administration countered the growing "Yugoslav" assertiveness with a "divide and rule" initiative of developing a separate "Bosnian" national consciousness which they hoped would tie together Serbs, Croats, and Muslims. All nationalist movements use elements of history to develop their own mythology to unite their members. Thus, the medieval Bosnian kingdom was the basis for development of a Bosnian national consciousness. It was opposed by most Serbs and Croats, who awaited unification with Serbia or Croatia, but gave some sense of security to the more isolated Muslim Bosnian community. Already by the beginning of the 20th century, separate ethnic organizations and related political associations had to be allowed. The 1908 annexation led to the promulgation of a constitution, legal recognition of political parties, and a Bosnian Parliament in 1910. The internal political liberalization then allowed the Austrian administration to concentrate on the repression of student radicals, internal and external terrorists, and other such perceived threats to their rule.
The Muslim community was split internally, with a leadership dominated by landowners and weakened by the forced emigration to Turkey of its top leaders. It finally came together in 1906 and formed the Muslim National Organization ("Muslimanska Narodna Organizacija") as its political party, with the blessing of its émigré leaders in Istanbul. Intense negotiations with the Austrian administration produced agreements on religious and cultural autonomy as well as landowners' rights. The latter were a preeminent concern, and landowners were able to preserve their ownership rights based on Ottoman law and the peasants' payments of compulsory dues. The religious autonomy of the Muslim faith was assured by having the nominees for the top offices confirmed by the Sultan's religious head upon request by the Austrian Embassy in Istanbul. The same process was also used in matters of religious dogma and law.
Cultural autonomy for Muslims was affirmed through the streamlining of the preexisting "vakuf" system into local, regional, and central assemblies responsible for the operation of the "vakufs" and the related educational system. Overall, the Muslims of Bosnia had achieved their objectives: preserving their large landholdings with peasants still in a quasi-serfdom condition; assuring their cultural autonomy; and retaining access to the Sultan, head of a foreign country, in matters of their religious hierarchies. Politically, the Muslim National Organization participated in the first parliament as part of the majority supportive of the Austrian government.
Serbs and Croats had also formed political organizations, the nature of which reflected Bosnia's peculiar ethnic and sociopolitical conditions. The Serbian National Organization ("Srpska Narodna Organizacija") was founded in 1907 as a coalition of three factions. The Croatian National Community ("Hrvatska Narodna Zajednica") was formed in 1908 by liberal Croat intellectuals, followed in 1910 by the Croatian Catholic Association ("Hrvatska Katolicka Udruga"). A cross-ethnic Social Democratic party, formed in 1909, failed to win any seats in the Parliament. A Muslim Progressive Party, formed in 1908, found hardly any support even after changing its name to the Muslim Independent Party. The Muslims were more conservative and were opposed to the agrarian reform demanded by the Serbs and Croats, who each continued to favor an association or unification with their respective "Mother Country." Croats asserted the Croatian character of Bosnia based on its Croatian past, while Serbs just as adamantly claimed its Serbian character and supported Serbia's "Greater Serbia" policies.
Given the demographics of Bosnia and Herzegovina (1910 census: Serbian Orthodox, 43%; Croat Catholics, 23%; Muslims, 32%) each side needed the support of the Muslims who, though pressured to declare themselves Serbs or Croats, very seldom would do so and would rather keep their own separate identity. Up until the Balkan wars, Muslims and Serbs would support one another hoping for some kind of political autonomy. Croats advocated unification with Croatia and a trialist reorganization of the Hapsburg Monarchy, giving the united South Slavs a coequal status with Austrians and Hungarians. Any cooperation by the Muslims was predicated on support for the continuation of serfdom. This stance prevented cooperation with the Croatian Catholic Association, which insisted on agrarian reform and the termination of serfdom.
With the Serbian victories and Ottoman defeat in the Balkan wars, Serbs became more assertive and Croats more willing to cooperate with them in the growing enthusiasm generated by the idea of "Yugoslavism." A parliamentary majority of Serbs and Croats could have effected the liberation of the peasants in 1913 but the Hungarians opposed it. The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand on 28 June 1914, and World War I, combined to make the issue moot when the Parliament was adjourned. The assassination of the Archduke was apparently the work of members of the "Young Bosnia" students association supported (unofficially) by Serbia through its extremist conspiratorial associations, the "Black Hand" and the "Serbian National Defense." The Austrian ultimatum to Serbia was extremely harsh but Serbia met all the conditions that did not violate its sovereignty. Austria nevertheless declared war and immediately attacked Serbia. The Serbian community of Bosnia and Herzegovina was subjected to a regime of terror and indiscriminate executions by the Austrian authorities. Serbian leaders were subjected to trials, court martial proceedings, and infamous concentrations camps where internees died of epidemics and starvation.
Throughout World War I, Bosnians fought in Austrian units, particularly on the Italian front until Austria's surrender. The Bosnian National Council decided to unite with the Kingdom of Serbia, as Vojvodina did and the Montenegrin assembly did on 24 November 1918. On 27 November 1918 the delegation from the Zagreb-based National Council of the Slovenes, Croats, and Serbs also requested unification with Serbia of the Slovene, Croat, and Serbian lands of Austria-Hungary. Following the Declaration of Union on 1 December 1918, a provisional government was set made up of representatives of Serbia and the National Council, with other groups added later. A provisional Assembly was also convened consisting of members of the Serbian Parliament, nominees from the National Council and other regional Assemblies such as Bosnia and Herzegovina and Vojvodina. In November 1920 a Constituent Assembly was elected and functioned as both the legislature and constitutional convention. Bosnian Serbs supported the Serbian Agrarian Party, while two Muslim parties, the National Muslim Organization from Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Dzemijet Party of the Kosovo and Macedonia Muslims had seats in the assembly. Croats, on the other hand, joined the mainstream parties of Croatia.
By joining the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes in 1918, Bosnia and Herzegovina ceased to exist as a distinct political/historical unit, particularly since the heads of local governments were appointed by and directly accountable to the central government in Belgrade. After ten years of a tumultuous parliamentary history culminating in the assassination of Croatian deputies, King Alexander dissolved parliament and disbanded all political parties, establishing a royal dictatorship in 1929. He then reorganized the country into a "Yugoslavia" made up of nine administrative regions ("Banovine") named after rivers. What once was Bosnia and Herzegovina was split among four of the new units (Vrbaska, Drinska, Primorska, and Zetska). Serb and Croat peasants were finally freed from their feudal obligations to Muslim landlords through the agrarian reforms decreed in 1919 and slowly implemented over the next twenty years. Except for Bosnia and Herzegovina and Dalmatia, land held by ex-enemies (Austrians, Hungarians, Turks) were expropriated without compensation and redistributed to the peasants—1.75 million of them plus 2.8 million dependents. As a result, the average size of agricultural holdings fell to 15 acres, causing inefficiencies and very low yields per acre. Peasants were forced to borrow even to buy food and necessities. They fell deeply in debt, both to local shopkeepers who charged 100– 200% interest and to banks that charged exorbitant rates up to 50%. In comparison, peasant cooperatives in Slovenia used single digit interest rates.
Politically, the Muslim Organization, as a small party, allied itself mostly with the Slovene People's Party and either the Serbian Democratic or Radical parties in order to participate in a series of governments before the 1929 royal dictatorship was implemented. The Muslim Organization's main goals were to obtain the best possible compensation for land expropriated from Bosnia's Muslim landowners and to preserve the Muslims' cultural identity. In 1932, Muslim leaders joined the Croats, Slovenes, and some Liberal Serbs in issuing the Zagreb manifesto calling for an end to the King's dictatorship and for democratization and regional autonomies. For this the centralist regime interned and imprisoned several of the leaders and instituted wider repressions. Following the assassination of King Alexander in 1934 in Marseilles, France, the Croat Peasants Party was joined by the Muslims, Serbian Agrarians, and Serbian Democrats in opposition to the Centralists, winning 38% of the votes in spite of the Government's intimidating tactics. With the opposition refusing to take part in the Parliament a new government was formed by the Serbian Radicals with the inclusion of the Muslims and the Slovene People's Party.
This new coalition government lasted until 1939, but was never able to resolve the "Croatian" autonomy issue. In addition, while under the leadership of Milan Stojadinović, Yugoslavia's foreign policy moved the country closer to Italy and Germany. Meanwhile a growing consensus had developed that the "Croatian" question had to be solved, particularly in view of the aggressive ambitions of Yugoslavia's neighbors. Thus, the Regent Prince Paul and Dr. Vladimir Maćek, leader of the Croatian Peasant Party, worked with the Minister of Social Policy, Dragiša Cvetković, on an agreement establishing a Croatian "Banovina" made up of the historical regions of Croatia-Slavonia and Dalmatia along with parts of Vojvodina, Srem, and Bosnia. The president of the senate, Monsignor Anton Korošec (also leader of the Slovene People's Party), engineered the resignation of five ministers, two Slovenes, two Muslim, and Dragiša Cvetković. Regent Paul then called on Cvetkovic Dr. Mać to form a new government. Maćek became Vice-Premier and Ivan Subašić was named "Ban" of the autonomous Croatian "Banovina," which was given its own "Sabor" (Parliament). The Croatian parties considered this development as a positive first phase towards their goal of an independent Croatia that would incorporate all of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Serbian centralists, on the other hand, saw this phase as a threat to their own designs of incorporating Bosnia and Herzegovina (and Serb populated areas of Croatia) into a "Greater Serbia" unit of Yugoslavia. Thus, on the eve of World War II, the stage was set for a direct confrontation between the independent minded Croatians and centralistic Serbs. The Muslims of Bosnia were caught in their crossfire.
Germany, Italy, and their allies Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria, attacked Yugoslavia on 6 April 1941 and divided the country among themselves. The Croatian terrorist Ustaša organization collaborated with the aggressors and was allowed to proclaim an Independent State of Croatia on 10 April 1941. This new state incorporated the old Croatian "Banovina" in addition to all of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Of its total population of 6.3 million, one third were Serbian and 750,000 were Muslim. Once entrenched in power, the Ustaša troops began implementing their plan for "cleansing" their Greater Croatia of the Serbian population by the use of terror, mass deportations, and genocidal massacres later condemned by the Nürnberg Court.
The Serbian population responded in kind with its Cetnik formations and by joining the Partisan resistance movement led by Josip Broz-Tito, head of the Yugoslav Communist Party. Bosnia and Herzegovina suffered terrible losses in several German-led offensives against Bosnian resistance, and in the internecine civil war among Communist dominated Partisans, nationalist Cetniks (mostly Serbs) and Croatian Ustaše and home guard units. The Muslim population in particular was caught in the middle between the Ustaše and the Serbian Cetniks. The Ustaše considered the Muslims of Croatian origin and expected them to collaborate with the Ustaša regime. The Serbian Cetniks, on the other hand, viewed most Muslims as the hated Turks and Ustaša collaborators, and therefore engaged in slaughters of Muslims, particularly in Eastern Bosnia around the cities of Foča and Goražde.
The political programs of the Cetniks and Partisans were a reflection of the old centralist (Serbian) hegemony and the Federalist positions of the prewar opposition parties. Thus the Partisan resistance, though aiming at a revolutionary power grab, offered a federated Yugoslavia made up of individual republics for each national group—Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, newly recognized Macedonians and Montenegrins. To avoid a battle over a Serbian-Croatian border issue, Bosnia and Herzegovina was resurrected as a buffer area between Serbia and Croatia. It would also allow (again) for the cultural autonomy of the Muslim population. The Allied and Soviet support the Partisans received enabled them to prevail, and they organized Socialist Yugoslavia as a Federative People's Republic with Bosnia and Herzegovina as one of the constituent republics approximately within the boundaries of the former Austrian province.
When Soviet armies entered Yugoslavia from Romania and Bulgaria in the fall of 1944—Marshal Tito with them—military units and civilians that had opposed the partisans had no choice but retreat to Austria or Italy to save themselves. Among them were the "Cetnik" units of Draza Mihajlovic, and "Home guards" from Serbia, Croatia, and Slovenia that had been under German control but were pro-Allies in their convictions and hopes. Also in retreat were the units of the Croatian "Ustaša" that had collaborated with Italy and Germany in order to achieve (and control) an "independent" greater Croatia, and in the process had committed terrible and large-scale massacres of Serbs, Jews, Gypsies, and others who opposed them. Of course, Serbs and Partisans counteracted and a fratricidal civil war raged over Yugoslavia, pitting Croats against Serbs, Communists against Nationalists. These skirmishes not only wasted countless lives, they used up the energy and property that could have been used instead against the occupiers. After the end of the war, the Communist led forces took control of all of Yugoslavia and instituted a violent dictatorship that committed systematic crimes and human rights violations on an unexpectedly large scale. Thousands upon thousands of their former opponents were returned from Austria by British military authorities only to be tortured and massacred by Partisan executioners.
Such was the background for the formation of the second Yugoslavia as a Federative People's Republic of five nations—Slovenes, Croats, Serbs, Macedonians, and Montenegrins—and Bosnia and Herzegovina as a buffer area with its mix of Serb, Muslim, and Croat populations. The problem of large Hungarian and Muslim Albanian populations in Serbia was solved by creating the autonomous region of Vojvodina (Hungarian minority) and Kosovo (Muslim Albanian majority) to assure their political and cultural development. Tito attempted a balancing act to satisfy most of the nationality issues that were carried over unresolved from the first Yugoslavia, but failed to satisfy anyone.
Compared to pre-1941 Yugoslavia where Serbs enjoyed their controlling role, the numerically stronger Serbs in the new Yugoslavia had "lost" the Macedonian area they considered "Southern Serbia"; they had lost the opportunity to incorporate Montenegro into Serbia; they had lost direct control over the Hungarian minority in Vojvodina and Muslim Albanians of Kosovo (viewed as the cradle of the Serbian nation since the Middle Ages); they could not longer incorporate into Serbia the large Serbian populated areas of Bosnia; and they had not obtained an autonomous region for the large minority Serbian population within the Croatian Republic. The Croats, while gaining back from Hungary the Medjumurje area and from Italy the cities of Rijeka (Fiume), Zadar (Zara), some Dalmatian islands, and the Istrian Peninsula, had "lost" the Srem area to Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, which had been part of the World War II "independent" Croatian state under the Ustaša leadership. In addition, the Croats were confronted with a deeply resentful Serbian minority that became ever more pervasive in public administrative and security positions. The Slovenes had obtained back from Hungary the Prekmurje enclave and from Italy most of the Slovenian lands taken over by Italy following World War I (Julian Region and Northern Istria). Italy retained control over the "Venetian Slovenia" area, the Gorizia area, and the port city of Trieste. (Trieste was initially part of the UN protected "Free Territory of Trieste," split in 1954 between Italy and Yugoslavia, with Trieste itself given to Italy.) Nor were the Slovenian claims to the southern Carinthia area of Austria satisfied. The "loss" of Trieste was a bitter pill for the Slovenes and many blamed it on the fact that Tito's Yugoslavia was, initially, Stalin's advance threat to Western Europe, thus making Western Europe and the United States more supportive of Italy.
The official position of the Marxist Yugoslav regime was that national rivalries and conflicting interests would gradually diminish through their sublimation into a new Socialist order. Without capitalism, nationalism was supposed to wither away. Therefore, in the name of their "unity and brotherhood" motto, any "nationalistic" expression of concern was prohibited and repressed by the dictatorial and centralized regime of the "League of Yugoslav Communists" acting through the "Socialist Alliance" as its mass front organization. As a constituent Republic of the Federal Yugoslavia, Bosnia and Herzegovina shared in the history of the second experiment in "Yugoslavism."
After a short postwar "coalition" government period, the elections of 11 November 1945, boycotted by the noncommunist "coalition" parties, gave the Communist-led People's Front 90% of the vote. A Constituent Assembly met on November 29 and abolished the monarchy, establishing the Federative People's Republic of Yugoslavia. In January 1946, a new constitution was adopted, based on the 1936 Soviet constitution. The Stalin-engineered expulsion of Yugoslavia from the Soviet-dominated Cominform Group in 1948 was actually a blessing for Yugoslavia after its leadership was able to survive Stalin's pressures. Survival had to be justified, both practically and in theory, by developing a "road to Socialism" based on Yugoslavia's own circumstances. This new "road map" evolved rather quickly in response to some of Stalin's accusations and Yugoslavia's need to perform a balancing act between the NATO alliance and the Soviet bloc. Having taken over all power after World War II, the Communist dictatorship under Tito pushed the nationalization of the economy through a policy of forced industrialization, to be supported by the collectivization of agriculture.
The agricultural reform of 1945–46 (limited private ownership of a maximum of 35 hectares [85 acres] and a limited free market after the initial forced delivery of quotas to the state at very low prices) had to be abandoned because of the strong passive, but at times active, resistance by the peasants. The actual collectivization efforts were initiated in 1949 using welfare benefits and lower taxes as incentives along with direct coercion. But collectivization had to be abandoned by 1958 simply because its inefficiency and low productivity could not support the concentrated effort of industrial development.
By the 1950s, Yugoslavia had initiated the development of its internal trademark: self-management of enterprises through workers councils and local decision-making as the road to Marx's "withering away of the state." Following the failure of the first five-year plan (1947–51), the second five-year plan (1957–61) was completed in four years by relying on the well-established self-management system. Economic targets were set from the local to the republic level and then coordinated by a Federal Planning Institute to meet an overall national economic strategy. This system supported a period of very rapid industrial growth in the 1950s. But a high consumption rate encouraged a volume of imports, largely financed by foreign loans, far in excess of exports. In addition, inefficient and low-productivity industries were kept in place through public subsidies, cheap credit, and other artificial protective measures that led to a serious crisis by 1961.
Reforms were necessary and, by 1965, "market socialism" was introduced with laws that abolished most price controls and halved import duties while withdrawing export subsidies. After necessary amounts were left with the earning enterprise, the rest of the earned foreign currencies were deposited with the national bank and used by the state, other enterprises, or were used to assist less developed areas. Councils were given more decision-making power on investing their earnings. They also tended to vote for higher salaries in order to meet steep increases in the cost of living. Unemployment grew rapidly even though "political factories" were still subsidized. The government thus relaxed its restrictions to allow labor migration particularly to West Germany where workers were needed for its thriving economy. Foreign investment was encouraged up to 49% in joint enterprises, and barriers to the movement of people and exchange of ideas were largely removed. The role of trade unions continued to be one of transmission of instructions from government to workers, allocation of perks along with the education/training of workers, monitoring legislation, and overall protection of the self-management system. Strikes were legally neither allowed nor forbidden but—until the 1958 miners strike in Trbovlje, Slovenia—were not publicly acknowledged and were suppressed. After 1958, strikes were tolerated as an indication of problems to be resolved. Unions, however, did not initiate strikes but were expected to convince workers to go back to work.
Having survived its expulsion from the Cominform in 1948 and Stalin's attempts to take control, Yugoslavia began to develop a foreign policy independent of the Soviet Union. By mid-1949 Yugoslavia ceased its support of the Greek Communists in their civil war against the then Royalist government of Greece. In October 1949, Yugoslavia was elected to one of the nonpermanent seats on the UN Security Council and openly condemned North Korea's aggression toward South Korea. Following the "rapprochement" opening with the Soviet Union initiated by Nikita Khrushchev and his 1956 denunciation of Stalin, Tito intensified his work on developing the movement of nonaligned "third world" nations. This would become Yugoslavia's external trademark, in cooperation with Nehru of India, Nasser of Egypt, and others. With the September 1961 Belgrade summit conference of nonaligned nations, Tito became the recognized leader of the movement. The nonaligned position served Tito's Yugoslavia well by allowing Tito to draw on economic and political support from the Western powers while neutralizing any aggressiveness from the Soviet bloc. While Tito had acquiesced, reluctantly, to the 1956 Soviet invasion of Hungary for fear of chaos and its liberalizing impact on Yugoslavia, he condemned the Soviet invasion of Dubcek's Czechoslovakia in 1968, as did Romania's Ceausescu, both fearing their countries might be the next in line for "corrective" action by the Red Army and the Warsaw Pact. Just before his death on 4 May 1980, Tito also condemned the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Yugoslavia actively participated in the 1975 Helsinki Conference and agreements and the first 1977–78 review conference that took place in Belgrade, even though Yugoslavia's one-party communist regime perpetrated and condoned numerous human rights violations. Overall, in the 1970s and 1980s, Yugoslavia maintained fairly good relations with its neighboring states by playing down or solving pending disputes—such as the Trieste issue with Italy in 1975—and by developing cooperative projects and increased trade.
Ravaged by the war, occupation, resistance, and civil war losses and preoccupied with carrying out the elimination of all actual and potential opposition, the Communist government faced the double task of building its Socialist economy while rebuilding the country. As an integral part of the Yugoslav federation, Bosnia and Herzegovina was, naturally, impacted by Yugoslavia's internal and external political developments. The main problems facing communist Yugoslavia and Bosnia and Herzegovina were essentially the same as the unresolved ones under Royalist Yugoslavia. As the "Royal Yugoslavism" had failed in its assimilative efforts, so did the "Socialist Yugoslavism" fail to overcome the forces of nationalism. Bosnia and Herzegovina differs from the other republics because its area has been the meeting ground of Serbian and Croatian nationalist claims, with the Muslims as a third party, pulled to both sides. Centuries of coexistence of the three major national groups had made Bosnia and Herzegovina into a territorial maze where no boundaries could be drawn to clearly separate Serbs, Croats, and Muslims without resorting to violence and forced movements of people. The inability to negotiate a peaceful partition of Bosnia and Herzegovina between Serbia and Croatia doomed the first interwar Yugoslavia to failure. The Socialist experiment with "Yugoslavism" in post-World War II Yugoslavia was particularly relevant to the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina where the increasing incidence of intermarriage, particularly between Serbs and Croats, caused the introduction of the "Yugoslav" category with the 1961 census. By 1981 the "Yugoslav" category was selected by 1.2 million citizens, (5.4% of the total population), a large increase over the 273,077 number in 1971. Muslims, not impacted much by intermarriage, have also been recognized since 1971 as a separate "people" and numbered two million in 1981 in Yugoslavia. The 1991 census showed the population of Bosnia and Herzegovina consisting mainly of Muslims (43.7%), Serbs (31.4%), and Croats (17.3%) with 6% "Yugoslavs" out of a total population of 4,364,000.
Bosnia as a political unit has existed since at least 1150. Headed by a "Ban" in the Croatian tradition, Bosnia lasted for over 300 years with an increasing degree of independence from Hungary through King Tvrtko I and his successors until the occupation by the Ottoman Turks in 1463 (1482 for Herzegovina). Bosnia and Herzegovina was then ruled by the Turks for 415 years until 1878, and by Austria-Hungary for forty years until 1918. Bosnia and Herzegovina ceased to be a separate political unit only for the 27 years of the first Yugoslavia (1918–1945) and became again a separate unit for 47 years as one of the republics of the Federal Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia until 1992. Yet, in spite of an 800-year history of common development, the Serbs, Croats, and Muslims of Bosnia and Herzegovina never assimilated into a single nation. Bosnia was initially settled by Croats who became Catholic and then by Orthodox Serbs escaping from the Turks. Under the Turks, large numbers converted to Islam and, in spite of a common language, their religious and cultural differences kept the Serbs, Croats, and Muslims apart through history so that Bosnia and Herzegovina has been more a geographic-political notion than a unified nation.
Consequently, while the resurgent nationalism was galvanizing Croatia into an intensifying confrontation with Serbia, the Bosnian leadership had to keep an internal balance by joining one or the other side depending on its own interests. Bosnia and Herzegovina was torn between the two opposing "liberal" and "conservative/centralist" coalitions. In terms of widening civil and political liberties, Bosnia and Herzegovina usually supported in most cases the liberal group. Its own economic needs as a less developed area, however, pulled it into the conservative coalition with Serbia in order to keep the source of development funds flowing to itself, Montenegro, Macedonia, and Serbia (for the Kosovo region). Also, the "Yugoslav" framework was for Bosnia and Herzegovina an assurance against its possible, and very likely bloody, partitioning between Serbia and Croatia.
The liberal group, centered in Slovenia and Croatia, grew stronger on the basis of the deepening resentment against forced subsidizing of less-developed areas of the federation and buildup of the Yugoslav army. Finally, the increased political and economic autonomy enjoyed by the Republics after the 1974 Constitution and particularly following Tito's death in 1980, assisted in turning Tito's motto of "unity and brotherhood" into "freedom and democracy" to be achieved through either a confederated rearrangement of Yugoslavia or by complete independence of the Republics. The debate over the reforms of the 1960s had led to a closer scrutiny—not only of the economic system, but also of the decision-making process at the republic and federal levels, particularly the investment of funds to less developed areas that Slovenia and Croatia felt were very poorly managed, if not squandered. Other issues of direct impact on Bosnia and Herzegovina fueled acrimony between individual nations, such as the 1967 Declaration in Zagreb claiming a Croatian linguistic and literary tradition separate from the Serbian one, thus undermining the validity of the "Serbo-Croatian" language. Also, Kosovo Albanians and Montenegrins, along with Slovenes and Croats began to assert their national rights as superior to their rights as Yugoslav nationals.
The Eighth Congress of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia (LCY) in December 1964 acknowledged that ethnic prejudice and antagonisms existed in socialist Yugoslavia. The Congress went on record against the position that Yugoslavia's nations had become obsolete and were disintegrating into a socialist "Yugoslavism." Thus the republics, based on individual nations, became bastions of a strong Federalism that advocated the devolution and decentralization of authority from the federal to the republic level. "Yugoslav Socialist Patriotism" was at times defined as a deep feeling for one's own national identity within the socialist self-management of Yugoslavia.
Economic reforms were the other focus of the Eighth LCY Congress led by Croatia and Slovenia, with emphasis on efficiencies and local economic development decisions with profit criteria as their basis. The liberal bloc (Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, Vojvodina) prevailed over the Conservative group and the reforms of 1965 did away with central investment planning and political factories. The positions of the two blocks hardened into a national-liberal coalition that viewed the conservative, centralist group led by Serbia as the Greater Serbian attempt at majority domination.
To the conservative centralists the devolution of power to the republic level meant the subordination of the broad "Yugoslav" and "Socialist" interests to the narrower "nationalist" interest of republic national majorities. With the Croat League of Communists taking the liberal position in 1970, nationalism was rehabilitated as long as it didn't slide into chauvinism. Thus the "Croatian Spring" bloomed and impacted all the other republics of Yugoslavia. Meanwhile, as the result of a series of 1967–68 constitutional amendments that limited federal power in favor of the republics and autonomous provinces, the Federal Government was seen by liberals more as an inter-republican problem-solving mechanism bordering on a confederacy. A network of inter-republican committees established by mid-1971 proved to be very efficient at resolving a large number of difficult issues in a short time. The coalition of liberals and nationalists in Croatia generated sharp condemnation in Serbia, where its own brand of nationalism grew stronger, but as part of a conservative-centralist alliance. Thus the liberal/federalist versus conservative/centralist opposition became entangled in the rising nationalism within each opposing bloc. The devolution of power in economic decision-making spearheaded by the Slovenes assisted in the "federalization" of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia. This resulted in a league of quasi-sovereign republican parties. Under strong prodding from the Croats, the party agreed in 1970 to the principle of unanimity for decision making that, in practice, meant a veto power for each republic. However, the concentration of economic resources in Serbian hands continued with Belgrade banks controlling half of total credits and some 80% of foreign credits. This was also combined with the fear of Serbian political and cultural domination. The Croats were particularly sensitive regarding language, alarmed by the use of the Serbian version of Serbo-Croatian as the norm with the Croatian version as a deviation. The language controversy thus exacerbated the economic and political tensions, leading to easily inflamed ethnic confrontations.
Particularly difficult was the situation in Croatia and Serbia because of issues relating to their ethnic minorities—Serbian in Croatia and Hungarian/Albanian in Serbia. Serbs in Croatia sided with the Croat conservatives and sought a constitutional amendment guaranteeing their own national identity and rights and, in the process, they challenged the "sovereignty" of the Croatian nation and state, as well as its right to self-determination, including the right to secession. The conservatives won and the amendment declared that "the Socialist Republic of Croatia [was] the national state of the Croatian nation, the state of the Serbian nation in Croatia, and the state of the nationalities inhabiting it."
Meanwhile Slovenia, not burdened by large minorities, developed a similar liberal and nationalist direction along with Croatia. This fostered an incipient separatist sentiment opposed by both the liberal and conservative party wings. Led by Stane Kavcic, head of the Slovenian government, the liberal wing gained as much political local latitude from the Federal level as possible during "Slovenian Spring" of the early 1970s. By the summer of 1971, the Serbian party leadership was pressuring President Tito to put an end to the "dangerous" development of Croatian nationalism. While Tito wavered because of his support for the balancing system of autonomous republic units, the situation quickly reached critical proportions also in terms of the direct interests of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Croat nationalists, complaining about discrimination against Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina, demanded the incorporation of Western Herzegovina into Croatia. Serbia countered by claiming Southeastern Herzegovina for itself. Croats also advanced many economic and political claims: to a larger share of their foreign currency earnings, to the issuance of their own currency, to establishment of their own national bank to negotiate foreign loans, to the printing of Croatian postage stamps, to a Croatian army and to recognition of the Croatian Sabor (Assembly) as the highest Croatian political body and, finally, to Croatian secession and complete independence.
Confronted with such intensive agitation, the liberal Croatian party leadership could not back down and did not try to restrain the public demands nor the widespread university students' strike of November 1971. This situation caused the loss of support from the liberal party wings of Slovenia and even Macedonia. At this point Tito intervened, condemned the Croatian liberal leadership on 1 December 1971 and supported the conservative wing. The liberal leadership group resigned on 12 December 1971. When Croatian students demonstrated and demanded an independent Croatia, the Yugoslav army was ready to move in if necessary. A wholesale purge of the party liberals followed, with tens of thousands expelled from the party. Key functionaries lost their positions, while several thousands were imprisoned (including Franjo Tudjman who later became president in independent Croatia). Leading Croatian nationalist organizations and their publications were closed. On 8 May 1972 the Croatian party also expelled its liberal wing leaders and the purge of nationalists continued through 1973 in Croatia, as well as in Slovenia and Macedonia. However, the issues and sentiments raised during the "Slovene and Croat Springs" of 1969–71 did not disappear. Tito and the conservatives were forced to satisfy nominally some demands and the 1974 Constitution was an attempt to resolve the strained inter-republican relations as each republic pursued its own interests over and above a conceivable overall "Yugoslav" interest. The repression of liberal-nationalist Croats was accompanied by a growing influence of the Serbian element in the Croatian Party (24% in 1980) and police force (majority), contributing to the continued persecution and imprisonment of Croatian nationalists into the 1980s.
Beginning in 1986, work began on amendments to the 1974 Constitution. When these were submitted in 1987, they created a furor, particularly in Slovenia. Opposition was strongest to the amendments that proposed creation of a unified legal system, central control of transportation and communication, centralizing the economy into a unified market, and granting more control to Serbia over its autonomous provinces of Kosovo and Vojvodina. These changes were seen as being accomplished at the expense of the individual republics. A recentralization of the League of Communists was also recommended but opposed by liberal/nationalist groups. Serbia also proposed changes to the bicameral Federal Skupština (Assembly)—replacing it with a tricameral one where deputies would no longer be elected by their republican assemblies but through a "one person, one vote" national system. Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia strongly opposed the change; they also opposed the additional Chamber of Associated Labor that would have increased the Federal role in the economy. The debates over the recentralizing amendments caused an even greater focus in Slovenia and Croatia on the concept of a confederate structure based on self-determination of sovereign states, and a multi-party democratic system as the only one that could maintain some semblance of a "Yugoslav" state.
By 1989, the relations between Slovenia and Serbia reached a crisis point, especially following the Serbian assumption of control in the Kosovo and Vojvodina provinces (as well as in Montenegro). Their leadership groups refused even to meet and Serbs began a boycott of Slovenian products, withdrew savings from Slovenian banks, and terminated economic cooperation and trade with Slovenia. Serbian President Milošević's tactics were extremely distasteful to the Slovenians and the use of force against the Albanian population of the Kosovo province worried the Slovenes (and Croats) about the possible use of force by Serbia against Slovenia itself. The tensions with Serbia convinced the Slovenian leadership of the need to take protective measures and, in September 1989, draft amendments to the Constitution of Slovenia were published. These included the right to secession, the sole right of the Slovenian legislature to introduce martial law and to control the deployment of armed forces in Slovenia. The latter was particularly needed, since the Yugoslav Army, largely controlled by a mostly Serbian/Montenegrin officer corps dedicated to the preservation of a communist system, had a self-interest in preserving the source of their own budgetary allocations of some 51% of the Yugoslav federal budget.
A last attempt at salvaging Yugoslavia was to be made as the extraordinary Congress of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia convened in January 1990 to review proposed reforms such as free multi-party elections and freedom of speech. The Slovenian delegation attempted to broaden the spectrum of reforms but was rebuffed and walked out on 23 January 1990, pulling out of the Yugoslav League. The Slovenian Communists then renamed their party the Party for Democratic Renewal. The political debate in Slovenia intensified and some nineteen parties were formed by early 1990. On 10 April 1990 the first free elections since before World War II were held in Slovenia where there still was a three-chamber Assembly: political affairs, associated labor, and territorial communities. A coalition of six newly formed democratic parties, called Demos, won 55% of the votes, with the remainder going to the Party for Democratic Renewal, the former Communists, 17%; the Socialist Party, 5%; and the Liberal Democratic Party (heir to the Slovenia Youth Organization), 15%. The Demos coalition organized the first freely elected Slovenian Government of the post-Communist era with Dr. Lojze Peterle as the Prime Minister.
Milan Kučan, former head of the League of Communists of Slovenia was elected President with 54% of the vote. His election was seen as recognition of his efforts to effect a bloodless transfer of power from a monopoly by the Communist party to a free multi-party system and his standing up to the recentralizing attempts by Serbia.
All of these developments had also a deep impact on Bosnia and Herzegovina. When the Antifascist Council of the National Liberation of Yugoslavia (AVNOJ) proclaimed the federal principle on 29 November 1943, Bosnia and Herzegovina was included as one of the constituent republics of post-World War II Yugoslavia. Muslims made up 30.9% of the population by 1948, with 45% for the Serbs and 24% for the Croats. Muslims, however, were not considered a "nation" yet, since Alexsander Ranković, Tito's close friend and chief of security, had favored an unofficial "Serbianization" policy vis-à-vis the Muslim population. Only after Ranković's dismissal in 1966 and a subsequent purge of his secret police was a real debate opened on the issue of a Muslim "nation." Serbs claimed that Muslims were Islamized Serbs, and Croats claimed that Muslims were descendants of the Croatian Bosnian Church (Bogomils) that had converted to Islam. The Muslims themselves, meanwhile, claimed their own separate identity and were recognized as equal to Serbs and Croats. They entered the 1971 census as "Muslims, in the ethnic sense."
The sense of Muslim identity grew stronger and incorporated demands for Muslim institutions parallel to the Serbian and Croatian ones. Muslims sought to define themselves as the only "true" Bosnians and thus a call to define Bosnia and Herzegovina as a "Muslim" Republic. Muslim activist groups multiplied during the 1970s and 1980s, and one such group was put on trial in April 1983 for illegally plotting the creation of a Muslim Republic. Members were sentenced to long jail terms, but given amnesty in 1988. One of the group was the 1994 president of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Alija Izetbegović.
Since the 1970s and into the late 1980s the Muslims' self-assertiveness as an ethnic community grew ever stronger and was viewed as a balancing element between Serbs and Croats. As the winds of change away from communism swept the western republics of Slovenia and Croatia in 1989 and 1990, Bosnia and Herzegovina also was preparing for multi-party elections to be held on 18 November 1990. Meanwhile, across Bosnia and Herzegovina's borders with Croatia, the Serbian population was clamoring for its own cultural and political autonomy. Serbs perceived threats from the Croatian Democratic Union, the winner in the April 1990 elections in Croatia with 205 out of 356 seats in the tricameral Croatian parliament.
By July 1990, a Bosnia and Herzegovina branch of the Croatia-based Serbian Democratic Party had become very active in the 18 Bosnian communes with Serbian majorities adjacent to the Croatia "Krajina" (border area). By the fall of 1990, the program of the Serbian Democratic Party in Croatia had advanced a plan to include the Bosnian Serbs into a joint "Krajina" state which would have a federal arrangement with Serbia proper. This arrangement, it was hoped, would undercut any thoughts of a confederation of Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Such a confederation, however, was favored by the Party of Democratic Action (Muslim) and the Croatian Democratic Union. In spite of their differences in long term goals, the three nationalist parties were committed to the continuation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and to the termination of Communist rule. On 1 August 1990, Bosnia and Herzegovina declared itself a "sovereign and democratic state." The former Communist Party became the Party of Democratic Change, while Yugoslavia's Prime Minister Marković formed the Alliance of Reform Forces that advocated his economic reforms.
The electoral results gave 87 seats in the parliament to the Muslim Party, 71 to the Serbian Party, 44 to the Croatian Democratic Union with 18 to the former Communists and 13 to the Alliance of Reform Forces. The three ethnic parties then formed a coalition government with Alija Izetbegović of the Muslim Party as President of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Meanwhile, Slovenia and Croatia had published a joint proposal in October 1990 for a confederation of Yugoslavia as a last attempt at a negotiated solution, but to no avail. The Slovenian legislature also adopted a draft constitution in October proclaiming that "Slovenia will become an independent state." On 23 December 1990, a plebiscite was held on Slovenia's "disassociation" from Yugoslavia if a confederation solution could not be negotiated within a six month period. An overwhelming majority of 89% of voters approved the secession provision and on 26 December 1990, a Declaration of Sovereignty was also adopted. All federal laws were declared void in Slovenia as of 20 February 1991, and, since no negotiated agreement was possible, Slovenia declared its independence on 25 June 1991. On 27 June 1991, the Yugoslav Army tried to seize control of Slovenia and its borders with Italy, Austria, and Hungary under the pretext that it was its constitutional duty to assure the integrity of Socialist Yugoslavia. The Yugoslav Army units were surprised by the resistance they encountered from the Slovenian "territorial guards" which surrounded Yugoslav Army tank units, isolated them, and engaged in close combat, mostly along border checkpoints. These battles ended in most cases with Yugoslav units surrendering to the Slovenian forces. Fortunately, casualties were limited on both sides, but over 3,200 Yugoslav Army soldiers surrendered and were taken prisoner. They were well treated by the Slovenes, who in a public relations coup, had the prisoners call their parents all over Yugoslavia to come to Slovenia and take their sons back home. The war in Slovenia was ended in ten days due to the intervention of the European Community, which, with the Brioni agreements of 7 July 1991, established a cease-fire, and a three-month moratorium of Slovenia's and Croatia's implementation of independence. This gave time to the Yugoslav Army to retreat from Slovenia with all its hardware and supplies by the end of October 1991.
The coalition government of Bosnia and Herzegovina had a very difficult time maintaining the spirit of ethnic cooperation won in its elections, while the situation in Slovenia and Croatia was moving to the point of no return with their declaration of independence of 25 June 1991 and the wars that followed. Particularly worrisome were the clashes in Croatia between Serbian paramilitary forces and Croatian police and the intervention of the Yugoslav Army in order to "keep the peace." Another element that worried the Bosnian government was the concentration of Yugoslav Army units in Bosnia and Herzegovina following their retreat first from Slovenia and then from Croatia. On 15 October 1991 the parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina, minus its Serbian delegation (they had walked out before the vote), approved documents providing the legal basis for the republic's eventual independence. In response to it, the Serbian Democratic Party held a plebiscite in the two-thirds of Bosnian territory under Serbian control and announced the establishment of a Serbian Republic inside Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In December 1991, the Bosnian Parliament passed a Declaration of Sovereignty and President Izetbegović submitted to the European Community an application for international recognition of Bosnia and Herzegovina as an independent nation. As required by the European Community, a referendum on independence was held on 29 February 1992. With the Serbs abstaining in opposition to the secession from Yugoslavia, Muslims and Croats approved an independent Bosnia and Herzegovina by a vote of 99.7%. In reaction to the referendum, Serbs proceeded to prepare for war in close cooperation with the Yugoslav army.
A last attempt at reaching a compromise was made at a conference in Lisbon in late February 1992, when a provisional consensus of the three parties was obtained on a draft constitutional agreement to partition Bosnia and Herzegovina into three ethnic-based "cantons." But President Izetbegović, trusting the US would not allow a Balkan war and hoping for a better deal than the proposed 44% of Bosnian territory with over 80% of the Muslim population, rejected the provisional Lisbon agreement.
On 1 March 1992 in Sarajevo a Serbian wedding party was fired upon. This was the spark that ignited armed confrontations in Sarajevo and other areas of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The breakdown of the Lisbon agreements infuriated the Bosnian Serbs who, by late March of 1992, formally established their own "Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina." The international recognition of Bosnia and Herzegovina by the European Community and the US (along with the recognition of Slovenia and Croatia) was issued on 6 April 1992, the anniversary of the 1941 Nazi invasion of Yugoslavia. This action was viewed as another affront to the Serbs, and gave more impetus to Serbian determination to oppose the further splitting of Yugoslavia that would cause the final separation of Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina from Serbia proper. The bond among the Serbs of Croatia and Bosnia with the Serbian government controlled by Slobodan Milošević, and with the Yugoslav Army was firmly cemented. The decision of Serbia, along with the Serbs of Bosnia and Croatia, to take advantage of Yugoslavia's demise and try to unite Serbian territories in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina with Serbia proper precipitated the wars in Croatia first and then in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Desperate acts by Serbs engaged in "ethnic cleansing" (torching, and systematic rape and executions in imitation of the World War II Ustaša tactics) revolted the whole world and elicited retaliation by the initially allied Croats and Muslims.
War spread in Bosnia in mid-1992 with the relentless bombardment of Sarajevo by Serbs and the brutal use of "ethnic cleansing," primarily by Serbs intent on freeing the areas along the Drina River of Muslim inhabitants. Croats and Muslims retaliated in kind, if not in degree, while Serbs took over control of some 70% of the country and used concentration camps and raping of women as systematic terror tactics to achieve their "cleansing" goals. Croats kept control of western Herzegovina, while their Muslim allies tried to resist Serbian attacks on mostly Muslim cities and towns full of refugees exposed to shelling and starvation while the world watched in horror. The European Community, the United States, the UN, and NATO coordinated peacekeeping efforts, dangerous air deliveries to Sarajevo, air drops of food and medicinal supplies to keep the people of Sarajevo from dying of starvation and sicknesses.
The various plans proposing the division of Bosnia and Herzegovina into ethnic "cantons" were not acceptable to the winning Serbian side. They were well supplied with weapons by the departed Yugoslav Army and had their own armament factories. Meanwhile, an international arms embargo was imposed on all former Yugoslav Republics, preventing the Bosnian government from acquiring needed weapons, except through illegal smuggling mostly from Islamic countries. The "cantonization" plans were also a partial cause for the breakdown of the Muslim-Croatian alliance when the two sides began fighting over areas of mixed Croat and Muslim populations. One such area was the city of Mostar in Herzegovina, where the Croats had established the Croatian union of "Herzeg-Bosnia," later (August 1993) named the state of Herzeg-Bosnia. Finally, under the threat of air strikes from NATO, the Serbs agreed to stop the shelling of Sarajevo and hand over (or remove) their heavy artillery by February 1994, so Sarajevo could get a respite from its bloody siege of several years. A truce was implemented by mid-February 1994 and was barely holding while continuing negotiations were taking place that, on US initiative, brought Croats and Muslims back together on a confederation plan accepted by the two sides and signed in Washington on 18 March 1994.
In July 1994, the EC, the US, and Russia agreed on a partition plan giving the Croat-Muslim side 51% of the land, with 49% offered to the Bosnian Serbs who, holding 70%, would need to give up a large area under their control. As of the end of July 1994, the Bosnian Serbs' parliament had rejected the plan and had resumed occasional sniping and mortar shelling of Sarajevo, shooting at UN peacekeepers and supply airplanes, and blocking of the single access road to Sarajevo. After almost two-and-a-half years of war, destruction, and terrible suffering imposed on the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the efforts of the international community and its very cumbersome decision-making process had brought Bosnia and Herzegovina back to the partitioning plan originally agreed on at the Lisbon meeting of February 1992. In the fall of 1994, President Milošević of Serbia had closed the borders between Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina in order to stop any further assistance to the "Republika Srpska" that he himself helped establish. President Milošević agreed to "extricate" Serbia from its direct support for the Bosnian Serbs in the hope that a compromise partitioning plan that would allow each side to "confederate" with Croatia and Serbia respectively and would offer both sides the opportunity to turn their energies to positive efforts of physical and psychological reconstruction.
The quest to create a "Greater Serbia" continued into July 1995, when Bosnian Serbs overran the UN protected areas of Srebrenica and Zepa, extending their territory near the Croatian border. Over 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were summarily executed at Srebrenica. In retaliation, NATO forces initiated air raids on Bosnian Serb positions on 30 August 1995. Two weeks later, Bosnian Serb forces began lifting their siege on Sarajevo, and agreed to enter into negotiations on the future of Bosnia. Pressured by air strikes and diplomacy, Serb leaders joined authorities from Croatia and Bosnia in Dayton, Ohio for US-sponsored peace talks.
After three years of war, the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina was completed on 21 November 1995 in Dayton, Ohio. Signed in Paris in mid-December, the agreement called for 60,000 NATO peacekeepers to oversee the disarming process (30,000 remained in 1997). The agreement, known as the Dayton Accords, provided for the continuity of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a single state with two constituent entities: the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBH) and the Republika Srpska (RS). The FBH occupies the 51% of the territory with a Bosniak (Muslim) and Croat majority, while the RS occupies the remaining 49% with a Bosnian Serb majority. Following the signing of the Dayton Accords, the UN economic sanctions against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Bosnian Serb party were suspended, and the arms embargo was lifted (except for heavy weapons). During 1996, the NATO-led Implementation Force assisted with the military aspects of the Dayton Accords to provide stability in order to facilitate civilian reconstruction and the return of refugees and displaced persons. Elections were scheduled and conducted on 11 September 1996.
In March 1996, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia filed its first charges against Serbian soldiers accused of committing atrocities in Bosnia. Among those cited were Serb generals Djordje Djukic and Ratko Mladic, and the former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic. In May 1997, the tribunal completed its first trial with a conviction of a Bosnian Serb police officer for murdering two Muslim policeman and the torture of Muslim civilians. The tribunal also brought to trial three Bosnian Muslims and a Croatian soldier charged with atrocities committed at a Muslim-run prison camp.
Casualty estimates from the war vary from as low as 25,000 to over 250,000 persons. Some 3 million people became refugees or internally displaced persons. About 250,000 Bosnian refugees returned to the country in 1996, and around 200,000 in 1997. About 320,000 Bosnians had taken refuge in Germany during the war. However, the refugees returned to find a significant housing shortage (60% of all homes were destroyed) and massive unemployment. Moreover, the goals of the Dayton Accords to encourage the rebuilding of multi-ethnic communities have not been realized. Bosnian Serb and Bosnian Croat leaders continue to reinforce ethnic partitions and have resisted cooperation with Bosniaks to carry out the peace agreement. There is international concern about the plight of the returning refugees, who are often being resettled in dwellings that were occupied by Serbs before the war. The resulting disputes over property are often the basis of incidents for ethnic discrimination.
Despite the Dayton Accords, outbreaks of violence persisted. In February 1997, Bosnian Croat police killed one man and wounded 20 others while firing on a crowd of 200 Muslims at a cemetery in the divided city of Mostar. This worst episode of violence since the 1995 agreement was followed by the eviction of 100 Muslims from their homes in the Croat western sector of Mostar. The legacy of centuries of confrontations by the Austro-Hungarian, Russian, and Turkish Empires in the Balkans continued to haunt the area and a rekindling of the conflict was almost inevitable. In June 1998 NATO peacekeeping forces decided to extend their stay until a more stable peace was achieved. General elections held in 1998 were relatively quiet, but tensions in the Kosovo region increased as Yugoslav forces attacked Kosovar rebels. In March 1999 NATO jets downed two Yugoslav MiG fighters, allegedly thwarting an attempted attack on peacekeeping forces. Fighting between Serbs and ethnic Albanians in Kosovo raged as NATO aircraft bombed the area. Russia attempted to pass a resolution on the UN Security Council to forbid further bombing runs by NATO warplanes, but failed. Violent conflicts dissipated through the next year, as the International Court of Justice furthered reparations for crimes, and Yugoslavia agreed to a peace plan on 3 June 1999.
Bosnia and Croatia signed a border agreement in July 1999, and a border crossing closed for much of the decade was reopened in August. The strategically located city of Brcko—previously Serb-ruled, and a main site of contention between the country's factions—received a Muslim-Croat/Serb coalition government in March 1999 from the Hague International Court of Justice. Officials from the Serb Republic were disturbed because this portion of land was the one territorial link between the western and eastern portions of the Republic. In 1999, NATO began reducing the 25-nation peacekeeping force by one-third over a period of six months. At the end of 1999, the US House International Relations Committee found that hundreds of millions of dollars in assistance funding had disappeared from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Mass gravesites continued to be unearthed in northeastern Bosnia, near Sarajevo and in Srebrenica as numerous war criminals were arrested and brought to trial at the Hague.
Municipal elections were held in March 2000, and general elections took place that November. The November elections resulted in a win for the Serbian nationalist Serb Democratic Party (SDS), formerly lead by Karadzic, in the Republika Srpska; the Croatian nationalist HDZ party won among ethnic Croat voters; but the reformist Social Democratic Party narrowly beat the Bosnian Muslim nationalist Party of Democratic Action (SDA) party in certain areas of the Federation. In May 2001, Bosnian Serbs used force to break up ceremonies marking the rebuilding of 2 destroyed mosques in Banja Luka and Trebinje. Several Bosniaks were injured and one was killed, cars were set on fire, and rocks and bottles were thrown at police and others.
Parliamentary, presidential, and municipal elections were held in October 2002, and nationalists strengthened their positions. Throughout 2000–03, the work of the the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia at The Hague continued. In 2001, former Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic surrendered to the tribunal, but pleaded not guilty to charges of genocide; however, in October 2002, she changed her plea to one of guilty of crimes against humanity, and was sentenced to 11 years in prison. In early 2001, a verdict against 3 Bosnian Serbs found guilty of torturing and raping Bosnian Muslim women marked the first time the tribunal called rape a crime against humanity. Later that year the tribunal found Bosnian Serb general Radislav Krstic guilty of genocide for his role in the massacre at Srebrenica; he was sentenced to 46 years in prison.
In May 1999, former Yugoslav President Milošević was indicted by the tribunal for war crimes committed in Kosovo; he was subsequently indicted for crimes committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, including charges of genocide carried out in Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1992–95. His trial began in February 2002. As of April 2003, the NATO-led Stabilization Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina (SFOR) was still in operation.