Not to be confused with Bosniaks.
This article is about the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina. For other uses, see Bosnians (disambiguation).
Total population
6–7 million
Regions with significant populations
 Bosnia and Herzegovina 3,871,643 (est.)[1]
 Turkey 1,000,000 - 3,000,000
 Austria 128,047
 United States 121,938
 Norway 50,000[2]
 Australia 39,440[3][4]
 Italy 31,000
 Canada 25,665[5]
 Denmark 22,404[6]
Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian
Sunni Islam, Judaism, Eastern Orthodox Church, Roman Catholicism and Irreligion
Related ethnic groups
Bosniaks, Bosnian Serbs, Bosnian Croats, Bosnian Jews, Bosnian Roma

Bosnians (Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian: Bosanci / Босанци; singular: Bosnian (Bosanac/ Босанац)) are people who live in Bosnia, or who are of Bosnian descent.

Native Bosnians are a South Slavic people and by the modern state definition, a Bosnian can be anyone who holds citizenship of the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and thus is largely synonymous with the all-encompassing national demonym Bosnians and Herzegovinians. This includes, but is not limited to, members of the constituent ethnic groups of Bosnia and Herzegovina: Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats. Those who reside in the smaller geographical region of Herzegovina may prefer to identify as Herzegovinians in a localized, regional sense.

Ethnic minorities in this territory, such as Jews, Roma, Albanians, Montenegrins and others, may consider Bosnian as an adjective modifying their ethnicity (e.g. Bosnian Jews) to indicate place of residence.

In addition, a sizable population in Bosnia and Herzegovina believe that the term "Bosnians" defines a people who constitute a distinct collective cultural identity or ethnic group.

Bosnia & Herzegovina enjoys the top spot as having the world's tallest people, at 178 centimeters of average height across both sexes (182.88 cm average height for men and 172.72 cm for women). [7][8]


Earliest records

The earliest cultural and linguistic roots of Bosnian history can be traced back to the Migration Period of the Early Middle Ages. At that time, the Slavs from southeastern Europe invaded the Eastern Roman Empire and settled the Balkan peninsula. There, they mixed with the indigenous paleo-Balkan peoples, mostly romanized tribes, generically known as the Illyrians on the territory of present-day Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also the Celtic population which had intermingled with these since the 4th century BC, and to a lesser extent the Germanic-speaking Ostrogoths which had entered the area in the late 4th century AD. From the chaos of the Dark Ages, from 800 AD, the Slavic tribes coalesced into early principalities. As these expanded, they came to include other Slavic tribes and territories, and later evolved into centralized Kingdoms.

The Croats to the west swore allegiance to Rome, influenced by neighboring Catholic kingdoms, while the Serbs to the east fell under Byzantine influence and embraced Orthodoxy; these religious differences became part of their defining themselves as distinct peoples or ethnic groups. By contrast, there was no prominent Slavic tribe in Bosnia, and an independent Bosnian state did not arise until the High Middle Ages.

Prior to this, the core of Bosnian lands (between the Drina and Bosna rivers) was in a near-constant state of flux among competition by the Byzantines, Serbs, Croats, Bulgarians and Hungarians. In the twelfth century, a Bosnian state arose that was characterized by an independent religious structure. It developed as a powerful kingdom in the fourteenth century; the designation Bošnjani was used to describe the kingdom's inhabitants. It was probably a regional name derived from the river Bosna, which flows through the heart of the kingdom.

Bosnian Kingdom

Territorial expansion of the Bosnian kingdom in the Middle Ages

The Bosnian Kingdom grew and expanded under the Kotromanić dynasty to include Croatian and Serbian territories. As a consequence, even more Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians dwelt within its borders, along with adherents of a native Bosnian Church whose origins and nature are a subject of continued debate among scholars. Those belonging to this sect simply called themselves Krstjani ("Christians"). Many scholars have argued that these Bosnian Krstjani were Manichaean dualists related to the Bogomils of Bulgaria, while others question this theory, citing lack of historical evidence. Both Catholic and Orthodox Church authorities considered the Bosnian Church heretical, and launched vigorous proselytizing campaigns to stem its influence. As a result of these divisions, no coherent religious identity developed in medieval Bosnia as it had in Croatia and Serbia.

Ottoman era

As the centuries passed, the Bosnian kingdom slowly began to decline. It had become fractured by increased political and religious disunity. By then, the Ottoman Turks had already gained a foothold in the Balkans. First defeating the Serbs at the Battle of Kosovo in 3 hours and expanding westward, the Turks eventually conquered all of Bosnia and portions of neighboring Croatia. Territory that partly belonged to the medieval Croatian Kingdom and partly to the Bosnian Kingdom remained under Ottoman rule for centuries, so long that it was referred to as Turkish Croatia (later as Bosanska Krajina).

These developments altered Bosnian history, as many residents adopted Islam, adding to the complex Bosnian ethno-religious identity. The Bosnian Church disappeared, although the circumstances of its decline has been debated as much as defining its nature and origins. Some historians contend that the Bosnian Krstjani converted en masse to Islam, seeking refuge from Catholic and Orthodox persecution. Others argue that the Bosnian Church had already ceased to operate many decades before the Turkish conquest. Whatever the case, a native and distinct Slavic Muslim community developed among the Bosnians under Ottoman rule, quickly becoming dominant. By the early 1600s, approximately two-thirds of the Bosnian population was Muslim.[9]

Austro-Hungarian era

Bosnians at the time of the Austro-Hungarian occupation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

During the Austro-Hungarian occupation of Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1878 to 1918, Benjamin Kallay, Joint Imperial Minister of Finance and Vienna-based administrator of Bosnia, promoted Bošnjaštvo, a policy that aimed to inspire in Bosnia's people 'a feeling that they belong to a great and powerful nation'.[10] The policy advocated the ideal of a pluralist and multi-confessional Bosnian nation and viewed Bosnians as "speaking the Bosnian language and divided into three religions with equal rights."[11][12] The policy tried to isolate Bosnia and Herzegovina from its irredentist neighbors (the Orthodox in Serbia, Catholics in Croatia, and the Muslims of the Ottoman Empire). The empire tried to discourage the concept of Croat or Serb nationhood, which had spread to Bosnia and Herzegovina's Catholic and Orthodox communities from neighboring Croatia and Serbia in the mid-19th century.[12] Croats and Serbs who opposed the imperial policy and identified with nationalist ideas, ignored claims of Bosnian nationhood and instead counted Bosnian Muslims as part of their own nations, a concept that was rejected by most Bosnian Muslims.[13][14] Following the death of Kallay, the policy was abandoned. By the latter half of the 1910s, nationalism was an integral factor of Bosnian politics, with national political parties corresponding to the three groups dominating elections.[12]

U.S. scholars Robert J. Donia and John V.A. Fine conclude that:

A Bosnian's identity as a Bosnian - even if it originally referred to his geographical homeland or state membership - has roots going back many centuries, whereas the classification of any Christian Bosnian as a Serb or a Croat goes back barely a century. The idea of being Bosnian Muslim in a "national" (as opposed to a religious) sense is even more recent.
Robert J. Donia and John V.A. Fine, excerpt from their book- Bosnia and Hercegovina: A Tradition Betrayed[15]

Yugoslav era

During the period when Yugoslavia was established as a nation, the political establishment in Bosnia and Herzegovina was dominated by Serb and Croat policies; neither of the two terms, Bosnian or Bosniak, was recognized to identify the people as a constituent nation.[16][17] Consequently, Bosnian Muslims, or anyone who claimed a Bosnian/Bosniak ethnicity, were classified in Yugoslav population statistics as under the category 'regional affiliation.' This classification was used in the last Yugoslav census taken in 1991 in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The census classifications in former Yugoslavia were often subject to political manipulation because the counting of populations was critical to power of each group. In the constitutional amendments of 1947, Bosnian Muslims requested the option of 'Bosnian.' But, in the 1948 census, they were given only the choices to identify as 'ethnically undeclared Muslim', 'Serb-Muslim' or 'Croat-Muslim' (the vast majority chose the first option).[17] In the 1953 census, the category "Yugoslav, ethnically undeclared" was introduced; the overwhelming majority of those who identified by this category were Bosnian Muslim.[17]

In the 1961 census, the Bosniaks or Bosnian Muslims were categorized as an ethnic group defined as one of 'Muslim-Ethnic affiliation,' but not as a Yugoslav "constitutive nation" alongside Serbs and Croats. In 1964, the Fourth Congress of the Bosnian Party assured the Bosniaks' of the right to self-determination. In 1968 at a meeting of the Bosnian Central Committee, Bosniaks were accepted as a distinct nation, though the leadership decided not to use the Bosniak or Bosnian name.[17][18] Hence, as a compromise, the option of "Muslims by nationality" was introduced as a category in the 1971 census. This was the official category for use by Bosniaks until the final Yugoslav census in 1991.[17]

Modern era

In 1990 the name Bosniaks was reintroduced to replace the term "Muslim by nationality". This resulted in Bosniak, or even Muslim, as terms being (re)coined recently as a political compromise. In the centuries of the Ottoman Empire, distinctions among citizens (for taxation purposes, military service etc.) was made based primarily on the individual's religious identity, which was closely tied to ethnicity.


Mosque, Catholic church and Serbian Orthodox Church in Bosanska Krupa

Bosnians are as multi-religious as a society as they are multi-ethnic. But, the component religions and ethnicities are not solely homogeneous and independent from each other.

According to Tone Bringa, an author and anthropologist, she says of Bosnia and Bosnians:

"Neither Bosniak, nor Croat, nor Serb identities can be fully understood with reference only to Islam or Christianity respectively but have to be considered in a specific Bosnian context that has resulted in a shared history and locality among Bosnians of Islamic as well as Christian backgrounds."[19]

According to Bringa, in Bosnia there is a singular, "trans-ethnic culture" that encompassed each ethnicity and makes different faiths, including Christianity and Islam, "synergistically interdependent".[19]

Still, large numbers of Bosnians are secular, a trend strengthened in the post-World War II in Bosnia and Herzegovina as they were part of the Communist political system of the Soviet Union that rejected traditional organized religion.


In a 2007 survey conducted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), 57% of those surveyed primarily identified by an ethnic designation, while 43% opted for "being a citizen of Bosnia-Herzegovina". In addition, 75% of the surveyors answered positively to the question "As well as thinking of yourself as a [Bosniak, Croat, Serb], do you also think of yourself as being a citizen of the whole of Bosnia-Herzegovina?". In the same survey, 43% said that they identify as a citizen of Bosnia-Herzegovina as the primary identity, 14% identified with a specific ethnic or religious group, while 41% chose the dual identity.[20][21]

See also


  1. CIA - The World Factbook CIA Fact Book
  2. Migrants in Europe - Survey: Norway Archived July 24, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  3. "20680-Country of Birth of Person (full classification list) by Sex - Australia" (Microsoft Excel download). 2006 Census. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 22 August 2010.
  4. "20680-Ancestry (full classification list) by Sex - Australia" (Microsoft Excel download). 2006 Census. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 22 August 2010.
  5. "Ethnic Origin (264), Single and Multiple Ethnic Origin Responses (3), Generation Status (4), Age Groups (10) and Sex (3) for the Population in Private Households of Canada, Provinces, Territories, Census Metropolitan Areas and Census Agglomerations, 2011 National Household Survey".
  6. "Statistics Denmark:FOLK2: Population 1. January by sex, age, ancestry, country of origin and citizenship". Statistics Denmark. Retrieved 1 October 2013.
  9. Malcolm 1995, p. 71.
  10. Sugar, Peter F. (1963). Industrialization of Bosnia-Hercegovina: 1878-1918. University of Washington Press. p. 201.
  11. Ramet, Sabrina P. (2008). "Nationalism and the 'Idiocy' of the Countryside: The Case of Serbia". Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia at Peace and at War: Selected Writings, 1983-2007. LIT Verlag Münster. pp. 74–76. ISBN 978-3-03735-912-9.
  12. 1 2 3 Velikonja, Mitja (1992). Religious Separation and Political Intolerance in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Texas A&M University Press. ISBN 978-1-58544-226-3.
  13. Central and South-Eastern Europe, 2004, Volume 4, p 110
  14. Banac, Ivo (1988). The National Question in Yugoslavia: Origins, History, Politics. Cornell University Press. ISBN 978-0-8014-9493-2.
  15. Robert Donia, John VA Fine (2005). Bosnia and Hercegovina: A Tradition Betrayed. Columbia University Press. Retrieved 30 October 2012., p. 73, 1995,
  16. Klemenčič, Matjaž (2004). The Former Yugoslavia's Diverse Peoples: A Reference Sourcebook. ABC-CLIO. p. 113. ISBN 1-57607-294-0.
  17. 1 2 3 4 5 Banac, Ivo (1988). The National Question in Yugoslavia: Origins, History, Politics. Cornell University Press. pp. 287–288. ISBN 0-8014-9493-1.
  18. Kostic, Roland (2007). Ambivalent Peace: External Peacebuilding, Threatened Identity and Reconciliation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Report No. 78. Uppsala, Sweden: Uppsala University. p. 65.
  19. 1 2 Shatzmiller, Maya (2002). Islam and Bosnia: Conflict Resolution and Foreign Policy in Multi-Ethnic States. McGill-Queen's Press. p. 32. ISBN 978-0-7735-2413-2.
  20. "UNDP Published a Major Research on Return, Identity, Politics and Social Trust". United Nations Development Programme for Bosnia and Herzegovina. 2007-07-07. Retrieved 2007-07-27.
  21. "Pulse of the citizenry". United Nations Development Programme for Bosnia and Herzegovina. 2007-07-07. pp. 19–20. Retrieved 2007-07-27.

External links

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