Muslims (nationality)

For the nationality sometimes called "Chinese Muslims" or simply "Muslims" in China, see Hui people.
Total population
c. 100,000
 Serbia 22,301 (2011)
 Montenegro 20,537 (2011)
 Slovenia 10,467 (2002)
 Croatia 7,558 (2011)
 Macedonia 2,553 (2002)
South Slavic languages
Related ethnic groups
Bosniaks, Gorani, Macedonian Muslims, Pomaks

Muslims (Serbo-Croatian, Macedonian, and Slovene: Muslimani, Муслимани) was a term used in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia as an official supra-ethnic designation of nationality of Slavic Muslims and thus encompassed a number of populations ethnically distinct, including the Bosniaks, and to a minor extent Gorani, Pomaks and Macedonian Muslims. Notably, "Muslims" were one of the constitutive nations of the Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In connection to their national awakening on the eve of the Breakup of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s they are today constitutionally recognized as Bosniaks in Bosnia and Herzegovina, like before the establishment of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia after World War I.[1][2] Approximately 100,000 people across the former Yugoslavia still consider themselves to be Muslims in a national sense, while other self-identify as Bosniaks, and to a lesser extent Gorani, Macedonian Muslims or Pomaks. The two latter names are also used by Slavic Muslims living outside of the former Yugoslavia, mainly in Bulgaria where they form a part of the wider Slavic demographic majority, and also where they live as minorities in non-Slavic countries such as Greece and Turkey.


Up until the 19th century, the word Bosniak (Bošnjak) came to refer to all inhabitants of Bosnia regardless of religious affiliation; terms such as "Boşnak milleti", "Boşnak kavmi", and "Boşnak taifesi" (all meaning, roughly, "the Bosnian people"), were used in the Ottoman Empire to describe Bosnians in an ethnic or "tribal" sense. After the Austro-Hungarian occupation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1878, the Austrian administration officially endorsed Bošnjaštvo ('Bosniakhood') as the basis of a multi-confessional Bosnian nation. The policy aspired to isolate Bosnia and Herzegovina from its irredentist neighbors (Orthodox Serbia, Catholic Croatia, and the Muslims of the Ottoman Empire) and to negate the concept of Croatian and Serbian nationhood which had already begun to take ground among Bosnia and Herzegovina's Catholic and Orthodox communities, respectively.[3][4] Nevertheless, in part due to the dominant standing held in the previous centuries by the native Muslim population in Ottoman Bosnia, a sense of Bosnian nationhood was cherished mainly by Muslim Bosnians, while fiercely opposed by nationalists from Serbia and Croatia who were instead opting to claim the Bosnian Muslim population as their own, a move that was rejected by most of them.[5] After World War I, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later "Kingdom of Yugoslavia") was formed and it recognized only those three nationalities in its constitution.

After World War II, in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the Bosnian Muslims continued to be treated as a religious group instead of an ethnic one.[6] Nevertheless, in a debate that went on during the 1960s, many Bosniak communist intellectuals argued that the Muslims of Bosnia and Herzegovina are in fact a distinct native Slavic people that should be recognized as a nation. In 1964, the Fourth Congress of the Bosnian Party assured the Bosniaks' the right to self-determination prompting the recognition of Bosnian Muslims as a distinct nation at a meeting of the Bosnian Central Committee in 1968, though not under the Bosniak or Bosnian name as opted by the Bosnian Muslim leadership.[7][8] As a compromise, the Constitution of Yugoslavia was amended to list "Muslims" in a national sense; recognizing a constitutive nation, but not the Bosniak name. The use of Muslim as an ethnic denomination was criticized early on, however, on account of it disregarding Bosnian nationhood.[9] To quote Bosnian president Hamdija Pozderac at the time:

They don't allow Bosnianhood but they offered Muslimhood. We shall accept their offer, although the name is wrong, but with it will start the process.
In discussion with Josip Broz Tito in 1971 about constitutional changes which recognized "Muslims"

Sometimes other terms, such as Muslim with capital M were used (that is, "musliman" was a practicing Muslim while "Musliman" was a member of this nation; Serbo-Croatian uses capital letters for names of peoples but small for names of adherents).

After the dissolution of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, the majority of these people, around two million, mostly located in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region of Sandžak, declare as ethnic Bosniaks (Bošnjaci, sing. Bošnjak). On the other hand, some still use the old name Muslimani (Muslims), especially outside Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The election law of Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina, recognizes the results from 1991 population census as results referring to Bosniaks.[10][11]



  1. Sugar, Peter F. (1963). Industrialization of Bosnia-Hercegovina: 1878-1918. University of Washington Press. p. 201.
  2. Velikonja, Mitja (2003). Religious Separation and Political Intolerance in Bosnia-Herzegovina, pp. 134. Texas A&M University Press. ISBN 1-58544-226-7.
  3. Velikonja, Mitja (2003). Religious Separation and Political Intolerance in Bosnia-Herzegovina, pp. 130-135. Texas A&M University Press. ISBN 1-58544-226-7.
  4. Robert Donia, John VA Fine (2005). Bosnia and Hercegovina: A Tradition Betrayed. Columbia University Press. Retrieved 30 October 2012.
  5. Central and South-Eastern Europe 2004, Volume 4, Routledge, p 110.
  6. Banac, Ivo (1988). The National Question in Yugoslavia: Origins, History, Politics. Cornell University Press. pp. 287–288. ISBN 0-8014-9493-1.
  7. Banac, Ivo (1988). The National Question in Yugoslavia: Origins, History, Politics. Cornell University Press. pp. 287–288.
  8. Kostic, Roland 2007. Ambivalent Peace: External Peacebuilding, Threatened Identity and Reconciliation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Report No. 78, Department of Peace and Conflict Research and the Programme for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Uppsala University, Sweden, p.65.
  9. Imamović, Mustafa (1996). Historija Bošnjaka. Sarajevo: BZK Preporod. ISBN 9958-815-00-1
  10. "Election law of Bosnia and Herzegovina" (PDF).
  11. "CONSTITUTION OF BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA" (PDF). The Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
  13. Statistics Office of Republic of Slovenia - Statistični urad Republike Slovenije: 7. Prebivalstvo po narodni pripadnosti, Slovenija, popisi 1953, 1961, 1971, 1981, 1991 in 2002
  14. Statistics Office of Republic of Macedonia - Државен завод за статистика:Попис на населението, домаќинствата и становите во Република Македонија, 2002: Дефинитивни податоци (PDF) (Macedonian)
  15. Population by ethnicity - 2001 Croatian Census (Croatian)
  16. Croatian 2001 census, detailed classification by nationality
  18. "4. Population by ethnicity and religion". Census of Population, Households and Dwellings 2011. Croatian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 2012-12-17.

See also

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