Serbo-Croatian Bosna-Hercegovina; Country in central Europe, bounded N and W by Croatia, E by the Yugoslavian republic of Serbia, and E and S by the Yugoslavian republic of Montenegro.
There is a bicameral assembly, consisting of a 130-member chamber of citizens and a 110-member chamber of communes, and a directly elected seven-member collective state presidency. Election contests are by a majority system, there being a second-round run-off race if no candidate secures a majority of the vote in the first round.
Once the Roman province of Illyria, the area enjoyed brief periods of independence in medieval times; it emerged as an independent state in the 1180s. It was ruled by the Ottoman Empire from 1463; although the northern part was annexed to Hungary until 1526. Austria–Hungary took over its administration 1878 and finally annexed it 1908. In 1918 it was incorporated in the future Yugoslavia, and in 1929 divided between four Yugoslavian regions. It came under Nazi German rule 1941, and Marshal Tito established his provisional government at liberated Jajce Nov 1943. During World War II around 12,000 of 14,000 Bosnian Jews were killed, and some one million Yugoslavs died. Bosnia-Herzegovina, kept undivided because of its ethnic and religious compound of Serbs (Orthodox Christians), Croats (Catholic Christians) and Serbo-Croatian-speaking Slavs (Muslims), became a republic within the Yugoslav Socialist Federal Republic Nov 1945, after the expulsion of remaining German forces.
The republic's communist leadership became notorious for its corruption, racketeering, and authoritarianism, and from 1980 there was an upsurge in Islamic nationalism. Ethnic violence between Muslims and Serbs worsened 1989–90. In the Nov–Dec 1990 elections nationalist parties routed the ruling communists; subsequent divisions within the Bosnian ruling coalition, formed by the three leading Serb, Muslim, and Croatian parties, complicated the republic's dealings with Serbia.
From the spring of 1991 the conflict between Serbia and Croatia and civil war in the latter spread disorder into Bosnia-Herzegovina, with Croats setting up barricades in an attempt to stop the predominantly Serb Yugoslav National Army (JNA) moving through into Croatia. In Aug 1991, the republic's president, Alija Izetbegovic, a devout Muslim, expressed concern that Serbia intended to divide up Bosnia-Herzegovina between Serbia and Croatia, with a reduced Muslim buffer state in between, and appealed for support from Turkey and the European Community (EC). From Sept 1991 border areas began to fall into Serbian hands and Serbs began to form autonomous enclaves within the republic.
In Oct 1991 the republic’s “sovereignty” was declared by its parliament, but was rejected by Serbs, who established an alternative assembly and held a referendum Nov 1991 on remaining in the rump Yugoslav federation. Muslims and Croats, in alliance in the republic’s parliament, voted Jan 1992 to seek recognition of independence by the European Community (EC). A subsequent referendum Feb 1992, requested by the EC, voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence, but was boycotted by Serbs. Violent ethnic clashes ensued, with bombings in several Bosnian cities. Despite the worsening situation, the EC and the US officially recognized the country’s independence in April. In May Bosnia-Herzegovina became a full member of the United Nations, and the UN called for the withdrawal of the JNA. Both UN and EC mediators vainly sought a solution to the conflict.
Serb militia units, allegedly backed by Serbia, took control of border towns in E Bosnia and also launched attacks on the capital, Sarajevo. As Croats and Muslims also struggled to gain disputed territory, a state of emergency was declared. A number of cease-fires were quickly broken. By the end of May hundreds had been killed and hundreds of thousands made homeless. Bosnian Serbs established control over an area stretching from the NW to the SE, comprising almost two-thirds of the country, and declared it independent. Croats dominated large portions of the western part of the country, and subsequently declared an independent Croatian state.
UN relief efforts placed in jeopardy
From June 1992 UN forces were drafted into Sarajevo in an attempt to relieve a three-month Serbian siege. Continued Serbian offensives put the relief effort at risk, and it was temporarily abandoned after several relief workers were killed and a UN plane shot down. In Aug 1992 UN–EC-sponsored peace talks between all parties took place in London. Despite reaching an accord, the conflict continued to escalate.
From mid-1992 there was increased evidence of atrocities being perpetrated, particularly by Serbs, to enforce what was described as “ethnic cleansing”, and the existence of “death camps” and group slaughter of internees were reported. The UN Security Council voted to create a war crimes commission and imposed a ban on all military flights over Bosnia-Herzegovina from Oct. In the same month, the first British troops were deployed in the area.
failed Vance–Owen peace plan
In Jan 1993 UN negotiator Cyrus Vance and EC negotiator Lord Owen urged adoption of a peace plan under which the country would be divided into 10 substantially autonomous, ethnically controlled provinces. The plan gained US approval, but the warring factions disagreed over details. Fighting continued, with Sarajevo subject to regular bombardment by Serbian forces. The US commenced airdrops of food and medical supplies into war-ravaged eastern Bosnia in March. By this date an estimated 1.8 million Bosnians, 40% of the population, had been made refugees, and at least 130,000 had been killed in the interethnic conflict since May 1992.
UN “safe areas” set
The UN approved May 1993 the creation of six “safe areas”—the Muslim strongholds of Sarajevo, Bihac, Gorazde, Tuzla, Srebrenica, and Zepa—to provide shelter for Muslim civilians fleeing Serbian aggression. In July a peace accord based on a division of the country into three semiautonomous, ethnic provinces was agreed by Serbs and Croats, but Muslims demanded more territory and the peace talks stalled. In Oct 1993 Haris Siladzic, a Muslim and former foreign minister, became prime minister.
UN military intervention
In Feb 1994 a UN ultimatum, issued through NATO, gave warring factions around Sarajevo 10 days to withdraw their heavy weapons or face airstrikes. The Serbs agreed to withdraw only after Russian diplomatic intervention in the crisis. A Croat–Muslim cease-fire in the N followed, as a result of which a Croat–Muslim federation was formed. A week later NATO engaged in its first-ever combat action, shooting down four Bosnian Serb warplanes operating in the UN-imposed “no-fly zone”. Retreating Bosnian Serb forces had meanwhile switched their attentions to Gorazde, one of the UN “safe areas”. NATO bombing of Serb control positions around Gorazde in April failed to halt the advance and the Serbs took control of the city. They later withdrew, against all expectations, after a second UN ultimatum. The UN subsequently warned against further attacks on UN-declared “safe areas”.
In Aug 1994 Serbia imposed a border blockade against the Bosnian Serbs after their rejection of a peace plan devised by the the US, Russia, the UK, France, and Germany—collectively known as the “contact group”. The plan awarded Bosnian Serbs 49% of territory against the 70% they currently occupied. The remaining 51% was assigned to the Muslim–Croat federation.
In the autumn of 1994, hostilities renewed around Sarajevo and the UN “safe area” of Bihac. Use of cluster bombs and napalm by the Serbs around Bihac provoked NATO to bomb an airfield in Serb-held Krajina, Croatia, but after UN personnel were taken hostage, further strikes against the Serbs were ruled out. In Nov the US Congress voted to lift, unilaterally, the arms embargo against the Bosnian Muslims. A cease-fire negotiated by former US president Jimmy Carter resulted in an official “cessation of hostilities” 31 Dec 1994. However, implementation talks failed, sporadic fighting continued, and in April hostilities renewed, with several UN peacekeepers targetted.
Dayton Peace Accord
With their military machine in a state of disarray, the Bosnian Serbs agreed for the first time to recognize the sovereignty of the Muslim-Croat federation, and in September 1995 the two contending parties agreed in principle to a US-sponsored peace proposal leading to a 60-day ceasfire in October. This was followed up by the agreement of the foreign ministers of Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia to start negotiations on a new constitution for postwar Bosnia, which took place at the US air base at Dayton, Ohio. Negotiations from mid-November to early December resulted in the “Dayton Peace Accord” which allowed the Bosnian Serbs to keep 49% of the land they claimed, leaving the remaining 51% to a Muslim-Croat federation. The agreement is being enforced by a NATO-led force of 60,000 troops, half supplied by the US. The US intends to withdraw when peace has been restored and free elections held, although it seems likely that if these targets are not met within a year the US would expect European troops to take over.
A Balkan republic; formerly part of Yugoslavia; Also called: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bosnia.
Evropska država na Balkanu.