Bosnia & Hercegovina


Bosnia and Herzegovina, often referred to simply as Bosnia, is a southeastern European nation situated on the Balkan Peninsula. Characterized by its rich tapestry of cultures, religions, and histories, this country boasts a unique blend of Eastern and Western influences. Once a significant crossroads in the vast Ottoman Empire and later a key player in the tumultuous history of Yugoslavia, Bosnia today stands as a testament to resilience and diversity. Its scenic landscapes, ranging from the Dinaric Alps to verdant river valleys, are as multifaceted as its complex cultural heritage.

Key Points About Bosnia and Herzegovina

  1. Geography: Bosnia and Herzegovina is bordered by Croatia to the north, west, and south, Serbia to the east, and Montenegro to the southeast. It has a narrow strip of coastline along the Adriatic Sea.
  2. History:
    • Medieval period: The region was home to several medieval states, including the Banate and Kingdom of Bosnia.
    • Ottoman era: In the mid-15th century, the Ottomans conquered Bosnia, bringing with them Islam. This era lasted for over 400 years.
    • Austro-Hungarian rule: In the late 19th century, Bosnia and Herzegovina came under Austro-Hungarian rule.
    • Yugoslavia: After World War I, Bosnia became part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, which later became Yugoslavia. After World War II, it was a republic within socialist Yugoslavia.
    • War: The 1990s saw the violent disintegration of Yugoslavia. Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence in 1992, which led to a brutal conflict between Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims), Croats, and Serbs. The Dayton Agreement in 1995 ended the war.
  3. Ethnic Groups: The three primary ethnic groups are Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs, which roughly correlate with Islam, Catholicism, and Eastern Orthodoxy respectively.
  4. Religion: Due to its history, Bosnia and Herzegovina has a diverse religious landscape. It’s home to Muslims, Roman Catholics, and Serbian Orthodox Christians, as well as smaller groups of Jews and others.
  5. Economy: The country has a mixed economy. Key industries include mining, metallurgy, energy, forestry, and tourism. The country has been striving to recover from the economic aftermath of the war in the 1990s.
  6. Natural Beauty: Bosnia boasts diverse landscapes, from the Dinaric Alps to thick forests and beautiful rivers like the Neretva and Vrbas. Popular sites include the ancient bridge at Mostar and the Sutjeska National Park.
  7. Sarajevo: The capital and largest city, Sarajevo has a rich history of its own. It hosted the 1984 Winter Olympics. The city is also known for the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914, which is one of the events that precipitated World War I.
  8. Language: The official languages are Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian. While they are distinct languages, they are closely related and are based on the Shtokavian dialect.

Earliest Mentions

The earliest mentions and documents related to Bosnia trace back to medieval times. Here are a few of the more significant historical sources and references to the region:

  1. De Administrando Imperio: This 10th-century Byzantine text written by Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus contains references to the territories and tribes of the region, including the name “Bosnia.”
  2. Banate of Bosnia: The first native Bosnian state to emerge was the Banate of Bosnia, which existed between the 12th and 14th centuries. “Bans” were rulers or governors of this medieval state. The first known Bosnian Ban was Ban Borić, mentioned in a document from the late 12th century.
  3. Baška Tablet: Although this document is more related to Croatia, it’s noteworthy as one of the oldest preserved inscriptions in the Croatian recension of the Church Slavonic language. Written in the Glagolitic script, it dates back to 1100. It doesn’t directly reference Bosnia but provides important context to the region’s early medieval history.
  4. Medieval charters: From the 12th century onward, there are numerous charters and documents that were issued by Bosnian rulers or related to Bosnian affairs. One of the most famous is the charter issued by Ban Kulin in 1189, which is the oldest state document of any kind found in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
  5. Papal documents: There are mentions of Bosnia in various Papal documents, especially during the medieval period, when the Catholic Church attempted to exert influence over the region. The Bosnian Church, which many historians consider to be a heretical Christian sect, was a particular concern for the Papacy.
  6. Ottoman records: Once the Ottomans took control of Bosnia in the 15th century, they maintained detailed administrative records, tax ledgers, and other documents that provide valuable insights into the social, economic, and political structures of the region during the Ottoman era.

Medieval Religion

The Bosnian Bogomils were a Christian neo-Gnostic or dualist sect that originated in the First Bulgarian Empire during the 10th century. The beliefs and practices of the Bogomils spread throughout the Balkans, influencing several regions, including Bosnia, and played a significant role in the region’s religious and cultural history. Here’s what you should know about them:

  1. Origins: The movement is believed to have been founded by the priest Bogomil in Bulgaria in the 10th century, from whom the sect gets its name.
  2. Beliefs:
    • Dualism: At the heart of Bogomil theology was a dualistic worldview. They believed in a cosmic struggle between a divine world of light and an evil material world. This dualism is similar to other Gnostic movements, such as the Cathars in Western Europe or the Paulicians in the Byzantine Empire.
    • Cosmology: They believed that Satan, also referred to as the Demiurge, was responsible for creating the material world and that the human soul was divine but trapped in the physical body.
    • Rejection of the Established Church: The Bogomils were critical of the Orthodox Church hierarchy and its rituals. They rejected the physical church buildings, icons, the Holy Eucharist, and other traditional Christian practices and symbols.
    • Scripture: While they accepted the New Testament, they had their own version of the Book of John and other apocryphal texts.
  3. Practices: The Bogomils practiced asceticism, valuing simplicity and rejecting worldly pleasures. They held secret meetings and were known for their distinct ritual practices.
  4. Persecution: The Bogomils faced persecution both from the Orthodox Christian Byzantine Empire and the Catholic Church. Efforts were made to suppress the movement, including public debates, anathemas, and even executions.
  5. Influence: The Bogomil beliefs had a significant influence on various groups, including:
    • In Bosnia: The presence of Bogomilism in Bosnia has been linked to the development of the Bosnian Church, which was often labeled as heretical by both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. Some believe that the Bosnian Church’s distinct identity was shaped in part by Bogomil beliefs.
    • In Western Europe: The beliefs of the Bogomils may have traveled westward, influencing or connecting with the Cathars in southern France and the Albigensian Crusade against them.
  6. End: With the Ottoman conquest of the Balkans in the late 14th and 15th centuries, the Bogomil movement began to decline. Many of its followers converted to Islam, while others assimilated into the mainstream Christian denominations.

The legacy of the Bogomils is still a topic of discussion among historians, particularly regarding their influence on the religious landscape of the Balkans and their connections to other dualistic movements in Europe.