After World War II, Bosnia became one of six
sub-republics in Socialist Yugoslavia. The country was
largely Tito's construction hero, and after his death in
1980, nationalism was given new air. When Yugoslavia
began to fall apart, Bosniaks and Bosnian Croats voted
in 1992 for independence for Bosnia. But the Bosnian
Serbs did not want to leave Yugoslavia and the bloodiest
war in Europe since the Second World War was a fact.
When it ceased in 1995, Bosnia became an internationally
monitored nation in two parts. Ethnic contradictions
have continued to characterize the country.
Tito (see Older History) was initially an obedient
disciple of Soviet Union leader Josef Stalin and the
Communist Party was the only allowed political force in
the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. All
opposition was suppressed and major parts of business
were nationalized. Quite soon, however, Tito chose to go
his own way, which led to Stalin breaking with him and
Yugoslavia in 1948. Then came Tito, who is now seeking
support in the West, and the Yugoslav Communist Party to
advocate a partial own form of socialist market economy.
It was based on the workers' collective rather than the
state's ownership and management of the means of
production. Titos Yugoslavia also came to lead a
relatively independent foreign policy line and was a
prominent player among the alliance-free countries.
List of most commonly used acronyms containing Bosnia and Herzegovina. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.
Compared to other Eastern European states, Yugoslavia
achieved a high standard of living with good access to
consumer goods and extensive trade with Western Europe.
However, the economic standard was unevenly distributed
between the relatively prosperous northern parts of
Yugoslavia and poorer areas such as central Bosnia, the
Serbian province of Kosovo and the Republic of
After the oil crisis in the early 1970s, Yugoslavia
had financial problems and, more often than before, the
party leadership now chose to fill the Treasury with
borrowed funds. The economic stresses were diluting the
political disintegration that was slowly taking place.
At the same time, the country's sub-republics gained
greater control over their own economy, which resulted
in more prosperous republics, such as Croatia and
Slovenia, venting their dissatisfaction with having to
contribute to the poorer southern parts of Yugoslavia.
Belgrade's central power became increasingly a place for
struggle between the sub-republics.
Yugoslavia is falling apart
After Tito's death in 1980, the formation of
Yugoslavia began to crackle. The national contradictions
kept in check by Tito - through a combination of
repression and relative self-government for the
republics - came to the surface. The contradictions were
fueled by political leaders such as Slobodan Milošević
in Serbia and Franjo Tuđman in Croatia. The
fragmentation of Yugoslavia accelerated in the late
1980s and the nationalist tongues caused great concern
in multi-ethnic Bosnia, not least among Bosnian Muslims
(or Bosniaks, see Population and Languages) who had no
natural "residence" outside the republic. When the first
multi-party was held in Bosnia in 1990, most people
voted for newly formed nationalist parties, which
primarily represented the interests of their own ethnic
After Slovenia and Croatia left Yugoslavia in the
summer of 1991, the contradictions within Bosnia
increased. At the end of February - March 1992, a
referendum on independence was held. An overwhelming
majority of Bosniaks and Croats voted for independence.
The Serbs, who wanted to continue to belong to the now
Serbia-dominated "rest-Yugoslavia", mainly boycotted the
vote, and unrest was reported from Serb-dominated areas.
On April 6-7, Bosnia was recognized as an independent
state by the United States and the then EC (today the EU).
But before that, the Bosnian Serbs had proclaimed their
own republic, and the war was a fact.
Initially, the fighting raged between Serbian
liberals and forces of Bosniaks and Croats. The latter
were formally fought for the new, multi-ethnic state of
Bosnia, but both the state institutions and the army
were dominated by the Bosnians. Belgrade issued orders
for the Federal Yugoslav Army to withdraw from Bosnia,
but the majority of the soldiers were Bosnian Serbs who
remained with their equipment. The Bosnian Serbs were
also provided with weapons from federal stores. At
first, the Serbs had great successes in the fighting. In
six weeks, they managed to gain control of two-thirds of
Bosnia's territory. Tens of thousands of people, mostly
Bosnians, were fleeing. Others were put in hastily
established concentration camps such as Omarska and
The term "ethnic cleansing" was coined during the war
in Bosnia, when many acts of war deliberately aimed to
attack civilians and drive away those belonging to
"wrong" people. Ethnic cleansing is primarily associated
with the Serbs' warfare, but Croats and Bosnians also
committed atrocities during the war.
Bosnia's Croats who initially cooperated with the
Bosnians against the Serbs proclaimed in July 1992 an
autonomous state, the Croatian Republic of Herceg-Bosna.
In the autumn of 1992, bloody fighting also ensued
between Bosniaks and Croats.
While the Serbs received support from Serbia and the
Croats from Croatia, the Bosniaks managed without
powerful neighbors. However, they received some
financial help and minor reinforcements from Muslim
The war was going on for over three and a half years.
It required at least 100,000 people's lives and
displaced half of the country's inhabitants. The efforts
of the international community to stop the war have long
been fruitless. Already at the outbreak of the war there
was a UN force in Sarajevo to monitor the ceasefire in
the war in Croatia. This force gained responsibility in
the mid-1990s, for example, in defending six areas that
the UN declared "safe areas". These included the city of
Srebrenica in eastern Bosnia, but the UN failed to
prevent the Serbs from invading Srebrenica in July 1995
and the killing of some 8,000 Bosnian civilian boys and
men thereafter. The massacre was the first genocide in
Europe since the Second World War.
Negotiations and mediation efforts to try to achieve
peace continued throughout the war. In 1994, Bosniaks
and Croats were persuaded by the United States to create
the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. However, the
turning point in the war first came in 1995. The Serbs'
positions wavered after extensive Croatian offensives,
and NATO's escalated air strikes against Serbian
positions after the Srebrenica massacre. Subsequently,
the United States more or less forced a peace treaty on
Bosnia, following negotiations in which the Presidents
of Serbia and Croatia also participated. The settlement
was named after the city of Dayton in the US, which is
near the air base where the negotiations were conducted.
With the Dayton Agreement, the war ended and the
country was facing a long reconstruction process. The
agreement cemented the actual division of the country
into two roughly equal parts: the Bosnia-Herzegovina
Federation and the Republika Srpska. It also meant that
the political institutions were based on a division
between the three dominant ethnic groups. The agreement
stipulated that the international community should
appoint a special so-called High Representative with the
task of overseeing the peace process (see further
Political system). A NATO led peacekeeping force of
60,000 men was deployed in the country. It was lost and
transformed gradually (see Foreign Policy and Defense).
Responsibility for the country's politics and economy
would gradually be transferred from the international
community to new Bosnian institutions. But things went
slow. Disbelief between the former warring parties was
enormous, and politicians had difficulty agreeing on
important reforms. Therefore, the responsibility for
creating a functioning society was largely borne by the
Nationalist parties won big in the first elections
after peace. In the 2000 parliamentary elections,
however, a partial alliance led by the multi-ethnic and
reform-oriented Social Democratic SDP prevailed. The
support was predominantly in the Federation, in the
Republic Srpska, nationalist parties continued to
dominate. A national coalition government was formed but
was soon paralyzed by internal divisions.
At the same time, a normalization of society took
place slowly. Gradually, more and more refugees were
able to return to their homes. In the late 1990s, five
major donor conferences were organized, resulting in
billion aid. From 2001, a number of nationwide bodies
were set up: first a joint border administration and
eventually a defense ministry, a supreme court, a
prosecutor's office and customs administration.
Accused war criminals were forced to leave their
public records. Some of them were sentenced to long
prison sentences by the UN War Criminal Tribunal in The
Hague and eventually also by Bosnia's own war criminal
court (see Political system).
However, politics continued to be characterized by
nationalist contradictions. This was the case between
the country's two entities, but also in particular the
Federation. In the spring of 2001, representatives of
the Croatian nationalist HDZ declared that the areas
governed by the party would constitute a self-governing
political entity, in direct contravention of the Dayton
Agreement. The High Representative then dismissed HDZ
leader Ante Jelavić from the post of the country's
In the 2002 election, nationalist parties again won
land. A new coalition government was formed, but
contradictions between the parties made government work
ineffective and the cooperation threatened to break down
The city of Mostar has long been a battle issue.
After the war, the city was divided into a Bosnian and a
Croatian part, with separate administrations and
recurring unrest. It was not until 2004 that the city
was reunited, on a direct order from the High
An infected issue before the 2006 elections concerned
constitutional changes that the outside world was
pushing for and which would strengthen the power of the
central government. The amendments were stopped by
Parliament and the election results showed that the
ethnic divide had been strengthened as soon as possible.
The seven largest parties, more or less nationalist,
formed government. The country got for the first time a
Serbian Prime Minister, Nikola Špirić.
In the autumn of 2007, the High Representative
decided to simplify the political process by providing a
simple majority for decisions at the national level. The
purpose was to counteract the deadlock that prevailed on
several issues, including reforming the police system
and creating a national force. The rule change caused
the Republican Srpska's leaders to threaten to withdraw
all Serbs from the government agencies, and Prime
Minister Špirić resigned. The crisis seemed very
serious, but after some compromises Špirić was
Discussions continued about other constitutional
changes, but the visions of the country's future were
contradictory. Bosnian leaders wanted to create a
unified state and centralize power to Sarajevo. Bosnia
Croats proposed that the country should be further
divided into four units: three ethnically defined and
Sarajevo. The Bosnian Serbs wanted stronger autonomy for
the Republika Srpska, or to leave Bosnia altogether.
Political rhetoric increasingly reminded of the tone
before the Civil War and the Dayton Agreement seemed
seriously threatened. The EU and the United States tried
in vain to mediate between the leaders of the various
groups and cause them to break the deadlock in the talks
on a new federal constitution.
Difficult government formation
The 2010 election was followed by difficult and
lengthy government negotiations. It took 15 months of
talks, pressures from the outside world and an ever
deeper economic crisis before six parties finally
agreed. In February 2012, the new coalition government
took office, only then a budget for the previous year
could be adopted and government employees get their
wages in arrears.
Disagreement between the coalition parties, mainly
the Bosnian Nationalist Democratic Party (SDA) and the
Serbian Nationalist Serbian Democratic Party (SDS),
meant that the government had to be reformed by the end
of the year. Although the SDA had great successes in the
local elections in October 2012, the party's two
ministers were kicked out of the government that month.
The crisis also spilled over to the government of the
Federation, which had to ask the High Representative for
help in solving the problems.
In Republika Srpska, former Prime Minister Milorad
Dodik, who was elected president in 2010, continued on a
previously beaten path when he openly challenged the
Bosnian state building. Dodik claimed that high
representative Valentin Inzko was partial to the Serbs'
disadvantage. In April 2011, Dodik initiated a
referendum in the Republika Srpska to submit joint court
cases, among other things. The crisis was seen as the
worst so far after the war, and after pressure from the
High Representative Valentin Inzko and the EU, Dodik
withdrew the proposal.
In 2014, popular dissatisfaction was expressed in
protests that became the most extensive since the war.
In February, demonstrations were started in Tuzla, by
workers who protested against wages and pensions and
planned sales of state-owned companies. They were soon
supported by students and political activists. The
protests, which had no ethnic undertones, spread and
came to target the poor economic situation, high
unemployment and political lock-ups. Government
buildings are set on fire in Tuzla, Sarajevo and Mostar.
The unrest eventually turned into a peaceful protest
movement. In several cities, so-called citizen plenums
were formed, where everyone who wanted to discuss and
propose changes and improvements and how to put pressure
on politicians to take them. Many were hoping for a
"Bosnian Spring". But the protest movement, which was
mainly active in the Federation, did not lead to any
The politicians also turned out to be dead when the
country in the spring of 2014 was hit by the most
extensive floods in a century. Over 40 people were
killed and tens of thousands had to be evacuated then
rivers that Sava swam across all boards due to heavy
rain. The situation was made more difficult by the fact
that the water masses led to landslides and that land
mines from the Balkan wars in the 1990s were washed up
by the water or pulled by the landslides. Despite relief
from the outside world, reconstruction work was
difficult to get started and the already scarce economy
was affected by the disaster.