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History of Bosnia & Herzegovina

Bosnia & Herzegovina's history is slightly jumbled, but the modern day history begins in about 400 AD when the Roman empire was divided and Bosnia fell into the western empire while Serbia and everything east fell into the eastern empire.

In the 500 and 600s the Slavs arrived in the region, but for much of the next millennium the region was under the control of foreign empires. This foreign occupation began in 1383 when the Turks began their conquest of the region, making Sarajevo their capital and the center of the region's Islamic influence. From about 1500 the people either chose to convert to Islam or maintained their religions, which were primarily either Catholic (in the old Roman Empire) or Eastern Orthodox (in the old Byzantine Empire). More than other parts of the Balkans, the Bosnians were more willing to convert as they fell between the two churches and few people were strongly attached to either.

Throughout Ottoman rule in the Balkan Peninsula there were wars between the Turks and Christian groups, leading to migration of Muslims to Bosnia and Christians from Bosnia making the region more religiously homogenous over time, but still very divided.

In the 1800s the Hungarians took control over the region and improved industrialization in the region. However, this period also encouraged nationalism and divided the people as they began to view their religious differences as extending to also include ethnic differences. Along with growing differences, the people also united to rebel against the ruling Austrian-Hungarians and in 1914 a Serb nationalist in Sarajevo killed the Archduke, igniting World War I (WWI). As Austria declared war on the people in the area of Yugoslavia, the Russians and French swept in to support the southern Slavs, hence starting WWI. After the war the Austrians lost and the southern Slavs gained independence, creating the country of Yugoslavia in 1929.

At the outbreak of World War II, Yugoslavia was quickly taken over by the Germans, who the Croatians welcomed. By war's end however the southern Slavs liberated themselves and inserted a communist government, which, unlike eastern European communist countries, was not attached to Moscow.

In 1990 the communists were removed from government and independence was sought by numerous groups. The Serbs wanted to control the region of Yugoslavia, but Bosnians and Croatians wanted independence from Serbia and gained that. Unfortunately, this independence came at the expense of a civil war beginning in 1992, which primarily took place within modern-day Bosnia & Herzegovina.

The Balkan Wars began with an uprising by the Serbs in Bosnia who wanted to unite with Serbia, causing Serbia to enter Bosnia & Herzegovina in order to protect Serbian minorities in the region. However it seems from the start, the Serbs in Bosnia needed little help and thus the war turned into a genocide of sorts against the Muslim Bosniaks. Soon after this, the Croatians joined the fighting, as did the Bosniaks and the Serbs; later the United Nations (UN) had to step in to end the war. In 1995 all sides signed a peace treaty to end the war, but not the ongoing hostilities and hatred.

Today the country is united in government, but remains divided region to region and even from neighborhood to neighborhood. Some cities, like Mostar have very specified dividing lines between one ethnicity and another.

This page was last updated: March, 2013