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Title: Bosniak  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Conservatism, Imam, Macedonia (region), Murad III, Royal Welch Fusiliers, Trabzon, Enki Bilal, Islam and antisemitism, Siege of Sarajevo
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


For other uses, see Bosniaks (disambiguation).
Total population
>3 million
Regions with significant populations
 Bosnia and Herzegovina 2,185,055[1]
 United States 98,766- 350,000[2][3]
 Germany 158,158[4]
 Serbia 145.278[5]
 Austria 128,047[6]
 Turkey 101,000-2,000,0001[7][8]
 Sweden 56,127[9]
 Montenegro 53,605[10]
  Switzerland 46,773[11]
 Kosovo 45,600[12]
 Slovenia 21,542[13]
 Canada 21,040[14]
 Denmark 21,000[15]
 Croatia 31,479[16]
Republic of Macedonia Macedonia 17,018[17]
 Australia 17,993[18]
 Norway 16,338[9]
 Italy 3,600[19]
 Belgium 2,182[20]
 European Union total 400,000[21]
Related ethnic groups

Other Slavs, especially other South Slavs
Croats, Serbs, Montenegrins and Slovenes are the most related[23]

Based on genetic and phylogenetic studies the ancestral origins of the Bosniak people can be primarily attributed to the paleo-Balkan inhabitants (mainly Illyrians) and to Slavic invaders which settled the area during the Migration period.[24]
1According to estimates commissioned in 2008 by the National Security Council of Turkey (Milli Güvenlik Kurulu) around 2,000,000 Turkish citizens have Bosniak ancestry as mainly descended from Bosniak emigrants in the 19th and early 20th century.

The Bosniaks, or less commonly Bosniacs,[25] (Bosnian: Bošnjaci pronounced [bɔːˈʃɲaːtsi]; singular masculine: Bošnjak, feminine: Bošnjakinja) are a South Slavic ethnic group living mainly in Bosnia and Herzegovina along with a native minority present in other countries of the Balkan Peninsula; especially in the Sandžak region of Serbia and Montenegro (where Bosniaks form a regional majority), and in Croatia. Bosniaks are typically characterized by their historic tie to the Bosnian historical region, traditional adherence to Islam since the 15th and 16th centuries, common culture and Bosnian language. In the English-speaking world, Bosniaks are also frequently referred to as Bosnian Muslims[note 1] or simply Bosnians, though the latter is also used to denote all inhabitants of Bosnia and Herzegovina regardless of ethnic origin or to indicate citizenship in the country.


Bosniaks are a South Slavic people. There are well over two million Bosniaks living in the Balkans today, with an estimated additional million settled and living around the world. Several instances of ethnic cleansing and genocide by Bosnian Serbs and Bosnian Croats have had a tremendous effect on the territorial distribution of the population. Partially due to this,[26] a notable Bosniak diaspora exists in a number of countries, including Austria, Germany, Australia, Sweden, Turkey, Canada and the United States. Both within the region and throughout the world, Bosniaks are often noted for their unique culture, which has been influenced by both eastern and western civilizations and schools of thought over the course of their history.

Ethnonym and definition

According to the Bosniac entry in the Oxford English Dictionary, the first known lexical use of Bosniak in English was in the 1836 Penny Cyclopaedia V. 231/1: The inhabitants of Bosnia are composed of Bosniaks, and it arrived in English either via the French "Bosniaque", or the German "Bosniake", or the Russian "Bosnyak". In the Slavic languages, -ak is a common suffix appended to words to create a masculine noun, for instance also found in the ethnonym of Poles (Polak) and Slovaks (Slovák).

The earliest attestation to a Bosnian ethnonym emerged with the historical term "Bošnjanin" (Latin: Bosniensis) which denoted the people of the medieval Bosnian kingdom.[27] By the latter half of the 15th century, the suffix -(n)in had been replaced by -ak to create the current form Bošnjak (Bosniak). The Bosniaks derive their ethnic name from Bosnia and its likely eponymous river Bosna, which has been proposed to have an Illyrian origin - Bosona ("flowing water").[28][29] As such, Bosniak is etymologically equivalent to its non-ethnic counterpart Bosnian (which entered English around the same time): a native of Bosnia.

From the point of view of Bosniaks, bosanstvo (Bosnianhood) and bošnjaštvo (Bosniakhood) are closely and mutually connected, because Bosniaks connect their identity with Bosnia and Herzegovina.[30]

For the duration of Ottoman rule, the word Bosniak came to refer to all inhabitants of Bosnia; Turkish terms such as "Boşnak milleti", "Boşnak kavmi", and "Boşnak taifesi" (all meaning, roughly, "the Bosnian people"), were used in the Empire to describe Bosnians in an ethnic or "tribal" sense; and indeed, 17th-century Ottoman traveler and writer Evliya Çelebi reports in his work Seyahatname of the people in Bosnia as natively known as Bosniaks (Bošnjaci).[31] However, the concept of nationhood was foreign to the Ottomans at that time - not to mention the idea that Muslims and Christians of some military province could foster any common sur-confessional sense of identity. The inhabitants of Bosnia called themselves various names: from Bosniak, in the full spectrum of the word's meaning with a foundation as a territorial designation, through a series of regional and confessional names, all the way to modern-day national ones. In this regard, Christian Bosnians had not described themselves as either Serbs or Croats before the 19th century, and in particular before the Austrian occupation in 1878, when the current three-ethnic reality of Bosnia and Herzegovina was configured based on religious affiliation.[32]


The generally accepted definition (and the one used in this article) holds that Bosniaks are the Slavic Muslims on the territory of the former Yugoslavia who identify themselves with Bosnia and Herzegovina as their ethnic state and are part of such a common nation. However, individuals may hold their own personal interpretations as well. Some people, such as Montenegrin Abdul Kurpejović, recognize an Islamic component in the Bosniak identity but see it as referring exclusively to the Slavic Muslims in Bosnia.[33] Still others consider all Slavic Muslims in the former Yugoslavia (i.e. including the Gorani) to be Bosniaks.[34]

In Serb-dominated Yugoslavia,[35] unlike the preceding Austro-Hungarian Empire,[36] the option to ethnically declare oneself Bosniak was denied.[37] As a political compromise, the Constitution of Yugoslavia was amended in 1968 to introduce "Muslims" in a national (as opposed to religious) sense; recognizing a constitutive nation, but not the Bosniak name. Prior to this, the great majority of Bosnian Muslims had declared either Ethnically Undecided Muslim or - to a lesser extent - Undecided Yugoslav in censuses pertaining to Yugoslavia as the other available options were Serb-Muslim and Croat-Muslim. Although being recognized as a distinct nation under an alternative name, the use of Muslim as an ethnic denomination was, nevertheless, opposed early on as it sought to label Bosniaks a religious group instead of an ethnic one. 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 we shall start the process.

— In discussion with Josip Broz Tito in 1971 on the constitutional changes which recognized "Muslims"

Upon Bosnia and Herzegovina's declaration of independence from Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, the great majority of Bosnian Muslims aligned themselves with the Bosniak name. In September 1993, at the height of the Bosnian war, the Second Bosniak Congress (Bosnian: Drugi bošnjački sabor) formed a basis for the official re-establishment of the historical ethnic name Bosniak and deprecation of the former Muslim in use during SFR Yugoslavia.[29] Today, the election law of Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina, recognizes the results from the 1991 population census as results referring to Bosniaks which are, alongside Serbs and Croats, one of the three constituent nations in post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina and the single largest ethnic group in the country.

In other ex-Yugoslav countries with significant Slavic Muslim populations adoption of the Bosniak name has been less consistent. The effects of this phenomenon can best be seen in the censuses. For instance, the 2003 Montenegrin census recorded 48,184 people who registered as Bosniaks and 28,714 who registered as Muslim by nationality. Although Montenegro's Slavic Muslims form one ethnic community with a shared culture and history, this community is divided on whether to register as Bosniaks (i.e. adopt Bosniak national identity) or as Muslims by nationality.[33] Similarly, the 2002 Slovenian census recorded 8,062 people who registered as Bosnians, presumably highlighting (in large part) the decision of many secular Bosniaks to primarily identify themselves in that way (a situation somewhat comparable to the Yugoslav option during the socialist period). However, such people comprise a minority (even in countries such as Montenegro where it is a significant issue) while the great majority of Slavic Muslims in the former Yugoslavia have adopted the Bosniak national name.

"Muslims/Muslimani" in SFR Yugoslavia
Republic 1971 1981 1991
Bosnia and Herzegovina 1,482,430 (39.6%) 1,630,033 (39.5%) 1,902,956 (43.5%)[note 2]
Montenegro 70,236 (13.3%) 78,080 (13.4%) 89,614 (14.6%)
Croatia 18,457 (0.4%) 23,740 (0.5%) 43,469 (0.9%)
Macedonia 1,248 (0.1%) 39,512 (2.1%) 35,256 (1.7%)
Slovenia 3,197 (0.2%) 13,425 (0.7%) 26,867 (1.4%)
Serbia 154,364 (1.8%) 215,166 (2.3%) 246,411 (2.5%)
Yugoslavia 1,729,932 (8.4%) 1,999,957 (8.9%) 2,344,573 (10.0%)


Part of a series on the
History of
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Early history
Roman Dalmatia
Roman Pannonia
Middle Ages
Banate of Bosnia
Kingdom of Bosnia
Ottoman conquest
Ottoman era
(Eyalet / Vilayet)
Habsburg era
(Bosnian crisis)
Kingdom of Yugoslavia
(Drina Banovina)
World War II
SFR Yugoslavia
(SR Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Breakup of Yugoslavia
Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnian War
(Herzeg-Bosnia / Western Bosnia)
Bosnia and Herzegovina
(Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina)
(Republika Srpska)
Bosnia and Herzegovina portal

Relation to neighboring nationalism

As a melting ground for confrontations between different religions, national mythologies, and concepts of statehood, much of the historiography of Bosnia and Herzegovina has since the 19th century been the subject of competing Serb and Croat nationalist claims part of wider Serbian and Croatian hegemonic aspirations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, inherently interwoven into the complex nature of the Bosnian War at the end of the 20th century.[38] As Andras Riedlmayers's meticulous research for the Hague Tribunal demonstrates: What happened in Bosnia is not just genocide, the willful destruction of the essential foundations of one particular community or group of people within a society [....] What happened in Bosnia is also described as sociocide, the murdering of a progressive, complex, and enlightened society in order that a regressive, simple, and bigoted society could replace it.[39]

Contrary to frequent Serb and Croat nationalist claims, Bosnia and Herzegovina constitutes a historical entity which has its own identity and its own history.[40] These two neighbors have, indeed, occupied parts of its territory, but only for brief periods of time and, as such, neither Serbia nor Croatia has any serious historical claims to Bosnia.[40][41] Moreover, although Bosnia did interact with its Serb and Croat neighbors over the centuries, it had a very different history and culture from them.[42] John Kinnamos, a late 12th-century Byzantine historian, reports that Bosnia was not subordinated; rather the Bosnians had their own distinct way of life and government.[43] According to American professor John V.A. Fine, prominent authority in the field,[44] the Bosnians (Bošnjani) have been a distinct people since at least the 10th century.[45]

Origins and genetics

See also: Early history of Bosnia and Herzegovina

The Early Slavs, a people from northeastern Europe, settled the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina (and neighboring regions) in the sixth and early seventh century (amid the Migration Period), and were composed of small tribal units drawn from a single Slavic confederation known to the Byzantines as the Sclaveni (whilst the related Antes, roughly speaking, colonized the eastern portions of the Balkans).[46][47] Upon their arrival, the Slavs assimilated the Paleo-Balkan, mostly romanized tribes, generically known as the Illyrians (and even Thracians[48][49][50]) on the territory of present-day Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also the Celtic population which had intermingled with these since the 4th century BC, and to a lesser extent the Germanic-speaking Ostrogoths which had entered the area in the late 4th century AD. Timothy Gregory writes:

"It is now generally agreed that the people who lived in the Balkans after the Slavic "invasions" were probably for the most part the same as those who had lived there earlier, although the creation of new political groups and arrival of small immigrants caused people to look at themselves as distinct from their neighbours, including the Byzantines".

T E Gregory, A History of Byzantium. Wiley- Blackwell, 2010. Pg 169

Being a remote and mountainous region, Bosnia appears to have been settled by fewer Slavs than in general and perhaps served as an area of refuge for the native Illyrians.[51] The toponym "Bosnia (Bosna)" - after the river Bosna around which it has been historically based - is most likely itself derived from the Illyrian Bosona ("flowing water") and a testament to the Illyrian heritage of the region.[29] Tribes recorded under the ethnonyms of "Serb" and "Croat" are described as a second, latter, migration of different people during the second quarter of the 7th century who do not seem to have been particularly numerous;[46][52] these early "Serb" and "Croat" tribes, whose exact identity is subject to scholarly debate,[53] came to predominate over the Slavs in the neighboring regions. Bosnia proper, however, appears to have been a territory outside of Serb and Croat rule and is not mentioned as one of the regions settled by those tribes. In time, Bosnia would come to form an independent unit under a ruler, Ban Kulin, calling himself Bosnian.[52]

In the 14th century a Bosnian kingdom centered on the river Bosna emerged. Its people, when not using a local name, called themselves Bosnians.[45][54] However, it was not until the Ottoman occupation of Europe that the modern-day Bosniaks became distinct from surrounding Slavs, as Islam's self-identifying role for the Bosniaks was similar to that played by Catholicism for the Croats and Orthodoxy for the Serbs.[55]


It has been established, among other based on genetic signatures, that the ancestral origins of the Bosniak people (and Bosnians in general) also date back to the pre-Slavic inhabitants of the Dinaric region.[56][57][58] As with all modern European nations, a large degree of 'biological continuity' exists between the Bosniaks and their ancient predecessors. Genetic and phylogenetic studies have shown that the earliest genetic roots of the Bosniak people can be traced back to the ancient populations that expanded into the Balkans following the Last Glacial Maximum 21 thousand years ago.[57] These studies have indicated that the dominant Y-chromosome haplogroup I, and specifically its sub-haplogroup I-P37 (I2a2) found in Bosniaks, are associated with the paleolithic settlers.[57] Peričić et al. for instance places its expansion to have occurred "not earlier than the YD to Holocene transition and not later than the early Neolithic”.[59] Decidedly, the Slavic population can be divided into two genetically distinct groups: one encompassing all Western-Slavic (Poles, Slovaks etc.), Eastern-Slavic (Russians, Ukrainians etc.), and a few Southern-Slavic populations (north-western Croats and Slovenes), characterized by Haplogroup R1a, and one encompassing all remaining Southern Slavs (including Bosniaks), characterized by Haplogroup I2a2 (I-L69.2). According to Rebała et al., this phenomenon is explained by "contribution to the Y chromosomes of peoples who settled in the Balkan region before the Slavic expansion to the genetic heritage of Southern Slavs.."[60]

Y-chromosomal haplogroups identified among the Bosniaks from Bosnia and Herzegovina are the following:

  • I2a-P37.2, 43.50%.[57] The frequency of this haplogroup peaks in Bosnia and Herzegovina (52.20% and 63.80%, by respective region[62]), and its variance peaks over a large geographic area covering B-H, Croatia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Northern Albania, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine and Belarus. This haplogroup is associated with paleolithic[63] settlement in the region and as a likely signature of a Balkan population re-expansion after the Last Glacial Maximum.[61] The high concentration of I2a1b-L621 in north-east Romania, Moldova, central Ukraine and southern Belarus reminds of the maximum spread of the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture (4800-3000 BCE) before it was swallowed by the Indo-European Corded Ware culture, which can be traced back to the expansion of the haplogroup R1a. After being Indo-Europeanized, I2a-L621 would have become (after haplogroup R1a) the second dominant paternal lineage among the proto-Slavs. So it would not be misleading to assume that some of the Slavic settlers in western Balkans in the Late Antiquity and Early Middle Ages carried haplogroup I2a which eventually resulted in an increased percentage of this haplogroup among the South Slav population today.[64]
  • E1b1b1a2-V13, 12.90%.[57] E-V13 is one of the major markers of the Neolithic diffusion of farming from the Balkans to central, eastern and western Europe. Like all the other subclades of E-M78, E-V13 originated in north-east Africa toward the end of the last Ice Age. Its frequency is now far higher in Greece, South Italy and the Balkans.[65][66] The modern distribution of E-V13 hints at a strong correlation with the Neolithic and Chalcolithic cultures of Old Europe, such as the Vinča, Boian (aka Giuleşti-Marişa), and Karanovo, cultures. E-V13 was later associated with the ancient Greek expansion and colonisation. Outside of the Balkans and Central Europe, it is particularly common in southern Italy, Cyprus and southern France, all part of the Classical ancient Greek world. In Bosnia the haplogroup is probably linked to the ancient Illyrians and Greek settlers (see Daorson).
  • R1a1-M17, 15.30%.[57] The first major expansion of haplogroup R1a took place with the westward propagation of the Corded Ware (or Battle Axe) culture (2800-1800 BCE) from the northern forest-steppe in the Yamna homeland, north of the Black sea. R1a is thought to have been the dominant haplogroup among the northern and eastern Proto-Indo-European language speakers, that evolved into the Indo-Iranian, Thracian, Baltic and Slavic branches. The frequency of this haplogroup peaks today in Poland (56.4%) and Ukraine (54.0%), and its variance peaks in northern Bosnia. It is the most predominant Y-chromosomal haplogroup in the overall Slavic gene pool.[65][67] The variance of R1a1 in the Balkans might have been enhanced by infiltrations of Indo-European speaking peoples between 2000 and 1000 BC (probably Proto-Illyro-Thracian speakers), and by the Slavic migrations to the region in the early Middle Ages.[65][67]
  • R1b-S28/U152, 3.50%.[57] The proto-Italo-Celts and Cisalpine Celts of the Hallstatt culture and La Tène culture are most likely associated with the S28 (a.k.a. U152) mutation which frequency peaks in northern Italy, Corsica, Switzerland, southwestern parts of Germany and in the French regions of Alsace and Poitou-Charentes.
  • T-M184, 1.20%[67] The modern distribution T in Europe strongly correlates with a the Neolithic colonisation of Mediterranean Europe by Near-Eastern farmers, notably the Cardium Pottery culture (5000-1500 BCE).
  • I1-M253, 4.70%.[57] Men belonging to this haplogroup all descend from a single ancestor who lived in Northern Europe between 10,000 and 7,000 years ago. It is the most common haplogroup in Northern Europe, reaching over 40% of the population in Scandinavia, where it also evolved in isolation during the late Paleolithic and Mesolithic.[68] The haplogroups is strong associated with Nordic hunter-gatherer Ertebølle and Pitted Ware cultures. Traces of this paternal lineage appear in the areas the Germanic tribes were recorded as having invaded or migrated to.[69][70] The frequency of haplogroup I1 in western Balkans (or Balkans in general) hints at had a particularly strong Gothic presence, which is concordant with the establishment of the Ostrogothic kingdom in the 5th century AD.
  • J2b-M102, 2.40%[57] J2b seems to have a stronger association with the Neolithic and Chalcolithic cultures of Southeast Europe. It is particularly common in the Balkans, Central Europe and Italy, which is roughly the extent of the European Copper Age culture. Its maximum frequency is achieved around Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro and Northwest Greece - the part of the Balkans which best resisted the Slavic invasions in the Early Middle Ages.
  • G-M201, 3.50%[57] It has been proven by the testing of Neolithic remains in various parts of Europe that haplogroup G2a was one of the lineages of Neolithic farmers and herders who migrated from Anatolia to Europe between 9,000 and 6,000 years ago.[71] Nowadays haplogroup G, especially the subgroup G2a is found mostly in mountainous regions of Europe, for example in southern Russia (Caucasus region), Italian peninsula, northern Greece (Thessaly), Crete, northern parts of the Iberian peninsula, Auvergne (France) and in Tyrol (Austria). The presence of this haplogroup in western Balkans is most likely of indigenous Neolithic origin, or/and possibly of ancient Roman. The Latin homeland in central Italy is one of the hotspots for haplogroup G2a in Europe today. The high level in G2a in the Latium might be due to the dual presence of Indo-European G2a3b and of earlier Neolithic lineages who descended from the Apennines to live in Rome after being absorbed by the Roman civilisation.
  • F*-M89, 3.50%[57]
  • J2a1b1-M92, 1.20%[57] Various other lineages of haplogroup J2-M172 are found throughout the Balkans, all with low frequencies. Haplogroup J and all its descendants originated in the Middle East. It is proposed that the Balkan Mesolithic foragers, bearers of I-P37.2 and E-V13, adopted farming from the initial J2 agriculturalists who colonized the region about 7000 to 8000 ybp, transmitting the Neolithic cultural package.[66]
  • J1-M267, 2.40%[57] Haplogroup J1 is a Middle Eastern haplogroup, which probably originated in eastern Anatolia. This haplogroup is almost certainly linked to the expansion of pastoralist lifestyle throughout the Middle East and Europe. J1 is particularly common in mountainous regions of Europe (with the notable exception of the Alps and the Carpathians), like Caucasus, Greece, Albania, Italy, central France, and the most rugged parts of Iberia (Asturias, Cantabria, Castile-La Mancha) as well as those with the highest density of Neolithic settlements (Portugal and Andalusia).

Middle Ages

See also: Banate of Bosnia and Kingdom of Bosnia

The period from the 6th to 10th centuries saw both external migrations and raids by Slavs and Avars, as well as internal political and cultural re-organization of the former Roman province of Dalmatia. It is only from the 9th century that Frankish and Byzantine sources begin to mention early Slavic polities in the region. In this regard, the earliest widely acknowledged reference to Bosnia dates from the 10th century De Administrando Imperio written by Byzantine emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus,[72] during which period Bosnia is briefly a part of the short-lived Serbian state of Časlav, after whose death in battle in about 960, much of Bosnia finds itself briefly incorporated into the Croatian state of Krešimir II. Shortly thereafter, in 997, Samuel of Bulgaria marches through Bosnia and asserts his over-lordship in parts of it, however, only to be defeated by the Byzantine empire in 1018 which annexes Bulgaria and asserts its suzerainty in Bosnia. This lasted until later in the century when some parts of Bosnia are briefly incorporated into Croatia and others into Duklja from which the latter Bosnia appears to have seceded in about 1101. In the year of 1137, Hungary annexes most of Bosnia, then briefly losing her in 1167 to the Byzantine empire before regaining her in 1180. Thus, prior to 1180 (the reign of Ban Kulin) parts of Bosnia were briefly found in Serb or Croat units, but neither neighbor had held the Bosnians long enough to acquire their loyalty or to impose any serious claim to Bosnia.[73] Anto Babić notes that Bosnia is mentioned on several occasions as a land of equal importance and on the same footing as all other [South Slavic] lands of this area.[74]

After frequent change of rule over the area between medieval Serb, Croatian, Bulgarian and Byzantine rule, a de facto independent Bosnian state known as the Banate of Bosnia arose in the 12th century, though nominally under Hungarian sway.

Religion, the Bosnian Church and Statehood

See also: Bosnian Church

Christian missions emanating from Rome and Constantinople had since the ninth century pushed into the Balkans and firmly established Catholicism in Croatia and most of Dalmatia, while Orthodoxy came to prevail in Bulgaria, Macedonia, and eventually most of Serbia. Bosnia, lying in between, remained a no-man's land due to its mountainous terrain and poor communications. By the twelfth century most Bosnians were probably influenced by a nominal form of Catholicism characterized by a widespread illiteracy and, not least, lack of knowledge in Latin amongst Bosnian clergymen. Around this period, Bosnian independence from Hungarian overlordship was effected during the reign (1180-1204) of Kulin Ban whose rule marked the start of a religiopolitical controversy involving the native Bosnian Church. The Hungarians, frustrated by Bosnia's assertion of independence, successfully denigrated its patchy Christianity as heresy; in turn rendering a pretext to reassert their authority in Bosnia. Hungarian efforts to gain the loyalty and cooperation of the Bosnians by attempting to establish religious jurisdiction over Bosnia failed however, inciting the Hungarians to persuade the papacy to declare a crusade: finally invading Bosnia and warring their between 1235 and 1241. Experiencing various gradual success against stubborn Bosnian resistance, the Hungarians eventually withdrew weakened by a Tatar attack on Hungary. On the request of the Hungarians, Bosnia was subordinated to an Hungarian archbishop by the pope, though rejected by the Bosnians, the Hungarian-appointed bishop was driven out of Bosnia. The Bosnians, rejecting ties with international Catholicism came to consolidate their own independent church, known as the Bosnian Church, considered heretic by both the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Church. Though scholars have traditionally claimed the church to be of a dualist, or neo-Manichean or Bogomil nature (characterized by the rejection of an omnipotent God, the Trinity, church buildings, the cross, the cult of saints, and religious art), some, such as John Fine, have stressed domestic evidence indicating the retention of basic Catholic theology throughout the Middle Ages.[75] Most scholars agree that adherents of the church referred to themselves by a number of names; dobri Bošnjani or Bošnjani ("good Bosnians" or simply "Bosnians"), Krstjani (Christians), dobri mužje (good men), dobri ljudi (good people) and boni homines (following the example of a dualist group in Italy). Catholic sources refer to them as patarini (patarenes), while the Serbs called them Babuni (after Babuna Mountain), the Serb term for Bogomils. The Ottomans referred to them as kristianlar while the Orthodox and Catholics were called gebir or kafir, meaning "unbeliever".[76] The majority of the knowledge about the church is retrieved from outside sources.

Expansion and the Bosnian Kingdom

The Bosnian state was significantly strengthened under the rule (ca. 1318-1353) of ban Stephen II of Bosnia who patched up Bosnia's relations with the Hungarian kingdom and expanded the Bosnian state, in turn incorporating Catholic and Orthodox domains to the west and south; the latter following the conquer of Zahumlje (roughly modern-day Herzegovina) from the Serbian Nemanjić dynasty. In the 1340s, Franciscan missions were launched against alleged "heresy" in Bosnia; prior to this, there had been no Catholics - or at least no Catholic clergy or organization - in Bosnia proper for nearly a century. By the year 1347, Stephen II was the first Bosnian ruler to accept Catholicism, which from then on came to be - at least nominally - the religion of all of Bosnia's medieval rulers, except for possibly Stephen Ostoja of Bosnia (1398-1404, 1409–18) who continued to maintain close relations with the Bosnian Church. The Bosnian nobility would subsequently often undertake nominal oaths to quell "heretical movements" - in reality, however, the Bosnian state was characterized by a religious plurality and tolerance up until the Ottoman invasion of Bosnia in 1463.[77]

By the 1370s, the Banate of Bosnia had evolved into the powerful Kingdom of Bosnia following the coronation of Tvrtko I of Bosnia as the first Bosnian king in 1377, further expanding into neighboring Serb and Croat dominions. However, even with the emergence of a kingdom, no concrete Bosnian identity emerged; religious plurality, independent-minded nobility, and a rugged, mountainous terrain precluded cultural and political unity. As Noel Malcolm stated: "All that one can sensibly say about the ethnic identity of the Bosnians is this: they were the Slavs who lived in Bosnia."[78]

Ottoman era and Austro-Hungarian rule

The rise of Ottoman rule in the Balkans modified the religious picture of Bosnia and Herzegovina as the Ottomans brought with them a new religion, Islam. Throughout the entire Balkans people were sporadically converting in small numbers; Bosnia, by contrast, experienced a rapid and extensive conversion of the local population to Islam, and by the early 1600s approximately two thirds of the population of Bosnia were Muslim.[84] This left the landscape as a checkerboard of Muslim, Catholic, and Orthodox villages existing side by side. Generally, historians agree that the Islamization of the Bosnian population was not the result of violent methods of conversions but was, for the most part, peaceful and voluntary.[85] Scholars have long debated the reasons that made this collective acceptance of Islam possible among the Bosniaks, although the religious dynamic of medieval Bosnia is frequently cited.[49] Peter Masarechi, an early-seventeenth-century apostolic visitor of the Roman Catholic Church to Bosnia, saw four basic reasons to explain the more intensive Islamization in Bosnia: the 'heretical past' of the Bosnians, which had left them confessionally weak and capable of transferring their allegiance to Islam; the example of many Bosnians who had attained high office through the devşirme, and as powerful men were in a position to encourage their relatives and associates to convert; a desire to escape from the burdens of taxation and other services levied on non-Muslim citizens; and finally, an equally strong desire to escape the proselytizing importunities of Franciscan monks among the Orthodox population.[86] In 1870, the Bosnian Muslims were the largest population in Bosnia (694,000), slightly less than 50 percent of the total.[87]

Ottoman rule affected the ethnic and religious make-up of Bosnia and Herzegovina in additional ways. A large number of Bosnian Catholics retreated to the still unconquered Catholic regions of Croatia and Dalmatia, at the time controlled by Habsburg Austria and the Republic of Venice, respectively. To fill up depopulated areas of northern and western Eyalet of Bosnia, the Ottomans encouraged the migration of large numbers of hardy settlers with military skills from Serbia and Herzegovina. Many of these settlers were Vlachs, members of a nomadic pre-Slav Balkan population that had acquired a Latinate language and specialized in stock breeding, horse raising, long-distance trade, and fighting. Most were members of the Serbian Orthodox church. Before the Ottoman conquest, that church had had very few members in the Bosnian lands outside Herzegovina and the eastern strip of the Drina valley; there is no definite evidence of any Orthodox church buildings in central, northern, or western Bosnia before 1463. With time most of the Vlach population adopted a Serb identity.[88][89][90] During the Ottoman period, Christians were treated as "dhimmis" by the Ottoman authorities but were otherwise subject to the same restrictions as Muslim subjects. Dhimmis were not required to join the army, but they paid a special tax called jizya (glavarina in Bosnia). Many children of Christian parents were separated from their families and raised to be members of the Janissary Corps (this practice was known as the devşirme system, 'devşirmek' meaning 'to gather' or 'to recruit'). Owing to their education (for they were taught arts, science, maths, poetry, literature and many of the languages spoken in the Ottoman Empire, such as Arabic, Bosnian, Greek and Turkish), Janissaries could easily work their way up to a becoming governors or even Grand Viziers. The Ottoman rule also saw many architectural investments in Bosnia and the creation and development of many new cities including Sarajevo and Mostar. This is mostly because of the high esteem the Bosniaks held in the eyes of the Sultans and the Turks.

The 17th century brought major defeats and military setbacks on the Ottoman Empire's western frontier. With major wars occurring every few decades, Bosnia was economically and militarily exhausted. For Bosnia and Bosniaks, the most critical conflict of all was the Great Turkish War. At its very start in the mid-1680s, the Habsburgs conquered nearly all of Ottoman Hungary, sending tens of thousands of Muslim refugees flooding into Bosnia. A similar process occurred with the Habsburg conquest of Lika and Slavonia. Thousands of Muslims from these parts fled eastward into the Bosnian pashaluk, while those who remained were forcibly converted to Catholicism. In total, it is estimated that more than 100,000 Muslims were expelled from the frontier regions and settled in Bosnia during this time. Many brought with them a new sense of hostility towards Christianity.

Ottoman military disasters continued into the next decade. In 1697, Habsburg Prince Eugene of Savoy conducted an extremely successful border raid which culminated in Sarajevo being put to the torch. The Great Turkish War was finally ended by the Treaty of Karlowitz in 1699. However, in the late 1710s yet another war between the Ottomans and the Habsburg-Venetian alliance ensued. It was ended by the Treaty of Passarowitz in 1718, but not before sending another wave of Muslim refugees fleeing to Bosnia proper. These events created great unrest among Bosniaks. The sentiment of discontent was further magnified by war and an increased tax burden. As a result, Bosniak revolts sprang up in Herzegovina in 1727, 1728, 1729, and 1732. A large plague that resulted in the death of thousands during the early 1730s contributed to the general chaos. In 1736, seeking to exploit these conditions, The Habsburgs broke the Treaty of Passarowitz and crossed the Sava river boundary. In one of the most significant events in Bosniak history, local Bosniak nobility organized a defense and counterattack completely independent of the ineffective imperial authorities. On 4 August 1737, at the Battle of Banja Luka, the outnumbered Bosniak forces routed the Habsburg army and sent them fleeing back to Slavonia.

With the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire, Serbia became independent from Ottoman control by the nineteenth century, it was the time of a concomitant "re-awakening" of Serb and Croat nationalism. Both Serbs and Croats claimed 'historical rights' to Bosnia. However, members of the 19th century Illyrian movement, most notably franciscan Ivan Franjo Jukić, emphasized Bosniaks alongside Serbs and Croats as one of the "tribes" that constitute the "Illyrian nation".[91]

We Bosniaks, the once-famous people, now that we are barely alive, our friends of science see us as head detached from the Slavic tree and pity us ... It is time to awake from a long lasting negligence; give us the cup, and from well of apprehension, inexhaustibly gain knowledge, wisdom; firstly let us try to cleanse our hearts from prejudice, reach for books and magazines, let's see what the others did, so that we can use the same means, that our nation of simple people from the darkness of ignorance to the light of truth we bring.

Ivan Franjo Jukić - excerpt from his work[92]

Jukić's pupil and fellow friar Fra Antun Knežević, was one of the main protagonists of the Bošnjak (Bosniak) identity as well, and even more vocal then Fra Jukić. He fiercely advocated against imminent Croatization of Bosnian Catholics on one side, as well as imminent Serbianization of Bosnian Orthodox people on the other, as he called it in his work. His position and doctrine was that all Bosnians are one people of three faiths, and that up to late 19th century, no Croats and Serbs lived in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Although Fra Antun Knežević was not a unique phenomenon in this sense, he certainly had strongest impact, next to Fra Jukić.[93][94][95][96][97][98]

After the Serb Uprising that was sparked in 1875 the population of Bosnian Muslims and Orthodox Christians in Bosnia decreased. The Orthodox Christian population (534,000 in 1870) decreased by 7 percent but the Muslims decreased far worse a loss of more than one third.[87] The conflict rapidly spread and came to involve several Balkan states and Great Powers, which eventually forced the Ottomans to cede administration of the country to Austria-Hungary through the Treaty of Berlin in 1878.[99] The Austrian census in 1879 recorded altogether 449,000 Muslims and 496,485 Orthodox Christians in Bosnia. The losses were 245,000 Muslims and 37,500 Orthodox Christians.[87]

A large number of Bosniaks left Bosnia and Herzegovina following the Austrian occupation; official Austro-Hungarian records show that 56,000 people, mostly Bosniaks, emigrated between 1883 and 1920, but the number of Bosniak emigrants is probably much greater, as the official record does not reflect emigration before 1883, nor include those who left without permits. Those who stayed were concentrated in towns and particularly proud of their urban culture, especially in the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, which soon became one of the most multi-cultural cities in the former Yugoslavia.

Bosnian Muslim intelligentsia gathered around the magazine Bosnia in the 1860s to promote the idea of a unified Bosniak nation. This Bosniak group would remain active for several decades, with the continuity of ideas and the use of the Bosniak name. From 1891 until 1910, they published a magazine titled Bosniak.

Common, international, reference to the Bosniak national name around this period is illustrated by an article in The New York Times from 1880 shortly discussing Bosniak resistance to Austro-Hungarian occupation forces:

After the occupation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1878, the Austrian administration of Benjamin Kallay, the Austro-Hungarian governor of Bosnia and Herzegovina, officially endorsed Bošnjaštvo ('Bosniakhood') as the basis of a multi-confessional Bosnian nation that would include Christians as well as Muslims. The policy attempted to isolate Bosnia and Herzegovina from its irredentist neighbors (Orthodox Serbia and Catholic Croatia, but also the Muslims of the Ottoman Empire) and to negate the concepts of Croatian and Serbian nationhood which had already begun to take ground among Bosnia and Herzegovina's Catholic and Orthodox communities, respectively.[100][101][102] The notion of Bosnian nationhood was, however, firmly established only among the Bosnian Muslims, while fiercely opposed by Serb and Croat nationalists who were instead seeking to claim Bosnian Muslims as their own, a move that was rejected by most of them.[103]

After Kallay's death in 1903, the official policy slowly drifted towards accepting the three-ethnic reality of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Ultimately, the failure of Austro-Hungarian ambitions to nurture a Bosniak identity amongst the Catholic and Orthodox led to almost exclusively Bosnian Muslims adhering to it, with 'Bosniakhood' consequently adopted as a Bosnian Muslim ethnic ideology by nationalist figures.[104] Beginning in 1891, Mehmed-beg Kapetanović Ljubušak declared that Bosnian Muslims were neither Croats nor Serbs but a distinct, though related people.[105] Kapetanović in an article of the journal Bosnjak (The Bosniak), declared the following:.[105]

Whereas the Croats argue that the Orthodox are our greatest enemies and that Serbdom is the same as Orthodoxy, the Serbs wear themselves out calling our attention to some bogus history, by which they have Serbianized the whole world. We shall never deny that we belong to the South Slav family; but we shall remain Bosniaks, like our forefathers, and nothing else.[105]

Mehmed-beg Kapetanović Ljubušak

In November 1881, upon introducing a Bosnian-Herzegovinian unit within the Austro-Hungarian army, the Austro-Hungarian government passed a Military Law (Wehrgesetz) imposing an obligation upon all Bosniaks to serve in the Imperial Army."[107] This led to widespread riots over December 1881 and throughout 1882 - which could only be defeated and suppressed by military means. The Austrians appealed to the Mufti of Sarajevo, Mustafa Hilmi Hadžiomerović (born 1816) and he soon issued a Fatwa "calling on the Bosniaks to obey military Law."[108] Other important Muslim community leaders such as Mehmedbeg Kapetanović, later Mayor of Sarajevo, also appealed to young Muslim men to serve in the Habsburg military. At the outbreak of World War I, Bosniaks were conscripted to serve in the Austro-Hungarian army, some chose to desert rather than fight against fellow Slavs, whilst some Bosniaks attacked Bosnian Serbs in apparent anger after the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. Neven Anđelić writes One can only guess what kind of feeling was dominant in Bosnia at the time. Both animosity and tolerance existed at the same time.[109]

Yugoslavia and World War II

See also: History of Bosnia and Herzegovina (1918-1941), History of Bosnia and Herzegovina (1941–1945) and History of Bosnia and Herzegovina (1945–1992)

After World War I, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later known as the Kingdom of Yugoslavia) was formed. In it, Bosniaks alongside Macedonians and Montenegrins were not acknowledged as a distinct ethnic group.[110] However; the first provisional cabinet included a Muslim.[111]

Politically, Bosnia and Herzegovina was split into four banovinas with Muslims being the minority in each.[112] After the Cvetković-Maček Agreement 13 counties of Bosnia and Herzegovina were incorporated into the Banovina of Croatia and 38 counties into the projected Serbian portion of Yugoslavia.[112] In calculating the division, the Muslims were discounted altogether[112] which prompted the Bosniaks into creating the Movement for the Autonomy of Bosnia-Herzegovina.[113] Moreover, land reforms proclaimed in the February 1919 affected 66.9 per cent of the land in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Given that the old landowning was predominantly Bosniak, the land reforms were resisted. Violence against Muslims and the enforced seizure of their lands shortly ensued. Bosniaks were offered compensation but it was never fully materialized. The regime sought to pay 255,000,000 dinars in compensation per a period of 40 years with an interest rate of 6%. Payments began in 1936 and were expected to be completed in 1975; however in 1941 World War Two erupted and only 10% of the projected remittances were made.[111]

During World War II, Bosniak elite and notables issued resolutions or memorandums in various cities that publicly denounced Croat-Nazi collaborationist measures, laws and violence against Serbs: Prijedor (23 September), Sarajevo (the Resolution of Sarajevo Muslims of 12 October), Mostar (21 October), Banja Luka (12 November), Bijeljina (2 December) and Tuzla (11 December). The resolutions condemned the Ustaše in Bosnia and Herzegovina, both for their mistreatment of Muslims and for their attempts at turning Muslims and Serbs against one another.[114] One memorandum declared that since the beginning of the Ustaše regime, that Muslims dreaded the lawless activities that some Ustaše, some Croatian government authorities, and various illegal groups perpetrated against the Serbs.[115] At this time several massacres against Bosniaks were carried out by Serb and Montenegrin Chetniks.[116][117][118] It is estimated that 75,000 Muslims died in the war,[119] although the number may have been as high as 86,000 or 6.8 percent of their pre-war population.[120] A number of Muslims joined the Yugoslav Partisan forces, "making it a truly multi-ethnic force".[109] In the entirety of the war the Yugoslav Partisans of Bosnia and Herzegovina were 23 percent Muslim.[121] Even so, Serb-dominated Yugoslav Partisans would often enter Bosniak villages killing Bosniak intellectuals and other potential opponents.[122] In February 1943 the Germans approved the 13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Handschar (1st Croatian) and began recruitment. Muslims composed approximately 12 percent of the civil service and armed forces of the Independent State of Croatia.[123] During the socialist Yugoslav period, the Muslims continued to be treated as a religious group instead of an ethnic group.[112] In the 1948 census Bosnia and Herzegovina's Muslims had three options in the census: "Serb-Muslim", "Croat-Muslim", and "ethnically undeclared Muslim".[112] In the 1953 census the category "Yugoslav, ethnically undeclared" was introduced and the overwhelming majority of those who declared themselves as such were Muslims.[112] The Bosniaks were recognized as an ethnic group in 1961 but not as a nationality and in 1964 the Fourth Congress of the Bosnian Party assured the Bosniaks the right to self-determination.[112] In 1971, the Muslims were fully recognized as a nationality and in the census the option "Muslims by nationality" was added.[112]

Bosnian War

See also: Bosnian war, Siege of Sarajevo, Srebrenica massacre and Rape in the Bosnian War

During the war, the Bosniaks were subject to ethnic cleansing and genocide carried out by both Bosnian Croats and Bosnian Serbs, especially the latter. The war caused hundrends of thousands of Bosniaks to flee the nation. The war also caused many drastic demographic changes in Bosnia. Bosniaks were prevalent throughout almost all of Bosnia in 1991, a year before the war officially broke out. As a result of the war, Bosniaks in Bosnia were concentrated mostly in areas that were held by the Bosnian government during the war for independence. Today Bosniaks make up the absolute majority in Sarajevo and its canton, most of northwestern Bosnia around Bihać, as well as central Bosnia, Brčko District, Goražde, Podrinje and parts of Herzegovina. At the outset of the Bosnian war, Serb forces attacked the Bosnian Muslim civilian population in eastern Bosnia. Once towns and villages were securely in their hands, the Serb forces – military, police, the paramilitaries and, sometimes, even Serb villagers – applied the same pattern: houses and apartments were systematically ransacked or burnt down, civilians were rounded up or captured, and sometimes beaten or killed in the process. Men and women were separated, with many of the men massacred or detained in the camps. The women were kept in various detention centers where they had to live in intolerably unhygienic conditions, where they were mistreated in many ways including being raped repeatedly. Serb soldiers or policemen would come to these detention centres, select one or more women, take them out and rape them.[126][127] The Serbs had the upper hand due to heavier weaponry (despite less manpower) that was given to them by the Yugoslav People's Army and established control over most areas where Serbs had relative majority but also in areas where they were a significant minority in both rural and urban regions excluding the larger towns of Sarajevo and Mostar. The Serb military and political leadership received the most accusations of war crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) many of which have been confirmed after the war in ICTY trials.

Most of the capital Sarajevo was predominantly held by the Bosniaks. In the 44 months of the siege, terror against Sarajevo residents varied in intensity, but the purpose remained the same: inflict suffering on civilians to force the Bosnian authorities to accept Serb demands.[128] The VRS surrounded it (alternatively, the Serb forces situated themselves in the areas surrounding Sarajevo the so-called Ring around Sarajevo), deploying troops and artillery in the surrounding hills in what would become the longest siege in the history of modern warfare lasting nearly 4 years.


Main article: Bosnian language

Bosniaks speak the Bosnian language. This language differs only slightly from the Serbian or Croatian languages in writing and grammar, but its speakers are, on the level of colloquial idiom, more linguistically homogeneous than either Serbs or Croats. The Bosnian language has a number of Orientalisms as well as Germanisms not often used in the neighboring languages. The language forms in many ways a middle ground between the Serbian and Croatian variants, not least because Bosnia itself is geographically situated in the middle of the region where the Serbo-Croatian dialects are spoken.

The first official dictionary in the Bosnian language, authored by Muhamed Hevaji Uskufi, was printed in the early 1630s,[130] while, comparatively, the first dictionary in Serbian was printed only in the mid-19th century.[131] Written evidence and records point to the Bosnian language being the official language of the country since at least the Kingdom of Bosnia, as further corroborated by the declaration of the Charter of Ban Kulin, one of the oldest written South Slavic state documents and one of the earliest to be written in Bosnian Cyrillic (Bosančica).[132][133]

As for the Bosnian language, whom Muhamed Hevaji Uskufi struck a strong foundation, it is interesting to point out the opinion of modern British historian Noel Malcolm on this topic, which says: "As the Bosnian language was the third language of the Ottoman Empire, it is no wonder that a part of the Ottoman literature was written in this language".[134] 18th century Bosniak chronicler Mula Mustafa Bašeskija, which in his yearbook added a collection of poems in Bosnian language, argued that the Bosnian language is much richer than the Arabic, because there are 45 words for the verb "to go" in Bosnian language. The 17th century Benedictine abbot from Dubrovnik, Mavro Orbin stated in his chronic The Realm of the Slavs (in Italian version Il regno degli Slavi), printed in Pesaro in 1601, that "off all people who speak Slavic language, Bosnians have the most elegant language and they are proud of the fact that they are now only who pays attention to the cleanliness of the Slavic language".[135] The Italian linguist Jacobus Micalia (1601-1654) states in his dictionary "Blagu jezika slovinskoga" (To the treasure of the Slavic language) from 1649 that he wants to include "the most beautiful words" adding that "of all Illyrian languages the Bosnian is the most beautiful" ("Ogn'un dice che la lingua Bosnese sia la piu bella"), and that all Illyrian writers should try to write in that language. One of the first grammarians, the Jesuit clergyman Bartolomeo Cassio called the language used in his work from 1640 Ritual rimski (Roman Rite) as naški ("our language") or bosanski ("Bosnian"). He used the term "Bosnian" even though he was born in a Chakavian region: instead he decided to adopt a "common language" (lingua communis), a version of Shtokavian Ikavian.[136] In the work which went under the title "Thesaurus Polyglottus", published in Frankfurt in 1603 by the German 16th and 17th century historian and linguist Hieronymus Megiser the Bosnian dialect is mentioned alongside the Dalmatian, Croatian and Serbian.

The modern Bosnian language principally uses the Latin alphabet. However, scripts other than Latin were employed much earlier, most notably the indigenous Bosnian Cyrillic script known as Bosančica (literally "Bosnian script"), dating back to the late 10th and early 11th centuries.[133] The Humac tablet, venerated as one of the oldest Bosnian literary monuments, is made out in this historic script which is also abound in numerous royal state documents (povelje) dating from medieval Bosnia alongside inscriptions on monumental tombstones known as stećaks found scattered throughout the Bosnian and Herzegovinian landscape. One of the most important documents and diplomatic achievements in Balkan history was the signing of the Charter of Ban Kulin, which is also one of the oldest official recorded documents to be written in Bosančica.[137][138][139] The use of Bosančica was largely replaced by Arebica (Matufovica), a Bosnian variant of the Perso-Arabic script, as a successor script for the Bosnian language upon the introduction of Islam in the 15th century, first among the elite, then amongst the public, and was commonly used up until the 19th century.[140]



Bosniak folklore has a long tradition dating back to the 15th century. Like many other elements of Bosniak culture, their folklore is derived from European, Slavic and Ottoman influences, typically taking place prior to the 19th century. Generally, folklore also varies from region to region and city to city. Cities like Sarajevo and Mostar have a rich tradition all by themselves. Many man-made structures such as bridges and fountains, as well as natural sites, also play a significant role. At the very roots of the Bosniak folk soul are the national music genres called Sevdalinka and Ilahije. Slavic traditions such as dragons, fairies and Vila, are also present. Pre-Slavic influences are far less common but nonetheless present. Certain elements of Illyrian, and Celtic beliefs have been found.[143][144]

National heroes are typically historical figures, whose lives and skills in battle are emphasized. These include figures such as Ban Kulin, the founder of medieval Bosnia who has come to acquire a legendary status. The historian William Miller wrote in 1921 that "even today, the people regard him as a favorite of the fairies, and his reign as a golden age.";[145] King Tvrtko I of Bosnia, King during the peak of the Bosnian kingdom; Gazi Husrev-beg, the second Ottoman governor of Bosnia who conquered many territories in Dalmatia, Northern Bosnia, and Croatia; Đerzelez Alija, an almost mythical character who even the Ottoman Sultan was said to have called "A Hero", Ajvaz-dedo, Sokollu Mehmed Pasha (Mehmed-paša Sokolović), the Bosnian Ottoman Grand Vizier, whose heroism was depicted in the Bosnian poetry and folk songs and Husein Gradaščević, known as "The Dragon of Bosnia" who led the Bosnian uprising against the Ottomans in the 19th century.

Traditions and customs

Further information: Music of Bosnia and Herzegovina

File:Sevdah - (Gitarre) Zute Dunje.ogg

The nation takes pride in the native melancholic folk songs sevdalinka, the precious medieval filigree manufactured by old Sarajevo craftsmen, and a wide array of traditional wisdom transmitted to newer generations by word of mouth, but in recent years written down in numerous books. Another prevalent tradition is "Muštuluk", whereby a gift is owed to any bringer of good news.

Rural folk traditions in Bosnia include the shouted, polyphonic ganga and ravne pjesme (flat song) styles, as well as instruments like a wooden flute and šargija. The gusle, an instrument found throughout the Balkans, is also used to accompany ancient Slavic epic poems. The most versatile and skillful gusle-performer of Bosniak ethnicity was the Montenegrin Bosniak Avdo Međedović (1875–1953). Probably the most distinctive and identifiably Bosniak of music, Sevdalinka is a kind of emotional, melancholic folk song that often describes sad subjects such as love and loss, the death of a dear person or heartbreak. Sevdalinkas were traditionally performed with a saz, a Turkish string instrument, which was later replaced by the accordion. However the more modern arrangement, to the derision of some purists, is typically a vocalist accompanied by the accordion along with snare drums, upright bass, guitars, clarinets and violins. Sevdalinkas are unique to Bosnia and Herzegovina. They arose in Ottoman Bosnia as urban Bosnian music with often oriental influences. In the early 19th century, Bosniak poetess Umihana Čuvidina contributed greatly to sevdalinka with her poems about her lost love, which she sang.


Further information: Islam in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Most Bosniaks are Sunni Muslim, though historically Sufism has also played a significant role in the country. Bosniaks in Sandžak are overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim, though there is also a small community of Slavicized Bektashis with Azeri roots identifying their language as Bosnian. In a 1998 public opinion poll, 78.3% of Bosniaks in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina declared themselves to be religious.[146]

Surnames and names

Bosniak surnames, as is typical among the South Slavs, often end with "ić" or "ović". This is a patronymic which basically translates to "son of" in English and plays the same role as "son" in English surnames such as Johnson or Wilson. What comes prior to this can often tell a lot about the history of a certain family.

Most Bosniak surnames follow a familiar pattern dating from the period of time that surnames in Bosnia and Herzegovina were standardized. Some Bosniak Muslim names have the name of the founder of the family first, followed by an Islamic profession or title, and ending with ić. Examples of this include Izetbegović (Son of Izet bey), and Hadžiosmanović ("son of Osman Hajji"). Other variations of this pattern can include surnames that only mention the name, such as Osmanović ("son of Osman"), and surnames that only mention profession, such as Imamović ("son of the Imam"). Some even mention religion as well such as "Muslimović" ("meaning son of a Muslim").

Quite a few Bosniak names don't necessarily have Islamic roots to them, but end in -ović and -ić; common amongst Slavic surnames. These names have probably stayed the same since medieval times, and typically come from old Bosnian nobility, or come from the last wave of converts to Islam. Examples of such names include Tvrtković and Kulenović.

There are also other surnames that do not end in ić at all. These surnames are typically derived from place of origin, occupations, or various others such factors in the family's history. Examples of such surnames include Zlatar ("goldsmith") Kovač ("blacksmith") or Kolar ("wheelwright").

There are some Bosniak names of foreign origin, indicating that the founder of the family came from a place outside of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Many such Bosniak surnames have Hungarian, Vlach, Arabic or Turkish origins. Examples of such surnames include Vlasić and Arapović.

Many Bosniak surnames are also common as Croatian and Serbian surnames: Puškar, Jašić, Sučić, Subašić, Begić, Hadžić.

First names among Bosniaks have mostly Arabic, Turkish, or Persian roots such as Osman, Mehmed, Ismet, Kemal, Hasan, Ibrahim, Mustafa. South Slavic names such as "Zlatan" are also present primarily among non-religious Bosniaks. What is notable however is that due to the structure of the Bosnian language, many of the Muslim names have been altered to create uniquely Bosniak names. Some of the Oriental names have been shortened. For example: Huso short for Husein, Ahmo short for Ahmed, Meho short for Mehmed. One example of this is that of the Bosniak humorous characters Mujo and Suljo, whose names are actually Bosniak short forms of Mustafa and Sulejman. More present still is the transformation of names that in Arabic or Turkish are confined to one gender to apply to the other sex. In Bosnian, simply taking away the letter "a" changes the traditionally feminine "Jasmina" into the popular male name "Jasmin". Similarly, adding an "a" to the typically male "Mahir" results in the feminine "Mahira".[147]


The best known Bosniak national symbol is the Fleur-de-lis (Lilium Bosniacum) and crescent moon. The most popular Bosniak symbols are derived from medieval times, from the old flag of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and from the flag of the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. They were used by King Tvrtko Kotromanić in the Kingdom of Bosnia and the intention was that they represent Bosnia and Herzegovina as a whole. But the flag was not commonly accepted by the Serb and Croat leadership, which led to the flag being associated with Bosniaks, although some Bosnian Croats and Bosnian Serbs still venerate the flag. An example is former Bosnian army general Jovan Divjak who is a non-Muslim and former member of the Presidency of Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina the Bosnian Croats Stjepan Kljuic.

Another Bosniak flag dates from the Ottoman era, and is a white crescent moon and star on a green background. The flag was also the symbol of the short lived independent Bosnia in the 19th century and of the Bosnian uprising against the Turks led by Husein Gradaščević.


National consciousness has also spread to most Bosniaks in the neighboring countries and increasingly around the world after the Bosnian war for independence. The largest number of Bosniaks outside of Bosnia and Herzegovina are found in Serbia and Montenegro (specifically in the Sandžak region). The city of Novi Pazar is home to the largest Bosniak population outside of Bosnia. Another 40,000 Bosniaks are found in Croatia and 38,000 in Slovenia. However, some of them still identify themselves as "Muslims" or "Bosnians", according to latest estimates. In Macedonia there are estimated to be about 17,000 Bosniaks.

Due to warfare and ethnic cleansing during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a large part of the world's estimated 3-4 million Bosniaks are found in countries outside of the Balkans. The highest Bosniak populations outside of the ex-Yugoslavian states are found in the United States, Sweden, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Australia, Canada, and Turkey. Prior generations of Bosniak immigrants to some of these countries have by now been mostly integrated.

In Western countries, a large majority of the Bosniaks are war refugees who only arrived in these countries during the past 15 years or so. They still speak Bosnian, and maintain cultural and religious communities, visit their mother country regularly and send remittances to families back home.


United States

The diaspora community in the USA has a long and distinguished history dating back more than a century. One of the first Bosnian arrivals to any country in the New World was to the United States, and is estimated to have been around the 1860s. According to Embassy estimates there are some 350,000 people of Bosnian origin living in the United States.[148][149] The traditional centers of residence and culture for people from Bosnia and Herzegovina are situated on the East Coast (Atlanta, Jacksonville, New York and Nashville), in Mid-West (St. Louis, Chicago and Detroit) and on the West Coast. Bosnians live in all 50 states.[149]

The United States has numerous Bosnian cultural, sport and religious associations. Bosnian language newspapers and other periodicals are published in many states; the largest in the United States is the St. Louis based Bosnian-American Newspaper Sabah.


According to the 2001 Canadian census, there are 25,665 people who have claimed Bosnian ancestry.[150] A large majority of Bosnian Canadians emigrated to Canada during and after the Bosnian war which lasted from 1992-1995. History of Bosnian arrivals to Canada, however, dates back to as far as the 19th century.[150] The Bosnian Community in Canada has a long and distinguished history dating back more than one hundred years.[150] After the Bosnian war, between 1992 and 1995, many Bosniak and Bosnian Croats fled to Canada as refugees. According to 2001 Canadian census, estimates say there are 25,665 people of Bosnian origin living in Canada.[150] The traditional centers of residence and culture for people from Bosnia and Herzegovina are situated in Toronto, Ontario, Montreal, Quebec and Vancouver, British Columbia. Numerous Bosnian cultural, sport and religious associations, Bosnian language newspapers and other periodicals are published in many states. The largest Bosnian organisation in Canada is the Congress of North American Bosniaks.[151]


The Bosniak community in Turkey has its origins predominantly in the exodus of Bosniaks from the Bosnia Eyalet taking place in the 19th and early 20th century as result of the collapse of Ottoman rule in the Balkans. According to estimates commissioned in 2008 by the National Security Council of Turkey (Milli Güvenlik Kurulu) as many as 2,000,000 Turkish citizens are of Bosniak ancestry.[152] Bosniaks mostly live in the Marmara Region which is in other words the north-west Turkey. The biggest Bosniak community in Turkey is in Istanbul. Yenibosna is a borough, located on the western part of the Istanbul district of Bahçelievler, bordering with the neighbor district Küçükçekmece. The disctrict saw rapid migration from the former Ottoman empire after the founding of Republic of Turkey.[153] The origin of the borough's name comes from the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sarajevo. The settlement was initially named Saraybosna, which is the Turkish equivalent of Sarajevo before it was renamed Yenibosna with the formation of the Republic of Turkey.

There are notable Bosniak communities in İzmir, Karamürsel, Yalova, Bursa and Edirne.

See also

Europe portal
Islam portal

Further reading



External links

  • Bosniaks in United States
  • IGBD - Bosniaks in Germany (Bosnian) (German)
  • Congress of North American Bosniaks
  • - Bosniak American Advisory Council for Bosnia-Herzegovina
  • Bosniaks - entry for Bosniaks
  • (Bosnian)
  • Facebook page

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