Bosnia and Herzegovina: United and Split at the Same Time Part I
The Western Balkans have long been a troubled corner of Europe. The dividing lines are many and so are the conflicts. After several wars in the 1990s, the situation is calmer today. Slovenia is already a member of the EU and Croatia will be in 2013. In recent years, Serbia has taken solid steps in the same direction. But one country has lagged behind – the most ethnically complex of all the countries in the Balkans, namely Bosnia and Herzegovina.
- What is happening in Bosnia and Herzegovina?
- Where do the central dividing lines go in the country?
- How must one in the Balkans see the day today also in the light of events “yesterday”?
- How can the international community contribute to Bosnia?
2: Around 1990: Revolution in Europe
Towards the end of the 1980s and early 1990s, a lot was happening in Europe. The superpower The Soviet Union had major economic problems and opened up to the democratic and capitalist foreign countries. It did not survive the regime. The whole communist empire collapsed , and at the same time the countries of Central and Eastern Europe became free and independent again . There was a wave of profound social upheavals that affected everyone who experienced it. The so-called Iron Curtain had divided Europe from north to south since 1945, and now everyone was to unite in the same boat. At least that was the hope of many.
The Soviet Union (which was dominated by Russia) practically controlled the foreign policy of most of the communist countries after the Second World War, including East Germany (GDR), Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. But there was an important exception that escaped Soviet domination .
3: The Land of the Southern Slavs – Yugoslavia
In the area between Hungary in the north and Greece in the south – the so-called Western Balkans – Yugoslavia was found until 1991. After that, the country disintegrated in the early 1990s and after a quarter was divided into seven independent states. Bosnia and Herzegovina (which is the official Norwegian form) – here only abbreviated to Bosnia – became one of these. While the dissolution of the Soviet empire proceeded fairly peacefully, there was considerably more use of force in Yugoslavia and especially in Bosnia .
According to PHARMACYLIB, Yugoslavia emerged as a separate state in 1918 – in the wake of the First World War. To begin with, it bore the name Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes . But during the Second World War, the communist-inspired partisans gained an advantage in what was both a German occupation and a civil war . Just as in Norway, some inhabitants of the Western Balkans cooperated with the German occupying forces. But unlike in Norway, the fighting in Yugoslavia became particularly bloody and cruel. In 1943, the partisans declared Bosnia and Herzegovina a sub-republic within the federal state of Yugoslavia.
In 1992, just over half of Bosnia’s inhabitants wanted their own state, but that was far from all. The conflicting wishes resulted in a civil war that lasted until 1995. In it, almost 100,000 people were killed and over 2 million forced to flee – almost half of the population.
To understand the contradictions in today’s Bosnia and Herzegovina, we must go far back in history . Many have characterized the entire Western Balkans as an ethnic and religious patchwork quilt , especially this was characteristic of the population composition in Bosnia. Why did it turn out that way? Some of the answer lies in geography. The Western Balkans became a kind of crossroads for migrations from the east and so to the north, trade routes, meeting points between western and eastern parts of the Roman Empire and between Christianity and Islam. Yugoslavia means “the land of the southern Slavs”.
The southern Slavs are thus closely related to Russians, Poles, Slovaks and other Slavs. One assumes that Slovenes, Croats and Serbs were different ethnic groups, but still in close relatives already for approx. 1500 years ago. Then they came wandering from the north and settled in the Western Balkans. But of course they did not come to uninhabited areas. Some inhabitants were expelled and killed, others were married into the families of the new immigrants. Among other things, the Albanians are apparently descendants of people who lived in the Western Balkans before the southern Slavs came from the north.