Bosnia and Herzegovina: United and Split at the Same Time Part II
4: Christians and Muslims
But there are no Albanians in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Nor in Croatia, where war broke out in 1991 and 1992. The contradictions have been between and the wars have also been fought between southern Slavs. The southern Slavs first became Christians after settling in the Western Balkans. Those who lived in the western parts (mainly Croats) came under the influence of the papacy in Rome and therefore became Catholics. Those who lived in eastern and southern parts (Serbs), fell under the Eastern Roman Empire in Byzantium (modern-day Istanbul) and became Orthodox Christians. To make this even more complicated, we also have the ethnic group Bosniaks, who want to say “Slavic Muslim”. The Bosniaks are the largest ethnic group in present-day Bosnia with about 48 percent, while Serbs make up approx. 37 percent and Croatians approx. 14 percent.
But where did Islam and the Bosniaks come from? If there is a dispute between the scholars. And controversy over history – over the interpretation of history – is an important part of the political struggle in today’s Bosnia. There may have been a version of Christianity among the Slavs in the inaccessible mountains of Bosnia before the Ottomans (Turks) brought Islam with them when they occupied the area from the 15th century until the First World War. It is also possible that most Muslims in present-day Bosnia are descendants of slaves who converted (converted to) Islam either from Catholicism or from the Orthodox faith.
It may seem strange to us in Norway that people are so preoccupied with what happened several hundred years ago, but that is the way it is in the Western Balkans. Beneath the surface, some Croats and Serbs still view Muslims (Bosniaks) as descendants of “traitors” who joined forces with the occupying forces (Ottomans) to gain political and economic benefits. Not least, these myths about the past were used to motivate the will to fight in the civil war that raged from 1992 to 1995.
It was a struggle in which the population was largely divided according to ethnic and religious background.
According to PHILOSOPHYNEARBY, the same thing had happened in part during the Second World War. It was mainly Croats and some Muslims who stood with the German occupying forces from 1941 to 1945 – it is claimed by at least many Serbs.
5: Democracy and unrest
Although people in the Western Balkans have had different religions and identities for hundreds of years, there is more peace than war in the area. And there are many cultural conditions that unite them. They speak a mutually understandable language – even more closely related than Norwegian, Danish and Swedish. Day looks exactly the same. They have the same musical tradition, food and drink culture, etc. What sets them apart are small nuances in language, clothing, architecture, food and drink – in addition to religion.
Many have seen it as a mystery that the war in Bosnia could be so bloody. To a certain extent, mercenaries from Serbia and Croatia operated inside Bosnia, but local people were still responsible for most of the atrocities. At the same time, there were many marriages across religions (cross-marriages) before 1991, at least in the big cities like Sarajevo and Mostar. But it was also in these cities that the campaigns were hardest. Why?
The question above is difficult to answer, but the answer may lie in reactions that are more general than we like to believe, reactions that can occur in cases where someone experiences that their cultural identity is about to disappear and the ethnic identity loses meaning. Under certain circumstances, more marriage and exchange can create greater rather than lesser danger of a violent explosion.
There are many stories in Bosnia about people who were in their childhood or adolescence in the late 1980s, and who came home to their parents and asked: Am I Bosnian, or Serbian, or Croatian, or Yugoslav? They could not know, it never had our theme at home. Or maybe they were of mixed descent, for example that mother was Serbian (Orthodox Christian) and father was Bosnian.
When the first free elections were held in Yugoslavia in 1989, some politicians began to emphasize and play on ethnic and religious identity . Democratic party politics is largely about clarifying one’s own party, among other things by emphasizing differences to others: “Vote for me, I represent you best, and remember that you are a Catholic / Orthodox / Muslim.”
6: NATO intervenes
Several attempts were made to mediate in the conflict, both from the UN and from the EU. But every time the beach try. The UN forces had no mandate for much other than to protect shipments with emergency aid. After a quarter of an hour, international patience ran out. Constant images of dead and fleeing women, children and the elderly created pressure on public opinion in Western countries. One could not just sit and watch! When saw the massacre of approx. 7,000 Bosniaks in the small town of Srebrenica in July 1995 arrived for a day, NATO intervened militarily with its air force. NATO planes bombed Serbian positions, creating military room for maneuver for Croats and Bosniaks. Suddenly, Serbs were fleeing. Bosnia got a new round of so-called “ethnic cleansing”. This means that the entire area was emptied of people of a certain ethnic background.