The current Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina recognizes three peoples in its preamble: The Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs. The absolute majority of citizens identify themselves as members of one of the three mentioned nations, while those who do not belong to any of them are constitutionally under the category of Others. In a free and civilized society, no one should challenge the right to an identity and every person should be free to identify as he or she feels. However, in Bosnia and Herzegovina there’s an aggressive demand on different ethnic identities, so it is justified to ask some questions about the reasons behind such activities.
Foreign and domestic political forces that do not wish Bosnia and Herzegovina well, continue with pressure to deepen divisions and finally disintegrate the country. In order to create the preconditions for the destruction of the statehood of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in the middle of the 19th century, the disintegration of its national fabric and the creation of cracks within Bosnian society began. To this day, such activities have left painful consequences for all three peoples, as they call themselves today, Serbs, Bosnians and Croats. And who are they? Are these really 3 different nations?
The awakening of national consciousness in Europe began in the 19th century, and thus in the Balkans, which at that time was mainly under the rule of the Ottoman Empire. In 1844, the Minister of internal affairs of Serbia, Ilija Garašanin, wrote a political draft known as Načertanije, in which he stated that one people lives in Bosnia and Herzegovina, practicing three religions, Catholicism, Islam and Orthodoxy. From that moment, systematic work began on the division of the population of Bosnia and Herzegovina along religious lines, which is a precondition for the final division of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The autochthonous people of this area even before the new era were the Illyrians, which, in addition to historical facts, is confirmed by the Swiss Institute of Genealogy iGENEA: “The area where the Illyrians spread included the northwest of the Balkans, from the Adriatic coast of Dalmatia to Macedonia. Archaeological heritage shows the highest population density of Illyrian population groups in the area of today’s Albania and Bosnia. The tribes of that area are described in the reports of Roman writers as “Illyrians in the true sense”. (https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.igenea.com/en/ancient-tribes/illyrians)
The results of the research of the iGENEA Institute state that the dominant genetic composition of the population in Bosnia and Herzegovina is 40% Illyrian, 20% Gothic (Germanic), 15% Celtic, 15% Slavic, while the rest belongs to other groups. (http://www.bosniafacts.info/other/genetic-makeup-of-the-balkans)
It is known that the Goths (Germans) came to the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the 5th century and left their traces. In the 7th and 8th centuries the Slavs settled and over time mixed with the local population.
When it comes to the statehood of Bosnia and Herzegovina, it is important to mention the Charter of the Bosnian Ruler Kulin Ban from 1189, which guarantees the merchants of Dubrovnik freedom of movement in the country he governs. What determined the uniqueness of Medieval Bosnia was the distinctive heretical Bosnian Church. In Batal’s Gospel, grandfather Jeremiah is listed as the first grandfather (head) of the Bosnian Church in 1010. Members of the Bosnian Church called themselves good Bosnians. Bosnian bans and kings ruled medieval Bosnia until the arrival of the Ottomans in 1463. A very characteristic legacy from that time are tombstones – which are tied mainly to the borders of medieval Bosnia and today are proof of the uniqueness of Bosnia and its population. It has been registered 69,356 tombstones located in 3,162 necropolises, and today they are part of the world cultural heritage.
At the Berlin Congress in 1878, Bosnia and Herzegovina came under the control of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. In the middle of the 19th century, there was already talk in Belgrade about the way of changing the identity of the inhabitants of Bosnia, who until then were all called Bosniaks. In the document named Načertanije originated by Ilija Garašanin in the act 6, in the part that speaks “On the policy of Serbia towards Bosnia, Herzegovina, Montenegro and Northern Albania”, it is stated: “Serbia won’t have a problem on influencing the Orthodox Christian Bosniaks. More precaution is required in influencing the Catholic Bosniaks in order to attract them. At the head of these are the Franciscan friars.”
This is just one of the documents that confirms that in Bosnia and Herzegovina did not live different peoples, but one people who had different beliefs, which is characteristic for other people as well. Načertanije is set aside for presentation here, because it is a Serbian document and talks about who lives in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Montenegrin scientist, writer and politician Dr. Novak Kilibarda said: “Believe me, until the time when Austro – Hungarian Empire entered into Bosnia, when the Ottoman Empire withdrew, there were officially no Serbs or Croats, and they were all Bosniaks. Some Muslims, some Orthodox, some Catholics. Later there will be, we can say, in the middle of the 19th century, two great propagandas. This Austro-Hungarian conversion of all Catholics into Croats nationally, and then Serbian propaganda, was my doctoral thesis Serbian propaganda, that all Orthodox be converted into Serbs.”
Until 1920, the Serbian Orthodox Church did not even exist in Bosnia. Only on March 18, 1920, according to the agreement between the Government of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes and the Patriarchate of Constantinople, the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Ecumenical Patriarchate from March 19, 1920, passed a decision blessing the “united Serbian Orthodox Church” to join dioceses in Bosnia, which until then had always been exclusively part of the Constantinople Patriarchate. The government of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes paid the Patriarchate of Constantinople one million and five hundred thousand gold francs for that consent.
According to the Croatian historian Tomislav Raukar, “In medieval Bosnian sources, especially in their nomenclature, there are no explicit confirmations of the presence of the Croatian population in the Bosnian state … indeed, in some parts of the Croatian kingdom in the Middle Ages there was no Croatian name. An example is medieval Sclavonia or Slovinje.”
Respected world historian whose special expertise covers the history of all South Slavic countries, Dr. Nada Klaić, in her work “MEDIEVAL BOSNIA – THE POLITICAL POSITION OF BOSNIAN RULERS UNTIL THE CROWNING OF TVRTKO”, from 1989, says the following: “However, these unskillful projections on the Serbness of Bosnia are worth as much as Šišić’s proof of the Croatness of Bosnia. However, the uncritical report of Constantine Porphyrogenitus on the Sclavinias can serve as a basis for conclusions only to those historians who do not care too much about historical truth. It is mostly of the same value as Dukljanin’s news of Croatian or Serbian rulers ruling Bosnia. These are only occasional excursions of neighboring rulers who did not and could not change the centuries-old position of the Bosnian lands, because those without Croats and Serbs have long gone their own way, completely separated from them. The emperor’s data for this work cannot be authoritative, much less the skilful construction of the Archbishop of Bar, who wrote in the middle of the 12th century…. It is quite understandable that Ćirković’s theory on the Serbness of Bosnia cannot be served by Constantine’s data on the settlement of Serbs, because the emperor, and we know why, puts them in Serbia, Pagania, Zahumlje and Travunija and Konavle according to the criteria of the 10th century when all countries recognized Byzantine rule. Therefore, if the emperor himself did not boast that Bosnia was a Serb from the population, and he would certainly be very happy to do so, then the critical historian has no choice but to claim on the basis of the emperor’s text that Bosnia was BOSNIAN from the beginning.”
A Bosnian of the Catholic faith, Fr. Ivan Frano Jukić (1818-1857), who used the pseudonym Slavoljub Bošnjak, wrote in his proclamation in 1848: “We Bosniaks, once a famous people, are now barely alive. …. It is time to wake up from long-standing negligence; give the cup, and the carpet from the well remember wisdom, and doctrine; first of all, try to cleanse our hearts from prejudices, fight for books and magazines, see what others have done, and let us take the same means, so that our people, free from the darkness of ignorance, can be brought to light.”