Web catalog

Most read

Most read last 7 days

Most Discussed

Top rated



Written 01.12.2009. 13:59
Reaching back today to the historical right of claiming a country or an area of land, in any form of historical discourse, not only seems undesirable in contemporary terms, but in some circles, the subject often becomes a laughing matter. On the other hand, one hundred years ago, the subject of historical right was seriously discussed in the Hungarian half of the Hapsburg Empire. The discussion dealt with the disputed interpretation of the document, "Pacta Conventa...", and with heated debate in 1878, centering on the Bosnian emblem. The emblem debate is relatively unknown to our public, even though it deals with the historical right of succession of the Bosnian Kingdom of the Middle Ages. With some rare exceptions, Croat historians were ill at ease in discussing and researching the topic of historical claims to Bosnia prior to, and throughout, the breakdown of the Hapsburg Empire. The same attitude prevailed during the formation of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, as well as in the latter Yugoslavia. Even when, on some rare occasions, Croat historians "worked" on Bosnian themes, it was not unusual to find their works trying to prove that Bosnia was neither Croat nor Serb. Case in point, this is best illustrated by the fact that the late Nada Klaic was posthumously awarded for her work on Bosnia during the Middle Ages. The award was given in 1989, with an explanation that Klaic\\\\\\\'s work disputes both Croat and Serb claims to Bosnia. The people involved in securing Klaic\\\\\\\'s recognition were competing amongst themselves for who was going to throw more mud on those rare historians researching the Croatian national feeling in Bosnia. Most bitterly attacked were historians who lived and worked abroad, outside of Yugoslavia, and the most common target was the Franciscan priest, Father Dominik Mandic. Mandic\\\\\\\'s works were placed on the index of forbidden literature which lasted until the demise of Yugoslavia. It can be said that Croat intellectuals schooled in both Yugoslavias were naive, to put it mildly, while their counterparts among our Eastern neighbors can not be characterized as such, regardless if they were Serb or Bosnian. On the contrary, the Serbs have, literally, spent hundreds of tons of paper and ink in attempting to prove their historical right to claim Bosnia as Serb. In trying to achieve their goals the Serbs were reaching for even the most banal moves. A Serb professor from Belgrade, Nikola Radojcic, published a study, several hundred pages long, titled "The Coronation of Bosnian King Tvrtko". In this study, Radojcic detailed all he knew about the coronation of Serb rulers during the Middle Ages, and at the very end, on the last two pages, he mentions the first Bosnian king, Tvrtko, and proclaims him a follower of the Serbian Orthodox Chruch, therefore a Serb. All written and preserved documentation on King Tvrtko disputes Radojicic\\\\\\\'s work. Even more interesting is a study published in the "Socialist Yugoslavia" before the current war, by Vaso Glusac. Glusac was a member of parliament at the time, a pre-war chetnik, and a so-called historian who claimed that the French missionaries, the Albingezi, who did their missionary work in Bosnia during the 13th Century were no less then Serbian Orthodox missionaries. No one rose to protest such ludicrous claims, and his work was not placed on the index of forbidden literature. Without being challenged, and until his death, he was regarded as an authority on the Church in Bosnia. His work, and similar works by other Serbian historians achieved their desired effect. The Serbian masses were convinced that Bosnia was, from times immemorial, a "Serbian Land".

The similar stretching of historical facts and arguments occurred among Bosnian intellectuals. It must be pointed out that their opinions were clouded by the notion of the special status or position during the Middle Ages in Bosnia. They see a connection from that period in Bosnian history, from which stems today\\\\\\\'s peculiar position of the Bosnians as a separate, or quasi-ethnic group known as the Bosnian people. Various explanations were given for this peculiarity, and in the former Socialist Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the communist officials were even encouraging a concept of a new ethnic status in Bosnia. One theory on Bosnian as an ethnicity found its way into the Yugoslav Encyclopedia for BiH, under the editorship of academic professor Muhamed Filipovic. That theory was produced by the not so reliable Marko Vega, who claims the discovery of a Slavic tribe called Bosna in Bosnia during the Middle Ages. Even though that discovery was soon forgotten after it was written about, it did manage to find its way onto the pages of the last edition of the Yugoslav Encyclopedia. Soon after, the political establishment provided all sorts of public forums in the media, and in political circles to those who were propagandizing the idea or, the notion of the separateness of Bogumil people in Bosnia. In essence, they equated religion with ethnicity, by which the Muslims of yesterday become the Bosnians of today. That equation found fertile ground among the Muslims of Bosnia, and it was formalized in 1971, when the term Muslim became one of the choices for the purpose of identification in census, official papers, and other matters. It is easy to see why, today, due to psychological pressures caused by the war, the myth of belonging to the, or developing from the Bogumil people is a standard response of Muslims when they are asked about their ancestors.

This somewhat lengthy excursion into the last couple of centuries of historical deliberations about Bosnia and its impact was not made in order to persuade Croat historians into the same kind of conduct exhibited by their Eastern colleagues. Even if they intended to do so, it is too late as far as the effect their research could have. The biological substance of the Croatian national feeling in BiH is such that even with the best of intentions, their efforts would have a minimal effect, and would end up resembling a caricature. Even though we speak about BiH as the edge, or rim of Croat area/territory, the benefit of real historical research into this region could be significant. This research would explain how, why, and under what circumstances the Croat element in BiH has been losing its struggle to survive over the past five centuries.

In attempting to asses historical events, it is necessary to start with some of the most notorious facts, which can not escape the eyes and intent of an observer. These facts are associated, or tied to the real distribution of the Croat population in BiH, and to the unusual physical shape of today\\\\\\\'s Croatia. The most recent population map of BiH reflects the official census taken in 1981, and this map, as well as all previous maps of the same kind, clearly points out areas of BiH which have sizeable, compact, and dense pockets of Croat population. That population inhabited areas west of the rivers Bosna and Neretva (Central Bosnia, and Western Herzegovina - area along the middle right flow of the Bosna River, and in Posavina). Even those superficially familiar with the history of these areas know that they quickly fell under Turkish occupation in the second half of the 15th Century. It was precisely along the border of the first wave of Turkish invasions around the city of Jajce - where Turkish and Christian forces fought long, chronic, and bitter battles until 1525 - that you find today\\\\\\\'s border line between the more massive and less massive presence of the Croat population.

West of Jajce is the territory where the battleground stood between the two civilizations during the entire 16th Century and until the fall of Bihac in 1592. It was here where, for over 100 years, warfare was a way of life, or more concisely, where the Turks plundered and carried out terrorist attacks against the Croat population. Gradually, that population was forced to seek safety further west. The best illustration of this sad struggle and exodus is the city of Bihac. Bihac was an important commercial center whose strategic location during the 16th Century was regarded and labeled as the "Clovis Croatie" - the "key to Croatia". Constant warfare took its toll on Bihac. Historian Necen Budak wrote, "...Bihac lost its importance as a center for trade, commerce, and transportation. It became just another large village, agrarian in nature, but it did preserve its administrative function and its basic physical format." As was the case in other areas under Turkish occupation, this territory became inhabited by the followers of Islam, and by the Vlachs (pre-Slavic peoples, primarily engaged in husbandry). In terms of ethnicity, this area no longer reflected its original ethnic structure.

This somber and somewhat superficial look into history offers nothing new, but it is important to point out that the population in those territories which were quick to fall into Turkish hands, and without prolonged warfare, remained in its coherent pattern and ethnic composition. On the contrary, in those areas where conflict between the Turks and the native population was long and bitter, the toll was heavy with devastating results on the demographics of the area. The net result was massive emigration from the occupied areas. Sad conclusions need to be remembered, but to draw comparisons between then, and what we are witnessing today would be redundant.

The already mentioned nickname for Bihac, "the key to Croatia", can in part be cited as one explanation for the peculiar and irregular physical shape of today\\\\\\\'\\\\\\\'s Croatia. The second one can be found in the name "Turkish Croatia", which referred to the entire territory along the banks of the Vrbas River. Both names were well entrenched and used in everyday communication. This is the second element that must be a starting point for any historical deliberation about Croat dimensions in present-day BiH. The breakdown and dismemberment of Croat lands in BiH started in 1525, and lasted until the middle of the 17th Century. What can be considered as the reacquisition of what was lost started toward the end of the 17th Century, led by banus Adam Bacan in 1693. The final result of the Christian-Islamic showdown took place on our territory. It was the peace at Svistovo in 1791 which firmly established definite borders between the Islamic and the Christian sides, and those borders now divide the Republics of Croatia and BiH. It was in those wars of long ago that Croatia lost all territory west of the Vrbas River. This accounts for a substantially changed and eroded original physical shape of Croatia as a country.

The most important conclusion from these deliberations, until someone proves otherwise, is that a portion of Bosnia west of the Vrbas River, including the entire valley of the Bosnia River, was an integral part of Croatia during the Middle Ages. These areas were inhabited by Croats, and they too, together with all of Croatia, nurtured the notion of a Croat nation, from which the ideas for a modern Croat nation eventually evolved. East of the Bosnia River valley, the situation is not as clear, and it is impossible to determine the dominant ethnic element. However, it is known for certain that during the course of the 14th and 15th Centuries, the entire territory between the Bosnia and Drina Rivers was under the influence of Franciscan priests from the vicar of Bosnia, and under the influence of commercial activity of the city of Dubrovnik. This area was "par excellence" a catholic area. There were some 12 Franciscan monasteries built before the Turkish era. One of the noblemen of the time, Ivan Pavlovic, whose lands stretched between the Bosnia and Drina Rivers, best illustrates the situation in that region. In ordering flags for his trumpeters from a Dubrovnik merchant, he instructed that they be embroidered on one side with his coat of arms, and the other with the image of Saint Vlaho, the patron saint of the city of Dubrovnik. The catholic faith of the majority of the people in those areas defined the cultural identity of the same people, thus integrating them with the Croatian ethnic character. This was just another example of the rule that culture and religion are determining factors of national or ethnic identity of people along borders. It is easy to understand why and how it was easy for the catholics from the mining town of Olovo to settle in Ilok, much further to the north, at the end of the 17th Century. The miners of Olovo fled to escape Turkish terror. It is sad to note that three hundred years later their descendants were forced to flee from Ilok because of Serbian terror. It seems to me that this example best illustrates the history and ill fate of the Croat people. Unless radical and swift measures are undertaken immediately, similar prospects will follow for our people in the future.

Finally, the third portion of BiH\\\\\\\'s territory which needs to be considered in these deliberations is eastern Herzegovina. This is the area that stretches from the left bank of the Neretva River toward Montenegro and the hinterlands of Dubrovnik. Today, this area is inhabited mostly by Serbs. This very harsh and unproductive region once comprised the rim of Red Croatia in the Middle Ages. In the Croat segment of the population in this region, as far as the city of Foca, the most prevalent and numerous male first name is Hrvatin. The historian Vinko Foretic from Dubrovnik regards this first name phenomenon as the only clue or trace of Croat dominance in this region. In his work, he points out the gradual decline of the Croat ethnic element, starting in the second half of the 18th Century, being replaced by the migration of the Vlachs. Vlachs were paleo-Balkan peoples in the hinterlands of the Adriatic coast, and whose migrations were intensified by various invasions and occupations of Croat lands from the East. The name Vlach became a common term, or "terminus technicus", and an indicator of a social and legal position. In some documents from Dubrovnik, this area of eastern Herzegovina became referred to as Vlachia. The Croat ethnic element survived as dominant only in those parts of the region where agriculture was the prevailing means of making a living (e.g. Stolac, the Hodbinska plateau, the Popovo plains, and the Neretva River valley). According to the not so distant writings of Bazilije Pandzic, the Serbian Orthodox Church had, for centuries, directed its efforts toward changing the ethnic character of this region, as did the state of Yugoslavia. But, both were unsuccessful. Despite hardships and struggles, the Croat ethnic element survived. How long it will be able to stay alive depends exclusively on the cleverness of Croat actions.


Since the beginning of the 17th Century, the Turks plundered, attacked, and invaded territories inhabited by Croats. In turn, they caused tremendous damage in terms of demographics and the territorial fragmentation of Croat lands. Thus, these lands became inhabited by new people of various ethnic roots. Another consequence of Turkish aggression was a gradual and constant, even though not massive, conversion of Croats to Islam and, along with that, a changing of their cultural identity. I am deliberately emphasizing and enumerating three very important factors: ethnic diversity of new inhabitants, conversion to Islam but not in massive numbers, and cultural change resulting from conversion to Islam. The listing of these factors is done in order to dispute and destroy the myth about the Croat heritage of a majority of the Muslim population in BiH, which was widespread since the second half of the last century, and was most explicitly articulated by Ante Starcevic. That myth fooled many and dulled the healthy political reasoning of many, but not the two best Croat politicians of the 20th Century, Stjepan Radic and Vlatko Macek. It would be wrong to deny the fact that many Muslims of Bosnia are indeed of Croat origin and some think and feel as Croats. Nevertheless, it is important to direct attention to some factors which were recently elaborated by the Croat historian Srecko Dzaja, who resides permanently in Munich.

Dzaja warns that the Bosnian Muslim element draws roots from various ethnic groups, including some nomadic people whose appearance dates back to the early Turkish invasions, as well as some caste of missionaries. The Bosnian Muslim element of today is a composition of diverse people, and a result of turbulent historical happenings and migrations which flooded Bosnia through time, and depended on the successes or defeats of the Turkish military forces. It is important to keep in mind that the Ottoman Empire, at one time, stretched into Central-Eastern Europe, as far as Budapest and today\\\\\\\'s Slovakia. As Turkish withdrawals were occurring in the 17th and 18th Centuries, so did the retreat of the Muslims from these regions, and in many instances those who retreated settled within the borders of the Bosnian Pasaluk. It is not wise to cite numbers, not as yet, but an illustration such as the case of the city of Osijek best serves our purposes. In the 17th Century, the city of Osijek was almost exclusively inhabited by the Muslim population. But, when Christian forces liberated the city, Muslims completely retreated south of the Sava River. Furthermore, Bosnia received a large number of Muslims from Serbia, after Serbian authorities expelled their Muslim population in the 19th Century. It is this element from Serbia which is credited with founding the town of Brcko, which did not exist prior to that time.

Taking all of this into consideration, and keeping in mind deep cultural changes that resulted from conversion to a new religion, it is safe to speak of a new civilization, as Islam proscribed codes for and regulated every aspect of conduct, communication, morality, philosophy of life and so on. Consequently, it is important to draw some conclusions from this. Bosnian Muslims, despite the fact that many of them are of Croat origin, can declare themselves to be what they want to be, from Bosnian to Turk, individually as Croat, but never collectively as Croats. In the best scenario, with good will as a prerequisite on both sides, Bosnians and Croats can build an atmosphere of mutual tolerance and respectful acceptance of their diversity.

If we come back to the historical dimensions of the Croatian national feeling in BiH, it is first necessary to recall the status and life of the Croat population which remained in their ancestral lands, but now under Turkish occupation. Best expressed and symbolized is a motif which frequently intrigued our writers and our artists, and dates back to the year 1463. That year, Sultan Mehmed II the Conqueror, in his military camp on the road from Kiseljak to Busovaca, gave a document to the head of the Franciscan order, Father Andjel Zvizdovic. The document granted a certain degree of autonomy to the church and its followers in matters of religion and some civilian cases. The demeaning position of the priest was, head down, on his knees receiving handouts and pleading for mercy for his people from an arrogant tyrant who was stretched out leisurely on his raised ottoman. The above description is a metaphor of the sad fate of the entire Croat population which found itself chained, exploited, mutilated, and barely alive for four centuries under the brutality of the Ottoman Empire. Croats were forced to beg for the mercy of the sultans, especially in those areas where powerful local Muslims perfected their brutal methods on the innocent and powerless catholic population.

On paper and in theory, the followers of monotheism, Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and Judaism were to have a protected status in the Ottoman Empire. But, reality was far removed from theory. I am borrowing from Srecko Dzaja\\\\\\\'s writings in order to underscore the harshness of the conditions under which the Croatian population lived for over four centuries, even though in his recent writings he leaves out the darkest side of those conditions. He writes, "...Discrimination was very evident in social and political life. For example, in order to repair a church you needed to take complicated legal steps which were very expensive. Conversion to Islam was desirable, while conversion to Christianity was legally forbidden, with the threat of the death penalty. Political discrimination excluded Christians from any political activity or participation. Civil services and political activity was reserved for Muslims only...". Dzaja uses the term procedure as only for codified, predetermined actions and activities. In reality, all actions and activities in the life of Croat Catholics involved procedures which were aimed at bleeding the Croat population financially and materially to death. In addition, every war with any Christian country brought new fears, mistreatment, and additional drainage of the human and material resources of the Catholic population. In some instances, Catholics looked to Islam as a way to escape, so that becoming Muslim was equated with emigration. All of this brings to mind the present-day practice of "ethnic cleansing", especially by the Serbs. There is no doubt that the calculated harsh methods of the bloody past are being repeated today, and the Croat population is still the unfortunate victim.

The non-Muslim population of BiH lived in constant fear for four centuries with a minimal sense of security, always anticipating the new and harsher realities of tomorrow. Only on some rare occasions did the pressures ease off, and the programmed terror took a break when the Ottoman concern for labor that had to be performed increased. After all, someone had to do work and provide income for constant warfare, and for the lifestyle of the arrogant Muslim elite. The already mentioned exodus of Croats from Olovo at the end of the 17th Century was one of many massive departures. Some took place even at an earlier time, as the one from Rama. Croats, led by Franciscan priests, and carrying the portrait of their beloved Virgin Mary, left Rama and settled in Sinj. The most massive migration of Croats from Bosnia took place in the fall of 1697, when Prince Eugen of Savoy, commanding some 6000 soldiers, penetrated deep into Bosnia, through the Bosna river valley, defeating the Ottomans along the way, and reaching the city of Sarajevo. Once in Sarajevo, and being true to the custom of the victors of the time, he plundered the city and set it afire. Since he could not remain there for a longer period of time without substantial support, and not being able to instigate an uprising of the Christians, the Prince retreated after 15 days. Fearing reprisals from the Turks because of their defeat, and the burning of Sarajevo, almost the entire Catholic population of that area fled, following the Prince and crossing the Sava River.

Many additional examples of massive migration and immigration could be cited, along with frequent epidemics and periods of famine. All took an additional toll in human lives and suffering. Rather than listing more examples, we need to look at the precise indicators which clarify the trend of demographic losses of the Croat Catholic population in BiH from the 16th to the 19th Centuries. It must be noted that all the numbers were collected from the literature of a society which knew nothing about statistics, so most are approximate. More exact figures date to the beginning of the 17th Century, as this was the time when the first reliable census of the Croat Catholics was taken in BiH. As the figures for the 16th Century are concerned, we are forced to rely on the writings of a Slovenian, Benedikt Kupresic, who was a diplomat at the court of the sultan at the time. While traveling through Bosnia, Kupresic wrote that the Bosnian population was divided into "...three nations, and three religions..." This author and diplomat places "Bosnian Roman Christians", as first. Second place belonged to the "...Serbs, who came from Smederevo and Belgrade...", and third place was taken by the "real Turks" who were primarily soldiers and officials of the government. Since Kupresic\\\\\\\'s traveled through Bosnia, his writings fall at the time when the process of Islamization (conversion to Islam) was in its initial stages, and he places Muslims as third, the least numerous segment of the population, while he lists the "Bosnians of Roman Christian faith" as first, or the most numerous people of Bosnia of the time. The natural conclusion from Kupresic\\\\\\\'s writings is that Croat Catholics still made up the majority of the Bosnian population in the beginning of the 16th Century.

One hundred years later, the situation changed significantly. An Albanian visitor to Bosnia, Masarechi, observed that Bosnia was 3/4 Muslim, 1/4 Catholic (about 300,000), and no more than 150,000 Orthodox. In assuming that Masarechi was correct, and based on some numbers from the time, he may have overestimated the Catholic numbers. Only fifty years later that number was drastically reduced. Fifty years from Masarechi\\\\\\\'s writings, in 1675, according to the report by Bosnian bishop Nikola Organic-Olovcic, there were no more than 80,000 Catholics in Bosnia, and they became the least numerous group of people in Bosnia. Toward the end of that century, after the invasion of Prince Eugen of Savoy into Bosnia, the number of Croat Catholics was further reduced, estimated to be close to 32,000. By the year 1740, there was a slight increase to about 40,000. From that time there was a very slow rise in numbers reaching to about 100,000 by the year 1800. The first relatively precise census was made possible by Austrian officials in 1879. The census showed that within the borders of BiH as we know them today, there were 209,391 Catholics, or 18.08% of the total population.


Year 1624 1675 1699 1740 1800 1879
# of Croats 300,000 80,000 32,000 40,000 100,000 209,391

The demise of the Croat kingdom in BiH during the Middle Ages had catastrophic consequences, as numerical reflections point out in the preceding paragraph. Unfortunately, these were not just losses expressed in terms of numbers. In addition, Croats lost their leading, elite segment of the lay population. The urban merchant class, which had the leading role in the economic life of the population, left not only Sarajevo, but other urban centers as well, and with them was lost the base of Croat cultural development. Only a small number of Croat artisans remained, so that in essence, the Croat population was primarily made up of the agrarian element, and the only elite leadership left with the people were the Franciscan friars. The priests were limited to three monasteries, as compared to some forty toward the end of the Middle Ages. They were located in Kraljeva Sutjeska, Fojnica, and in Vares. There were only two churches, one in Podmilicje near Jajce, and the other in Vares.

In such a somber reality, Franciscans were the only social force responsible for keeping the memory of a lost kingdom, and safeguarding the identity of the land. In the 16th Century, while the interest of the Catholic merchant class was still present, the tradition from the Middle Ages was very pronounced and, out of Bosnia, the traditional stronghold left was in Dubrovnik. Many from Dubrovnik looked to Bosnia as the land of their ancestors, while Bosnia still maintained its Catholic character. Even some peasants from the island of Mljet tied their ancestral roots to Bosnia through documents which bore the official seals of Bosnian kings. When those documents were used in the courts of Dubrovnik, Franciscan priests from Bosnia were called to verify their authenticity. The most significant link to Croats from the Middles Ages is the coat of arms from the town of Foca. This coat of arms was produced by highly educated Franciscan priests in cooperation with wealthy merchants. The merchants were investing money and desire in order to discover and preserve cherished components of their identity. The priests were investing their talents and connections to other communities with similar undertakings. At the same time, the conscience of the Muslims of that time held no notion of Bosnia as a political entity. In their minds, Bosnia was not a country, but rather just a native land totally immersed and lost in the immensity of the Ottoman Empire, which existed solely for the purpose of glorifying Allah. The Orthodox population, uprooted from its original domain, was under very strong influence of the Serbian Orthodox Church, which was primarily concerned with keeping alive the memory of the "sanctified dynasty Nemanjic". Then, as now, the only guidance for the Orthodox was the idea of restoring the glory of its dynasty from the Middle Ages. On the other hand, in this new situation, after the massive exodus of the Catholics during the 17th and 18th Centuries, in the solitude of their three remaining monasteries, generations of Franciscan priests sought and found remnants of their peoples past. In between weary travels among their people, they stored and safeguarded the memories of their land called Bosnia.


The only formal link with the Bosnian kingdom and its social institutions from the Middle Ages was the memory preserved by Bosnian Franciscan priests, and their "Silver Bosnia". It was precisely that memory which became a burden, or a "weight tied around the neck" of all Croat political thoughts and movements in modern times. The overwhelming burden concentrated on the process of national integration of Croats in BiH. The burden was to cross over from the world of folklore and statistics to the reality of political thought and action, a task which was not simple. It seems that most of those dealing with the "Bosnian problem" would agree that the essence of that problem today is crystallized in the domain of the social collective termed a "nation". To many, national identity is self- explanatory, understood, but it is a phenomenon of heated debate and theoretical discourse. Even according to experts such as Max Weber and Eric Hobsbawn, this phenomenon, without a doubt, has political dimensions which were crystallized in the course of European history of the 19th Century. It appeared at the time of "a race from power", and it was also very much a factor in the recent downfall of communist tyranny. The evolvement of the national collective in this part of Europe is defined by two processes without synchronized beginnings, but parallel, and profoundly conditional to each other for the past two centuries.

One process in question can be dated back to the 14th Century, to the time when the Turks conquered the first step of European soil. In the next three glorious centuries of Turkish rule, they penetrated deep across the Balkan peninsula into the territory of Central-eastern Europe. The 17th Century marked the beginning of their decline and gradual withdrawal. By the 20th Century, Turkey had become a "remnant of a remnant", but in Bosnia, Serbia (Sandzak and Kosovo), Albania, and Macedonia, the traces of a long era of Turkish domination still remains in the form of large and small pockets of isolated Muslim populations (a segment of contemporary intellectuals from Bosnia is seeking and finding the continuum of its identity by reaching back to the time of Turkish rule). Parallel to the process of Turkish withdrawal was the process of disintegration of two large multi-national creations, the Hapsburg monarchy and the Ottoman Empire. Newly created states were made according to the European model of a nation-state (in 1867, the Hapsburg monarchy split into Austro-Hungary, and in 1918 it became Austria, Hungary, Romania, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia; from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire during the course of the 19th Century rose the states of Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, and in 1918, Albania, and once again, Yugoslavia). The last followers of those multi-ethnic creations were composed, once again, as two or three multi-ethnic states, due to pressures from outside. Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia have definitely fallen apart, but all in all, this centuries- long process of disintegration has not necessarily seen its end.

It was in the course of such a long historical process that this territory saw the formation of contemporary nations of the Croats, Serbs, and Bosnians (as far as the Bosnians are concerned, the situation is far from clear, not just in terms of a name, but also in terms of European modality, and in terms of their refusal to participate in the collective of their neighbors). The process of creating a modern national collective in Bosnia was strongly influenced by the Ottoman concept of a structure within a state. The basis of that concept was the division of a state according to religious principles. This is not to say that such a division necessarily led to the modern-day formation of different ethnic elements according to religion (Albanians remained Albanians despite three religions), but at the beginning of the 19th Century, within the perimeters of the Pashaluk of Belgrade, the Serbian Orthodox Church used its Middle Age ideology, and traditions in creating Serbia. On the other side, west of Serbia, a modern Croat nation comes into being (although at a slower pace than the Serbs), strongly identified by its Catholicism. It is not surprising to find the Muslim population of this time, excluding itself from the process of integration, pulling back, and seeking to preserve the existing conditions, including Turkish authority, as the guarantor of its survival.

What is important to accentuate about this process is the rise of seclusion within already formed collectives of "milets", despite the fact that all three groups shared a linguistic medium, or better stated that the communication through that linguistic medium was carried on a daily basis. During the course of many centuries this medium of communication was a conduit of beneficial influences, especially at the lower socio-economic levels. The 19th Century brought a significant decline in communication and seclusion. Even though during a large part of the 19th Century, the social elite of Bosnian society was unable to communicate using mass media (the literacy rate was very low when the Austro-Hungarians took over), national propaganda found its way into the "carsije" and "kasaba" (types of towns, primarily without a Catholic population, and a factor accountable for the late formation of a Croat national collective in Bosnia; in Herzegovina, because its culture was primarily based on traditions tied to patriarchy, the situation was different; here the consciousness of being "Croat" or being "Serb" was parallel to that in Croatia and Serbia; that fact accounts for why Herzegovina remained for both nations for a long time "a demographic artery"; This factor is not getting much attention from the Croat side). The peasants joined this process in larger numbers with the coming of the Austro-Hungarian administration. This administration set in place the mechanism of massive civilization and industrialization of Bosnia (mandatory elementary education, literacy courses, mandatory military duty, building of railroads, etc.).

The seclusion of one collective, ethnic component, the creation of massive civilization by the second one, the rise of elite importance in both entities, and the actual competition of the two, with the third one, for political power, brings about the first signs of xenophobia, collective hate rising from the fertile field of religious differences. The Muslim elite was formed from the ranks of the merchant class; the Croat Catholic came primarily from the ranks of the Franciscan priests, and with the coming of the Austro-Hungarian administration, it came from the urban/civil service segment of the population. What is equally important to note is the fact that the "milets" from the Ottoman period were being integrated into new ethnic entities, having some elements of modern national character, which in turn prevented the formation of something that could be referred to as a "Bosnian society", and consequently, three separate societies developed.

Developing according to the above prescription, the society, or better stated, the societies of Bosnia, lived with the latent possibility of conflict, which becomes an acute reality each time when the ruling authority diminished its pressures. In the meantime, another phenomenon developed, one which is now often referred to as "living side by side", and which would be better stated as tolerance. That tolerance provides some sort of semblance for everyday life (best exemplified in the works of Ivo Andric, a major Croat writer). Until 1875, the Ottoman bureaucracy carried out its function, primarily in a haphazard manner, and relied heavily on the Muslim population. Ottoman inability to carry out modernization was added to by the unwillingness of the Muslim elite to endanger their own privileged status. Actually, the elite made every attempt to conserve their status quo, desiring to remain on top, and in reality regarding Bosnia as a political bowl, one to serve their needs. Some of them looked to Bosnia as their shield in the preservation of a social life based on Muslim principles, and came into conflict with the central authority\\\\\\\'s desire to be in step with the contemporary European notion of a nation-state. The ideology of the Bosnian elite came from educated, primarily "Ulem" (Muslim clergy), and proliferated all of the political movements and parties of Bosnian Muslims in the 19th and 20th Centuries.

Within the historical framework of the 19th Century appeared a situation where animosities were becoming more frequent, and finally the crisis culminated in an uprising in 1875-78. The three ethnic elements of Bosnia were not equally developed up to that point, so that their participation in all forms of struggle for power was uneven, and so was the articulation of their position. All of these differences were well reflected in the writing of that time, and today\\\\\\\'s historians are reaching into them as sources for their deliberations. I am reaching into the writing of a respected foreign observer dating to the 1860s, the Italian first consul in Sarajevo, Cesar Durand. This is a deliberate choice since Mr. Durand was a man of convictions, and a man whose sense of Italian national consciousness was very high. Durand was very knowledgeable about the conditions in Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia. He learned the Croatian language, and had no desire to extend Italian imperial influence in this area (although his successor did).

In summarizing all which consul Durand wrote in his 152 reports, all were translated, it is clear that he was very much aware of linguistic differences between the three collective groups, although all three were communicating with the use of one linguistic medium. He reported that "All are Slavs, but they are 1000 miles apart from each other...". Durand clearly saw hate as a constant of life in those areas. Four years after he arrived in Sarajevo he knew a great deal about Bosnia and the conditions there. After hearing about possible Serb uprisings, and reacting to an ad in the Serb newspaper "Napredak", he wrote in a report dated January 24, 1867, "Bosnians of all three religious groups hate each other, and that is why it is not possible for the newspaper ad to have originated in Bosnia...". The ad in the Serb newspaper called on "Serb people from all three faiths...". In some of his other reports, Durand reaches into the human nature and depth of hate that he saw. He writes, "Muslim Slavs hate Serbia, and religion is not the only reason. That hate comes from class relationship. They hate Serbia as a master hates a slave who took his house...". He also wrote that the Orthodox hate Catholics almost as much as they hate Muslims.

The Italian consul reported about the power of each collective group, and their participation in the political life of Bosnia. He clearly notes the powerful rise and influence from Serbia among the Serb Orthodox in Bosnia, and their aspirations of uniting with Serbia. At the same time he points out that armed attempts would not be successful because, as he sees its, Muslims are still very powerful. Among the Muslims he notes agrarian strength. He interprets their conservatism as a desire to perpetuate existing conditions, thus maintaining a privileged status in Bosnia. Finally, he considers Croat Catholics in terms of their folklore, and without desire to compete for political power. Furthermore, he writes that influence from Croatia, due to unsettled conditions there, is not strong enough to move Bosnian Catholics toward political structuring.

Durand\\\\\\\'s familiarity with the more detailed situation was limited, especially in terms of Bosnian Catholics. His contacts with Catholics were not frequent, as not many lived in Sarajevo. Durand was not able, or better said, not capable to see an articulated political notion of Bosnia as a country, but it was there. It was there, among the nationally and politically undefined grouping, and especially among the leaders of its elite, the Franciscan priests. I have expressed this presence of "Bosnia as a country" several times earlier in this deliberation. This idea of "Bosnia as a country", because of its proximity to a "historical right", was accepted in the 1860s by all contemporary politicians, from the Illyrians to Ante Starcevic. The basic notion remained the same, but each adopted it according to a personal viewpoint. The Croat political establishment gained affirmation for their positions with Austro-Hungarian authority in Bosnia. The official name, Bosnia-Herzegovina, came into being along with the idea of organizing political life within the borders which existed until 1992. A new component to the idea of BiH was brought in by Benjamin Kallay (Minister of Finances of Austro-Hungary from 1882- 1903, and in reality, the "ruler" of Bosnia during that period). It was Kallay who played the most important role in spreading, perpetuating and enlarging all that can be considered "a myth about Bosnia-Herzegovina". In order to prevent the process of integration between Croats and Serbs (for various reasons, that process was endangering the dual structure of the monarchy, as well as its continuation), Kallay first came up with the idea about Bosnia-Herzegovina as a separate "political entity". He further extended it to include the notion of a "Bosnian" people with three religions (his logic must have been that if there was a country named Bosnia, there must be a people who are called Bosnians; his logic did seem charming enough and it did carry the pressures of the political authority).

It is not surprising that his idea about a Bosnian nation found very fertile ground among Bosnian Muslims (begs, or Muslim rural elite, soon found out that the new regime was not interested in carrying out agrarian reforms, and the distant sultan was no longer able to restore his power in the region, so the idea of Bosnia-Herzegovina as a country became very appealing). The officials of the Catholic Church endorsed Kallay\\\\\\\'s idea as well. Along with Franciscan priests, the church hierarchy, led by archbishop Josip Stadler, joined efforts in propagandizing the idea of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a political framework. Stadler\\\\\\\'s personal aim was to take the political leadership of BiH (as archbishop, he accepted the idea of Bosnia as a "country-kingdom", his political rise automatically dulled the sharpness of Croat nationalism). Luckily, he was unsuccessful, so that the idea of Croat unity, or rather the call for unifying BiH with Croatia did not die. It was that notion of unity with Croatia that became the base and focus of the Croat political elite, which soon after also incorporated in its framework the process of Europification of former Turkish provinces.

The Croat political elite struggled with many difficulties in its formative process until 1918, and was unable to completely awaken and move the slow world of the Bosnian Catholic peasant masses. Those masses remained to draw the interest of the people, from the entire Hapsburg monarchy, whose attention focused on their folklore. Stjepan Radic, the "Messiah" of the peasant masses, was the first politician to realize the political potential of Catholic peasants of BiH. His efforts, including those in Bosnia, were deliberated many times. Just for this occasion, and due to the actuality of today, I would like to underscore some of Radic\\\\\\\'s thoughts, which, of late, seem to have taken a secondary position. Radic\\\\\\\'s "par excellence" knowledge of conditions in Croatia was clearly expressed in his down to earth realism. Radic chose to rely on peasants as his strongest base of support. He knew that in gaining the franchise, the peasants would become a relevant political force. He also clearly stated that the place for priests was in the sacristy, at the alter, and not in the political arena. He was very conscious of the sensitivity of audiences, so when speaking, he would greet them by saying, "Glory to Jesus and Mary, and down with the monks".

Radic openly and clearly articulated an anti-clerical position, and at the same time, he publicly acknowledged the immense contributions of the clergy to the fiber and wealth of Croat traditions. He based his keen awareness of the fact that, to a Catholic priest, the Church would take precedence over everything else, including the interests of Croat politics. With such formulated ideology, Stjepan Radic witnessed the creation of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. With all the negative consequences that the new monarchy brought to Croats, it must be noted that the disenfranchisement and elimination of administrative boundaries set by civil and church authorities was a positive outcome of the monarchy, and conditions were ripe for completing the process of integrating a modern Croat nation. Firmly conscious of the reality around him and the full human potential of the people he had to work with, Radic was able to mobilize the entire Croat nation around his peasant party. His ideals and efforts in Bosnia-Herzegovina were just as fruitful there as they were in Croatia, and that was the fact which irreversibly formalized the body of a Croat political entity. The fruits of Radic\\\\\\\'s labor were harvested by his very able and very realistic successor, Vlatko Macek. Macek would, taking a lesson from the traditions of urban Croat politics, and influenced by the philosophy of Starcevic, attempt to form a Muslim branch of the Croatian Peasant Party. He soon realized the futility of his attempt. Since Macek, like Radic, was not hampered by legal and historical classifications, he was able to capitalize in the elections of 1938- 39 on one side, and from the realities of the international political conditions of the time. Through direct negotiations in Belgrade, he was able to realize the Banovina of Croatia (present-day Croatia plus a large part of BiH). Taking from what was Austro-Hungarian BiH, an area which, at the time, was clearly Croat, Macek paved the road for Croat national politics. That direction was continued by Andrija Hebrang in his own specific way, but it was abandoned completely due to the visions of Ante Pavelic and Josip Broz (Tito).

Pavelic\\\\\\\'s "gulping" the entire BiH was careless, since its primarily Muslim and Serbian population had no intentions of accepting a Croat state, and which, due to the war conditions, had equal chances of succeeding on their own. Under conditions of an unfinished framework of statehood, Pavelic\\\\\\\'s repressive measures to pacify the situation could only create internal chaos. NDH (the Independent State of Croatia) would have fallen even without internal chaos, because it came into being as a result of Hitler\\\\\\\'s "new European society". Every trace of Hitler\\\\\\\'s world was eliminated without mercy by the victorious powers of WWII. The "pacifying" methods of Pavelic\\\\\\\'s rule brought to Croats an unenvious "reputation" of a nation who committed genocide, a reputation we are painfully struggling to get rid of even today.

The consequence of Broz\\\\\\\'s combination of "socialist" and "historical" principles in forming a federation was eroded by inherent Serbo-Croat tensions from the very beginning. Broz\\\\\\\'s strength was found in his ability to improvise. In the short period before the second session of AVNOJ, he created a new BiH (this is according to the testimony of Rodoljub Colakovic, who stated that unexpectedly one night, Broz called him and asked him what he thought about "that Bosnia and Herzegovina", and that caused some fervor, as no one even imagined BiH as being one of the federal components. Colakovic said that he personally placed an embargo on that idea.). This new creation of BiH became a "bone of contention for Serb and Croat nationalism". Relying later on Krzela\\\\\\\'s ideological charisma (he was the strongest proponent of the BiH myth, with pronounced political connotations; Krleza\\\\\\\'s influence on Croat histography would be a worthwhile study in itself). Broz also relied on Croat communist politicians, who in the post-war period did not dare look beyond the borders created by AVNOJ (not even those from the "Croatian Spring" of 1971 considered cooperating with their compatriots in the "Socialist Republic of BiH". It can be concluded that active elements of the Croat political establishment represented the direct inheritance of the communist era, and refused any contact with Croats in BiH, dismissing it as unthinkable). On the other hand, Broz "fortified" the formation called "SR BiH" within the framework of "sophisticated dictatorship". For Croats, that reality would cause a new wave of mass exodus. This exodus, in the course of 45 years, brought about a decrease of the Croat population in BiH from 25% to 17.5% of the total population. This exodus can be verified through the records of the "Yearly Statistician", which recorded absolute decreases in the number of Croats in BiH over the past decades (not only smaller percentages). This was a result of the mechanical, actual, outflow of people. Without thorough and solid histographical undertakings, it would be impossible to sort out all of the causes for that mass exodus, even from "ethnically pure areas" (sorting the causes in diverse areas would be a waste of time and effort). However, it is worth remembering the examples of Travnik and Bugojno, where until shortly after WWII Croats maintained a majority over the Muslim population. Before WWII, Croats had an overwhelming majority in those cities. In any case, the lack of support from the "Croatian axis" is one of the main factors for such unfavorable developments. This matter needs to be seriously taken into consideration by Croat politics of the future.

Finally, since the second Yugoslavia, as a country created according to the yardstick of one man, and, as such, was kept through a sophisticated form of political repression. It was unable to survive his disappearance, and the same applies to BiH, as both were created in the same fashion. Here ends the territory on which a historian walks with confidence. Without knowing what the outcomes of today\\\\\\\'s processes will be, and how long it will last, a historian with his deliberation, must step aside. Under contemporary conditions, there must be room for the instinct of a politician and a weapon of a soldier. To what extent will they be able to safeguard all that is Croatian in BiH, does not depend on them alone. In any case, the Croatian national feeling of BiH today is not what it was during the course of the 17th and 18th Centuries. Bosnia has no chance of becoming again what it once was. It is precisely for those reasons that, whatever Croat policies accomplish in BiH, they will have a "historical" backing. If Croat authorities now, or at any time, wish their people and their land well, they have to keep in mind Radic\\\\\\\'s slogan: "...a Croatian wallet in a Croatian pocket, and a Croatian rifle on a Croatian shoulder."

5277 page loads

No comments