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The road to the Bosniak nation

Written 27.11.2009. 13:13
Up until the 19th century, historical sources claim that Bosniaks of all three faiths (Catholics, Orthodox and Muslims) live in Bosnia. That identity was not brought into question by the Turkish authorities, nor by the Bosniaks themselves.After the Serb rebellions, a process whereby the Orthodox Bosniaks became a part of the Serb nation began, helped along by religious and state propaganda. Bosniak-Muslim scholar Z. Hadzidedic points out that the nationalization of the Bosnian Orthodox has full legitimacy because nation is a political and sociocultural category.51As far as the nationalization of the Bosnian Catholics is concerned, Hadzidedic believes that it was only completed in the 1940's, and that it was a reaction to the growing nationalism of the newly nationalized Orthodox adherents. Complex issues surrounding the creation of the Bosniak nation, definitely completed in a bloody divorce, cannot be fully understood if we don't know the opinions of Bosnian Muslim historians. Of course, the opinions of these authors need to be critically analyzed, because they only now have the opportunity to create and define the focal points of their national identity. Even if we respect their opinions, we need to acknowledge the possibility that their approach could take on the characteristics of national romanticism, like the Croat and Serb history had in the last century.

A Catholic-Orthodox-Muslim Bosnian nation could never have been idyllic. In the Bosnian Pashaluk, the Ottomans infused the indigenous islamised population with the idea of statehood (Turkish-Oriental variant) and helped shape a new, fiercely loyal ethnicity, which is a unique case in all the European lands under their occupation. Christian populations always harboured fears of dominant Islam, and the fact that some Franciscans wholeheartedly embraced the idea of the Bosniak nation remained a historical oddity. Fears of religious communities increased at the time of the Ottoman withdrawal. Islam, which previously threatened Croatia's existence in particular, was now on the defensive on all fronts and could not expect any mercy from the Christians. The Ottoman Empire came under attack from Christians whose minds were full of grim memories (real and imagined) of islamic yoke. Inside the Empire, in the Bosnian Pashaluk, a socio-religious rebellion against the Turks, ie. Bosnian Muslims was an expected byproduct. An ecumenical Bosniak nation could not have been anything but a stillbirth.

By accepting Islam, the Bosniaks entered a new culture and gained Sultan's protection, but on the other hand accepted a great risk, a risk which they were not aware of at the time. That risk consists of living surrounded by unrelenting enemies, and those enemies are neighbours of another denomination who could not accept the Muslim ascendancy, nor forget what it entailed. The risk was that our "Turks" frequently got punished for everything the Ottomans had (or hadn't) done in these regions.

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