Serbs of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Serbs of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Serbs are one of the three "constitutive nations" of Bosnia-Herzegovina, predominantly concentrated in the Republic of Srpska, although many also live in the other entity, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. They are frequently referred to as Bosnian Serbs in English, regardless of whether they are from Bosnia or Herzegovina.


The last 1996 UNHCR population census registered 1,484,530 Serbs or 37.9% of the total population of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The modern estimate is that they form more likely about 37.1% (2000). The vast majority live on the territory of the Republika Srpska, and West Bosnia and Una-Sana cantons of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Serbs are the most territorially widespread nation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The majority of Bosnian Serbs are adherents of the Serbian Orthodox Church, while some are atheists. The Serbs of Bosnia and Herzegovina speak the Serbian language in its Ijekavian variant, similar to that of Montenegro, Croatia, and Western Serbia.



The Serbs are one of the rare Slavic nations who kept their old names that they had in the old Slavonic motherland. Beside the Serbs, only the Croats kept their old name. The other Slavic nations got their names after the migration from the old Slavonic motherland.



Slavs settled the region of Bosnia in the first half of the 7th century. They were led by the Unknown Archont and given Bosnia as a land to settle in by Byzantine Emperor Heraclius. Historical records indicate two small inhabited cities, Kotor and Desnik, in Bosnia at the time populated by Bosnian Serbs. Bosnia was ruled by Bans and in 753 formed a territorial union with the Principality of Rascia known as Surbia (Serbia, natively called "Zagorje") ruled by Grand Princes. In 822, Prince Liudevit TransSavian of Pannonia fled to Srb in Bosnia to the Serbian ruler from the Frankish forces and their allies. Prince Liudevit was accepted well by the Lord, but Liudevit eventually tricked him, killing him and talking his demesne for himself. The western regions were incorporated into the Croatian state. .Some Bosnians were baptised into Christianity by Byzantine missionary of the actions of Cyril and Methodus in the 800s.

The Bosnian Chiefs abandoned the War-of-the-succession-torn Kingdom of Croatia and joined the Serbian Realm of Prince Časlav of Klonimir of the House of Vlastimir up to 931. By the end of the 948 Croatian struggles for the throne, he included all the territories to the river of Vrbas to the west and Sava to the north while western and northern Bosnia remained in the Kingdom of Croatia. The Drina area became the heart of his state. The Hungarian Kingdom had pretensions to conquer Bosnia, so Ceslav had to fend-off a Hungarian invasion in 955. Prince Ceslav saved Bosnia, but was drowned by the Hungarian forces in the river of Sava in norther Bosnia in 960.

The Bosnian Serbian rule in eastern and central Bosnia crumbled after Ceslav's fall. It would take King Constantine Bodin of Doclea and war against the Byzantines in 1082-1085 to restore it. There he implaced a related courtier of his, Stefan as Ban, whose heirs continued to rule Bosnia.


:"see also: History of Republika Srpska"In the 20th century, Bosnia and Herzegovina became a protectorate of Austria-Hungary, which the Serbs strongly opposed. In 1914, Bosnian Serb nationalist militant Gavrilo Princip made international headlines after assassinating Arch Duke Francis Ferdinand in Sarajevo. This sparked war with Serbia followed by Austria-Hungary's defeat and the incorporation of Bosnia and Herzegovina into the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

Between 1945 and 1948, following World War II, around 70,000 Serbs migrated from the People's Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina to Vojvodina, prior to the expulsions of Germans. Serbs were the larger of the two constitutive nations of Bosnia and Herzegovina (later of three, since Muslims by nationality gained constitutive status in 1968). In the first population census conducted in the People's Republic of Bosnia in 1948, there were 1,136,116 Serbs or a total of "44.3%" of BiH's population. In 1953, there were 1,264,372 Serbs in BiH, "44.4%" of the total population. According to the 1961 population census, there were 1,406,057 Serbs, accounting for "42.9%" of total population of the Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Serbs lost their plurality as the largest single ethnic group of the Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina during the 1960s and 1970s, being overtaken by the Bosnian Muslims. According to the 1971 population census, there were 1,393,148 Serbs in BiH or "37.2%" of the population. In 1981, there were 1,320,644 Serbs in BiH or "32%" of the total population. In that year, Serbs formed a majority on 27,255.2 square kilometres or "53.3%" of the total territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina . They lived in "34.4%" of the total housing of BiH. There was a Serb majority in 2,439 settlements or "41.4%" of the total settlements of BiH and Serbs owned a total of "51.4%" of the land of the Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In 1991, there were 1,369,258 Serbs in BiH or "31.4%" of the total populace. It is unknown how many of those who declared themselves as "Yugoslavs" were ethnic Serbs, but it is believed that altogether they made up 38% of BiH's population.

The Serb and Croat political leaderships accused certain elements within the government of BiH of being pro-Islamic and of attempting to create a Unitary Islamic Bosnia in the 1990s. The Serbs boycotted the 1992 referendum for independence from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Although it was eventually recognized by the international community, in the opinion of the Serb political leadership the result was unconstitutional since the will of one of the constitutive nations, the Serbs, was ignored. This was problematic in that remaining part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia would have ignored the will of the other two constitutive nations. The Government of BiH declared independence anyway - which was not accepted by the federal government of Yugoslavia, and what followed was the forming of the Serbian Autonomous Area of the Bosnian Frontier in the western Bosnian Frontier region of Bosnia and Herzegovina with its capital in Banja Luka, which was not recognised by the central government. SAO Bosnian Frontier made attempts to unite with the Autonomous Region of the Serbian Frontier in Croatia. The Serb political leadership martialled its own force assisted by the Yugoslav People's Army of the and declared independence from Bosnia and Herzegovina in late 1992. During this period there was notable support for the idea of a Greater Serbia being made reality, both within Bosnia and in Serbia proper. This ideology advocated the joining of Serb-poulated regions into a contiguous territory, a feat which would have necessarily involved the forcible removal of non-Serbs from said regions. BiH's Muslim and Croat dominated government did not recognize the new Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, whose president was Radovan Karadžić seated in Banja Luka.Fact|date=February 2007 The Serb side accepted the proposed ethnic cantonization of Bosnia and Herzegovina (the Carrington-Cutileiro peace plan), as did the Muslim and Croat sides in Lisbon in 1992, in the hope that war would not break out. The Muslim political leadership under President Alija Izetbegović of Bosnia and Herzegovina subsequently broke the agreement refusing to decentralize the newly created country. The Bosnian War began.

Throughout most of the war the Serb side fought against both the Muslim side and the Croatian side. During Muslim-Croat hostilities the Serbs co-operated largely with the Croat. There were exceptions to this as well, as Serb forces were also allied with the pro-Yugoslav Bosniacs of the Autonomous Province of Western Bosnia under Fikret Abdić. During most of the war, the Serb Republic comprised around "70%" of Bosnia and Herzegovina's soil. During the entire length of war the Army of the Serb Republic maintained the Siege of Sarajevo, allegedly in order to tie down the Bosnian Muslim forces and resources in what was the capital of the Bosnian-Herzegovinian state. Serb Republic maintained close ties with the Republic of the Serb Frontier and received volunteers and supplies from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia during the war. The Serb Republic received a large number of Serb refugees from other Yugoslav hotzones, particularly non-Serb held areas in Sarajevo, Herzeg-Bosnia and Croatia. In 1993, the Owen-Stoltenberg peace treaty was suggested that would give "52%" of BiH to the Serb side. It was refused by the Bosnian Muslim side as too large of a concession. In 1994, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia imposed sanctions after the National Assembly of the Serb Republic refused the Vance-Owen peace plan. In 1995, Operation Storm, eliminated the Republic of the Serb Frontier. The Croatian Army continued the offensive into the Serb Republic under General Ante Gotovina (currently on trial for war crimes at the ICTY). Some 250,000 Serbs fled to the Serb Republic and Serbia from Croatia, as the Serb side continued a full retreat of Serbs from the Una river to the Sana river. The Croatian Army, supported by the forces of the Muslim-Croat Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina came within 20km of the de facto Bosnian Serb capital, Banja Luka. The war was halted with the Dayton Agreement which recognized Republika Srpska, comprising 49% of the soil of BiH, as one of the two territorial entities of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Serb side suffered a total 30,700 victims - 16,700 civilians and 14,000 military personnel, according to the Demographic Unit at the ICTY. Although exact number are somewhat disputed, mostly by Bosniaks, it is generally agreed that the Bosnian War claimed the lives of about 100,000 people - Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks. "See: Casulties of the Bosnian War"

The demographics of Bosnia-Herzegovina as well as Republika Srpska were tremendously affected by the war. Current estimates indicate that some 400,000 Serbs no longer live in the Federation of BiH, the other entity in Bosnia which makes up 51% of its territory. By the same token, it is estimated that some 450,000 Bosnian Muslims and Croats that used to live in Republika Srpska no longer live there. Many Bosnian Serbs emigrated abroad to Canada, the United States, Australia and western Europe, while others also settled in Serbia and Montenegro. Some Croatian Serbs, fleeing the Croatian offensive Operation Storm, settled in Republika Srpska following the war, although most ended up in Serbia.


The subgroups of Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina are commonly based on regional affiliation. Some of the major subgroups of them include: Frontiersmen ("Krajišniks"), Semberians, Bosnians, Herzegovinians

Herzegovinan clans

Some of "Bosnia and Herzegovina"'s Serbs, mostly living in Herzegovina are organised in clans. The Herzegovinian clans are:
* Grahovo
* Rudine
** Bijele Nikšićke Rudine
** Oputne Rudine
** Bilećke Rudine
** Banjani
* Lukovo
* Nikšićka Župa
* Gornje Polje
* Drobnjak
** Uskoci
** Jezera
** Korito
* Šaranci
* Piva
** Planina
** Župa
* Golija
* Gacko
* Zupci

See also

* Serbs
* Serbophobia
* List of Serbs
* Bosnia and Herzegovina
* Republika Srpska

Gallery of demographics


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