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The People of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ethnic Discord

bordering Croatia, Muslim control, Dayton agreement, Banja Luka, Mostar

Before the war, the rural Bosnian population lived largely in concentrations of each ethnic group, but the concentrations were so interspersed as to resemble a leopard’s skin. The Muslim population was concentrated mainly in central and eastern Bosnia (bordering Serbia) and in the far west (bordering Croatia). Concentrations of Serbs separated those of the Muslims. Croats were mainly concentrated on the northern and southwestern borders with Croatia, with some Croat pockets in central Bosnia. Serb military campaigns in 1992 and 1993 and Croat campaigns in 1993 and 1995 were aimed at expelling others from areas claimed by these groups. By the end of the war almost all non-Serbs had been expelled from Serb-claimed lands in eastern and northern Bosnia, and non-Croats from Croat-claimed lands in southwestern Bosnia. In turn, most non-Muslims had left land under Muslim control in northwestern Bosnia.

The largest cities had mixed populations in 1991, but the war and its aftermath made them almost homogenous. Banja Luka, 55 percent Serb in 1991, was almost 100 percent Serb by 1993. It is the capital of the Serb Republic. Mostar, 34 percent Croat, 35 percent Muslim, 19 percent Serb, and 10 percent “others” (who registered no ethnic affiliation) in 1991, had by 1995 been divided into an almost purely Croat western part and an almost purely Muslim eastern part, with very few Serbs or “others” left in either. Under the terms of the 1995 Dayton peace accord, which ended the war, Sarajevo, located in the Muslim-Croat federation near the boundary of the Serb Republic, is a united city under federal Bosnian control. However, the city’s population changed from 49 percent Muslim before the war to 90 percent Muslim by 1996, and the Muslim authorities have permitted few non-Muslims to return.

The return of refugees was mandated by the international community at the time of the Dayton agreement, but had not occurred in any great numbers by the end of 1998. This was especially true of the return of people into areas where their group was in the minority after the war. In April 1998 Croats in the western town of Drvar rioted against the return of Serbs, attacking refugees and burning buildings used by the UN. In June 1998 up to 820,000 people within Bosnia remained displaced from their previous homes. In general, the political leaders of all groups have engaged in cultural projects aimed at ensuring that the ethnic groups regard themselves as inherently different from one another, with conflicting cultures and interests.

Article key phrases:

bordering Croatia, Muslim control, Dayton agreement, Banja Luka, Mostar, united city, Croats, Muslim population, Serbs, great numbers, largest cities, Sarajevo, ethnic group, lands, international community, minority, aftermath, ethnic groups, political leaders, boundary, war, capital, Bosnia, buildings, end, interests, groups, areas, time, turn, terms


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