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Template:Ethnic group Bosniaks (in Bosnian: Bošnjaci) are a south Slavic people living chiefly in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro and Croatia.

Bosniaks are a Southeast European ethnic group descended from South Slavic converts to Islam, that lived in Bosnian Kingdom (they called themselves Good Bosniaks, in old Bosnian: "Dobri Bošnjani"). They are named after Bosnia, the largest and most significant historical region of modern Bosnia and Herzegovina. Religiously speaking, the majority of Bosniaks are Sunni Muslims.

The Bosniaks today live primarily in Bosnia and Herzegovina, although there is a considerable population in the adjacent Sandžak region of Serbia and Montenegro. Smaller populations are also present in Kosovo and Republic of Macedonia, as well as the other former Yugoslav republics.

Historically, Bosniaks are chiefly associated with the regions of Bosanska Krajina, Bosnia proper, Herzegovina, Podrinje, and Sandžak. However, during the Yugoslav wars, Bosniaks were almost completely ethnically cleansed from Podrinje and much of Bosanska Krajina. Today, most Bosniaks live in the Bosna river valley and Cazinska Krajina, the most western part of Bosanska Krajina.

In the West, Bosniaks are commonly, but incorrectly, referred to as "Bosnian Muslims". Today the term is considered antiquated and, in certain situations, even mildly offensive. This is because not all Bosniaks are Muslims (although most are) and because of their historical struggle for national recognition. It is important to note that not all of the Muslim peoples of the Balkans are Bosniaks; there are other groups of South Slavic Muslims (such as the Pomaks) as well as non-Slavic Muslim Albanians, Turks, and Roma people.


Pre-Slavic roots

The earliest well known inhabitants of the area now known as Bosnia and Herzegovina were the Illyrians. This ancient Indo-European people presumably arrived in the west Balkans around 2000 BC, overrunning the various old European cultures who lived there before them (such as the Butmir Culture in the vicinity of modern Sarajevo). Despite the arrival of the Celts in the 4th and 3rd centuries BCE, the Illyrians remained the dominant group in the west Balkans until the arrival of the Romans.

Rome conquered Illyria after a series of wars, the final being the crushing of a rebellion by certain tribes in what is now central Bosnia around 9 CE. Latin-speaking settlers from all over the empire settled among the Illyrians at this time. The Roman province of Dalmatia included Herzegovina and most of Bosnia, and a strip of northern Bosnia, south of the Sava River, was part of the province of Pannonia. The Vlachs, a historically nomadic people who live throughout the Balkans, speak a language derived from Latin, and are thought to be the descendants of Roman settlers and Romanized Illyrians. No longer present in a large number, they were absorbed into Bosnia's three main ethnic groups based on religion during the Ottoman period.

It should be noted that Bosniaks, unlike other people whose land is named after an ancient ethnic name, derive their name from Bosnia (similar to Italians and Spaniards). The most commonly accepted theory regarding the origins of the name Bosnia is that it comes from the river Bosna, which has had a similar name since ancient times. That word itself is of either Latin or Illyrian origin.

The Goths conquered Roman Dalmatia in the fifth century, and later the Alans, who spoke an Iranian language, and the Turkic Huns and Avars passed through what is now Bosnia. These invaders left few linguistic traces, and whatever remnant populations were left behind were absorbed by the Slavic wave that was to follow.

Genetic analysis of indigenousness

In 2005 various South European medical schools and institutions specializing in genetics did an analysis of the variation at 28 Y-chromosome biaUelic markers among a sample of males from throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina, relatively equally split among all three major ethnic groups. The most notable find was the high frequency of the "Paleolithic European" halo group (Hg) I; specifically its sub-halo group I-P37. Indicative of Dinarics, the sub-halo group had a frequency of 71% among Bosnian Croats, 44% among Bosniaks, and 31% among Bosnian Serbs. A similar study in Croatia found that Croatian Croats had a frequency of about 45%, but that among them Croats in Dalmatia had a particularly high frequency (around two thirds).

The high frequency of I-P37 among Croats in Bosnia and Dalmatia can be explained by the fact that Catholics in those regions historically mixed very little with other people. The smaller frequency among Croats in Croatia and Bosniaks is probably due to the various foreigners that were assimilated over the years. The study mentioned above confirmed that the Bosniak gene pool was impacted by foreigners from various regions in the Ottoman Empire more so than that of the other two groups, but not in a significant amount overall.

It must be taken into account that out of the study's Bosniak subjects none came from Bosanska Krajina. Based on historical factors associated with the region, it could be expected that the inclusion of Bosniak subjects from this regions would have raised the frequency of I-P37 and Slav-associated sub-halo groups while lowering the frequency of Mediterranean related sub-halo groups among Bosniaks overall. Future genetic studies will hopefully shed more light on these issues. As it stands, current studies have shown that, genetically, Bosniaks are largely indigenous and have a large fraction of the ancient gene pool distinctive for the Balkan area.

Medieval Bosnia

Slavs settled in Bosnia, Herzegovina, and the surrounding lands, which were then part of the Eastern Roman Empire, in the seventh century. The Slavic Serbs and Croats settled sometime after the first wave of Slavs. The Croats established a kingdom in what is now central Croatia and northwestern Bosnia. The Serbs settled in what is now central Serbia, and later expanding into the upper Drina valley of eastern Bosnia and into Eastern Herzegovina, known in the later Middle Ages as Zahumlje. The Croats to the west came under the influence of the Germanic Carolingian Empire and the Roman Catholic Church, and Croatia was closely tied to Hungary and later Austria until the twentieth century. The Serbs to the east came under periodic Byzantine rule, converted to Eastern Orthodox Christianity and absorbed Byzantine cultural influences. After some centuries of rule by Croatia, Serb principalities, and the Byzantine Empire, an independent Bosnian kingdom flourished in central Bosnia between the twelfth and the fifteenth centuries.

The subject of ethnicity in medieval Bosnia has been one of great debate ever since it was brought up in its current context by historians during the second half of the 19th century. All three ethnic groups in Bosnia have a different view on the matter, and this complex and sensitive subject has been further obscured by nationalism and propaganda through the ages. Proving their people as the true heirs of the medieval Bosnian state is important to many nationalists because they consider this indigenousness to have important implications in modern social, political, and interethnic issues. Simply put, however, there is no sign that the population of pre-Ottoman Bosnia and Herzegovina, in whichever social stratum, had developed Croatian or Serbian ethnic consciousness even in a medieval sense of the word. To quote Noel Malcolm from the book "Bosnia A Short History":

"As for the question of whether the inhabitants of Bosnia were really Croat or really Serb in 1180, it cannot be answered, for two reasons: first, because we lack evidence, and secondly, because the question lacks meaning. We can say that the majority of the Bosnian territory was probably occupied by Croats - or at least, by Slavs under Croat rule - in the seventh century; but that is a tribal label which has little or no meaning five centuries later. The Bosnians were generally closer to the Croats in their religious and political history; but to apply the modern notion of Croat identity (something constructed in recent centuries out of religion, history, and language) to anyone in this period would be an anachronism. All that one can sensibly say about the ethnic identity of the Bosnians is this: they were the Slavs who lived in Bosnia."

The Bosnian Kingdom blended cultural influences from east and west; although nominally Roman Catholic, the Bosnian kings embraced elements of Byzantine culture and court ceremonial, and formed alliances and dynastic marriages with the neighboring rulers of both Croatian-Dalmatian and Serb states. Because of Bosnia's mountainous and inaccessible terrain and its remote location on the borderland between the Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, control by church authorities was weak. The religious situation was also peculiar because of the presence of an indigenous Bosnian Church (its adherents were known as krštjani, "Christians"). The krštjani were considered heretics by both the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church. Modern historians have debated whether the Krštjani were a branch of the Bogomils, a Manichean sect which originated in Bulgaria, or whether they were members of the Catholic Church who had acquired some heretical beliefs and influences from Eastern Orthodoxy and fell into Schism. The latter is probably true.

At its largest extent, under King Tvrtko Kotromanic, the Bosnian Kingdom included most of present-day Bosnia and Herzegovina, with the exception of north-western Bosnia, as well as parts of Dalmatia and western Serbia. Discord among his heirs weakened the kingdom after his death, and Bosnia and the Serb principalities to the east were unable to prevent Ottoman Turkish incursions into the western Balkans. The final Turkish conquest in 1463 marked the end of an independent Bosnia and the beginning of the influence of a third civilization, Islam.

Ottoman rule

Historians have long debated how and why the Slav population in Bosnia converted in such large numbers to Islam. There is no simple answer to this question, and the underlying reasons are complex and numerous. One important fact is that the Ottomans did not, as a rule, actively seek to convert their Christian subjects to Islam (the many generations it took for Bosnia to become predominantly Muslim and the retaining of Slavic customs among converts testify to this). The Ottoman Empire at the time was centered on militaristic expansion independent of religion, and the primary split was not between Muslims and nonbelievers but between the military-administrative class (the Ottomans) and the raya, neither of which was exclusive to any particular faith. Though the state eventually acquired a more Islamic focus, by the time this happened Muslims already made up a large majority of Bosnia's population.

The Ottoman conquest of Bosnia was notable because, unlike all other European regions that came under Ottoman control, Bosnia retained its status as a distinct entity from the very beginning (first as a Sanjak, then as a pashaluk). The Ottomans imported their feudal system to Bosnia shortly after the take-over, and estates were granted to men, called spahis, in return for military service in times of war. At the beginning of the Ottoman period, these estates were usually, but not exclusively, granted to Muslims, and later only to Muslims. In Bosnia, these land grants gradually became hereditary, and by the end of the Ottoman period, a majority of the landowners in Bosnia were Muslims, and most Christians were peasants or serfs (raya).

Probably the biggest reason behind the spread of Islam in the region was the very weak presence of the Church in Bosnia at the time. The old competition between the Catholic and Bosnian churches (along with the Orthodox Church in certain areas) contributed to a very weak and disorganized religious structure in much of Bosnia. To many Bosnians religion was a combination of traditions and superstitions. Compared to the well-funded and organized religious institutions of their neighbors, it was relatively easy for Bosnians to switch from their folk-Christianity to Islam. It is significant that the only other European region under Ottoman control where a large segment of the population adopted Islam was Albania; also home to competing Christian sects.

Also important was the growth of urban centers, the vast majority of which were Muslim. Cities that were founded at the time, such as Sarajevo and Mostar, grew rapidly with a specifically Islamic character and advanced living standards. It is understandable that many Christians in the outlying rural regions would convert to Islam to be part of the superior conditions in such places. Further, slaves who converted to Islam could petition for their freedom, and many of the Christians enslaved during the wars with Austria, Hungary, and Venice converted to Islam in order to secure their release. Many of these newly-freed converts settled in the growing cities, further contributing to their growth and development.

It is thought that the greater rights afforded to Muslims in the Ottoman Empire motivated Christians to convert to Islam. However, the extent to which Muslims were privileged is often overestimated. The primary discrimination faced by non-Muslims was of a legal nature, as Christians and Jews were not allowed to file lawsuits or testify against Muslims in court. There were also rules of conduct imposed upon them, but there were many to whom these rules did not apply. Though much has been made of the fact that Christian and Jewish subjects of the Sultan paid a 'poll tax' from which Muslims were exempt, Muslims were also faced with the religious zekjat tax, whereas Catholics made donations to their church only on a voluntary basis.

Many Christians became Muslims through the devsirme system, whereby boys were gathered from the Ottoman lands and were sent to Istanbul to convert to Islam and be trained as Janissary troops, servants of the Sultan or Ottoman officials. One observer in the 16th century even mentioned that the Sultan believed Bosniaks were "the best, most pious and most loyal people" and "much bigger, more handsome, and more able" than other Muslim peoples. Though the devsirme system probably didn't influence the demographics of Bosnia significantly, it did firmly establish the Slavic element and language in Istanbul's administration and provided Bosnia with local Bosniak governors from 1488 onward.

The 17th century brought major defeats and military setbacks on the Ottoman Empire's western frontier. With major wars occurring every few decades, Bosnia was economically and militarily exhausted. For Bosnia and Bosniaks, the most critical conflict of all was the Great Turkish War. At its very start n the mid 1680s, the Austrians conquered nearly all of Ottoman Hungary, sending tens of thousands of Muslim refugees flooding into Bosnia. A similar process occurred with the Austrian conquest of Lika and Slavonia. Thousands of Muslims from these parts fled eastward into the Bosnian pashaluk, while those who remained were forcibly converted to Catholicism. In total, it is estimated that more than 100,000 Muslims were expelled from the frontier regions and settled in Bosnia during this time. Many brought with them a new sense of hostility towards Christianity.

Ottoman military disasters continued into the next decade. In 1697, Prince Eugene of Savoy conducted an extremely succesfully border raid which cultimated in Sarajevo being put to the torch. The Great Turkish War was finally ended by the Treaty of Karlowitz in 1699. However, in the late 1710s yet another war between the Ottomans and the Austro-Venitian alliance ensued. It was ended by the Treaty of Passarowitz in 1718, but not before sending another wave of Muslim refugees fleeing to Bosnia proper.

These events created great unrest among Bosniaks. The sentiment of discontent was further magnified by war and an increased tax burden. As a result, Bosniak revolts sprang up in Herzegovina in 1727, 1728, 1729, and 1732. A large plague that resulted in the death of thousands during the early 1730s contributed to the general chaos. In 1736, seeking to exploit these conditions, Austria broke the Treat of Passarowitz and crossed the Sava river boundary. In one of the most significant events in Bosniak history, local Bosniak nobility organized a defense and counterattack completely independent of the ineffective imperial authorities. On August 4, at the Battle of Banja Luka, the outnumbered Bosniak forces routed the Austrian army and sent them fleeing back to Slavonia.

Traditionally, the Turkish authorities classed subjects of the Empire not by nationality, but by religion. During the nineteenth century, modern national consciousness began to increase among the south Slavs; some historians now believe that it was in this period that Catholic Bosnians increasingly began to think of themselves as Croats, and Orthodox Bosnians as Serbs. The beginnings of a Muslim Slav national consciousness is also first attested in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as these early Bosniak nationalists began to assert a national identity distinct from both their Orthodox and Catholic neighbors, and from the other Muslim inhabitants of the empire. Most Serb and Croat nationalists tend to deny a separate Bosniak national identity, claiming that Bosniaks were either Serb or Croat in origin, but of Islamic religion. This debate, whether Bosnia and the Bosniaks are "really" Croats, Serbs, or a separate Bosniak nation, has energized debates among nationalists until the present day. Anthropologists find the question difficult to answer and ultimately rather without end, since, with a few notable exceptions, the ethnicity of the dominated has been prescribed by the dominators and by the general demographics of a region (compare the assimilation of the Romance population in nearby Dubrovnik).

Like national identity in Bosnia and Herzegovina in general, Bosniak national identity is chiefly based on religion and communal feeling, as opposed to linguistic and/or physical differences from their neighbors. In that sense, the earliest foundation of modern Bosniak national development can be found as early as the beginning of the 18th century, as native Bosnian Muslims found themselves often fighting against the empire's enemies by their own (i.e. the Battle of Banja Luka, where the city's garrison was composed entirely of Bosniaks). On top of present cultural uniqueness, by the first half of the 19th century upper class Bosniaks and intellectuals were already propagating what can be considered early Bosniak nationalism, by way of writing and politics, all of which would later lead to the Bosniak rebirth at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century.

Austro-Hungarian rule and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia

Bosnia and Herzegovina were occupied and administered by Austria-Hungary in 1878, and a number of Bosniaks left Bosnia and Herzegovina. Official Austro-Hungarian records show that 56,000 people mostly Bosniaks emigrated between 1883 and 1920, but the number of Bosniak emigrants is probably much larger, as the official record doesn't reflect emigration before 1883, nor include those who left without permits. Most of the emigrants probably fled in fear of retribution after the intercommunal violence of the 1875-1878 uprising. Many Serbs from Herzegovina left for America during the same period. One geographer estimates that there are 350,000 "Bosniaks" in Turkey today, although that figure includes the descendants of Muslim South Slavs who emigrated from the Sandžak region during the First Balkan War and later. Another wave of Bosniak emigration occurred after the end of the First World War, when Bosnia and Herzegovina became part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, known after 1929 as Yugoslavia.

Urban Bosniaks were particularly proud of their cosmopolitan culture, especially in the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, which was, until WWII, home to thriving Bosniak, Serb, Croat, and Jewish communities. After 1945, Sarajevo became one of the most ethnically mixed cities in the former Yugoslavia.

The struggle for recognition

Members of the 19th century Illyrian movement, most notably Ivan Frano Jukić, emphasized Bosniaks (Bošnjaci) alongside Serbs and Croats as one of the "tribes" that constitutes the "Illyrian nation".

With the dawn of Illyrian movement, Muslim intelligentsia gathered around magazine Bosnia in the 1860s promoted the idea of a Bosniak nation. A member of this group was father of Savfet-beg Bašagić, a famous Bosniak poet. The Bosniak group would remain active for several decades, with the continuity of ideas and the use of the archaic Bosniak name. From 1891 until 1910 they published a magazine titled Bosniak. By the turn of centuries, however, this group has all but died out, due to its most prominent members either dying or deciding for Croat identity, the latter including Savfet-beg Bašagić himself.

The administration of Benjamin Kallay, the Austria-Hungarian governor of Bosnia and Herzegovina, enforced the idea of a unitary Bosnian nation (Bosanci) that would include the Catholic and Orthodox Bosnians as well as Muslims. The idea was fiercely opposed by Croats and Serbs, but also by a number of Muslims. This policy further clouded the Bosnian ethnical issue and made the Bosniak group seem as pro-regime. After Kallays death in 1903, the official policy slowly drifted towards accepting the three-ethnical reality of Bosnia.

Muslim National Organization (MNO), a political party founded in 1906, was a major opponent of the regime and promoted the idea of Muslims as a separate entity from Serbs and Croats. A group of dissidents that, among else, subscribed with the Croat Muslim identity formed a party named Muslim Proggressive Party (MNS), however it received little popular support and faded away in the next few years.

The first constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1910 explicitly mentioned Serbs, Croats and Muslims as the "native peoples". This was reflected in the elections held soon thereafter, when the electoral was divided into a Serb, Croat and Muslim ballot. MNO, Serb National Organization (SNO) and Croat National Community (HNZ) received almost unanimous support in their respective ballots, and their members formed the parliament, albeit this parliament had little power in the Austria-Hungarian province of Bosnia and Herzegovina. All translations of the Constitution into native languages used lower-case M for Muslims as followers of Islam (This is because the proper nouns such as Muslim and Christian were and still are written in lowercase letters in Bosnian (Serbo-Croatian) language).

After the World War I, Bosnia and Herzegovina became part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes which later transformed into the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. The Serb monarchy, being one of the victors of the World War, sought Croat and Slovene political parties as their partners when forming the country. MNO, reformed into the Yugoslav Muslim Organization (JMO), dropped the pursuit of Muslim national identity and focused on protecting the religious and existential issues of Muslims through coalescing with other parties, sometimes even with the extreme Serb Radicals.

In the 1921 census, only Serbs, Croats and Slovenes were recognized as native nations or "tribes", and these were the only available options for ethnicity. The result was that a large number of Bosniaks simply left the field for ethnicity blank. This phenomenon, labeled nonethnical element (nenarodni element), was a topic of heated debate amongst scholars and politicians for years to follow. Some of them argued that the nonethnical element were descendants of the Turkish occupier and as such should be expelled. Nevertheless, thanks to the helpful influence of JMO, there were only isolated incidents of oppression against Bosniaks.

This political void was quickly filled with a number of opposition parties which recognized Muslims as a separate nation. Among them was the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, as a document from the 1930s reveals. It's no coincidence that a large number of Bosnian Muslims joined the Communist Party, and later the partisans, many of them becaming prominent political leaders and commandants.

During the World War II, the authorities of the Nazi-puppet Independent State of Croatia tried to ally with the Bosniaks whom they considered to be "Muslim Croats" against the Serbs and other "undesirables". As a token, the Artists Gallery museum (by Ivan Mestrovic) in Zagreb was furnished with minarets and ceded to be used as a mosque.

The Declaration of the State Anti-Fascist Council of National Liberation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (ZAVNOBiH), issued on November 25th of 1943 by the partisan government, is widely considered to be the constitutional basis of the modern Bosnia and Herzegovina. This document uses essentially the same wording as the 1910 Constitution. Furthermore, the Resolution of ZAVNOBiH states: "Today, the nations of Bosnia and Herzegovina, through their only political representative - the ZAVNOBiH, desire that their country, which is neither Serb, nor Croat nor Muslim, but Serb as well as Croat and Muslim, should be the free and united Bosnia and Herzegovina in which the full equality, legal and otherwise, of Serbs, Muslims and Croats will be guaranteed".

Unfortunately, this declaration was broken as soon as World War II was over, as the Constitution of the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia (later Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) mentioned Serbs and Croats, but not Muslims, as the native nations (narodi). In the Yugoslav census of 1948, 90% of Muslims in Yugoslavia declared themselves as "nationally undetermined". Furthermore, many who registered as Serbs or Croats did so largely out of societal and economic pressure. When the "Yugoslav, nationally undeclared" option became available in 1953, 900,000 people registered as such.

With a weakening of Serb dominance in Bosnian communist leadership, the door opened up for a new national identification. Finally in the 1961 Yugoslav census, the "Muslims in the ethnic sense" option first appeared. By 1963 Muslims were listed in the Bosnian constitution alongside Serbs and Croats. Finally, in 1968, "Muslims" with a capital M was adopted as the term for a member of a nation rather than "muslims" as adherents to Islam. (This summons forth the old discussions about whether a Jew is a member of a tribe or of a religion; the dilemmas were parallel).

The decision wasn't greeted without debate among communist leadership, but Bosniaks had made themselves clear. "Practice has shown the harm of different forms of pressure," read a communique issued by the Bosnian Central Committee, "from the earlier period when Muslims were designated as Serbs or Croats from the national viewpoint. It has been shown, and present socialist practice confirms, that the Muslims are a distinct nation".

From then until the Yugoslav wars, Bosniak national identity continued to develop with two different philosophies forming. These breakthroughs in the 60s were not carried out by religious Muslims (in fact, they were headed chiefly by secular Muslim communists) but in the following decades two separate schools of thought emerged. The first, was a secular "Muslim Nationalism", and the second was a separate revival of Islamic religious belief (a reaction to communist sponsored secularism and advocated by people such as Alija Izetbegović). The effects of these two separate ideas on what exactly Bosnian Muslims are can be seen to this day.

In September 1993, the Congress of Bosnian Muslim Intellectuals adopted the term Bosniak instead of the previously used Muslim. Other nationalities objected to the name as a ploy to monopolize the history of Bosnia and make them seem to be foreign invaders (see History of Bosnia and Herzegovina). The term in itself means Bosnian and is an archaic term that was once used for all inhabitants of Bosnia regardless of faith. Bosniaks counter by pointing out that Bosniak has been a historical ethnic term for their nation since the 10th century, and that had they truly wanted to "monopolize" Bosnian history it would have been far easier to adopt the name "Bosnian" in itself instead of using the more archaic version.

Since the 1990s, the name has been adopted outside of Bosnia itself, onto the Slavic Muslim population of other former Yugoslav republics such as Serbia and Macedonia. It allows a Bosniak/Bosnian distinction to match the Serb/Serbian and Croat/Croatian distinctions between ethnicity and residence.



Bosniak folklore has a long tradition dating back to the 15th century. Like many other elements of Bosniak culture, their folklore is a mix of Slavic and Oriental influences, typically taking place prior to the 19th century.

Two popular characters seen often in Bosniak folklore are the trickster and the Hero. Probably the most famous example of the first is that of Nasrudin Hodža, where local folklore has him taking part in various episodes in a Bosnian setting. Other tricksters include an old wise man in the legend behind the old Sarajevo Orthodox church. Supposedly, a local official demanded that the church be built on land no bigger than an animal hide. The wise man then cut the hide into thin strips and laying them end to end was able to demarcate enough land to build a reasonably sized church.

National heroes are typically historical figures, whose life and skill in battle are emphasised. These include figures such as Gazi Husrev-beg, the second Ottoman governor of Bosnia who conquered many territories in Dalmatia, Northern Bosnia, and Croatia, and Gerz Eljaz Đerzelez Alija, an almost mythic character who even the Ottoman Sultan was said to have called "A Hero".

Old Slavic influences can also be seen. Ban Kulin has acquired legendary status. "Even today," wrote the historian William Miller in 1921 "the people regard him as a favorite of the fairies, and his reign as a golden age." Characters such as fairies, Vila, are also present. Pre-Slavic influences are far less common but nonetheless present. Certain elements of Illyrian, and Celtic belief have been found.

Generally, folklore also varies from region to region and city to city. Cities like Sarajevo and Mostar have a rich tradition all by themselves. Many manmade structures such as bridges and fountains, as well as natural sites, play a significant role as well.


A letter by Ali Beg Pavlović written in Begovica script, 16th century

Bosniaks would say that they speak Bosnian language. This language has only minor differences to the Serbian language, Croatian language or the language that used to be known as Serbo-Croatian. The Bosnian language has a number of orientalisms not found in the neighboring languages, but their presence in the literary language is marginal.

It is notable that Bosniaks are, on the level of colloquial idiom, more linguistically homogenous than either Serbs or Croats, but have failed, due to historical reasons, to standardize their language in the crucial 19th century. A long history of impressive literature remains however. The first Bosnian dictionary was written by Muhamed Hevaji Uskufi in the early 17th century.

Bosniaks have also had two of their own unique scripts. The first was the Begovica, a descendant of local cyrillic script that remained in use among the region's nobility. The second was the Arabica, a version of the Arabic alphabet modified for Bosnian that was in use among nearly all literate Bosniaks until the 20th century. Unfortunately, both alphabets have almost died out, as the number of people literate in them today is undoubtedly minuscule.


Traditionally, Bosniaks are Muslims. However, due to more modern influences and the dictatorship of Communism during the period of 1945-1992, has resulted in a few Bosniaks having Atheist, Agnostic or Deist beliefs (Pre war estimate of 10% of total population). Today, in Bosnia-Herzegovina the overwhelming number of Bosniaks belong to the Sunni branch of Islam (97% est.), although historically Sufism played a significant role in the country.

Being part of Europe and influenced not only by the Eastern but also by the Western culture and especially Yugoslav Communism, the Bosniaks are considered to be some of the more moderate Islamic peoples of the world.

Surnames and names

Bosniak surnames, as is typical among the South Slavs, often end with "ić" or "ović". This is a patronymic which basically translates to "son of" in English and plays the same role as "son" in English surnames such as Johnson or Wilson. What comes prior to this can often tell a lot about the history of a certain family.

Most Bosniak surnames follow a familiar pattern dating from the period of time that surnames in Bosnia and Herzegovina were standardized. Some Bosniak Muslim names have the name of the founder of the family first, followed by an oriental profession or title, and ending with ić. Examples of this include Izetbegović (Son of Izet bey), and Hadžiosmanović (Son of Osman Hajji). Other variations of this pattern can include surnames that only mention the name, such as Osmanović (Son of Osman), and surnames that only mention profession, such as Imamović (Son of the Imam).

Some Bosniak names have nothing oriental about them, but end in ić. These names have probably stayed the same since medieval times, and typically come from old Bosnian nobility, or come from the last wave of converts to Islam. Examples of such names include Tvrtković and Kulenović.

Yet some Bosniaks have surnames that do not end in ić at all. These surnames are typically derived from place of origin, occupations, or various others such factors in the family's history. Examples of such surnames include Zlatar and Foćo.

Many Bosniak national names are of foreign origin, indicating that the founder of the family came from a place outside of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Many such Bosniak surnames have Hungarian, Vlach or Turkish origins. Examples of such surnames include Vlasić and Arapović.

First names among Bosniaks have mostly Arabic, Turkish, or Persian roots, similar to the way that many English names have Christian origins despite it being a Germanic language. South Slavic names such as "Zlatan" are also popular primarily among non-religious Bosniaks. What is notable however is that due to the structure of the Bosnian language, many of the oriental names have been altered to create uniquely Bosniak names. Some of the Arabic names have been shortened.

The most famous example of this is that of the stereotypical Bosniak characters Mujo and Suljo, whose names are actually Bosniak short forms of Mustafa and Suleyman. More popular still is the transformation of names that in Arabic or Turkish are confined to one gender to apply to the other sex. In Bosnian, simply taking away the letter "a" changes the traditionally feminine "Jasmina" into the popular male name "Jasmin". Similarly, adding an "a" to the typically male "Mahir" results in the feminine "Mahira".


Old flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosniaks have a wide number of historical symbols that are associated with them. Traditional Bosniak colors are green, white, yellow, and blue. The two best known Bosniak national symbols are the crescent moon and the Lillicum Bosniacum.

The old flag of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the flag of the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina are also associated with Bosniaks. They are based on medieval designs from the Bosnian kingdom, and were originally meant to represent the entire country of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

File:Bosniak Muslim Flag.PNG
Traditional Bosniak Flag and the flag of the Bosniak Islamic Union

The earliest Bosniak flags date from the Ottoman era, and are typically a white crescent moon and star on a green background. The flag is seen by some Bosniaks as the only true flag of Bosniaks because the flag is the traditional flag of Bosniaks and because the flag symbolizes the Bosniaks as an Islamic people. The flag of the Bosniak Islamic Union is exactly as the flag just mentioned and it is based on the traditional flag of Bosniaks.

Actually, the flag of the short-lived independent Bosnian state was the same except that the moon and star were golden. There is also a similar flag that was used by Husein-Kapetan Gradaščević during the uprising of Bosniaks against the Ottoman occupation.

Bosniak National Flag

Some Bosniak organizations combine the two, adopting symbols with a crescent moon where a Lillicum Bosniacum (a fleur-de-lis) replaces the traditional star. Other variations of combining the two exist. A notable one is the seal of the Bosniaks in Sandzak, which is based on the old Bosnian flag but changes one half of the seal so that instead of yellow lillies on a blue background there are yellow crescent moons on a green background.

The current national flag of Bosniaks, seen on the right, was adopted around 1992. It bears a similarity to the flag of the SDA political party, but has a few key differences.

Traditions and customs

The nation takes pride in the melancholic folk songs sevdalinka, the precious medieval filigree manufactured by old Sarajevo craftsmen, and a wide array of traditional wisdoms that are carried down to newer generations by word of mouth, and in recent years written down in numerous books.


Bosniaks today

Today, a national consciousness is found in the vast majority of Bosniaks in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In the country, Bosniaks make up a large majority in the Bosna river valley and western Bosnian Krajina, with significant populations found in Herzegovina. Currently, they are estimated to make up between 48 and 51% of the total population. With no official census however, its impossible to know for sure.

National consciousness has also spread to most Bosniaks in the neighboring countries. The largest number of Bosniaks outside of Bosnia and Herzegovina are found in Serbia and Montenegro (specifically in the Sandžak region). The city of Novi Pazar is home to the largest Bosniak population outside of the motherland.

Another 40,000 Bosniaks are found in Croatia and 38,000 in Slovenia. However, some of them still identify themselves as "Muslims" or "Bosnians", according to latest estimates. In Macedonia there are estimated to be about 17,000 Bosniaks.

Due to warfare and ethnic cleansing during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a large part of the world's 2.5 million (est.) Bosniaks are found in countries outside of the Balkans. The highest Bosniak populations outside of the ex-Yugoslavian states are found in the United States, Sweden, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Australia, Canada, and Turkey. Prior generations of Bosniak immigrants to some of these countries have by now been mostly integrated.

Regarding the Western countries most of the Bosniaks are war refugees that only arrived in these countries during the past 15 years or so. They still speak Bosnian, and maintain a cultural and religious community and visit their mother country regularly.

The United States is home to about 130,000 (est.) Bosniaks, the cities with the highest Bosniak populations are St. Louis and Chicago. The following American cities have notable Bosniak communities, ordered randomly Atlanta, Charlotte, Houston, Jacksonville, Phoenix, Portland, San Jose, and New York City.

In the United States there are also significant Bosniak communities in the following places, ordered randomly Utica, Hamtramck, Bowling Green, Erie, Grand Rapids, Hartford, Louisville, Lynnwood, and Northbrook. These places do not have as many Bosniaks as those mentioned before but the Bosniaks in these cities make up a considerably larger percentage of the total population. In Canada, the Bosniak communities of Toronto, Vancouver and Hamilton are notable.

The highest number of Bosniak immigrants and people descending of Bosniaks are found in Turkey. Today, it is generally accepted that approximately 350,000 Turks descend directly from Bosniaks who immigranted to Turkey mostly in the late 19. and early 20 century.

However, a recent study claims a much higher number of Turks descending from Bosniaks claiming an estimate of 2.5 million people. Newly found documents by some Turkish historians has resulting in the claim of a number as high as 2.5 million Turks having direct and indirect Bosniak ancestry.

These historians say that because of the Turkish laws in the late 19. and early 20. century saying that all immigrants arriving to Turkey must become completely Turks resulted in the fact that Bosniak ancestory was lost. For example the immigrants were forced to change their names to Turkish sounding names or entirely Turkish names. As a consequence of this, today some Turks do have Bosniak sounding surnames but also entirely Bosniak surnames the most common one probably being Kiliç spelled in Turkish and in Bosnian spelled Kilić.

See also


  • The Peopling of Modern Bosnia-Herzegovina: Y - chromosome Haplogroups in the Three Main Ethnic Groups
    • Study done by Institute for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, University of Sarajevo, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Dipartimento di Genetica e Microbiologia "A. Buzzati-Traverso", Universita di Pavia, Pavia, Italy, Medical School at Split University, Split, Croatia, Medical School at Osijek University, Osijek, Croatia, Faculty of Medicine, University of Banjaluka, Banjaluka, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Forensic Laboratory and Research Center, Ministry of the Interior, Ljubljana, Slovenia.

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