Bosnian people – people of Bosnia and Herzegovina

The population of Bosnia and Herzegovina was estimated at 4,7 million in 2009. Bosnians can belong to different nationalities living in Bosnia and Herzegovina like Serbs, Bosniaks, Croats and others, while in a religious sense they can be Catholics, Muslims, Jews, members of Serbian Orthodox church or atheists. 40 percent of the Bosnian people are Muslim, just over thirty percent belong to the Orthodox Church and around 15 percent of population are Roman Catholic. People of Bosnia and Herzegovina are strongly regarded by their fabulous highlander traditions. Local people in Bosnia and Herzegovina will almost always be extremely friendly. This is common to the region of the Balkans but Bosnian hospitality is something special. Bosnian inhabitants are a much more caring culture and will go out of their way to assist you in finding something and often invite someone to their home for a coffee. It is considered rude to refuse an offer of a coffee, tea or drink with a homemade meal when visiting someone in their home. Once you enter someone’s home as guest – expect the red carpet treatment. More than likely the host will bring out sweets- baklava or tulumba when one of rules comes out – it is bad if you are in rush, so do not rush !


The “Bosniaks” or “Bosniacs” /”Bošnjaci”/ are a South Slavic people, living mainly in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Sanjak region of Serbia, with a smaller autochthounous population also present in Croatia, Kosovo and the Republic of Macedonia. The famous prof Radoslav Grujic records for the indigenous population of Bosnia ,,…from the earliest time until the beginning of the 14th century, the native rulers of Bosnia had always referred their people by the Serb name, as had the rulers of the Serbian state of Raska. Already in the 12th century we find the conservative Pope administration identifies Bosnia with Serbia in their records  (Regnum Servilie quod est Bosna)”.

The term Bosniak was in 1990-ties re-introduced to replace the term Muslim and denotes a member of the Bosniak nation which is member of the constituent ethnic groups of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Majority of Bosniaks are also religious Moslems. Bosnian Muslims are not ethnic Turks left behind by the Ottoman withdrawal. Rather, they are the descendants of the local Slavs, both Serbs and Croats, who converted to Islam after the Muslim Ottoman conquest of Bosnia in the 15th century. Bosniaks are typically characterized by their tie to the Bosnian historical region, traditional adherence to Islam, and common culture and language. Bosniaks belong per definition to the Slavic ethnic group, but their genetic make-up is a mixture of Slav settlers and descendants of pre-Slavic indigenous Illyrian tribes. Modern Bosna-Herzegovina people are Y-chromosome haplo groups in the three main ethnic groups. In addition, Celts and to a lesser extent Goths who spanned the Balkans for distinct periods, often encountering Illyrians, may have influenced today’s Bosnian population. There are more than two million Bosniaks living in the Balkans today. Both within the region and its Diaspora, Bosniaks are often noted for their unique culture, which has been influenced by both eastern and western civilizations and schools of thought over the course of their history. In the English-speaking world, Bosniaks are also referred to as “Bosnians” or “Bosnian Muslims”. The term ‘Bosnian’ is somewhat imprecise in this context, as it is used to denote all inhabitants of Bosnia regardless of the ethnic origin (not only Bosniaks, but also Bosnian Serbs, Bosnian Croats or any other group in the country). The CIA World Fact Book points out that “Bosnian Muslim” is an imprecise synonym for Bosniak, because in Bosnia, Bosniaks make up 48% of the population, but only 40% of the population is Muslim.

Bosnian people speak the Bosnian language which only has minor differences in writing and grammar compared to the Serbian language or the Croatian language. The Bosnian language has a number of Oriental words as well as Germanic words, not often used in the neighboring languages. Bosniaks – Bosnian Muslims who derived from the Slavic population in the Middle Ages when conferted into Islam upon Muslim Ottoman Turks oppression have used cyrillic alphabet known as stara Srbija /Old Serbia/. It was only a tiny number of Bosnian Muslims who also had two of their own unique scripts. The first was the Begovica /called Bosancica/, a descendant of local Cyrillic script that remained in use among the region’s nobility. The name of ‘Bosančica’ (or ‘bosanica’) is of a relatively recent provenance – it has been created by a Croat Ciro Truhelka in 1889, at that time a very young, 24 years old scientist. Its rather misleading name suggests that it has been related exclusively to the territory of Bosnia, which is not true, since it was used in Herzegovina, Dalmatia and on some Croatian islands as well. It is interesting that Croatian Cyrillic, i.e. ‘Bosancica’, can be seen in Croatian texts written in Istria. The so-calles „bosančica“ and „bosanska ćirilica“ alphabet can not be separated from the old Cyrillic system which is complete and indivisible. The second alphabet 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. Both alphabets have almost died out as the number of people literate in them today is undoubtedly minuscule. Charter of Ban Kulin has been written on 28 August 1190 and makes the first preserved document of the Bosnian cyrillic in Old-Slavonic language and the first written trace of the Slavic name of the town of Dubrovnik (Epidaurum, id est Ragusium, Italian Ragusa).

Bosnian culture still maintains extended family groups, which means that nowadays the grandparents live with their adult children or close by and care for the children while the parents are at work. Godparenting is commonly practiced, and all children are raised with values respecting their older relatives and knowing that they will most likely care for older relatives later on. Hospitality in Bosnia and Herzegovina is a very important value and leads to a deepened social exchange between friends and neighbors.

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 nowadays the crescent moon and the Lillium Bosniacum – a flower Lily, created after the pattern of the Medieval noble Dynasty of Nemanjic, whose rulers practise was followed by the Kotromanic and Kosaca rulers, attaining the royal dignity. This royal practice was introduced by King Tvrtko I Kotromanić and suspended after the Ottoman conquest of Bosnia, in 1463, when the Holy Virgin flower of Lily on the Kotromanic coat of arms was replaces with the crescent above the whole Balkans. The earliest Bosniak flags date from the Ottoman era, and are typically a white crescent moon and star on a green background. The flag was also the symbol of the short lived independent Bosnia in the 19th century and of the resistance against the Turks led by Husein Gradascevic. The international community within Bosnia and Herzegovina was the instrument to solve the controversy after the Bosnian War. In early 1998 a commission for the flag change was created and the same year the current coat of arms was adopted in order to help alleviate the tensions among ethnicity. The current one, however, lacks any history relating to Bosnia and Herzegovina. The current coat of arms of Bosnia and Herzegovina presents the typical straight top, oval sides, and spiked bottom. The coat of arms has two separate background colors, dark blue and gold. Both colors are seen in the coat of arms between 1992 and 1998. Even though the current coat of arms does not directly relate with Bosnian-Herzegovinian history, the colors that were used were the ones from the former coat of arms. The top right corner forms a yellow triangle symbolizing the shape of Bosnia and Herzegovina, portraying the sky, rivers and lakes. Through this the coat of arms portrays the Bosnian and Herzegovinean historical continuity and its historical statehood.

Mesa Selimovic, one of the greatest writers in Serbo-Croatian language of the 20th century gave the description of the Bosnian soul, which was very important to him :

…..”Are we accidentally so outrageously delicate and barbarous and endearing ? Do we accidentally shield by love as the only certainty within the overall indefiniteness and why ? It is because we do care. And since we care it means that we are honorable. And being honorable it is to celebrate our craziness”…

Prevalent tradition in Bosnia and Herzegovina is “mustuluk”, whereby a gift is owed to any bringer of good news.