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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Historical development

Bosnia and Herzegovina

1.Political, social and economic background and trends

1.1Historical development

Last update: 27 November 2023


The area of today's Bosnia and Herzegovina has been inhabited since the Neolithic era. Neolithic population was supplanted by the Illyrians, followed by Roman settlers. In the first centuries AD, Bosnia was part of the Roman Empire.

Medieval Bosnia is characterized by different periods of the Bosnian Province, the Age of Ban Kulin and Kotromanic Dynasty, or the rule of Stjepan II Kotromanić. Under his reign the territory of Bosnia significantly expanded. After his death, Tvrtko 1 Kotromanić became the first Bosnian king, who took control and annexed Dalmatia and its islands to Bosnia. The more frequent incursions of the Ottomans caused unstable political climate in Bosnia and destruction of the Bosnian state. This was also the result of frequent change of Bosnian kings.

Ottoman Empire was essentially a military organisation that was only interested in new conquests and tax collection, and its administrative system was designed to provide for primarily two things: the people for the army and money for its payment. The Ottoman Empire raised taxes against Bosniaks, and there occurred the great revolt against the Ottoman Empire. At the famous "Congress of Berlin," it was decided that Bosnia, although theoretically still under Ottoman occupation, would be administered by the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

It was the age of the Austro-Hungarian rule. However, Slavic movements in neighboring countries had been working on the unification of the South Slavs. The First World War began when the Austro-Hungarian heir to the throne was assassinated in Sarajevo. After the collapse of Austria-Hungary, Bosnia and Herzegovina was included in the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, which would later become the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. At that time the political life in Bosnia was marked by social and economic conflicts around the issue of ownership of property, and a few political parties were formed.

The establishment of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1929 brought the redrawing of borders into the banates. This period was marked by the outbreak of World War I in Europe back in 1939, while Yugoslavia would become a target only after 25 March 1941 when it joined the Tripartite Pact, but soon came out of it after the coup d’etat. Yugoslavia was attacked on 6 April 1941.

Shortly after the Nazi forces conquered Yugoslavia, the whole of Bosnia and Herzegovina came under the control of pro-fascist Independent State of Croatia. After the war, the new constitution was adopted in 1946, and it officially recognized Bosnia and Herzegovina as a republic within the new Yugoslav state. From then until the last war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, it was the Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

After elections in 1990, Bosnia and Herzegovina declared its sovereignty in October 1991, followed by a referendum for the disassociation of Yugoslavia. The war broke out in Bosnia and Herzegovina and it ended in 1995. On 21 November 1995, a peace agreement was signed in the USA city of Dayton, which ended a three-year war (final agreement was signed in Paris on 14 December 1995).

Today, Bosnia and Herzegovina is recognized as an independent, sovereign state with full legal personality, based on the values of peace and reconciliation and ready for Euro-Atlantic integration. The Constitution is one of the annexes (Annex IV) of the Dayton Peace Agreement.