Antiquity and arrival of the Slavs
The Illyrian tribes occupied the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the other Balkan states for the first time in the first millennium BC. Later other peoples like the Celts, the Greeks and the Romans came to the area. When the Roman Empire was divided, the area of Bosnia and Herzegovina first belonged to the Western Roman and then to the later Byzantine Empire (Eastern Current).
Slavic tribes came to the region in the 6th century. According to their culture and language, these are seen as the ancestors of most of the Balkan people. These tribes repeatedly ruled parts of the Balkans and founded principalities. They ruled until the Byzantines conquered the area.
Bosnian Principality and Ottoman Conquest
In the 12th century the Principality of Bosnia was established. Hungarians, Byzantines and the Slavic tribes of Croats and Serbs tried again and again to gain influence. In the 14th century the Bosnian principality flourished, which had meanwhile become a kingdom.
In 1448 the Hum area, which was also known as Herzegovina, was conquered by the Ottomans together with Bosnia and united to form the province of Paschalik. This is where the two areas were united for the first time.
The Ottomans ruled the area for about 400 years and spread their culture. So it happened that many people converted to Islam at that time and the original Bosnian population, the Bosniaks, is also predominantly Islamic.
The end of the Ottoman rule
In the course of the 19th century, many Balkan states gained their independence. As a country located in Europe detailed by commit4fitness, Bosnia and Herzegovina, however, remained part of the Ottoman Empire despite areas contested by Christians.
When the Ottoman Empire began to crumble, Bosnia and Herzegovina was assigned to the administrative territory of Austria-Hungary at the Berlin Congress in 1878. The situation escalated with the assassination attempt in Sarajevo, in which the Austrian heir to the throne Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated.
This attack was committed by a Serb. A secret organization in the Kingdom of Serbia wanted to liberate Bosnia-Herzegovina from Austria-Hungary and unite it with Serbia and Montenegro. That is why the Austrian heir to the throne was murdered. Austria-Hungary then declared war on Serbia, which in turn triggered the First World War. During the First World War, the defeat of the Germans and Austria-Hungarians began to emerge more and more. Even then there were increasing considerations about founding a South Slavic state.
The Kingdom of Yugoslavia
On December 1st, 1918 the “Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes” was founded. Bosnia and Herzegovina formed a republic of this state, even if it had little influence on the government. The six republics were Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia and Serbia with the autonomous provinces of Kosovo and Vojvodina.
Then as now, the three major groups on Bosnian territory were the Bosniaks (Muslim Bosnians), the Serbs (Orthodox Christians) and the Croats (Roman Catholic). Tensions have persisted between these groups for various reasons.
In 1929 the kingdom was renamed Yugoslavia. This translates to “South Slavia”. The country was restructured, it was divided into nine banks.
Bosnia and Herzegovina in World War II
In April 1941 German troops invaded the Yugoslav area. They established a reign of terror in Serbia. By contrast, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia declared themselves independent. But Bosnia and Herzegovina was soon ruled by the Croatian fascist Ante Pavelic. The latter had the Serbs living in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina persecuted and suppressed and murdered political opponents and people of different faiths. Communists and Jews were also his victims. The traditionally Muslim Bosnians were also suppressed and forced to adopt the Catholic faith.
Because of the dire conditions in the country, there was increasing resistance. Communist groups in particular gained popularity and were directed against the fascist and nationalist rulers. The communist resistance fighter Josip Broz Tito led troops against the Croatian army.
When the Second World War ended, Tito established the Communist People’s Republic of Yugoslavia in December 1945, to which Bosnia and Herzegovina also belonged. Within the country, the three main groups Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats were now put on an equal footing. Yet there were always conflicts between them.
Tensions in Yugoslavia
Conditions in Bosnia and Herzegovina slowly improved after the Second World War. Economically and socially, people were better off. Unfortunately, this did not last. Economic growth declined as early as the 1970s and many people lost their jobs. Some left the country as conditions worsened.
The worse the situation in the country, the more the various ethnic groups in Yugoslavia blamed each other. Nationalist groups gained more and more support. With the death of the leader Josip Broz Tito in May 1980, the situation escalated. Until then he had tried to unite the country as best he could. With his death, however, the Yugoslav national idea and the unity, which had always been rather fragile before, also broke.