Bosnia-Herzegovina have what seems like a very simple flag but there’s a lot hidden underneath it. First of all, the flag has a blue field with a yellow triangle and seven full stars and two half stars at the top and bottom of the hypotenuse of the triangle. The triangle represents the three constituent peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Bosnian Serbs and Croats. It also respectively represents the map of Bosnia which kind of looks like a triangle. The stars represent Europe and are meant to go on forever hence the half stars at the bottom and the top. Some say the flag was even partially adapted from the European Union flag. The colors white and blue and yellow are traditionally seen as colors representing peace.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is located in that lovely area of mass confusion in South Europe known as the Balkans. Balkan is located to the south of Croatia west of Serbia and north of Montenegro. You would think that Bosnia and Herzegovina is landlocked but if you look very close to their map you’ll notice they have the smallest little Panhandle that touches the Adriatic Sea for only about 25 kilometers or about 15 miles.
When you hear the name Bosnia and Herzegovina you would think that they are two separate nationalistic entities but that’s not really the case. So, what exactly is Bosnia and what exactly is Herzegovina. In the shortest simplest way, these are just regions. Although the borders are vague and not clearly defined, Bosnia is located in the northern part Herzegovina is located in the South area.
Culturally, the people of Bosnia are the same as the people in Herzegovina except there are more ethnic Croats living in Herzegovina especially on the border of Croatia. The only reason why it’s separate is because Stjepan Vukcic in the 1400s created his own country, he had the title of “Herzog” which is where the name Herzegovina comes from but other than that it’s just the same country.
Bosnia-Herzegovina is divided into two separate entities each one with about half the land of the country that served the three different people groups known as the Constituent peoples a unique term that only applies to Bosnia Herzegovina. Essentially Bosnia Herzegovina is divided into the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republic of Srpska. Most of the ethnic Serbs live in the Republic of Srpska and each side has its own capital. Sarajevo for the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Banja Luka for the Republic of Srpska. However, Sarajevo acts as a national capital for the entire country as well.
Furthermore, the Republic of Srpska is split into two regions and then they are both divided into Cantons and municipalities, ten for the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina and seven for the Republic of Srpska. Bosnia Herzegovina has two small municipal exclaves on the Sava river on the border of Croatia known as the Posavina Canton County which belongs to the federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and make the smallest Canton’s. The Brcko district is often seen as a neutral ground belonging to both entities as it governs itself. The Brcko districh was initiated to help in alleviating the demographical tensions in the country after the Yugoslav wars in the 90s. The strategy behind it has always been shaky in its foundations. Speaking of war, this place has a lot of lingering reminders of its brutal past.
Like in Sarajevo there’s a tunnel museum and the Sarajevo roses which are mortar blasts in the sidewalk that were filled up with pink concrete. Bosnia-Herzegovinians do have a little small sense of humor though. They made an ironic ICAR canned beef monument dedicated to the longest airlift raid attempt in history for nearly three years in which humanitarian air lifts from all over Europe and especially in the UK would drop off food supplies that were often expired leftovers from previous wars that nobody wanted to eat many times the food contained pork that many of the Muslims in the country had to abstain from eating so it was useless to them. It was literally the world’s most sarcastic monument ever.
If you thought Bosnia-Herzegovina was pretty quirky with their land borders then you’ll notice that the actual land has a lot more tricks and gimmicks. Bosnia-Herzegovina is mostly mountainous or hilly as it lies on the Dianaric Alps in the Balkan Peninsula with flatter lands in the Northeast by the Panonian Basin. About half of the country is forested and about 30% of the land is arable mostly in the northeast regions whereas the south mostly Herzegovina is rockier and drier than the rest of the country.
Bosnia-Herzegovina does have a lot of potential arable land but the problem is due to its War past, the country still has about 200,000 land mines that they have to clear from the ground. In the Republic of Srpska you can find the last jungle or primeval forest in southern Europe the Perucica forest which is only accessible to explore in the company of Rangers. The world’s tallest Norwegian spruce tree can be found here and many captivating waterfalls and ancient trees that take you back years in the past now.
Many people in Bosnia around Sarajevo will tell you that they’re pretty certain that the country has the world’s largest man-made ancient pyramid located near the town of Visoko the hills in the regions seem to have an almost perfect geometric shape that creepily resembles a pyramid with almost equal sides and angles. Due to its mountainous terrain Bosnia Herzegovina was selected to host the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo however since then the entire area including the bobsledding trail is all but completely abandoned and tagged with graffiti and actually kind of a popular tourist spot these days.
Bosnia and Herzegovina just don’t stop when it comes to the strange atmosphere but the people here are even more complex. Here’s the rule of Bosnia-Herzegovina, you always have to constantly think in threes, never refer to everybody in the country as just Bosnians or else half of everyone will get super mad at you. The country has about 4 million people with about 48% of whom are Bosnians, 33% Serbs and 15% Croats with the remaining 4% from other nations. The three main people groups of this country are pretty much what make it function in such a weird way. Bosnians, Croatians, Serbians and even Montenegrins can all pretty much understand each other with their languages. Their language is all pretty much the same Slavic based dialect with a few differential nuances. The only difference is that typically Serbian is written with the Cyrillic alphabet and Bosnian and Croatian is written with a Latin-based alphabet. However, they will fiercely tell you that the languages are separate and distinct languages Croatian, Serbian and Bosnian. They even put warning signs in all three languages on cigarette packs.
Bosnia Herzegovina has a bicameral legislature that includes a three-member presidency, one for each of the people group the Serbs, the Croatians and the Bosnians. The country has three presidents however the state government is highly decentralized and a lot of the legislation just goes to the respective entities. Culturally this place sticks out as a former part of the Ottoman Empire, Islam spread to the nation and today is still part of the religious majority. Moslems make up about 45% of the population most of whom are non-denominational Muslim about 36% are Serb Orthodox Christian, 15% catholic mostly from the Croats. Bosnia is one of the few places in the world where you can find the widest Muslims you will ever see in your life. Bosnia Herzegovina was also under the Austro-Hungarian Empire so you kind of get this weird European, Muslim, Eastern mix in terms of culture. It’s also known as the place where World War one started remember Archduke Franz Ferdinand?
Bosnia-Herzegovina has a very deep history and alliances and enemies. In the 90s the country was in a straight-up war internally and it was basically against all three people groups. After the war ended and the Dayton Agreement was signed the country cooled off and the people agreed to calm down a bit and stop killing each other and make a new country that had a full sovereign status as one but with divided regions that were somewhat segregated. In terms of outside friends, Bulgaria was the first country to recognize Bosnia-Herzegovina sovereignty and immediately stepped in with bilateral relations and the two get along just fine today. Surprisingly Malaysia is also a huge supporter of the country and during the war became the only country in Asia to accept Bosnian refugees to this day many Bosnian students’ study abroad and live in Malaysia.
When it comes to best friends it really depends on who you ask in the country. The Croats will tell you Croatia, the Bosnians will most likely say Turkey and the Serbs will say Serbia. In a weird way though the division of people’s kind of inadvertently increases the diplomatic relations that the country as a whole has access to. For example, Bosnians may not like the Russians but the Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina do therefore the country as a whole benefit from the relations that one people group engaging regardless of how the second feels.
Many Bosnians have actually tried to contend for a unified central government all under one legislation however the Republic of Srpska is fiercely opposed to this they only kind of reluctantly agree to be under Bosnia Herzegovina and sovereignty just by a few strands of hair and they’ve even threatened that if Kosovo gains complete independence, they will have no problem annexing themselves back to Serbia.
In conclusion Bosnia-Herzegovina is like the Belgium of the Balkans but with stranger conflicts, quieter controlled anger, slightly dysfunctional politics but was a pinch of sarcasm and dry humor that gives the country it’s spicy appeal.