On Bosnian Identity And The Violence Of Ideology And Politics Over Historical And Scientific Facts – OpEd


Attacks on the statehood of Bosnia and Herzegovina are intensifying. They started in 1992 with the neighboring states’ armed aggression, and now new forces – disguised methodologically and strategically – are attacking the statehood of BiH by denying its citizens the right to national identity in the sense of statehood, state identity. This is the point that unmasks them: denying the rights of Bosnians and Herzegovinans to a nation/national identity serves the purpose of denying and destroying the statehood of BiH.

According to their falsified argumentation, only the citizens of BiH do not have a state identity nominated as Bosnian, or Bosnian-Herzegovinian (and Bosnian is better due to its historical foundation; Herzegovina was added to Bosnia’s name only in 1878). So – again, according to them – Bosnia is the only country whose citizens cannot be like the citizens of other countries (Swiss, French, Americans and all others).

These wicked deniers of (belonging to) the country in which they live – considering Zagreb and/or Belgrade to be their capitals – do quasi-theoretical, quasi-historical and all kinds of other stunts by confusing concepts that are absolutely clear and scientifically defined, namely the concepts of ethnic community and nation. It is a well-known scientific fact – to put it simply – that ethnic community is characterized by common origin, linguistic and cultural kinship of its members and cultivated awareness of the integrity of that community, as well as awareness of its uniqueness in relation to other ethnic communities. The nation, on the other hand, is a wider social community that, unlike ethnic community, is characterized by economic, political and institutional connection, and self-awareness as such. It can be “composed” of several ethnic groups. This is Bosnia (and Herzegovina, of course); its population constitutes a state.

However, the deniers of the Bosnian identity, that is, of the Bosnian nation, consciously confuse those two terms – in accordance with the needs of their ultimate ideological and political goals. It is really unnecessary to point out to such people the abundance of literature on the clear differentiation of these two terms, which are not in conflict. These are simply two types of identity that one and the same person has. The deniers probably know about this literature and about scientific facts, but they falsify them for the sake of achieving already set ideological and political goals, and where facts are falsified to achieve political goals – there is no science or meaningful discussion: it is about ideological-political prejudices with which dialogue is not possible.

In one part of the Bosniak corps (since 1993, Bosnian Muslims have been re-named as Bosniaks), confusion is created by denying Bosnian-ness and by insisting only on the ethnonym Bosniaks. This gives enormous support to the ethno-hegemonies of the neighbors and their branches in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Subjects in the Bosniak corps who insist only on Bosniak-ness, while denying Bosnian-ness, which is fatally wrong, are obliged – for the sake of history and the future – to remove this confusion and enlighten people in the very simple truth – that a Bosniak is simultaneously a Bosnian, that as such he can be a Muslim or atheist, etc., which are simply different types of identity, and that Bosniaks have a future only in a complete, sovereign state of equal citizens. In contrast, insisting only on ethnicity/ethnonym leads exclusively to the ethno-territorialization of BiH, and the end result is the destruction of its territories to the neighboring ethno-hegemonies. 

Without going into an unnecessary academic discussion about this, because it has long been undoubtedly absolved, I will state only a few elementary facts that the deniers studiously ignore.

1. Bosnia as a political and legal entity has existed for hundreds of years, having been formed well before its neighbors. Therefore, its national identity is rooted deeply and continuously in history.

2. Bosnia as a political and legal subject outlived several powerful empires that withered away, but she did not. Then, how is it possible to deny Bosnian identity?!

3. The foundations of its statehood were verified in ZAVNOBiH, during World War II, as part of the Yugoslav federation.

4. Even today, it has remained a state, despite international aggression and its perfidious, zealous deniers.

5. In a quasi-debate about the Bosnian nation, its deniers resort to the alleged argument that the formation of nations was completed a century or two ago. Well, Bosnian history has witnessed to that process for hundreds of years. Its constitutional patriots are not asking for anything new today, but for recognition of what they have had for hundreds of years, which is being challenged today by the aggressive ideologies of their neighbors and their “domestic contractors”.

6. This country and state has always been woven from several ethnic groups and religions – cosmopolitan and indestructible, with a long-standing political and legal subjectivity. How then can such an obvious, long-lived and resistant identity be denied the right of its citizens to be a nation?!

Such claims are in dramatic conflict with historical facts, with common sense and with scientific methods. For, we are faced, in fact, with flagrant ideological and political violence against historical and scientific facts.

Only ideological-political fanaticism can be so deviant and so blinded in relation to scientific facts.

Esad Duraković

Esad Duraković is a research and teaching professor, as well as a prolific author on literature, language and cultural history and a member of the BiH Academiy of Sciences and Arts.

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