ISSN 2330-717X

Bosnia: Ethnic Politics Hijack National Anthem


By Anes Alic


Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) remains one of the few countries in the world without lyrics for its national anthem, as politicians have squabbled over its words since its adoption 13 years ago.

Most recently, the Bosnian parliament on July 3rd rejected the lyrics proposed by its own commission. Some feel that the 11-member commission, comprised of ethnomusicologists, poets and politicians, have spent the past two years in vain and wasted some 50,000 euros. The parliament announced that it will appoint a new commission to continue the work — spending more time and money.

“Nobody would be happier than us if we could sing our national anthem,” said Neno Subasic, a member of BH Fanaticos, the country’s largest football fan group.

The group has resorted to a unique approach to cope with its never-ending desire to sing: “We sing the old one,” Subasic said. “But, when the melody and the lyrics don’t match, it is not the same.”

A 2008 lyric contest hosted by the commission asked that entries contain words to which all Bosnians could relate. Out of 339 entries, one entry was selected unanimously as winner by the commission in charge, however, with parliament’s rejection, the quest continues.


The winning entry, dubbed “Intermezzo,” was a fusion between two finalists; Dusan Sestic, the original composer of the melody, and Benjamin Isovic, a Sarajevo-based musician.

Focusing on the natural beauty of BiH and a shared love of country, the lyrics conclude with: “We are going into the future together.”

“Citizens are dealing with existential problems, which gives the politicians carte blanche to ignore the adoption of the anthem’s text,” psychologist Srdjan Puhalo told SETimes.

Having lyrics for the national anthem would improve the image of the county in the eyes of its citizens and abroad, according to Puhalo, who says the selection process has been slow because the citizens were not being involved.

“The Bosnian political elite, namely Bosnian Serbs and Croats, are trying to keep ethnic divisions in place and they don’t want to install anything that can lead to the creation of a national [Bosnian] identity,” he said.

As it stands, when the wordless anthem plays, Bosnian Croats, Bosniaks, and those from Republika Srpska tend to sing their own separate lyrics from their past anthems.

With parliament’s new commission coming from the moderate Social Democratic Party (SDP), the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD), the biggest party of Republika Srpska, has already voted against its creation, calling it an “unnecessary waste of time and money” as it would “achieve nothing”.

SNSD parliamentarian Slavko Jovicic, a member of the last commission, recently wrote in his blog that even though he voted for the winner, he doubts that the lyrics will ever be approved due to politics as usual in BiH.

“It is impossible to satisfy the appetites of everybody,” Jovicic wrote. “There cannot be the name of only one city because one ethnic group dominates there. So, we would have to name three cities, three rivers, and three mountains.”

Subasic said that he hopes the politicians will finally come to an agreement.

“The bottom line is, inspiring or not, we have to create the anthem for our children.”


The Southeast European Times Web site is a central source of news and information about Southeastern Europe in ten languages: Albanian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Croatian, English, Greek, Macedonian, Romanian, Serbian and Turkish. The Southeast European Times is sponsored by the US European Command, the joint military command responsible for US operations in 52 countries. EUCOM is committed to promoting stability, co-operation and prosperity in the region.

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