Monday, April 4, 2011

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) is slightly smaller than West Virginia and has a population of 3,2 million people.  The official languages are Bosnian, Serbian, and Croatian which are all pretty much the same thing with Serbian using Cyrillic and Bosnian and Croatian using the Latin alphabet.    

Located in the Balkans, the country's name comes from two different geographic regions; not ethnic ones. Herzegovina is about 1/5th of the country and is located in the south.

After declaring independence from Yugoslavia, the country was involved in the biggest European war since WWII. Bosnian Serbs wanted their own country and to become part of a Greater Serbia. With backing from Serbia, the country's capital, Sarajevo, underwent the longest siege in modern history. There was also extended fighting with Croatia.

Following the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords, BiH has a multi-ethnic government. The country is divided in to two areas. The Bosniak/Croat Federation has about 51% of the territory and about 49% belongs to the Republika Srpska. The total population is 48% Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim), 37% Serb (Orthodox) and 14% Croat (Catholic).

Republika Srpska, the Bosnian Serb Republic, has it's own flag and official seal.

I'm not quite sure how anything gets done here. For example, there are three presidents. One Bosniak, one Serb and one Croat are all elected to a four-year term. They then rotate the presidency every eight months.

The country is likely to join NATO in the near future. Eventually, it will apply for EU membership as well. I was in Međugorje last year and found that no one really wanted the currency. I heard that not long after that a law was passed that prevented people form accepting Euros as payment - meaning that shops have to accept Bosnian Marks. So I guess I'll get to see if the money is still worthless or not.

I'm really looking forward to visiting Sarajevo. I also plan to visit Srebrenica, Mostar and maybe Počitelj. I just need to make it through the next couple of weeks until my vacation starts.

Update: FIFA and UEFA have suspended Bosnia and Herzegovina from all international football (soccer) competitions. These organizations require that each national football federation have a single president. Just like the country itself, the BiH football federation has 3 presidents - 1 Bosniak, 1 Croat and 1 Serb. FIFA and UEFA do not agree to rotating the presidents either. Unless this is worked out, BiH won't be able to qualify for next year's European Championships.

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