Located in Southeastern Europe, Bosnia and Herzegovina is a small country in the western Balkans. A diverse country with various cultures and languages, Bosnia and Herzegovina also features breathtaking landscapes such as craggy mountains, gushing waterfalls, and emerald green rivers. Here are some interesting facts about Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Facts about Bosnia and Herzegovina
1. Bosnia is quite small.
Bosnia and Herzegovina has a total area of 51,129 km² (19,741 sq mi), which makes it about half the size of the US state of Kentucky. It is the 125th largest country in the world.
Though there have been no strictly defined geographical or cultural-historical borders, the northern region of Bosnia makes up around three-fourths of the country. The southern region of Herzegovina constitutes around three-fourths of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
2. Bosnia and Herzegovina shares a border with three countries.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is bordered by Croatia (956 km /594 mi) to the north and southwest, Serbia (345 km / 214 mi) to the east, and Montenegro (242 km / 150 mi) to the southeast.
3. Approximately three-fourths of Bosnia and Herzegovina is mountainous.
Most of Bosnia and Herzegovina is mountainous, especially in the central, southern, and eastern regions. The northwest of the country is moderately hilly, while the northeast region is predominantly flat.
4. Bosnia and Herzegovina’s highest point is 2,386 m (7,828 ft) above sea level.
Maglić, which lies in southeastern Bosnia and Herzegovina, on the border with Montenegro, is the nation’s tallest mountain. Maglić is very popular with mountaineers and hikers.
5. Bosnia and Herzegovina is home to three main ethnic groups.
One of the interesting Bosnia and Herzegovina facts is that it is a diverse country. More than 95% of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s population belongs to one of its three main ethnic groups: Bosniaks, Serbs, and Croats. It is estimated that Bosniaks constitute about 50% of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s population, Serbs roughly 30%, and Croats make up about 15% of the country’s population.
The three groups share the same South Slav heritage. The major cultural difference between them is that of religious origin or affiliation. The majority of the Bosniaks are Muslims, the Serbs are predominantly Orthodox Christians, and the Croats are predominantly Catholics. Generally speaking, these three main ethnic groups have a majority presence in certain parts of the country.
The remainder of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s population includes Albanians, Montenegrins, Roma, and Jews.
6. The names “Bosnia” and “Herzegovina” have two very different origins.
The name “Bosnia” stems from the Bosna River, one of the major rivers of Bosnia and Herzegovina that flows through the central areas of the country. The name Herzegovina itself originates from the archaic Serbo-Croatian term borrowed from German, Hercegovina, a land ruled by a Herzog (German for “duke”) and literally means ‘duchy’.
7. Bosnia and Herzegovina has the world’s second-smallest coastline.
At first glance, Bosnia and Herzegovina seems landlocked, but a closer view reveals the country’s small coastline on the Adriatic Sea. Bosnia and Herzegovina has only 20 km (12.4 mi) of coastline, around the town of Neum in the southwest of the country. At only 20 km (12.4 mi), Bosnia and Herzegovina’s coastline is the second-smallest coastline among the world’s coastal nations. Only Monaco’s coastline is shorter.
8. The capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina is Sarajevo.
Surrounded by the picturesque mountains of the Dinaric Alps, Sarajevo is located in central Bosnia. Sarajevo is the largest city in Bosnia and Herzegovina and is the political, economic, social, and cultural center of the country.
An exceedingly beautiful city in its own right, Sarajevo is a fascinating blend of Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian histories. Within its numerous mosques, Catholic and Orthodox cathedrals, and synagogues, Sarajevo is deservedly called ‘the Jerusalem of Europe’.
9. Islam is the majority religion in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Although Bosnia and Herzegovina is a religiously diverse nation, Islam is the most prevalent religion in the country. Approximately half of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s population identifies as Muslim. The majority of Bosnian Muslims are non-denominational while about 40% identify as Sunnis.
Orthodox Christians and Catholics make up about 30% and 15% of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s population respectively. The remainder of the population is composed of other religions and atheists.
10. Bosnia and Herzegovina has been governed by many empires and dynasties.
Bosnia and Herzegovina passed through many empires and dynasties. At some point in its history, it was being ruled by Thracians, Illyrians, Celts, Greeks, Goths, Hungarians, and the Byzantines.
11. The original country of Bosnia and Herzegovina was established in the 12th century.
From the 6th-9th centuries, various Slavic tribes arrived in Bosnia and Herzegovina from their original lands east of the Carpathian Mountains. By the 12th century, they had established a medieval country called the Banate of Bosnia, a medieval state that was a part of the Hungarian Crown Lands. However, the Hungarians had little influence over the land, and as such the Banate of Bosnia was a de facto independent state.
The Banate of Bosnia lasted for about 200 years until 1377 when it became the medieval Kingdom of Bosnia. For a brief time, this kingdom was the strongest country in the Balkans. The Kingdom of Bosnia was rather short-lived, however: less than 100 years.
12. The Ottomans ruled Bosnia and Herzegovina for over four centuries.
The Ottoman Empire conquered Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1463 and ruled there for over 400 years. It was the Turks who introduced Islam to the formerly Christian Bosnians. The Ottomans also brought Turkish cuisine, clothing styles, Ottoman architecture, and other aspects of Turkish culture & attitudes. It goes without saying that much of Bosnian and Herzegovinan culture has strong similarities to Turkish culture.
The Ottomans built many towns, cities, and fortresses in Bosnia and Herzegovina, constructing attractive Ottoman buildings, arched stone bridges, and mosques. Many of these structures still stand and count as some of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s principal attractions.
The Ottoman rule in Bosnia and Herzegovina lasted for over four centuries, until 1878. It was then that the Congress of Berlin decided that Bosnia and Herzegovina, while remaining de jure under Turkish sovereignty, would be occupied and governed by Austria-Hungary. From 1878, Bosnia and Herzegovina remained Ottoman territory (without actual effective rule) until 1908 when it officially became part of Austria-Hungary.
13. Bosnia and Herzegovina was ruled briefly by the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
In 1878, directly after the downfall of the Ottoman rule in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the country came to be administered by the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Austro-Hungarians ruled over Bosnia and Herzegovina for exactly 40 years, from 1878-1918.
During the years of the Austro-Hungarian power, Bosnia and Herzegovina experienced important changes in both the economic and cultural sense.
14. World War I started in Sarajevo.
This is one of the most intriguing facts about Bosnia and Herzegovina. Random as it may seem, World War I was triggered by a major event in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s capital. Considering that many people don’t know much about Bosnia and Herzegovina, it seems bizarre that one of modern history’s most significant wars could have ignited there.
Austria-Hungary’s official annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1908 prevented both Serbia and the Ottoman Empire from claiming the country. Relations with Serbia, which had claims on Bosnia and Herzegovina, became embittered. The hostility between the two countries climaxed in the assassination of Austrian archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914. The assassin was a Bosnian Serb student, Gavrilo Princip, a member of the Black Hand, a radical Serbian group whose goal was to detach Bosnia from Austria-Hungary and give it to Serbia.
Austria’s response to the assassination was to declare war on Serbia. This quickly escalated to include many other European countries, who each sided with either Serbia or Austria-Hungary leading to World War I.
Russia supported Serbia; Germany mobilized in support of Austria against Russia; France mobilized against Germany. Germany then attacked France through Belgium, and England declared war against Germany. These events all took place between 28 July and 4 August 1914.
15. Bosnia and Herzegovina was part of Yugoslavia for over seventy years.
In 1918, following World War I, Bosnia and Herzegovina joined the South Slav Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (soon renamed Yugoslavia). When Germany invaded Yugoslavia in 1941, Bosnia and Herzegovina was made part of the Nazi puppet regime, the Independent State of Croatia (NDH).
At the end of World War II, Bosnia and Herzegovina was reunited into a single state as one of the six constituent republics of the newly reestablished Socialist Yugoslavia. Bosnia and Herzegovina remained part of Yugoslavia until 1992 when it announced its independence.
16. In the early 1990s, Bosnia and Herzegovina was the scene of a brutal civil war.
One of the most tragic facts about Bosnia and Herzegovina is that from April 1992 until December 1995, the nation was the scene of the Bosnian War, the most devastating conflict in Europe since the end of World War II.
When Croatia and Slovenia declared independence in June 1991, Bosnia and Herzegovina faced an uncomfortable choice: they could remain in a Yugoslavia dominated by Serbia, which now controlled two-thirds of the federal presidency and the army, or they could also choose independence and risk war. Unlike the other former Yugoslav states, which were generally composed of a dominant ethnic group, Bosnia was an ethnic tangle of Muslims (≈45%), Serbs (≈31%), and Croats (≈17%), and this mix contributed to the duration and savagery of its fight for independence.
Attempting to free themselves from Yugoslavia and avoid Serbian rule, Bosniaks and Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina voted for independence in 1992. Though the vote was recognized internationally, local Bosnian Serbs, with the help of the Yugoslav People’s Army, mobilized their forces inside Bosnia and Herzegovina in order to secure ethnic Serb territory. They were met with resistance from the Bosniak and Croat troops.
The bloody war was brought to an end after the U.S.-sponsored peace talks in Dayton, Ohio, led to an agreement that in 1995 called for a Muslim-Croat federation and a Serb entity within the larger federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Bosnian War lasted over three and a half years and two million people were displaced from their homes as a result. Over 100,000 people lost their lives as a result of the war.
17. The currency of Bosnia and Herzegovina is the Convertible mark (BAM).
The Bosnia and Herzegovina Convertible Mark (BAM) is the national currency of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was introduced in 1995 and replaced the Bosnian Dinar.
18. Bosnia and Herzegovina is not a member of the European Union (EU).
Bosnia and Herzegovina is on the current agenda for future enlargement of the EU. The nation formally applied for EU membership in February 2016.
19. Bosnia and Herzegovina’s political system is very complicated.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is home to one of the world’s most complicated systems of government. As a result of the Dayton Accords, Bosnia and Herzegovina comprises two highly autonomous entities: the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Republika Srpska (Bosnian Serb Republic).
The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina is a decentralized federation of Croats and Bosniaks. Each entity has its own legislature and president. Nevertheless, they do share a common state-level presidency with three members – a Bosniak, a Croat, and a Serb.
Under the 1995 Dayton Agreement, the highest political authority in Bosnia and Herzegovina is held by the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina. So far, all of the High Representatives named have been from the European Union. Tasked with keeping the peace, the High Representative has far-reaching powers, including the freedom to remove elected officials, pass new laws or create authorities
The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina accounts for 51% of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s total area, while Republika Srpska covers 49%. The main cities in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina are Sarajevo, Mostar, Tuzla, Bihac, and Zenica, while in the Republika Srpska entity the main cities are Banja Luka, Bijeljina, Prijedor, and Trebinje.
20. Bosnia and Herzegovina is home to Europe’s only completely self-governing free city.
One of the unique facts about Bosnia and Herzegovina is that it is the only entirely self-governing free city currently in existence in Europe. Brčko is a small historic town in northeastern Bosnia, set on the Saba River, which forms the border with Croatia. The Serbian border is also close by.
After the Bosnian civil war, as political lines were being established, neither the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina nor the Republika Srpska were able to place Brčko within Bosnia and Herzegovina’s complex ethnic, cultural, and political regions. So, it was agreed to let Brčko remain a self-governing district. Brčko has its own local self-government administration, its own government, and independent education system.
21. The national flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina is very distinctive.
The national flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina comprises a medium blue field with seven full five-pointed white stars and two half-stars lined along the hypotenuse of the yellow triangle. The national flag was adopted in 1998.
The triangle on the flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina represents the three main ethnic groups that make up the country. It also depicts the estimated shape of the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The colors and the stars on the flag represent Europe were chosen to represent Bosnia and Herzegovina’s connection to the rest of Europe and the nation’s desire for peace.
22. Bosnia and Herzegovina national anthem doesn’t have any lyrics.
This is definitely one of the unique Bosnia and Herzegovina facts. Bosnia and Herzegovina’s national anthem is one of the four national anthems in the world that lacks lyrics.
Despite many efforts to officially adopt lyrics to go along with the music, to this day the Bosnian and Herzegovinan parliament has yet to vote in favor of any of them. Bosnia and Herzegovina is a divided country with ethnic Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs. The ethnic divisions of the country make it difficult to find a set of lyrics that can appease all the country’s ethnic groups equally.
23. Bosnia and Herzegovina was the location of Europe’s first full-time tram line.
In 1885, Sarajevo was the first city in Europe and the second city in the world to have a full-time electric tram network running through the city, following San Francisco.
24. Bosnia and Herzegovina doesn’t have an official language.
Bosnia and Herzegovina’s constitution does not specify any official languages. However, the three most spoken languages in Bosnia and Herzegovina – Bosnian, Serbian, and Croatian are the de facto official languages of the country.
The three standard languages albeit with different dialects are fully mutually intelligible. Bosnian officially uses both the Latin and Cyrillic scripts, but the Latin one is more in widespread use. Croatian exclusively uses the Latin alphabet. Serbian uses both the Cyrillic and Latin scripts although Cyrillic is the official script of the administration in Republika Srpska.
25. Ćevapi is the national dish of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Ćevapi is, without any doubt, the most popular dish in Bosnian and Herzegovinan cuisine. It is basically a skinless, oblong-shaped sausage made of grilled minced beef or mutton. Ćevapi is traditionally eaten in a flatbread sandwich accompanied by chopped onions and a cold salad.
26. the longest siege of a capital city in modern history occurred in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The Siege of Sarajevo lasted for a whopping 1,425 days from 5 April 1992 to 29 February 1996, making it the longest siege of a capital city in modern history. In the early 1990s, after Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence from Yugoslavia, Bosnian Serb forces laid siege to Sarajevo. Regrettably, more than 13,000 people lost their lives during the siege which officially ended weeks after the signing of the Dayton peace agreement.
27. Sarajevo hosted the Winter Olympics in 1984.
The 1984 Winter Olympic games were held in Sarajevo, which at the time was part of Yugoslavia. It was the first time a socialist city hosted the Winter Olympics.
28. Bosnia and Herzegovina has never won a medal in the Olympics.
Although Albania first participated at the Summer Olympic Games in 1992 and the Winter Olympic Games in 1994, it has never won an Olympic medal. This makes it the only European non-microstate along with Albania without an Olympic medal.
29. There are three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Bosnia and Herzegovina are the Old Bridge Area of the Old City of Mostar; the Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge; and the Stećci Medieval Tombstones Graveyards.
30. Bosnia and Herzegovina drives on the right.
Previously following left-hand traffic, Bosnia and Herzegovina switched over to left-hand traffic in 1918.
31. Football is the most popular sport in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Football is undoubtedly the most popular sport in Bosnia and Herzegovina.