Most members of those peoples seem to have recently become aware of the fact that an entire nation cannot be identified by the rule of a single man a single party.

Milan Sitarski

BiH and its vicinity have had a very specific history compared to almost the entire rest of our continent. Of course, each part of it is special in some ways, but the history of the Balkans is, in European terms, extremely special. Humanism and the Renaissance along with their their legacy came to our doorstep when there were no conditions for a strong influence on life, even that of extremely elite circles, not to mention a wider circle of residents; although they did leave a strong mark in societies of the immediately close Dalmatia and Boka. The Reformation did not significantly affect the vicinity of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Counter-Reformation and the Baroque did to some extent, but mostly with different implications than in the rest of Europe. The same applies to Rationalism and the Enlightenment and their effects in Croatia and northern Serbia.

Even the national movements of Serbs and Croats, which in their initial stages somewhat resembled those from other countries, took on very specific forms. Croatian, like the movement of other peoples of the Habsburg Monarchy, was faced with the necessity of accommodating to the structure of the dynastic, multinational imperial state. The Serbian was like that in its own state, while it created a new national state outside of it. Very quickly, though, and despite the extremely fast modernization (or maybe because of it) it became the pivot of the new imperial plan – one of the “people’s” and in a ideologically formally modernist version – but imperial nevertheless. Due to their attachment to the Ottoman Empire, the Bosniaks were late in developing a national movement even in relation to the Croats and Serbs, with even more specifics in relation to Europe, and these specifics also largely apply to the Croats and Serbs in BiH itself. Today, after the bloody disintegration of both versions of the “Serb-made” empire, whose creators referred to European values but went in a completely different direction, and whose existence and disintegration were determined by the determinants of existence of the state of BiH and all its peoples, we can ask the question – where are European values in Bosnia and Herzegovina now?

It is too difficult of a task for me to give a complete answer to that question, especially in one short column. I will try, however, to give one, and in the context of one undeniably European value – democratic electoral change of government. This syndrome, without which there is no Europeanisation, with or without membership in the EU, was previously overcome by the citizens and political elites of Croatia and Serbia, which admittedly forgot those lessons and may have to repeat them (similarly to the Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina, although they do not have objective obstacles in this case, like the Croats), and recently even Montenegro, where the process is still ongoing. In BiH, it happened where few expected it – precisely among the Bosniaks. Most members of those peoples seem to have recently become aware of the fact that an entire nation cannot be identified by the rule of a single man a single party, and especially not for the sake of maintaining dominance over other peoples in a multinational state. In this respect, for example, they surpassed the Serbs of the 1920s, whose absence of this awareness prevented the Kingdom of SCS from becoming a truly European country. If the most numerous peoples in BiH stay on their current course, it will have a beneficial effect on the other two as well, and we will be able to say that there is hope for a European BiH.


Milan Sitarski, independent lecturer and analyst from Mostar