Bosnia and Herzegovina Politics and History

By | September 13, 2021


Bosnia and Herzegovina consists of the largely independent parts (entities) of the Serb Republic (49% of the total area) with the capital Banja Luka and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (51% of the total area) with the capital Sarajevo. According to, the former is administratively divided into 62 municipalities, the latter into 10 cantons, which in turn consist of 79 smaller municipalities. The city of Sarajevo forms its own canton. The Brčko district has a special status and belongs to both entities under constitutional law.

Administrative division in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Administrative division (2013)
Entities Cantons Area(in km 2) Population(in 1,000) Residents(per km 2) capital city
Brčko District 1) 208 93 447 Brčko
Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina 26 110 2,372 91 Sarajevo
Una-sana 4 125 299 72 Bihać
Posavina 325 48 148 Orašje
Tuzla 2,649 477 180 Tuzla
Zenica-Doboj 3 343 385 115 Zenica
Bosnian Podrinje 505 25th 50 Goražde
Central Bosnia 3 189 273 86 Travnik
Herzegovina-Neretva 4 401 236 54 Mostar
Western Herzegovina 1 362 98 72 Široki Brijeg
Sarajevo 1 277 438 343 Sarajevo
Canton 10 4 935 91 18th Livno
Serbian Republic 24 857 1 327 53 Banja Luka
1) The Brčko district has a special status and belongs to both entities.


Bosnia and Herzegovina and the two entities each have a constitutional court. There is also the State Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, established in 2002, which has also had a chamber for the prosecution of war crimes since 2005. In each of the two entities there is a Supreme Court and subordinate to the FBiH ten canton and 53 communal courts and in the RS five district and 25 local courts. The institution of an ombudsman exists at the state level and in the FBiH. – After independence, Bosnia and Herzegovina initially retained the legislation of the former Yugoslav republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and otherwise adopted Yugoslav federal law. The reform legislation is extraordinarily fragmented because of the narrow jurisdiction of the central authority. Bosnia and Herzegovina has agreed to adopt EU legislation. Separate legal systems have emerged in both entities and, since 1999, in the Brčko district as well.

Bosnia and Herzegovina as part of Yugoslavia

During the collapse of Austria-Hungary as a result of the First World War (end of October / beginning of November 1918), the Bosnian National Council, formed at the end of September, proclaimed the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the planned Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes on October 30, 1918 (proclaimed on December 1; called Yugoslavia since 1929); however, it did not succeed in the subsequent period to fully integrate these areas, which were strongly influenced by the Islamic heritage, into the new Yugoslav (i.e. South Slavic) state. During the Second World War, after the conquest of Yugoslavia by German troops (April 1941), Bosnia and Herzegovina largely became part of the Republic of Croatia, which was dependent on the National Socialist German Reich; Bosnia became a center of the Ustaša terror (especially against Serbs, Četnici or the communists (end of July – October 1942 recapture of important areas; AVNOJ meetings in Bihać and Jajce, 1942/43). With the end of the Second World War (February / April 1945 withdrawal of German troops), the German minority was expelled or brutally persecuted; the victorious Serbian partisans took bloody revenge on Croatians. After the restoration of Yugoslavia as a state (1943/45) and the formation of a republican government in April 1945, Bosnia and Herzegovina (within the historical limits of 1912/13) obtained the status of a republic through the Yugoslav constitution of January 31, 1946; the hoped-for development of a uniform transnational and transdenominational country patriotism did not take place, despite the stronger anchoring of federalism in the constitution of February 25, 1974. Since 1968, the Bosnian Muslims, along with the Croats and Serbs, had the status of a state people. After death Titos (1980) the social and national conflicts within Yugoslavia increasingly escalated. As a result of the reform process initiated at the same time, Bosnia and Herzegovina also abandoned the one-party system through constitutional amendments (July 31, 1980) and a declaration of sovereignty (August 1, 1980); the Bosnian Serbs initially stuck to the all-Yugoslav state idea and rejected the changes.

Independence and civil war

After the first multi-party elections after 1945 on 18. 11./2. 12. In 1990 the Skupština (parliament) and the state presidency, according to the ethnic composition of the population, the Bosniak Party of Democratic Action (SDA), the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) and the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) became the most influential parties; the leader of the SDA, the Muslim A. Izetbegović, was elected head of the State Presidium (President) on December 19.

Against the resistance of the SDS (excerpt from parliament) Bosnia and Herzegovina declared its independence on October 15, 1991; On October 24th, the Serbian MPs formed their own parliament (seat later in Pale). The referendum demanded by the EC as a precondition for the recognition of independence (February 29, March 1, 1992) led to the formation of political fronts because of the boycott by the Serbian population group; with a voter turnout of 64.3%, 99.44% voted for the independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Despite the international recognition of the independence that was formally proclaimed again on March 3rd (April 6th / 7th, 1992) and contrary to a new three-national constitutional order agreed upon under EC mediation (March 17th; practically irrelevant because on May 1st, 1992) 1992 admission of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the CSCE, on May 22nd in the UN) there was a war of segregation between Bosniaks / Croats and Serbs as well as the reorganization of the various ethnic settlement areas, v. a. the mixed ethnic areas (beginning on March 28, 1992 in Bosanski Brod [later, like Jajce, conquered by the Serbs]).

Bosnia and Herzegovina Politics