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Dr IWAN SUWANDY, MHA
The Bosnian and Herzogovina Historic collections Exhibition
Bosnia and Herzegovina
This article is part of a series
|Prehistory and Roman era|
|Austro-Hungarian condominium of Bosnia and Herzegovina|
|Kingdom of Yugoslavia|
|World War II|
|Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
(Socialist Republic of
Bosnia and Herzegovina)
|War in Bosnia and Herzegovina|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina|
Bosnia and Herzegovina Portal
v • d • e
Because of its central geographic position within the Yugoslavian federation, post-war Bosnia was strategically selected as a base for the development of the military defense industry. This contributed to a large concentration of arms and military personnel in Bosnia; a significant factor in the war that followed the break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. However, Bosnia’s existence within Yugoslavia, for the large part, was peaceful and prosperous. Being one of the poorer republics in the early 1950s it quickly recovered economically, taking advantage of its extensive natural resources to stimulate industrial development. The Yugoslavian communist doctrine of “brotherhood and unity” particularly suited Bosnia’s diverse and multi-ethnic society that, because of such an imposed system of tolerance, thrived culturally and socially. Cultural ascendance of Bosnia and Herzegovina culminated with the selection of Sarajevo to host 1984 Winter Olympics.
Though considered a political backwater of the federation for much of the 50s and 60s, the 70s saw the ascension of a strong Bosnian political elite. While working within the communist system, politicians such as Džemal Bijedić, Branko Mikulić and Hamdija Pozderac reinforced and protected the sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Their efforts proved key during the turbulent period following Tito‘s death in 1980, and are today considered some of the early steps towards Bosnian independence. However, the republic hardly escaped the increasingly nationalistic climate of the time unscathed.
Following the death of Tito in 1980, rising nationalist ideas primarily noted in Serbian academia, pressured Bosnia to deal with allegations of rising nationalism in their own society. One of the most controversial events that were taken by a Bosnian political leadership was a so called Sarajevo process in 1983 where, under significant pressure from Serbia’s political leadership, Bosnian political elite used their influence to secure convictions for several Muslim nationalists as a type of a political sacrifice to gain political points in the fight against Serbian nationalists.
The Sarajevo process centered on convicting Alija Izetbegovic for writing “The Islamic Declaration”, a literary work which was in the Yugoslav communist regime considered a radical approach towards socialist ideals of former Yugoslavia that were based on suppression of nationalism and any violation of that doctrine was punishable by law. Such trials in the communist regime were quite common and a typical practice of suppressing the right to free speech. Bosnian politicians used this practice to reaffirm their political opposition to Serbian nationalist tendencies and in particular opposition to the politics of Slobodan Milošević who was trying to revert the constitutional amendments of 1970s that awarded the Bosniaks the status of a constituent ethnicity.
The process also backfired as the Serbian lobby insisted that Bosnia was a “dark nation” where all those who oppose the government will be prosecuted, where Bosnian Muslim communists were prosecuting Muslim believers. That kind of propaganda attracted many Bosnian Muslims to their way of thinking. Others were interpreting the Sarajevo process as a way of removing the political amateurs who could end up disrupting the process of Bosnian independence.
The Pre-war Situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina
With the fall of communism and the start of the break-up of Yugoslavia, the old communist doctrine of tolerance began to lose its potency, creating an opportunity for nationalist elements in the society to spread their influence.
On the first multi-party elections that took place in November 1990 in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the three largest ethnic parties in the country won: the Bosniak Party of Democratic Action, the Serbian Democratic Party and the Croatian Democratic Union of Bosnia and Herzegovina. After the elections, they formed a coalition government. The primary motivation behind this union was to maintain an atmosphere of harmony and tolerance and further their common goal to rule as a democratic alternative to the Socialist government that preceded them.
Parties divided the power along the ethnic lines so that the President of the Presidency of the Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina was a Bosniak, president of the Parliament was a Bosnian Serb and the prime minister a Bosnian Croat.
Independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina
After Slovenia and Croatia declared independence from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1991, Bosnia and Herzegovina declared its sovereignty in October 1991 and organized a referendum on independence in March 1992. The decision of the Parliament of the Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina on holding the referendum was taken after the majority of Bosnian Serb members had left the assembly in protest.
These Bosnian Serb assembly members invited the Bosnian Serb population to boycott the referendum held on February 29 and March 1 1992. The turnout in the referendum was 64-67% and the vote was 98% in favor of independence. Independence was declared on March 5 1992 by the parliament. The referendum and the murder of a member of a wedding procession on the day before the referendum was utilized by the Bosnian Serb political leadership as a reason to start road blockades in protest. Bosnian War followed
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