Multi-confessionalism in Medieval and Ottoman Bosnia-Herzegovina
By Stephen A. Wynne
Paper given at The London Human Rights Congress (2011)
Excerpt: The mountainous lands that would become Bosnia-Herzegovina were conquered by Roman armies some two millennia ago. With the implementation of Roman administration, the hallmarks of ancient civilization began to appear throughout the western Balkans. Roads were constructed between growing urban centers, providing for ease of commercial and military transport; Latin became the lingua franca, fostering improved communication; mineral deposits in the eastern border regions were exploited, and their wealth—destined to receive the seals of the emperors themselves—sent down the Drina Valley on barges to minting centers in the heart of the Empire.
By the fifth century CE, however, the Western Empire was unraveling, and Bosnia, the easternmost outpost of Latin jurisdiction, was being engulfed by throngs of barbarian Slavs. Although springing from a single confederation, the Slaveni, these myriad bands were developing separate tribal identities as they spilled across the Balkans. And as they settled into newly conquered lands, the subsummation of one tribe by another became commonplace; as a result, in time, certain tribal names became predominate—chief among them, the Serbs and the Croats.
During the seventh century, the Serbs moved into what is today Serbia and Herzegovina, subjugating kinsmen there. The Croats, meanwhile, overran fellow Slavs throughout what is now Croatia and portions of Bosnia. Whether these incoming tribes controlled all Bosnian Slavs remains unknown; likewise, writes renowned historian John V.A. Fine, “it is…impossible to determine which parts of Bosnia fell under Serbs and which parts fell under Croats. In time these later invaders were assimilated by the more numerous Slavs but provided names for the resulting population, among whom Slavic culture and language triumphed.” What is beyond question, he notes, is the fact that “the Bosnians come from the same Slavic base as today’s Serbs and Croats.”