This article, written by Muhamed Fazlagic, (a Bosnian-American, and member of the Sociological Association, the North Central Sociological Association, and the Midwest Sociological Society )  is a response to the decision of  Republika Srpska (RS) education ministry to instruct all primary schools in the entity to officially change the name of one of Bosnia’s three constituent languages from Bosnian to ‘Bosniak’ thus causing anger among Bosniaks living in that part of Bosnia and Herzegovina. As Balkan Insight explains in many cases Bosniak parents have refused to accept the end-of-year cards, while others, including parents, teachers and officials complained that this “was an attempt to drive the remaining non-Serbs from RS by humiliation and the denial of their basic human and cultural rights”.  

While other Bosniaks believe that this is just another ploy by the RS´s Serb authorities to use ethnic issues to divert public attention from pressing economic and social issues. One of those is Mirsad Duratovic a Bosniak from Prijedor whose children go to a local primery school. “I think this is all about shifting the focus away from the hard social and economic situation,” he said to BIRN on Thursday. I pointed to an attempt by Serb nationalists in Republika Srpska to deny the existence of a Bosnian language in December last year as a recording of the Bosnian Serb premier  Zeljka Cvijanovic was leaked to Bosnian press where we can hear Cvijanovic talking about buying off political opponents as well as about lobbying linguists in order to spread the idea that there is no such thing as a Bosnian language…

This article originally appeared on several Bosnian news-sites and has been translated and re-published here with the permission of the author. 


Muhamed Fazlagic
Muhamed Fazlagic

Last few days we have became witnesses to another manufactured crisis i.e. discrimination prepared in the regime-lab of the smaller BiH-entity.

Not only are Bosniak students not allowed to study the subjects which they are guaranteed by law, it´s all gone one step further. On their own initiative the government of the poorer BiH-entity has given itself the right to re-name the Bosnian language into a “bosniak language” and register it like that in the student’s report-cards.

Luckily the OHR (Office of the High Representative) acted promptly and as the principal interpreter of the Bosnian Constitution gave the legal explanation which clearly shows that the official languages ​​in Bosnia and Herzegovina are: Croatian, Serbian and Bosnian.

And if there was any dilemma’s left in the RS government through its statement, the OHR, which I repeat as an institution and in the capacity of the High Representative, is the supreme interpreter of the Constitution.

So, from the legal standpoint it´s clear, the Bosnian language is the official language and the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina who want to express their desire to speak Bosnian can do so without anyone being able to deny them that right, plain and simple.

After they pre- calculated that they would fail in the legal field, because they know very well how to read the Dayton Agreement and to explain the difference between the letter and spirit of that agreement, the authorities in the smaller entity are trying to prove that there is a lack of cultural and historical merits for the existence of a Bosnian language.

Since the script was largely predictable, they would not resort to any new facts as in all previous cases, which were and weren’t related to education, but which´s common denominator has always been the denial of the statehood of Bosnia and Herzegovina, it is important to act preventively and immediately support and provide authorities in the smaller entity with valid and credible information.

Once upon a time, in the first and second century AD, the Roman historian Appian (as recorded by Mustafa Imamovic in History of the Bosniaks ), who must have been a very important writer in his time, because his descendants have named the most beautiful street in the center of Rome; Via Appia- wrote the name Bosnia – in phonological character of the current language of the time.

Also, the Byzantine Emperor and writer Constantine Porphyrogenitus, who in mid- tenth century, in his book “About nations” (De administrando Empire) wrote the name of Bosnia, and Usora and the name of the people who inhabited this area, and his neighbors, and the structural variants of their language.

At the end of the twelfth century, the Bosnian Ban Kulin in his charter confirmed the name of a geographical concept and state of Bosnia and hence the name of the language of all Bošnjana (Bosnians) i.e. the Bosnian language.

To the left, the first Bosnian dictionary, from 1631. To the right, the first Serbian dictionary, from 1818.
To the left, the first Bosnian dictionary, from 1631. To the right, the first Serbian dictionary, from 1818.

And then over the next centuries, many writers, chroniclers, travel writers, rulers, and religious dignitaries from these and neighboring regions and countries registered the name Bosnia not only as hydronym and toponym (the name of the river and the name of the country), but also its anthroponymus derivative; impressively emphasizing the beauty of the Bosnian language (as “the pretty language of the good Bosnians”)

Constantine the Philosopher (a writer in the late 14th and early 15th centuries) mentioned the Bosnian language along with Bulgarian, Serbian, Slovenian, Czech and Croatian in Skazanie o pismeneh.

Muhammad Hevai Uskufi is the author of the first Bosnian dictionary in 1631. This vocabulary was helpful to the Bosniaks who served the Sultan. Bosniaks, military commanders wrote the so-called Krajina letters (krajišnička pisma) to the Dubrovnik authorities, to the chieftans in Montenegro, to USKOK elders, and to the Croatian elders in the service of Austria and Venice. The letters were written in the Bosnian language, mostly in the Ekavian dialect and some in Ijekavian if the writer happened to be from Herzegovina.

If historical merits are what you were looking for, it was my pleasure to try and provide you with those arguments… Regardless of how much certain politicians, projects or ideologies might wish to create a parallel universe, sooner or later they´ll have to join the real world. The longer they stay in the parallel universe, the harder the arrival into the real world will be! It will be very difficult for those who now do not understand, once they finally do understand that they live in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where people speak Bosnian, the way people to this day in Belgarde ask “How are things in Bosnia”?

However, it´s clear where this confusion that Dodik is trying so hard and in a fascistic manner to sell to his people comes from.

As far back as Načertanije by Ilija Garašanin (1844) it says that Bosnia is a home to Bosniaks of Orthodox, Catholic and Muhammadan (Islam)  faith. That means that one people live in Bosnia divided into three religious groups. I and others like me know that, as did the Serb Ilija Garašanin. It´s hard to run away from facts like that.

After Garašanin for 150 years efforts have been made to draw a line between one people, the Bosniaks and divide them along religious lines. This here that I am writing Dodik understands very well. Both the content and the language, since we both speak the same Bosnian language.

In Šumadija they speak differently from us, while Dodik and I speak the same language because we are from Bosnia and are one people, divided by force.

For more info, please visit Sarajevo University´s Institute of Languages.

Rjecnik Bosanskog Jezika- Dictionary of the Bosnian Language 1,320 pages. 2007. Institute of Languages, Sarajevo University.


Oxford English-Bosnian Dictionary- Oxford University Press
Oxford English-Bosnian Dictionary- Oxford University Press