Bosnia


BOSNIA    BOSNA (SbC and Tk);  Bosznia (Magyar).

English: Croatia and Bosnia & Hercegovina duri...

English: Croatia and Bosnia & Hercegovina during the Ottoman and Habsburg administration (1600) and the Habsburg military frontier until 1881. Nederlands: Kroatië en Bosnië & Herzegovina gedurende de Osmaanse invasies en de Kroatische militaire fronten tot 1881. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Region in the northwestern Balkans, originally the name of a small district, but later used for a wider region, and for:-

  1. A Hungarian banate (province);
  2. A Kingdom;
  3. An Ottoman eyelat (province) from 1580; and
  4. The short name often used for Bosnia-Hercegovina.

Bosnia was a district in the valley of the River Bosna, a tributary of the River Sava, and ultimately of the Danube.   One town in this district was called Vrhbosna, a place of minor importance until Ottoman times, when it was renamed Sarajevo.    Later Bosnia was in the hands of the Bans and Kings of Bosnia of the 14th century, and probably the fact of it being a possession of the principal ruler in the region led to the extension of the meaning of its name to a much wider area.   This area included the mountainous region in the western Balkans which is bounded by the Dinaric Alps in the west, by the River Sava in the north and the River Drina in the east.   If one regards Bosnia as excluding Hercegovina, then all the rivers draining this mountain region flow to either the Sava or the Drina and lie within the basin of the Danube.   If Bosnia means Bosnia-Hercegovina, then it also includes most of the basin of the River Neretva, which flows to the Adriatic Sea.

The region was part of the Roman province of Dalmatia.   In the 6th and 7th centuries there was a massive influx of Slav-speaking people into the Balkans, so that the people today speak the South Slav language of Serbo-Croat.  The future Bosnia lay at times within the power of the Byzantine Empire, but that Empire waxed and waned in the Balkans, and even at its strongest the mountain peoples were often largely left alone.

In the early 10th century a strong Croatian state emerged in the north and west of the south Slav lands.   Bosnia belonged to it, but in mid-century, when there is the first surviving mention of “Bosona“, the area was under Serb influence. Later Croatia recovered control and when it became part of Hungary in 1102, the Kings of Hungary appointed Bans (governors) for Bosnia.   In 1167 the Byzantine Empire pushed hard against an enfeebled Hungary, and brought the region back within the Empire.   There seems to have been little practical effect within Bosnia.  In any case the death of the Emperor Manuel I in 1180 greatly weakened the Empire, and Hungary recovered nominal control over Bosnia almost immediately.

In reality the Ban Kulin, who governed Bosnia through the last two decades of the 12th century, dying c.1204, was virtually independent.   The names of his successors as Ban are not known until Ninoslav (Ban, c.1232-50) and after him matters become shadowy again.   Two things seem clear.   The first is that in medieval Bosnia there were several powerful families, who controlled their own districts to a fair extent even when the ruler was powerful.   The second is that what came to be regarded as northern Bosnia, the lands on the lower courses of the Rivers Una, Vrbas, Bosna and Drina, was often separate from the Banate in the middle ages.  In the late 1250s and early 1260s northern Bosnia was in hands of Rostislav of Galicia, a Russian prince who was the son-in-law of the King of Hungary.

In 1262 these lands passed to his elder son Michael, who did not last long.   In 1284 northeastern Bosnia was among the lands granted by the King to his brother-in-law, Stephen Dragutin, the former King of Serbia.   The lands to the west were held by a nobleman called Prijezda, who had the title of Ban.   Prijezda’s son, Kotroman, succeeded him in his northern lands and also married Dragutin’s daughter, but he came up against the ãubiæi, the most powerful family on the edges of northwestern Bosnia, whose head, the vigorous and able Paul I ãubiæ, was hereditary Ban of Croatia and Dalmatia.   ãubiæ was recognised as Ban of Bosnia (probably northern Bosnia) in 1299 and in 1305 was called Ban of All Bosnia.   Kotroman’s lands were squeezed, though how much they contracted is not now known.

In the second decade of the 14th century Kotroman’s son, Stephen Kotromaniæ, emerged.  By 1318 he was holding the original ¾upa of Bosnia, lands associated with the office of Ban.   By 1322 he was allied with King Carobert of Hungary against the head of the ãubiæi, whose decline rapidly accelerated.   He thus was able to extend his power to the Sava, while to the southwest he extended his power into the western part of Hum (the future Hercegovina) in 1326.

English: Coat of Arms of the House of Kotroman...

English: Coat of Arms of the House of Kotromanić, Bans and then Kings of Bosnia. This was based on the arms of Tvrtko I of Bosnia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He was succeeded in 1353 by his son Tvrtko, during whose reign the rest of Hum, much of Dalmatia and the Serb territories in northern Zeta (now Montenegro) were added to Bosnia.  In 1377 he proclaimed himself King of Bosnia and also of Serbia, where the Nemanjid dynasty had died out in 1371.  Tvrtko’s grandmother was Dragutin’s daughter, which gave him a claim to the Serbian throne, though he actually made no effort to control the Serbian heartlands.

Towards the end of his reign his army shared in the Serb defeat at Kosovo in 1389, and though his kingdom continued after his death in 1391, Bosnia was riven by dynastic disputes, which gave both Hungary, which took control of the northern lands again, and the Ottomans, an increasingly important factor in Balkan affairs, opportunities to intervene.  Internally the great noble families continued to have control over their own regions.   The nobleman, Hrvoje Vukèiæ, of the Hrvatiniæ family who controlled the Donji Kraji in northwest central Bosnia, became the most powerful figure in Dalmatia after Tvrtko I’s death and was more powerful than the Bosnian King.   As the 15th century wore on the Kingdom became confined to Bosnia and Hum, but Hum too broke away.    Stephen Vukèiæ, its lord in the later 1440s, began to use the title of Herceg, related to the German Herzog, i.e. Duke.   The present name for former Hum – Hercegovina- derives from this assertion of independence.

In 1463 the Ottomans took control of much of Bosnia.   Most of Hercegovina had fallen to them by 1466, though the last stronghold held out until 1482.  The region was divided into three sanjaks (military districts):  Hersek, Bosna, and Izvornik (Zvornik), which all belonged to the vast eyalet (province) of Rumeli.   In 1527 northwestern Bosnia fell to the Ottoman Empire with the destruction of the Hungarian Kindom, though the fortified town of Jajce held out until 1528.  In 1580 Bosnia was separated from Rumeli and itself became an eyalet.   It included the northwesternmost districts of present-day Bosnia-Herzegovina, which had never belonged to the medieval Bosnian Kingdom, and the Turkish possessions in Dalmatia.   The Dalmatian lands were lost to Venice in 1699, except for a strip that separated Venetian Dalmatia from the Republic of Ragusa.   This narrow strip of territory still links Bosnia-Hercegovina with the Adriatic Sea.

The Ottoman conquest of Bosnia led to a large-scale conversion to Islam, not only on the part of the landowners, but also of much of the ordinary population.  This was not usual, though it also happened in much of Albania.  A much favoured explanation, that the Bogomil heresy was widespread in Bosnia, which helped conversion because the heretics had experienced much persecution, has been challenged of recent years, and an alternative explanation – that the Church in Bosnia had, through its remoteness, become separate in religious practices, particularly in those related to monastic customs – has gained ground.  Whatever the truth, whether the Bosnians were heretics, schismatics or eccentrics, the conversions added another complication to that broad region where the Slavonic dialects were sufficiently similar for them to be regarded as belonging

to one language, Serbo-Croat.  Across that language lay the deepest divide of Christendom – that between the Greek and the Latin, the Orthodox and the Catholic.  To that division was added one between Christianity and Islam.

In 1718 the northern strip of Bosnia, the land immediately south of the River Sava, became Austrian, but returned to the Ottoman Empire in 1739.   In 1789 Austrian forces advanced into Bosnia, but various international  and internal troubles led to Austria’s almost complete withdrawal in the settlement reached in 1791.   About 450 square miles of mountainous territory in the far northwest of Bosnia, lying between the River Sava and its tributary, the Una, were ceded by the Ottoman Empire.

In 1875 a revolt in Hercegovina led to the Eastern Crisis of 1875-8.   By the Treaty of Berlin, 1878, Austria-Hungary was made responsible for the administration of the Ottoman provinces of Bosna and Hersek.  It treated them as a whole so that the region henceforth is known as Bosnia-Hercegovina.

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