Travel report to Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
I was a keynote speaker at an International Academic Convention at the School of Economics and Business, University of Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina where I received my fifteenth Honorary Doctorate. Prior recipients include the Prime Ministers of Turkey and Malaysia, as well as Nobel Laureates. I was in good company.
The university has 40,000 students and all faculties you can imagine, from art to veterinary sciences.
Here are my impressions and the lessons I have learned, information that not everyone necessarily knows:
Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) is divided into two entities with separate Prime Ministers and Parliaments but not separate armies and no separate Ministry of Foreign Affairs: the Federation and the Republika Srpska.
The Federation is divided into ten cantons and one independent district.
Each canton and entity has its own administration, like a Ministry of Education, for example.
There is not one sole president of the country; there is an Office of the Presidency with three people in it. One is a Serb from Republica Srpska, and two are from the federation: one is a Moslem and the other is a Croat. They rotate who acts as president every few months.
Bottom line: tremendous bureaucracy and no central power. The representative to the European Union can dismiss a president or appoint top administrators.
What is going on and why?
To unravel a very confusing situation one has to start with history.
In the seventh century, several Slavic tribes descended from the Carpathian Mountains and settled in what is today the Balkan. The Serb tribe settled in what is modern Serbia, the Croats in Croatia and the Slovenes in Slovenia.
The Serbs expanded into what is today Bosnia and into Montenegro. The Croats settled into modern Herzegovina.
The Serbs are Christian Orthodox. The Orthodox Church is divided by nationality (there is the Greek Orthodox Church, Russian Orthodox Church, Rumanian Orthodox Church, Serbian Orthodox Church, etc.). When Montenegro and Macedonia were created as separate countries, they wanted to keep their churches separate. The Serb Orthodox Church is fighting that because both Montenegro and Macedonia were part of Serbia.
Bosnia was ruled by the Ottoman Empire for five hundred years. Some Serbs converted to Islam. They are called Boshniaks.
Croatia was under Austro-Hungarian Empire for several hundreds of years, and the Croats are Catholics. Some Croats in Bosnia, who are Catholics, are called Hertzegovac.
Those who remained Orthodox Serbs in Bosnia are called Serbians.
All are identified by these names even if they are atheist. All together they are called Bosnians (I do not know if people from Republica Srpska or the Catholics of Herzegovina will call themselves Bosnians). Quite confusing.
This is not just name-calling. They have a deep-seeded nationalistic identity and they resent each other deeply. Nationalistic Serbs, still today, resent members of their ” tribe” who converted to Islam over five hundred years ago, calling them Podturicas.
A soccer game can become violent as the spectators fight along these nationalistic religious divisions. Last year, one spectator was murdered. This deep-seeded resentment of religious ethnic differences was one of the reasons for the atrocious war of 1991. As you walk through downtown Sarajevo, you can still see bullet holes in the walls of buildings.
Republica Srpska, where the Bosnian Serbs live, wants to secede. They do not identify themselves with the Boshniaks.
At the University, the convention was attended mostly by academics from the states that were part of former Yugoslavia. They all speak the language formerly referred to as Serbo-Croatian. Still, the convention was in English because the Montenegrins claim they now speak Montenegrins, the Croats Croatian and the Serbs Serbian, although it is the same language with different regional accents.
The Macedonians do not sing Greek songs; the Croats will not be caught singing Serb songs, and the Bosnians it seems as if they stopped singing altogether. And we are in the twenty-first century.
The solution to this explosive balkanization appears to be that they all join the European Union and are together under one canopy. It will stop national identities with distinct political borders.
Granted it will add another layer of bureaucracy, which is heavy, but the way the country is divided now, with no central power and enormous bureaucracy is not sustainable.
Unemployment is 20 percent. One can feel the recession. Restaurants are empty. I cannot find a restaurant with local national music. All piped American music.
You can see on the street lots of even young girls with covered hair.
Man with long beards and distinct pants are noticeable too. People have distinct Arabic names like Faruk, Mohamed, etc as a first name and the last name ending with a “ch,” which identifies them as having Serb roots. Or the first name is a Serb one like Ratko and the last name is Arabic sounding.
Minarets are everywhere.
Bosnia is a distinctly Muslim country in the heart of Europe. I have not noticed or heard about any radicalism.
The University of Sarajevo School of Economics and Business is starting a joint Master’s program with the Adizes Institute in which three courses will be dedicated to Adizes theory and the reminder of the courses are of other university studies. Graduates will get a Master’s degree and a Certificate of Completion from the Adizes Academy of Management.
My next trip is to lecture in Irkutsk, Siberia. I will report anything noteworthy. I am looking forward to seeing Siberia. The word “Siberia” has such an emotional baggage.
I will see.
Dr. Ichak Kalderon Adizes