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Explaining the complexity of Republika Srpska and the Bosnian War

Republika Srpska, in blue
For those of you who don't know, the 90s has seen the dissolution of Yugoslavia into several successor states, one of which was the Republic of Bosnia & Herzegovina, as well as Serbia.

Bosnia comprised of 43% Muslims (calling themselves Bosniaks), 31% Bosnian Serbs and 17% Croats, in the 1991 census.

A referendum for independence was boycotted by the Bosnian Serbs (who were against secession from Serbia, then-considered the main successor of Yugoslavia).

Violence ensued.

Following the declaration of independence, Bosnian Serb forces, supported by the Serbian government of Slobodan Milošević and the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) attacked the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina in order to secure Serbian territory and war soon broke out across Bosnia, accompanied by the ethnic cleansing of the Bosniak population, especially in Eastern Bosnia.

It was principally a territorial conflict, initially between the Serb forces mostly organized in the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS) on the one side, and the multiethnic Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (ARBiH) which was largely though not exclusively composed of Bosniaks, and the Croat forces in the Croatian Defence Council (HVO) on the other side

. The Croats also aimed at securing parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina as Croatian. The Serb and Croat political leadership agreed on a partition of Bosnia with the Karađorđevo and Graz agreements, resulting in the Croats forces turning on the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Croat-Bosniak war.The war was characterized by bitter fighting, indiscriminate shelling of cities and towns, ethnic cleansing, systematic mass rape and genocide mostly led by the Serb forces. Events such as the Siege of Sarajevo and the Srebrenica massacre would become iconic of the conflict.

The Serbs, although initially superior due to the vast amount of weapons and resources provided by the JNA eventually lost momentum as Bosniaks and Croats allied themselves against Republika Srpska in 1994 with the creation of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina following the Washington agreement.

After the Srebrenica and Markale massacres, NATO intervened during the 1995 Operation Deliberate Force against the positions of the Army of Republika Srpska, which proved key in ending the war. The war was brought to an end after the signing of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina in Paris on 14 December 1995.

Peace negotiations were held in Dayton, Ohio, and were finalized on 21 December 1995. The accords are known as the Dayton Agreement. A 1995 report by the Central Intelligence Agency found Serbian forces responsible for 90 per cent of the war crimes committed during the conflict. 

As of early 2008 the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia had convicted 45 Serbs, 12 Croats and 4 Bosniaks of war crimes in connection with the war in Bosnia. The most recent research places the number of killed people at around 100,000–110,000 and the number displaced at over 2.2 million,making it the most devastating conflict in Europe since the end of World War II

The horrific aspect of the war was because of the intentional ethnic cleasnsing of the Bosniak ethnic group (usually Muslims).
A few months ago, I had the good fortune of meeting a man from the Balkans, a Bulgarian, who helped me understand just how complex and horrific the 90s has been for the Balkans.

Here is a transcript of his explanation to me:

Me: What is Republika Srpska ? Is it a country ?

Ans: No it is not a different country. It is a political entity, a seperate zone from the Bosnians. Bosnian Serbs live there with different parliment, with their own president and prime minister, seperated from the bosnians.
In the near past Bosnians and bosnian serbs had quite a "disagreement", such a great disagreement it was, that it costed the lives of many. As you might now also Bosnians are mainly Muslims, while bosnian serbs are orthodox christians.

The future of Srpska ? It hang in Bosnia only under threat of foreign force. Bosnia Herzegovina is basically an EU protectorate with an EU governor appointed to watch over it with right to disband Bosnian institutions and veto any national legislation.

Serbs in Republica Serpska probably wish to unite their country with Serbia.

Republica Serbska was created as a result of breakup of Yugoslavia and following civil war. On territory of Bosnia Hercegovina lot of Serbs was living. Up to 40% of its population probably. When Bosnia declared independence from Yugoslavia, these Serbs disagreed with it and wanted to stay in Yugoslavia. They therefore in turn declared their independence from Bosnia. War erupted. 

He explained how all the ethnic groups were divided and scattered around
 Me: So it is all a matter of maps ? Everyone is scattered around ?

Ans: Was. War changed that. People fled or were forced out of territories controlled by other people in to territories controlled by their own.

Me: What about the Croatians ? What part did they play ?

Ans:   At first Croats allied with Serbs against Bosnians, then Croats allied with Bosnians against Serbs. Temporary alliances were rampant at the time. It was practically everyone for himself

Me: So its just ethnicity and nationalism clashing together ?

Ans: To put it in a nut shell, yes. Nationalism is one of the arguments used by power to convince people and make them hate each other.It succeeds when education fails.


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