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January 6, 2010
Ethnicity still divides Bosnia, threatening its fragile peace

A fragile peace still hangs over Bosnia and Herzegovina where an estimated 100,000 people were killed and another 2 million displaced during the ethnic fighting 14 years ago.

Special correspondent Kira Kay and producer Jason Maloney of the Bureau for International Reporting recently traveled to central Bosnia to report on how one ethnically-partitioned school mirrors the country’s struggles with ethnic identity today. The history and geography books have yet to teach students about the last 20 years of their country’s history. Both local and foreign analysts have expressed fear of future conflict.

This video was produced in partnership with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

Listen to Martin Savidge host Worldfocus Radio on Bosnia’s Delicate Balance. He speaks with Nenad Pejic, Sarah Meharg and Srecko Latal about the roots of the conflict and whether or not the peace deal is on the brink of collapse.

Visit the Pulitzer Center’s site on Fragile States to explore how countries with weak infrastructures, internal conflicts and lack of economic development are vulnerable to insecurity and violence.

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To Al:
It is very sad that you are “advocating” looking towards the peace, yet in the end you say:”never forget”???
And, i do not think it’s laziness. In my opinion it’s time to put that Country in the middle of Europe back into the 21st century and civilization.Enough with all that hate, it’s a very much useless emotion.


There cannot be peace until all war-criminals are apprehended. There cannot be peace until Serbs realize, both mentally and physically (in school history books), that they were the perpetrators of the Europe’s newest genocide. There cannot be peace until the Serbs realize that they were brainwashed by ultra-nationalist thuggery and propaganda of a super-whack political force, orchestrated by Slobodan Milosevic and his cronies. These thugs, whipped up such an intense emotional firestorm, that turned neighbors against neighbors, who had been living together for centuries. The countless murders, and rapes, were an “attempted vindication” of the Serbs defeat on the battlefield by the Ottoman Turks, a blow to their egos that they have never forgotten. The Muslim Bosniaks, ethnic Slavs, were often called “Turks” as they were be hunted, tortured, raped, and killed. The Serbs did the same, to a slightly lessor extent, to Croatians for their perceived cooperation with Nazi German forces during WWII. Terrible grudges held that, with a little spark and oxygen, boiled over into the world’s newest genocide, not seen since WWII, until Rwanda.

It is terribly regrettable to hear some people take the easy (excuse) way out and bemoan how “there cannot be peace by forcing people to live together that hate each other for 1000s and 1000s of years” (examples: Arabs/Jews, former Yugoslavia, etc.). These thoughtless innuendos never both to examine anything beyond the superficial. Why? It is because these type of people are lazy with their historical research, and because it is convenient reasoning to something they don’t want to bother to understand. History is history, and meant to be objective, not to be owned by any particular group of people. NEVER FORGET!!!


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When those countries were all apart of what use to be the former Yugoslavia – they did not have any problems or at least the mess that ensued after the break up. The US, EU and Russia stuck their noses into that thorny issue and now look at what is happening. In the US we have the largest Bosnia community living in St Louis Mo of all in the US and there are a few Serbs and I have seen them (Serbs and Bosnia’s) in one local K-Mart store getting into near fist fights – so I am convinced that they – like Israel and Arabs will always have a problem with each other. Jim @ USA


I would like to agree with Slobodan,since there is nothing in his comment that does not speak the truth in the life of Bosnian people today. My comment is this…why are we forcing people to live together if that is not possible. I do not beleive that Jews and Palestinians can ever live in peace in one country( same goes for Bosnians, Croats and Serbs)
There is just way too much bad and ugly in history to be forgotten. It is very sad to say that, knowing that these people were all brothers less than 600 years ego.If we want to build lasting peace my sincere opinion is to separate these 3 nationality groups (Serbs,Muslims and Croats).Maybe they will learn to respect each other more once there is no need to pretend that there is something there to keep them together.


You have 3 religions in that country. It all depends on who is writeing history. Its history goes back generations. Remember who sided with the NAZI and which religious group was attack by the other two in WWII. Just looked at where the ethic cleaning started with the blessing of John Paul II. Which of these ethic groups had the highest percentage of crimmials in it. All you have to looked back at WWII where it was an honor to have the heads of Serb childern hanging from your front gate post. Where whole Serb villeges were butcher by Muslims. It got so bad that the German high commond put a stopped to it. The history of this country is not going to be decided by other nations or their armies. While the Serbs and Croates want to live in peace the Muslims do not.
You might want to look up a DVD about this conflict and why peace will never become a reality. It is called, “The Brooklin Connection”.


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Bosnia and Kosovo are positive examples of NATO nations stepping in to stop atrocity, then handing off to U.N. peacekeeping. The ethnic tensions will go on for decades but fade with each — saw a cool site; Balkingpoints ; incredible satellite view of earth


@junius: I am a US citizen, and a Serbian National (from Serbia proper), so your reply appears misguided…
Let me elaborate my point further- Serbians in Bosnia had referendums before, since 1991,which clearly revealed that they did want to secede from the start (but were not allowed and still are not, by EU/USA, etc.); which was one of the initial causes of the war to begin with.
People in Bosnia were radicalized for a long time,with significant resources spent from Otoman empire-to protect the outpost of its empire, Austria-to develop its colony, Serbia and Croatia had territorial appetites for almost a century now. (the best book on the subject is “The Balkans” by Misha Glenny-fascinating read); failure of International Community to solve Bosnias problem, further entrenches radicals from all sides and now, before and after the latest war, and after 10+ years of conflict and sensless killings the situation remains the same.
Lets, face it-none of the small nations there are a real threat to anyone, except to each other. They are fighting amonst each other for a relatively small, and under-developed territory. What has also become painfully obvious, is that “The International Community” has too many problems on its own, and either not enough will, resources, or both, to solve “The Bosnian Question”.
Bosnia is only the latest experiment in world-power struggle (Macedonia will be next).Perhaps the simplest solution to entire Balkan question is for all to enter EU, and to open all borders and trade,but this is obvioulsy not in “someone’s” best interest.
On a personal note, I am not oposed to secession, if it leads to less terror-I was not oposed to separation of Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, Macedonia, or even Kosovo (sadly, Serbia let a failed politics there since second world war and it is now left to Albanians to govern it).
There are nations- Ireland and Northern Ireland,Albania and Kosovo, that are living in different countries. If EU is not prepared to prevent endless conflict in Bosnia, and all sides remain as radical as they are today, then whoever wishes to secede-should.
Thank you and have a Merry Christmas


Hi Joe,

Ivana works for the National Endowment for Democracy, and the producers of the Bosnia story can be reached via their website

Thanks for watching.



@slobodan: if you do not consider Bosnia your homeland, what is holding you back to move to Serbia? You could try it out for a year or so. I bet you’d be back to Bosnia very soon.


@Joe Cox: One thing you could do is to contact your state representatives and urge them to bring Bosnia to the forefront of the US foreign policy.


Bosnia will move forward, one way or another. As for the ongoing talk of secession in RS, don’t hold your breath. Secession, after genocide, is not an option. Bosnia belongs to the Bosnians and whoever does not recognize Bosnia as its homeland, it is free to go. The sooner you go, the better off you will be personally.

Dayton agreement requires both entities to cooperate. If they do not cooperate, EU will govern Bosnia. Remember, OHR has the power to *dismiss* local officials who do not cooperate. After 15 years, patience (and time) is running out in the ranks of those who are paying for reconstruction (EU and USA).


It is important to realize that the key to all Balkan stability is the situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina. If Bosnia-Herzegovina becomes a failed state in the heart of Europe we will see an increase in criminality and violence not only in Bosnia but also in all the countries in the region. Do we really want a failed state in the heart of Europe? Does Europe need a ground on which criminals and other dangerous individuals can congregate? Can Europe allow itself to reward a proven genocide against a helpless civilian population? After billions of dollars that were invested and a very substantial involvement that has brought about a very dramatic improvement in the country’s stability and post-war recovery can the international community not now simply invest a little bit more time and effort to produce long-term stability in the country? A new democratic constitution that protects the rights of all Bosnian citizens on the country’s entire territory would allow the country to be be stable and to move quickly towards joining NATO and the EU. The Bosnian people want the country to move forward and they are tired of never-ending hateful rhetoric which has brought nothing but death, destruction, and isolation to the country. The only way in which the Bosnian people could themselves ensure a better future is if the international community got strongly involved in the country and provided a framework for a democratic and functional constitution. The US intervention in Bosnia-Herzegovina was a substantial foreign-policy success but its subsequent lack of involvement in the country has allowed the situation to substantially deteriorate. The desire to make a lasting peace, to form a truly functional country, and to move the country forward towards NATO and EU membership are all there but those voices are being drowned out by those of hateful and selfish politicians and their cronies who are only interested in maintaining their own power through the abuse of the Dayton Peace Accords. Short of a violent revolution the Bosnian people can not fix their country since the Dayton Accords have imposed a dysfunctional government on the country. People are tired of violence and there is little appetite for a new war but this state of perpetual dysfunction is pulling the country down towards another conflict unless the international community intervenes and proves a framework for a peaceful solution that will benefit all Bosnian citizens. Let us continue the success that we have experienced in Bosnia and let us finish the job that we have started there. Bosnia-Herzegovina has been a multi-religious and multi-ethnic country for over a thousand years and that’s what’s in the country’s DNA, but the current situation is simply unsustainable and unless the international community gets involved in a serious way a return to violence and a sharp increase in criminality is simply inevitable.


The international community has to get actively involved in getting the local leaders to agree to a new constitution for the country. The Dayton Peace Accords were forced onto the country to end the genocide that the Bosnian Serbs were committing. They are fundamentally flawed in that they gave the Bosnian Serbs exactly what they wanted and committed the genocide to begin with, an autonomous province that was ethnically cleansed of all non-Serbs. Since then the Bosnian Serb leadership has abused the many inherent weaknesses of the Dayton Accords to make the state non-functional and to prevent it from making any movement forward. The country has become increasingly segregated at all levels and a sense of mistrust is increasing. The Bosnian Serb leadership is denying the proven crimes that were committed and their leaders are openly embracing convicted war criminals. The international community has abandoned Bosnia and has appeased radical Bosnian Serb leaders which are doing everything in their power to destabilize and weaken the state. If this abandonment and appeasement of radicals continues then a return to violence will become inevitable. Now is the time for the international community to get involved and to help the country reform its constitution in a fundamental way. The Bosnian people want to live in peace and to improve the quality of their lives but the politicians are continually abusing the flawed Dayton Accords to stay in power and to destabilize the country. As long as Dayton is maintained the country will remain unstable and a return to violence evermore likely. A new democratic constitution needs to be implemented in order for peace and stability to be permanently preserved. The International Community has invested billions of dollars and 15 years in helping Bosnia-Herzegovina recover from the war, now is not the time to let all that hard work go to waist and the entire region be sucked into a new conflict simply because the leaders in the US and EU are too lazy and disinterested to get seriously involved in the country and to help it build a solid foundation for future peace i.e. a new democratic and above all functional constitution that will allow the country to stand on its own feet and to join NATO and the EU.


I am death camp survivor (keraterm and omarska).After Serbian fascist kill their Bosnian and Croatian neighbors and put them in death camps now they want to tell the world how they have ethnically clean serb republic they want independence.This is Serbian whey building state kill,rape,ethnically clean and claim this is Serbian.As death camp survivors we will forgive but we will newer forget.The graveyard on the video are my friends from Kozarac witch my Serbian neighbors kill for their future state and now they claim Serbians are majority(more info visit Bosnian genocide)


1.5 milion Serbs reain in Republika Srrpska. Should they not have a right to secede?Should they be forced to live in present state of Bosnia?”Equality and sovereignity for all, as long as they are not Serbian” type of politics will hardly solve this difficult issue…


I sadly got a lot of info out of your story on Bosnia today. Ivanas’s interview was excellent (could I have her organization’s name and reference again).

I thought the Dayton Peace accords plus NATO and EU troops for a decade or more would make things right. But obviously this is not the case (although I do believe these costly actions have helped).

The stories of education conducted in dual modes and little info re the past decades’ history was interesting and dismaying.

I would like to learn how I, one individual American, could/can help this sorry situation.


Joe Cox

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