Meet Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosna i Hercegovina - Mostar

Bosnia and Herzegovina is a state of Southeast Europe, located in the western part of the Balkan Peninsula. The origin of the name Bosnia has not been fully enlightened despite the existence of several theories, but it is known that it was first documented in the 10th century in the work of the Byzantine Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus, entitled “De Administrando Imperio”. The name Herzegovina comes from the title of the medieval feudal lord Stjepan Vukčić Kosača – Duke of Saint Sava. Although different in age, historical hierarchy and size, Bosnia in the north and Herzegovina in the south today represent two equal regions in the name of the state. The territory of the State of Bosnia and Herzegovina is 51 129 km². It is surrounded by three neighboring countries – the Republic of Croatia in the north, west and south, the Republic of Serbia in the east and the Republic of Montenegro in the southeast. Its boundaries generally follow certain natural-geographical objects, and for the most part have an orographic and hydrographic character. Bosnia and Herzegovina also has one of the shortest coastlines in the world. Namely, in the Gulf of Neum and the Klek Peninsula in the Maloston Channel, it enters the Adriatic Sea, with a 24 km long coastal facade. The characteristic shape of the state territory on the geographical map is usually identified with a right triangle of equal catheters, whose hypotenuse is northwest-southeast. This motif was also transferred to the national flag.

The geological past of this area is extremely complex, which reflected its geological, geotectonic and geomorphological heterogeneity. The oldest rocks in Bosnia and Herzegovina date from the Paleozoic era, and are grouped into three larger zones: the Middle Bosnian (Vranica with the surrounding mountains), the Drina and the Sana. The Paleozoic formations are represented by all three types of rocks (magmatic, sedimentary, and metamorphic), with metamorphic rocks - shales, being especially characteristic of the mid-Bosnian zone, so its mountains are often called shale mountains. Most of the relief of Bosnia and Herzegovina is built of Mesozoic rocks, which are predominantly of sedimentary carbonate type - limestones and dolomites. They were formed by sedimentation in the Tethys Ocean geosyncline and later elevated by alpine orogenesis into the Dinaric mountain range. Unlike the Triassic limestones, which are older and somewhat more compact, Jurassic and Cretaceous limestones have predetermined the formation of a specific type of relief, known as the Holocarst, which is widespread in the outer Dinarides. Cenozoic sediments are mainly found in the peripanone part of the country, in basins of larger rivers, as well as in the synclines of the outer Dinarides.

With an average altitude of 625 meters, Bosnia and Herzegovina is one of the highest hypsometrically higher countries in Europe. Its relief is predominantly mountainous, but at the same time it is very divided by valleys. The entire morphostructural composition of this area belongs to the Dinaric mountain system, which extends northwest-southeast in several other countries. Dinarides are, in a broader context, part of the Mediterranean zone of the Alpine Belt, which is still tectonically active, including seismically. The mountain peaks of the Dinaric system are the highest in its southeastern sector. At the border with Montenegro is the highest mountain of Bosnia and Herzegovina - Maglic (2386 meters). In this part of the country there are several more mountains that are more than 2000 meters long: Volujak, Zelengora, Lelija, Treskavica, Bjelasnica, Vranica, Prenj and Čvrsnica. To the northwest, the Dinarides become slightly lower and pass into the mountain ranges of western Bosnia (Cincar, Dinara, Tent, Grmeč, etc.), between which there are fields in the karst: Livno, Duvanj, Kupreška, Glamočko, etc. This type of field is a Dinaric specification. To the south of the highest part of the Dinaric Mountains are the mountains of Rudina, and further south to the low Humina. To the north, the highly fragmented mountain-basin relief gradually decreases to the Pannonian Plain, where along the Sava River there are the most extensive Bosnian plains: Semberija, Posavina and Lijevče polje.

The latitude (42 ° to 46 ° S) positioned Bosnia and Herzegovina between the northern subtropical and northern temperate climates, with approximately one third belonging to the former and two thirds to the other two. Relief is the most important modifier of climate conditions, which, by its hypsometry, direction of mountains, distribution and exposure, contributes most to the diversification of the climate in this area. Thus, as the altitude increases, as a rule, the annual rainfall increases, while at the same time the average air temperatures decrease. The coastal areas and low Herzegovina represent the hottest regions in the country, and in contrast, the highest mountain peaks are also the lowest temperature sites. Most precipitation occurs in the Herzegovina mountains (Orjen, Čvrsnica, Prenj, etc.), and the least in Posavina and Semberija in the northeast. Considering these climatic factors and elements, three basic climatic types can be distinguished in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The most widespread is the moderately warm and humid climate (Cf), which covers the northern part of the country, penetrating the river valleys deeper into the interior. In this area, the climate is often referred to as temperate continental. The low part of Herzegovina is dominated by the Mediterranean climate (Cs), which is characterized by dry summers and rainy and mild winters. Higher altitudes (approx. Above 900 meters) are dominated by the boreal or mountain type climate (Df), characterized by very cold winters and most often fresh summers.

Water can be considered as the largest natural resource of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The river network of this country is very dense, which is especially true of the Black Sea basin, which covers most of the territory. All the waters of this basin also belong to the Danube and Sava river basins. The Sava River flows along the northern border of the state and receives the waters of the Una, Vrbas, Bosnia, Drina and other shorter rivers flowing in this area towards the north. The Drina River, with its middle and lower reaches, also forms the state border, and with a length of 346 kilometers it is the longest river in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The river Bosna is of great importance for the entire country, since its valley is the origin and backbone of later social development of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The river with the largest decline is Vrbas, and Una is known for its relatively high level of ecological conservation. The southern part of the country (all of Herzegovina and the southwestern parts of Bosnia) belong to the basin of the Adriatic Sea. Although these areas receive higher rainfall, surface hydrographic network is much more modestly developed than in the Black Sea basin. This is a consequence of the karst geological structure, due to which the fractured systems have developed underground hydrography. In addition to the large number of sinkholes, the only river to reach the Adriatic Sea from the state territory is the Neretva. Its basin practically defines the coverage of Herzegovina as a region. A large number of natural and artificial lakes exist in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Quantitatively, the group of natural is dominated by mountain lakes, which are relatively small in surface area (eg Blidinje and Borac Lake). The artificial lakes are larger and most are made for electricity. The most significant are: Busko, Bilećko, Jablaničko, Ramsko, Modrac and others.

The geographical location and influence of temperate climates in this area have caused the dominance of brown forest soils in the pedological structure of Bosnia and Herzegovina. However, the diversity of the geological substrate, ie the parent substrate, has led to differentiation into several soil types. The most common of these are chalcocambisols and distric cambisols. The former occur on limestone-dolomite bases and the latter on acidic rocks. These two types together account for 60 to 70% of the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina, mostly mountainous areas. In addition to these, numerous other automorphic land types are represented in these areas, but their distribution is smaller. Such are: lithosols, regosols, reds, chalcolomellans, rendzines, luvisols, podzols, smonies, etc. In lowland areas where water is retained for longer, some hydromorphic types occur. Pseudogley is the most widespread but fluvisols, or alluvial soils, are of great agricultural importance. Of particular ecological importance are peat soils, which occur in the swamps of Hutovo Blato and Livno Fields.

All of the above geographical characteristics have influenced the formation of specific biogeographic characteristics of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which are reflected, among other things, in great biodiversity. Considering the floristic characteristics, it can be established that Bosnia and Herzegovina is a zone of contact and intermingling of the Euro-Siberian and Mediterranean floral areas. The floral elements of the Iran-Turan area are also less noticeable. A total of about 3700 species of flowering plants and several hundred other plants and fungi were recorded. Some of them are endemic, such as the famous Bosnian lily or Pancic fennel. Geographic factors most clearly affected the spread of vegetation. About half of the state territory is covered by forest. This fact places Bosnia and Herzegovina in the group of European countries with the largest forest wealth. Forest vegetation can be fairly clearly differentiated according to hypsometric zonation. In the lower areas, oak forests (alfalfa, sessile, honeybee, etc.) are most prevalent, but they are significantly thinned. In the zone above 600 meters there are much more preserved beech forests, above which are coniferous forests. In low Herzegovina, macchia is more prevalent. The identified high biodiversity also applies to wildlife.

Traces of human settlement in Bosnia and Herzegovina can be traced back to the Palaeolithic, with minor interruptions, and to the political-territorial organization since the Illyrian period. However, the first Bosnian state appeared in the Middle Ages, in an area where the influences of Byzantium, Hungary and other neighboring countries were changing and confronting. Medieval Bosnia originated in the upper river basin (present-day Sarajevo-Zenica Basin), and gradually expanded over the following centuries, conquering regions such as Usora and Soli, the Lower Krai, Podrinje, Završje, Hum, and in one period even the largest part of the Dalmatian Primorje. The weakening of that state in the 15th century led to its fall under Ottoman rule, under which it would remain until 1878. Although the political-territorial order of the Ottoman Empire changed several times, Bosnia continued to maintain its name and approximate territorial scope. Today’s state borders almost coincide with those determined by the Congress of Berlin (with the exception of later minor corrections) when Austro-Hungary occupied the area, which has since been renamed Bosnia and Herzegovina. The turbulent events of the 20th century determined the contemporary political and geographical development of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It went from a special status within the Austro-Hungarian Empire, through the site of the escalation of World War I, the breaking of its territorial integrity in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, the restoration of its statehood by the decisions of ZAVNOBiH and AVNOJ during the Second World War, on the basis of which it became one of the six republics of the SFR Yugoslavia, until independence in 1992 and the signing of the Dayton myth agreement in 1995.

The Dayton Peace Agreement ended the years-long war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It gave her a new Constitution and political-territorial order, which can be considered extremely complex. This complexity is based on interethnic tensions and the existence of very different political interests, as well as the results of the war. The highest level of territorial organization is represented by the entities – the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska. The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina roughly covers the central, southern and western parts of the country, and the Republika Srpska north and east. The inter-entity line was not formed according to geographical principles of functionality, so that many municipalities and settlements remained divided by the same. Subsequently, the entity structure was separated from the Brcko District, as a strategically very important area in the northeast of the country. The territorial organization of the state can also be said to be asymmetrical, since the Federation of BiH is divided into cantons, which is not the case in the Republika Srpska. There are ten such cantons, which vary considerably in area and population. These are: Una-Sana, Posavina, Tuzla, Zenica-Doboj, Bosnia-Podrinje, Central Bosnia, Herzegovina-Neretva, West Herzegovina, Sarajevo Canton and Canton 10. Political-territorial structure at the local level is reflected in the existence of 143 municipalities, of which some gained city status.

Based on the official results of the 2013 census, it can be said that about 3.5 million people live in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is evident that the war has left catastrophic consequences for the demographic picture of this country, as it has a shortfall of almost one million people compared to 1991. Although Bosnia and Herzegovina has traditionally been considered an emigration area throughout history, it has experienced very intense population growth during the 20th century, reaching a record 4.4 million inhabitants in 1991. The impact of the demographic transition was also visible, as the said growth slowed. The last phase of the demographic transition has occurred along with the war, and in recent years there has been a negative natural increase, with an aging population. In this respect, the situation in the Federation of BiH is somewhat more favorable than in the Republika Srpska. The average population density is less than 69 inhabitants / km², on the basis of which Bosnia and Herzegovina can be considered a medium populated country. However, there are significant spatial variations. The lowlands in the north are densely populated, as are the larger river basins (especially Sarajevo-Zenica), while the areas of upper and middle Podrinje, eastern Herzegovina and western Bosnia are opposite examples. When it comes to population structures, for political reasons, most attention is paid to ethnic composition, dominated by three constituent peoples: Bosniaks (50.1%), Serbs (30.8%) and Croats (15.4%).

The settlement structure of Bosnia and Herzegovina consists of approximately 6000 settlements, of which 105 are classified as urban (urban). This practically applies to all municipal headquarters that existed in 1991. The remainder are mainly rural settlements, some of which have become transitional or mixed-type settlements by their population growth, spatial expansion, construction of infrastructure or the acquisition of new functions (eg, the seats of new municipalities). Most of the cities in Bosnia and Herzegovina are characterized by a unique urban structure and architecture, which has emerged as a combination of several styles, the most prominent of which are Oriental, Central European, Socialist and Modern. With a population of about 350,000, Sarajevo is the largest and capital of the country. Despite the significantly changed population structure in recent decades and the general population decline, it has remained a symbol of multiculturalism in this part of Europe. Banja Luka (150,000 inhabitants) is the second largest city in the country, and the main administrative, economic, educational and cultural center of Republika Srpska. Other major cities are Tuzla and Zenica as significant industrial centers, and Mostar as the main urban center of Herzegovina. According to the proportion of rural population, which is 58%, Bosnia and Herzegovina is at the top of the list of the most rural European countries. However, most villages are affected by intensive depopulation and many are completely abandoned.

Based on almost all relevant indicators, Bosnia and Herzegovina is one of the economically least developed countries in Europe. The causes of such a situation should be sought in devastating war events and also in the transition processes that this country goes through with other countries of the former socialist bloc. Its economic development during the socialist period was based on industry and mining, and the privatization and establishment of a market economy led to mass deindustrialization. As a consequence, enormous unemployment has emerged, with official rates among the highest in the world. Although significantly reduced in capacity, the industry is still a very important segment of the domestic economy. This is especially true for metallurgy, which is based on the exploitation of ores, the most important of which are coal, iron and bauxite. The great potentials of the domestic economy lie in the energy sector. Several thermal power plants and a large number of hydropower plants produce electricity, a significant portion of which is exported. Agricultural potential is largely untapped. The plains in the north are especially suitable for field farming, hilly for fruit growing and livestock breeding, and Herzegovina for growing fruit, tobacco and vines. The tertiary sector of the industry is today dominant in the realization of GDP and in the share of the labor force, and tendencies indicate its further growth at the expense of manufacturing activities. Although this trend is characteristic of almost all countries of the developed world, one of its negative consequences in Bosnia and Herzegovina is several times higher value of imports, compared to exports. The main infrastructure project in the country stands out for the construction of the road corridor Vc in the valleys of Bosnia and Neretva, which seeks to reduce the degree of its traffic isolation from major road communications in Europe.

Tourism, as an increasingly important branch of the tertiary sector of the economy, has great development potentials in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which are based on a large number of unique destinations, both in the sphere of natural as well as cultural and historical heritage. Among the urban centers characterized by specific historical development visible through their architecture and other tourist facilities, the most prominent are Sarajevo and Mostar, followed by Banja Luka, Bihac, Jajce, Travnik, Višegrad, etc. According to the number of foreign visitors at the top of the tourist offers is religious tourism. It is based on a large number of sacral objects (mosques, churches, monasteries, synagogues), which have great cultural and historical value. Medjugorje is by far the most visited destination of this type, as it is one of the most famous Marian shrines in the world. Sarajevo Film Festival stands out as the most famous example of event tourism in the country. Bathing tourism is developing in Neum (the only access to the sea), and in numerous lakes and rivers inland. The large number of spas indicates the great potentials of this type of tourism as well, so far the best evaluated spas are Reumal in Fojnica and Vrućica near Teslić. Several types of tourism can be associated with mountain landscapes, with the most popular destinations being Jahorina, Bjelasnica, Vlasic and Kupres. When evaluating the natural environment for tourism purposes, care must be taken to preserve it, since it is the largest resource available to this country. There are a large number of protected areas in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but only three have the status of a national park – Sutjeska, Kozara and Una.