What is the difference between Bosniak and Bosnian

Bosnjak, Serb, Croat or even Bosnian

In January 2014, the results of the Bosnian census will be published, which is currently being completed. She helps the state plan. In the multiethnic country, however, it also has great power-political and symbolic significance.

Despite calls for boycotts and a few irregularities, the Statistical Office in Sarajevo is confident that the census in Bosnia-Herzegovina can be successfully concluded these days. Preliminary results are to be published in January. In some places, including Srebrenica, recounts had to be organized because the censuses improperly handled their documents or - as in Sarajevo - held the questioning in taverns. The census is carried out in close cooperation with the European statistical authority Eurostat. The costs amount to 23.5 million euros, of which the European Union will assume a third.

Quota system

The census is the first since the end of the war (1992–1995) and only came about after years of discussion and under considerable pressure from the EU. At the last census in 1991, the country had 4.4 million inhabitants, of whom 43.7 percent identified themselves as Bosnian (Muslims), 31.2 percent as Serbs and 17.4 percent as Croatians. The war, which hit the country shortly afterwards, plowed up the demographic landscape: 100,000 people were killed, 2.2 million had to leave their place of residence, and a large number fled abroad. Today the country's population is estimated at a maximum of 3.8 million. The census will also provide information on the success of international efforts to enable the displaced to return home. Sobering figures are also expected here. The homogeneity of the settlement areas has increased significantly as a result of the war.

In the Bosnian ethnic group in particular, which had suffered the most in the war, resistance to the census was initially very high. This, it was said, would recognize and legitimize the results of violence and displacement. Behind the seemingly absurd argument - why should knowledge of the demographic consequences of a war justify it? - there is a solid reason why many in Bosnia are waiting with suspense and suspicion for the results of the census. The political system is characterized by ethnic quotas through and through. The occupation of offices and the right to benefices are directly dependent on the strength of the ethnic groups.

Above all, the smallest ethnic group, the Croats, many of whom have emigrated to Croatia, fear a loss of their political weight. The fact that censuses are also bureaucratic instruments that enable efficient government action is completely forgotten in the Bosnian context - but not the fact that demographic data also justify claims to EU funding.

The most controversial questions of the census concern ethnic and religious affiliation and language. The terms “Bosnjak”, “Serbian” or “Croatian” can be ticked on the questionnaire. Anyone who does not feel represented by this can choose any affiliation. According to media reports, up to a third used this option in trial surveys and indicated their nationality, ie «Bosnian». This civic, rather than ethnic, identification is unlikely to be as popular as the reports suggest.

Mostly mono-ethnic

The multi-ethnic Bosnia of yore no longer exists, and a city like Sarajevo, where the minaret, church tower and synagogue are in close proximity, is now mostly mono-ethnic. Even the story, which is often told by nostalgics, that before the war one often didn't know or wanted to know who was what, whether Serb, Bosnjak or Croat, should be treated with caution. Often the name already refers to the denomination of its wearer.

In the prewar census of 1991, only 5 percent identified themselves as “Yugoslavs” and therefore did not give any ethnic identity. Although there is little chance that a significant proportion of the respondents will describe themselves as “Bosnians”, there is great concern in nationalist circles.