The Story of Croatian Bosnia: Mythos, Empire-Building Aspirations, or a Failed Attempt at National Integration?
Research Centre for the Humanities
The nineteenth-century processes of “nation-building” and national integration took place in the western regions of southeastern Europe against a distinctive backdrop. The formation of national self-images, the creation of a national self-definition, and indeed the emergence of any clear consensus on who constituted or should constitute a given national community proved daunting tasks for the multi-ethnic and multi-religious populations of southeastern Europe in the provinces of the Habsburg Monarchy and the Ottoman Empire.
The essential contention of this inquiry is that religious and national identities are not clearly interrelated in southeastern Europe (much, indeed, as they are not clearly interrelated elsewhere). I offer, as a clear illustration of the untenability of religious identity as an adequate foundation for nation building, an examination of the case of Bosnia and the development of a sense of identity and national belonging among Bosnian Croats and Muslims. Even the case of the emergence of the modern Serbian and Croatian nations, often cited as archetypes of national identities which developed along religious fault lines, is not as clear as it often seems to be in the public mind. It was not the only possibility, but rather was merely one alternative, an alternative that was shaped as much by internal circumstances as by the prevailing foreign political situation: the emergence, meaning, and “content” of the nation can be interpreted as a response to these factors.
Keywords: Bosnia, Croatia, nationalism, Muslims, Catholics, Ortodox, empire building