Bosnian Census Risks Deepening Ethnic Rifts – Analysis

Perry notes that a census in Bosnia is “all about the war and who moved where, it’s all about who is ‘in control’ of a certain territory, and who can confirm the impact of the ethnic cleansing and the demographic shifts that happened.”

When Mirjana Tesanovic, a 49-year-old lawyer from Banja Luka, was asked to select her “ethnic/national affiliation” during the first census held in Bosnia and Herzegovina in over 20 years, she did something extraordinary.

Instead of telling the census-taker to mark the box for “Serb” on the form, she decided to describe herself simply as “Bosnian”. This word denotes an affiliation to the state, not membership of one of the three main ethnicities – Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim), Serb and Croat.

Tesanovic says her choice was highly unusual, not only for the predominantly Serb city of Banja Luka, but for the whole of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). In a country where war in the early 1990s killed some 100,000 people and left more than a million displaced, the Bosniak-Serb-Croat dividing lines still run deep.

“Anyone who doesn’t belong to one of the three constituent peoples is either an ‘enemy’ or excluded, unwanted, and considered weird, to say the least,” Tesanovic said.

Explaining her decision, she said, “I was born in Yugoslavia, which does not exist any more, but as long as I lived in that country, I was a Yugoslav.

“Now I live in Bosnia and Herzegovina and I’m a citizen of that country. I chose ‘Bosnian’ in the census form because that’s how I feel.”


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