Sarajevo – Traveling to the Balkan Peninsula offers a distinct cultural and historical experience intensified by direct interaction with the locals. Numerous wonders await international travelers as well as researchers seeking colorful cultural experiences. For instance, in the Southern part of Europe lies one community that comprises half of the nation’s entire population. This is the Bosniak ethnic group who lives together with Serbs and Croats mainly in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Where are they now?
Bosnia and Herzegovina is linked to the Neolithic age with the settlements of Celtics and Illyrians. With this kind of history, the country offers a rich cultural, political, and social background anchored to the influences of the Slavic people still living within their lands. Today, around two million Bosniak people are living in the Balkans. In addition, the Bosniak have the largest number of people outside of Bosnia and Herzegovina living now in the Sandzak region of Montenegro and Serbia.
Many of the Bosniaks are Muslims and are thus commonly referred to as Bosnian Muslims. This particular name is known to have originated from the Ottoman period, but throughout the decades, the people have grown in number and lived in other communities, which later divided their ethnic group. Even though there have been some concerns in the distribution of the Bosniaks among various places, a remarkable diaspora has been happening as well in a certain number of countries, including Australia, Austria, Germany, Sweden, Turkey, and the United States. Nevertheless, it is evident that the Bosniaks have a distinct type of culture within their own region and those where they migrated to, which is influenced by the combination of eastern and western civilizations.
Culture and Practices
Bosniak culture has developed in numerous aspects but has stood the test of time when it comes to their distinct identity. For instance, most of Bosniak folklore are derived from the early European, Ottoman, and Slavic influences. Even so, the details still vary depending on the particular region or city.
Their national music genre of Ilahije and Sevdalinka show the folk soul of the Bosnian people. Bosniaks take pride in the Sevdalinka, as this melancholic folk song is a way of their people to pass on values, practices, beliefs, and traditions to the younger generations. Moreover, they continue these practices to offer a wide range of traditional wisdom, which the younger members of their communities can appreciate and use as a guide in keeping the ethnic people’s heritage alive alongside modern-day practices.
In addition to these, Bosniak culture has also been shaped by religion, which played a great role in the formation of states in the region after the Ottoman retreat. In recent times, the influence of religion on the lives of the different ethnic groups in Bosnia and Herzegovina is steadily declining. However, this still leads to a number of stereotypes: Bosniaks are assumed to be Muslim, Croats are assumed to be Catholic, and Serbs are assumed to be Orthodox. These stereotypes may not completely affect the lives of the people, but it can lead to a better understanding of the lives of the people around the Balkans. Still, in the present day, intermarriages are becoming common and help in eliminating these stereotypes.
Image from Adeline Khoo, https://www.instagram.com/adelineksc/
*This article was originally published on February 11, 2019 under the title The Group that Fills Half a Nation: The Bosniak