Muslim-Bosniaks did not secure the right of autochtony in Croatia

Vladimir Zerjavic, retiree of UN, Zagreb,
© April 16, 1998
in Croatian

In the recent years several articles appeared concerning national minorities in the Republic of Croatia, as well as the criteria which grant the minority status to an ethnic group.

Most of countries accept as the general criterion to recognize the status of national minority the fact that a relatively large number of its members reside continuously, say 50 or 100 years, or more. For example, this is the case with the Croatian minority in Hungary and Austria, or Hungarian and Austrian minority in the Republic of Croatia. Other criteria can be established on the reciprocity condition.

Now the question arises as to why the status of national minority has not been accorded to Slovenians and Muslim-Bosniaks in the constitution of the Republic of Croatia. Namely, taking into account the duration of residence, the Slovenians satisfy the condition to be a national minority in Croatia. But as the Republic of Slovenia does not recognize the status of minority to the Croats, though they deserve it by the duration of residence, then also the Republic of Croatia does not recognize this right to Slovenians.

As regards the status of Muslim-Bosniak minority, the situation is the following. On the territory of the present Republic of Croatia, Muslim believers are for the first time registered during 1931 census: 1,239 of them were in Zagreb, their overall number in Croatia being only about 4 thousand. The next censuses registered Muslim believers as follows:

  • 1,077 persons in 1948,
  • 16,185 persons in 1953,
  • only 3,113 persons in 1961.

After 1971, when SFRY (former Yugoslavia) recognized the Muslim nationality to Muslim believers, the census showed the following:

  • 18,487 persons in 1971,
  • 23,740 persons in 1981,
  • 43,486 persons in 1991.

On the bases of the censuses from 1931 to 1961 it is clear that a certain number of Muslim believers declared themselves as Croats or Yugoslavs. Their number augmented during immigration from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

From the censuses in Bosnia and Herzegovina held between 1961 and 1971 it can be shown that a considerable number of Croats, Serbs and Yugoslavs declared themselves as Muslim nationals, and the same was still happening in 1981 and in 1991. The number of BiH citizens ran as follows, in thousands:

  Nationality   1961   1971   1981   1991     growth 61/91
  Croats         752    772    758    752            0
  Serbs         1405   1393   1320   1364          -41
  Yugoslavs      276     43    326    240          -36
  Muslims        842   1482   1630   1905        +1063
  Undecided       43     66     91     94          +51

It should be emphasized that between 1961 and 1991 about 220,000 Croats moved from BiH to Croatia, and about 230,000 Serbs moved from BiH to Serbia, but a considerable number of those who until 1961 declared themselves the Croats, Serbs and Yugoslavs, changed their identity to Muslim nationals in 1971. But again in 1980, about 280,000 of them declared themselves once more Yugoslavs, and also the number of undecided augmented.

The new situation arose in 1995, when in the Republic of BiH the name of Muslim nationals was changed to the name of Bosniak nationals. Therefore, only the next official census in the Republic BiH and in Croatia has to determine the number of Muslims that declared themselves for the Bosniak nationality, since it is probable that a certain number of them will declare themselves as Croats, Serbs, or without nationality, as was the case in the previous years.

Since the Muslim believers changed the name of their nationality twice in the period from 1971 to 1991 (and were nationally undeclared until 1970), this shows that their national consciousness has not yet stabilized.

And after the Federation of BiH and the Republic of Srpska were formed on the territory of former Bosnia and Herzegovina by Dayton agreement, it can be expected that on these territories we shall have a new and different national affiliation.

Also, we should wait until all refugees and exiled persons return to their permanent living-places in BiH and Croatia, so that the national affiliation of Muslim Bosniaks be determined in the stabilized situation. Only then can their autochtony in Croatia be discussed.

My opinion is that it is useful for the world public to be acquainted with the development and specifics of the newly established Muslim-Bosniak nation.

Prepared exclusively for this web-site by the author. Translated from Croatian by Darko Zubrinic.

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