Book Reviews
Dr. Enver Imamović (1999). History of the Bosnian Army
(Volume 1, Number 3-4, Autumn-Winter 2000.)
30 ruj 2000 03:09:00

Fojnica: Svjetlostpp. 323


History of the Bosnian Army, by Dr. Enver Imamović, was published in 1999 by Svjetlost, Fojnica, as part of the series "Bosnian Roots", with a printing run of 1000 copies.

I deliberately use the term publication in order to avoid the words novel, outline or the even more inappropriate term scientific study, for this book is none of these. Although History of the Bosnian Army aspires to be an historical study, it is evident at first sight that this is incorrect. The book lists no references, and although the footnotes accompanying the text occasionally provide sources for data, they are rarely relevant scientific sources. As quotation sources, the reader finds few relevant documents, serious historical studies, or even the names of acknowledged historians who have researched the history of Bosnia and Herzegovina and its neighboring countries. Muslim authors are quoted predominantly. Preuzmite članak u PDF formatu While one may forgive the author, a Bosnian Muslim, for his prejudices and reluctance to include books and historical studies written by acknowledged Croatian and Serbian historians, it is unacceptable to write about aspects of Bosnian history without referring to respected historical bestsellers such as History of Bosnia by Noel Malcolm, Europe, a History by Norman Davies or The Times Guide to the Peoples of Europe.

One thus concludes that the author is not interested in history, but only in its political reinterpretation. This is a publication whose purpose is political promotion; a pamphlet camouflaged within an historical outline. In the collection of his materials, the author has apparently chosen only those writers and works whose theses and data fit easily into one of the basic political and promotional goals of his book. The author then imposes upon the data and quotations his political and promotional interpretations and conclusions, and insinuates them into the text, which then attempts to interpret history along the lines of a fable.

We can and should approach this book with a dose of humor. However, the audience to which the book is directed - young people, especially members of the Bosnian Army - might well take seriously its theses. The bigger the fabrication, the easier for people to accept.

Two basic "historic" theses are presented as historical fact:

a. Since ancient times there has been a special "Bosnian" people (ethnically and religiously different than the neighboring peoples) on the territory of today's Bosnia and Herzegovina. Its real representatives are Bosnian Muslims, original inhabitants of Bosnia and Herzegovina, who until the acceptance of Islam had a special religion - Bogomilism. Other peoples living in Bosnia and Herzegovina are merely alienated parts of the "Bosnian" people who accepted Catholicism or Orthodoxism, or else are "newcomers" arriving in the early Middle Ages.

b. This special Bosnian people has a thousand-year-old military tradition. With their military and moral qualities, they are superior to all other entities in the area. They are more courageous and have a stronger fighting spirit than others, but have suffered throughout history because of their honesty, and due to the conspiracies, schemes and betrayals of others (Croats and Serbs). They have always fought for others and have repeatedly been ungratefully deceived. The most prominent exponents of this military tradition are Bosnian aghas and beys, direct descendents of thousand-year-old noble families.

Rebuttals of these claims need not rely on Croatian historical literature. It is sufficient to cite historical outlines in English, intended for wider audiences. Here is what the well known Times Guide to the Peoples of Europe says about Bosnian Muslims:

Bosnian Muslims are Slavic Muslims, descendants of Serbs and Croatians who converted to Islam during the period that Bosnia was under Ottoman rule (1463-1878). The national consciousness of Bosnian Muslims is a recent phenomenom; only with the creation of the first Yugoslav state in 1918 did they begin to identify themselves as a nation. Muslims thoroughout Yugoslavia were recognized in 1971 by the Communist authorities as members of the "Yugoslav nation" and therafter, many identified themselves in the official census as Muslims. From 1992 on, the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina contributed to a strengthening of the Muslim national consciousness. Prior to the war in BH and the program of ethnic cleansing, Muslims comprised 39% of the BH population. Because the Bosnian Muslims identify themselves primarily on a religious basis - their language and ethnicity are the same as the non-Muslim South Slavs - their national sentiments became stronger as a result of historical experience, especiallly after the fall of the Ottoman powers.

It is often claimed that Islam gained so many converts in BH because this territory was a refuge for the Bogomils (Christian heretics); however, the high rate of conversion cannot serve as proof of partial Christianization, since the Albanians, who emphasized their firm Catholicism, also converted in large numbers to Islam when they hegemonized by the Turks. As followers of Islam during the Ottoman Empire, the Muslims in BH were spared participation in the blood sacrifice (deversime), paid fewer taxes, and had a greater degree of self-administration than their Christian and Jewish neighbors. In 1878, Bosnia and Herzegovina came under the Austrian protectorate. The Austrian minister who administered Bosnia hoped to neutralize, or at least establish a balance between, Croatian and Serbian demands by promoting "Bosnianism" and especially the Bosnian nationality. In post-war Yugoslavia, Bosnia emphasized itself as the most enthusiastic and "most Yugoslav" republic. After the proclamations of Slovenian and Croatian independence, Izetbegovic, as president of Bosnia, proclaimed the independence of BH in 1992. The Yugoslav Army, under control of Serbia, initiated aggression against BH and armed the local Serbs, who then committed genocide on the Muslims (and Croatians). Parts of BH were "cleansed" of Muslims and they live today almost exclusively in Muslim-Croatian areas of the state.

(excerpt paraphrased from The Times Guide to the People of Europe, edited by Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, London, 1994, pp. 204-207)

If we compare this widely known and scientifically indisputable quotation about the Bosnian Muslims with what Enver Imamović has written, it is obvious that he is reinterpretating history for political purposes in order to achieve the following goals:

1. Encourage belligerence and instill military pride in Bosniacs-Muslims.

2. Create a feeling of national superiority of Bosnian Muslims over the other peoples living in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the neighboring countries.

3. Convince Bosnian citizens of their ethnic homogeneity and indigenousness in order to implement the idea of a unitarian and mono-ethnic "greater Bosnia".

There also exists in the book a disproportion in the attention devoted to certain historical periods. The prehistoric and ancient periods are presented on 12 pages, the Middle Ages on 25, the period of the Turkish reign on 180 pages, and the period of the Austro-Hungarian reign on 70 pages. It is particularly striking that the period from the end of World War One until 1992 is not mentioned at all, and the period from 1992 until 1995 is described in only a few lines. The period of history in which Bosnia was part of the Ottoman Empire, i.e. the period during which the Muslim element was dominant, occupies a disproportionately large part of the book. This is by no means accidental; it indicates a tendency to associate "real Bosnians" with Islam.

Claims about "Bosniacs" or Bosnian Muslims being an indigenous people in what is today Bosnia and Herzegovina and parts of Croatia, and who are "superhumans" - invincible warriors - are not consistent with historical fact. By suggesting an earlier origin of the Bosnian Muslims than that of the other peoples in today's Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, the author attempts to create for them a privileged position and promote their racial superiority over the "newcomers" of Slavic descent - Croats and Serbs, and strengthen their fighting spirit with the myth about "invincible warriors". Politically, this could serve as an argument justifying a future reduction of the rights of all peoples in Bosnia and Herzegovina other than Bosnian Muslims. The claims about the thousand-year-long continuous existence of Muslim bey families as direct descendants of the early Middle Age nobility, and consequently as holders of statehood, could well provide the basis for a future political elite within a unitarian Bosnia and Herzegovina.

After consideration of the theses and claims of this book, one may now wonder whether they might be the guiding principles for the creation of a great unitarian Bosnia, a Bosnia which would extend over the borders of today's Bosnia and Herzegovina. If so, such political goals could easily generate new conflicts in a country whose continuance is guaranteed only by the constitutiveness and equality of the three peoples. Such conflicts may well be the end goal of this book.

Predrag Haramija

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