Bosnian History: A Quick Lesson for Travelers

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Bosnia and Herzegovina have come a long way to reach political stability. However, local political difficulties and ethnic tension still exist. Random politically-related violence could occur with little to no warning.


Mostar Bridge, Bosnia and Herzegovina Photo © iStock/Greg Sullavan

It's unlikely you'll get involved, especially if you understand a little more of Bosnia and Herzegovina's history. It'll also make more sense of what you see around town.

Historical Violence in Bosnia

Bosnia has a violent history, and there are numerous examples you can see around the country to remind visitors. Such as the red plastic that fills holes in the sidewalks and streets. These holes are from shell craters that have been filled in with red in memory of the war.

Red plastic filling holes in sidewalks. Photo credit: iStock/Photokanto

Many buildings are still marked with sprays of bullet holes, more than you would think possible.

Bullet holes. Photo credit: iStock/fredrikarnell

Social Unrest in Bosnia

Large-scale demonstrations and protests could still occur, and might turn violent easily. Violence is also somewhat possible at any form of large-scale gathering, such as sporting events (particularly soccer), which have a history of getting out of control. The combination of alcohol, large amounts of people and passion for sports seems to be a good formula for violence.

In June 2010, a police officer was killed and several others injured when an explosive device was detonated outside a police station in Bugojono, a town in central Bosnia.

Though politically motivated violence is in decline, this should serve as a caution to those foreign travellers visiting this country.

Bosnia and Herzegovnia have a legal system that is comparable to most first-world countries. But there are exceptions. One is that photography of military installations, government checkpoints, troops and the U.S. Embassy are forbidden.

Be aware this may include civilian airports, bridges and equipment being used for military purposes, so if you have doubts, just ask. Better safe than sorry. You wouldn't want to cut your holiday short just for taking a quick pic of a bridge.

Some local laws are also different than other countries in Europe. For instance, there are no anti-smoking laws. So expect restaurants, cafes and even public transports to be filled with clouds of smoke.

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  • Sanja said

    More anti-Bosnian propaganda. OK, let's take one at a time.

    1.) Yes, we had a war. It was NOT a civil war. We were attacked by neighbouring countries when we were already internationally recognised as an independent country. We were attacked, we tried to defend ourselves.

    2.) It's not true that you can't take pictures of bridges etc. It is true for military buildings and foreign embassies.

    3.) About smoking: If you go, for example, to Greece, you will notice that they are even worse, even though they are in the EU. For example, when I enter any shop in Greece, they are smoking inside. You won't see that in Bosnia, they always go out. It is a notorious lie that people in Bosnia smoke in public transportation; I have never seen that and I am 33 years old. It used to be allowed in trains, but not anymore.

  • safetyhub said

    Sanja, we'll check out the photos that have been used (as you posted in a related article), they may have been mis-labelled in our system. Apologies if they have.<br>As for smoking, we're not comparing countries, not saying one is worse than the other, it just is what it is, please don't feel slighted.<br>What you say about bridges is probably true now, but when the piece was written a couple of years back it was more relevant. We'll review.<br>As for war/civil war, reliable, authoritative sources call it an internal conflict. The general public sees it as a result of the breakup of the Republic of Yugoslavia - a war within a society, so a "civil war". Here's just one of those sources, Reuters the worldwide news agency:<br>"1992: Feb 29-March 1 - Bosnia's Muslims and Croats vote for independence in referendum boycotted by Serbs.<br>April 6 - European Union recognises Bosnia's independence. War breaks out and Serbs, under the leadership of Radovan Karadzic, lay siege to capital Sarajevo. They occupy 70 percent of the country, killing and persecuting Muslims and Croats to carve out a Serb Republic."<br>Maybe people outside the conflict just don't understand. "War"/ "civil war" - people still died. Stupid term anyway, all war is UNcivil.<br>Phil from the safety hub

  • Sanja said

    "As for war/civil war, reliable, authoritative sources call it an internal conflict."

    Civil war is a war that breaks within one country. Our country was attacked from outside. All our neighbours - Serbia, Montenegro and Croatia - had their part in attacking Bosnia. Of course, domestic Bosnian Serbs and Croats were on their side.

    "What you say about bridges is probably true now, but when the piece was written a couple of years back it was more relevant."

    As far as I know, you can take pictures of any civilian bridge or any other similar object as much as you like.

    "As for smoking, we're not comparing countries, not saying one is worse than the other, it just is what it is, please don't feel slighted."

    You implied that we are the only country in Europe without smoking ban. Yes, we are still unstable society and many laws haven't been introduced yet, but like I said, there are even EU members which introduced the ban and don't respect even 1% of it.

  • safetyhub said

    Sanja, some minor changes made... thanks for the suggestions.
    Now says "war" removing the reference to it being a "civil war" - war is war anyway.
    Added clarification regarding ban on photographing military installations.
    Removed ambiguous reference to anti-smoking laws.
    Cheers, Phil

  • Ric said

    I recently went Banja Luka people smoke inside restaurants and bars. Unfortunately all the smoking did distract me from my food, as staff smoke right there by the counter.

    The food is good especially, Chevapi as a young black man I can say that the people are friendly. They were amazed by my Afro.

    Today’s date 5th February 2018
    I went in November 2017 for 2 weeks.

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