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The former republic of Yugoslavia (independent since 1992) is located in Southeastern Europe in the northwest of the Balkan Peninsula and comprises the two historical landscapes Bosnia (after the river Bosna) in the north and Herzegovina (Duke’s country) in the south. The country borders Serbia to the east, Montenegro to the southeast and Croatia to the west and north. In the southwest Bosnia-Herzegovina has a narrow access to the Mediterranean Sea (coastline 20 km). The national territory covers 51 129 km².
The country is predominantly mountainous, especially the west is occupied by the Dinaric Mountains, which extend from north to west. In the centre of Bosnia lies the Bosnian Ore Mountains. The highest elevation of the country is the Maglic at the border to the neighbouring Yugoslavia (2 386 m). The mountains consist mainly of limestone. Due to the high water solubility of this rock, large parts are karstified; typical for this are underground cave systems in which the seeping water flows off.
Lowlands can only be found along the existing rivers, almost all of which flow into the Sava. These include Bosna, Drina, Una and Vrbas. The Sava forms the northern border with Croatia and flows into the Danube at Belgrade (Federal Republic of Yugoslavia). The Neretva flows into the Adriatic Sea. The capital Sarajevo, founded in the 13th century, lies centrally in the interior of the country.
Bosnia-Herzegovina has a predominantly continental climate with hot summers and cold winters. In the capital Sarajevo the average January temperatures are about -1.5° C, the average July temperatures are about 20° C. The average January temperatures in Bosnia-Herzegovina are about -1.5° C, the average July temperatures are about 20° C. The summer temperatures are lower in the high altitudes of the mountains, the winters are longer and colder. Mediterranean influences are increasing in the southern part of the country. In Mostar in the southwest of the country the January average is around 5 °C, in July an average of 26 °C is reached. Rainfall ranges between 900 mm and 1 500 mm. In the south, precipitation mainly occurs in the winter months.
Flora and Fauna
Almost half of Bosnia-Herzegovina is forested. At lower altitudes, there are deciduous and mixed forests, which in the higher altitudes of the mountains become coniferous forests. The Sutjeska National Park is home to the untouched Perucica Forest, a protected area. Beech, fir and spruce can reach heights of up to 60 metres.
In the remote forest areas, animal species that have become rare in Europe such as wolves, brown bears, ibex, wildcats and golden eagles still find a suitable habitat. Wild boars, deer, foxes and deer are common. Reptiles are also present in many species, including numerous snake species such as the Aesculapian and Leopard snake, as well as the poisonous snake adder and sandotter.
Some 4.6 million people live in Bosnia-Herzegovina, although estimates have been available for several years. At the beginning of the 21st century, the population was several hundred thousand lower, and many refugees have now returned. The civil war that broke out after independence in 1992 probably killed more than 300,000 people, and the number of refugees abroad is estimated at just under one million.
The civil war has also changed the composition and distribution of the population. There are essentially three ethnic groups: Muslim Bosnians (who call themselves “Bosniaks” and make up almost half of the population, about 4% more than in 1991), Serbs who profess to be members of the Serbian Orthodox Church (whose share rose from 31% in 1991 to 37% today), and Catholic Croats. All three languages of the ethnic groups are official languages. While vocabulary and pronunciation hardly differ, Serbian uses the Cyrillic alphabet, while Croatian and Bosnian use the Latin alphabet.
The average population density is 78 inhabitants per square kilometre. The share of the urban population is about 42%. Around 500,000 people live in the agglomeration of the capital Sarajevo. Other major cities are Banja Luka (225 000 inhabitants in the agglomeration), Tuzla (around 130 000), Zenica (around 128 000) and Mostar (around 112 000).
Population growth is estimated at 0.7%. Average life expectancy is 75 years for men and 82 years for women. School attendance is free; children between the ages of seven and 15 are required to attend school. Approximately 97% of the population can read and write.
Since its independence in 1992, Bosnia-Herzegovina has been a republic consisting of two autonomous entities: the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Serbian Republic (Republika Srpska). According to the constitution laid down in the Dayton Peace Treaty (December 1995), the overall government of the country should reflect the ethnic composition of the population and be responsible for foreign trade, monetary policy, migration, telecommunications, border protection and airspace protection. The country is supervised by a High Representative of the international community (Valentin Inzko, since 2009), which limits sovereignty.
The state is led by a three-member Presidium, consisting of a Croat, a Serb and a Muslim (Bosniak), who alternate after eight months. The three members of the Presidium are directly elected every four years (currently Bakir Izetbegović, Nebojša Radmanović, Željko Komšić). Since 2012, Vjekoslav Bevanda (Croatia) has been head of government (state prime minister).
The legislative power lies with the two-chamber parliament (Skupstina). The 42 members of the Chamber of Deputies are directly elected by the people for four years (28 Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, 14 Serbian Republic). The members of the Chamber of Peoples are elected by the parliaments of the constituent states (ten Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, five Serbian Republic).
Each of the two entities has its own government and parliament. In the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, parliament consists of two chambers (House of Deputies/ 98 seats and Chamber of Peoples/ 58 seats). Also in the Serbian Republic: National Assembly/ 83 seats and Council of Peoples/ 28 seats. The respective president is elected by the parliament.
The country was initially able to recover significantly from the destruction caused by the civil war, but was hit hard by the crisis in the euro zone. The unemployment rate is still very high (officially 44%) and average wages remain at the lower end of the European average. However, the black market is flourishing, with a good half of the unemployed providing for their livelihood illegally. Bosnia-Herzegovina is highly dependent on international financial and economic aid.
Almost 13 % of the land area is used for agricultural purposes. The most important cultivation areas (for fruit, tobacco, maize, potatoes, wheat, sugar beet, wine) are the lowlands along the rivers. Food must be imported. Livestock farming is important, with cattle and sheep breeding dominating.
In industry there are light, steel, chemical and arms industries, and ironworks. Iron ores, charcoal, textiles and minerals are exported. Mineral resources include lignite, iron ore, bauxite, copper, manganese, zinc and gold. The country’s energy requirements can partly be met by hydroelectric power stations.
Croatia, Italy and Germany are the most important trading partners for exports, and Croatia, Germany and Russia are the most important trading partners for imports – especially crude oil, food and chemical products.
The existing infrastructure was severely affected by the civil war. Modernisation measures are necessary in the railway sector. In the expansion of the road network, the construction of a north-south motorway was declared a priority. International airports are located in Sarajevo, Mostar, Banja Luka and Tuzla. The currency is the convertible mark (= 100 Fening).