At the 1991 census, Bosnia and Herzegovina had
approximately 4.4 million residents. During the civil war of
1992-95, more than 100,000 people were killed and more than
2 million fled their home areas, a large part of them to
other countries. Many who have returned have returned, but
in 2012 there were still about 100,000 designated as
internally displaced persons in the country. Since the 1991
census until the 2013 census, the current population
statistics were missing and there were only rough estimates
of the population. The turbulence in the country meant that
these data were very uncertain.
Countryaah data, the 2013 census showed that the population then amounted
to 3.8 million. The population had decreased by 13 percent
in 1991-2013. Of the main parts of the country, the
Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina had just over 2.37
million residents (62.5 percent of the country's
population), the Serbian Republic close to 1.33 million (35
percent) and the autonomous district of Brćko 93,000
According to estimates in 2011, 48 percent of the
population were Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims), 37 percent
Bosnians and 14 percent Bosnians. A large number of small
minorities, including Roma and Albanians, together made up 1
percent of the population. In the Federation of Bosnia and
Herzegovina, Bosniaks and Bosnian Croats predominate, while
Bosnians are predominantly resident in the Serbian Republic.
48 per cent of the residents live in cities according to
estimates in 2019. The largest among them are Sarajevo (300
900 residents, 2012), Banja Luka (238 400) and Tuzla
For information on life expectancy and other demographic
statistics, see Country facts.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, štokavian dialects are spoken
by the South Slavic language, formerly called Serbo-Croatian
or Croatoserbian and today sometimes Central South Slavic.
Serbo-Croatian has four main dialects: štokaviska,
čakaviska, kaykaviska and torlakic.
Bosnian (sometimes referred to as Bosnian to indicate
that the language is related to only the Bosnian people),
Croatian and Serbian are official languages. Like the
Croatian, Serbian and Montenegrin standard languages, the
Bosnian standard language is based on štokavian dialects. In
the language section of the Republika Srpska, the three
languages have been designated the Serbian people's
language, the Croatian people's language and the Bosnian
people's language. Bosnian is recognized as a regional or
minority language according to the Council of Europe's
language statute in Serbia and may be used officially in
Religion and ethnicity
About 45% of the population in Bosnia and Herzegovina are
Muslims, 36% are Serbian Orthodox and 15% are Catholics,
which almost completely coincides with the ethnic borders.
About 1% of the population are Protestants. The distribution
before the war was similar, except that the groups today
tend to live more separated than before. The Orthodox are
mainly concentrated in the areas of the Serbian Republic in
the northern and eastern parts of the country, while the
Croats are mainly found in western Herzegovina.
The religious affiliation coincides very much with
national identity (narod). So the Serbs are
traditionally Orthodox while the Croats are Catholics. As
far as the Muslim population is concerned, a distinction is
made between Muslims as a nationality designation, also
called Bosniaks (in parity with Serbs and Croats) and
Muslims in the religious sense (in parity with Orthodox and
Catholics). The former term is then used as an ethnic and
cultural marker and says nothing about the religious
identification and activity of individual individuals.
The area was Christianized during the 800s and 900s and
was characterized by the beginning of rivalry between
Byzantine and Western church interests. Alongside these
arose a schismatic church, the so-called Bosnian church.
When the area was subordinated to the Ottoman Empire in
1463, the so-called millet system was introduced, whereby
each recognized non-Muslim socio-religious group (millet)
was granted internal autonomy in religious and family law
matters. The Muslim population of the area, for its part,
formed part of the empire's socio-religious majority (the
During the 19th and 20th centuries, the relationship
between ethnicity and religion, and between national
identity and citizenship, became a problem. Until the end of
the 1960s, in the modern state of Yugoslavia's censuses and
statistics, there was no recognized nationality
determination for the Muslim part of the population.
Instead, categories such as "Serbian Muslim", "Croatian
Muslim", "nationally indefinite Muslim" and "indefinite
Yugoslavs" were used. Later, the Muslims were granted
official status as a "nation" (narod), and in the
1971 census there was the opportunity to register in the
category "Muslims in the national sense". In the 1974
constitution, the Bosnian Muslims were granted nationality
status in the same sense as Serbs, Croats and other ethnic
The Muslims of Bosnia and Herzegovina are Sunni Muslims,
traditionally of Hanafite rites. Their religious leadership
is based in Sarajevo. The Orthodox and Catholics have
regional representation, but are officially subordinate to
the Serbian Orthodox Patriarchate in Belgrade and the
Catholic Archbishop's seat in Zagreb. Islam is represented
locally by the mosque manager or the prayer leader (hodža).
There are also female religious teachers (bula),
who lead religious gatherings for women.
The degree of religious interest varies, but has
generally been greater in the countryside than in the
cities, where secularization gained significant entrance in
the 20th century. The differences between the city and the
countryside are great regardless of confession. In the
countryside, the pilgrimages to the tombs of holy men and
martyrs (turbe) have traditionally been an
important part of popular religious life. Sufism is widely
used in Bosnia and Herzegovina, dating back to the Ottoman
Empire. The Christians also have their pilgrimage sites with
martyrs' tombs, and there are places that have been revered
by both Christians and Muslims.
From the end of the 1980s and in connection with the war,
the issue of religious affiliation came to be politicized
and exploited by power holders for mobilizing purposes. The
war generally meant that mutual disbelief between the
various groups increased.