BOSNIA - HERZEGOVINA
The former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia comprised Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia. Each nation, however, had diverse groups within its borders. Starting in 1991, Slovenia and Croatia declared independence for the federation followed by Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia. Bosnian Muslims make up around 40% of the population of Bosnia-Herzegovina, with Serbians and ethnic Croatians the other major groups. Bosnian Muslims are recognised as having a distinct ethnic identity, separate from Serbians and Croatians in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The civil war in Bosnia-Herzegovina that followed its break-away from the former Yugoslavian Republic involved atrocities including "ethnic cleansing" of Muslims in Bosnia by Serb military and police. An outflow of refugees resulted in large numbers of Bosnians being displaced to other countries.
Islam is a major religion in Bosnia-Herzegovina but other important religions include Orthodox Christians and Roman Catholics. Bosnian Muslims will only eat Halal meat. Pork products and alcohol are forbidden. At Ramadan, Bosnian Muslims are required to fast between sunrise and sunset for a period of 30 days.
The language of Serbo-Croatian was officially used in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Today a Bosnian language closely related to Serbo-Croatian is acknowledged. When translation is needed, it is important to discuss the ethnicity of the interpreter as well as the language desired by the client due to the uneasy political tensions.
In Bosnia-Herzegovina, particularly in rural areas, traditional life for Muslims involved arranged marriages, bride-price and strong demarcation of male and female roles. Women's role was restricted to the household. These practices are changing rapidly, with equal status between men and women becoming the norm, and women usually work outside the home. However, this process of change may cause intergenerational conflict and marital disharmony. Women are still responsible in the domestic sphere. Family honour is extremely important to Bosnians and authority still lies predominantly with the male head of the household. The extended family is important in Bosnia-Herzegovina and grandparents will often live with their children and take care of their grandchildren while the parents work. There is also a strong tradition of god-parenting amongst Muslim Bosnian families which gives additional social support to families.
The recent war has also taken a toll on families. Many are now headed by widows. Cities are home to thousands of refugees who fled the countryside and sometimes inhabit abandoned buildings. In addition, the war compelled many people to emigrate from Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Primary school education is compulsory from ages 7 to 15. Children learn English from an early age, and may also study French or German. At the secondary level, students have two options. Lasting three to four years, secondary schools include technical and vocational schools (sredjna skola), which are the most popular, and gimnazia, which offer broad academic education to prepare students for university. Students in sredjna skola choose a skilled trade or field of study, ranging from electronics to medicine. At gimnazia, students are required to study philosophy, art, Latin and biology, in addition to their electives. During the communist era, many students studied pure science, but with the introduction of a free-market economy, applied sciences, economics and modern languages have been becoming more popular.
After graduation, students can further their career training by enrolling at a post-secondary institute, similar to a community college, where they study and work as apprentices in fields such as technology, medicine and business. At the country’s four universities in Sarajevo, Banja Luka, Mostar and Tuzla, students must write entrance examinations for admittance; the competition for limited space is intense. Under communism, learning was free at all levels, but now post-secondary students face tuition fees.