The Republic of Srpska is a constituent state in the system of the State Union of Bosnia and Herzegovina, striving for (complete) autonomy or annexation to neighboring Serbia. According to the constitution, its capital is in Sarajevo. In fact, Banja Luka in the north is the political center of the Republic of Srpska. This is where the parliament, the government and the prime minister are located. More than 80 percent of the inhabitants are Serbs, about 14 percent are Bosniaks. In addition, about 5 percent are Croats and other minorities.
The Bosnian confederation is a product of the transformation of Yugoslavia and the subsequent armed conflicts in which Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks fought each other in this part of the country. The conflict was settled in the 1995 Dayton Agreement, which created two entities under the umbrella of a confederation: The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republic of Srpska. Both share the national territory almost equally, with parts of the country severely affected by so-called ethnic cleansing, such as Srebrenica, lying on Srpska’s part. In addition, the Brčko district is a de facto self-governing zone in the northeast of the country.
Although the Bosniak and Serb populations in their union of states pay with the same currency, the convertible mark, and cars have the same symbols on their license plates, the dividing lines between the two entities are clearly visible. Not only do flags in the Serbian national colors line the streets of the Republic of Srpska, but the country also has its own anthem and coat of arms, and even its own script, Cyrillic, which is used most often.
On the political level, the radical nationalist Srpska Demokratska Stranka (Serbian Democratic Party) dominated events for a long time after the war. Most recently, in 2008, it called for a referendum on the secession of the Republic of Srpska. At the end of last year, separatist efforts once again gained momentum. Among other things, the parliament in Banja Luka, which is dominated by Serbian interests, decided in December to disconnect the country from the judicial and tax systems and from the army of the State Union of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Text & Photo: Christian Faludi