Reuters, October 03, 2002
FACTBOX-Profile of Bosnia ahead of elections
SARAJEVO, Oct 2 (Reuters) - Here are some key facts about Bosnia and its history, ahead of general and presidential elections on Saturday.
AREA: 51,209 square km (19,767 square miles). Croatia lies to the north, west and south, Yugoslavia to the east.
POPULATION: There are no exact figures following the 1992-5 war between Bosnia's Muslims, Serbs and Croats, which left more than 200,000 people dead or missing.
Some 500,000 of the two million Bosnians who fled their homes during the war remain displaced in Bosnia. About 600,000 live abroad, either as refugees or having resettled.
The latest government estimates put the population at about 3.5 million, of whom 62 percent live in the Muslim-Croat federation and 38 percent in the Serb Republic.
The last full census was before the war in 1991. It put the population at 4.4 million, of whom 44 percent were Muslims, 31 percent Serbs, 17 percent Croats and eight percent others.
LANGUAGE: Bosnians spoke Serbo-Croat, a Slavonic language, before the war but ethnic groups now insist on calling it variously Serbian, Croatian or Bosnian.
CAPITAL: Sarajevo. Population 380,000 (527,000 in 1991).
GOVERNMENT: The U.S.-brokered 1995 Dayton peace accord created a single Bosnian state consisting of autonomous Muslim-Croat and Serb entities with 51 and 49 percent of the territory respectively. Brcko is a neutral district beyond the exclusive control of either entity.
An international peace envoy, the High Representative, was appointed to oversee and coordinate the peace process. The envoy, currently British diplomat Paddy Ashdown, has wide powers to impose laws and remove obstructive local officials.
Dayton created a complex constitution with several layers of power. The central institutions -- a three-member inter-ethnic presidency, a parliament and a government -- have responsibility for foreign affairs, international trade, civil affairs, human rights and European integration.
Most other powers rest with the entities, which have their own parliaments and governments. The federation has 10 cantons.
POLITICS: After the last elections in November 2000, the first non-nationalist governments since the start of the war were created at state level and in the federation, led by a bloc of reformist parties.
The nationalist Muslim SDA and Croat HDZ parties are in opposition, but the HDZ is dominant in Croat areas.
In the Serb republic, the hardline SDS party, founded in 1990 by fugitive Serb wartime leader and indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic, is still the strongest but is not included in the reformist government, which it backs in the parliament.
Earlier this year both entities amended their constitutions to make all ethnic groups equal and give them representation in government after the October 2002 polls.
ECONOMY: Bosnia's economy rebounded rapidly after the end of the conflict, fuelled by a $5.1 billion donor-funded reconstruction programme. Gross domestic product grew more than 20 percent annually to start with but that has fallen to about six percent in the last three years.
Bosnia remains among Europe's poorest countries and industrial production is still less than half its pre-war level. Reforms including the sale of state firms are slow and foreign direct investment scarce, at about $150 million per year.
CURRENCY: The convertible Bosnian marka was introduced in 1998. It is pegged at 1.96 to the euro and its value is guaranteed through a currency board system.
ARMED FORCES: The NATO-led Stabilisation Force (SFOR) was set up to secure peace in Bosnia after the war, with an open-ended mandate, though its presence is being scaled down. SFOR oversees the activities of the entities' armies, which remain separate under the peace accords.
MODERN HISTORY: The Ottoman Empire ruled Bosnia for five centuries until the Austrian-Hungarian Empire first occupied Bosnia in 1878 and than annexed it in 1908.
On June 28, 1914, a Serb nationalist assassinated Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, triggering World War One, after which it became part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, later renamed Yugoslavia.
During World War Two, Bosnia formed part of the Nazi-backed Independent State of Croatia, but was in reality under joint German and Italian occupation. A bitter ethnic war claiming hundreds of thousands of victims erupted during the war.
After the proclamation of communist Yugoslavia in 1943, Bosnia had equal status with the other five federal republics. Following the collapse of communism in eastern Europe, Yugoslavia split along national lines.
Despite strong opposition by Serbs who feared minority status in a sovereign Bosnia, Muslims and Croats voted for independence in 1992, sparking a 43-month civil war.