A Country Divided

Bosnia and Herzegovina is the official name for this country that I've been hanging out in the last couple weeks, although it seems that most people call it plain old Bosnia. But the duality implied in the name is well placed, as I have learned. Politics, geography, language, and more all seem to come in sets of two.

The country is divided into two states, the Federation* and Republic of Srpska*, each with its own territory, its own political system, and even its own alphabet. Republic of Srpska generally uses the Cyrillic alphabet on street signs, etc. while the Federation uses Latin characters. They both spell out the same words, mind you, but in different alphabets.

The whole alphabet thing is pretty intriguing, but the thing that really gets me, that really makes this duality thing so hard to ignore is that they have two different versions of each denomination of paper money, one with a representative of the RS and one from the Federation. They have the same value, and can be spent exactly the same, but it is just that the country couldn't agree on who to put on their money.

I try hard not to judge this duality that is rather impossible to ignore. I know there are years of history behind it, and it is much more complex than I can imagine. But I can't help but wonder if this duality is sustainable. If I return to this area in 10 years, will I have to pass through passport control in going from Banja Luka to Sarajevo? Or maybe it will get all worked out through a charismatic leader that everyone can get behind.

However it pans out, for this trip, it has made for an eye opening experience.
Tuesday May 24 2011File under: travel, Balkans

Toggle Comments (3)comment?
on Wed 25th May, 2011 02:10 am PDT Horge said:
Another bit of the duality in BiH (as it's also often called, or even just BH) is Mostar. They got some money some time many years ago to build a monument to a local hero. But the two sides (Croats and Bosniaks) couldn't agree on anyone that didn't offend the otehr side. So they made a statue of the only guy they acually could agree on: Bruce Lee! I'm still holding out hope that this country can be unified in the future by their love of Chuck Norris (who actually is IMMENSELY popular here with jokes about him).
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on Wed 25th May, 2011 09:04 pm PDT Sarah said:
Can't wait to hear about this trip and your impressions in person sometime! Too bad you couldn't make it to Serbia...
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on Thu 26th May, 2011 06:00 am PDT Horge said:
Though not really related at all to the post (and sorry Wren for bringing up a serious topic), just thought I'd let anyone following Wren's exploits in the Balkans know some good news: Ratko Mladic (Serb war-time general responsible for the Srebrenica genocide, Sarajevo siege and countless other atrocities) has finally been arrested after 15 years on the run. It's a good day! :-)
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