As the results of Bosnia’s census looms for mid-January, I wanted to post the following short item from the online British-Serb magazine eBritic:

Dayton’s Bosnia – Did it ever really make any census?
(By Aleks Simic, Oct. 17)

This month Bosnia began its first census as an independent nation, and the first since 1991. The 15 day long survey is designed to give a detailed picture of the results of the upheaval of the 1990′s Balkan wars in which some 100,000 people were killed and 2 million were driven from their homes…Preparations have been marred however by tension between…Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims). All of the ethnic elements that comprise Bosnia fear being weakened if the census proves that their numbers have dwindled, as this is the basis of their current role in government as enshrined in the system of ethnic quotas set out by the 1995 Dayton peace accord.

The Dayton deal created an unwieldy form of government that stopped the war but which has stifled development ever since. The results of the 1991 census showed the [above-illustrated] declaration of the then 4.4 million population…The run-up to the census has resembled an election campaign, with political and religious leaders calling on their followers to declare their ethnicity and faith as a matter of national duty. “Our religion is Islam,” Muslim clerics across Bosnia read in a message delivered during Friday prayers. “In the census, we shall say we are Bosniaks and our language is Bosnian.”

Roman Catholic priests told their worshippers, mainly Bosnian Croats, to encourage relatives living abroad to return and take part in the census. […]

There was one particularly striking example of this. A series of internet ads showing wrapped-up Muslim children at tea, professing stridently their group identification. which annoyed my friend Alyse (Jewish-American married to a Serb) so much that she told me she posted a “translation” on her facebook page:

Ads for the upcoming census in Bosnia: You know your nationality and language are fictitious when you need public service announcements to tell you what your nationality is and what language you speak.

Translation of instructions in Serbian/Croatian:

Nationality: “Bosniak” (A person whose Serb or Croat family accepted Islam - about half the population of Bosnia)
Faith: Islamic: (That much is accurate)
Language: “Bosnian” (Identical to Serbian/Croatian, the only difference is that the person speaking it is Muslim)

So they also pull quotes from the Bosnian website — cute ones, like:

“I believe that Bosniaks are conscious enough that every Bosniak who survived the genocide — each Bosniak who lived in Sarajevo and by Allah’s will dodged grenades and Chetnik’s bullets from the hills — is obliged to declare himself a Bosniak.”

Alyse closed a recent email to me with an ominous foreshadowing:

Do you know when the war will come in Bosnia? Everyone thinks it is soon but nobody knows when.. Okay, you can’t know because nobody knows, everybody just sits around and waits, I wonder if it was like that every time.

One of my husband’s relatives just went to a funeral for his Muslim friend – the Muslims ASKED him to go – and this is how bad it is. It was older guys who had worked together and they had been good friends during communist times and the family came to the Serb and PLEADED with him to come because it was the wishes of the dead guy to have his friend at the funeral – they promised in advance to KEEP HIM SAFE – that is how bad it has become in some areas (this must be in one or the other suburbs of Sarajevo) – so he goes to the funeral – no problem – nobody makes a fuss – nobody says anything [negative]. But the next day somebody burned the Muslims’ car, some other Muslims, burned the car of the Muslims who had taken a Serb to the funeral. It was punishment. Everybody knew that.