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Austro-Hungarian rule in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Condominium of Bosnia and Herzegovina
Part of Austria-Hungary

Flag Coat of arms
Bosnia and Herzegovina (shown in purple) within Austria-Hungary
Capital Sarajevo
Government Constitutional Monarchy
Emperor-King of Austria-Hungary
 •  1878–1916 Francis Joseph I
 •  1916–1918 Charles I
Joint Minister of Finance
 •  1878–1880 Leopold von Hofmann
 •  1918 Alexander Spitzmüller
 •  1878 Josip Filipović
 •  1914–1918 Stjepan Sarkotić
Legislature Diet (after 1910)
Historical era New Imperialism / WWI
 •  Treaty of Berlin 13 July 1878
 •  Bosnian crisis 7 October 1908
 •  Secession 1 December 1918
 •  1879 51,082 km² (19,723 sq mi)
 •  1879 est. 1,184,164 
     Density 23.2 /km²  (60 /sq mi)
 •  1885 est. 1,336,091 
 •  1895 est. 1,568,092 
 •  1910 est. 1,898,044 
Currency Krone

Bosnia and Herzegovina fell under Austro-Hungarian rule in 1878 when the Congress of Berlin approved the occupation of the Bosnia Vilayet, which officially remained part of the Ottoman Empire. Three decades later, in 1908, Austria-Hungary provoked the Bosnian crisis by formally annexing the occupied zone, establishing the Condominium of Bosnia and Herzegovina under the joint control of Austria and Hungary.


  • History 1
    • Occupation 1.1
    • Ethnic relations 1.2
    • Annexation 1.3
  • Politics 2
    • Parliamentary parties 2.1
    • Non-parliamentary parties 2.2
  • Demographics 3
  • Administration 4
    • Governors 4.1
  • Religion 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7



The Austro-Hungarian forces storming Sarajevo.

Following the Great Powers. The resulting Treaty of Berlin caused Bosnia and Herzegovina to nominally remain under sovereignty of the Ottoman Empire,[1] but was de facto ceded to Austria-Hungary, which also obtained the right to garrison the Sanjak of Novi Pazar. According to article 25:

The provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina shall be occupied and administered by Austria-Hungary. The government of Austria-Hungary, not desiring to undertake the administration of the Sanjak of Novi-Pazar, which extends between Serbia and Montenegro in a South-Easterly direction to the other side of Mitrovitza, the Ottoman administration will continue to exercise its functions there. Nevertheless, in order to assure the maintenance of the new political state of affairs, as well as freedom and security of communications, Austria-Hungary reserves the right of keeping garrisons and having military and commercial roads in the whole of this part of the ancient vilayet of Bosnia. To this end the governments of Austria-Hungary and Turkey reserve to themselves to come to an understanding on the details.[2]

The Austro-Hungarian Army engaged in a major mobilization effort to prepare for the assault on Bosnia and Herzegovina,[3] commanding by the end of June 1878 a force of 82,113 troops, 13,313 horses and 112 cannons in the VI, VII, XX, and XVIII infantry divisions as well as a rear army in the Kingdom of Dalmatia.[4] The primary commander was Josip Filipović; the forward XVIII infantry division was under the command Stjepan Jovanović, while the rear army commander in Dalmatia was Gabriel Rodić.[5] The occupation of Bosnia and Herzegovina started on 29 July 1878 and was over on 20 October.[6]

The Ottoman army in Bosnia and Herzegovina at the time consisted of roughly 40,000 troops with 77 cannons, that combined with local militias to around 93,000 men.[7] The Austro-Hungarian troops were occasionally met with ferocious opposition from elements of both Muslim and Orthodox populations there, and significant battles occurred near Čitluk, Stolac, Livno and Klobuk.[8] Despite setbacks at Maglaj and Tuzla, Sarajevo was occupied in October 1878. Austro-Hungarian casualties amounted to over 5,000 and the unexpected violence of the campaign led to recriminations between commanders and political leaders.[9] Fierce resistance from Muslims was expected as Austro-Hungarians realized their occupation meant that Bosnian Muslims would lose their privileged status based on their religion.[1]

Tensions remained in certain parts of the country (particularly Herzegovina) and a mass emigration of predominantly Muslim dissidents occurred. However, a state of relative stability was reached soon enough and Austro-Hungarian authorities were able to embark on a number of social and administrative reforms which intended to make Bosnia and Herzegovina into a "model colony". With the aim of establishing the province as a stable political model that would help dissipate rising South Slav nationalism, Habsburg rule did much to codify laws, to introduce new political practices, and generally to provide for modernization.

Ethnic relations

Béni Kállay, the Austro-Hungarian minister of finance in charge for governing Bosnia and Herzegovina

The Austro-Hungarian administration advocated the ideal of a pluralist and multi-confessional Bosnian nation. Joint Imperial Minister of Finance and Vienna-based administrator of Bosnia Béni Kállay thus endorsed Bosnian nationalism in the form of Bošnjaštvo ("Bosniakhood") with the aim to inspire in Bosnia's people 'a feeling that they belong to a great and powerful nation'[10] and viewed Bosnians as "speaking the Bosnian language and divided into three religions with equal rights.".[11][12] Between 1861 and 1869, Topal Osman Pasha, an Ottoman grand vizier had striven to do the same.[13]

The policy attempted to isolate Bosnia and Herzegovina from its irredentist neighbors (Orthodox Serbia, Catholic Croatia, and the Muslim Ottoman Empire) and to suppress the concept of Serbian and Croatian nationhood, which were already current among Bosnia and Herzegovina's Orthodox and Catholic communities, respectively, in the mid-19th century.[12] Croats and Serbs who opposed the policy mostly ignored Bosnian nationhood and instead sought to claim Bosnian Muslims as their own, a move that was rejected by most of them.[14][15]

The idea of a unified South Slavic state (typically expected to be spearheaded by independent Kingdom of Serbia) became a popular political ideology in the region at this time, including Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Certain Muslim circles in Bosnia and Herzegovina published the newspaper Bošnjak ("Bosniak"). This newspaper caused fierce discussions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Serbia. The newspaper supported Kállay's policy, whose goal was to strengthen Austro-Hungarian rule in occupied Bosnia and Herzegovina. Although Kállay's policy was not widely accepted even amongst Muslims, Bošnjak nevertheless represented the national aspirations of some Muslims in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Kállay's policy was finally defeated in 1896 and 1899, when Bosnian Serbs and Muslims called for religious and educational autonomy. Kállay's policy had some potential to resist Croatian and Serbian national aspirations, but after 1899 and 1900 his policy of promoting Bosnian identity had no significant effect.[16]

After the death of Kallay, the policy was abandoned. By 1905, nationalism was an integral factor of Bosnian politics, with national political parties corresponding to the three groups dominating elections.[12]

Soon after Austria-Hungary occupied Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1878, the government took the area's religious activities and institutions under its sovereignty. Austro-Hungarian authorities issued regulations which made Muslim clergy Austro-Hungarian state officials, answering exclusively to them.

This was to isolate Bosnian Muslims from the Ottoman Empire, and its clergy who were subordinate to the Sultan. The Muslims were largely unhappy with their new status, and formed Muslim political opposition. This Muslim opposition demanded, at first, Muslim religious autonomy from Austria-Hungary, but later, as it grew stronger, they demanded autonomy from the Ottoman Empire. The Muslim opposition tried to align itself with the Serbs, who were also demanding religious and educational autonomy. But unsolved agrarian relations between the Muslim leadership and the Serbs was an obstacle to any far-reaching alliance. The alliance that did form was only tactical. Later, the Muslim leadership emphasized Ottoman sovereignty over Bosnia and Herzegovina, and demanded the right to organize their religious activity under the aegis of the Shaykh al-Islām of the Ottoman Empire.[17]

Safvet beg Bašagić was installed as the first parliamentary president of the Muslim National Organization

With Kállay's death in 1903, the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina was liberalized. The national movements in Bosnia and Herzegovina were transformed into political parties. Muslims founded the Croats formed the Croat National Union (HNZ) in 1908. Another significant Croatian party, though less represented then the HNZ, was the Croatian Catholic Association (HKU).[18]

The MNO considered Bosnia and Herzegovina to be part of the Ottoman Empire until the collapse of Austria-Hungary in 1918. They considered Austria-Hungary a European country assigned to control Bosnia and Herzegovina. Their main goal was to achieve Muslim religious autonomy and to maintain the agrarian relations that were in force at the time. In 1909 they achieved their religious autonomy.[19]

Petar Kočić, a prominent Bosnian Serb writer and politician

Austro-Hungarian authorities signed a treaty with the Kingdom of Serbia. Their goals, however, were no obstacle to economic cooperation with the Austrian-Hungarian authorities.[22]

Ivo Pilar, a prominent Croatian historian, geopolitician and leading ideologist of the Croatian People's Union

In order to suppress national aspirations, the Austrian-Hungarian authorities tried to limit the activity of the Franciscans in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Emperor and the Holy See discussed the reestablishment of the Catholic Church in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Emperor's goal was to have the Church in Bosnia subordinated to his secular power within the Church. In the end, in 1881, the Holy See yielded, on condition that the Emperor did not explicitly mention his authority in a bulla which he, however, did. After establishing secular power over the Catholic Church in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Emperor established the cathedral in Sarajevo and named Archbishop Dr. Josip Štadler as its head.[23] Just before the occupation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Croatian Sabor asked the Emperor to alter the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina so it could be unified with the Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia and the Kingdom of Dalmatia. The Emperor refused to accept this demand and dismissed the Sabor. This was done as the Austrian-Hungarian authorities had a plan to isolate Bosnia and Herzegovina from its neighbouring Slavic countries, Croatia and Serbia, and to halt the national aspirations of the peoples in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The authorities did not only suppress the Croatian and Serbian names, but also any flags, coats of arms and folk songs. Any activity that would emphasise a common interest of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina and those in the Triune Kingdom was suppressed from the start. As they were unable to form a political party, especially under Kállay's administration, Croats formed various musical societies, reading rooms, schools, economic institutions and newspapers.[24] The authorities forbade these societies from using the word "Croatian", even though they allowed use of the word "Serbian" for Serbian societies. Only later was the use of the word "Croatian" allowed. This official policy was pushed by Hungarian circles, especially under Kállay and his successor Stephan Burián von Rajecz. The goal of their policy was to weaken the Croatian position in Bosnia and Herzegovina by strengthening the Serbian position, in order to make unification of Bosnia and Herzegovina with Croatia less likely. Even though the authorities tried to isolate Bosnia and Herzegovina from the influence of neighbouring Slavic countries, Croatian people in Bosnia were nevertheless influenced by all three major political movements from Croatia, first the Illyrian movement, later Yugoslavism and Croatian nationalism.[25]

Josip Štadler, Archbishop of Vrhbosna and leader of the Croatian Catholic Association

In Croatian politics there were two factions and their formal political organising ran slowly. The fundamental reason for this Croatian political division was disagreement between the Franciscan Bosnian Province and the Archbishop's Chancery on the organisation of parishes within the archdiocese.[26] The first initiative for creation of a Croatian political party came from the Croatian intelligentsia which gained support from the Franciscans. In 1908, after some preparations, it founded the Croatian People's Union with Ivo Pilar as its main ideologist.[27] In its program, the HNZ advocated the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina by Austria-Hungary[28] and its unification with the rest of the Croatian lands.[27] In relations with the Serbs, the HNZ stood for a strict reciprocity, rejecting the idea of Bosnia and Herzegovina's unification with any other country or its autonomy. The HNZ did not demanded any changes in social relations or changes in the agrarian relations. They tried to maintain good relations with the Muslim population, which was the only way to gain political strength. Because of this, they were harshly criticized by the Štadler's Croatian Catholic Association that advocated an end to the serf system. Pilar believed that the HNZ's goals could only be achieved if Croats gained support from the Muslim population, and at the same time, he criticised Štadler for his Catholic propaganda.[27] Štadler, who was Pilar's main opponent, believed that Catholic Croats should not be educated in any way other than as Catholics, thus advocating segregation between Catholics and Muslims.[29] The HKU like the HNZ advocated unification of Bosnia and Herzegovina with other Croatian lands. It also promoted Christian morals, and unlike the HNZ, the HKU advocated the abolition of the serf system as they had no relations with the Muslims.[30]


Illustration from the French magazine Le Petit Journal on the Bosnian Crisis: Bulgaria declares its independence and its prince Ferdinand is named Tsar, Austria-Hungary, in the person of Franz Joseph, annexes Bosnia and Herzegovina, while the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II looks on helplessly

Even though Bosnia and Herzegovina was still part of the Ottoman Empire, at least formally, the Austrian-Hungarian authorities had factual control over the country. Austria-Hungary waited for a chance to incorporate Bosnia and Herzegovina formally as well. Any action concerning Bosnia and Herzegovina depended on international opinion, which Austrian-Hungarian authorities were aware of. They used the Young Turk Revolution in the Ottoman Empire to finally annex Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Young Turk movement had gained support in mass protests throughout the Ottoman Empire during 1908, with their intention to restore the suspended Ottoman constitution. The Austrian-Hungarian authorities were afraid that the revolution could spread to Bosnia and Herzegovina, as it had support from the Bosnian Muslims and the Serbs, who supported the autonomy of Bosnia and Herzegovina within the Ottoman Empire. On 7 September 1908, the SNO and the MNO demanded that Bosnia and Herzegovina accept the constitution as part of the Ottoman Empire.[30]

On 5 October the Emperor Franz Joseph announced the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and ordered the Minister of Finance to compose a constitution for Bosnia and Herzegovina. The annexation was announced in Sarajevo two days later, on 7 October. This annexation led to an international crisis, which was solved on 26 February 1909 when the Ottoman Empire recognised the annexation having received material compensation and on the Austrian-Hungarian garrisons leaving the Sanjak of Novi Pazar. By this, Bosnia and Herzegovina was formally under the Austrian-Hungarian sovereignty. On 21 March 1909, the German Empire sent an ultimatum to the Russian Empire to recognise the annexation, which Russia did immediately. Soon, the Kingdom of Serbia recognised the annexation on 31 March, the Kingdom of Montenegro doing so on 5 April.[31]

The annexation caused unrest amongst the Muslim and Serbian population. The Muslims could not believe the sovereignty of the Sultan could be overturned with a proclamation, and that they were now ruled by a Christian emperor. The MNO and the SNO refused to give any official statement about the annexation. In

  1. ^ a b Zovko 2007, p. 13.
  2. ^ Modern History Sourcebook: The Treaty of Berlin, 1878—Excerpts on the Balkans hosted by Fordham University
  3. ^ Oršolić June 2000, pp. 289-291.
  4. ^ Oršolić June 2000, p. 299.
  5. ^ Oršolić June 2000, p. 294.
  6. ^ Oršolić June 2000, p. 304.
  7. ^ Oršolić June 2000, p. 301.
  8. ^ Oršolić June 2000, pp. 302-303.
  9. ^ Rothenberg 1976, p. 101-02.
  10. ^ Sugar 1963, p. 201.
  11. ^ Ramet 2008, pp. 74–76.
  12. ^ a b c d Velikonja 2003, pp. 130-135.
  13. ^ Zovko 2007, p. 17-18.
  14. ^ Europa Publications 2003, p. 110.
  15. ^ Banac 1988.
  16. ^ Zovko 2007, p. 18.
  17. ^ Zovko 2007, p. 18-19.
  18. ^ Zovko 2007, p. 19.
  19. ^ Zovko 2007, p. 19-20.
  20. ^ Zovko 2007, p. 20.
  21. ^ Zovko 2007, p. 20-21.
  22. ^ Zovko 2007, p. 21.
  23. ^ Zovko 2007, p. 21-22.
  24. ^ Zovko 2007, p. 22.
  25. ^ Zovko 2007, p. 22-23.
  26. ^ Zovko 2007, p. 23-24.
  27. ^ a b c Zovko 2007, p. 24.
  28. ^ Krišto 2006, p. 61.
  29. ^ Zovko 2007, p. 24-25.
  30. ^ a b Zovko 2007, p. 25.
  31. ^ a b Zovko 2007, p. 26.
  32. ^ Zovko 2007, p. 26-27.
  33. ^ a b Zovko 2007, p. 27.
  34. ^ a b c Zovko 2007, p. 16.
  35. ^ Zovko 2007, p. 27-28.
  36. ^ Džaja 1994, p. 45.
  37. ^ Okey 1992, p. 63.


See also

The occupation of Bosnia and Herzegovina led to great reforms of the Catholic Church in that country, after centuries in the Ottoman Empire. In 1881, Vrhbosna was elevated to an archdiocese, and the dioceses of Banja Luka and Mostar-Duvno were formed. Work began on the Cathedral of Jesus' Heart in Sarajevo in 1884 and was completed by 1889.

The emperor of Austria-Hungary had the ability to appoint and dismiss religious leaders and to control religious establishments financially through agreements created with the papacy, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and the Sheikh ul-Islam.[37]


# Portrait Name
Term of Office Ethnicity
1 Josip Filipović
13 July 1878 18 November 1878 Croat
2 Wilhelm von Württemberg
18 November 1878 6 April 1881 German
3 Hermann Dahlen von Orlaburg
6 April 1881 9 August 1882 German
4 Johann von Appel
9 August 1882 8 December 1903 German
5 Eugen von Albori
8 December 1903 25 June 1907 German
6 Anton von Winzor
30 June 1907 7 March 1909 German
7 Marijan Varešanin
7 March 1909 10 May 1911 Croat
8 Oskar Potiorek
10 May 1911 22 December 1914 Slovene
9 Stjepan Sarkotić
22 December 1914 3 November 1918 Croat


The Austrian-Hungarian authorities left the Ottoman division of Bosnia and Herzegovina untouched, they only changed the names of divisional units. Thus the Bosnia Vilayet was renamed to Reichsland, sanjaks were renamed to Kreise, kazas were renamed to Bezirke, while nahiyahs were renamed to Exposituren.[34] There were six Kreise and 54 Bezirke.[36] Head of the Reichsland was a Landsschef, heads of the Kreises were Kreiseleiters and heads of the Bezirke were Bezirkesleiters.[34]

In the 1910 Constitution, the Emperor proclaimed Bosnia and Herzegovina to be unique administrative territory under responsible leadership of the joint finance minister. With the implementation of the constitution, the position of Bosnia and Herzegovina did not change. It remained a corpus separatum administrated by Austria and Hungary. The constitution implemented three new constitutions, the Diet of Bosnia, the National Council and the municipal councils. The Diet of Bosnia had very limited legislative powers. The main legislative power was in hands of the emperor, parliaments in Vienna and Budapest and the joint minister of finance. The Diet of Bosnia only proposed decisions which needed to be approved by the both parliaments in Vienna and Budapest.[33] The Diet also had no impact on the administrative-political institutions, the National Council and the municipal councils and also it didn't have right to participate in every decision making; the Diet could participate only in decisions that mattered Bosnia and Herzegovina exclusively, while decisions on armed forces, commercial and traffic connections, customs and similar matters, were made by the parliaments in Vienna and Budapest.[35]

Bosnia and Herzegovina was governed jointly by Cisleithania (Austria) and the Lands of the Crown of Saint Stephen (Hungary) through the joint Ministry of Finance. In the Ministry of Finance, there was the Bosnian Office which controlled Bosnia and Herzegovina over the Government based in Sarajevo. The Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina was headed by a governor, who was also a commander of military forces based in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The government was also composed of the governor's deputy and chiefs of departments. At first, the government had only three departments, administrative, financial and legislative. Later, other departments, including construction, economic, education, religion, and technical, were founded as well.[34]

Districts (Kreise) of Bosnia and Herzegovina: Banja Luka, Bihać, Mostar, Sarajevo, Travnik, Tuzla


Population of Bosnia and Herzegovina by Religion 1879–1910[12]
Census Muslim Orthodox Catholic Jewish Total
Number Share Number Share Number Share Number Share
1879 448,613 38.7% 496,485 42.9% 209,391 18.1% 3,675 0.3% 1,158,440
1885 492,710 36.9% 571,250 42.8% 265,788 19.9% 5,805 0.4% 1,336,091
1895 548,632 35.0% 673,246 42.9% 334,142 21.3% 8,213 0.5% 1,568,092
1910 612,137 32.2% 825,418 43.5% 434,061 22.9% 11,868 0.6% 1,898,044


  • Muslim Progressive Party (Muslimanska napredna stranka)
  • Muslim Democracy (Muslimanska demokracija)
  • Serbian People's Independent Party (Srpska narodna nezavisna stranka)
  • Socialdemocratic Party of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Socijaldemokratska stranka Bosne i Hercegvoine)

Non-parliamentary parties

  • Croatian People's Union (Hrvatska narodna zajednica)
  • Croatian Catholic Association (Hrvatska katolička udruga)
  • Muslim People's Organisation (Muslimanska narodna organizacija)
  • Serbian People's Organisation (Srpska narodna organizacija; Српска народна организација)

Parliamentary parties

The Diet of Bosnia was established in 1910.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, every major ethnic group was represented by its political party. The Muslims were represented by the Muslim People's Organisation, the Serbs were represented by the Serbian People's Organisation, while the Croats were represented by the two political parties, the Croatian People's Union and the Croatian Catholic Association.

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[33] expressed the gratitude of the Croatian people to the Emperor for the annexation at the end of October 1908. However, Croatian enthusiasm did not endure, as Bosnia and Herzegovina failed to be joined with Croatia as expected.Antonije Sunarić and Nikola Mandić Unlike the Serbs and the Muslims, the Croats enthusiastically accepted the Austrian-Hungarian annexation. In an audience to the Emperor Franz Joseph, the representatives of the HNZ, Pilar, [32]

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