25 November, Statehood Day, Bosnia and Herzegovina

The Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina has no common national day, and the 25 November is a contested day.

Map from CIA World Factbook

Politicians have not been able to agree on which historical event should be chosen for commemmoration. In the Federation (the Bosniak-Croat entity), 25 November is celebrated as Statehood Day.

On this day in 1943, the Anti-Fascist Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina (ZAVNOBiH) adopted a resolution declaring Bosnia and Herzegovina an equal community of Serbs, Muslims and Croats.

The Serbs deny the historical importance of this event, instead choosing to celebrate 21 November, the signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement in 1995, when the Serbian entity, Republika Srpska, was established.

Communist Party activist and later People’s Hero of Yugoslavia Rada Vranješević speaking at ZAVNOBiH (Wikimedia Commons)

The leaders of Republika Srpska, who advocate the commemoration of 21 November, are not in favour of a united BiH, and they see 25 November as a symbol of state unity that undermines their vision of the state.

On the occasion of 25 November 2008, Milorad Dodik, prime minister of Republika Srpska, stated: “The celebration of 25 November is an artificial imposing of a story of an alleged continuity of statehood, which did not exist.”

On the other side, the Croat Željko Komšić, one of the three members of the State Presidency, stated in 2008, arguing against the Serbs: “The date of signing the Dayton Peace Agreement I consider an important date in the recent history of Bosnia, which should be celebrated in a dignified manner, but 25 November, the date of celebration of ZAVNOBiH, and the decisions reached there, I personally find sacrosanct, inviolable, and the sole National Day of Bosnia.”

Proposed a common law

In January 2009, the Bosnia and Herzegovina Ministry of Civil Affairs proposed a common law on holidays that would abolish commemmorative days specific to either the Federation or Republika Srpska.

None of the proposed holidays (New Year, May Day, Anti-Fascist Day, International Day Against Violence) would have any connection to specific national affairs within Bosnia.

This proposal, however, met resistance from Bosniak parliamentarians. On 17 July 2009, the Council of Ministers nevertheless made their final decision: Bosnia and Herzegovina shall have only the “international” holidays proposed earlier.

No national day in the real sense was included in their proposal. This decision was again met with criticism from the Bosniaks, since “their” dates were not included either. This proposal has yet to be discussed in Parliament, and it is not likely to be adopted.

So, Bosnia and Herzegovina is still a country without a national day, or, more precisely, with several competing ones.



Published Aug. 24, 2010 12:23 PM - Last modified Aug. 24, 2010 2:49 PM