They say that Bosnia and Herzegovina is a strange country. Some have even called it »a dark shire«. When observing it today, we may conclude that it is not far from such descriptions. One country, two entities, three constitutive nations... There is no such social system anywhere in the world. For those living in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the only comfort is that they did not have the choice. They had to accept everything, regardless of the words used to describe it and regardless of the feelings such descriptions were causing. In such social system, the most cramped is the smallest constitutive nation. In this case, those are the Croats. Moreover, to make it more absurd, this was the same nation that was the most numerous in the former Bosnia and Herzegovina, it was the first nation to start standardising its language, thus firming their sense of affiliation. Jesuit Bartul Kašić wrote the first Croatian grammar already in the year 1604, in the shtokavian ikavica dialect, which was the most spread dialect in the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Popes and the international community of those times have determined the area in which that language was spoken. That is what history says. And what about the present?
The Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which, by the way, is still not officially translated into languages of constitutive nations, guarantees to each nation the right to their language and education system, probably this also refers to the media... However, the reality is somewhat different. The Serbian Republic entity is mostly cleansed of Croats and Bosnians and lives its life closed in its own world. On the other side, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina entity with each day belongs more to the exclusive majority nation: the Bosnian one. High Representative of the international community was authorised to prevent the Serbian Republic and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina to become the entity of one sole nation. Much money was spent, many words and promises were give that it will be done, but until the present day, no results were achieved. Sometimes strange moves are being taken, like, for example, in Mostar. In the entire Bosnia and Herzegovina, and probably everywhere else in the world, exists the principle that the authority belongs to the party that wins most votes at the election. In Mostar it is irrelevant. Among other things, the number of representatives of each nation in the town authorities is proscribed. Is it really by accident that such exception entered into force in the only town in Bosnia and Herzegovina where Croats are the majority nation?
The mentioned poor political frame is followed by even poorer consequences for the Croatian language. It may sound strange, but the Croatian language had its best position during the Homeland War. It was liberated from the Yugoslavian pressure, it started breathing freely. The publishing activity bloomed, the media were developing to become a significant social subject, the university system was intensely progressing, founding of the Academy was initiated and many other things were happening.
Although it seemed that the Dayton Peace agreement would bring an even greater freedom to the Croatian language, hopes were not realised. The regulation regarding the Croats' right to their own language, education and media, considering that they are the constitutive nation of the country, is constantly trampled on by the cruel reality. One of the first blows was the attack on the University of Mostar, the only university in Croatian language in Bosnia and Herzegovina, while other nations have several each. A strong fight for its independence was fought. Under the mask of the town reunification, diverse forces tried to unite it with the university from the other pert of the town. Its management was always stating that they have nothing against students of different nations, religions and believes studying there. They should only know that the study plan and programme are in Croatian language. It was not convenient for the creators of disorder. They tried to act against constitution and to impose their own personal political believes. Owing to the ability of the management of professors at the University, they did not succeed in their intention. The situation now is the following — the University of Mostar is the only university in Bosnia and Herzegovina to sign the Bologna Declaration and has received high acknowledgments and praises from the European Union.
The media in the Croatian language in Bosnia and Herzegovina have also, completely undeservedly, experienced the veritable after-Dayton Calvary. Only one radio station and one television company managed to expand themselves on a more or less national level. However, after that they first prohibited the broadcasting of the Croatian Television in Bosnia and Herzegovina, after that they prevented the only television company in Croatian language in Bosnia and Herzegovina from further broadcasting. Only the mentioned radio station was left, but it also was experiencing very difficult work conditions. Those conditions were made more difficult simultaneously with the deteriorated position of the Croatian nation.
Let us also mention the education system, while listing this adversities in today's progress of Croatian language in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Its visible agony started the moment that censors crossing out the so-called undesirable contents in school textbooks started, and to make no mistakes, they verified it with the special stamp, if it was not tragic, it would be humorous. And this undesirable contents was not pornography, violence or something similar that bombards us every day, but certain heroes and great names of a nation, events from one nation's history, different formulations etc. All three constitutive nations met such obstacles, but it was made most difficult for the Croatian nation, because it stands in the worst position in general. Another obvious attack was the socalled unification of two schools under one root. Instead of enabling children to follow one study plan and programme, it was made possible for teachers to speak the language they choose in class. They even named it: the Inclusive language. By allowing teachers to speak the language they chose, it was also allowed to children. Which language will those children speak and will they at all be literate when they leave the school... is it difficult to conclude? However, the show goes on.
As hard as the circumstances may seem, and they indeed are, the Croatian language tenaciously endures in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I will not single out anyone in particular, but I will mention certain events.
Trying to meet the challenge of the moment, on January 24th, 2004, intellectuals gathered around the Croatian Writers' Association of Herzeg Bosnia have officially made public the foundation of the »Croatian Intellectual Circle '04«. The idea is to direct their activities through the Managing Board of the Association, until the circumstances are such that they may be active without the additional help. Operating in difficult circumstances, the Circle starting clearing the muddy water, and it is presented on the web page www.hik04.info.
The »Matica hrvatska Easter Days« have become not only a traditional, but also an international event. This year they lasted for the whole seventy-two days. Significant names and significant events followed one after another. Nothing similar was ever done in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Regarding the publishing activity we should first mention the book of poet and Yugoslavian prisoner Adrija Vučemil, »Kap svjetla u tami trajanja« (A Drop of Light in the Darkness of Endurance). It is a selection from his previous poetry. Vučemil is deservedly included in the most eminent Croatian poets today. Then follows the book by Boris Arapović »Gog i magog hrvatski« (Gog and Magog of Croatia). Although he is member of the Swedish Academy and for the most of the time lives in Sweden, his works are often published in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In this book he is in an original way dealing with the Croatian suffering and torment timing the Homeland War. It is a serious accusation against the aggressor. He tried to bring nearer the events that took place even with the very construction of sentences. And he was more that successful. Dominican Stjepan Krasić found the historical writing regarding the Croatian language in the papal archives in Rome. He revealed everything in his book »Pape i hrvatski književni jezik u XVII. stoljeću« (The Popes and The Croatian Standard Language in the 17th Century). This book will also meet a significant response at university departments all over the world, not only the ones of the Croatian language, but of the Slavic languages in general. We should also definitely mention the posthumously published book by Nenad Valentin Borozan »Čekanje blizine. Rukovet za Zlatu Frajzman« (Waiting for the Nearness. A Handful for Zlata Frajzman). This book completed the life and poetry path of a man who had experienced and survived the war in Mostar and fought selflessly for the Croatian language. He was even being threatened for it.
From the journals writing in Croatian standard language, let us mention Cvitak, journal for happy childhood, as it reads in its title. Self-denyingly and persistently this journal has found the way to its readers. It became a recognised journal for children in Bosnia and Herzegovina. And what can we say about the book »55 suvremenih židovskih pjesnika«(Fifty-five Contemporary Jewish Poets)? It was published by the Croatian Writers' Association of Herzeg Bosnia, although there is almost no money for the everyday up keeping. The wish for the first-class cultural event prevailed. Something similar last time appeared among Croatian people in the thirties of the twentieth century. Beautiful continuance of this event was the publishing of the book »Molitva tmine« (Prayer of the Darkness) by Zdravko Luburić, for which he has received the prestigious A. B. Šimić Award, awarded by the Croatian Writers' Association of Herzeg Bosnia. He dealt with the baneful influence of a war to the gentle world of children. It is a powerful anti-war book by the poet who lives abroad and writes also in German language.
Along with the mentioned Days of Matica hrvatska, we must say something about the Hum Poetry Evenings. This year the event was held for the fifth time. I have no intention to speak about financial difficulties, considering that even other events in the same town would not receive larger sums of money. Eradication of language is obviously performed in that way. too. After that event, followed the Days of Nikola Šop in Jajce. Croatian Cultural Society Napredak wished to celebrate the one hundredth birth anniversary of this author. He was a poet who fought for his language and his believes during his entire life. Somewhat more of a fighting spirit was definitely Antun Branko Šimić. He died young, but left a majestic work. Already in the seventies of the past century, the literary manifestation in his honour was initiated in his hometown Drinovci. It was thus continued this year, too. The closing ceremony was held in the mentioned Drinovci with appearances of renowned poets and presentation of awards to those who are yet to be confirmed.
In the conclusion, I should probably answer the question: How to go on? Many years ago the Croatian Writers' Association of Herzeg Bosnia suggested that all three literary associations of constitutive nations enter the joint institution, nevertheless preserving each its own identity. Instead of applying the same idea to the entire Bosnia and Herzegovina, thus having it complete and allowing everyone to think of it as their own, these days accusations from the part of the Federal Television are appearing, especially against Croats. The reason are unpaid subscription rates. Answer of the accused: allow us to start a channel in Croatian language under your television company, and we will pay even more. What seems to be problem? Indeed, what seems to be the problem?
Most (The Bridge), 1-2, Društvo hrvatskih književnika / The Croatian writers’ association, Zagreb, May 2005, pages 70-71