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Bunjevac Question - bunjevačko pitanje

The Serbian-Croation Bunjevac Case



    The "Bunjevac Question" (Bunjevačko pitanje) represents a linguistic and socio-political problem in Croatia, Hungary, and Serbia. Bunjevci are living mostly in the Bačka region of the Autonomous Province Vojvodina (Serbia), Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia (Senj and surroundings, East-Slavonia, West-Srijem: Ilok, Vukovar, Županja, Vinkovci), and southern Hungary (Bács-Kiskun county, particularly in the Baja region). Disputes about the national status and historical origins of the Bunjevci go back to the nationalism wave in the 19th century in Austria-Hungary. The debate revived by the Breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Some Bunjevci in Hungary and Serbia, who are gathered around the Bunjevac National Council (Vojvodina/Serbia), claiming they are an autochthonous ethnic group (Bunjevac nation/tribe/people,, while most of the Bunjevci in the Bačka region identifying themselves as a Croatian sub-ethnic group – an integral part of the Croatian national corpus (Izjava Predsjednistva HAZU o hrvatskoj etnickoj skupini Bunjevci), represented by the Croat National Council (Vojvodina/Serbia). The Republic of Serbia is using in Vojvodina a "segregated model of multiculturalism" (Žarković, Sara). Most people who declare that they belong to a specific ethnic/minority group, already come from families with mixed family backgrounds (e.g. mixed marriages between different nationalities/ethnicities, interreligious marriages). The Croatian, Hungarian and Serbian authorities do not recognize a distinct Bunjevac/Bunjevci language/nationality. BEC

    There is no scientific consensus about the theories of Bunjevci origins - Bunjevci are: Albanians, Bogomils, Bosnians, Catholic Croats, Catholic Rascians, Catholic Serbs, Catholic Vlachs, Celts, Croat tribe, Dacians, Dalmatians, Dardanians, fourth South Slav nation (besides Slovenes, Croats and Serbs), Illyrians, indigenous pre-Slavic population of the Roman province Transdanubia, Kosovo Catholics, Kosovo Vlachs, Meerkroaten (Littoral Croats), Moesians, Morlachs, Normans, Serbs from Bosnia, Slavacized Vlachs, Uskoks, Valachi Bunyevacz, Valachi Catolici, Vlachs, Walachen. BEC

    Due of the turbulent history of the Balkans, the area became a patchwork of dialectal and religious differences. Bosnians, Croats and Serbs were historically often part of different cultural circles with foreign overlords that resulted in population migrations and the wide spread of Shtokavian dialect in the western Balkans. During that period, the dialect was referred to under a variety of names (e.g. "Slavic", "Serbian", "Croatian", "Bosnian", and "Illyrian"). BEC

    "Dekret 1945"

    Yugoslavia: Order of the Supreme People's Liberation Board of Vojvodina from 14 May 1945, which states that Bunjevci and Šokci should be regarded as Croats, no matter of their self-declaration. (Wikipedia)

    Historical context "Dekret 1945", Tomislav Žigmanov 

    Bunjevac Croats:"Bunjevac Question", 2018

    Role Serbian government - "Bunjevac Question", 2013

    Bunjevac National Council, 2018 

    Croat National Council: "Bunjevac Question", 2019

    Bunjevci belong to the Croatian Nation, 2013

    Role Serbian government - "Bunjevac Question", 2019

    Croat National Council, 2018

    Bunjevac National Council: "Bunjevac Question", 2019 

    Pseudo-minority status of Bunjevci in Serbia

    Historical, socio-political, and linguistic dispute

    Serbia's minority state policy - Bunjevci: "Amongst the population that is identified as Bunjevac, there are some who declare their ethnic and national identity to be Bunjevac, while others declare their nationality to be Croat with Bunjevac as a ‘sub-ethnic identity’. These correspond to two officially recognised (by the Republic of Serbia and the AP of Vojvodina) national councils, both with their seats in Subotica, the Croat National Council and the Bunjevac National Council. Formal recognition and the financial benefits of establishing a national council should certainly not be neglected in this case. National councils not only receive funds from the state/autonomous province but have extensive powers over cultural and educational institutions. By providing structural, formal and financial support, the host state recognises these divisions and arguably sustains them." Stjepanović, Dejan (2013). The Claimed Co-ethnics and Kin-State Citizenship in Southeastern Europe. University of Edinburgh, UK. Published online: 08 Jan 2015. pp.152

    There is no scientific consensus about the theories of Bunjevci origins: "‘Bunjevci are people of Norman origin.’ ‘Bunjevci are indigenous pre-Slavic population of the Roman province Transdanubia, at the time called Dardans.’ ‘Bunjevci are Ilirs. They are catholici Valachi alias Bunievczi.’ ‘The core of Bunjevci people are old Roman inhabitants.’ ‘Bunjevci are Morlachs or Vallachs from Dalmatia and Herzegovina, who were Slavenized and accepted the Catholic faith.’ ‘Bunjevci originated from Bosnia and were members of the Bosnian Church, so called Bogumils, led to Vojvodina by Franciscan monks under the condition of accepting Catholicism.’ ‘Bunjevci are Serbs from Bosnia, converted by force to Catholicism, who then migrated to Vojvodina.’ ‘Bunjevci have always been Catholics, they are a Croat tribe, dispersed in Herzegovina, Dalmatia and Vojvodina.’ ‘Bunjevci are the fourth South Slav nation, besides Slovenes, Croats and Serbs.’" Todosijević, Bojan (2002). Why Bunjevci did not become a nation:  A Case Study. East Central Europe,Vol. 29, No.1-2, pp.59-72 

    Digitalnom izdanju Newsweek Serbia, 24.10.2016 navodi se: "Postoje mnoge teorije o poreklu Bunjevaca. Vuk Karadžić izneo je pretpostavku da se Bunjevci zovu po hercegovačkoj reci Buni, sa koje su doselili u Bačku. Za Bunjevce se sigurno zna, da su kao katolici došli u Bačku, u pratnji kotoličkih kaluđera, a sem toga ih u svim tadašnjim vojnim dokumentima nazivaju katoličkim Srbima. Doselili su se sa teritorije oko Svilaje i Dinare, najpre u Liku i Slavoniju, a zatim i na teritorije u kojima i danas žive. Bunjevci se u najstarijoj mađarskoj literaturi najčešće nazivaju upravo Bunjevcima, katoličkim Racima, Ilirima ili Dalmatima. Dr Aleksa Ivić navodi da se Bunjevci u najstarijoj literaturi najčešće nazivaju katoličkim Srbima, a tek kasnije Dalmatincima i Bunjevcima. Prošlost i poreklo Bunjevaca nepoznato je, tako reći i za njih same i za ostali svet, jer se nije nigde očuvao nikakav pouzdan podatak, koji bi u tom pogledu dao verodostojna razjašnjenja."

    Political-linguistic dispute "Bunjevac dialect vs. Bunjevac language" in Croatia and Serbia: Their is a diversity of Bunjevac dialects in Croatia, Hungary, and Serbia. Bunjevac speech is categorized as a New-Štokavian Young Ikavian dialect of the Serbo-Croatian /Croato-Serbian pluricentric language (Bosnian-Croatian-Montenegrin-Serbian: BCMS). Institutions of Serbia developed a standardized Bunjevac dialect variety in Serbia (2018). A few Bunjevac leaders and political activists, who are influential in the Bunjevac National Council, are strongly involved in developing a "national" identity of Bunjevci: stimulating folklore activities and searching for political and linguistic support to transform Bunjevac dialect in to a distinct language. The leadership of the Croat Bunjevac and Croatian minority in Serbia, has presented the "standard of the Bunjevac language" as an attempt to abolish the dialect of Bunjevac Croats from the Croatian cultural heritage. BEC

    Language politics and EU integration: "While language previously had been a means to unite Balkan Slavs, it became an instrument of nationalism wielded by politically motivated actors to widen the division among the ethnicities. Language disputes did not destroy Yugoslavia, but they may hinder recovery and modernization.  As each Yugoslav successor state strives toward integration into the European Union, political questions concerning language may polarize domestic politics and inhibit regional cooperation, thereby hampering efforts to carry out needed economic and political reforms." Rice, Eric A. (2010). Language politics in Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia - Calhoun: The NPS


    Open issues between Serbia and Croatia after « Subotica Declaretion » 2016

    • Absence of objective evidence based criteria for voluntary self-identification of Bunjevci in relation to population census in Serbia
    • Border issues
    • Croatian minority - Bunjevci and Šokci
    • Different theories about the Bunjevac origin
    • Implementation Minority Education Program
    • Minority representatives in parliament/state administration
    • Minority status of Bunjevci and Šokci in Serbia 
    • Political-linguistic dispute "Bunjevac dialect vs. Bunjevac language"
    • Politics of population census
    • Role of the government in the Bunjevac identity dispute - "Bunjevac Question"
    • Serbian minority in Croatia
    • Stigmatization of Croatian minority in Serbia

    'Subotica Declaration- Serbian prime minister Vučić and Croatian president Grabar-Kitarović (Serbia, 2016)

    Croatian president Grabar-Kitarović and Serbian president Vučić in Zagreb (Croatia, 2018)

    Extra-territorial (transborder) nation-building practices in Vojvodina. Kin-state activities in Vojvodina by foreign countries as Germany, Hungary, Bulgaria and Croatia, are increasing people's sense to belong to the country of their ancestors. Serbia, will have to show political maturity to manage its ethnic diversity, problems with state loyalty of citizens, economic migration to escape poverty, and it own conflicting domestic and foreign policy in the context of the planned EU accession. BEC

    Bunjevac community oriented political parties in Croatia and Vojvodina/Serbia e.g.:

    • DSHV - Demokratski savez Hrvata u Vojvodini, Vojvodina/Serbia
    • HBS - Hrvatske bunjevačke stranke, Croatia 
    • SBB - Savez bačkih Bunjevaca, Vojvodina/Serbia

    © Stichting Bunjevac European Center, 2015