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Bunjevac dialect as "political language"?

Language politics and EU intergration: "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

BCMS│Constitutional language of Bosnia (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Croatia, Montenegro, and Serbia. They all developed their own standardized dialect variety of the Serbo-Croatian language, and registered it legally as constitutional language of their country. BEC

Classification of Bunjevac dialects (ethnolect). A dialect is a regional speech pattern. Bunjevac speech is categorized as a New-Štokavian Young Ikavian dialect of the Serbo-Croatian pluricentric language (Bosnian-Croatian-Montenegrin-Serbian: BCMS). A dialect is a regional speech variety. And an ethnolect is a variety of a language spoken by a certain ethnic/cultural subgroup and serves as a distinguishing mark of social identity. The term combines the concepts of an ethnic group and a dialect. BEC

Role of the government in the Bunjevac identity dispute: 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 identify themselves as a Croatian subethnic 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). Both the Croatian, Hungarian and Serbian authorities do not recognize a distinct Bunjevac/Bunjevci language/nationality. BEC 

Statements about Bunjevci:

1. Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts

2. Croatian Bishops Conference

3. Government of Hungary

4. Government of Serbia

5. The Vatican 

Minority politics - 'divide et impera principle': "Cultural autonomy, reflected in a form of self-government in the areas of education, use of language and media control, establishment of specific associations, foundations, etc. transform into a relevant flow of financial means. In effect, leading a minority council stands for disposal of finances, governing various institutions and controlling minority's media. Therefore the leaders within one minority group are likely to turn against each other, rather then cooperate. The financial and economic benefits may constitute a strong argument for a leadership and influential tools in an impoverished society. Competition there is also very likely to happened, with all of it consequences." Muś, Jan (2013).

The Serbian government insisted that textbooks in a Bunjevac dialect variety appeared in the Cyrillic script for the first class of primary school, despite the fact that the use of the Latin script is dominant in the Bunjevac community. It is noteworthy that textbooks were published (2014), in a variety of the Bunjevac speech (ethnolect), before an official scientific standardization of the Bunjevac dialect variety was finalized (2018). BEC

"The linguistic and political situation is particularly complex as the majority of those living in the village identify with an ethnic group (Bunjevci) which Croatian nationalists argue to be Croatian, whilst other ethnic Bunjevac activists argue that they constitute an ‘autonomous ethnic group’. Serbian, Croatian and Bunjevac language varieties form part of a mutually intelligible dialect continuum. The issue is particularly relevant at present as the Serbian government has allotted funding for the standardization of the Bunjevac language variety, as well as for school textbooks written in that language variety, a move that has angered some of those who identify as Croatian." Hodges, Andrew (2015). - web page not accessible any longer (editor 01-03-2019)

Bunjevac dialect standardization: "It appears that the concept of standardization, whatever it may mean to the various parties involved, occupies a central position, or – actually – the central position in the Bunyev language debate, for it looks as though it is only thanks to standardization that a speech variety may gain the label of language." Belić, Bojan (2014). изворни научни чланак УДК 81'27(497.113) Bunyev(s): a linguistic frontier to be? pp.613

There is a diversity of Bunjevac dialects in Croatia, Hungary, and Serbia. Institutions of Serbia developed a standardized Bunjevac dialect variety in Serbia. 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 dialect' as an attempt to abolish the dialect of Bunjevac Croats from the Croatian cultural heritage. Both the Croatian, Hungarian and Serbian authorities do not recognize a distinct Bunjevac/Bunjevci language/nationality. BEC

"The Bunjevac question represents a socio-political problem in the Republic of Serbia, which comes from different interpretations of identity of the Bunjevac people from Bačka in Vojvodina. The majority of the Bunjevac ethnonym carriers are deeply divided by that issue into two dominant sides, which can, in the political sense, be regarded as two separate Bunjevac communities. One is composed of those Bunjevac people who interpret their identity as a sub-ethnic group belonging to the Croatian ethnic community and hence to the Croatian nation. Based on that, they represent a part of the Croatian national minority in Serbia. The other community is composed of those Bunjevac people who consider themselves being a separate ethnic community and as such they have been recognized as a separate national minority in Serbia since 2002." Gotal, Mihovil (2016). Bunjevačko pitanje kao simbolički konflikt politika identiteta - Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences Institutional Repository - Zagreb

"In Vojvodina, attempts to divide Bunjevac and Šokac from Croatian ethnicity were launched in order to create two separate Bunjevac and Šokac ethnicities. This resulted in the revision of choices for ethnic affiliation in the 1991 Yugoslavian census. The categories of Bunjevac and Šokac were introduced as the new categorization of ethnic affiliation for the purpose of reducing the number of Croatian population inside the Socialist republic of Serbia. Although Bunjevci were officially recognized as a separate ethnic group beginning in 1991, there are many Bunjevci who question the new categorization and continue to identify themselves not as a separate ethnicity from Croatian but simply as Yugoslav, or, as a part of Croatian ethnicity in the frame of “Vojvodina Croats” (which includes Šokci)." Kameda, Masumi (2013). pp. 96. Language Ideologies of the Bunjevac Minority in Vojvodina: Historical Backgrounds and the Post-1991 Situation 

According to Stjepanović, Dejan: "Amongst the population that is identied 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 ofcially 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 nancial benets 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 nancial support, the host state recognises these divisions and arguably sustains them." The Claimed Co-ethnics and Kin-State Citizenship in Southeastern Europe. University of Edinburgh, UK. Published online: 08 Jan 2015. pp.152.

  1. Croatian Minority in Serbia - Croat National Council of the Republic of Serbia: "Pursuant to the law on the Rights and liberty of national minorities (adopted by the Assembly of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, on February 26, 2002),  the Croat national minority was guaranteed, for the first time ever, the status of  minority. Although they carry several regional and sub-ethnic names (e.g. „Bunjevci“ and „Šokci“), Croats in Vojvodina constitute an integral part of the Croatian people, who in the capacity of an autochthone people reside in the parts of the Srijem of the Vojvodina province, in the Banat and the Bačka region, but also in a significant number in Belgrade. From the historical perspective, this population, in its overwhelming number, has been for centuries an indigenous population."
  2. "The constituting session of the Bunjevac National Minority Council was held on 14 June 2010 in Subotica. By the Ministry of Human and Minority Rights of the Republic of Serbia document No. 290-212-00-10/2010-06 of 26 July 2010 Bunjevac National Minority Council was entered into the national council register."

Absence of objective evidence based criteria for voluntary self-identification of Bunjevci in relation to population census in Serbia: "The legal system of the Republic of Serbia guarantees freedom to declare one’s ethnic background ...    The initial problem arises with regard to the self-identification of Bunjevci ...     In this context, the question can be raised whether there are limits to self-identification, i.e. whether belonging to a particular ethnic group can be based solely on one’s sentiments or is self-identification limited by objective criteria." Self-evaluation Report - Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia – Serbian OSCE Chairmanship, CSO Coalition for the monitoring of Serbia’s OSCE Chairmanship; 5.3.2 Primacy of Voluntary Self-Identification, September 2015, pp. 78.


Constitution of the Republic of Serbia - II Human and Minority Rights and Freedoms -  

  • Prohibition of discrimination against national minorities in Serbia, Article 76:  Persons belonging to national minorities shall be guaranteed equality before the law and equal legal protection. Any discrimination on the grounds of affiliation to a national minority shall be prohibited. Specific regulations and provisional measures which the Republic of Serbia may introduce in economic, social, cultural and political life for the purpose of achieving full equality among members of a national minority and citizens who belong to the majority, shall not be considered discrimination if they are aimed at eliminating extremely unfavourable living conditions which particularly affect them

Law on National Councils of National Minorities in Serbia - LAW on National Councils of National Minorities I. GENERAL PROVISIONS

The Statute of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina - 

  • Equality of Citizens and National Equality, Article 6:  The citizens of the AP Vojvodina shall be equal in exercising their rights, irrespective of their race, gender, nationality, social background, birth, religion, political or other belief, financial standing, culture, language, age, mental or physical disability, in conformity with the Constitution and law. Within the scope of its rights and responsibilities, the AP Vojvodina  shall contribute to the exercise of a full equality, guaranteed under the Constitution, of Hungarians, Slovaks, Croats, Montenegrins, Romanians, Roma, Bunjevac, Ruthenians, Macedonians and persons belonging to other numerically smaller national minorities - national communities living in its territory and the Serbian people.
  • Official Languages and Scripts, Article 24:  In addition to Serbian language and Cyrillic script, Hungarian, Slovak, Croatian, Romanian and Ruthenian languages and their scripts shall be in official use in authorities of the AP Vojvodina, in conformity with the law. Within the scope of their competences, authorities of the AP Vojvodina shall undertake the measures to ensure a consistent exercise of the official use of languages and scripts of national minoritiesnational communities stipulated by the law

Office for Human and Minority Affairs – Republik of Serbia: Канцеларија за људска и мањинска правa  


Constitution of the Republic of Croatia (consolidated text) -

Constitutional Act on the Right of National Minorities of the Republic of Croatia -

© Stichting Bunjevac European Center, 2015