Bosna ovo, Bosna ono, Bosnia this, Bosnia that, war in Bosnia, I went to Bosnia, I go to Bosnia, he represented the Bosnia I love (Dizdarević), he will sue Bosnia (Hamza), I’m in Bosnia, I love Bosnia…
Herzegovina seems nowhere to be seen or read. I noticed that disappearance very early in my story with the country named Bosnia and Herzegovina.
People, let’s say 99% of the time, are making a short cut and call the country Bosnia. I even recently read an article which was mentioning « Mostar, the biggest city in southern Bosnia ». Herzegovina disappears from the most serious newspapers, from the radio, from blogs, from academic works, from official statements. Even respected photojournalists who have covered the war have been publishing books about their work, among them some are simply called « Bosnia » (while the subject is the war). Is it stressing that for a majority of people obviously, either only what happened in this part of the country is worth mentioning or what happened in Bosnia is at least more important ?
While this disappearance of Herzegovina is driving me completely nuts, I still took time to ask fellow scholars and journalists that I know, why ? Why is Herzegovina constantly dropped out of the picture ? I had many surprising answers first suggesting that I was making a fuss about nothing. Well…how to say ? Herzegovina is not nothing.
I was also answered that it was for practical reasons which I can understand for example if you are writing a long article and you need to repeat the name of the country many times, but in this case, why not use the acronym « BIH » ?
I was also answered that the name was too complicated for the audience. That one left me super puzzled. Man…too complicated for our audience (in France) ? Yep, you loose them with Bosnia and Herzgovina…you have to put it simpler. Well, I’d rather call it laziness. How is it too complicated to mention the complete name of a country ?
When I was a kid, during geography lessons, I remember the weirdness of the words « Yougoslavie » and « Bosnie-Herzégovine ». First, I had never heard of a Federation before so to understand what it is and remember the Republics was relatively difficult. But most of all, for me, Yugoslavia was a very mysterious country because the word starts with a « y », a rare thing in french spelling. Bosnia and Herzegovina was my queen of weirdness somehow as a part of the mysterious country because, yes, it has « z » in it which is also rare in french plus it’s a composed name which is even rarer. The combination of Yougoslavia + Bosnia and Herzgovina turned the super mysterious country into an object of curiosity.
Since then, I never ever wrote « Bosnia » or said « Bosnia » to replace the complete name of the country (and I am correcting people as well).
I am seriously asking myself since years how come Herzegovina is always dropped out of the picture. I have asked many different people around and while the commodity seems to be the most common answer some other argued that Herzegovina has always been considered as the little sister to Bosnia but never benefitted from the same prestige due to History (I’ll all let you dig into that) and that, you know, it’s then normal that you only mention Bosnia.
I also heard Herzegovina was often mocked in the past for being poor and its inhabitants having a « kamen mentalitet » (« stone mentality », meaning herzegovinians are strong and stubborn, which is partly why I love them so much). Well, its difficult to understand how you come to make jokes about a poor region but, that’s another story.
More recently with the last war, I realized few people know about what happened in Herzegovina. People know about the destruction of the Old Bridge but don’t have an idea of what the people went through, how the conflict developped there. They mainly know about Sarajevo and Srebrenica, about the camps next to Prijedor but if you mention Herzegovina, they will stay silent and it’s only if you mention Mostar that they will answer, with a concerned expression on their face, « oh, yes, the Bridge… » (that could be worst, we could be talking about Goražde or Žepa…).
So my friends, don’t participate to this disinformation campaign and do call the country by its full name ! If you don’t know Herzegovina and never took time to drive down to Trebinje, to explore the incredible Popovo Polje, to stare at Mostar from the Fortica hill, to taste the incredible honey figues and loza from the south, move away from Sarajevo for w hile and explore this well kept secret that Herzegovina is.
(Besides, if you have any explanation to offer, I would super curious to read you in the comments).