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Bunjevac demographic history

Pseudo-minority status of Bunjevci in Vojvodina/Serbia  —  disagreement between real ethnicity and declared ethnicity

The dissolution of Yugoslavia caused "new minorities" in the Republic of Serbia. After the Yugoslav authorities included the category of "Bunjevci" into the census in 1991 (Milošević Regime, 1989–1997), also the Serbian authorities continued to marke Bunjevci as a separate ethnic minority. The number of the total population of Bunjevci is unknown. Bunjevci declare themselves either as Bunjevac Croats, Bunjevci, or Croats - the major part of the Bunjevac community (the pro-independent Bunjevac one and the pro-Croatian one) continue to consider themselves ethnologically as Bunjevci. BEC

In the results of census taking is a disagreement between real ethnicity and declared ethnicity. The Republic of Serbia is using in Vojvodina a "segregated model of multiculturalism" (Žarković, Sara). Most citizens, 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). Up to the present day, historical events are still influencing the demographic movements in Vojvodina/Serbia, politics of national identity of different ethnic/minority groups, and citizenship. Due of the turbulent history of the Balkans, the area became a patchwork of dialectal and religious differences. Worldwide we can conclude that there is no such as a real ethnicity anylonger, due of merging of peoples over centuries. BEC

The Bunjevac Croats were not "created" by the communists: "Bunjevačke Hrvate nisu stvorili komunisti. Nisu ih stvorili jer ih nisu ni mogli stvoriti. Bunjevci su se izjašnjavali Hrvatima i prije 1945. godine. Zapravo, izjašnjavali su se već i prije 1918. godine, ali je poznato da je hrvatstvo Bunjevaca bilo proganjano i prije i poslije Prvoga svjetskog rata. Ipak, nakon dugotrajne borbe bački su Bunjevci konačno uoči Drugoga svjetskog rata uspjeli biti prihvaćeni kao Hrvati. Uspjeli su to u monarhističkoj Jugoslaviji i to zato jer su srpski političari tada odlučili prekinuti neprijateljstvo prema Hrvatima." Dr. sc. Robert Skenderović. Bunjevačke Hrvate nisu stvorili komunisti | 20.01.2020 

Employment patterns in minority organizations and the job market in relation to membership of political parties and citizenship. The membership of a ruling party in Serbia is seen by many citizens as a condition for getting a job or local/government subsidies. Political parties in Serbia, take an interest to have their representatives in the Minority Councils, to ensure paid jobs for its members. In the Serbian Bunjevac community are people who have only economic based motives to declare to be Bunjevac Croat, to ensure access to the EU (labour migration, business, and education). BEC


"Census-taking in Serbia is particularly important as the results dictate budgetary fund allocations for each respective ministry; as such, the need for accuracy cannot be overstated." Mina Djurić Nikolić; Laura Trimajova. 2015.pp.142. A Tale of Two Serbias? Census-taking in 2002 and 2011

Compensatory citizenschip - dual citizenship: "Following the worldwide acceptance of dual citizenship since the 1990s, millions of people in Latin America, Eastern Europe and elsewhere have secured a second citizenship from a Western or European Union country on the basis of their ancestry, ethnicity, place of birth or migration history. I refer to this phenomenon as “compensatory citizenship,” since the second citizenship does not necessarily lead to emigration; instead, it acts as insurance policy, enhancer of opportunities and mobility and even status symbol." Harpaz, Yossi. 2016. Compensatory citizenship: a comparative study of dual nationality in Serbia, Mexico, and Israel 

End of future of multiculturalism in Vojvodina: "What is more, another concern lies with the demographic picture of Vojvodina that exhibits a decreasing number of national minorities. A lot of people who have the opportunity to get a European passport from Hungary, Croatia, or Romania etc. leave Serbia to go abroad. This is because these countries promise a much better standard of life, as well as various benefits of living in the European Union, which Serbia does not. "  "Certainly these countries know that people are now increasing trying to gain citizenship status with their entering into the European Union, which is why there are stricter measures, in terms of knowing the language for example. However this still poses a threat to the future of Vojvodina’s ethnic-cultural diversity. There is a real concern that Vojvodina’s multiculturalism will simply “die out” in the future." Žarković, Sara. The Politics of Multiculturalism in the Northern Autonomous Province of Vojvodina: (Serbian) Youth Discourse on Multiculturalism in Novi Sad - WUR E-depot.  pp.120

Politics of population census in the post-Yugoslav context: "To understand the politics of population census in postconflict countries and salience of the categories imposed through census. By doing so, it seeks to shed light on the mechanisms of identity construction in the post-Yugoslav context. The article analyses the categories and the responses to post-Yugoslav censuses, focusing on national, religious, and linguistic identity markers." Bieber, Florian. Social Science Quarterly, 2015. The Construction of National Identity and its Challenges in Post‐Yugoslav Censuses 

Disputes about the national status and historical origins of the Bunjevci - "Bunjevac Question". 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 (Bunjevi belong to the Croatian Nation, Statement by the Presidency of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts regarding Bunjevci Croats. Glasnik-Broj-2. pp.53., represented by the Croat National Council (Vojvodina/Serbia). The Croatian, Hungarian and Serbian authorities do not recognize a distinct Bunjevac/Bunjevci language/nationality. BEC

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 ... .  ... there are problems with “faking” a particular national minority background in order to benefit from affirmative action measures. 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, Belgrade, Serbia. (visited, 2015)

The origin of the name Bunjevac is not clear: river Buna in Hercegovina, or by a particular type of dwelling - Bunjama, or refers to the followers of Pope Boniface ("Bunjo"). (visited 02-04-2019/13:59)

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

Laura Trimajova: Serbia's census-taking in 2002 and 2011 

Prof. Florian Bieber

In the 1990s, during the Milošević Regime, it was life threatening in Serbia to declare to be a Bunjevac Croat: "... to declare themselves as Bunjevac in order to avoid being stigmatised as Croats, thus increasing the number of self-declared Bunjevci in the 1990s." Krasniqi, Gëzim; Stjepanović, Dejan. Political Science (2017). Uneven Citizenship: Minorities and Migrants in the Post-Yugoslav Space

Multiple identities of Bunjevci: "Political pressures on Bunjevci in the Danube region have highly influenced the construction of their multiple identities: under the constant pressure to prove their belonging to Croatian nation, they have adopted specific differential markers of their ethnic and cultural identity. Unlike the Bunjevci in the Danube region, Coastal Bunjevci live in the region inhabited by population of the same nationality and religion, but they differ from the surrounding population historically, socially, culturally and linguistically, and they self-identify primarily in the relation to the population of the town of Senj." Černelić, Milana (2005). Approaches to the Research of the Identity of the Ethnic Group of Bunjevci, Studia ethnologia Croatica, Vol.17. No. 1 December 2005. pp.25-49

"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 separatism (Bunjevac National Council) in Serbia: "While Bunjevac separatism is based on the pro-Serbian movement, their interest does not always correspond to the official minority politics of Serbia." Kameda, Masumi (2013). pp.115. Language Ideologies of the Bunjevac Minority in Vojvodina: Historical Backgrounds and the Post-1991 Situation

    Serbian state support of the division of the Bunjevac community: "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. 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 the Republik of Serbia - Hrvatska manjina u Republici Srbiji: "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 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."

    "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

    Bunjevci as a tribe: "In interwar Yugoslavia (1918-1939 (editor)), the official point of view refrained from making clear statements about the Serbian or Croatian status of Bunjevci and Šokci. They formed the smallest ‘tribe’ of the Yugoslav nation or represented the ‘middle point between Serbian and Croatian tribe’." Troch, Pieter (2015). Nationalism and Yugoslavia: Education, Yugoslavism and the Balkan before World War II.

    Manipulations of Bunjevac identity: "The short account of the basic characteristics of the state of Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes provides a perception of the political and social scene in which manipulations with the ethnicity of the Croat group Bunjevci occured. The tendency to neutralize Croats started very soon in the new state through the so called nationalisation of Vojvodina. Under the cover of the common Yugoslav name for three people living in one state, three basic forms of manipulatios with the ethnic name of Bunjevci came to light:

    1. Neutralization of Bunjevci by emphasizing their distinctiveness: they are neither Serbs nor Croats;
    2. Bunjevci can be both Serbs and Croats, which is the matter of individual choise, because both Serbs and Croats are in fact Yugoslavs;
    3. Denial of the Croat ethnicity of Bunjevci, through manipulations with their religious belonging, in claim that Bunjevci are Serbs of Catholic religion. Manipulations of the kind can be found in different forms in various published sources." Černelić, Milana (1997). Attempts to Deny Bunjevci of Bačka (Vojvodina) the Right to Belong to the Croat Nation. 

    U 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."

    Extra-territorial (transborder) nation-building practices in Vojvodina: Kin-state activities in Vojvodina by foreign countries as Germany, Hungary, Romania 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, crime rate, social instability, economic migration to escape poverty, and its own conflicting domestic and foreign policy in the context of the planned EU accession. BEC

    Open issues between Serbia and Croatia  « Grabar Kitarović-Vučić: Potpisana Deklaracija, Subotica » (20.06.2016) 

    • 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 

    © Stichting Bunjevac European Center, 2015