#027 – Nationalism, Folk Culture and History in Habsburg Bosnia and Herzegovina

with Dennis Dierks


The first header of the magazine Bosanska Vila, 1885

The process of nation building inside and outside the Balkans is one of the most studied phenomena of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In this episode, we discuss the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina during Habsburg rule (1878-1918) with a particular focus on the activities of Serbian Orthodox actors. The Austro-Hungarian occupation provided a framework of imperial governance that innovated former Ottoman politics of ethno-confessional difference as well as spaces of socialization and communication. At the same time, publicists and scholars put effort in “educating” the lower classes of the population in terms of national belonging, divulgating everyday customs and religious rituals and trying to build the nation as an emotional community. This resulted in the foundation of new, “nationalized” conceptions of history blending what was described as folk culture and modern media such as journals and yearbooks. Serbian bourgeois nationalism claimed to be the only political movement that could overcome confessional fragmentation and form a modern society able to prosper and progress. This idea of “mastering” multiculturalism was also reflected by new interpretations of local and regional history which the protagonists of the national movement tried to popularize.


Dennis Dierks studied History, Slavonic and Oriental studies in Mainz, Dijon and Vienna and earned his PhD at the University of Jena, which he joined in 2011 as a research fellow. His research focuses on cultures of remembrance and contested pasts in former Yugoslavia and Muslim reform movements in Eastern Europe. He is speaker of the Jean Monnet Network for Applied European Contemporary History and member of the Transottomanica project. Since his little daughter began to talk he has discovered completely new dimensions of negotiating power relationships and social interaction. He is still wondering how to integrate these new findings into his research.

To cite this episode: Dierks, Dennis; Guidi, Andreas (2017): Nationalism, folk culture and history in Habsburg Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Southeast Passage #027, 20.11.2017, http://thesoutheastpassage.com/podcast/dierks-nationalism-folk-culture-history-habsburg-bosnia-herzegovina


Balkan Tamburitza Recording: “Čudna jada od Mostara grada” (Strange poor girl from Mostar)

Further reading:

Dierks, Dennis (2018): Nationalgeschichte im multikulturellen Raum. Serbische Erinnerungskultur und konkurrierende Geschichtsentwürfe im habsburgischen Bosnien-Herzegowina 1878-1914. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

Džaja, Srećko M. (1994): Bosnien-Herzegowina in der österreichisch-ungarischen Epoche (1878 – 1918). Die Intelligentsia zwischen Tradition und Ideologie. München: Oldenbourg.

Gelez, Philippe (2010): Safvet-beg Bašagić (1870 – 1934). Aux racines intellectuelles de la pensée nationale chez les musulmans de Bosnie-Herzégovine. Athènes: École Française d’Athènes.

Grandits, Hannes (2008): Herrschaft und Loyalität in der spätosmanischen Gesellschaft. Das Beispiel der multikonfessionellen Herzegowina. Wien: Böhlau.

Grandits, Hannes; Clayer, Nathalie; Pichler, Robert (2011): Conflicting loyalties in the Balkans. The great powers, the Ottoman Empire and nation-building. London, New York: I.B. Tauris.

Grunert, Heiner (2016): Glauben im Hinterland. Die Serbisch-Orthodoxen in der habsburgischen Herzegowina 1878-1918. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

Hajdarpasic, Edin (2015): Whose Bosnia? Nationalism and political imagination in the Balkans, 1840-1914. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. 

Herzfeld, Michael (1996): Cultural intimacy. Social poetics in the nation-state. 2nd ed. New York & London: Routledge.

Immig, Nicole (2015): Zwischen Partizipation und Emigration. Muslime in Griechenland 1878-1897. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.

Okey, Robin (2007): Taming Balkan nationalism. The Habsburg “Civilizing Mission” in Bosnia, 1878 – 1914. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Rohdewald, Stefan (2014): Götter der Nationen. Religiöse Erinnerungsfiguren in Serbien, Bulgarien und Makedonien bis 1944. Köln: Böhlau.

Vervaet, Stijn (2013): Centar i periferija u Austro-Ugarskoj. Dinamika izgradnje nacionalnih identiteta u Bosni i Hercegovini od 1878. do 1918. godine na primeru knjizevnih tekstova. Zagreb: Synopsis.


June 1889 Issue of Bosanska Vila. The magazine celebrates the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo with the editorial entitled: “The ashes of Kosovo heroes consacrated to Serbs without difference of religion” 

“Saint Sava blessing the Serbian youth” by Uroš Predić (1921). Saint Sava is venerated as the proctetor of churches, families, and schools.

The Southeast Passage
The Southeast Passage
#027 - Nationalism, Folk Culture and History in Habsburg Bosnia and Herzegovina