Independence of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Role of Alija Izetbegović

Since its beginning, the Party of Democratic Action, headed by Alija Izetbegović, argued for singular and inseparable state of Bosnia-Herzegovina, a civic republic within or outside Yugoslavia. President Izetbegović thought that survival and democratisation of Yugoslavia were the key element for a peaceful resolution of its crisis. This is why he took an active participation in the work of the Presidency of the SFRY. However, resolving the destiny of Yugoslavia in a peaceful way was nothing but an unsuccessful attempt. The last such attempt was the Platform made by the President Izetbegović and the president of the then Republic of Macedonia, Kiro Gligorov. The platform predicted an “asymmetric federation“, meaning that Yugoslavia would become a union of states, instead of being a federal state. This plan received positive reactions, but it was brought down by the destructive political Belgrade-Zagreb axis. In the attempt to contribute to the peaceful conflict resolution, the Presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina, headed by Izetbegović, brought a decision that soldiers and reservists from Bosnia-Herzegovina were not to be sent to the theatres of war in Croatia.

Based on the Brussels Declaration of the European Union, dated 17th of December 1991, the Assembly of Bosnia-Herzegovina adopted a Memorandum on Sovereignty on the 20th of January 1992. The referendum question was: “Are you for a sovereign and independent Bosnia-Herzegovina, a state of equal citizens, people of BiH – Muslims, Serbs, Croats and members of other nations living in it?”

The referendum was held on the 29th of February and 1st of March 1992 with 63.5% of citizens’ turnover, out of which 99% voted for the independent Bosnia-Herzegovina. The leaders of the Bosnian Serbs disputed the referendum.

During this dramatic period, President Izetbegović made his first, but very significant, international contacts. His first official meeting happened in Vienna, during a visit to Austria, when he met Kurt Waldheim, former United Nations Secretary-General, and Alois Mock, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Austria. The visits to Iran, Turkey and the United States of America followed. He was present at the European Union Ministers session which was held in Rome and was also received by the Pope John Paul II. After that, he visited the Superior of the Serb Orthodox Church, Patriarch Paul (Pavle). President Izetbegović used all these meetings to insist in the need to reach a peaceful solution to the crisis in Yugoslavia, and particularly in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Basic Information on Bosnia-Herzegovina:

Capital: Sarajevo
Surface: 51,209 km2
Population: 4,354,911 (data from the last census held in 1991)

Peoples: Bosniaks, Serbs, Croats, others

Highest point: Mountain Maglic (2,386 m above sea-level)
Lowest point: Neum, a coastal town (0 m above sea level)
Exit to the sea: the town of Neum with the coastal line of 21.2 km

Neighbouring countries: Republic of Croatia (borders on the North, West and South-West)
Republic of Serbia (border on the East)
Republic of Montenegro (Border on the South-East)

Official languages:  Bosnian, Serbian, Croatian
Official alphabet: Latin, Cyrillic

Currency: convertible mark (BAM)
Currency value: 1 € = 1.95583 BAM

Flag and Coat of arms: 



Aggression against Bosnia-Herzegovina

Based on the results of the Referendum, the European Union recognised Bosnia-Herzegovina on the 6th of April 1992. A day later, the recognition was received from the United States of America. On the same day, the leader of the Bosnian Serbs, Radovan Karadžić and President of Serbia, Slobodan Milošević, launched a military attack on the internationally recognised state, Bosnia-Herzegovina, including the siege of Sarajevo.

Under difficult conditions of aggression, the Presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina, headed by Alija Izetbegović, makes the Decision on Constituting the Army of the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina and a War Government.

One of the most important decisions was that the Presidency remains being located in the besieged city of Sarajevo.
Alija Izetbegović argued for singular, civic, multi-ethnic state of Bosnia-Herzegovina, within its historical borders and, in that sense, he defined its policy and struggle as a liberation war.

The Victory of Truth and Continuity of Bosnia-Herzegovina

Persistence of the President Izetbegović in proving truth about Bosnia, advancement of the Army of the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina at the battlefields, decline of morale of the enemy, as well as a genocide in Srebrenica, the United Nation’s “safety zone”, Chetnik soldiers’ crimes at the square in Tuzla and at the Markale market in Sarajevo, and the arrival of new leaders in the leading countries of the Western Europe and the U.S.A., finally led to the international reaction and military attacks of the NATO alliance against Serb-held positions in September 1995, which was the introduction into the final phase of the war. The war was finalised by the initialling of the Peace Accord in Dayton, on the 21st of November 1995

The peace talks in Dayton were the one of the most difficult periods of the President Izetbegovic’s life. He wrote in his diary: “Negotiating means deciding, and making decisions is the most difficult task a human is assigned with. My problem was that I could not have gotten a good peace, nor could I have led a good war.” After twenty days of negotiations, an accord was reached and it was ceremonially initialled in the presence of the American President Bill Clinton. This agreement confirmed the statehood of Bosnia-Herzegovina within its historic borders. The peace was signed on the 14th of December 1995, in Paris.

Political establishment

According to the Dayton Peace Accord, signed in 1995, Bosnia-Herzegovina is administratively divided into two Entities – the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina (taking 51% of the total territory of Bosnia-Herzegovina) and Republika Srpska (taking 49% of the total territory of Bosnia-Herzegovina) – and one District – Brčko District.

Within this division, the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina is administratively divided into ten cantons (in accordance with the Washington Agreement from 1994). Besides the above, there are 147 municipalities (the number varies) in Bosnia-Herzegovina (in both Entities and the District).

Each of these administrative units, except the municipalities, has its legislative, executive and judiciary bodies (parliament, government, courts), its town/city centres and capitals. Each of the given administrative units brings its own strategies, laws, policies and manages their administration.

The state administrative level of Bosnia-Herzegovina is above the administrative levels of both entities. Bosnia-Herzegovina is a government of parliamentary democracy with bicameral system (the House of Representatives and the House of Peoples of the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia-Herzegovina) The Government of Bosnia-Herzegovina is made of the Council of Ministers, with the President of the Council of Ministers at its head. The Council of Ministers is made of nine ministries.














The permanent museum exhibition is located in the towers Kapi-kula Ploča and Širokac. In the Ploča tower, the life of Alija Izetbegović as statesman and politician is displayed on chronologically arranged exhibition boards, accompanied by text and photographs. In the Širokac tower, the exhibition is dedicated to Izetbegović's role as the Supreme Commander in the defense of Bosnia and Herzegovina from the Serbian agression.



Established in the recent times, the Museum „Alija Izetbegović“ offers modern answers to questions from the past, but also sets the foundation for the future. Through its objective scientific approach, it encourages young people, intellectuals and researchers to approach modern history with expertise and knowledge. 



The Museum educational programs are designed for elementary and secondary school students. They include professional tours of the permanent museum exhibition, interactive school workshops, pedagogical and educational publications, lectures, special programmes observing important historical dates, etc.