The continuing disasters in human history are largely conditioned by man’s excessive capacity and his urge to identify with the tribe, the nation, the church or a common goal, and to accept a certain credo uncritically and enthusiastically although the postulates of this credo are contrary to his ratio and his own interest, and may even endanger his existence (A. Koestler, “Janus”, Erasmus 9, Zagreb, 1994).
The Bosnia and Herzegovina war (1992-1995) was preceded by a conflict which has been taking place on the “battlefield” of South Slavic historiography for longer than a century. The historiography war, along with the wider international circumstances, led to an armed conflict transforming this country into a Dayton assembly of ethnically homogenized entities and corridors – the region of a blurred and relative truth, instead of transforming it into a civil democratic country.
The spirits should have been sharpened before knives. This historiographical “grinding wheel” for sharpening of nationalistic concepts has never stopped revolving, indicating that, according to Ina Merdjanova, “national ideology has remained the central part of the communism culture”, or negating a frequently repeated opinion that the frenzy for nationalistic movements and activities in Eastern Europe is a result of repressed national feelings prevailing during the communist regime.
Even a rough “reconnaissance” of Bosnian historiography – along with its positive achievements especially after World War II – reveals a mythomaniac consciousness and sub-consciousness of numerous authors. The main ailment of these pseudo-historiography projections reflects primarily in the fact that they almost exclusively dealt with the history of their ethnos, treading close upon the time rhythm of national integrations and homogenization.
Thus, historiographic myths sprang from a mental base of a foreign-rules-burdened society without democratic traditions, still not close to the horizon of modernity and entrance to the civil society. This is the spring from which the torrent of hegemonistic and genocidal programs, xenophobia and atavism was unleashed.
Taking into account the fact that their classification is not final, these historiography myths can still be divided into seven thematic units, each of which could be sectioned further on:
Bosnia and Herzegovina – Serbian land
Bosnia and Herzegovina – a historical part of the Croatian ethnic and national space (Croatia to the Drina River)
The myth of the coronation of Tvrtko I Kotromanić at the Serbian – Orthodox monastery Mileševo in 1377
The myth of Bogomilism
Bosnia silently fell in 1463
The myth of continuous one-thousand-year-old Bosnian statehood
The myth of an ideal Bosnian coexistence
Bosnia and Herzegovina – Serbian Land
It is no purpose to try to prove that Serbian historiography, medieval studies in particular, is a major historiography. This major should be understood in the context of the developmental curve of the South Slavic historiography which has long remained chained by a narrative-positivist discourse and is currently stepping forward in the field of other methodological procedures.
The works of I. Ruvarac, S. Stanojević, V. Ćorović, M. Dinić, G. Ostrogorski, S. Ćirković, J. Kalić (Mijušković), M. Spremić, I. Đurić, D. Kovačević-Kojić are works of permanent scientific value and a solid base for further research. Shoulder to them, there is a young generation of Serbian medievalists, substantially and methodologically directed towards new research topics and methodological procedures.
Serbian historiography, however, used to be and is still followed today by a demon of Unitarianism, of which, taking account of all the nuances and differences in the interpretations of the respective authors, it has failed to free itself from. This has also been emphasized in relation to the Bosnian medievalism, with the proviso that Serbian historians, unlike the Croatian and Bosniak ones, have never been so adventurous to try to prove within one special study an exclusive ethno-cultural character of this country and this historical epoch.
This tendency, however – particularly after creating Yugoslavia in 1918 – is present in the Serbian medieval studies. Some studies of a recent date have not resisted the ailment either, whose perfectly conducted research has been overshadowed by the efforts to equalize the population of medieval Bosnia with the population of Serbia, in which the relapse of the earlier divergences is reflected.
One such position was elaborated in the early 20th century by Stanoje Stanojević, the author of a respectable work in the field of diplomacy. Using a joke on a conversation between the Romans and the Gauls in front of the gate of the eternal city, Stanojević replied in his overt letter to the lecture of Ferdo Šišić Herzeg-Bosnia on the occasion of annexation – geographic-ethnographic-historical and constitutional considerations (published in 1909, in German, too): What is your right to Rome? Our right is placed on the top of our swords, a Gallic army leader replied. The very same answer will be given by the Serbs to the Croats when the day of a major battle for Bosnia and Herzegovina comes. The right of our national strength and the right of our bayonets will be more important and more powerful than your right, which can be weighed with a scale.
Yet, Stanojević has not laid the foundations of the Serbian historiographic Unitarianism, as this thought, like a red thread, has been running through the Serbian literature and historiography since as early as Dositej Obradović (1742-1811).
After him, Ilija Garašanin, wrote in Načertanije in 1844 that a brief and general national history of Bosnia should be printed as a third degree (of the political program) in which no family patron’s day and the names of some Mohammedan-faith-transformed Bosniaks should be omitted. It is assumed in itself that this history should be written in the spirit of Slavic ethnicity and all in the spirit of the national unity of the Serbs and the Bosniaks. By printing these and other patriotic works alike, as well as through other necessary actions, which should be reasonably chosen and adapted, Bosnia would be freed from the Austrian influence and turn more to Serbia.
Garašanin’s working motto is the new renaissance of the Serbian empire based on the sacred historical right. Placing emphasis on the language issue, Vuk Stefanović Karadžić (1787-1864) was guided by this idea in his study The Serbs All and Everywhere, written in 1836, and printed in Vienna in 1849.
Referring to Constantine Porphyrogenitus, this is how Karadžić marks the border between the Croats and the Serbs after their settling in the Balkans: by the sea southwards the Cetina River, towards Herzegovina Imoski (Imotski), towards Bosnia Lijevno (Livno), the Vrbas River and the Town of Jajce.
Somewhat retouched, this image secured its place in the Serbian medieval studies of the 20th century. Roughly simplified and basically inaccurate, Karadžić projects this image into his time writing this: In Dalmatia on the dry land […] where the heart of the Croats was, today there is no people who would be in language distinct from the Serbs.
That is why he cannot comprehend how at least these Serbs of the Roman law won’t accept to be called the Serbs. Jovan Cvijić (1865-1927), well-known for his antropogeographic research, did not fail to emphasize each single trace of the Serbian national name out of the original ethnic space, proving that the Serbs are the most widespread people in the Balkans.
Being a scholar of European format, he would not evade some fundamental principles of his profession, so he would record (falling into contradiction):
As a general rule of thumb, ethnographic maps and ethnographic manuscripts are chauvinistic: those who designed or wrote them instantly claimed the transition territory for the nation they themselves belonged to. They are not trusted in the professional circles, but there are so many ignorant folks confused by them. What is more, chauvinists do not tend to take account of the assimilation process carried out in the transition territories, and going back to the past, they reconstruct, mainly at random, the old ethnographic states favourable to them and enter them on the maps as if they were valid today. They go a step further, referring to history, the former conquests and historical rights, not admitting the current ethnographic situation.
How the reasoning of scientists could be blurred by an ideology was proved by the words of the same Cvijić in 1907, the year when the crisis about Bosnia and Herzegovina started erupting:
We are a nationally-politically dangerous country. The world must know and ascertain that Serbia can operate in a unit much larger than its territory. Some massive territorial transformations can be initiated by Serbia. We should not flinch from putting fear into the World, should it be useful for our national interests. As if two men were struggling within him, Cvijić writes: We should particularly be cautious about the chauvinist arrogance which looks down on the neighbouring peoples with contempt and humiliation, and which does not even hesitate to verbally dispossess the neighbouring peoples of their undeniable territories.
University Prof. Dubravko Lovrenović is one of the leading European Medievalist specialized in the Balkans, pre-modern and modern political history
 This work was initially published in the journal Erazmus (Zagreb, 1996), and after that its extended version also appeared in the author’s book Bosanska kvadratura kruga [Squaring the Bosnian circle] (Dobra knjiga, Sarajevo, 2012).
 I should mention that in the first version of this paper published in 1996, I supported the thesis – which, later turned out to be wrong – that the first Bosnian king was crowned by the Vicar of the Bosnian Franciscan vicarage.