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Bosnia and Herzegovina was first settled in antiquity by the Illyrians. Their kingdom was conquered by the Roman Empire in the first century BC. As Roman power declined in the fifth century AD, the area suffered invasions, with the Slavs eventually settling the region in the sixth century.
Little is known about the period between AD 700 and 1000, when the Slavs were subjugated by the nomadic Avars. Serbia and Croatia split control of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the ninth and tenth centuries, and the Kingdom of Hungary and Byzantine Empire each claimed control of the region in the eleventh century. Following a shift of power between the two powers in the twelfth century, Bosnia emerged as an independent state ruled by local bans (kings). The Bosnian kingdom prospered until 1391, when it fell into decline and was annexed by the Ottoman Empire in 1463.
The Ottoman Empire allowed the kingdom to retain its historical name and territory, making it unique among the Ottoman Balkans. Under Ottoman rule, the region experienced a prolonged period of prosperity. Cities, including Sarajevo and Mostar, were established and grew into regional centers of trade and culture. Meanwhile, many Bosnians converted to Islam and rose through the ranks of the Ottoman military to occupy the highest positions of power in the Empire.
As the Ottoman Empire weakened in the 17th century, Bosnia suffered numerous revolts as well as several outbursts of plague. The weakened province was overtaken by the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1878, with Austro-Hungarian authorities embarking on a number of social and administrative reforms designed to make Bosnia and Herzegovina into a “model colony.”
But neighboring Serbia's anti-Austrian government fomented unrest. Tensions spilled over in 1914 when a Serb nationalist assassinated heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, sparking World War I. Post-war, Bosnia and Herzegovina became part of the South Slav Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (renamed Yugoslavia), where the kingdom's traditional boundaries were erased and the area was uneasily split between Croatian and Serbian control.
Nazi Germany invaded and conquered Yugoslavia in 1941. Bosnia was ceded to the Independent State of Croatia. Croat leaders embarked on a campaign of extermination of Serbs, Jews, and communists. Yugoslav communists under the leadership of Josip Broz Tito organized a multi-ethnic resistance group, the Partisans, to fight against the Axis.
After the war, Tito, with the support of communist Russia, ruled Yugoslavia until his death in 1980. With the Soviet Union's dissolution in 1992, old ethnic and nationalistic conflicts re-emerged. Bosnia-Herzegovina declared its independence from Yugoslavia, leading Serbia to declare war and demand all Bosnian lands where Serbs had a majority.
Serbian forces began a campaign of terror against Bosnian Muslims, who were loyal to the Bosnian government. Mass murder and systematic rape followed until the Dayton Agreement resolved the conflict in 1995, creating the current borders of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Today, the country continues to heal the wounds of war and is a potential candidate for membership to the European Union and NATO membership.