In first census since war, Bosnia's 'Others' threaten ethnic order

Fri Sep 27, 2013 8:14am EDT
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By Daria Sito-Sucic

SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Darko Brkan wants to upend Bosnia's constitutional order, and he's going to use the country's first census as an independent state to do it.

The 15-day population count begins on Tuesday, a milestone in Bosnia's recovery from a 1992-95 war but one that is stirring tensions that stifle development and threaten its future.

Brkan, 34, is behind a campaign calling on Bosnians to reject the ethnic and religious labels that dominate discourse and divide Bosnia more than two decades since it split from Yugoslavia and descended into war.

Thousands have joined, posting pictures of themselves on the Internet holding signs that read "Ethnically challenged", "Constitutionally challenged" and "A citizen above all".

The census goes to the heart of how Bosnia sees itself today - as a country united and at peace or a collection of ethnicities each vying for the upper hand.

More than an essential tool of economic planning, the count could have ramifications for the delicate system of power-sharing set in place by a 1995 U.S.-brokered peace deal.

That deal defined the warring sides - Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks (Muslims) - as 'constituent peoples', splitting territory and power between them at the expense of everyone else - Jews, Roma or the children of mixed marriages who refused to pick a side and are excluded from public sector job quotas.

Loosely defined as 'Others', they reject the labels fed upon by political parties established along ethnic lines.   Continued...

Volunteers hand out leaflets with information about new Bosnia's census in Jablanica, 60 kilometres (37 miles) south of Sarajevo, September 27, 2013. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic