During the Tito era
Bosnia, with its population of Orthodox Serbs, Catholic Croats and Muslim Bosniaks, was unique among Yugoslavia's republics in not having a single dominant majority people, or narod. Muslims were only recognized as a narod in the 1974 constitution: used as a national category, the term did not necessarily denote strong religious conviction.
Multiparty elections 1990
In multiparty elections in November 1990, ethnically based parties won 86% of the Bosnian Assembly's 240 seats. The two largest parties were the primarily Muslim Party for Democratic Action (SDA) with 86 seats, and the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS), with 72 seats.
SDA had two prominent leaders: Fikret Abdić, a successful businessman who had strong regional support around Bihac, and the Sarajevan Alija Izetbegović, who had served a prison sentence for promoting Islamic views in the 1980s. Izetbegovic won the presidency.
Serbian and Croatian planning to divide up the Republic
Many Serbs and Croats appealed to their co-nationals in Bosnia, with the goal of dividing up the Republic. Responding to the threat, President Izetbegović supported an internationally brokered model of "cantonization" to satisfy the overlapping claims to self-determination made by the republic's different populations. Many parts of the country, though, were already under the control of the Yugoslav National Army, and many Bosnian Serbs resisted the creation of an international frontier between themselves and Serbia.
Bosnian Serb Leader Radovan Karadzic during the war in Bosnia Herzegovina at a press-conference in Banja Luka, Bosnia Herzegovina, September 1995. (couryesy of Theo Fruend)
Referenda held in Serbian areas between November 1991 and January 1992 expressed a majority preference to be excluded from a sovereign, independent Bosnia-Herzegovina. As that outcome drew nearer, given the massive support expressed by Bosniaks and Croats in a referendum in February 1992, Bosnian Serb political leaders declared their own constitution. Radovan Karadzić became the first president of the Bosnian Serb entity, Republika Srpska.
Escalating violent incidents came to a head on April 6, 1992, when the European Community recognized Bosnia, and Serbian gunmen killed participants in a peace demonstration in Sarajevo