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Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country at the crossroads of eastern and western civilizations. Muslims, Orthodox, Catholics, Jews live here together.

In this country it is hard to find a town that doesn't have both churches and mosques. This illustrates that Bosnia and Herzegovina is indeed at the crossroad of eastern and western civilizations.

The medieval Bosnian church is a good starting point for understanding contemporary Bosnia and Herzegovina. Inheriting the fierce self-reliant attitude from the indigenous Illyrian clans, the newly arrived Slavic tribes adopted their own form of Christianity.

While most of Europe and the Balkans were under the influence of either of the two major Christian belief systems, geographically isolated Bosnia and Herzegovina celebrated a Christian god with many elements of paganism, and without the structure and hierarchy of the two Christian churches. Both Catholicism and Orthodoxy vied for power in the region, but the Bosnian Church was able to maintain its unique belief system for centuries. The Catholic influence was seen more in central and northern Bosnia whilst Orthodoxy took its early roots in eastern Herzegovina and along Serbia's borders with BiH.

The arrival of the Ottomans had a more substantial religious influence on the history of Bosnia and Herzegovina than the Orthodox and Catholic attempts of the previous period. The Ottomans first arrived in the region in the fourteenth century, and over the next two hundred and fifty years Bosnia saw a significant portion of its population convert to Islam. In the sixteenth century a fourth group entered the region. Many of the Sephardic Jews that had been expelled from Spain in 1492 resettled in Sarajevo, Mostar, Travnik and other major Bosnian cities and were accepted as merchants together with their religion, culture and tradition.

In Tito's Yugoslavia, most people strayed from their religious beliefs. Religious practice was allowed but frowned upon, secularism was encouraged and the religious leaders were chosen by the communist party. Despite the heavy influence of the Ottomans, Bosnia and Herzegovina remained a very multi-religious state. This holds true today, with Muslim, Orthodox, Catholics, Jews and others living together.

The heart-shaped land
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