Why does Bosnia have a Coast?

The Bosnia Coast that causes headaches for businesses and tourists in both Croatia and Bosnia is a result of medieval countries.

Bosnia isn’t landlocked?

Bosnia has the second smallest coastline for any country in the world.  The 12 miles contains the former sleepy fishing village now tourist resort town of Neum.  This 12 miles of coastline is just a mile of road with 2 border checks and 2 traffic lights.  In the summer these border checks can create backups of hours on end. For those locals coming from Bosnia to their coast they also need to pass 2 separate border checks. 

[Map] Bosnia and Herzegovina's tiny coastline

Image result for neum coastline

Ottomans, Ragusa, Venice, and Hapsburg Empires

We can blame the headache of the Bosnia coast on a remnant of the political maneuverings from 400 years ago.


Central Europe was quickly conquered by the Ottoman Empire in the 1500s.  The Bosnia Eyelet was created in 1463 by the Ottomans. The King of Bosnia and Despot of Serbia Stephen Tomašević was defeated that year (You can see his remains in Jajce). 

The Bosia Eyalet

Republic of Ragua

Rivaling Venice, the city of Dubrovnik from 1358 until 1808 was a maritime mercantile trading force.  At the peak of its height it had an estimated 30,000 citizens with 5,000 living in the city of Dubrovnik itself. Ragusa has played off other more powerful rivals to keep its independence.  Venice controlled Ragusa for much of it’s early history.  Venice lost control in 1358 when it was defeated by Hungary.  Ragusa then became a vassal of Hungary who had no naval presence and therefore had little control over it.  In 1458 it joined the Ottoman Empire as as a tribute and had Ottoman protection.  It is worth mentioning that it was also still a vassal of Hungary.  Ragusa had special trading privileges in both empires.  

Republic of Venice

The Republic of Venice just like Ragusa was a mercantile trading Republic.  Venice was a remnant of the Roman Empire.  Through the crusade armies it was able attack and subjugate most of the Dalmation and Greek coast by 1200 A.D.  The Ottomans conquered a large amount of these possessions in the 1400 and 1500s.  The amount of trading this city was able to handle surpassed that of Ragusa. Venice was able to regain much of its territory and power starting in the 1600’s   

Image result for venice empire map


Hungarian Kingdom

The Habsburgs were the Hungarian Kings that battled with the Ottomans for control of Bosnia and the Dalmatian coast.  They continuously lost territory until a turn in events allowed them to defeat the Ottomans in the Battle of Kahlenberg outside Vienna. 


The Decline of the Ottomans

In 1683 the Ottomans were crushed by the Holy Roman Empire, Venice, Poland, and other Countries (even including a general from Ragusa).  Seeking further conquest the Ottomans had laid siege to the city of Vienna.  European allies from around the area sprang forth to lift the siege. One Ottoman historian described this battle as the single largest defeat in Ottoman history.  Bosnia and Dalmatia (Croatia) in subsequent years were reconquered.

Image result for ottoman decline map

In 1699 after yet another defeat of the Ottomans by the hands of the Venetians and Hungarians the Treaty of Karlowitz was signed by the Ottomans and Hapsburg Empires.  Hungarian territory expanded in the Balkans into Bosnia.  The area around Dubrovnik (Ragusa) was left to the Ottomans.  Ragusa also during this time had lost most of its northern and island territory by this point to Venice.  It was worried that a combined sea and land invasion force from Venice could conquer it.  The Republic of Ragusa ceded two patches of its coast to the Ottoman Empire in order to prevent the Venetians from attacking them by land .  

Image result for ragusa empire

The Bosnia Eyelet had two coastlines at this point one to the north and one to the south of Dubrovnik.  Bosnia was passed from the Ottoman Empire to Austria-Hungary in 1878.  This territory came with Neum the northern coast.   When Yugoslavia was reconstituted after World War II, it tried to follow the 1878 borders for its internal polities.

Ottoman Territorial Losses in the 1800s

Current Issues

The 12 miles of coastline is not suitable for modern freight or passenger ships. Ploče just north of Neum is where in the 1960s a railroad terminal and modern port facilities were built. Bosnian businesses wishing to import goods as they must pass thru Croatian and European Union customs along with Bosnian customs.  Croatian goods must go thru Bosnian customs if they want to move from their northern and southern region. This disagreement has resulted in the Croatian government starting to build a bridge to connect their territories. 

1 thought on “Why does Bosnia have a Coast?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *