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Bunjevac girl in Hungary.jpg
Bunjevac woman in Hungary
Total population
Unknown (In Serbia some of them declare themselves as members of separate Bunjevac nationality, some as Croats, and few are registered as Yugoslavs; i)
Regions with significant populations
20,012 (2002 census)

about 1,500 (2001 census)


Bunjevac speech - Ikavian Shtokavian (Note: In 2002 census in Serbia, some of them declared to speak Bunjevac, while others declared to speak Croatian) [2]


Roman Catholic Christian.

Related ethnic groups

other Slavic peoples, especially South Slavs

Bunjevci (Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian: Bunjevci / Буњевци, singular Bunjevac / Буњевац, pronounced 'boo-nyev-tsi and 'boo-nye-vats, also in Hungarian: bunyevácok) are a Slavic people originating from the Dinaric Alps region (Croatia Dalmatia, Lika and western Herzegovina), and today living mostly in the Bačka region of Serbia (province of Vojvodina) and southern Hungary (Bács-Kiskun county, particularly in the Baja region). Bunjevci are Roman Catholic.



There are several explanations for their name, although none of them is certain.

The most common explanation is that the name comes from the river Buna in central Herzegovina, their supposed original homeland before their migrations. This etymology was first proposed by fr. Marijan Lanosović and supported by Vuk Karadžić, Rudolf Horvat, Ivan Ivanić, Ivan Antonović, István Iványi, and Mijo Mandić. Also there is explanation that name comes from term Bunja as kind of house because Bunja is traditional house of Bunjevac people.


The Catholic Church in the Bunjevac village of Bikovo
Street detail in the Bunjevac village of Mala Bosna
Ethnic map of the Subotica municipality showing the location of Bunjevac villages
Bunjevci in Vojvodina (2002 census)

According to one theory, Bunjevci settled in the city of Subotica and its surroundings in 1526[1] According to another theory, they migrated into Bačka from Dalmatia (Zadar hinterland, Ravni Kotari, Cetinska krajina), Lika, Podgorje (primorski Bunjevci: Senj, Jablanac, Krivi Put, Krasno...) and western Herzegovina (area around river Buna, Čitluk, Međugorje) [2] in several groups led by Franciscan monks, to serve as mercenaries against Turkish invaders.[3] in 1682, 1686 (when they are noted as the majority of the population), and 1687.

Historic documents refer to Bunjevci with various names, some less accurate than others:Roman Catholic Dalmatians-Croats ethnic population.

In 1788 the first Austrian population census was conducted - it called Bunjevci Illyrians and their language the Illyrian (Croatian) language. It listed 17,043 Illyrians in Subotica. In 1850 the Austrian census listed them under Dalmatians and counted 13,894 Dalmatians-Croatian in the city. Despite this, they traditionally called themselves Bunjevci. The Austro-Hungarian censuses from 1869 onward to 1910 numbered the Bunjevci distinctly. They were referred to as "bunyevácok" or "dalmátok"(in the 1890 census). In 1880 the Austro-Hungarian authorities listed in Subotica a total of 26,637 Bunjevci and 31,824 in 1892.
In 1910 in the Subotica municipality were registered 33,390 "others" (mainly Bunjevci) a. k. a. 35.29% of the Subotica population. In 1921 Bunjevci were registered by the Royal Croat authorities as "Croats". Subotica municipality had 60,699 Croats and Serbs or 66.73% of the total Subotica population. Allegedly, 44,999 or 49.47% were Bunjevci. In the 1931 population census of the Royal Yugoslav authorities, 43,832 or 44.29% of the total Subotica population were Bunjevci.

The 19th century brought on a period of nationalism and national unity including the Croatian romantic nationalism. Croat national identity has awakened in some Bunjevci developed in early 20th century. It is estimated that a few tens of thousands of Bunjevci were Magyarized. However, Croatian self-identity remained among the majority of the Bunjevac clergy, notable, the bishop of Subotica Ivan Antunović (1815–1888) supported the notion of calling Bunjevci and Šokci with the name Croats.

1880 saw the founding of the Bunjevačka stranka ("the Bunjevac party"), an indigenous political party. During this time, opinions varied on whether the Bunjevci should try to assert themselves as Croats or as an independent ethnic group.

In October 1918, Bunjevci held a national convention in Subotica and decided to secede Vojvodina from Hungary and join Serbia. This was confirmed at the Great National Assembly of Serbs, Bunjevci and other Slavs in Novi Sad, which proclaimed unification with the Kingdom of Serbia in November 1918. The subsequent creation of the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (renamed Yugoslavia in 1929) brought most of the Bačka Bunjevci in the same country with the Serbs (with some remaining in Hungary).

During the late World War II, Partisan General Božidar Maslarić spoke on the national councils in Sombor and Subotica on 6 November 1944 and General Ivan Rukavina on Christmas in Tavankut in the name of the Communist Party about the Croatdom of the Bunjevci. After 1945, in SFR Yugoslavia the census of 1948 did not officially recognize the Bunjevci (nor Šokci), and instead merged their data with the Croats, even if a person would self-declare as a Bunjevac or Šokac. The Yugoslav communist government counted Bunjevci (and Šokci) as part of Croatian national corpus. Proponents of a distinct Bunjevac ethnicity regard this time as another dark period of encroachment on their identity, and feel that this assimilation did not help in the preservation of their language. The censuses of 1953 and 1961 also listed all declared Bunjevci as Croats. The 1971 population census listed the Bunjevci separately under the municipal census in Subotica upon the personal request of the organization of Bunjevci in Subotica. It listed 14,892 Bunjevci or 10.15% of the population of Subotica. Despite this, the Province and Federal authorities listed the Bunjevci as Croats, together with the Šokci and considered them that way officially at all occasions. In 1981 the Bunjevci made a similar request - it showed 8,895 Bunjevci, or 5.7% of the total population of Subotica.

Following the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, Bunjevac nationality was officially recognized as a minority group in Serbia in 1990.

The community, however, has been divided around the issue of the name: in the 1991 census, in terms of ethnicity, around 21,434 inhabitants of Vojvodina declared themselves Bunjevci (17,527 in Subotica alone - or 11.7%) whereas some 74,808 declared themselves Croats; in 2002, there were 19,766 Bunjevci (16,254 in Subotica - or 10.95%) and around 56,546 Croats in Vojvodina.

Note that not all of the Croats in Vojvodina necessarily have Bunjevac roots; the other big group are Šokci, and also, many Croats are descendants of Croat colonists, settled in 1945-1948 (29,111 post-WWII colonists in Vojvodina, out of 356,000, were ethnic Croats). Many Croats from both of these groups have declared themselves as Yugoslavs, in order to avoid pressures and problems on job and in the public life, especially since threats of extreme Serb nationalists (e.g. Vojislav Šešelj) began unpunished materializing in Syrmia, as training camps of Serb extremist volunteers (that declared openly as chetniks) began appearing in Bačka[4], as the camps for the temporarily evacuated Croatian Serbs were established in Croat-inhabited villages in Vojvodina, and as Serb extreme nationalist parties began acting in Vojvodina (SPO in Pazova).

In the Subotica region, there were 17,439 Bunjevci and 16,369 Croats in 1991. The historically Bunjevac village of Donji Tavankut had 989 Bunjevci, 877 Croats, and 600 declared as Yugoslavs, the latter probably being a reaction to national ambiguity and pressures at the time. A 1996 survey by the local government in Subotica found that in the community, there are many people who declare as Croats and consider themselves Bunjevci, but also some people who declare as Bunjevci but consider themselves part of the wider Croatian nation. The same survey found that the delineation between the pro-Croat and pro-Bunjevac positions correlated with the delineation between the people who were more supportive towards the then ruling regime in Serbia that did not favor special rights for national minorities, and conversely those who were against the then government and more interested in minority rights and connections with their second homeland.

Today, both major parts of the community (the pro-independent Bunjevac one and the pro-Croatian one) continue to consider themselves ethnologically as Bunjevci, although each subscribing to its interpretation of the term.

In early 2005, the Bunjevac issue was again popularized when the Vojvodina government decided to allow the official use of "bunjevački language with elements of national culture" in schools in the following school year – the štokavian-ikavian dialect. This was protested by the Croatian Bunjevac community as an attempt of the government to widen the rift between the two Bunjevac communities. They favour integration, regardless of whether some people declared themselves distinct, because minority rights (such as the right to use a minority language) are applied based on the number of members of the minority. Subsequently, it may happen that schools would teach the same dialect but in two separate classes, one named bunjevački jezik, one hrvatski jezik, based solely on the preference of the parents.

In Hungary, Bunjevci are not officially recognized as a minority, government simply consider them Croats. In April 2006 a Bunjevci group began collecting subscriptions to register Bunjevci as a distinct minority group. In Hungary, 1,000 valid subscriptions are needed to register an ethnic minority with historical presence. By the end of the given 60 days period the initiative gained over 2,000 subscriptions of which cca. 1,700 were declared valid by national vote office and Budapest parliament gained a deadline of January 9, 2007 to solve the situation by approving or refusing the proposal. No other such initiative has reached that level ever since minority bill passed in 1992.[5] On 18 December the National Assembly of Hungary refused to accept the initiative (with 334 No and 18 Yes votes). The decision was based on the study of the Hungarian Academy of Science that denied the existence of an independent Bunjevac minority (they stated that Bunjevci are a Croatian subgroup). The opposition of Croatian minority leaders also played part in the outcome of the vote[6], and the opinion of Hungarian Academy of Sciences[7]

The Bunjevac National Council has given mandate to Mirko Bajić, the President of the People's Democratic Party of Vojvodina, to represent the persons declared solely as Bunjevac on the Democratic Party list for the incoming 21st January 2007 parliamentary republican election in Serbia.



Serbia sensus results for 2002.

In Serbia, Bunjevci live in the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina, mostly in the region of Bačka. The villages in Serbia with Bunjevac majority are:

All villages are in the Subotica municipality. According to the 2002 census, Bunjevac population in all of these villages was divided about their ethnic identification, since part of the Bunjevac population declared themselves as Bunjevci, and another part as Croats. However, only in the village of Ljutovo, the number of Bunjevci who declared themselves as such is larger than the number of those who declared themselves as Croats.

Bunjevci also live in other settlements in northern and western Bačka, in which they do not form the majority of population. These settlements are mostly concentrated in the municipalities of Subotica and Sombor. The largest concentration of Bunjevci in Serbia (10,870) is in the ethnically mixed city of Subotica, which is their cultural and political centre. Other settlements with large Bunjevac concentration include Sombor (2,222) and Bajmok (1,266).


Towns and villages in Hungary with a significant population of Bunjevci (the names that Bunjevci call this Hungarian villages and cities are in brackets):

Villages partially populated by Bunjevci in the past (today fewer than 70 people):


Cultural centre of Bunjevci from Bačka is the city of Subotica. Cultural city of primorski Bunjevci is the city of Senj. Today, there's a Bunjevci Museum, football squad Bunjevac and Bunjevačka ulica (Bunjevac street) in Senj [2] .

Traditionally, Bunjevci are associated with land and farming. Large, usually isolated farms in Northern Bačka are called salaši, and historically most of Bunjevci people are associated with them. Most of their customs celebrate the land, and their most important feasts (other than Christmas and weddings) are:

  • Dužijanca – celebration of harvest end, and the most famous festival as well as a tourist attraction. It consists of several events held in Bunjevci-populated places (Bajmok, Tavankut), with the central celebration held in Subotica. Dužijanca includes religious celebrations devoted to harvest, street procession and performing of Bunjevci folklore and music.
  • Krsno ime – a celebration of a patron saint of the family.
  • Kraljice – ceremonial processions held on Pentecost.
  • Divan – a meeting of young boys and girls for singing and dancing in a place afar from their parents. The custom has been forbidden by church authorities already in mid-19th century.

Bunjevačke novine (Bunjevac newspaper) are the main newspaper in Bunjevac language/dialect, published in Subotica.

Distinguished Bunjevci

Musician Zvonko Bogdan (a singer) is the best known Bunjevac, and his songs (composed or traditional) have popularized Bunjevac culture and tradition across Serbia and the rest of former Yugoslavia.

Blaško Rajić was a Croat patriot from the late 19th century and first half of 20th century, that participated on the Paris peace conference after WWI [8].

Other famous Bunjevci include aviation pioneer and athlete Ivan Sarić, cousin of Croatian writer Zvonko Sarić.

Famous scientists

Famous writers

Famous writers coming from Bunjevci:

  • Ivan Antunović
  • Aleksa Kokić
  • Ante Evetović-Miroljub
  • Matija Poljaković
  • Ivan Kujundžić
  • Petar Šarčević (1935-2001)
  • Petko Vojnić Purčar
  • Ante Sekulić
  • Vojislav Sekelj
  • Tomislav Žigmanov

Famous politicians


  1. ^ Szabadka varos története, II. Rész. 1892. of István Iványi
  2. ^ a b Radio Subotica Bunjevci posjetili svoju pradomovinu, Sep 24, 2008
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ (Serbian) Od četnika do "beretki"
  5. ^ Nemzetiségi elismerést a bunyevácoknak - Index Fórum
  6. ^ Iromány adatai
  7. ^ (Croatian) Hrvatski glasnik br.3 Odbijena narodna inicijativa... , Jan 18, 2007PDF (714KB)
  8. ^ An International Symposium Southeastern Europe 1918-1995

External links


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