Republika Srpska celebrates its birthday and the patron saint day on January 9.
On Saint Stephen’s feast day, the Assembly of Serb People of Bosnia and Herzegovina declared the Serb-dominated regions of Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina independent of the designs of the Republic’s non-Serb leadership to secede from Yugoslavia. Bosnian Serbs created a separate entity, Republic of Serb People of Bosnia and Herzegovina, later to be renamed Republika Srpska, and decided it was to remain a part of Yugoslavia. This move was a response to “Memorandum on Sovereignty” adopted by Bosnian Parliament in spite of the Bosnian Serb deputies’ opposition.
Alarmed by the warmongering rhetoric of Bosnia’s Islamist leadership, Bosnian Serbs, led by Radovan Karadzic, moved to organize and protect themselves against the possibilities of Muslim domination, forceful removal or genocide they faced in the World War II at the hands of Croatian fascists and Muslim Nazi collaborators. Alija Izetbegovic, Muslim president of Bosnia and Herzegovina was known for his Islamic fundamentalist views and calls for a creation of an Islamic society and an Islamic state in Bosnia. In the bloody war that ensued, Srpska consolidated its territory against the Muslim-Croat alliance during 1992-1993, but was forced to accede some of it towards the end of the war after it was attacked by NATO forces and the regular army of the Republic of Croatia. The peace signed in Dayton, Ohio, on November 21, 1995, left Srpska with 49 percent of territory of Bosnia, but recognized it as a separate and equal entity within the reformed Bosnian state.
This outcome fell short of the Bosnian Serb ambition to remain part of Yugoslavia, but considering the military odds Srpska faced in 1994 and 1995, its very survival and international recognition was a victory of sorts. The Dayton-established political order ensured not only the survival of Srpska, but the continued political existence and relevance of Serbian people west of Drina. Srpska managed to avoid the fate of its sister state of Serb Republic of Krajina, which was militarily overrun and ethnically cleansed by Croatia in 1995.
Although its Dayton-guaranteed statehood experienced partial attrition via openly anti-Serb policies of the Office of High Representative, which forced Srpska leadership to give up several key jurisdictions, Srpska still functions as an entity autonomous from Sarajevo’s dysfunctional central government. Bosniac ruling establishment, both secular and religious, have persisted in calling for the abolition of Srpska, accusing it of being a “genocidal” creation, although Srpska was created before the war broke out and the claims of a genocide have not been substantiated by evidence. Srpska’s leadership have responded with threats of a self-determination referendum and a secession from Bosnia. President Milorad Dodik have been openly defying Sarajevo’s ambition to subdue Srpska and centralize the state under Muslim domination. He has claimed that 98 percent of Srpska’s population are in favor of a secession.
Regardless of the political gamesmanship and bickering, the irreconcilable political differences between Bosnian Serbs and Bosnian Muslims dominate Bosnia’s internal affairs and threaten to break the country up. Only the presence of foreign political and military factors prevent a steep decline into instability.
Republika Srpska continued to mark St. Stephen as its Statehood Day after its inclusion in the Dayton-reformed Bosnian state in 1995.