An International Symposium
"SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE 1918-1995"
Publisher: Croatian Heritage Foundation
& Croatian Information Centre
For the Publisher: Ante Beljo
Expert Counsellor: Dr. sc. Dragutin Pavlicevic
Editor: Aleksander Ravlic
Graphic Design: Gorana Benic - Hudin
Printed by: TARGA
Copies Printed: 2000
Prof. dr. Dzenana Efendia Semiz
LAND REFORM AND COLONIZATION IN 1918
professor of sociology at the University of Sarajevo
10 000 Zagreb-CROATIA
It is a rare occurrence in the world that in the last 150
years one nation should succeed in expanding its state territory and in banishing all
non-Serbian peoples. This has been achieved by Serbia. It is interesting to note that
their success is not based on their victories in the field, but rather at the negotiating
table, achieved with the support of their war allies. Serbian proper, which encompassed
the Belgrade pasha jurisdiction, expanded territorially to include Kosovo, a part of
Sandzak and the so called Yugoslavian Macedonia, after the Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913.
During the first Balkan War, Serbian forces began to execute crimes of genocide against
Albanians, Bosniacs and Macedonians in these territories. They set entire villages on
fire, killing civilians in the most barbaric fashion using knives, axes and dull wooden
mallets. Such crimes have never been recorded in Europe since the times of the Great
Migrations. The persecution of non-Serbian citizens continued after Serbians gained power
and led to massive exile, causing a change in the demographic structure and making Serbian
colonization possible on the confiscated properties of those banished.
The above mentioned expansion of Serbian territory, on which colonization was
implemented, marks the beginning of the actualization of the political program, defined in
Ilija Garasanin’s "Nacertanije" from 1844.
THE SERBIAN CONQUERING IDEOLOGY
The Serbian national program outlined in "Nacertanije" of 1844, originated from
the re-establishment of Dusan’s Empire in the XIV century, with certain changes which
were a consequence of political events from the middle of the previous century. In effect,
"Nacertanije" became a synonym for Greater Serbian hegemony with respect to the
This national program sets forth the fact that Serbians cannot be satisfied with their
gains from the First and Second Serbian Rebellions and that they will continue their
battle to gain power on the Balkans. "Nacertanije" defines the territories in
which Serbia must organize propaganda and intelligence activities, as preparation for the
annexation of these territories to their state. For this reason, the program was not
published until 1906. The national program foresees that Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria,
Montenegro, northern Albania, Srijem, Banat and Backa join Serbia. For the first time, the
territories of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Vojvodina, which were not encompassed by Dusan’s
Empire, are included as Serbian national territory. Later "Nacertanije" was to
become the Serbian ideology for the Obrenovic and Karadjordjevic dynasties, and all
Greater Serbian programs including Stevan Moljevic’s and Draza Mihailovic’s genocidal
Chetnik programs and the SANU Memorandum of 1986.
In this respect, Greater Serbian hegemonistic politics in the last 150 years, has, in
essence, not changed because its basic aims have been the conquering of territory,
penetration towards the West over the Drina River, persecution and destruction of
non-Serbian nations to create a Greater Serbia and ensuring that "all Serbians live
in one state". For this reason, the ethnic structure was altered through colonization
of conquered territory. Wars were waged in order to set the program’s politics into
motion, and land reform on the conquered territories was conducted due to the colonization
of Serbian population. Let us consider some aspects of agrarian reform and colonization in
1918 in our discussion.
CHANGES IN LAND OWNERSHIP IN 1918
In order to gain a better insight into the situation concerning land ownership before the
agrarian reform in 1918 and 1919 in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where it was most drastically
performed, we will make use of the final census of land ownership and population according
to religious affiliation, conducted in 1910 in Austro-Hungary.
According to that census, Bosnian - Muslims owned 91.1%, Orthodox Serbians owned 6.0% ,
Croatian Catholics owned 2.6% and others, 0.3% of the property.
Following the establishment of the Kingdom of Serbians, Croatians and Slovenes, the
Bosniac nation was in an inferior position, because it gained the status of a religious
minority, so it lost its political and cultural autonomy. With the first agrarian reform
of 1918 and 1919, genocide against Bosniacs was deceitfully performed, by the taking away
of property with only symbolic reimbursement which was never paid in its entirety. Many
wealthy families and landowners became homeless overnight, without any means of survival.
Some families even had their farm buildings and private lots taken away from them. The
process to massively impoverish the Bosniac nation and their exodus to Turkey had begun.
Serbian families from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatian Krajina, Serbia and Montenegro
were given the lands taken away from the Bosniac families. They were recorded in land
registers as owners who did not pay a cent for the properties they had received. This was
their reward for belonging to the privileged nation. The main goal was to forcefully alter
the demographic structure, using Serbian colonization, in accordance with the
"Nacertanije" program. That is to say, Bosnia and Herzegovina was to be
considered Serbian land which was to join Greater Serbia at the right moment in history,
at any expense. The degree of genocide against Bosniacs can be illustrated in indexes
regarding the change of the structure of ownership of land, which was taken away in the
first agrarian reform in 1918 and 1919. Bosnian Muslims had a total of 1,175,305 hectares
of agricultural and forest land taken away from them. 110,922 hectares of land were taken
away from stock corporations, banks and other institutions. Thus, a total of 1,286,227
hectares of agricultural and forest land was seized.
The total amount of land taken away by the first agrarian reform in 1918 and 1919 was
divided among 249,518 Serbian families, among whom were settlers, colonists outside Bosnia
and Herzegovina and especially volunteers of the Salonika front. If we consider that every
family, on average had four members, we can infer that almost one million Serbian
inhabitants became land owners and so became significantly wealthy. The agrarian reform of
1918 and 1919 was primarily aimed against members of the Islamic faith, due to the revival
of the St. Sava ideology "One nation, one religion in one state." For this
reason, the agrarian reform was conducted in a genocidal manner against Muslim land owners
in Macedonia, Kosovo and Metohija, Sandzak and Montenegro. A total of 231,098 hectares of
land was taken away from them and divided amongst 48,267 Serbian families. If we apply the
above methodology that the average family had four members, it can be deduced that almost
200 thousand members of Serbian families received land. In this way, the proprietary and
ethnic structure of the population was significantly altered. The process of emigration of
citizens from this territory and immigration into Turkey was parallel with the
colonization of Serbian citizens from Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Dalmatia, Lika,
Banija and Kordun.
Within the Kingdom of Serbians, Croatians and Slovenes, the agrarian reform in 1918 and
1919 in Croatia and Slovenia, was performed in a notably milder manner, compared to the
territories in which Muslims resided. The agrarian reform was practiced on owners of large
estates and relatively less land was taken away, which according to statistical indexes
represented 1/4 of the total land taken away in the state. This came to 406,981 hectares
of land, which was divided among 316,762 Serbian families who were primarily colonized
from passive areas. In this way, almost 1,200,000 family members received land and
The agrarian reform of 1918 and 1919 was in effect carried out everywhere except for
Serbia, within the borders of the former Belgrade pasha jurisdiction up to 1912. This
proves that the Serbian owners of large estates were privileged among those in the Kingdom
of Serbians, Croatians and Slovenes.
In the above mentioned analysis, we can see that 1,924,307 hectares of land were taken
away from former land owners in the Kingdom of Serbians, Croatians and Slovenes and
divided amongst 614, 603 families, primarily Serbian. If we apply the adopted methodology,
that every family consists of an average of four members, we can infer that approximately
2,450,000 family members received possession and ownership of land, without paying
anything for it. From a historical perspective, the agrarian reform resulted in the
largest colonization of the Serbian people onto territory across the Drina River in the
Kingdom of Serbians, Croatians, and Slovenes. This was a political conceived plan for
Serbian territorial expansion under post war conditions. Those who were most afflicted
were Bosnian members of the Islamic faith, Albanians, Turks and Macedonians because 3/4 of
the entire land confiscated in the agrarian reform belonged to them.
HISTORICALLY, BANJA LUKA IS NOT A SERBIAN CITY
Towards the end of the agrarian reform of 1918 and 1919, when land was taken away from
Bosniacs, based on a discriminatory law, terrorist methods were implemented such as the
infamous "death march" in 1919 on Bosniacs from Lijevce polje near Banjaluka.
50,000 Bosniacs resided on the fertile plains of the Lijevce polje, of whom over a
thousand land owners were killed by Serbian terrorists during the "death march"
and the remaining civilian inhabitants were banished from their centuries-old home. A long
colony of victims walked to numerous camps in Kosovo and Sandzak, where they were
transported to Turkey and settled in Anatolia. At that point, Bosniacs lost their
properties in the Banjaluka municipality in the most brutal manner, through genocide.
Serbian families, those without land and Salonika volunteers settled in the houses and
occupied the properties which had belonged to the banished Bosniacs. Drastic changes in
the demographic and proprietary structure in the Kingdom of Serbians, Croatians and
Slovenes, occurred. To illustrate this, statistical indexes show that until 1878 not one
Serbian family owned property in Lijevce polje by Banjaluka.
It was not until after the agrarian reform of 1918 and 1919 that the settlement and
colonization of Serbians into the municipality of Banjaluka intensified. According to the
first population census in 1879 in Bosnia and Herzegovina, during the Austro—Hungarian
Empire, Bosnian Muslims made up the absolute majority in Banjaluka according to religious
affiliation and comprised 67.71% of the population. From 1895 until 1991, this percentage
constantly decreased and today it comes to 19.35%. In 1879, Catholic Croats totaled 10.52%
of the population. This number gradually grew and in 1931 they made up 29.9% of the
population. This remained so until 1953 at which time Catholic Croats represented 28.34%
of the population. Afterwards, the number of Croats in the total population rapidly
decreased to 10.97% in 1991. The Orthodox population, including Serbians and Montenegrins,
represented 19.80% in the population census of 1879. From then on, their proportion
increased to 30.53% in 1931 and continued to intensively increase until 1948 when this
percentage reached 34.78%. Finally in 1991, the percentage totaled 49.3% . From the
provided indexes, it can be concluded that Banjaluka is not historically a Serbian city,
as the war criminal Radovan Karadzic claims, because the Serbian population in that city
began to settle there in the XIX century. The rapid increase of the Serbian population
began after the realization of the agrarian reform of 1918 and 1919, when Serbians
occupied Bosniac properties and after the catastrophic earthquake of 1969, when they
comprised the majority of those who gained employment and received newly built residences.
In addition to this, the JNA corps, comprised of 25 thousand soldiers and 700 officers,
from lieutenants to generals, who were primarily from Serbia and Montenegro, contributed
to the increase in Serbian population.
In a way, history repeats itself. During the Serbian aggression, from 1992 until today,
the Serbian aggressor performed genocide against Croatians and Bosniacs in the city of
Banjaluka. The population census of 1991 statistically provides us with the information
that 12 villages in the Banjaluka area consisted of an ethnically pure majority of
Croatians. However, the Serbian aggressor has banished almost all Croatians, and Serbian
families have moved into their homes and taken their lands. The process of forced changes
in the demographic structure and ownership has been performed systematically since the
establishment of the Kingdom of Serbians, Croatians and Slovenes and has lasted for almost
80 years. Up until 1992, however, Serbians did not make up the absolute majority of the
population in Banjaluka. Considering that Banjaluka is historically a Bosnian city, which
is now occupied by the Serbian aggressor, the legal government in Sarajevo is justly
requesting its demilitarization and that it be placed under the control of the Federation
of Bosnia and Herzegovina, using peaceful means. For this reason, the international
community has accepted the proposition for the suspension of military activity and by way
of negotiations, the peaceful solution to the status of the city of Banjaluka.
TOKEN REWARDS FOR SEIZED PROPERTIES
Dr. Stjepan Radic, a member of parliament - of the National Assembly of the Kingdom
of Serbians, Croatians and Slovenes, in his speeches and articles opposing hegemony,
criticized, among other things, the manner in which the agrarian reform of 1918 and 1919
was conducted, in which Muslim properties were seized by force (from agas to beys).
Because of this, the radical representative, Punisa Racic, shot at the Croatian members of
parliament, killing Pavle Radic and Djuro Basaricek and wounding Stjepan Radic, Ivan
Pernar and Ivan Grandja. On August 6, 1928, Stjepan Radic died due to the severity of his
injuries. It was decided, afterwards, that the Bosnian Muslims be compensated for the
properties taken away from them, and the state admitted that there had been
"irregularities" in the realization of the agrarian reform. Laws regarding the
financial settlements for the compensation for territory seized after 1928 were
passed, by which the payment of the properties was to be regulated. The value of the land
was appraised at 60% less than market value, and payment was conducted in cash and bonds
in a 50 year period including 4% interest per annum. The payments were made twice
annually, beginning in 1923 and were to continue until 1971. Bosnian Muslims were
reimbursed for land which had belonged to agas (under serfs’ contract) and for land
which had belonging to beys (under leasehold). Until the beginning of the Second World
War, the former owners were paid 49%, that is, 125 million dinars in cash and 36% in
bonds, amounting to 46.8 million dinars, for agas’ lands.. The total amount paid was 171
million dinars or 67.4%. 83.2 million dinars or 32.6% remained unpaid. As opposed to the
compensation to the owners of the agas’ land, the reimbursements for the land taken away
from the beys was planned exclusively in bonds, with a 50 year payment period. From the
total foreseen 650 million dinar reimbursement in 36 semi-annual installments, only four
installments amounting to 139.5 million dinars were paid, or 1/4, that is 21.5%.
Therefore, 510.5 million dinars or 78.5% remained unpaid.
The above indexes clearly illustrate that the seized property of the former owners
(agas and beys) was never fully paid for, and thus could never have become the property of
Serbians, nor could it justly or appropriately be given to their descendants. According to
the opinions of legal experts, there is no date limit in regards to unpaid for land and
realty documents with respect to the agrarian reform have been preserved in the archives
in Sarajevo and Vienna.
Following the Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913, the "Nacertanije" national program
of Greater Serbian dominance began to take effect in the colonization of the Serbian
population onto the captured territories of Kosovo, parts of Sandzak and the so-called
Yugoslav Macedonia. This process of colonization of the Serbian populace onto the other
side of the Drina River intensified after World War I, when the Kingdom of Serbians,
Croatians and Slovenes was created in 1918. The Agrarian reform of 1918 was among the
first legal actions of the new state, for the purpose of colonization and the alteration
of the demographic and proprietary structure of the population. It was most drastically
enforced in Bosnia and Herzegovina upon the Bosnian Muslim land owners, from whom
1,286,227 hectares of agricultural and forest land were taken and later divided amongst
249,518 Serbian families. This was similarly executed upon Muslim land owners in the
remaining parts of the Kingdom of Serbians, Croatians and Slovenes as well as those who
resided in Macedonia, Kosovo and Metohija, Sandzak and Montenegro. 3/4 of the land
belonged to members of the Islamic faith and this was confiscated during the agrarian
reform of 1918 and 1919. The difficult economic situation this placed them in, forced them
to move to Turkey. Our presented discussion illustrates that the agrarian reform affected
larger estates in Croatia (Dalmatia and Slavonia) Vojvodina and Slovenia, where 406,981
hectares of land amounting to less than a 1/4 of the total land was seized and distributed
to 316,762 Serbian families.
In total, the agrarian reform resulted in 1,924,307 hectares of land being taken away
and divided amongst 614,603 families, primarily Serbian. According to the methodology
employed in our analysis, nearly 2,450,000 family members became owners of agricultural
and forest land. In so doing, the first colonization of Serbian populace was completed, by
which the demographic and proprietary structure of land in the first Yugoslavia was
LEGAL ACTIONS REGARDING THE AGRARIAN REFORM IN BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA FROM 1919
1. Regent Aleksandar’s proclamation regarding the agrarian reform on January 5, 1919.
2. Preliminary decisions for the realization of the agrarian reform on February 25,
1919, Sl. novine (Official gazette) KSHS (Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes), number
3. The Statute of July 4, 1919 regarding the prohibition of the estranging or
encumbering of large estates. Sl. novine KSHS, number 82. dt. July 21, 1919.
4. The Statute of July 21, 1919 regarding the registration of ownership of serfs’
homesteads formerly belonging to serfs into the realty books of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Sl. novine KSHS, number 84/1919.
5. The Statute regarding the collection of revenues (harvest) from beys’ agricultural
lands in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1919. Sl. novine KSHS, number 81/1919.
6. The Statute regarding the handling of beys’ lands in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Sl.
novine KSHS, number 40, February 22, 1920.
7. Changes in the Statute regarding the handling of beys’ lands in Bosnia and
Herzegovina, February 14, 1920.
8. The Statute regarding financial reimbursement of agrarian relations in Bosnia and
Herzegovina. Sl. novine KSHS, 111/1921.
9, Law regarding the implementation of partial confiscation of large estates for public
interests, colonization and construction of residences for laborers and clerks. Sl. novine
KSHS, number 10/1922.
10. Law regarding changes and amendments of laws which pertain to the agrarian reform
in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Sl. novine KJ (Kingdom of Yugoslavia), number 21/1933.
WORKS OF SCHOLARS AND EXPERTS:
11. Genocide against Muslims in Bosnia and Herzegovina Accomplished by the Agrarian Reform
of 1918 and 1919, study financed by the Fund for Scientific Research of Bosnia and
Herzegovina, Sarajevo, 1991.
12. How Serbians Became Land Owners in Bosnia, by Dzenana Efendic Semiz, Muslimanski
glas, May 3, 1991.
13. Serbians on Seized Land, by Dzenana Efendic Semiz, Novi Vjesnik, August 8,1992.
14. 75:25% Would be Just, by Dzenana Efendic Semiz, Vjesnik , September 26, 1995.
15. International Diplomacy, its Conscience Tested, by Marko Babic, Vjesnik, June
Prof. dr. Andrija Bognar: The Status of Hungarians in
Vojvodina from 1918 to 1995
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