The Bunjevci of Bačka

The Bunjevci do not feature much in Western commentaries on the complexities and controversies of the former Yugoslavia, which is complicated enough in ethnic and religious terms for most observers without going into granular detail.

Sometimes the Bunjevci are described as “Roman Catholic Serbs”, on the grounds that those living within the borders of Serbia are Catholic (rather than Orthodox). However, most of the Bunjevci do not consider themselves to be ethnically Serbian. Because of their affiliation to Catholicism, over time a considerable number have come or been encouraged to think of themselves as Croats. However, a significant proportion of the people regard themselves simply as Bunjevci, a Slavic tribe with roots in Dalmatia and Hercegovina which, some time in the 16th or 17th centuries, relocated to the Bačka region of Serbia (the land between the Dunav – or “Danube” – and Tisa rivers in the northern province of Vojvodina) and adjoining Hungary.

Today they form a minority population in the Serbian municipality of Subotica, especially around the village of Ljutovo and nearby Tavankut and Mala Bosna (“little Bosnia”). The villages sit in a wide open flat agricultural landscape under a massive sky with distant horizons. These villages are typical of those of Vojvodina – linear, built around a wide central road, which the traditionally low, well-spaced houses face narrow end on, with maybe an ancient stork’s nest on its telegraph pole. In the yards there is likely to be an ambar, an open drying shed for maize cobs, or a hay rick, or maybe a small old tractor or an ancient bicycle. At either end of the village, a yellow “city limits” road sign will give the village name in Serbian, in both the Cyrillic and Latin scripts, and in Hungarian (for example, Ljutovo is known as Mérges in Hungarian).

The Google Map shows the location of the main settlements with an unassimilated Bunjevci population today.