By Joel Anderson

Bosnia-Herzegovina declared its independence from Yugoslavia in the spring of 1992.  Immediately fighting broke out between the three main ethnic groups that made up the country: the Moslems, the Croats and the Serbs.  Despite years of living together, the country soon divided into Moslem, Croat and Serb zones, with each trying to drive out those of other ethnic persuasions.

As is typical during a civil war, monetary chaos reigned.  The Serbian section, supported by Yugoslavia (which now was made up of just Serbia and Montenegro) issued a number of notes from Banja Luka, the "capital" of the Serbian section of Bosnia.  The notes were issued by the National Bank of the Serbian Republic and printed in Yugoslavia. The Bosnian Serb Dinara was tied to the Yugoslavian Dinara. Unfortunately Yugoslavia was in the midst of one of the worlds worst hyper-inflations, caused in part by the Yugoslav government trying to support the war in Bosnia.  By January of 1994 the inflation rate for the Yugoslavia Dinar peaked at 313 Million Percent Per Month!  Naturally this caused a lot of notes with a lot of zeros to be issued.  Denominations up to 10,000,000,000 Dinara were issued.

Things were not much better in the Croat and Muslim areas either.  The Croat government initially encouraged the use of Croatian Dinara in the Croat regions, however they too were suffering from high inflation.   The Muslim areas used Yugoslavian banknotes overprinted by the Bosnian government for use in Bosnia as an emergency measure.  Crudely printed notes, stamped with the city of issue were also quickly put into service.  The government managed to issue a series of reasonably attractive notes that were printed in Slovenia. Many of the notes featured the famous Mostar bridge, which fell victim to the fighting and was eventually destroyed.  The value of the new notes quickly fell due to inflation caused by massive government spending to fight the Serbs.  A new "national" issue came out in the fall of 1994, with 1 New Dinara equal to 10,000 old Dinara, however the value of these notes also quickly diminished.

With all this inflation, naturally no one trusted the local paper money.  Coins could not be issued, as the value of the metal was soon greater than the face value of the coin due to roaring inflation.  The German Mark would become the currency of choice, supplemented by the American Dollar.  Sellers demanded Marks for most items of significant value.

With the signing of the Dayton Peace Accord in 1995, Bosnia-Herzegovina was once again more or less united.  Under the terms of the Accord, the country was divided into a Serb Zone and a Muslim-Croat Zone, (also known as the Federated Zone) which were under the nominal control of a national parliament and a three member collective presidency.  The new national government was to issue a new currency for the entire country.  Rather than risk another round of inflation, the new currency was tied to the German Mark and tightly controlled.  Called the Bosnian Convertible Maraka (BAM), the new currency was tied directly to the German Mark.  Thus a Bosnian Maraka is worth approximately 65c.  In order to obtain the Convertible Maraka, someone had to deposit a German Mark with the Central Bank of Bosnia-Herzegovina.  The Bank would keep the German Mark on deposit, until the note was redeemed.  According to the Dayton Accord the new currency was to be issued by June of 1998.  Unfortunately the Serb and Muslim-Croat factions could not agree on who or what would appear on the new notes, or even the placement of legends on the notes. The Serbs threatened to issue their own currency, which would be in violation of the Dayton Accord.  The various factions finally decided on a basic format for the notes.  Architectural or artistic elements would be on the reverse of the notes and famous Bosnian writers would be pictured on the front.  This avoided potential conflicts by putting politicians on the notes. As part of the compromise each side issued separate currency issues with different writers.  Thus the Serb issues showed Serb writers, while the Federated issues showed Croat and Muslim authors.  Bosnia-Herzegovina thus became the first country to exclusively feature writers on their money.  Serbo-Croatian literature flourished with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in the 19th and early 20th centuries, thus there were a number of recent writers to choose from.  Few have been widely translated into English so few Americans have encountered these works.

Despite having separate Serbian and Federated issues, all the notes are issued by an independent Central Bank. All notes bear the facsimile signiture of the Governor of Bosnian Central Bank, Peter Nichol who is from New Zealand.  The notes for each area are interchangeable regardless of the design and where it was issued.  Though the portraits are different for the Serb and Federated issues, the notes for each denomination has the same color and layout. The other difference between the Serb and the Muslim-Croat Federated issues is the placement of the main legends. All three ethnic groups speak forms of Serbo-Croatian, which can be rendered in either the Cyrillic or Latin alphabet. Both were traditionally taught in schools, however with the rise of nationalism, the Serbs have been moving towards the use of just the Cyrillic alphabet, while the Croats and Muslims move towards using the Latin alphabet. All notes bear the name of the Central Bank of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the title governor under the signature and the denomination in both the Cyrillic and Latin alphabets.  However Serb notes have the legends with the Cyrillic alphabet first, followed by the Latin alphabet, while the Federated notes have the legends using the Latin alphabet first.  Interestingly, they were able to agree on an author for one note.  Both the Serb and Bosnian 5 Maraka notes picture writer Mesa Selimovic, though the order of the legends are still different between the two issues.

By the time this compromise on the new currency was worked out, there was little time to prepare the new notes in time for The Dayton Accord planned release date.  The notes were printed by François-Charles Oberthur Fiduciaire in Rennes, France.  The notes incorporate a number of anti-counterfeiting devices, including watermarks, embedded UV-sensitive Mylar strips, shifting images, partially reflective stripes, front-back registration marks, multiple printing techniques and others. Each denomination is a different size, thus helping those with vision problems and preventing the "raising" of the value of a note.  The denominations issued were the 50 Pfeniga, 1,5,10,20, 50 and 100 Convertible Maraka.  The four lower denominations were released June 22, 1998, with the three higher denominations released the following month.

Unfortunately four of the notes contained significant errors in the Cyrillic legends.  Many Serbs blamed the errors on a conspiracy theory aimed at Serbs, and Serb authorities initially refused to distribute the error notes.  Most likely the errors were caused by the lack of knowledge of the Cyrillic by the French printers.  Though there has been talk of issuing corrected notes, thus far only the error notes have appeared in circulation.

Bosnia-Herzegovna 1 Maraka Serb, obverse bottem right corner
The Serbian 1 Markaka note features Nobel Prize winning author Ivo Andric, however the printer made a mistake on the last letter of his name. The last character is non-existant in Cyrillic.

5 Maraka Federated

5 Maraka Serb

The denomination on the back of both the Serb and Federated 5 Maraka  issues uses the Latinate spelling for five ("PET") in the Serb legend rather than the Cyrillic spelling.

Bosnia-Herzegovina 10 Maraka Serb obv. bottem right

The Serb 10 Maraka note has the name of the writer Aleksa Santic printed in using the Latinate rather then the Cyrillic alphabet

Bosnia-Herzegovina 1998 coins
1998 Bosnia-Herzegovina 10, 20 & 50 Feniga coins

In December of 1998 the first two circulating coins of Bosnia-Herzegovina were released: 10 and 20 Feniga.  I have not been able to determine a different spelling for Feniga was used on the coin and notes.  A 50 Feniga was released the following month.  This time though, apparently the Serbs, Muslims and Croats were able to agree on the same designs.  One side of the coin features the denomination superimposed on a map of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the other side features a triangle and 9 stars, apparently an allusion to the three major ethnic groups.  Along the edge of both the obverse and reverse is the name of the country in both Latin and Cyrillic.  The coins were struck in copper-plated steel by The British Royal Mint and are dated 1998.   1, 2 and 5 Maraka coins are scheduled to be released in 1999.


50 Pfeniga Skender Kulenovic (1910-78) Wrote stories & poetry.
1 Maraka Ivan Franjo Jukic (1818-1857) Franciscan, wrote "Geography and History of Bosnia"
5 Maraka Mesa Selimovic (1910-82) Portrayed on both Federated & Serb issue.
10 Maraka Mehmedalija Mak Dizdar (1917-71) Lyricist about medieval Bosnia.
20 Maraka Antun Branko Simic (1898-1925) Founded & edited Literary Reviews.
50 Maraka Musa Cazim Catic (1878-1915) Mystic & lyric poet.
100 Maraka Nikola Sop (1904-1982) Poetry & Drama.
50 Pfeniga Branko Copic (1915-84) Wrote mostly about WWII
1 Maraka Ivo Andric A Croat born in Bosnia who is considered a Serb. Won Nobel Prize for Literature in 1961 for "Bridge Over Drina". Name misspelled on note.
5 Maraka Mesa Selimovic (1910-82) Works include "Death and Dervish", "Fort".
10 Maraka Aleksa Santic (1868-1924) Romantic poetry and songs. Name printed in Latinate rather than Cyrillic.
20 Maraka Filip Visnjic (1765-1835) Epic Serb Poet
50 Maraka Jovan Ducic (1874-1943) Poet & diplomat. Died in Gary Indiana.
100 Maraka Petar Kocic (1866-1916) Writer and opponent of Austrian rule.




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