Sandžak (Serbian: Санџак, Sandžak or Рашка, Raška; Bosnian: Sandžak; Albanian: Sanxhak or Sanxhaku; Turkish: Sancak) is a region lying along the border between Serbia and Montenegro. It derives its name from the Sanjak of Novi Pazar, a former Ottoman administrative district that existed until the Balkan Wars of 1912.
Sandžak is the local Slavic transcription of the Turkish word sancak, which literally means "a banner, flag".
Sanjaks originally were the first level subdivisions of the Ottoman Empire. They arose in the mid-14th century as military districts that were part of a military-feudal system. In addition to the paid professional army, the Ottoman army had corps of cavalry soldiers (called spahis or sipahi) who performed military service in return for estates granted by the Sultan (larger estates were called zaim or zeamet, smaller ones timar). Spahis gathered for war according to the Sanjak in which they lived, and were led by an official called a Sanjak-beg or Sanjakbey (roughly equivalent to "district governor").
It stretches from the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina to Kosovo on an area of 8,403 square kilometers. Six municipalities of Sandžak are in Serbia (Novi Pazar, Sjenica, Tutin, Prijepolje, Nova Varoš, and Priboj), and five in Montenegro (Pljevlja, Bijelo Polje, Berane, Rožaje, and Plav). Sometimes the Montenegrin municipality of Andrijevica is also regarded to be part of Sandžak.
The largest city in the region is Novi Pazar (55,000), while other large cities are: Pljevlja (23,800), and Priboj (19,600). In Serbia, the municipalities of Novi Pazar and Tutin are included into Raška District, while the municipalities of Sjenica, Prijepolje, Nova Varoš, and Priboj, are included into Zlatibor District.
In the Middle Ages the region was part of the Serb state of Raška. The capital of Raška was the city of Ras, located near present day Novi Pazar. The region was later part of the subsequent Serb states, until it was conquered by the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century.
During the centuries of Ottoman rule the Sanjak of Novi Pazar was a part of the Province of Bosnia before coming under the Kosovo Province in 1878. The 1878 Congress of Berlin allowed Austro-Hungarian military garrisons to be positioned in Sandžak where they remained until 1909. In October 1912, Sandžak was captured by Serbian and Montenegrin troops in the First Balkan War, and its territory was divided between the Kingdoms of Serbia and Montenegro. Many Bosniak and Albanian inhabitants of Sandžak emigrated to Turkey as muhajirs, as a direct result of oppression by the new Serbo-Montenegrin authorities. The emigration wave lasted from 1912 to 1970. Over a million of modern Turks have Sandžak origins or ancestry. There are numerous colonies of Sandžak Bosniaks in Turkey, in and around Edirne, Istanbul, Adapazarı, Bursa, and Samsun among others.
During World War I, Sandžak was under occupation of Austria-Hungary from 1914 to 1918. In 1918, Serbia and Montenegro united before creating the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes which became the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1929. Between 1929 and 1941, Sandžak was part of a newly created province, the Zeta Banovina, with headquarters in Cetinje.
Most of Sandžak was under Italian occupation in World War II, mostly under the Governorate of Montenegro (The city of Novi Pazar was included into Serbia, while Plav and Rožaje were included into Italian ruled Albania), and under German occupation from 1943. At the end of the war, Sandžak was divided between Serbia and Montenegro, according to the initial division agreement between the two states from 1913.
The Yugoslav wars of the 1990s left Sandžak largely unscathed, although the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo led to ethnic tensions and (in the latter case) bombing by NATO forces. According to Sandžak Bosniak political parties, some 60,000-80,000 Bosniaks emigrated from the region during this period, as a result of oppression and police raids throughout Sandžak. A number of group killings of Bosniaks occurred 1992–1995, with the most notable ones being the cases of Sjeverin (near Priboj), Bukovica (near Pljevlja), and Štrpci (near Prijepolje).
With the democratic changes in Serbia in 2000, the ethnic Bosniaks were allowed to start participating in the political life in Serbia and Montenegro, including Rasim Ljajić, ethnic Bosniak, who was a minister in the Government of Serbia and Montenegro, or Rifat Rastoder, who is the Deputy President of the Parliament of Montenegro.
Also, the census data shows a general emigration of all nationalities from this underdeveloped region.
According to the official censuses in Serbi and Montenegro from 2002 and 2003, the total population of Sandžak is 420,259 people. The population of the Serbian part of Sandžak is 235,567 people, while the population of the Montenegrin part of Sandžak is 184,692 people. According to the 2002/2003 censuses, Bosniaks and Muslims by nationality counted together numbered 220,065 people, and participated with 52.36% in the population of Sandžak.
Ethnic groups in Sandžak:
Ethnic groups in Serbian part of Sandžak:
Ethnic groups in Montenegrin part of Sandžak:
The municipalities with Bosniak ethnic majority are: Tutin (94.23%), Rožaje (82.09%), Novi Pazar (76.28%), Sjenica (73.34%), and Plav (50.73%).
The municipalities with Serb ethnic majority are: Nova Varoš (90.09%), Priboj (74.15%), Pljevlja (59.52%), and Prijepolje (56.82%).
The ethnically mixed municipalities with relative Serb ethnic majority are: Bijelo Polje (36.31%) and Berane (41.43%).
Bosniak participation in respective municipalities is as follows:
Muslims by nationality participation in respective municipalities is as follows:
Serb participation in respective municipalities is as follows:
Montenegrin participation in respective municipalities is as follows:
Note that many Slavic Muslims declared themselves as Serbs, Montenegrins, Turks (although not actually speaking Turkish) or Yugoslavs in this census.
Some twenty percent of Bosniaks stem from the Catholic Albanian clans of Northern Albania and neighbouring Montenegro. Most of them were resettled by the ruling Ottomans at the beginning of the 18th century from Malësia e Shkodrës (Serbian/Bosnian: Skadarska Malesija), partly aiming to populate the lands deserted by the fleeing Orthodox population after the Austro-Turkish wars. By the end of the 19th century, all these Albanians converted to Islam, and were assimilated into the dominant wave of Bosniak refugees from Montenegro proper. Nevertheless, they retained many of their Albanian traditions, especially in the eastern parts of Sandžak, and some older Bosniaks of Albanian ancestry even speak fluent Albanian to this day.
The last segment of Sandžak Bosniaks arrived from several other places. Naturally, there was a continuous intermingling with the members of the local Turkish administration and military. Some of the Bosniaks came from Slavonia after 1687, when Turkey lost all the lands north of Sava in the Austro-Turkish war. Many more came from Herzegovina in the post-1876 period, after the Herzegovina Rebellion staged by the Serbs against Austria-Hungary and their Muslim subjects. Another wave followed immediately afterwards from both Bosnia and Herzegovina, as the Treaty of Berlin placed Bosnia under the effective control of Austria-Hungary in 1878. The last wave of migrants from Bosnia followed in 1908, when Austria-Hungary officially annexed Bosnia, cutting off all direct ties between the Bosnian Muslims and the Sublime Porte, their effective protector.
Since ethnic Bosniaks form a majority in only three eastern municipalities of Serbian Sandžak, and two eastern municipalities of Montenegrin Sandžak, and since the Serb and Montenegrin populations from this ethnically mixed region would oppose the idea of autonomy , it is unlikely that an eventual autonomous Sandžak would include municipalities with a majority Serb and Montenegrin ethnic populations.
The Bosniak National Council of Serbia and Montenegro represented the region at the UNPO since 1993. This political pressure group organized a referendum in October 1991 where 98% of the voters opted in favour of autonomy. The Council claims a 69% turnout, although this has not been verified by an independent body.
With the secession of Kosovo from Serbia, the question arises again if there will be further development in the Sandžak towards autonomy, maybe along the lines of Vojvodina.