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Bosniaks (natively: Bošnjaci), previously known as Ethnical Muslims of Yugoslavia, are Slavs who were converted to Islam during the Ottoman period (15th-19th century). Bosniaks are named after Bosnia, the westernmost Balkan region held by the Turks. Most Muslim inhabitants of Bosnia and Herzegovina declare themselves ethnically Bosniak, and also some Muslims of Serbia and Montenegro (in the Sandžak region). Note that other Muslims of the Balkans aren't Bosniaks; rather, they're Albanians and Turks.

There are conflicting claims on how the population in Bosnia was converted to Islam. A large segment of Bosnian population at the time were members of an indigenous Bosnian Church (krstjani, "Christians") and were considered heretics by both the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, and they are said to have willingly embraced Islam. Some of the converts may have been Bogomils or Patarenes.

Many Christian children became Muslims by getting forcibly enrolled as janičari into the Ottoman army. Janissaries, however, had no right to marry until 1566, and before and after that were used throughout the Ottoman Empire; their descendants do not comprise a major part of Bosniak population.

Economically, at the end of the Ancient Regime, the Bosnian Muslims were the majority of the landlords, with Christians being peasants. This may have been caused by conversion being concentrated in towns rather than villages, leading to a longer term division between urban and rural areas.

Being part of Europe and influenced not only by the oriental but also by the occidental culture, Bosnian Muslims are considered to be some of the most advanced Islamic peoples of the world. The nation takes pride in the melancholic folk songs sevdalinke, the precious medieval filigree manufactured by old Sarajevo craftsmen, and a wide array of traditional wisdoms that are carried down to newer generations by word of mouth, and in recent years written down in numerous books.

1968 saw the first identification of the Yugoslav Muslims as a unique nationality. The term "Muslim as a nationality" (Muslimani u smislu narodnosti) was officially adopted.

In September 1993 Congress of Bosnian Muslim Intellectuals adopted the term Bosniak instead of the previously used Muslim. Some Serbs objected to the name as a ploy to monopolize the history of Bosnia and make them seem to be foreign invaders (see History of Bosnia and Herzegovina). The term in itself means Bosnian and is an archaic term that once used for all inhabitants of Bosnia regardless of faith. Since the 1990s, the name has been projected outside of Bosnia itself, onto Serbia's and Macedonia's Slav Muslim population. It allows a Bosniak/Bosnian distinction to match the Serb/Serbian and Croat/Croatian distinctions between ethnicity and residence.

See also