When Bosnia had its own alphabet – Bosančica

While new archeological sites appear every day, revealing unknown and exciting facts about Bosnia and Herzegovina’s past, one “monument” has been testifying to the uniqueness, and authenticity of this vivid region for centuries. This monument is not made of stone, like the Humac tablet, it is not a document about a millennial-long existence of Bosnia, like the Charter of Kulin Ban, it is not a stećak that embellishes Radimlje, Dugo Polje, Bijača, Boljuna, Kalufa, or some other Bosnian necropolis. It is neither scripture nor a gospel, like the Four Gospels from Dovolja. It isn’t even the Mostar, nor Čajnik Gospels. It is none of those, but it is something carved into all of them! It is an autochthonous, Bosnian alphabet, similar to Glagolitic, as well as both Latin and Cyrillic script. Just like the country it originated from, in a way everyone’s, and yet no one’s but its own. That alphabet is called Bosančica.

With so much history and cultural heritage, it seems that the people of Bosnia are unable to keep track of everything. Thus, Bosančica was not really well-kept; it was not studied in schools, nor passed from one generation to the other. Nevertheless, it has miraculously survived to this day. Bosnia is a land of wonders, just waiting for its own Tolkien to put it into words and extract some of the stories, fairy tales, myths, and legends from its magical treasury and bring them to light, as well as the curious eye of a reader longing for a good adventure. This new Tolkien does not have to invent a language nor a script, as these already exist, are both known and accessible to all, and yet mysterious and undiscovered; always ready to reveal their ancient secrets to each new traveler. Maybe that Bosnian Tolkien already existed as the greatest Bosnian poet Mak Dizdar, and is now just waiting for the whole world to discover it. Mak has engraved Bosančica, stećak tombstones, mounds, necropolises, and other precious characteristics of medieval Bosnia with his hand, mind, and heart of a master, in the Stone Sleeper, one of the most important books in the history of BiH.

Today, everyone claims Bosančica is theirs. Some say it is a Serbian alphabet, some find strong arguments that it is Croatian, and others will not let it leave Bosnia, believing that it is Bosnian and nobody else’s. As such, Bosančica is the most authentic and most picturesque cultural and civilizational pearl of Bosnia, a country many have been fighting for in the past centuries. When people fight for something, that must mean that something is outstanding. No one will ever stop or resolve the controversies about Bosnia and its Bosančica, so one shouldn’t even interfere with it. What is certain, however, is that this script is still alive and will live as long as the world exists. As long as there are world travelers, curious people, and scientists, it will modestly, yet eloquently, reveal its secrets and tell magical, adventurous stories about Bosnia’s past. It is indeed a unique experience to reveal the secrets of Bosančica.”- said Anita Barjaktaravic, Travel manager and Coordinator at Red Africa Travel, for visitsarajevo.ba. 

Anyone wondering where to find Bosančica should start heading from Dubrovnik or central Dalmatia to a country called Bosnia and Herzegovina, says Anita. On Humac near Ljubuški, they will find the Humac tablet, built into the Franciscan monastery. Then they ought to walk to Bijača, a part of the same city, where they will find numerous stećak tombstones with writings in Bosančica. Nearby is the town of Stolac, where the famous necropolises of Radimlje and Boljuni are located; then Grčka glavica in the village of Biskup near Konjic, Kalufi in Krekovi near Nevesinje, Borak in the village of Burati near Rogatica, Maculje in Novi Travnik, Dugo polje in Blidinje near Jablanica, Gvozno in Kalinovik, Grebnice in the village of Baljci near Bileća, Olovci in Kladanj, Mramor in Musići near Olovo, Kučarin in Hrančići near Goražde, Dolovi in the village of Umoljani near Trnovo, Luburića polje in Sokolac, Mramor in Vrbica near Foča, Čengića Bara in Kalinovik, Ravanjska vrata on Kupres … all the way to the tombstones and ktetor’s epigraphs in Travunija and central Bosnia. 

And when the traveler gets tired of reading epitaphs, epigraphs, and scripts carved in the Bosnian stone, or wants to hide from the Herzegovinian sun, tell him/her to close himself inside monasteries, churches, and museums for a while. There they will find gospels, various church and secular manuscripts with numerous elements of pure and living vernacular, non-canonical texts, apocrypha and prayers, records, inscriptions, charters, scripts, apostolic works, epistles… Apocalypse…

In none of these writings and apocalypses will anyone find any evidence or record of the end of Bosnia and Herzegovina and its Bosančica. On the contrary, whether secular or religious, divine or imperial, all these scriptures say the same thing, and they agree that Bosnia has always been and will always continue being. Still, one of the most beautiful records about Bosnia and Herzegovina came from the pen of Mak Dizdar, saying that Bosnia is defiant from a dream. The meaning of this saying can best be experienced in the country itself.