The anthem with no lyrics continues to speak volumes 

Bosnia and Herzegovina is one of only four countries in the world that have an anthem without lyrics. Though lyrics will soon be debated in the parliament again, the wordless version will likely continue to symbolize BiH best.

Tijana Cvjeticanin
Tijana Cvjeticanin Istinomjer, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Source: Istinomjer
The anthem with no lyrics continues to speak volumes  - NewsMavens
a choir. Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

The anthem returned to the spotlight yet again after the President of Canton Sarajevo Assembly, an opera singer by vocation, gave it an unintentionally hilarious one-vowel rendition during the opening of the assembly’s last session. When the recording went public, Ana Babić's performance was mocked mercilessly on social networks.

Babić has also initiated a vote in the state parliament to finally decide what the lyrics of the anthem will be. It was officially accepted and is expected to be put to the parliament's agenda. However, the initial reactions suggest the same outcome as other similar attempts have had before.

The melody with no words, still referred to by its working title “Intermezzo”, was established as the country’s anthem by a decree of the Office of the High Representative in BiH, an international body established to oversee the implementation of the peace agreement after the war ended.

This was done because the political representatives of the country’s three “constituent peoples” - Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs - couldn’t even reach common ground about the tune, let alone the lyrics of the song that is supposed to symbolize the state. And since each group has rather different views about what that state is and what it should be - the anthem remained void of any symbolism at all.  

Which is exactly why it continues to speak volumes about the country and those who lead it and symbolizes much more than words ever could.


Details from the story:

  • In 1998, the country's anthem, flag and coat of arms were proclaimed by decree of the OHR, after it became obvious that the state parliament will never reach consensus on what they should look and sound like and what they should symbolize.
  • In 2009, a commission formed to decide the text of the anthem reviewed results of a public call for lyrics proposal and settled on the version of the lyrics proposed by Dušan Šestić (the composer of the melody of the anthem) and Benjamin Isović.
  • However, it was never officially approved by the state parliament, so the anthem remained wordless.
  • There have since been several attempts to get the parliament to decide on the lyrics, all of which were fruitless.
  • Ana Babić (SBB), the president of the Sarajevo cantonal assembly, sent the initiative to review the issue once again to the state parliament in November.
  • The proposal was accepted by the parliament's constitutional committee, but it is yet to be discussed by the House of Representatives.
  • By the reactions of the state MPs, including Aleksandra Pandurević (SDS) who downvoted a similar proposal in 2016, it's not likely that it will pass this time either.
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