Ethnic Croats in the northern Backa region
of the Hungarian-Yugoslav border
Excerpted, translated and edited from Enciklopedija Jugoslavije, 2nd ed., Zagreb, 1982, by Gordon McDaniel.
© copyright 1997 by Gordon mcDaniel, all rights reserved
The Bunjevci (in German Bunjewatzen) are ethnic Croats in the area of Zrmanje, around Velebit, in Lic (all in Croatia) and in northern Backa on both sides of the Yugoslav-Hungarian border. According to linguistic characteristics, the Bunjevci lived originally along the Dinaric range and in the northern part of Svilaja. After the Turkish conquests of the 15 century, they moved into the area of Zrmanje, Zelengrad, Benkovac, Zemunik and Polesnik. It is believed that the name comes from "bunja", a type of round house.
The name is first mentioned in 1622 as a village name in Backa.
At the beginning of the 17th century the Bunjevci revolted against the Turkish governor of the Sandzak of Lika, but the uprising was put down. They began to emigrate at that time. In 1605 they went both to Lic near Fuzin and to the Danube valley, where earlier movements of Bunjevci were known from the beginning of the 16th century. After the Turks were removed from Lika and southern Hungary in the 1680s, the Bunjevci moved into those areas in greater numbers. The chief centers of the Bunjevci were Subotica and Sombor. Under the colonization policy of the Austrian court, Hungarians and Germans in particular were settled in Backa, and the Bunjevci underwent Magyarization. While they were somewhat similar in language to the Serbs of Backa, they were Catholic and thus separated from the Orthodox Serbs.