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English speakers frequently refer to Bosniaks as Bosnian Muslims or simply as Bosnians, though the latter term can also denote all inhabitants of Bosnia and Herzegovina (regardless of ethnic origin) or apply to citizenship in the country.
Over two million Bosniaks live in the Balkans, with an estimated additional million settled and living around the world.
Upon their arrival, the Slavs assimilated the Paleo-Balkan, mostly romanized tribes, generically known as the Illyrians on the territory of present-day Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also the romanized Celtic population which had intermingled with these since the 4th century BC, and to a lesser extent the Germanic-speaking Ostrogoths which had entered the area in the late 4th century AD.
Timothy Gregory writes that "It is now generally agreed that the people who lived in the Balkans after the Slavic "invasions" were probably for the most part the same as those who had lived there earlier, although the creation of new political groups and arrival of small numbers of immigrants caused people to look at themselves as distinct from their neighbours, including the Byzantines" Being a remote and mountainous region, Bosnia appears to have been settled by a smaller number of Slavic colonizers than the region in general and perhaps served as an area of refuge for the indigenous peoples.
In 1137, the Kingdom of Hungary annexed most of the Bosnia region, then briefly lost it in 1167 to Byzantum before regaining her in the 1180s.A native minority of Bosniaks live in other countries in the Balkans; especially in the Sandžak region of Serbia and Montenegro (where Bosniaks form a regional majority), and in Croatia and Kosovo.by their historic tie to the Bosnian historical region, traditional majority adherence to Islam since the 15th and 16th centuries, common culture and Bosnian language.The name of the polity of Bosnia as per traditional view in linguistics originated as a hydronym, the name of the Bosna river, believed to be of pre-Slavic origin.The name was adopted by the Ottoman Empire for the Sanjak of Bosnia and Bosnia Eyalet, and during the Ottoman period various Turkish-language variations of the root Bosna were used as a demonym (such as Turkish: ) was adopted as an ethnonym by the Bosnian Muslim leadership in the 20th century, the term having historically denoted all inhabitants of Bosnia, regardless of faith.
As a melting ground for confrontations between different religions, national mythologies, and concepts of statehood, much of the historiography of Bosnia and Herzegovina has since the 19th century been the subject of competing Serb and Croat nationalist claims part of wider Serbian and Croatian hegemonic aspirations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, inherently interwoven into the complex nature of the Bosnian War at the end of the 20th century.