The Department of Literatures of the Peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina is one of the first departments established at the Faculty of Philosophy in Sarajevo. It was established as the Chair of Serbo-Croatian Language and Yugoslav Literature, in the autumn of 1950, the same year as the Faculty. In 1959, a separate Chair of Yugoslav Literatures was established, and in 1971 it grew into the Department of Yugoslav Literatures. Following the 1979 reforms, this department was renamed the Department of Literatures of the Peoples and Nationalities of Yugoslavia. The department retained this name until it was renamed the Department of Literatures of the Peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

These changes to the name of the Department are a reflection of significant changes to the curriculum. At first, the literatures of the peoples of Yugoslavia were considered as a whole and so courses were structured diachronically according to the logic of the history of literature, with periodisation based on changing literary styles; national literatures were studied within this framework. Beginning in 1973/74, when changes in staffing made it possible, Slovenian literature and Macedonian literature were offered as separate courses, while the core courses were reserved for studying the literatures of the common language without a focus on literary style in the course titles. Also, Teaching Methods, Folk Literature, Literary Theory, and Introduction to the History of Literature were offered as courses that would introduce students to the most significant works and phenomena of world literature, with a focus on European literature. In 1979, the curriculum was significantly reformed and this can be seen in the new name of the department—the Department of Literatures of the Peoples and Nationalities of Yugoslavia. At that time, as the new name indicates, in addition to Oral Literatures of the Peoples of Yugoslavia, Introduction to World Literature, and Literary Theory, courses in the history of literatures defined according to ethnic criteria as Serbian literature, Croatian literature, Slovenian literature, Macedonian literature, and Montenegrin literature, as well as the literature of the peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina were established, in addition to seminars in Yugoslav Literatures and Literatures of the peoples of Yugoslavia.

The department was reformed even more radically once Bosnia and Herzegovina became an independent country: the department was renamed the Department of Literatures of the Peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Bosniak, Croat and Serb literature were offered as separate courses, so that all three literatures were included in their integral form. The Department has retained this principle in its newest development phase with some modifications that were made necessary by the Bologna Declaration.

The first instructors at the Department were Salko Nazečić and Meša Selimović for literature and Jovan Vuković and Rikard Kuzmić for language. Meša Selimović worked at the Department for only two years, but Boško Novaković (1953), Midhat Begić and Dragiša Živković (1957) joined the Department soon afterwards. Fahra Kolaković, Samija Njuhović and Miodrag Šijaković participated in the work of the Department as its first associates. Vlastimir Erčić served at the Department from 1953 to 1966, Zdenko Lešić from 1957, Cveta Popović-Kovačević from 1958, Branko Milanović from 1960 until 1992 and Radovan Vučković from 1960 until 1993. Boško Novaković left in 1959 and Dragiša Živković left in 1966, but the Department received new members: professor Slavko Leovac (1962-1972) and associates Milica Ivanišević (from 1961 until her retirement in 1993), Ljubica Tomić-Kovač (1962-1965), Mirjana Romić-Bogavac (1962-1968), Hatidža Dizdarević-Krnjević (1962-1964 and 1969-1972), Radojka Radulović as a teaching associate (from 1962 until her retirement in 1972), Juraj Martinović (from 1963 until his retirement), Ljubomir Zuković (1965-1992), Branko Letić (1967-1994), Božidar Pejović (from 1969 until his death in 1979), Muhsin Rizvić as an associate professor (from 1970 until his death in 1994), Rajka Božović as a teaching methods instructor (1971-19??), Enes Duraković (1973), Pero Šimunović (1973-1992), Fatma Hasanbegović (1980), Izet Muratspahić, Munib Maglajlić (1992), Dejan Đuričković (1993), Fahrudin Rizvanbegović (1994), Enver Kazaz (1996), Muhidin Džanok (1997), Gordana Muzaferija (from 1997 until her death in 2009), Nenad Veličković (1998), Nihad Agić (1998) and Sanjin Kodrić (2003). From 1955 until 1959, Stanko Janež worked at the Department as a lector for Slovenian language, while Muris Idrizović worked as a visiting teaching methods instructor from 1961 to 1962. Miroslav Pantić, a visiting professor from Belgrade, spent several years teaching Yugoslav literatures up to the 18th century. After 1995, members of other departments, such as Emina Memija and Dževad Karahasan, as well as Dr. Dragomir Gajević, associate of the Institute for Literature in Sarajevo, contributed to teaching at the Department. During that same period, Dr. Branko Letić (who left the Faculty in 1994) provided teaching support at the Department.

The Department and the Faculty as a whole experienced their greatest difficulties and challenges during the aggression against the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the siege of Sarajevo, which lasted from 1992 to 1995. Some instructors and associates left Sarajevo at the very beginning of the aggression, while others left later. The building of the Faculty was located on the frontlines of the city’s defences and it suffered numerous hits from artillery and other weapons and was also constantly under threat of sniper fire. Therefore, it was impossible to work in the building, so classes and examinations were held at the Faculty of Law. Despite the constant difficulties faced by instructors and students travelling to and from the Faculty’s new temporary address—they were exposed to shelling and sniper fire and had to work in freezing-cold rooms—classes and examinations continued to be held, in part thanks to new staff, primarily associates from the Institute for Literature in Sarajevo.

Today, the Department has 13 instructors and associates: full professors Enes Duraković, Munib Maglajlić, Fahrudin Rizvanbegović, Nihad Agić and Muhidin Džanko; associate professors Fatma Hasanbegović, Alija Pirić and Enver Kazaz; assistant professors Nenad Veličković and Sanjin Kodrić; and teaching associates Edina Muftić, Sead Šemsović and Ena Begović.

Approximately forty doctoral dissertations have been defended at the Department. The first postgraduate cycle was organised at the Department in 1971 and has been repeated four times since then, in 1982, 1990, 1999 and 2003. By the end of 2009/10, over fifty candidates had received their master’s degrees.       

The Department graduated its first students already in 1955 and by 2010 hundreds of students had graduated as professors of Yugoslav literatures, professors of literatures of the peoples and nationalities of Yugoslavia and finally professors of literatures of the peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina. With the exception of a short period at the end of the 1950s, when this study programme could be combined with philosophy, until recently the study of literature was always offered in combination, as the first or second major subject, with Serbo-Croatian or Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian language.

The majority of our graduates have worked as teachers in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the other republics of former Yugoslavia, but they have also worked in various areas of science, culture and journalism. Among them are many prominent workers in culture, writers, journalists, editors at publishing houses, magazines and newspapers, on the radio and television. The current instructors and associates at the Department are, for the most part, graduates of the Faculty of Philosophy in Sarajevo, with the exception of professors F. Rizvanbegović and N. Agić (Faculty of Philosophy in Zagreb) and A. Pirić (Faculty of Philosophy in Novi Sad).

During its sixty years of existence, the Department’s instructors and associates have provided an invaluable contribution to all areas of the study of literature and literary and cultural life, as evidenced by their numerous published monographs and academic articles, as well as their work in the organisation of research and participation in the work of other academic and cultural institutions and associations. Among the most significant scholarly projects that instructors from the Department have been involved in are those carried out under the patronage of the Academy of Sciences and Arts of Bosnia and Herzegovina: Istorija književnosti Bosne i Hercegovine [History of the Literature of Bosnia and Herzegovina] and Prilozi za istoriju književnosti Bosne i Hercegovine [Studies in the History of the Literature of Bosnia and Herzegovina]. Instructors from the Department were also among the founders and permanent associates of the Institute for Literature in Sarajevo (initially the Institute for the Study of Yugoslav Literatures), have organised and participated at numerous academic conferences in Bosnia and Herzegovina and abroad, and were speakers at seminars for local and foreign teachers. They were also active as editors and editorial board members at publishing houses and magazines. From 1954 until 1958 the Department published an academic journal—Pitanja jezika i književnosti [Issues in Language and Literature]. The Department as a whole and its individual instructors have cooperated with and continue to cooperate with chairs and departments at other faculties from the former Yugoslavia and further abroad.