Citizens were suffering from a crucial flaw that could have been forgiven with a bit of effort: they did not work. Their right not to work was accepted, most often as something they earned through their diligent work earlier in their lifetimes.
Today we are surrounded by "citizens and nationalists". Yesterday, working people and citizens lived in one society, and today the society has been split thanks to the diligent work of nationalists or citizens who would prefer to live in their kind of society. Those citizen-nationalists who disagree with "hard-line" nationalists are rejected by citizens who above all want to be citizens. Most of the latter are citizens who believe that their ethnicity is very important. But, they claim, they are not nationalists. It would be difficult to today find citizens who would agree to be nothing but citizens, citizens and nothing else.
In that case, does it make sense to talk about citizens as a type of group identity, a separate group in our society? The quick answer is no, since all of us are citizens, we have the same legal status, both in the current and in the previous legal and political systems. The long answer, much more important, is yes and has to do with our political views. Because, just like yesterday we were not all part of the chief factor of the ideology, the working class, and especially not the party that represented it, the Communist party, similarly today we are not all nationalists. Everyone around us has been transformed into "citizens or nationalists" based on the fact that that distinction has become perhaps the most important political difference at the time when politics deeply affects our lives, and even our identity. The fact that we say we are "citizens" does not mean that we want to say we are adult citizens of Srpska or Federation B-H, and that we claim rights guaranteed by laws... No, politically that implies that we are not nationalists, or rather, that we are not nationalists to a lesser or greater extent. In this sense, to be a "citizen" implies a purely political label indicating that someone is not a "nationalist', rather than a lack of firmly established ethnic or religious identity.
In the currently ruling political spectrum in Bosnia-Hercegovina, political parties are usually classified as "civic" or "national" (instead of, for example as "workers'" and "civic"). The civic principle is supposed to be the opposite of the national in the era of wholehearted acceptance of the legacy of liberal democracy by all political options. However, it is precisely the context of the adoption of the new legal and political order that makes this polarization puzzling. It is so important that it almost overlaps with the traditional split between the left and the right. It cannot be translated to the usual language of liberal democracy as it would imply that "national parties" are against citizens' rights. Perhaps, it is time to ask a na´ve and open ended question regarding the political meaning of the "civic" concept in our local context! We owe so many heated and bitter disputes on our political scene to this civic-national split! Someone may even assert that national political parties have a better understanding of the term "civic" since they do not make an ideology of it.
If we consider the "left" side of the political spectrum, there we mostly find political parties of social-democratic and liberal orientation as self-declared pro-civic forces. They are civic to the extent they believe that class identity or civic rights have primacy over cultural-religious identity and the so-called collective rights. But they are "pro-civic" political forces above all based on their belief in "shared life" after the death of Communism, and not only as a way of survival (in political theory known as modus vivendi) of nations as separate millets [religious communities under the Ottoman Empire], next to each other, but of individuals-citizens in shared state, political, educational etc. institutions. Both views are best represented on the current political scene by social-democracy. It calls on the positive historical experience from the former Yugoslavia, when "we lived together regardless of our nation or religion". Given a sufficient degree of inter-ethnic tolerance economic problems become the most important political problems.
But, unfortunately, that attitude hides a dangerous illusion, since our old "tolerance" had nothing to do with "civic reality". Instead it was a reality reflecting the ideology of the working people. Togetherness of "citizens" was based on the awareness of shared identity, and that awareness had to be constantly and feverishly developed and maintained by the [Communist] Party (and its "civic" sections).
The most exemplary of all "civic" political forces are hoping to resuscitate, although perhaps they do not realize that, the joint ideology or "collective good" that would be shared by most inhabitants of Bosnia-Hercegovina. The former [Communist] regime demonstrated, by its demise especially, how strong that joint foundation has to be. Despite a fairly widespread belief, patriotism and/or "desire of citizens for better life and well organized country" cannot provide such foundation. The best, we could call it merciless, indication of the impotence of that idea is the connection or, rather, the extent to which these pro-civic movements are intertwined with the so-called "majority nation". It is well known that the majority nations, simply due to their privileged status in the "joint state", always tend to advocate the "civic" approach. Consequently, today in Bosnia-Hercegovina civic parties are mostly Bosniak parties. As we have seen, civic parties can also be very successful in the Republic of Srpska, provided they remain sufficiently Serb and, among other, preserve and defend the "state community" in which Serbs are a majority.