CAS Colloquium: Hume explains Bosnian migration to south St. Louis

St. Louis has the largest Bosnian population outside of Bosnia and Herzegovina, according to geography professor Susan Hume.

Geography professor Susan Hume lectures about her research on Bosnian migration to south St. Louis as part of the 2014 College of Arts and Sciences Colloquium. Photo by Kari Williams

Hume discussed her research, “Bosnian Migration to St. Louis and Their Imprint on the Cultural Landscape,” April 3 as part of the 2014 College of Arts and Sciences Colloquium.

Bosnian Muslims, or Bosniaks, were forced to flee Bosnia and Herzegovina as a result of events that culminated in the 1995 Srebrenica Massacre in which Serbian military killed male Bosniaks and buried them in a mass grave. Bosniaks left their homeland, according to Hume, and sought security in Turkey and other European Union countries.

When refugees came to the U.S., they had no choice in where they were located, but a resettlement agency “played an important role,” according to Hume, providing services such as English Language Learners, job training and providing expertise to start businesses. Bosniak refugees began resettling in St. Louis in 1993, Hume said, with the largest population in the St. Louis Bevo neighborhood in south St. Louis.

The Bevo area was selected, according to Hume, because of housing availability, low rent and to “mitigate racial tension” by placing them in a Caucasian neighborhood.

Bosnians began “building ethnic enclave” along Gravois Avenue, which includes restaurants, coffee shops and travel agencies, among other businesses, according to Hume. The largest Bosnian newspaper in the U.S., Sabah, is also located in the Bevo area. Additionally, St. Louis banks with branches in Bevo, such as U.S. Bank and Southern Commercial, “hired people who speak Bosnian,” Hume said.

Use of the contemporary Bosnian flag and the country’s colors – blue and gold – can be seen in the logos and windows of Bosnian-owned businesses along Gravois, according to Hume.

With more than 70,000 Bosnians in the city, Hume said family reunification, secondary migrants (moving from another location in the U.S. to St. Louis) and American-born children help account for the number.

Cultural events such as Bosnian Idol St. Louis and the Tamburitza Extravaganza Festival remind young people of their heritage, according to Hume, while the greater St. Louis area is “beginning to see Bosnians as part of the community.”

The St. Louis Symphony recently held a performance called “Bosnian Journeys: Generations,” while two soccer matches featuring Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bosnia’s team, occurred at Busch Stadium and the Edward Jones Dome. Both sporting events drew crowds of more than 40,000 people.

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