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Today, the election law of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina, recognizes the results from the 1991 population census as results referring to Bosniaks which are, alongside Bosnian Serbs and Bosnian Croats, one of the three constituent nations in post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina and the single largest ethnic group in the country.In other ex-Yugoslav countries with significant Slavic Muslim populations, adoption of the Bosniak name has been less consistent.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.To quote Bosnian president Hamdija Pozderac at the time: Upon Bosnia and Herzegovina's declaration of independence from Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, the great majority of Bosnian Muslims aligned themselves with the Bosniak identity.In September 1993, at the height of the Bosnian War, the Second Bosniak Congress formed a basis for the official re-establishment of the historical ethnic name Bosniak and deprecation of the former Muslim in use during SFR Yugoslavia.Following its conquest by the Ottoman Empire in the mid-15th century, Bosnia experienced a rapid and extensive conversion of the local population to Islam, and by the early 1600s roughly two thirds of Bosnians were Muslim.In addition, a smaller number of converts from outside Bosnia were in time assimilated into the common Bosniak unit, such as Croats (mainly in Turkish Croatia, and the Muslims of Slavonia that fled to Bosnia following the Austro-Turkish war), Serbian and Montenegrin Muhacirs (in Sandžak particularly Islamicized descendants of the Old Herzegovinian and highlander tribes from Brda region, such as Rovčani, Moračani, Drobnjaci and Kuči), and slavicized Vlachs, Y-DNA results show notable frequencies of I2 (43.50%), R-M17 (15.30%), E-V13 (12.90%), J-M410 (7.10%).

Nevertheless, leaders and intellectuals of the Bosniak community may have various perceptions of what it means to be Bosniak.Some may point to an Islamic heritage, while others stress the purely secular and national character of the Bosniak identity and its connection with Bosnian territory and history.Moreover, individuals outside Bosnia and Herzegovina may hold their own personal interpretations as well.Prior to this, the great majority of Bosnian Muslims had declared either Ethnically Undecided Muslim or – to a lesser extent – Undecided Yugoslav in censuses pertaining to Yugoslavia as the other available options were Serb-Muslim and Croat-Muslim.Although it achieved recognition as a distinct nation by an alternative name, the use of Muslim as an ethnic designation was opposed early on as it sought to label Bosniaks a religious group instead of an ethnic one.