Bosnia-Hercegovina is recovering from a devastating three-year war which accompanied the break-up of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s.
The 1992-1995 conflict centred on whether Bosnia should stay in the Yugoslav Federation, or whether it should become independent.
It is now an independent state, but under international administration. Its three main ethnic groups are Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims), Croats and Serbs. The war left Bosnia's infrastructure and economy in tatters. Around two million people - about half the population - were displaced.
International administration, backed at first by Nato forces and later by a smaller European Union-led peacekeeping force, has helped the country consolidate stability.
Symbol of hope: Rebuilt bridge at Mostar
But early in 2007 the International Crisis Group, a think tank, warned: "Bosnia remains unready for unguided ownership of its own future - ethnic nationalism remains too strong."
The 1995 Dayton peace accord, which ended the Bosnian war, set up two separate entities; a Bosniak-Croat Federation of Bosnia and Hercegovina, and the Bosnian Serb Republic, or Republika Srpska, each with its own president, government, parliament, police and other bodies.
Overarching these entities is a central Bosnian government and rotating presidency. In addition there exists the district of Brcko which is a self-governing administrative unit, established as a neutral area placed under joint Serb, Croat and Bosniak authority.
Dayton also established the Office of the High Representative (OHR). The Office's representative is the state's ultimate authority, responsible for implementation of Dayton and with the power to ''compel the entity governments to comply with the terms of the peace agreement and the state constitution''.
Critics of Dayton said the entities it created were too close to being states in their own right and that the arrangement reinforced separatism and nationalism at the expense of integration.
Negotiations to amend the existing constitution, established by Dayton, in order to strengthen state institutions and transform the country into a non-ethnic parliamentary democracy, have so far failed to make much progress.
In a bid to encourage Bosnia to resolve its ethnic divisions and eventually qualify for EU membership, EU foreign ministers gave the go-ahead in late 2005 for talks on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the country.
The prospect of talks with the EU is thought to have increased pressure for the capture of two key Bosnian Serb war crimes suspects, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic.
After nearly 13 years on the run, Radovan Karadzic was arrested in July 2008 by Serbian security forces in Belgrade. His trial on war crimes charges opened at the UN tribunal in The Hague in October 2009. Ratko Mladic was arrested by Serbian intelligence officers in a village near Belgrade in May 2011.
In the meantime, Bosnia's ethnic divisions appeared to become even wider, with nationalist parties doing well among all three ethnic groups at local elections in October 2008.
And only days before the Karadzic trial opened, efforts by the EU and US to break the stalemate on constitutional reform and prepare the country for eventual EU and Nato membership ended in failure when leaders of the three main ethnic groups rejected the proposals.
The Bosnian Serb leadership in particular continues to be resentful at having to accept the authority of the OHR, giving rise to suspicions that its ultimate goal is for the Republika Srpska to break away from the Bosniak-Croat Federation.
The 2010 general election was followed by a protracted political deadlock, as ethnic political leaders took over a year to reach agreement on the formation of a new government.
- Full name: Bosnia and Hercegovina
- Population: 3.8 million (UN, 2010)
- Capital: Sarajevo
- Area: 51,129 sq km (19,741 sq miles)
- Major languages: Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian
- Major religions: Christianity, Islam
- Life expectancy: 73years (men), 78 years (women) (UN)
- Monetary unit: 1 convertible marka = 100 convertible pfenniga
- Main exports: Wood and paper, metal products
- GNI per capita: US $4,770 (World Bank, 2010)
- Internet domain: .ba
- International dialling code: +387
President: The presidency rotates every eight months between a Serb, a Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) and a Croat.
The responsibilities of the presidency lie largely in international affairs.
Prime minister: Vjekoslav Bevanda
Economist Vjekoslav Bevanda's election by parliament on 12 January ended 15 months of failure to agree on a candidate to occupy the post.
Mr Bevanda's election ended a 15-monthpolitical crisis.
His election came thanks to an agreement the previous December between representatives of Bosnia's three main ethnic communities on the allocation of key posts in the parliament.
Under the deal, it was agreed that the prime minister will be a Bosnian Croat and the foreign minister a Bosnian Muslim.
The deadlock, which began after elections in October 2011, had left the already struggling country without a bugdet.
Mr Bevanda, a member of the Croat HDZ party, told MPs his priority would be revive Bosnia's flagging economy and resume efforts to obtain EU membership.
Born in 1956 in the Mostar, Mr Bevanda served as finance minister of the Muslim-Croat Federation from 2007-11. Before becoming a politician, he worked as an economist for several local banks and companies.
His predecessor Nikola Spiric, a Bosnian Serb, was first asked to form a government in January 2007 after the parties which gained the most votes in general elections in October agreed on a coalition.
He resigned in November 2007 in protest at efforts by the High Representative and EU Special Representative, Miroslav Lajcak, to introduce reforms supported by the EU. Mr Spiric said in his resignation speech that Bosnia has been run for too long by foreigners.
However, in December 2007 he secured the approval of Bosnia's parliament to return as prime minister, promising to work on reforms that would bring Bosnia closer to membership of Nato and the European Union.
The war in Bosnia-Hercegovina turned most media into propaganda tools in the hands of authorities, armies and factions. Since the 1995 Dayton Peace Accord efforts have been made - with limited success - to develop media which bridge inter-entity boundaries.
The most influential broadcasters in Bosnia are the public radio and TV stations operated by the Bosniak-Croat and Serb entities. The Office of the High Representative (OHR), the leading international civilian agency in Bosnia, oversaw the development of a national public broadcasting service. The OHR favours media which support a civic rather than a nationalist approach.
The media are partially free, but outlets and journalists come under pressure from state bodies and political party structures in both the Bosniak-Croat and Serb entities.
More than 200 commercial radio and TV stations are on the air, but their development has been hampered by a weak advertising market.
There were around 1.4m internet users by May 2008 (Internetworldstats).