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Over two million Bosniaks live in the Balkans, with an estimated additional million settled and living around the world.Ethnic cleansing and genocide during the Bosnian War (1992–95) have had an effect on the territorial distribution of the population.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.For instance, the 2003 Montenegrin census recorded 48,184 people who registered as Bosniaks and 28,714 who registered as Muslim by nationality.

the suffix -(n)in had been replaced by -ak to create the current form Bošnjak (Bosniak), first attested in the diplomacy of Bosnian king Tvrtko II who in 1440 dispatched a delegation (Apparatu virisque insignis) to the Polish king of Hungary, Władysław Warneńczyk (1440–1444), asserting a common Slavic ancestry and language between the Bosniak and Pole.

As a political compromise, the Constitution of Yugoslavia was amended in 1968 to introduce "Muslims" in a national (as opposed to religious) sense; effectively recognizing a constitutive nation whilst avoiding the recognition of "Bosniak" or "Bosnian" as ethnic or national designations.

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.

The Miroslav Krleža Lexicographical Institute thus defines Bosniak as "the name for the subjects of the Bosnian rulers in the pre-Ottoman era, subjects of the Sultans during the Ottoman era, and the current name for the most numerous of the three constituent peoples in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Bosniak, as well as the older term Bošnjanin (in Lat.

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