To Bosnia's Catholic Croats, he is known as Djed Boinjak (Father Christmas) and to Bosnian Serbs as Boic Bata, the Christmas Friend. To the Muslim Bosniak population, he is known as Deda Mraz, Grandfather Frost, the figure that for the past 50 years has been welcomed into infants' schools to distribute gifts at Christmas and new year.

But Deda Mraz will not be appearing in the largely Muslim state-run kindergartens of Sarajevo after being banned by the director of pre-school education on the grounds that he plays no part in Bosniak tradition.

The controversial attack on the close Bosnian equivalent of Santa Claus - a figure much in evidence in Sarajevo's shop windows and at private schools last week - is the culmination of a long history of unsuccessful efforts by nationalists with Islamist leanings to write him out of the country's history. The struggle first emerged in the aftermath of the Bosnian war when the wartime president, Alija Izetbegovic, attempted to declare Grandfather Frost a communist-era 'fabrication'.

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