A Yugoslav Community for a Yugosphere?
EDITORIAL, 4 Oct 2010
Beograd: Oh yes, Yugoslavia is ex, will the nostalgics please accept that it was not viable, and that out of the ashes six-seven countries have emerged. And yet it is on everybody’s mind, on the inner map, not as unitary state or a more or less loose federation, but as an idea, a relation, a configuration; not as political actor but as some kind of togetherness, a Hegelian spirit searching for a place to come to rest. The countries were born in deep anger, much too quickly, much too violently, traumas being heaped on top of old, and new trauma mountains. Time passes, no wounds are healed, but a new decade has sedimented new events on top of the 1990s horrors. For a new generation this is already history. But history has much to tell. Stories of conviviality come up. Dreams of something more than a sphere, yet less than a community start getting contours and colors.
Under the leadership of Professor Radmila Nakarada, who has lived it all, and the generosity of the Friedrich Ebert-Stiftung, a TRANSCEND micro-meso-macro-mega workshop was held over a long weekend. Macro stands for the sphere of states and nations, the relations between states, between nations, and, indeed, between states and nations. In the Yugosphere we have now seven states—Kosova, far from being recognized (only 69 of 192 UN members) and Bosnia-Herzegovina, BiH for short, far from being a state–and maybe 10-12 nations. Even counting them is controversial. Slovenia is close to a nation-state, the other states are all multi-national crying for some kind of federalism. And all the other nations are multi-state, crying for open borders and some kind of confederalism, community, union. A federal Kosova within a Serbia-Kosova-Albania confederation is one formula; possibly with Brcko from BiH as a model for the Serbia part of Kosovo as argued by Ian Bancroft and Gerard Gallucci? In the Yugosphere agenda vacuum be sure of one thing: there will be NATO and EU agendas from the outside.
The BiH elections show a heavily divided non-state: Srpska wants out, the US-imposed federation of Croats and Bosniaks is divided with the voters voting largely for their own kind. And that is what it is all about: they want to be governed by their own kind, and outside forces deny them even the right of self-determination in a referendum. Yugoslavia is gone; the inner borders remain the same, uti possidetis. In an absurd construction that serves only the purpose of keeping a state in which the non-Bosniak majority does not want to live. Given freedom the Croat part would probably become a part of Croatia, Srpska would be independent, and the Bosniaks would run a city-state around Sarajevo. A Muslim state in Europe? England and others said No. Better let absurdity triumph over democracy. One of the architects was Ahtisaari, very much prized as the reliable servant of the West.
Did the workshop come up with other ideas? In fact, very many. They were spinning not only states together with joint projects, but also nations together. First, the states, now that the borders are increasingly opening up, with passports, yes, but no visas.
There is today a mafia type cooperation that should yield to more legitimate forms. Regional economic cooperation. A viable joint railway system. A coordinated education system. A Balkan police jointly policing outside borders, with the free flow inside. More regional unity. A joint flag? No. Or, perhaps, yes?
What does this vision add up to? A community for the southern Slavs, considerably less than the Yugoslavia that collapsed, much more than a Yugosphere. A number of ad hoc institutions that would call for some coordination, and that is exactly what a community is about. But that means that they would build more on their own resources, and less on outside giants swallowing them one by one, the US-led highly aggressive NATO and the Brussels-led European Union, today not a model of cohesive adequacy. In short, a challenge challenging the West.
Then, the nations. Ideas that came up included a joint history book for the peoples, the nations of the sphere? Written by a commission that will search for the common denominator they can agree upon, seen from above, their own above, not shrinking away from clarifying controversies. Readers will be greatly attracted to double pages with the Serbian version to the left and the Croat to the right, and so on. They are smart enough to sort it out. The book could fill a void that has to be filled. It will be a success if well done; it could contribute to creating multiple identities in the southeastern corner of Europe. There will be perpetrators and victims, and oscillations between them; there will be perpetrators from the outside, and not only the Hapsburgs and the Ottomans.
Not an easy job for historians. Their craft is actor-oriented, dealing with persons and state actors who leave written trails behind, to be unleashed from archive dust. Nations are more amorphous, and to hitch on to articulate voices only, leaving the vast masses in the dark, would be a major mistake. Nations carry messages, in their idioms, their faiths, their myths of the past, present and future, in their attachments to some part of geography. Historians will have to decipher these codes rather than focus only on the verbalizations of articulate leaders picking up parts of the messages.
There will be multiple truths, in plural. And one idea coming up was the reintroduction of former languages, like Macedonian in Serbia, and Serbian in Kosova. People in the Yugosphere should get used to the sounds of the other. The same argument can be made for religions, for the two Christianities and Islam–purify only one faith and one idiom and you make yourself less prepared for the inevitable: cultural globalization.
So, maybe the atrocities of the 1990s, and absence of solutions, could lead to a community that might inspire other parts of the world?
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 4 Oct 2010.
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