For those of us who don’t speak Bosnian, the news reports coming out of Bosnia are confusing. If they are anything like the news reports I read and watched while on the ground during the 1990s conflict, they’ll also be highly inaccurate. (It’s incredibly bizarre to watch a news report that you know is a load of bollocks because you’re right there and the reporter is not.) Thanks to the internet, we now have far greater access to trustworthy information, but the volume is often overwhelming. I don’t claim to have been following this as intently as I’d like – following anything intently other than my thirteen-month-old intrepid explorer is pretty much impossible! – but I would like to offer a few links and thoughts.
Firstly, some blog posts by people on the ground that make for interesting reading:
And some news reports and analysis:
The World Brief coverage on Bosnia is from approx. 1:30 to 17:00. It features discussion with Ambassador Muhamed Sacirbey that is well worth listening to. He and Pavlovic (a Sarajevo correspondent) make some important points about how when Bosnians are freed from the constraints of a corrupt system they work hard and are the bulwark of a healthy society. This says a lot about the problems Bosnia is facing and how the Bosnian people have been let down by the post-war authorities and infrastructure. It also features some footage of police and demonstrators shaking hands and embracing, an important balance to the media hype. This sort of camaraderie, along with the voluntary clean-up of damage by ordinary citizens, underscores the basic good will that exists. If these demonstrations end in violence it will be particularly unfortunate.
The one point I’d add to these discussions (particularly for the benefit of those who aren’t old enough to remember the war or who aren’t familiar with this part of Europe) is that while the lack of ethnic tension has been justly celebrated, it would be foolhardy and unjust to use this as an excuse to eliminate distinctions of nationality. As Sacirbey points out in his interview, the war was portrayed incorrectly as an ethnic war when the real issue was secession from the then Yugoslav Federation. I would add that the victims of the war were primarily those who objected to being subsumed into Yugoslavia and losing their identity as Croatians, Bosnians, and so forth. The Serbian war of aggression that used genocide and ethnic cleansing was done in the name of Yugoslavia, with the assistance of the Yugoslav National Army, and with the aim of subduing sovereign republics under the umbrella of Yugoslavia. This attempt to perpetuate Communism and its repression of national identity was the root of the war that lasted from 1991 to 1995, and any attempt now to extinguish national identity in Bosnia would be equally wrong and highly dangerous. This is just my opinion, of course, and I could be wrong, but there is no denying that the attempt to artificially unite ‘southern slavs’ as ‘Yugoslavs’ was a disaster. (And, no, just to be clear, I am not suggesting Bosnia should be partitioned – Dayton already did that most unjustly – only that the ethnic identity of Bosnians must be respected.) In short, all attempts by the media or other parties to cast this unrest as ‘ethnic’ should be resisted. The problems Bosnia is facing may be a legacy of the war, but they are not a continuation of the war. And this unrest is as much a legacy of Communism as it is of the war.
So much more could be said on this topic, but for now I’ll leave that to those who are in a better position to comment than me (in the links above).
Translated documents relating to the Bosnian protests may be found here. (h/t Satko Mujagic)
An excellent piece on the media distortion by Paulina Janusz.
And from Sarajevo Culture Bureau an opinion piece that adds some depth.