Identity Formation and Music: A Case Study of Croatian Experience

Article excerpt

Introduction

Across the centuries, Croatian national identity has undergone countless transformations, struggles and wars in an attempt to preserve its sense of self. The Balkan Peninsula has endured the brutish oppression of several empires, countless conquerors, two world wars and devastating civil wars. The result of this turmoil has produced cultural, political and economic changes that have all contributed to the erosion of each nation's sense of individual, regional and national identities.

It was in the late 1980's when the six republics comprising the Yugoslav Federation confronted the prospect of achieving national sovereignty. That is, the possibility of reconstructing a pure national identity in order to separate themselves from one another and essentially creating a clear image of the "other." Importantly, this possibility of national differentiation was quickly becoming recognized as an absolute necessity. This unofficial, yet powerful mandate in Croatia took many forms ranging from reconstructing the language to influencing the culture and traditions of all Croatians.

Rarely do such contemporary examples of national identity formation exist providing potential sites for understanding this complex process. Thus, it is our goal to use Croatia as a case study, to supplement the understanding of identity generally and nationalism specifically as the primary focus on this research. As such, we will, first, examine identity development as an ethnic and nationalistic influence on one's sense of self, and, second, locate and consider those forces used to establish and develop the identity of a nation in crisis.

In order to achieve these goals, we will begin with a historical overview of what is known as modern day Croatia. This overview will be followed by a presentation of literature pertaining to identity of one's self as well as national identity. Next, the exercise of grounding this theoretical framework relating to identity will be employed. This application will occur by appropriating Croatia as a case study of both personal and national identity. This paper concludes with the weaving of the development of Croatian national identity together with the larger interdisciplinary theoretical framework on identity formation and nationalism. Based on the process described above, we will argue that music was used as a primary tool in a conscious effort to achieve the political and nationalistic goals separating Croatia from the larger Yugoslav Federation.

Historical Overview

Croatia is a small and underpopulated country. It is a nation that has held onto its existence by a thread. Because of its precarious geographic location and diverse geophysical area, the territory of modern day Croatia has been well sought after all through history. Hrvatska, or Croatia, encompasses the majority of the Adriatic coast to the south and shares borders with four Eastern European countries: Slovenia to the west, Hungary to the north, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia and Montenegro to the east. All in all, 56,000 square kilometers of widely diverse landscape (1) make up the countries' current geographical composition

The Balkan Peninsula, (2) for more than a thousand years, has been held, and accordingly regarded, as a crossroads between the East and West. The Balkans--of which Croatia is a significant constituent--having been a part of the Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman and Habsburg empires, has been devastated, rebuilt and continuously influenced by the confluence of divergent imperial forces and opposing tenets.

In the summer of 1991, the self-proclaimed independent Republic of Croatia and the Yugoslav Federation found themselves in a war divided on ethnic lines; Serbs versus Croats, Catholics against Orthodox Christians, and neighbors killing neighbors. Although the worldwide general public, including the people of former Yugoslavia, seem convinced that Serbs and Croats are age old enemies, the fact remains that, until a series of events in the late 1920s (3)--which resulted in ethnic warfare during the Second World War--the South Slavs have lived peacefully and contemporaneously throughout history. …