Bosnia-Herzegovina: The End of a Legacy

Bosnia-Herzegovina: The End of a Legacy

Bosnia-Herzegovina: The End of a Legacy

Bosnia-Herzegovina: The End of a Legacy

Synopsis

When the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina broke out a baffled world sought explanations from a range of experts who offered a variety of reasons for the conflict. The author of this study takes Bosnian affairs seriously and in so doing makes it much easier to grasp why the war occurred.

Excerpt

The war in Bosnia-Herzegovina attracted the world's attention and created a demand for Yugoslav experts to fill the void left behind by decades of international unconcern about what had been, during the Cold War, best known as a cheap holiday destination. As people clamoured for explanation, keen to understand the reasons for the carnage they saw daily on tv, but unwilling to get too drawn into elaborate local complexities, two kinds of easily-digestible interpretation became popular. One attributed the violence to ancient ethnic hatreds and Bosnia's unfortunate position on a geo-political fault-line between incompatible civilisations. the other explained it in terms of the will-to-power of a dictatorial elite of neighbouring nationalist politicians-Milosevic and Tudjman above all-who had hijacked and thwarted the promised democratization of politics after 1989.

For one, the roots of war lay deep in the past, and expressed hatreds shared by the mass of the population; for the other, causes lay much closer to the present, and represented the crushing of mass politics by authoritarian leaderships. But, despite these differences, the two points of view had one thing in common: they were not much concerned with Bosnia-Herzegovina itself, its inhabitants and their lives. These became the puppets of much larger forces, and any possible contribution events there before the war might have made to starting the war itself were ignored. in particular, the decades of communist rule were passed over in silence, or regarded-much as Croce once famously described fascism in Italy-as a mere parenthesis in history.

The novelty and importance of this book lies in the fact that it takes Bosnian politics, society and culture seriously and in doing so makes it easier to see just why the war broke out, and how extraordinary it was that it did so. Reading this analysis, it becomes harder to swallow the ancient ethnic hatreds argument once we appreciate the novelty of the new nationalist parties after 1989, and see how they initially worked together in the 1990 elections to defeat the communists and reform communists who they all regarded as their chief threat. and it also becomes harder to accept the idea that what lay behind the war was some kind of failed democratization when, as Andjelic succinctly puts it, 'it was democracy that allowed nationalism to govern Bosnia'.

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