The Road to War in Serbia: Trauma and Catharsis

The Road to War in Serbia: Trauma and Catharsis

The Road to War in Serbia: Trauma and Catharsis

The Road to War in Serbia: Trauma and Catharsis


The first serious assessment to thoroughly explore the roots of conflict inside former Yugoslavia. The authors highlight major issues which to date had remained neglected.


…The voice of the intellect is quiet but it does not cease until listened to.

Sigmund Freud

The spiralling violence that shook Yugoslavia in the last decade of the twentieth century has been the subject of much observation and research. There have been different interpretations, but as yet there is no widely accepted explanation regarding the war or for the motives of those who initiated it, and least of all regarding the outcome of these dramatic events. Many think that nationalism was the driving force and that there is still much to be investigated and clarified in this report. If we take, for instance, Isaiah Berlin’s view that nationalism is the result of wounded pride and a feeling of humiliation among the more socially aware, resulting in anger and self-assertion, it is worth examining the about-turn from object-victim to subject-liberator or avenger which resulted from being offered the dangerous medicine then raging, rather than healing, throughout Central Europe and the surrounding countries before engulfing the whole world. (I. Berlin 1980).

Instead of regarding nationalism in a generalized sort of way as a product of destiny or nature which may be considered good or evil, we should rather investigate its true beginnings and how it becomes the ideology of conflict. Is it possible that there exists today, a different way of healing, a catharsis of the wounds associated with victim status? Why do so many turn to nationalism as an ideological practice, and is it of their own free will. These are the questions confronting the authors of this book and, I believe, its readers too.

Relying on a certain tradition of critical thinking and democratic tendencies in Serbia, and on the results of their own and other studies of the war, about twenty intellectuals of different professions set out to investigate one aspect of a very complex issue: the Serb side of the war. Among them were social and political scientists, scholars of language and ethnology, historians, lawyers, economists, theologians and statisticians. Aware of the intellectual impossibility of encompassing the totality of war by any kind of . . .

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