Bosnia Remade: Ethnic Cleansing and Its Reversal

Bosnia Remade: Ethnic Cleansing and Its Reversal

Bosnia Remade: Ethnic Cleansing and Its Reversal

Bosnia Remade: Ethnic Cleansing and Its Reversal

Synopsis

Bosnia Remadeis an authoritative account of ethnic cleansing and its partial undoing from the onset of the 1990s Bosnian wars up through the present. Gerard Toal and Carl Dahlman combine a bird's-eye view of the entire war from onset to aftermath with a micro-level account of three towns that underwent ethnic cleansing and--later--the return of refugees.

There have been two major attempts to remake the ethnic geography of Bosnia since 1991. In the first instance, ascendant ethno-nationalist forces tried to eradicate the mixed ethnic geographies of Bosnia's towns, villages and communities. These forces devastated tens of thousands of homes and lives, but they failed to destroy Bosnia-Herzegovina as a polity. In the second attempt, which followed the war, the international community, in league with Bosnian officials, endeavored to reverse the demographic and other consequences of this ethnic cleansing. While progress has been uneven, this latter effort has transformed the ethnic demography of Bosnia and moved the nation beyond its recent segregationist past.

By showing how ethnic cleansing was challenged,Bosnia Remadeoffers more than just a comprehensive narrative of Europe's worst political crisis of the past two decades. It also offers lessons for addressing an enduring global problem.

Excerpt

The Bosnian war of 1992–1995 added a new term to the vocabulary of human suffering: “ethnic cleansing” (etničko čišćenje). The term is a hybrid of international and local uses, emerging in 1991 when officials of the new Croatian government and international aid workers promoted it as a description of Yugoslav army and militia actions against villages and towns inside Croatia. Its origins lie in military euphemisms like čišćenje terena (cleansing the terrain) used by extreme Croatian nationalist Ustaše forces during the Second World War and broader visions and practices in Western history. Nationalist Serbs in the 1980s used the term to describe what they alleged was an Albanian plot to create a “Serb-free” Kosovo. International journalists, UNHCR officials, and Western diplomats, mindful of the continent’s dark past, adapted and translated the term as “ethnic cleansing,” a vivid metaphor conveying the commitments of its perpetrators. The Bosnian war would globalize the term. A 15 April 1992 dispatch from Sarajevo citing an anonymous Western diplomat is the first time it is used in the New York Times. The reference describes a geopolitical campaign: “There is a lot of ethnic cleansing going on. The Serbs are trying to consolidate ground on the western side of the Drina.”

The groupist language—“The Serbs”—conceded too much to the worldview of the perpetrators for the Drina campaign was the project of extreme Serb nationalists only, figures such as Radovan Karadžič and Ratko Mladić who had the backing of Slobodan Milošević’s government in Serbia. Ethnic cleansing was given ostensible meaning by a series of sociobiological and . . .

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