Balkan Babel: The Disintegration of Yugoslavia from the Death of Tito to Ethnic War

Balkan Babel: The Disintegration of Yugoslavia from the Death of Tito to Ethnic War

Balkan Babel: The Disintegration of Yugoslavia from the Death of Tito to Ethnic War

Balkan Babel: The Disintegration of Yugoslavia from the Death of Tito to Ethnic War

Synopsis

In this thoroughly updated and revised edition, which includes four new chapters and a new epilogue, a veteran observer of the Yugoslav scene describes the forces that have fragmented the country. Arguing that cultural and religious values underpin political behavior, Sabrina Ramet traces the steady deterioration of Yugoslavia's social and political fabric over the past decade. This decline, she maintains, is deeply rooted in historical trauma and memory and was foreshadowed in the cultural sphere. Ramet lays the groundwork for understanding the current crisis by exploring the unfolding political debates from 1980- 1986, the gathering crisis triggered by the ascent of Slobodan Miloševic to power in Serbia, and the dramatic collapse of the existing political order beginning in 1989. She ties these events to the often overlooked religious and cultural elements of society that have influenced political change. She then examines the political dynamics within Serbia and Croatia since 1991, the domestic and foreign challenges faced by independent Slovenia and Macedonia, the grinding conflict in Bosnia, and the repercussions of the war on gender relations and on cultural and religious life. With her detailed and graphic knowledge of the inescapable links between politics, culture, and religion, Ramet paints a strikingly original picture of the disintegration of Yugoslavia and the emergence of the Yugoslav successor states.

Excerpt

The collapse of Soviet and East European communism has upset all the political and ideological conventions in the countries concerned. One noticeable consequence has been the revival of nationalism--that much misunderstood mutant ideology whose many faces have tested a legion of analysts. the nationalisms of Eastern Europe, in particular, have long been a stumbling block for U.S. observers. the example of a stable civil society like the United States, where an assimilationist political culture mitigated the effects of ancestry, really cannot inform the "ethnic" relations of East European multinational states. the latter--and Yugoslavia was a prime example--are really conglomerates of historical nations, each with its own internal subnational--or, if you prefer, ethnic--problems. Yugoslavia has not survived the pressures of its component parts and no longer exists as a state. For insight into why this has happened, it might be wise to look at the political implications of cultural diversity in what used to be Yugoslavia and in its successor states. It is to Sabrina Ramet's great credit that she understood the cultural context of South Slavic nationality relations at a time when most of her colleagues promoted entirely unrealistic readings of the subject.

The cultural diversity among the nationalities of Yugoslavia has frequently been so acute that there is a tendency to underestimate the elements of diversity within each single nationality. Take the Serbs, for example. Vuk Karadžrić (1787-1864), the foremost Serb cultural reformer, was probably not the first Serb scholar to recognize the vast cultural--not just linguistic--differences between the Serbs of the Habsburg Monarchy and those of the Ottoman Empire. Jovan Cvijić (1865-1927), a noted Serbian geographer, developed a whole system for the classification of Serb "cultural belts," having personally identified three Serb "psychological types" (really, cultural types). And, indeed, there are vast differences between the disciplined "imperial sons" from the former Habsburg Military Frontier, the ex-

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