Yugoslavia: a violent cauldron?

  1. After your reading this week, do you think that Yugoslavia’s breakup was imminent?  Why or why not?  

  2. Do you think Yugoslavia was prone to violence?  Why or why not? 

Here is the intro to my last essay: My last essay focused on the image of Yugoslavia as a politically diverse nation that made it unique among its neighbors in the Balkans, from the beginning of the twentieth century to the present.  Yugoslavia often experienced a different course of events compared to its eastern central European neighbors in World War One, the interwar years, World War Two, the Soviet period, and even after the fall of the Soviet Union.  Some historians are apt to explain this historical uniqueness in universalist or even relativist terms.  Still others have explained Yugoslavia’s history in narratives that succumb to what Sabrina Ramet calls ‘the myth of ancient hatreds’: Noel Malcolm, Mitja Velikonja, Robert Kaplan, Milovan Djilas, and CIA analysts among them. The problems in this myth, Ramet warns, are that Yugoslav hostilities have not been more frequent or more extreme than other nations’, nor did Yugoslavs live in this landed region of the Balkans during ancient times, and lastly, the ‘myth of ancient hatreds’ is contrary to historical truths about Yugoslavs.[1] The ‘myth of ancient hatreds’ is another way of distancing the region into something incomprehensible, not uncommon in the history and perception of the Balkans.  Eastern central Europe, the Balkans, and specifically Yugoslavia have consistently been misrepresented by Western Europeans since the Age of the Enlightenment.  Some historians, Larry Wolff and Maria Todorova for example, explained the myth of hatred and violence in Yugoslavia as a culturally constructed fallacy necessitated by the self aggrandizement of philosophical thinkers in Western Europe.  While Visna Goldsworthy sought to explain why many associate “Balkans” with war and violence, she cited the real reasons for its breakup that have often gone ignored.  Lastly, Sabrina Ramet examined several authors’ analysis of Yugoslavia’s collapse that are worthy of study in one’s effort to understand the real, more factual narratives that surround the myth. 

[1] Ramet, Sabrina P. Thinking About Yugoslavia: Scholarly Debates about the Yugoslav Breakup and the Wars in Bosnia and Kosovo.  New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005, 3. 

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