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Dealing with the Past in the Western Balkans

219 pages, pdf
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Dealing with the Past in the Western Balkans

Publisher: Martina Fischer and Ljubinka Petrović-Ziemer

Volume: 219 pages, pdf


The region of the former Yugoslavia experienced brutal wars and gross human rights violations in the 1990s. With the collapse of the state, economic problems and political disintegration, and spurred on by ethno-nationalist propaganda, political constituencies formed around so-called “ethnic” identities and definitions, resulting in a struggle for territories and for political representation, power and recognition. New ethnopolitical nation-states were formed, which led to policies of exclusion in polities with multiethnic populations. When Croatia declared its independence in 1991, hostilities between Croatian forces and the Yugoslav People’s Army began, causing devastation in some areas of this new country. War broke out in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1992. The causes and background of this war have been widely discussed by historians and political scientists, and most of them would agree that a variety of factors have to be considered,1 but that aspirations for secession played a crucial role.2 In view of the developments in Croatia, a majority of the Muslim/Bosniak population and the Croat community in Bosnia supported secession from Yugoslavia, whereas a majority of Bosnia’s Serb population wished to remain within the FRY. Following a referendum, Bosnia and Herzegovina was declared a sovereign state in January 1992. Bosniaks defended its existence as a multi-ethnic republic, in which they formed the dominant constituency in a number of areas. Meanwhile, many Bosnian Serb politicians were pursuing a different strategy, proclaiming a Serb Republic and aiming to unite all Bosnian territories under their military control with Serbia and Serbcontrolled areas in Croatia. Croats in Bosnia at first favoured an undivided Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina but later on shifted position and also fought for a division of the country. In a bid to change existing borders, fighting broke out between various armed forces and militias, and the killing of civilians began.