Former Yugoslavia

The region of the former Yugoslavia remains manipulated by mutual ethno-religious suspicion and animosity, fueled by one of the most enduring and bloody ethnic crises that emerged at the end of the 20th century in this region.

The IHJR project in the former Yugoslavia sought to engage historians, researchers, policy-makers, students and the broader civil society in the region in a multi-national, multi-perspective, multi-ethnic and non-partisan shared narrative. Through its research, writing and broader dissemination, the IHJR project counters some of the xenophobic national myths and brings attention to the similarities and overlapping experiences and identities among societies in the region in cultural, religion, social and political life.

The road to reconciliation between nations is based on 20th century history and is visible only to those who have reconciled with their own past. A shared narrative is one of the possible roads to reconciliation. It requires each participant to leave behind their own bias and prejudices. Taking this path means learning from the past and going forward.
– Chair of the Center for History Democracy and Reconciliation

In 2010 a new phase of the research project, “Facing the Past – Searching for the Future” , was launched. The project published a shared narrative on political myths in the Former Yugoslavia and successor States with 7 eminent historians in the region and has successfully created a documentary movie and organized a Young Scholar’s Essay competition.

This project was co-organized by the Center for History, Democracy and Reconciliation, an organization that had been established with support from IHJR in 2007 and with a steering committee composed of members from the various republics of the former Yugoslavia based in Novi Sad, Serbia.

“Facing the past – searching for the future”

The projects for the larger research project “Facing the past – Searching for the future” engaged scholars to research and write shared narratives and consisted of the following initiatives:

Political Myths in the Former Yugoslavia and Successor States

The ‘shared narrative’ has been written by a team of scholars with various backgrounds coming from Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia and Slovenia and edited by Vjekoslav Perica and Darko Gavrilovic.

The narrative addresses various political myths and counter-myths that continue to threaten reconciliation processes in the region. Looking at their mutual “dynamic interaction” during different periods in the history of Yugoslavia, the team has identified eight myths, such as Yugonostalgia, the mythologization of mass graves and deceased persons and the impact of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia on nationalist mythmaking. The publication ends with policy recommendations directed towards the European Union.

The present volume is undoubtedly an important contribution towards reconciliation efforts and I welcome it as an example of how scholars and, in particular historians with different national and ethnic backgrounds, from a region ravaged by warfare and beset with distrust, can work together in a spirit of mutual trust and cooperation.

— Justice Richard J. Goldstone

The publication is written in various versions of the Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian language, reflecting the different backgrounds of the authors. It has been translated into the English language and reviewed by the IHJR Advisory Board and other experts. The publication will be published by February 2011 and both CHDR and IHJR will promote the publication in the region and in Western Europe.

2. “Myth Factories: Yugoslav states 1918-1991”
The fascinating documentary movie focuses on political myths that shrouded the political scene in Yugoslav states in the 20th century, and that continue to play a role in present-day discourses related to ethnic and national identities. In the movie historians from within and beyond the region are interviewed. This material has been combined with archival film material from before World War II, and newer material from the time of socialist Yugoslavia. The producers used footage, photos and other sources from the Museum of Sarajevo, the Museum of Novi Sad, and different galleries.

The documentary movie consists of two episodes of 40 minutes and is a co-production of the TV of Vojvodina, City Focus, CHDR and IHJR and has been broadcasted RTV 1 (Radio Television Vojvodjan, Serbia) during prime time.

3. Young Scholar’s Essay Competition
In an effort to engage younger scholars from the region in the processes of dismantling nationalist and ideological processes, a competition was organized in 2010 challenging students to write on political myths that hinder the process of reconciliation. We received nine essays from students all over the region and the steering committee of the CHDR chose three winners, whose articles can be downloaded below.

Essay Jovana Mastilovic from Serbia
Essay Narcisa Semic from Bosnia and Herzegovina
Essay Tea Markovic from Croatia