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Jelena Milojkovic-Djuric’s compiled a collection of essays into Balkan Cultural Legacies, which fills in the void in the study of the Balkan region. The lack of use of primary resources among foreign writers and academics that concern themselves with the Balkan Peninsula is one of the reasons why Milojkovic- Djuric took the task of assembling essays from Balkan scholars into one work.
By Nitin Sood
The collection brings together scholarly essays from a variety of disciplines such as fine arts, literature, history and political science and they all contributed by scholars and authors who come from the region itself. The essays contain information which tends to be unavailable to those Balkan-fanatics who lack the adequate language skills to investigate further the region beyond English or French literature on the Balkans. Milojkovic-Djuric’s Balkan Cultural Legacies
indeed succeeds in enlightening the readers about the rather unknown aspects of the Balkan cultural legacies and history and takes us through a journey that could not be experienced through foreign authors and experts on the region.
Some of the papers published in the collection take us all the way back to Medieval and Middle Ages. Miloš Blagojevic´’s introductory essay explores the early definitions of the Serbian national identity and statehood, focusing on the formation of the Serbian identity during the Middle Ages. He argues nationalism. Due to the provocations from Milosevic (obviously Tudjman and other nationalistic politicians had a significant role, too) the Serbs and other ethnic groups began to differentiate from each other. Mark Mazower, a historian from Columbia University, argues that under socialist Bosnia and Herzegovina the ethnicity was not as relevant as imagined. Instead of emphasizing religious differences, people in the communist Bosnia and Herzegovina associated themselves with their local communities: according to him localism was an important factor in shaping affliations and loyalties. Hence Blagojevic´’s essay of the formation of Serbian national identity during the Middle Ages complicates the discussion further, demonstrating the complexity of forming national identity in the Balkans.
Besides Blagojevic´’s paper on Serbian national identity, Vasilije Dj. Krestic´ also provides a thoughtprovoking insight to the discussion by tackling the idea of Great Croatia. This idea is usually neglected in most works regarding the Balkans. He criticizes Serbian and other experts on the Balkan peninsula precisely for ignoring the idea of Great Croatia that prevailed among a number of leading Croatian authors and politicians since the end of the 19th century. Krestic´ notes how Stjepan Radic´, the founder and President of Croatian Republican Peasant Party, demanded that the map of Croatia should include regions in Bosnia and Herzegovina and even areas extending to Macedonia and Montenegro. Although Krestic´ does bring to our attention a very important aspect of the values that certain Croatians advocated during the 18th and 19th century, his tone against Croatians seems to be particularly hostile which deteriorates the credibility of his text.
Perhaps his most shameless claim is the strong prevalence of the idea of Great Croatia, which was located very close to some individual’s hearts, ’provides the answer to the key question of today’s relationships between the Croats and Serbs as well as the reasons for which they fought a war’. I found Krestic´’s text on The Idea of Great Croatia
enlighting and discovered myself learning more about the mentality of the Croatians, realizing that it was not only the Serbs who dreamed of a magnificent homeland of their own. However, Krestic´’s naive conclusion that it explains the war and current ethnic tensions in the region neglects to take into account several other events and factors that have contributed to the current situation in the Balkans. Perhaps because of his bitter sentiments about Serbia being at blame all the time, he decided to put the Croats on spotlight but the manner in which he does proves to be biased and unconsolidated. Regardless I believe his work provides us with an insight, that rarely is brought to the wider attention and thus serves good purpose despite owning prejudiced characteristics.
There are more essays in Milojkobiv-Djuric’s collection Balkan Cultural Legacies
, which offer new and rather captivating perspectives to the Balkan Peninsula. One of the greatest achievements of her work is the fact that the cultural legacies are approached from a variety of disciplines: Slavko Gavrilovic investigates the forced conversion to Catholicism of Serbs in Croatia, Slavonia and Hungary from the 13th to the 19th century, Dinko Davidov discusses art in Serbia in the 18th century and Dimitrije Djordjevic´ examines the impact of the Berlin Congress of 1878 on the Balkan peninsula. Milojkovic-Djuric’s book embarks on a long fascinating voyage to the Balkans, that up to this point has been inaccessible for those who lack the language skills yet still are passionately fascinated about the Western Balkans and its culture.
is former executive director of Libseen (Liberal South East European Network).
Balkan Cultural Legacies: Historical, Literary, and Fine Art Perceptions (2011)
Jelena Milojkovic-Djuric New York, The University Press Group Ltd ISBN 9780880336741
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Dit artikel verscheen in idee nr. 6 2011: The rule of law
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