• Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size
Home Education International conferences, round tables & festivals ASEES 42nd Annual Convention - Report by Francine Friedman
E-mail Print PDF
User Rating: / 0

ASEES 42nd Annual Convention

18th – 21st November, 2010
Los Angeles, CA (USA)

Caught in the Crossfire: The Situation of Others in the Yugoslav Wars of Succession

by Francine Friedman

On 21 December 2010, Stefano Bianchini (University of Bologna) was the chair of a roundtable entitled "Caught in the Crossfire: The Situation of Others in the Yugoslav Wars of Succession" at the annual convention of the Association for Slavic, East European, & Eurasian Studies in Los Angeles, California.

Francine Friedman (Ball State University) discussed the situation of ethnic minorities and "others" in the wartime conditions of the Bosnian War of 1992-1995. This topic became especially relevant in light of the 2009 decision of the European Court of Human Rights, which ruled that the Bosnian Constitution discriminated against minorities and others by not permitting them to stand for election for President or Parliament despite, in many cases, centuries-long history of family habitation in Bosnia. The court case illuminated the fact that, while all eyes focus on the relationships among the Bosnian Serbs, Croats, and Muslims, the other peoples in Bosnia also were affected by the war, including the two plaintiffs, a Bosnian Jew and a Bosnian Roma.

Click to enlarge

The Bosnian Jews were not a target of the war, and, indeed, were able to play a positive role during the war by their ability to import medicines into besieged Sarajevo, which they shared with others in need. The Roma, on the other hand, suffered massive losses through murder, deportation, and incarceration in concentration camps. These depredations against the Roma have remained relatively undocumented, although, with the recent court case, their plight and the situation of other Bosnian minorities and "others" may begin to receive more attention.

David Kanin (CENTRA/Johns Hopkins University) talked about multicultural people as "other" in former Yugoslavia, especially in Bosnia. The myth is that "ethnic entrepreneurs" mobilized to stop multiethnicity from continuing to bloom in Bosnia as it had throughout history. Furthermore, it is believed that there is a dichotomy between ethnic and civic authority, and those are the only two contestants in a polity. This view, however, overlooks the notion of "lordship" or patronage networks. Joseph II and Alexander Karadjordjevic used this system to create community. Tito's genius was in the opacity of his multilevel system, which, while not forcing all to identify as one national group, still supported patronage networks. Thus, Tito kept the systems he inherited working, and, when he departed, all these systems were still in place. Yugoslavia held together for awhile, because the various levels continued to work, until the security cap began to disappear as the Communist Party overlaying it disappeared.

The international community stepped in, and the authorities at various levels had to decide how to maintain their system. The international community's answer was multiculturalism. Analytically, this policy was flawed because the international community was trying to force a policy on the locals that did not satisfy their needs. The liberals lost by this, but so did the "corporation" of the Yugoslav National Army, which at that point was also involved in securing its own survival. In this way, multiculturalism became an "other".

Click to enlarge

The multiculturalists are also somewhat at fault for their losses, because they failed to mobilize through parties and movements (e.g., in 1996 in their failure to organize against Milosevic when he was weakened). The failure to analyze this situation correctly was a mistake, but also a tragedy. Multiculturalism only has traction in the international community, not in the former Yugoslavia among the leadership in Yugoslavia, who were not, in the end, "liberal Westernizers".

Julie Mostov (Drexel University) discussed the "process of othering" wherein people who were connected previously lost that connection. The loss of this connection then changed the relations of power in the area. She focused on several sets of "otherings":

  • the change in the trust networks (neighborhoods, party, the Socialist Alliance, for example) led to new connections constructed along ethno-national lines;
  • the loss of "constituent people-ness" by, for example, the Serbs in Croatia, led to a loss of security and the becoming of an "other." People who already were minorities did not feel more uncomfortable at this point with the new constitutional language, but those who had been considered constituent people and lost that status became frightened for their futures;
  • Slovenia saw the creation of "erased people," those who did not have the savvy to register in the new conditions and regularize their status became "erased" or "othered";
  • in the new nationalism, women lost one role that they had played more or less successfully in Tito's Yugoslavia and were forced to take on another, becoming vulnerable to the male-dominated nationalism. During the war, they became significant war targets. When the war ended, women were again "othered" as Security Council Resolution 1325 about their status was widely ignored;
  • men who would not fight or who were of a disadvantaged ethnic group were feminized and considered "others";
  • federal employees lost their jobs and became "others." This occurred at all levels (from janitor to ambassador);
  • senior citizens became vulnerable, with the wartime conditions, loss of pensions, etc. They received their pensions again only before elections, thus serving as instruments by others for political gain;
  • the Roma were able to navigate in Yugoslavia as "others"; with the collapse of Yugoslavia, they became "other others";
  • institutions became "othered". People with disabilities were harmed when the social structure collapsed. Universities (including laboratories and libraries, etc.) lost financing and connections, as well as student numbers. People who had significant value to society lost their place and became "others";
  • many young people became drug addicts, leading to a lost generation of youth, who, having lost their space, became "others".

Stefano Bianchini presented remarks about "others" in multi-culturalism. Society must deal with many layers, but Yugoslavia's multi-culturalism failed to mobilize to protect the "others." Why? Did people take multi-culturalism for granted? Yugoslavia did not promote the notion of federalism in a multi-cultural society. The Communist Party was already split internally further than multi-culturalism would have demanded. The federal level had no multi-party elections. Multi-culturalism was an aspect of Communism, but since Communism lost the cold war, multi-culturalism was devalued. Therefore, how can we speak about the mobilization of multi-culturalists because they were too late: they did not understand in time what they had lost, not to mention that they did not even understand that they had lost. The international community did not try to protect Yugoslavia's federalism, and, today, the European Union is facing similar issues, particularly in regard to its policies regarding immigration and the Roma. Instead European policy-makers support policies of exclusion in order to attempt to preserve inter-state cooperation. Instead, the European Union should look to the failure of Yugoslavia to understand how they are failing as well as to transform institutions to preserve the best of the European Union.

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it *
Ball State University

* Francine Friedman is Professor of Political Science and has been at Ball State University since 1990. She received her Ph.D. from Claremont Graduate School. Professor Friedman teaches international relations, Russian and East European politics. Her primary research interests focus on the former Yugoslavia. Dr Friedman teaches courses in International Relations, Russian Politics, Ethnic Conflict, and Terrorism. Dr. Friedman is also the Director for the Jewish Studies program.


Be the first to add a comment
Add Comment
Last Updated on Wednesday, 29 December 2023 08:49  


PECOB's call for papers

The Scientific Board of PECOB announces an open call for papers to be published with ISSN 2038-632X

Interested contributors may deal with any topic focusing on the political, economic, historical, social or cultural aspects of a specific country or region covered by PECOB.

Potential contributors must submit a short abstract (200-300 words) and the full text, which can be in English as well as any language from the countries covered by PECOB.

Upcoming deadlines for submitting proposals are:

January 31st, 2011
June 30th, 2011
November 30th, 2011

All texts must comply with PECOB Submission Guidelines (

All proposals, texts and questions should be submitted to Ms Aurora Domeniconi, PECOB Coordinator, at: