Is there anyone alive who can give a lucid, objective and unbiased account of Balkan history over the last 25 years? Does such a thing even exist? What is going on now? These are the questions that hang over the region Zlavoj Zizek describes as the “subconscious of Europe.” It is a region shrouded in historical darkness, with no guiding narrative to shape our vision of the past. Enquiries are nearly impossible to accurately answer. As Yugoslavia shattered, so too did the narrative of history. Narratives exist in multiplicity, all of them marvelously flawed.
As the former Yugoslavia or “Yugosphere” continues to splinter into independent nations, each new country builds its own creation myth and historical narrative. Every nation has its own perspective. This is natural following such conflicts and turmoil, and it would be shortsighted to assign “right “ or “wrong” to any perspective of history and politics during and following the Balkan Wars. It may be impossible to make perfect sense and order out of Yugoslavia and her daughter states, but even so there is no choice but to look to the future.
It is time to return our attention to the region that the world collectively forgot following the NATO bombings of 1999. Six, arguably seven countries exist where before there was only one. They form a culturally rich and diverse region of the world that has always served as the intersection of empires and cultures. Some countries move toward Europe while others look (or are forced to look) elsewhere. Slovenia has been quietly absorbed into a silent minority of the EU while Kosovo still forges ahead with the struggle of independence. These are politically fascinating countries being forged outside of Western consciousness. To pay attention to-and attempt to understand- the Balkans isn’t always fun. The realities we find are often still shocking, even when there has been peace for well over a decade. None of this should curtail our attentions, however. The last western bombs and shells fell in the late 90’s, but western eyes must still linger. This blog will attempt to bring our attention back.