Dear Tumblr followers, this is very uncharacteristic of me as a professional photographer running a photo blog. As some of you may know, I come from the former Yugoslavia, a country that violently broke apart at the beginning of the 1990s, forcing my family to flee to the United States. I was moved to write the following “rant” after reading a news article about Croatia’s entry into the European Union (to see the original article, click here). This issue has been on my mind for some time now, so I finally decided to let out all my thoughts regarding the subject.
Within the coming months Croatia will join the EU, meanwhile Serbia has already taken steps to speed up its own accession process (namely by normalizing relations with Kosovo, whose Serb inhabitants nonetheless refuse to live in the same state as ethnic Albanians). This leaves my native country of Bosnia-Herzegovina out in the cold, despite the fact that it’s geographically located between these two countries and was once part of the same Yugoslavia. Bosnia is still as segregated as ever, divided territorially between Bosnian Muslims/Bosniaks who want to keep the country together, and ethnic Serbs and Croats who want to break away and join their respective “mother” countries (never mind that they’ve lived in Bosnia for generations and are just as “Bosnian” as their Muslim neighbors, technically speaking). The government is totally inept and dysfunctional because none of the politicians can ever agree on anything. It will likely take years for Bosnia to catch up with Croatia and Serbia and join the EU (that is, if it doesn’t break up first).
What the leaders of all three countries do believe is that joining the European Union will help their economies recover from the years of war, corruption and crony capitalism that followed the dissolution of communist Yugoslavia. It’s ironic, though, that after fighting so hard to separate from each other, these very same countries are begging to join an economic and political union that on the surface isn’t much different from Yugoslavia. Croatians especially, who were so adamant about breaking away from Serbia and disassociating themselves from everything culturally Serbian, will throw away their supposed “thousand year old dream” of independence and everything they fought for in the Homeland War of 1991-1995. They’ll have new rulers in Germany, France, the UK, and other powerful EU countries if the accession treaty goes through by July 1st, 2013.
Some background info about the breakup of Yugoslavia: at about the same time the Berlin Wall came down and folks in Western Europe and North America were celebrating the fall of communism, the people of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRJ) started turning against each other. They’d been living together for almost 50 years under communist rule, united by the mantra of “Brotherhood and Unity”. With communism on its way out, though, power hungry nationalist leaders in Serbia and Croatia began exploiting people’s fears for political gain, stirring up ethnic and religious hatred. Both sides wanted to claim Bosnia for themselves, which had a mixed population of ethnic Serbs, Croats and Muslims (whose ancestors converted to Islam when Bosnia was part of the Ottoman Empire). The end result was some of the worst fighting on European soil since World War II (including the infamous Siege of Sarajevo, which has been compared to the Battle of Stalingrad), indiscriminate targeting of civilians, ethnic cleansing and systematic mass rapes, destruction of ancient mosques, churches, libraries, and other religious/cultural monuments, the loss of around 100,000-200,000 lives, and the exodus of several million people out of the country.
Similar and worse things happened in Croatia and Serbia, all to achieve the goal of ethnic separation and purity. And for what? So that these countries could eventually give up their hard fought sovereignty and join the European Union? Why not just stay in Yugoslavia if you wanted to be part of something bigger?