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Do the Balkans Begin in Vienna? The Geopolitical and Imaginary Borders between the Balkans and Europe

The Geopolitical and imaginary borders between the balkans and Europe


Ana Foteva

Do the Balkans Begin in Vienna? takes up one of the most fraught areas of Europe, the Balkans. Variously part of the Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman, and Byzantine empires, this region has always been considered Europe’s border between the Orient and the Occident. Aiming to clarify the politics of drawing cultural borders in this region, the book examines the relations between the Habsburg Monarchy and the Balkans as an intermediate space between West and East. It demonstrates that the dichotomy Orient versus Occident is insufficient to explain the complexity of the region. Therefore, cultural multi-belonging, historical disruption, and recurrence of identities and conflicts are proposed to be «the essence» of the Balkans.
Do the Balkans Begin in Vienna? depicts the fictional imagination of the Balkans as a «utopian dystopia». This oxymoron encompasses the utopian projections of the Austrian/ Habsburg writers onto the Balkans as a place of intact nature and archaic communities; the dystopian presentations of the Balkans by local authors as an abnormal no-place (ou-topia) onto which the historical tensions of empires have been projected; and, finally, the depictions of the Balkans in the Western media as an eternal or recurring dystopia.
There is at present no other study that distinguishes these particular geographical reference points. Thus, this book contributes to the research on Europe’s historical memory and to scholarship on postcolonial and/or post-imperial identities in European states. The volume is recommended for courses on Austrian, German, Balkan, and European studies, as well as comparative literature, theater, media, Slavic literatures, history, and political science.
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IV. Bosnia-Herzegovina: Where Orient and Occident Meet


Bosnia-Herzegovina represents the most typical case of multiple cultural identities in the part of the Balkans discussed in this study because it was ruled both by the Ottoman and Habsburg Empires. First of all, Bosnia-Herzegovina contains both Byzantine and Ottoman legacies, which, as we have seen, Todorova defined as the cultural paradigm of the Balkans (162). It also claims descent from Catholic tradition as far back as medieval times (Donia and Fine 13–17). In Bosnia-Herzegovina, as elsewhere in the Balkans, though not under identical circumstances, the Habsburg Monarchy comes into play as the region’s third imperial legacy. The cultural change brought about by this empire consisted primarily in introducing the Enlightenment, a money economy, and the ideas of the nation and Liberalism—in other words Western European ideas and developments from the age of industrialization.1

Contrary to the ethnically homogeneous Serbia of the nineteenth century, where a number of politicians and intellectuals felt the strong appeal of the Habsburg Monarchy and attempted unsuccessfully to become a part of this empire and of the “West,” the Habsburg Monarchy came to Ottoman Bosnia uninvited and integrated it into the “West.” This integration was not achieved without difficulties and eventually failed with the outbreak of World War I and the subsequent dissolution of the Habsburg Monarchy.

The above-mentioned imperial legacies make Bosnia-Herzegovina an ideal case study for a discussion of the concepts of post/colonialism and the applicability of postcolonial theory in the Balkans, the present-day implications...

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