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Stabilization and Progress in the Western Balkans

Proceedings of the Symposium 2010, Basel, Switzerland September 17-19


Edited By Dusan Simko and Ueli Mäder

For more than a decade, the Balkans have been a centre of crisis – armed conflicts have brought death, expulsion, destruction and untold suffering to the people. The postwar efforts of the West have failed to bring lasting stability and real progress so far.
The Symposium at Basel University was an interdisciplinary event where complex issues were elucidated by historians, geographers, sociologists and political scientists. The event enabled East and West European scholars and their American counterparts to exchange their somewhat divergent views. The speakers covered a broad range of subjects: historical causes, aspects of postwar economic and social development as well as sociocultural consequences of the democratization process. Special attention was devoted to the situation of minorities, the refugee problem and the security situation in the fragile states of the West Balkans and also to the responsibility of the EU and USA for the general stagnation in the area.
The Symposium was intended to illustrate differing interpretations of the events of the past ten years and to encourage discussion between speakers and participants at the event.


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JAN RYCHLÍK - The Breakup of Yugoslavia –The Reasons and Consequences - 41


JAN RYCHLÍK The Breakup of Yugoslavia – The Reasons and Consequences Ernest Gellner in his famous book, Nations and Nationalism, described modern nationalism as an ideology that requires that all members of one nation should be subordinated to one (and only one) political authority. Despite some criticism, we can generally agree with Gellner’s statement. In practice, there are two consequences. First, once an ethnic group becomes a modern nation, it requires, apart from cultural and linguistic rights, some sort of political organiza- tion. Second, the newly formed nation-state tries to unite all its kins- men behind a political border and to get rid of ethnic outsiders. The Balkan nations are no exception. Having developed under the Otto- man Empire, once they obtained national independence they came into conflict with neighbours because of their ethnically mixed terri- tories. The nations that developed in Austria-Hungary had the same development, although they attempted, in the beginning, to change the internal border of the empire. The South Slavs had different history. The majority of Serbians, Macedonians (if we can talk about them in the nineteenth century, which is doubtful) and Albanians were part of the multinational Ot- toman Empire; some of the Serbians, Croats and Slovenes were part of Austrian Empire. The population of Bosnia – future Bosnian Ser- bians, Croats and Muslims – started their national development in the former and completed it after 1878 in the latter. These nations did not share common history or destiny before 1918 and in fact they little in...

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