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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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CHARLES INGRAO - Confronting the Yugoslav Controversies: The Scholars’ Initiative - 139


139 CHARLES INGRAO Confronting the Yugoslav Controversies: The Scholars’ Initiative* Winston Churchill once lamented that the Balkans had produced far more history than they could possibly consume. The history to which he referred was the lengthy litany of wrongs and retribution that had been committed by the various groups that inhabited the peninsula. What he did not say or, perhaps, realize was that the great bulk of what passes for history among the region’s peoples was of relatively recent vintage, having been written over the previous century by apolo- gists for the region’s newly created nation-states. Nor could he know that the Balkans would share in the bounty of a second great age of state- and history-making at the other end of the twentieth century. Like the self-serving accounts of newly created states everywhere, the accounts are highly selective in their choice of facts, but simulta- neously accommodate compelling myths that stress the nation’s achievements, heroism and, oftentimes, its victimization at the hands of its former oppressors. But none has been as influential as the Ser- bian national narrative, which helped create the centrifugal forces that tore Yugoslavia apart.1 Among the successor states of former Yugo- slavia, Serbia enjoyed a substantial head start in constructing its na- tional narrative after winning autonomy from the Ottoman empire in 1830. It informed the calculus of Serbia’s leaders and the heroism of its armies through three Balkan Wars (1912–18) and the subsequent establishment of the tightly centralized, Serbian-dominated ‘first’ Yugoslavia (1918–41)...

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