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Gedächtnisraum Literatur – Gedächtnisraum Sprache: Europäische Dimensionen slavischer Geschichte und Kultur

Festschrift für Svetlana und Gerhard Ressel

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Edited By Alexander Bierich, Thomas Bruns and Henrieke Stahl

Die Festschrift ist Herrn Professor Gerhard Ressel und seiner Ehefrau Dr. Svetlana Ressel-Jelisavčić zusammen gewidmet. Ihre menschliche Verbundenheit führte im wissenschaftlichen Bereich von Forschung und Lehre zu einer Vielzahl gemeinsam verfasster und veröffentlichter Beiträge im In- und Ausland und ebenso gemeinsam abgehaltener Lehrveranstaltungen. Sowohl in der Forschung als auch in der Lehre zeigten und zeigen sich dabei die Jubilare als Slavisten im besten Sinne des Wortes, haben sie in ihrer langjährigen Tätigkeit doch nicht nur verschiedene slavische Sprachen abgedeckt, sondern darüber hinaus in gleicher Weise die drei Säulen der Philologie, die Sprach-, Literatur- und Kulturwissenschaft.

An der Festschrift hat sich eine große Zahl von Freunden, ehemaligen SchülerInnen, MitarbeiterInnen und KollegInnen mit Beiträgen beteiligt, deren Bandbreite von einzelphilologischen, sprach- wie literaturwissenschaftlichen Aspekten der Slavistik bis hin zu übergreifenden, interdisziplinär ausgerichteten kultur- und geisteswissenschaftlichen Fragestellungen im gesamteuropäischen Kontext bestens geeignet ist, das vielschichtige Schaffen von Prof. em. Dr. Gerhard Ressel und Dr. Svetlana Ressel-Jelisavčić zu reflektieren.

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Bosnia and its many identities

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Jadranka Gvozdanović (Heidelberg)

Bosnia and its many identities

Introduction: Bosnia, a land of hatred

On March 13, 2015 Radio Sarajevo cited a letter of the famous Nobel-prize winning Bosnian and Herzegovinian writer Ivo Andrić who with profound love and understanding of his native Bosnian fellow-countrymen warned them as early as 1920 about the explosive power of their deeply rooted hatred for all, who are different:

Da, Bosna je zemlja mržnje. To je Bosna. I po čudnom kontrastu, koji u stvari i nije tako čudan, i možda bi se pažljivom analizom dao lako objasniti, može se isto tako kazati da je malo zemalja u kojima ima toliko tvrde vere, uzvišene čvrstine karaktera, toliko nežnosti i ljubavnog žara, toliko dubine osećanja, privrženosti i nepokolebljive odanosti, toliko žeđi za pravdom. Ali ispod svega toga kriju se u neporoznim dubinama olujne mržnje, čitavi uragani sapetih, zbijenih mržnji koje sazrevaju i čekaju svoj čas. Između vaših ljubavi i vaše mržnje odnos je isti kao između vaših visokih planina i hiljadu puta većih i težih nevidljivih geoloških naslaga na kojima one počivaju. I tako, vi ste osuđeni da živite na dubokim slojevima eksploziva koji se s vremena na vreme pali upravo iskrama tih vaših ljubavi i vaše ognjene i svirepe osećajnosti. Možda je vaša najveća nesreća baš u tome što i ne slutite koliko mržnje ima u vašim ljubavima i zanosima, tradicijama i pobožnostima. I kao što tle na kom živimo prelazi, pod uticajem atmosferske vlage i toplote, u naša tela i daje im boju i izgled, i određuje karakter i pravac našem načinu života i našim postupcima tako isto silna, podzemna i nevidljiva mržnja na kojoj živi bosanski čovek ulazi neprimetno i zaobilazno u sve njegove, i najbolje postupke. Poroci rađaju svuda na svetu mržnju, jer troše a ne stvaraju, ruše a ne grade, ali u zemljama kao što je Bosna i vrline govore i deluju često mržnjom. Kod vas asketi ne izvlače ljubav iz svoje askeze, nego mržnju na sladostrasnike; trezvenjaci mrze one koji piju, a u pijanicama se javlja ubilačka mržnja na ceo svet. Oni koji veruju i vole smrtno mrze one koji ne veruju ili one koji drugačije veruju i drugo vole. i, na žalost, često se glavni deo njihove vere i njihove ljubavi troši u toj mržnj.

Ko u Sarajevu provodi noć budan u krevetu, taj može da čuje glasove sarajevske noći. Teško i sigurno izbija sat na katoličkoj katedrali: dva posle ponoći. Prođe više od jednog minuta (tačno sedamdeset i pet sekundi, brojao sam) i tek tada se javi nešto slabijim ali prodornim zvukom sat sa pravoslavne crkve, i on iskucava svoja dva sata posle ponoći. Malo za njim iskuca promuklim, dalekim glasom sahat-kula kod Begove-džamije, i to iskuca jedanaest sati, avetinjskih turskih sati, ←491 | 492→po čudnom računanju dalekih, tuđih krajeva sveta! Jevreji nemaju svoga sata koji iskucava, ali bog jedini zna koliko je sada sati kod njih, koliko po sefardskom a koliko po aškenaskom računanju. Tako i noću, dok sve spava, u brojanju pustih sati gluvog doba bdi razlika koja deli ove pospale ljude koji se budni raduju i žaloste, goste i poste prema četiri razna, među sobom zavađena kalendara, i sve svoje želje i molitve šalju jednom nebu na četiri razna crkvena jezika. A ta razlika je, nekad vidljivo i otvoreno, nekad nevidljivo i podmuklo, uvek slična mržnji, često potpuno istovetna sa njom.”1

“Yes, Bosnia is a country of hatred. That is Bosnia. And by strange contrast, which in fact isn't so strange, and could perhaps be easily explained by careful analysis, it can also be said that there are a few countries with such firm belief, elevated strength of character, so much tenderness and loving passion, such depth of feeling, of loyalty and unshakeable devotion, or with such a thirst for justice. But in secret depths underneath all this hide burning hatreds, entire hurricanes of tethered and compressed hatreds maturing and awaiting their hour. The relationship between your loves and your hatred is the same as between your high mountains and the invisible geological strata underlying them, a thousand times larger and heavier. And thus you are condemned to live on deep layers of explosive which are lit from time to time by the very sparks of your loves and your fiery and violent emotion. Perhaps your greatest misfortune is precisely that you do not suspect just how much hatred there is in your loves and passions, traditions and pieties. And just as under the influence of atmospheric moisture and warmth, the earth on which we live passes into our bodies and gives them color and form, determining the character and direction of our way of life and our actions - so does the strong, underground and invisible hatred on which Bosnia man lives, imperceptibly and indirectly enter into all his actions, even the best of them. Vice gives to hatred everywhere in the world, because it consumes and does not create, destroys, and does not build; but in countries like Bosnia, virtue itself often speaks and acts through hatred. With you, ascetics derive no love from their asceticism, but hatred for the voluptuary instead, abstainers hate those who drink, and drunkards feel a murderous hatred for the whole world. Those who do believe and love feel a mortal hatred for those who don't, or those who believe and love differently. And unhappily, the chief part of their belief and love is often consumed in this hatred.

Whoever lies awake at night in Sarajevo hears the voices of the Sarajevo night. The clock on the Catholic cathedral strikes the hour with weighty confidence: 2 AM. More than a minute passes (to be exact, seventy-five seconds - I counted) and only then with a rather weaker, but piercing sound does the Orthodox church announce the hour, and chime its own 2 AM. A moment after it the tower clock on the Beys' mosque strikes the hour in a hoarse, faraway voice, and that strikes 11, the ghostly Turkish hour, by the strange calculation of distant and alien parts of the world. The Jews have no clock to sound their hour, so God alone knows ←492 | 493→what time it is for them by the Sephardic reckoning or the Ashkenazy. Thus at night, while everyone is sleeping, division keeps vigil in the counting of the late, small hours, and separates these sleeping people who, awake, rejoice and mourn, feast and fast by four different and antagonistic calendars, and send all their prayers and wishes to one heaven in four different ecclesiastical languages. And this difference, sometimes visible and open, sometimes invisible and hidden, is always similar to hatred, and often completely identical with it. This uniquely Bosnian hatred should be studied and eradicated like some pernicious, deeplyrooted disease.”2

In his novels to follow this letter, Andrić masterly depicted his characters with their anguish, hope and fury, adopting the different perspectives in a deeply human narration. Each of the different perspectives contributed to understanding the identity construal of his characters as a negation of the others in the same shared space and time. Andrić understood also foreigners, who came to rule and succumbed under the Bosnian enigma and Bosnian anger, and left having made the Bosnian hatred even worse. Yet history kept repeating itself after Andrić’s prophetic words and long past his times.

In the Bosnian war of the early 1990s, Dutch UN forces created for Muslims threatened by Serbs a ”safe haven” in Srebrenica in eastern Bosnia in 1995. Muslim soldiers were told to come and deliver their weapons for they would be safe there. Then the Serbian army of Ratko Mladić came on July 11, 1995. Instead of defending the unarmed Muslims, the Dutch UN forces delivered all the males to Serbs, who executed them. When asked on Dutch television why he did it, the Dutch commander answered, he did not want to take any risk for the Dutch soldiers. The result was more than 8.000 executed Muslims in Srebrenica and about as much in the woods around it.

The International Court in the Hague took almost twenty years to recently reach the conclusion that what the Dutch UN forces did was not in conformity with the international law.

As in the times of Andrić’s “The Bridge over the Drina” and “Travnik chronicle” (translated as “The Bosnian Chronicle”), the West kept interfering without being informed about the cultures and cultural memories of the ethnicities it encountered. This uninformed interference made old wounds even worse – it enhanced the old divide along religious boundaries since the late Middle Ages, when the divide between eastern and western Christianity and subsequently also the Islam enforced by Turks separated the Bosnian peoples. For half a millennium, global wars were fought in the Bosnian microcosm.

In a recent video statement by Islamic radicalists, Muslims of Bosnia are invited to kill and poison Christians and Westerners in Bosnia and elsewhere ←493 | 494→because of what was done in Srebrenica. The heavy burden of the past is misused to put a bias on the future and Andrić’s words remain a mere statement of the fact, not an instigation to rethink the past. And again, the historical hatred is used by powers outside the country, whereas from the inside the Serbian PM Aleksandar Vučić intends to commemorate the victims of the massacre of Srebrenica twenty years ago, if accepted by Bosniaks to do so.

Bosnia out of balance?

It takes a firm sense of own identity to live in a divided country without succumbing. In 1920, when Andrić wrote his letter, such a sense of strong identity seemed to be in place in Bosnia, but – as he wrote – it also took being able to hate to survive all this hatred.

Whereas the three ethnic groups – Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs – maintained a relative equilibrium for centuries, this equilibrium has been shifting recently. Consider the following census data.

Table 1: Croats of Bosnia and Herzegovina (official census results)

The results of the recent census of 2013 have not been published yet. (although planned for the second half of 2014). Interestingly, the crucial data were known ←494 | 495→already at the beginning of 2014. By preliminary data published by the Sarajevo newspaper Dnevni avaz in January 2014, the total population of 2,371.000 inhabitants consisted of 48,4% Bosniaks, 32,7% Serbs and only 14,6% Croats. This means that the percentage of Croats decreased, whereas the percentages of the Bosniaks and Serbs increased, causing worries at the level of the EU Parliament (cf. http://epthinktank.eu/2014/01/08/croats-in-bosnia-and-herzegovina/).

What may have caused this situation?

The state of Bosnia and Herzegovina has since 1995 been divided into Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovinian and the Serb Republic (and the Brčko district, under UN control). The Serb republic has a majority of Serbian population. The Federation consists of ten cantons (the cantons of Western Herzegovina, Posavian, and canton 10 have a Croatian majority, the cantons of Middle Bosnia and Herzegovina-Neretva are mixed Croatian and Bosniak, and the remaining five cantons are predominantly Bosniak). By the population and territorially, Bosnian Croats are increasingly losing power, and the demand for a Croat federal republic in Bosnia and Herzegovina is growing. In December 2013, a poll indicated that a majority of Bosnian Croats supports the creation of a third, Croat entity in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This would require territorial integrity, and there are proposals for uniting the three southern cantons to this extent, in which Croats are in a majority.

The Bosnian Croats are losing power and turning into a minority, and in the Federation they face Bosniak dominance in the realm of culture, where the key positions are held by representatives of the Bosniak group. But the matter of the language is even more important, it is crucial.

The centuries of cohabitation of Croats, Serbs and Muslim Bosniaks (since the enforced conversion to Muslim faith due to Turkish occupation from the 16th) led to linguistic convergence in the lexicon and word formation. In the actual practice this means that the speakers know the alternative forms and concepts and are able to use them depending on the speech situation. Indeed, Valjan (2015) reports that Croat speakers interviewed by her in Bosnia used (sometimes interchangeably) Croatian, Bosniak and even originally Serbian variants. This is a typical situation in need of a standardization of Bosnian Croatian (which could be compared to standardization of Swiss German or of American English), but instead of doing this, Bosnian Croats rely fully on the Croatian norm in Croatia. This would be a feasible solution if the Croatian norm would explicitly allow for regional sub-norms, which has so far not been the case. At the same time, there is also a tendency to prescribe the Croatian norm to all Croats, bringing Bosnian Croats to a situation in which they must learn their own language as foreign (comparable to what dialect speakers do).

←495 | 496→

During the interwar period and the Yugoslav communist state after WW II, Bosnia was a territory, which was culturally and politically subordinate to the key players, Serbs and Croats. Standardization efforts went past the Bosnia, and this situation essentially remained. In 1997, Babić wrote that Bosnian linguists should see to it that the specificities of their language be recognized by the Croatian norm. However, this was more easily said than done, because Bosnian linguists did not have the necessary influence in Croatia.

The linguistic distance between Croatian of Croatia and Croatian of Bosnia increased significantly since the establishment of the new Croatian norm in the 1990s after the state independence. During this period, the Croatian language norm took up its historically attested specificities, characteristic only of Croatian and distinguishing it from Serbian. Like the church bells in Andrić’s letter mentioned above, the standard languages of Croats, Serbs and Bosniaks (who had been politically forced into one standard language of their common state during most of the 20th century) became clearly delineated as cognate, but different. Particularly Croats had a strong need to prove their identity by looking back at the rich literary tradition since the Renaissance, and they forgot thereby the transitional territory of Bosnia, which had been crucial to uniting the Croatian territories both culturally and linguistically. However, this territory was also marked by convergences with the Significant Others, Serb and Bosniak, from which the Croatian Croats wanted to be clearly separated. And so Bosnia vanished from the awareness of the Croatian standardizers of the late 1990s.

In the asymmetrical situation which emerged, Bosnian Croats were at the lower end. Even during the war of the early 1990s, for refugee children from Bosnia in Croatia the most difficult school subject was the Croatian language and it took them about half a year to learn it (cf. Pandžić (2006). It was a cognate language, but not their language. They were bereft of a linguistic capital in the sense of Bourdieu (1980).

There is a striking parallel between the decrease of the Croat population in Bosnia and their linguistic alienation, especially since the early 1990s. By this alienation, Bosnian Croats are losing their specific identity in this land in which only identity and cultural construal can safeguard the rivalling entities. Politics alone cannot solve this problem, this is a much more complex problem of cultural identity and language policy.

In addition to the political function of language elaborated e.g. by Kamusella (2009), there is also – and more importantly – the culture-preserving and cultureshaping function of language, which underpins identity and enables drawing lines of distinction without hatred. This is one of the lessons still to be learned in Andrić’s Bosnia.

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References

Babić, Josip (1997) Hrvatski književni jezik u Bosni I Hercegovini. Jezik 45: 29-34.

Bourdieux, Pierre (1991) Language and Symbolic Power. Cambridge: Blackwell & Polity Press.

Gvozdanović, Jadranka, Pavao Knezović i Marinko Šišak (2015) Hrvatski jezik u Bosni od Matije Divkovića do danas. Zbornik radova. Zagreb: Hrvatski studiji.

Kamusella, Tomasz (2009) The politics of language and nationalism in modern Central Europe. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Pandžić, Vlado (2006) Pouke i muke po hrvatskome jeziku u Bosni i Hercegovini. Mostar: Hrvatski leksikografski institut Bosne i Hercegovine.

Valjan, Ana (2015) Sociolingvistička situacija u Bosni i Hercegovini: Prikaz eksplorativnog istraživanja. In: Gvozdanović et al. (2015) 139-148.←497 | 498→