The Syncretion of Polarization and Extremes – Part 14 – The Balkans: The Loss of Identity

Transposing emblem by Aleksandar Skobic

There was this country called Yugoslavia. It consisted of six different republics and three different nations and a number of national minorities, all joined under the flag of brotherhood and unity. The country was young, full of enthusiasm and its industry and economy were expanding.

I was born in a town that was built right after WWII, around the newly constructed factory. The population in my town consisted of 21 different nationalities. Can you imagine it?

I cannot, or at least I could not at that time, because I thought we were all Yugoslavs. We were all one. We were raised on propaganda movies, TV shows, parades, various social events, all having a strong message that we are a young nation that should gather under one flag, around one person – the son of all our nations and nationalities. I will not say his name because he is a ghost now. Maybe he always was, but we were so dazzled by the myth about him that we did not notice it.

New Belgrade, Serbia – On the Danube – poludziber

Nothing happens over night. Historical events and the events that destroy the history we know develop over many years, decades… The same goes for the breakup of Yugoslavia.

Most of the kids in my class at school suddenly started to become divided, to form smaller groups, to point fingers at each other. Muslims took one corner of our classroom, Croats the other, Serbs the third. The fourth corner belonged to those kids from mixed, interethnic marriages. I was asked one day, politely, without any antagonism or “a must”: Come over here, we would like to ask you something… And that’s how I became someone else, without having an opportunity to grow up and become someone in the first place.

Zagreb, Croatia – You see? – Buco Balkanessi

So, instead of drawing a Yugoslav flag, we all started secretly drawing emblems and flags of our own nations. We would whisper verses of national songs, and I have no idea how we even knew the lyrics of most of them. They were probably encoded in our DNA. Or we just listened carefully to our parents and cousins who would quietly sing these songs, half-drunk, half-mesmerized by something they called (and despised publicly) as nationalism.

And again, not over night, but anyway it caught us who believed in Yugoslavia, as a surprise – all hell broke loose.

Pancevo, Serbia – In the park cafe – Ljupce Mihajlovski

No one can understand it, even those of us who experienced it, still can’t understand how it is possible to lose your identity so fast, so suddenly, that it takes you years to comprehend it, to get over it, to rise from it in a different body, mindset, soul.

You stopped being Yugoslav and became somebody new. Serb, in my case. Our town became a place of tensions, polarization, and segregation. Local Croatian militia patrols “controlled” the streets, armed, often drunk, yelling through the night, harassing everyone, and we lived in constant fear. No one was safe because no one really knew where the danger was coming from.

Zagreb, Croatia – Milling around – Zdravko

My sister and I were on the last bus that left my town for the next two years. We travelled through barricades full of bloody, drunk and reckless militia members of all three nationalities just to play the role of refugees amongst our own (because not many of my cousins, neighbors and the other Serbs considered us equal to themselves, but as refugees).

My parents were held captive for the next two years, and we did not know if they were alive. Sometimes, we would get a message over the amateur radio that they were alive and well, from people we never heard of, very often from people of the same nationality that held our parents as captives.

Belgrade, Serbia – On the street – miamia

Today, 20 years after the civil war, we are now a deeply divided society, in a country that no one is happy with. But what amazes me (and frightens me at the same time) is that you don’t need someone who is of a different nation to be an extremist. No, it works perfectly well in every town, in every village, in every street of this poor so-called country.

Due to the civil war, there were many displaced persons, and communities are now mostly mono-ethnic. Nevertheless, divisions and polarization are clear as day. People divide between natives and refugees, where natives consider themselves to be the sole group entitled to employment, politics, etc.. The displaced (or the refugees) usually stick to themselves, thinking that if you are organized in a group, it will help you achieve what you want. But that’s only until you achieve it, then you need no one else.

Zagreb, Croatia – Afternoon – Viktor Juric

And that’s not all. Even the refugees are divided by the places they come from (I wouldn’t be surprised if we started to divide ourselves by the streets we grew up in, or even by building entrances). And the tensions between these groups are visible everywhere – in bars, at weddings and funerals, in work places and on lines in front of the employment offices. And you can see these divisions amongst Muslims, Serbs and Croats, and ironically, we are again united in these divisions.

Aleksandar Skobic

Credits

Snapshot 1: Koper, Slovenia – Walking – Martin Dörsch (Unsplash)

Snapshot 2: New Belgrade, Serbia – On the Danube – poludziber (Shutterstock)

Snapshot 3: Zagreb, Croatia – You see – Buco Balkanessi (Unsplash)

Snapshot 4: Pancevo, Serbia – In the park cafe – Ljupce Mihajlovski (Shutterstock)

Snapshot 5: Zagreb, Croatia – Milling around – Zdravko (Shutterstock)

Snapshot 6: Belgrade, Serbia – On the street – miamia (Shutterstock)

Snapshot 7: Zagreb, Croatia – Afternoon – Viktor Juric (Unsplash)

Locations

Home: www.perypatetik.net

Social: www.facebook.com/Perypatetik

Cinemblem: Perypatetik youtube channel

The Syncretion of Polarization and Extremes

Alencar, Joana. Lack of Social Trust – Brazil. January 2019.

Baccino, Alejandra. Polarization within Ourselves – South America. January 2019.

Cordido, Veronica. Hanging by Extremes – Venezuela. January 2019.

Hernandez, Jonay Quintero. Extremism Is Now the New Hype? – Spain. February 2019

Montano, Osvaldo. Progress in the Face of Polarization – Bolivia. February 2019.

Romano, Mavi. Censorship and Cultural Survival in a World without Gods – Spain. January 2019.

Sariñana, Alejandra Gonzalez. Student Movements – Mexico. March 2019.

Sepi, Andreea. A World of Victims and Perpetrators? – Germany and Romania. February 2019.

Sevunts, Nane. The Era To Close – Armenia. March 2019.

Sitorus, Rina. Polarization in Politics: All a Cebong or Kampret – Indonesia. March 2019.

Valenzuela, Monica. Adults and Children. April 2019.

Vuka. Extreme Immunity to Functional Tax and Judicial System – Serbia. March 2019

Wallis, Toni. Walls and Resettlement – South Africa and Angola. February 2019.

Forthcoming

CW 15 – Argentina – Julieta Spirito
CW 16 – Italy – Mary Ranaldo
CW 17 – Lebanon – Ghadir Younes
CW 18 – Cuba – Marilin Guerrero Casas
CW 19 – Ukraine – Evgeny Bondarenko
CW 20 – Uruguay – Andrea da Silva Escandell
CW 21 – Spain – Jazz Williams
CW 22 – Armenia – Mania Israyelyan
CW 23 – Poland – Pawel Awdejuk
CW 24 – Balkans – Aleksandar Protic
CW 25 – Italy – Daniela Cannarella
CW 26 – Serbia – Jelena Sekulic
CW 27 – Tajikistan – Nigina Kanunova
CW 28 – Portugal – Nuno Rosalino
CW 29 – Uruguay – Lillian Julber
CW 30 – Argentina – Javier Gomez
Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed

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