Aim of the newly built monuments of the new states formed after the dissolution of Yugoslavia is to differ from the legacy of their former country, historians say.
|Photo courtesy of Forum ZFD|
Historians from former Yugoslavia agree that all new states are trying to establish a new identity by building monuments to their war heroes and giving up on their Communist legacy characteristic of their former state.
The debate on the role of monuments in the reconsolidation process in the Balkans has been organized by two German NGOs, Forum ZFD and Konrad Adenauer Stiftung.
Hrvoje Klasic, a historian from Zagreb, said Croatia has demolished more monuments from the Communist era than other former Yugoslav countries.
“Our constitution writes that our state is based on antifascist values, but in the public discourse our society is based on nationalism and the values of [the WW2 Fascist] Ustasha movement,” explains Klasic.
Senadin Musabegovic of Bosnia said that politicians in the region, especially in Bosnia, glorify the suffering of the people in order to unite them and use them for their purposes, adding that the ongoing process of victimization is the essence of identity-building.
“Politicians often use the term 'We are all victims' to create a collective paranoia that everybody is against us, especially our neighbours,” said Musabegovic.
Many historians see Kosovo's declaration of independence from Serbia in 2008 as the last chapter in Yugoslavia’s prolonged dissolution.
This has resulted in the erection of a number of monuments celebrating Kosovo's independence advocators such as former US President Bill Clinton as well as Kosovo fighters, Artem Sediku, historian from Pristina, said.
“Monuments in Kosovo are simplified and one-sided. There is no representation of the victims [of the war], just the warriors and freedom fighters who are widely celebrated by the common people,” Sediku said.
Dusan Janjic, from the Belgrade-based Centre for Ethnic Studies, said Kosovo has a culture of transforming remaining monuments and not destroying them as it was the case before.
“For example when Pristina choose its first Miss Universe, they took pictures of her in front of the Gazimenstan monument [Serbian monument celebrating the Battle of Kosovo in 1389]. This is the example of appropriation of monuments of another ethnicity and not destroying them, which was usually the case before,” says Janjic.
Unlike other former Yugoslav countries that try to forget their Communist legacy and glory their fight for independence, Macedonia with its project Skopje 2014 is rebuilding its “Antique past”.
“This is the explosion and no one could expect that this will happen in this proportion. And this is not even esthetic anymore,” says Macedonian historian Darko Stojanov.
“And it is not anymore about so called ancient Macedonia, now it is also who will have bigger monuments. For example we had monument of Alexander the Great dedicated to Macedonian people, but now we will have Mother Theresa, but larger, dedicated to Albanians. So now it is about which ethnicity will have bigger monument,” adds Stojanov.
Serbian university history professor Predrag Markovic says that it is pity that former Yugoslav countries do not appreciate the legacy of their former country since it had the most beautiful antifascist monuments.
“Antifascism embodied in communism has been replaced by nationalism. And the politicians do not help us since there is a deep confusion in our public of what we should remember and be proud of,” says Markovic.
Historians also agree that Balkan is not the only region that is facing this problems, explaining that Germany and France had similar one. But they note that French and German people tried harder and not built monuments together as expected, but at least they had joint history books.