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23 Nov 12

Proud to be Minced Meat in Bosnia

Elvira M. Jukic

Bosnia is close to the historic moment of a headcount, but it looks like setting in stone the divisions unfinished by the 1992-5 war.

Media reports recently stated 35 per cent of people in Bosnia, mostly young people, described themselves in the last month’s test census as Bosnians and Herzegovinians.

In other words, they do no not want to be counted as belonging to any of the country’s three ethnic constituent peoples, which means that in the April 2013 census they will be counted as “others”.

This alleged percentage may not be as high as 35. But whatever the exact figure, it still poses the question of whether the citizens of this troubled country are as strictly and as absolutely divided into three groups as is commonly maintained.

Apparently not, because a newspaper column by some writer on the theme of “How come you don’t have a clear ethnic identity?” prompted an avalanche of hostile responses, accusations and even abuse.

People’s uncertainties about their ethnic identity also seem to be a major problem for Bosnia’s six ruling parties.

This is because the power they currently enjoy stems from the country’s divisions into three parts, Bosniak, Serb and Croat.

If people did not count themselves within the three groups, their control of the power cake would be shaken.

Anything could happen by April. Meanwhile, campaigning for people to declare themselves as members of one of the three groups, which has already started, seems to be achieving the opposite.

Bosnia’s constitution, which flows from the Dayton Peace Accords that ended the 1992-5 war, did specify the three groups and determined that the country had to have three “equal chairs” at all levels.
 
But how do the “35 per cent” who don’t belong to that scheme fit in here? We seem to have no idea.

A respected professor of constitutional law the other day said that “there is no way such thing could happen in next year's census”, referring to a repeat result in 2013 of the alleged result in the pilot census.

He suggested that people needed more explanation prior to the census on how to state their ethnicity.

He also said it would only create more problems for the constitution if the category of “others” next year outnumbered any one of the three ethnic groups.

As far as I have learned, the creation of a formed Yugoslav nation was a process that was never completed, as clearly was the case also for the process of forming a Bosnian-Herzegovinian nation.

But forming clear ethnic lines between the groups in the country isn’t finished either, and therein lies the problem for today, and for April 2013, of course.

An artist from Banja Luka, Nikola Pejakovic, had a word on the non-existence of clear nations recently.

He said the former Yugoslav leader, Tito, was to blame because he had encouraged mixed marriages, meaning marriages of people of different religions and ethnicities. He compared those to having minced meat instead of a steak.

He also said the attempt to form a Yugoslav nation had never succeeded, except in terms of creating thousands of people who now don’t know who they are.

That’s one of the realities of Bosnia and what to expect from some people, if, as now, the laws and rules take into consideration only members of the three ethnic groups.

I am not saying it is easy to have a clear idea of how to declare oneself, or to choose between feeling Bosnian [nationally] and Bosniak, Croat and Serb [ethnically] - or just not to declare.

In the meantime, referring back to the artist from Banja Lujka, my husband and I are proud to think of ourselves as minced meat.

Talk about it!

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