The Second World War- Teaching Modern Southeast European History

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First there were elections, and then there was war. Out of voting and fighting and transforming, Serbia remained as a kind of involuntary Yugoslav leftover after everybody else had created their own little, independent states. The project that was aimed at the homogenization of all Serbs into the Great One led to the total destruction of the nation.

However, a country named Serbia exists.


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A destroyed nation in an unfinished state performs its history in voids. This sounds logical.

Možda vam treba?

But if you are a citizen of Serbia, this conclusion is a disaster. As memory activists and analysts we all are participant observers. So, sometimes we discuss matters in small groups. In Belgrade, our task was to describe how we relate to Serbia. By belonging, she takes responsibility to transform what it means to be Serbian the way she wants it.

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Moreover, the pedagogue fears that by negating her Serbian identity because of dominating nationalist voices, she would neglect that there are many Serbs that do not fit this stereotype. Hence, disconnecting with her Serbian identity would re-inforce the division, whereas she strives to overcome such antagonisms. Now I refuse to identify with a state or a nation. My family is from Kosovo. Then, I explained to her: I was born a girl, but I do not identify with being a girl.

To her surprise, her mother accepted her not identifying as a girl, whereas rejecting being Serbian was a point of contention. In this discussion, however, I sensed that for all the participants the problem was not being Serbian. The problem was that being Serbian seems to require a singular response. Nevertheless, the historian concedes that anti-pluralism is one of the few continuities that nurtures Serbian identity. This reflects a crucial dilemma: identity is about constructing continuity 3.


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  8. But what if there are more ruptures than continuity to draw upon in your past? What if the place you live in has been the pawn of others for extended periods of time? But understanding where an argument comes from does not equate to its justification.

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    If we perceive identity as a constructed continuity, then there is room for choice, like the discussion in our group illustrated. And when there is room for choice, then there is also room for change. However, it seems that many in Serbia have had enough of change in the last decades. Consider how war, hyperinflation and economic sanctions have shaken Serbia economically and politically 4.

    And here, it is important to stress that the alternative would not be re-inventing Yugoslavia. I am afraid that suggesting Yugoslavism as a form of civic discontent against nationalism just reinforces the described paralyzing antagonism 6. In order to exit the trap of this perpetuating historical antagonism, it might help to consider that another crucial part of identity construction is defining the self vis-a-vis the other. Built in Yugoslav times as a gift by the town of Belgrade to Tito on the occasion of his 70th birthday on May 25th , this complex included several museums and some residential buildings.

    Professor Tim Harper — Faculty of History

    This is where Josip Broz Tito and his wife Jovanka are buried, and today it functions as a modern shrine. This means that Yugoslavia does not function as the other, but as part of the Serbian self. So, if the Yugoslav experience becomes an important component of Serbian identity, how is the other defined? I also contemplated who would buy the Yugo-nostalgic T-Shirts, bags and pencils in the museum shop. The journey from Zagreb to Belgrade for me was not an international connection. Does this mean that the countries of post-Yugoslavia constitute a part of the other against which Serbia defines itself?

    Perhaps analyzing another speaking void helps to answer this question.

    It included a timeline which illustrated my observation of contemporary history as a void. Display in the Museum of Yugoslav History. The years and are represented here with a blank spot. No information is displayed in the timeline about the events of and A war or a conflict in Kosovo is not mentioned at all. For they not only had attained to a political liberty such as they had never known before; with it they had gained a new self-confidence and an implicit trust in the man who had been their leader during the war of liberation and who now set himself the task of modernizing the nation.

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