The Songs that Destroyed Yugoslavia

17 08 2009

Typology of Explanations for the Serbo-Croatian Conflict

As fighting between Serbs and Croats broke out in the Yugoslav Federal Republic of Croatia and spilled over into the neighboring Federal Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Western European and North American journalists, intellectuals and policy makers advanced numerous different views attempting to explain why a bloody civil war had exploded in a region where people of differing ethnic and religious affiliations had lived in relative peace for much of their history and without any major incidents since the end of World War II. The explanations offered for conflict fall into two categories. The first declared that Serbs, Croats and Bosniak Muslims, all of them inherently backward and barbaric peoples, were bound to engage in violence unless their sadistic urges were thoroughly regulated and repressed, as during the lifelong dictatorship of Josip Broz Tito. While the atrocities that the three warring parties proceeded to commit against each other appeared to support a view that blamed ancient hatreds for the bloodshed, several academics and journalists were quick to clarify the flaws in such primordialist accounts.

The second group of writing on the subject promoted a different narrative that embraced a view completely opposite from that of their rivals. Rejecting a view that highlighted primordial hatreds and civilizational fault lines, works belonging to the second category predominantly portrayed the warring sides as people that were jointly living in a stable and peaceful society until a group of demagogic, nationalist-oriented intellectuals and politicians successfully turned Yugoslavia’s major ethnic groups against each other. The rejection of primordialist theories was refreshing; however, the approach that replaced the primordialist one oversimplified the Serbo-Croatian conflict. Such an approach confined the conflict to a minority of political and intellectual elites and ignored the many grievances that average Serbs and Croats had against each other prior to the nationalist turn of intellectuals and politicians in the late 1980s and 1990s. Refusing to acknowledge the active involvement of average people in the spread of violent ethnic nationalism, these writers focus on the inflammatory rhetoric and controversial policies without demonstrating the resonance that this met at the popular level.

The failure of much of the scholarship dealing with Yugoslavia in the 1990s can partially be attributed to the influence of theoretical works explaining the emergence of eighteenth and nineteenth century nationalism. Theorists of nationalism, coming from a number of humanistic disciplines and a variety of scholarly positions, have published volumes that emphasize the crucial roles played by intellectuals, states, and statesmen in the development and spread of nationalism. These theorists have doubtlessly had a tremendous impact on the authors seeking to explain nationalism’s rebirth during the disintegration of Yugoslavia. While the theories regarding nationalism may differ, most agree on nationalism as a phenomenon that occurs from the top down. It is a reliance on such theories that led many authors on the Yugoslav wars to ignore the role played by ordinary citizens in the conflicts. The volumes dealing with Yugoslavia rarely mentioned the theoretical works on nationalism. Yet, one can clearly see how some of the authors on the 1990s attempt to fit the break-up of Yugoslavia into a theoretical framework that was developed to explain the rise of nationalism in previous centuries.

Aside from being heavily influenced by theories on nationalism, writers on Yugoslavia, a good number of whom were not competent in the Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian language, maintained their focus on intellectuals and politicians because sources of that nature were readily available and easy to access. In many cases, they did not even require translation. Serbian and Croatian nationalists translated, and often modified, each other’s speeches and written works in an effort to show the English-speaking world how horrible and dangerous the other side really was. For several writers, these sources were sufficient for the production of simplified volumes that would sell very well to a global public seeking to learn a little more about the violent clashes they had been following through the reports of global news networks. Authors in search of a deeper understanding had to find alternative sources, which remains difficult in a war-torn region where all the sides continued to claim their own victimhood and their opponents’ aggression.

One of the under-explored resources for attaining a better understanding of the causes of the Serbo-Croatian conflict is the music that was popular among many Serbs and Croats prior to and during the war. Unlike the intellectual publications and political speeches, the popularity and circulation of which have been significantly inflated by certain writers on Yugoslavia, popular songs reached a much broader section of the population. Examining which songs were heard and sung is useful for understanding how average Serbs and Croats understood themselves, as well as people of other national groups and the conflicts that were unraveling around them. Such an approach will help reveal the processes that allowed ordinary Serbs and Croats, many of whom had developed friendships that crossed ethnic lines during the Titoist period, to adopt beliefs that mandated the murder and removal of those belonging to a different ethnic group.

Primordialist Explanations

Even though the conflicts that occurred in former Yugoslavia involved only one of the countries lying in what is called the Balkan Peninsula, many refer to the situation in Yugoslavia as the Balkan Wars, rather than the Yugoslav Wars. The term Balkan is “loaded with negative connotations – of violence, savagery – to an extent to which it is hard to find parallel.”[1] Primordialist arguments may thus have had a calming affect on the general public as they explained that what was transpiring could be reduced to business as usual for a savage, Balkan people that were settling their historical scores.

When asked about the conflicts, the prominent English military historian John Keegan noted that the turmoil in Yugoslavia was a “a primitive tribal conflict that only anthropologists can understand.”[2] According to scholars like Keegan, the Western world should have kept out of the conflict and let the Yugoslav factions fight it out. Explanations like Keegan’s subscribe to a worldview that explains global problems in terms of civilizational fault lines. While such views have been proposed before, it was Samuel Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations that was at the height of its popularity during the Yugoslav wars. Those who accepted Huntington’s theory saw the unfolding violence between Yugoslavia’s Orthodox Serbs, Catholic Croats and Muslim Bosniaks as a confirmation of their belief that future wars would occur along civilizational-religious lines. The frequency of deliberate massacres against civilian populations in Yugoslavia did little to alarm such authors as they attributed the violence to a tribalism typical of the Balkan peninsula. The respected American diplomat, George Kennan, in his foreword to The Other Balkan Wars, linked the atrocities to the Balkans’ troubled history. “Developments of those earlier ages,” argued Kennan, “had the effect of thrusting into the Southeast European continent a salient of non-European civilization that has continued to preserve many of its non-European characteristics.”[3] Violent acts against others occurred among other Europeans, but were not nearly as common as in the Balkans. The main focus of the volume for which Kennan was writing his foreword was the Balkan wars of 1912-13. Regardless, Kennan justified the fact that his foreword dealt with the nineties because the West was dealing with “the same Balkan world”[4] that existed ninety years ago.

Another volume that reinforced negative stereotypes of the Balkans was Robert Kaplan’s Balkan Ghosts. The very title of the book alludes to the ancient hatreds that haunted the Balkan Peninsula like ghosts. Discussing the frequency and inevitability of the resurgence of violent ethnic hatreds, Kaplan came to a number of wild and disturbing conclusions about the Balkans. Perhaps the most preposterous of his claims was that Nazism and fascism have Yugoslav origins. “Nazism, for instance,” he wrote, “can claim Balkan origins. Among the flophouses of Vienna, a breeding ground of ethnic resentments so close to the southern Slavic world, Hitler learned how to hate so infectiously.”[5]

Some authors were quick to reject claims attributing the conflict in Yugoslavia to ancient hatreds and the participants’ tribalism and barbarity. Mark Mazower, among others, indicated that an effective case claiming an increased propensity for violence among inhabitants of the Balkans in comparison to other Europeans could not be made. To Mazower, “the wartime slave labor camp at Mathausen indicated that the Austrians did not have much to learn from the Bosnian Serbs about violence…It was, after all, neither the people of the Balkans nor their rulers that gave birth to the Gulag, the extermination camp or the Terror.”[6] A harsh criticism of those using primordialist arguments in their volumes about Yugoslavia also came from Maria Todorova’s Imagining the Balkans. Todorova argued that it would be better if the Yugoslav, not Balkan, crisis ceased to be explained in terms of Balkan ghosts, ancient Balkan enmities, primordial Balkan culture patterns and proverbial Balkan turmoil, and instead be approached with the same rational criteria that the West reserves for itself.”[7] Despite the important arguments writers like Mazower and Todorova were making, their explanations of the wars in Yugoslavia had several flaws. Even though they effectively discredited the primordialist view of the conflict, they advanced deficient theories of their own, which attributed the Yugoslav conflict to a handful of nationalist political and intellectual elites that led their politically inert followers into war.

Additionally, arguments like Todorova’s and Mazower’s appeared to fall on deaf ears and failed to diminish the popularity of volumes like Kaplan’s. Not only did Kaplan outsell any of the works discrediting him, he has since been hailed as a realist and held several positions within, and received numerous awards from, the United States government and armed forces. Prior to Bill Clinton’s decision to launch air-strikes on Yugoslavia, Clinton was asked whether he was aware of the history of the conflicts in the country. Clinton responded that he had familiarized himself by reading Kaplan’s Balkan Ghosts. An approach that once advocated non-intervention on the basis of inevitable ancient hatreds now ironically was being used to support the case for the aggressive bombardment of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

The scholars who rejected the predominant primordial explanation began to advocate a view that was perhaps more subtle than the primordialist one, but also oversimplified. This is evident from Mark Mazower’s conclusion in his The Balkans.

Ethnic cleansing…was not, then, the spontaneous eruption of primeval hatreds but the deliberate use of organized violence against civilians by paramilitary squads and army units; it represented the extreme force that was required by nationalists to break apart a society that was otherwise capable of ignoring the mundane fractures of class and ethnicity.[8]

The new approach implied that ordinary people joined the army and paramilitary units involuntarily and were coerced to commit war crimes. Stripping the average people of agency, the new approach denied the average Serb or Croat any involvement in the violent acts that many of them ultimately committed. Ignoring the inter-ethnic tensions that existed between average Serbs and Croats long before voicing them was acceptable in Titoist Yugoslavia, arguments like Mazower’s inhibited the study of the conflict at the popular level by ascribing all blame to nationalist elites.

Politicians and Intellectuals

When discussing the origins of the 1990s Serbo-Croatian conflicts, writers have a tendency to generalize about the roles of intellectuals. To lend credibility to their arguments, they primarily use the works of the Memorandum of the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences (Srpska Akademija Nauka i Umetnosti – SANU) and the writings and beliefs of Franjo Tuđman, a historian who became Croatia’s first democratically elected president. The authors have a tendency to connect inflammatory political speeches and actions to the work of the intellectuals, which leads to the conclusion that the works of academics sparked the process that was to culminate in a full-blown war with high civilian casualties. Misha Glenny, perhaps the best-known writer on the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s, repeatedly emphasizes the important role played by nationalist elites in Yugoslavia’s destruction. “Although nationalist politicians throughout Yugoslavia were constantly raising the stakes in their dangerous political game, they had not yet thrown their greatest asset [the people] into the pot.”[9] Arguments like Glenny’s deny any agency to the average people who eventually participated in the Serbo-Croatian war, and treat them as stakes, which nationalist elites could use and manipulate at their own will.

Western authors often deal with the manner in which Serbian and Croatian intellectuals used aspects of medieval history and World War II in order to alert the public about the plight of their given ethnic group at the hands of other groups. Portraying their respective ethnic group as victims, Serbian and Croatian academics legitimated and encouraged the eventual distribution of Yugoslavia into mono-ethnic states that were intolerant of outsiders. Some of what Western authors have to say about these intellectuals is legitimate. However, they often overstate their claims and ignore that many of the sentiments represented in academic works had been felt by large segments of the population long before the intellectuals had written anything down.

While some of the accusations against intellectual works may be accurate, the degree of causal importance that the authors impose on such works is exaggerated. The discussion of Yugoslav perceptions of World War II is overly concise and superficial. It fails to offer an operational causality for how the understanding of World War II fueled Serbian and Croatian nationalism. Ethnic tensions among Yugoslavia’s ethnic groups are for the most part portrayed as something imagined, and sometimes entirely invented and forced by nationalist thinkers and politicians on a society that was harmoniously multi-ethnic.

The Memorandum

The SANU Memorandum was leaked to the Belgrade daily Večernje Novosti on September 24, 1986 and met considerable controversy even before Western authors deemed it a chief cause of the conflicts that followed. The first half of the document is devoted exclusively to the failing Yugoslav economy. The second half deals with the alleged threat that Serbs, the only Yugoslav ethnic group that was dispersed across several Yugoslav republics and autonomous provinces, faced in a malfunctioning federal framework that granted republics the right to secede, and thus detach large groups of ethnic Serbs into independent states dominated by ethnic groups that had perpetrated aggressive and genocidal policies against the Serbs during World War II.[10] The groups most alarmed by the Memorandum were the Croats and Kosovo Albanians, who saw a threat in the centralizing reforms that the Memorandum was proposing. The initial Western impressions of the document, then, did not come from an objective translation but rather from the Memorandum’s alarmed opponents.

The Memorandum is by all means a nationalist document, which has many, if not all, of the negative characteristics that Western authors have attributed to it. However, these Western works often include many exaggerations about the Memorandum. Christina Morus is correct in noting that the Memorandum warns of an impending Serbian genocide.[11] However, her assertion that the Memorandum “advocated the forcible creation of an expanded Serbian state” is not what stands in the text.[12] At points, Morus directly quotes from the Memorandum, noting that it asks for “the granting of full national and cultural integrity to Serbs no matter where in the region they reside.[13] Eric Weitz refers to the same section of the Memorandum in his Century of Genocide. Like Morus, Weitz claims that the Memorandum, by requesting national and cultural integrity for Serbs, “was a positive model for the Serbs as it allowed them to make a claim for the establishment of an exclusively Serbian state.”[14]

The faulty conclusions of Morus and Weitz are mild in comparison to some others. Diana Johnstone notes that an Albanian politician and writer, Besnik Mustafaj, warned of the prominence and popularity of the Memorandum by claiming that Ivo Andrić, the Croatian-born Nobel Prize winner who eventually identified himself with the Serbs, had signed the Memorandum. Such a rumor was accepted even though Andrić had died in 1975, nine years before the document was leaked.[15] “Before the text had been translated from Serbo-Croat,” argues Johnstone, “it was described repeatedly as a program to create a ‘Greater Serbia’ by means of ethnic cleansing” and thus comparable to Mein Kampf.[16] Another example she provides to support her claim about the exaggeration of the Memorandum’s message is an excerpt of the definition of the term “ethnic cleansing” from a French textbook for more advanced high-school students:

Ethnic cleansing: theory elaborated by members of the Serbian Academy of Sciences in Belgrade, which advocates ethnic homogenization of territories of former Yugoslavia inhabited by Serbs, by using terror to drive out the other populations in order to enable the final annexation of these territories by Serbia.[17]

While the Memorandum uses the term ethnic cleansing, it does not refer to Serbs engaging in ethnic cleansing. Vasilije Krestić, the alleged author of that section, uses the term, completely irresponsibly, to describe what was happening to the Serbs in Croatia and Kosovo. Krestić’s description of an orchestrated campaign to cleanse Serbs from Kosovo and Croatia in 1986 is highly exaggerated and perhaps intended to alarm Serbs living in the two regions. However, Krestić makes no claim that legitimates the ethnic homogenization of certain areas as the French textbook claims.

No one seeking to be taken seriously can claim, as some Serbian nationalists often do, that the Memorandum was an accurate political assessment of the economic, political and social situation in Yugoslavia. However, the problematic nature of the document does not justify the exaggeration of the Memorandum’s claims. The many misinterpretations of the document demonstrate how easy it is for Western authors to use certain sources to support claims they had reached long before they have grappled with the sources themselves.

Milošević and the Memorandum

The SANU Memorandum was a readily available source that Western authors could manipulate in order to advance their version concerning the story of Yugoslavia’s disintegration. Without adequate evidence, many sought to link the document with the politicians who would soon gain reputations as the nationalists and set in motion the destruction of Yugoslavia’s multiethnic federation. In doing so, they failed to recognize that Slobodan Milošević not only ignored, but actively condemned the Memorandum.

Agreeing with Sabrina Ramet’s claim that the Memorandum is a “Pandora’s box of Serbian nationalism,” Christina Morus claims that it is fair to consider the Memorandum a guiding document for the public declarations of Slobodan Milošević.[18] American-trained Croatian historian Ivo Banac declares that Milošević used the Memorandum to “awaken age-old Serbian dreams and myths about creating a larger Serbia and homogenizing it.”[19]

Such claims make for an original and interesting interpretation of the document, but they are problematic in light of the fact that Milošević and other politicians were far from praising the Memorandum. Ivan Stambolić, whom the West would eventually call a democratic alternative to Milošević, but was still a Serbian nationalist in the eyes of Yugoslavia’s non-Serbs, claimed the document was “Yugoslavia’s obituary.”[20] The inability of several of the authors to link the document to Milošević, the man who they believe used the Memorandum to create a nationalist program, leads them to deny that he had said anything about the matter. Misha Glenny faults Milošević for failing to speak out against the document, as many other leaders did.[21] Morus notes that Milošević said strategically little.[22]

The assertions made by some of the historians about the Memorandum indicate that many must have failed to read the actual text of the document. It would be difficult to deny that the Memorandum is an anti-communist piece of nationalist writing. As such, it launches numerous attacks on communist apparatchiks who used their public offices to advance themselves within the system, rather than helping the Serbian people. While it does not list too many names, the stereotype of the communist apparatchik has many characteristics that one could point out in the Slobodan Milošević of 1986. Why would Milošević use the Memorandum or even endorse it if it was out to depose members of the nomenklatura such as himself?

Claims that Milošević endorsed or “said strategically little” about the Memorandum seem ridiculous if one considers the speech Milošević gave once it was released:

The appearance of the Memorandum of the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences represents nothing else but the darkest of nationalism. It means the liquidation of the current socialist system of our country, that is the disintegration after which there is no survival for any nation or nationality …Tito’s brotherhood and unity …is the only basis on which Yugoslavia’s survival can be secured.[23]

This speech, given to a group of policemen, demonstrates that Milošević, at least initially, condemned the work of Serbia’s leading academics. Elements of the Memorandum can be found in Milošević’s speech at Kosovo Polje three years later. However, the attempt of the authors mentioned in this section to connect Milošević with the Memorandum in its early days by claiming that he endorsed, condoned or was suspiciously silent about the matter demonstrates the intent of the scholars who wish to emphasize the document’s importance. Their discussion of the Memorandum attempts to portray Milošević as being, at that time, in agreement with the intellectual rhetoric which he would later use to transform regular Serbs into nationalists willing to slaughter their non-Serb neighbors.

That Milošević and other politicians had the capacity to convert average people into angry nationalists is fed by the belief that Milošević was in full control once the Memorandum came out and was ready to use it to inflame passions on the 600th anniversary of the Serbian defeat at the Kosovo field. His two speeches at Kosovo have allowed writers to portray him as the creator of Serbian nationalism. However, if the circumstances of the Kosovo speeches in 1987 and 1989 are considered thoroughly, the nationalist rhetoric Milošević displayed was mild in comparison to what the crowds of disenchanted Kosovo Serbs felt and wanted to hear. It is therefore no surprise that once Milošević concluded his speech on the 24th of April 1987, the crowd remained unsatisfied and spent the rest of the evening hurling rocks at and clashing with riot police. To portray Milošević and other politicians as responsible for unleashing nationalism upon the people of Yugoslavia is inaccurate. Milošević’s speeches grew more nationalistic with time. However, they were always more moderate than what the crowds wanted and expected. Therefore, the crowds did not grow more nationalist upon Milošević’s behest. Rather, his speeches grew more inflammatory in order to meet the demands of his audiences.

Franjo Tuđman’s Nationalism

Among the chief accusations that Western writers place on Serbian and Croatian intellectuals is that they attempted to revive ethnically exclusive World War II regimes and thus forced a populace that had been loyal to the Titoist concept of “brotherhood and unity” among Yugoslavia’s different ethnic and religious groups to adopt ideologies that demanded homogenous nation-states. A particularly easy target for such an accusation is the first Croatian president, Franjo Tuđman, as he was both a scholar and a politician. Many of his statements were taken out of context, first by the Serbian media and leadership, and then by global journalists who sought to find a Croatian counterpart to the Milošević and the intellectuals that had written the Memorandum. Tuđman had gained the reputation of a Holocaust denier largely because he in many ways was. He made numerous statements radically diminishing the numbers of Serbian victims in Croatian death camps from the official count by as many as ninety percent. A number of anti-Semitic comments, including one in which he claimed he was glad his wife was neither Serbian nor Jewish, confirmed this reputation. Tuđman had also traveled extensively to visit several émigré Croats, who were anti-communists and, in many cases, supporters of the World War II Croatian collaborationist regime, the Ustaše. Many found Tuđman’s affiliation with the Ustaše émigrés reprehensible. While he never completely praised the Ustaše in all respects, one could see that he held a more sympathetic view of the regime in his Horrors of War and in numerous speeches he had given on the topic.

Regarded as a reborn fascist by Serbs throughout Yugoslavia, any statement Tuđman made on the topic was sensitive. While speaking in front of 2,500 delegates of his newly founded Croatian Democratic Union (Hrvatska Demokratska Zajednica – HDZ), Tuđman brought up the Ustaša regime noting that “[the Serbs] fail to see that the state was not the creation of fascist criminals, it also stood for the historic aspirations of the Croatian people for an independent state.”[24] The speech did not necessarily advocate the recreation of the Croatia from World War II and was intended to explore the absence of alternatives, during World War II, for Croats who wanted an independent state. The aforementioned section was immediately used by Serb propagandists as proof of Tuđman’s fascist allegiances. While the Western press did not give as much attention to Tuđman as to the Serbian Memorandum, they seized the opportunity to use his rhetoric as a valid cause of the events that were soon to follow.

Once Tuđman confirmed his reputation as a fascist sympathizer and Holocaust denier, it was easy to attribute many of the attacks that were being perpetrated on Serbian homes and businesses in the Croatian federal republic to him. As was the case in Serbia, blaming a charismatic politician for crimes that average Serbs and Croats were willingly committing against each other was more simple than searching through the complex relationship that the two ethnic groups had shared since the end of World War II.

Failing to Expose Causality

Despite the manner in which Western authors inflated the role of politicians and intellectuals in the conflict, the involvement of these elites has been difficult to prove. Franjo Tuđman died before he had the opportunity to be indicted for war crimes charges at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague. The case against Slobodan Milošević was problematic not only because he continuously stalled the Hague process by expressing his rejection of the court, but also because the prosecution failed effectively to demonstrate his operational involvement in the slaughters that occurred.

Perhaps the most evident failure of blaming intellectuals and politicians can be seen in the current trial of Vojislav Šešelj. Šešelj was the youngest person to earn a Ph.D. in former Yugoslavia and published a number of blatantly nationalistic works. In the early nineties he founded a political party, the Serbian Radical Party, that had until recently been the largest opposition party in Serbia. A violent nationalist, Šešelj made a number of inflammatory speeches in the late eighties and early nineties. In one of them, he went so far as to say that Serbian soldiers should kill Muslims and Croats with rusty spoons and knives, so they could blame the casualties on tetanus in case the international community expressed any concern. His rhetoric was many times more violent than those of either Tuđman or Milošević. Yet, despite his wildly violent and nationalist rants, the prosecution at The Hague has continued to fail in their attempt to expose Šešelj’s responsibility for the crimes that Serbs committed against Croatian civilians during the 1990s conflicts.[25]

Proving an intellectual’s or a politician’s guilt in a court of law may prove difficult due to the countless procedural regulations that complicate verdicts. Yet, the authors of Western volumes, despite the many liberties they take in their works, also offer largely unconvincing arguments. Some even fail to demonstrate a causal relationship between rhetoric and action, and hope that the reader will come it on their own. While their emphasis of the Memorandum and Tuđman’s works and speeches is overwhelming, most of the volumes do not attempt to explain exactly how such works led to the massive bloodshed.

Out of the works advancing the belief that intellectuals and politicians should be held accountable for the outbreak of war, the only scholar that attempts a coherent linkage between the two is Morus. Throughout her essay, she asserts that

The intellectual authority of prominent cultural intellectuals can affect a form of ‘cultural pedagogy’ that can essentially re-educate an audience through constitutive discourses that can re-articulate that audience’s identity, cultural framework, and historical references, and in doing so can normalize mass violence.[26]

Using the phrase “cultural pedagogy”, Morus attempts to illuminate a sort of discourse through which a culture’s prominent intellectuals use the influence they are afforded as cultural elites.[27] Her focus remains on the Memorandum. She claims that it laid down the themes that intellectual and cultural elites used to politicize Serbian identity and solidify the “imagined community”.[28] The intellectuals thus managed to eradicate a Yugoslav identity and normalize the interethnic hatred that allowed for the violence of the 1990s.[29]

Morus’ creative analysis encounters several problems. Like several other works, she assumes the prevalence of a Yugoslav identity prior to the outbreak of war. While there doubtless existed a common identity to which some adhered, statistics will show that the number of those who took part in a Yugoslav identity were insignificant. Yugoslav censuses show that the percentage of people who considered themselves Yugoslav and the incidence of mixed marriages were for the most part confined to Yugoslavia’s larger urban centers and even in those cases were very limited. Morus, like the other authors, also overstates the popularity of the Memorandum and similar works of that nature. By vesting the Memorandum with such a degree of importance, Morus and others ignore the multitude of other factors that fueled Serbo-Croatian animosity.

However, the major problem evident in Morus’ piece is her claim that Serbian intellectuals, using the Memorandum, managed to turn a people that had been living in complete harmony with non-Serbs suddenly, against their neighbors. By reducing the violence to the discursive practices of a few intellectuals, Morus fails to engage the complex situation and provide a more balanced and complete view of it.

Given that Morus is the only author who attempts to prove the link between intellectuals, politicians and violence, her piece is superior to the ones that merely emphasize the importance of works such as the Memorandum without explaining their causal properties. Yet, Morus encounters the same problem as the other authors. By using terms such as cultural pedagogy, she strips her subjects of agency and portrays them as people who need only some basic prompting to begin committing atrocities against each other. While Morus would surely not subscribe to theories that define the Yugoslavs as inherently violent people bound to commit violent acts against each other, her conclusions about them is not much different. By implying that all that the Yugoslavs needed to begin killing each other were some instructions from political and intellectual elites, Morus denies her subjects the agency and decision-making abilities any twentieth century population should have.

The Influence of Theories about Nationalism

Considering the theoretical works on nationalism that were published prior to the outbreak of violence between Yugoslavia’s Serbs and Croats, one can see what influenced the authors dealing with Yugoslavia’s break-up to reduce the violence to the actions of intellectuals and politicians. Breaking with the primordialist belief in the antiquity and continuity of nations, the emergence of the nation came to be seen as a contemporary phenomenon as early as the nineteenth century. Anthony Smith chronicles the connection of nationalism to modernism in his Nationalism and Modernism. Giuseppe Mazzini, argues Smith, was among the first to argue that political action and popular mobilization were necessary to create a nation.[30] For Marx and Engels, nations and nationalism were necessary for the establishment of market capitalism by the bourgeoisie.[31] Bourgeois intellectuals, Marx argued, created and maintained the false idea of a nation to divide and divert the proletariat from overthrowing them. Smith also explains the work of Hans Kohn in and its impact in the study of nationalism. Writing in 1944, Hans Kohn emphasized the importance of the intelligentsia, and differentiated eastern and western nationalism according to the divergent approach of intellectuals in the East and West.[32] While Max Weber believed that intellectuals played a role in preserving the values of a given nation, his work largely emphasized the role of political action in the construction of nations.[33] The political dimensions of nationalism continue to be emphasized in the work of Weber’s followers.

The emphasis that scholars placed on the role of politicians and intellectuals escalated after World War II. A follower of Weber, Ernest Gellner maintained in his Nations and Nationalism that the intelligentsia articulated a high culture, which was eventually spread to the masses through public education systems. The public education systems had to sustain the high culture in order to meet the demands of what Gellner called industrialism.[34] While the intelligentsia became less important once a nation-state was formed, their innovations were maintained by the “mass education system.”[35] A similar view is supported by sociologist Anthony Giddens, who argues that nationalism works to reinforce the modern nation-state.[36] Another sociologist, Michael Mann, adopts a similar position and emphasizes how important military factors are in the emergence of modern nationalism.[37] While the three theorists acknowledge the importance of the intelligentsia for nationalism, their emphasis lies on politics and institutions. Yet, like theories highlighting the role of intellectuals, they also restrict the role average people play in nationalism.

Smith emphasizes the importance a number of prominent scholars give the intelligentsia in the creation of nationalism. Intellectuals play a central role in the work of Tom Nairn. The role of the intelligentsia, Nairn believes, is to construct a national culture and mobilize the masses with language, customs and myths.[38] Miroslav Hroch’s work on nationalism also relies heavily on the work of intellectuals. In Hroch’s Phase A, a small circle of intellectuals rediscovers the nations. Later, in Phase B, these so-called agitator-professionals politicize and spread nationalist culture to the masses.[39] Elie Kedourie is another scholar who highlights the significance of nationalist intellectuals. He provides the example of Adamantios Korais, a nineteenth-century Greek scholar who attempted to draw parallels between ancient Greeks and the Greeks of the nineteenth century.[40] It is the intellectuals, argues Kedourie, who articulate and help organize fundamental popular sentiments. Using pre-existing symbols, the nationalist intellectuals draw their vision of the nation according to contemporary needs.

While Anthony D. Smith is critical of treating nations and nationalism as social constructs that were invented and imposed on the masses, even he agrees with the impact that intellectual elites have had on the birth and spread of nationalism. Smith notes that intellectuals are the first to propose the category of the nation and to endow it with significance. “It is their imagination and understanding that gives the nation its contours and much of its emotional content. Through their images and symbols, they portray and re-present to the others the significance and distinctiveness of the nation.”[41] Yet, Smith opposes the belief that intellectuals, politicians or institutions have the capacity to generate national culture from a few fragments of historical information and impose it on a population. Arguing that a new culture cannot be created and spread easily, Smith writes that the agendas of nationalist scholars and leaders succeed because their “myths, values and memories have resonance because they are founded on the living traditions of the people.”[42]

Excluding the masses from the evolution of nationalism inhibits a complete understanding of the phenomenon. While theories recognizing the centrality of intellectual and political elites have almost put an end to outdated primordial theories of nationalism, they continue neglect the role of average people by stripping them of agency and leaving them at the mercy of intellectuals and political leaders. As Smith notes, non-intellectual strata can reshape nationalist ideology in their own image. “The most articulate sections of the artisans, clerks, workers and peasants carry through their inherited fund of symbols, memories, myths and traditions, a set of attitudes, perceptions and sentiments and reshape the messages of the nationalist elites.”[43] Thus, omitting the role of non-elite strata will result in a faulty view of nationalism as a whole.

As Smith has pointed out, theories of nationalism pose several problems even when they are applied to the historical period for which their creators intended them. If they are not fully compatible with the eighteenth and nineteenth century, for which they were developed, it seems almost useless to impose these theories on the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s, as many writers on the topic have done. Eric Weitz does so by claiming that the Memorandum presented “a strong nineteenth-century nationalism played for late-twentieth century audiences.”[44] By attempting to project the values and occurrences of past centuries on a contemporary situation, Weitz, among others, fails to examine other sources of violent nationalism in Yugoslavia. Thus, rather than researching and reaching conclusions of their own, authors on the Yugoslav conflict failed to explain the violence as they attempted to mold the most recent conflict to fit theories of nationalism that were developed for previous centuries.

Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities and Eric J. Hobsbawm’s Nations and Nationalism since 1789 are quite possibly the most widely read volumes on nationalism. The two works surely influenced some of the works that attributed the Yugoslav war to nationalist political leaders and intellectuals. Even though the two works maintain that nationalism was most probably generated from above, both warn against reducing nationalism solely to intellectuals and political elites in power.

Hobsbawm, like many other theorists, notes that nationalism was created from above. For Southeastern Europe, Hobsbawm highlights the role of Vuk Karadžić, who played a crucial role in the formation of the Serbian nation by constructing and codifying the štokavian dialect.[45] It is perhaps due to the importance that Hobsbawm grants to the intellectual and political elites in the construction of nationalism in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries that the writers on Yugoslavia, whose volumes may have been influenced by Hobsbawm’s work, appear to ignore the emphasis that Hobsbawm grants to nationalism at the popular level in the latter part of Nations and Nationalism.

“While governments were plainly engaged in conscious and deliberate ideological engineering, it would be a mistake to see these exercises as pure manipulation from above,” argues Hobsbawm.[46] After 1870, according to Hobsbawm, nationalism took on a popular character and the governments that had democratized nationalism no longer controlled the phenomenon, often becoming prisoners of this so-called “populist-democratic nationalism”.[47] Hobsbawm, despite being a modernist, critiques Gellner’s theory of nationalism, noting that Gellner’s perspective makes it difficult to analyze the nation from below.[48] Discovering the view from below, argues Hobsbawm, is extremely difficult and has often led researchers to “confuse editorials in newspapers with public opinion.”[49] In spite of the influence that Hobabawm may have had on the writers that analyzed Yugoslavia’s disintegration, it is obvious that many of them ignored Hobsbawm’s warnings and proceeded to exaggerate publications like the Memorandum, which came out in Belgrade’s evening newspaper, at the expense of other sources that could reveal information about nationalism among average Serbs and Croats.

While Hobsbawm warned about the impact that popular masses have on nationalist ideology, his volume failed to predict the nationalist outbreak that destroyed Yugoslavia. In editions of his Nations and Nationalism that were released after the Yugoslav wars, Hobsbawm’s assessment of the conflicts was problematic at the least. Regarding the manifestations of nationalist ideology in formerly communist states, Hobsbawm argued that such nationalism was merely unfinished business that did not deserve to be classified along with the historical nationalisms he chronicles in his book. A more thorough evaluation of Serbian and Croatian nationalism in the early 1990s will show that the popular chauvinism that emerged on both sides was led to consequences which cannot be dismissed as minor epiphenomena.

Even though Anderson is also clearly a modernist, he critiques Gellner for portraying nations as something completely fabricated.[50] For Anderson, nations are imagined. The imagining of the nation is conceived as a horizontal comradeship and is strong enough to make people kill and die for it.[51] What enabled the imagination of the nation, argues Anderson, was a change in “the modes of apprehending the world.”[52] Anderson devotes much attention to print-capitalism, which gave the “technical means for representing the kind of imagined community that is the nation”.[53] It is perhaps Anderson’s emphasis of printed media, most notably the novel and the newspaper, that led writers on Yugoslavia to focus so extensively on the works of nationalist intellectuals. However, unlike the writers who may have adopted his theory to explain Yugoslavia, Anderson does not restrict his spread of nationalism to the written word. Anderson extends his analysis to the cultural products of nationalism: poetry, prose, fiction, and music.[54] Discussing the performance of national anthems at certain events, Anderson highlights the “connective capacity of imagined sound,” which allows people entirely unknown to each other to sing the same verses.[55] He also describes the popular resonance among the Creole populations of Ultimo Adios, a song written by a Creole leader awaiting execution at the hands of the Spanish crown.[56]

Even though there may be numerous problems with some modernist arguments, ranging from Gellner’s to Anderson’s, a credible primordialist challenge to modernist explanations of nationalism cannot be made. Even Smith, known as the foremost critic of modernist theories, concedes that political and intellectual elites played a significant role in the proliferation of nationalism. He only asserts that they constructed the nation out of pre-existing elements. The primordial argument is now practiced among a small handful of scholars, many of them nationalists, and few of them taken seriously.

However, the notion that nationalism was most probably created from above during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in no way implies that nationalism continues to be cultivated by nationalist elites, as many of the writers on Yugoslavia have assumed. As several of the theorists of nationalism acknowledge, nationalism eventually became a popular phenomenon and deserves to be treated as such. While the analysis of nationalism from the bottom may be difficult, as Hobsbawm has noted, the songs that average people listened to and sang along with during a given period may be a good resource, which can help students of nationalism understand the way it functions at the popular level.

How to Re-evaluate the Serbo-Croatian Conflict

A better assessment of the historical circumstances that led to the wars of Yugoslav disintegration may be necessary for peace and reconciliation in a region where inter-ethnic hostilities are still very high. However, what steps can be taken for a more accurate account of the reasons for the Yugoslav wars? A first step is to stop describing the modern nation as something that is invented and can easily be disseminated among agency-less masses, as may have been possible during the eighteenth and nineteenth century. As Smith notes, the concept of the nation can no longer be regarded as an abstraction and an invention.[57] For those who claim membership to a certain nation, “the nation is also felt, and felt passionately, as something very real; a concrete community, in which we may find some assurance of our own identity.”[58] For a better understanding of the nationalisms that destroyed Yugoslavia in the 1990s, the belief that a group of intellectuals and politicians forced nationalism on the population overnight must be discredited. While such an approach has been helpful in analyzing the birth of nationalism in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, writers can no longer afford to apply a theoretical concepts developed for previous centuries to the 1990s.

An approach that may be helpful is the one developed by Walker Connor. Dealing with what he calls ethnonationalism, Connor notes that “it should always be remembered that ethnonationalism is a mass phenomenon, and keeping this in mind should counteract the tendency to overemphasize the role of elites as its impresarios.”[59] Such an approach is advocated by Connor’s onetime mentor, Smith. A top-down governmental and elite approach,” argues Smith, “needs to be complemented by a popular perspective from below.”[60] This is, precisely, the purpose of this paper. To omit the impact of the non-elite “is to miss the underlying drive of so many nationalisms and the source of their direction.”[61]

Assessing sources that reveal the motivations of average people is much more complicated than studying what the elites were doing during the period in question. Average people neither held public speeches in front of global news networks, nor did they publish volumes and memoranda that reflected their beliefs. Yet, the scarcity of sources that can reveal information about the feelings of regular people does not mean that such sources do not exist. An analysis of Serbian and Croatian songs can be an effective way to establish the causal relations between regular Serbs and Croats and the violence many perpetrated against each other; an endeavor that histories of Yugoslavia with excessive focus on nationalist intellectuals and politicians failed to complete.

Laura Mason’s Singing the French Revolution is a supreme example of a work that effectively uses lyrical sources from popular music to reveal the sentiments of average Frenchmen, from a variety of classes, during the French Revolution. In her introduction, Mason notes that singing “was a fluid and highly improvisational means of expression that moved easily between oral and print cultures.”[62] During the period Mason explores, new songs were composed by rhyming new verses to familiar tunes, allowing most people to create their own songs and voice opinions that otherwise may have remained unheard. “Easy composition made songs a timely means of communication, which, like newspapers and cheap engravings, were highly responsive to the movement of events.”[63]

Control over the meaning of a song was not limited to the composer or performer, as the audience also had a say. Audiences helped shape a song’s meaning by reacting to what was being sung in a variety of gestures, ranging from screams to applause.[64] People of all social backgrounds either composed their own songs, or reshaped those of others by mocking and distorting the lyrics of previously existing songs. Throughout the 1790s, argues Mason, songs were a great way to “express allegiance and engage in political debate.”[65] Through them, a freer sort of expression was allowed than through the more restricted arenas of theatrical and print culture.[66]

Mason argues that revolutionary political elites and legislators attempted to forge a unified revolutionary culture. However, she emphasizes that the populace was not excluded from the construction of culture and notes that revolutionary elites often appropriated popular practices and incorporated them into the culture they were attempting to spread.[67] Mason continues by explaining that the social and political tensions that lasted throughout the revolution ensured that it was impossible for legislators and politicians to develop a culture to which the populace would unquestioningly assimilate. Thus, the main goal of Mason’s work is to demonstrate that segments of the French citizenry not only appropriated the political culture, but contributed to its constitution.[68] Throughout the volume, Mason explores a wide range of popular songs and challenges approaches that impose excessive operational causality upon political elites. In doing so, for example, she shows that the Terror was not only something forced by the Committee of Public Safety, but, judging by some of the songs Mason presents about the guillotine, a period that much of the populace agreed with.[69]

The Singers that Destroyed Yugoslavia

Even though there was a myriad of village and small-town balladeers, both among the Serbs and Croats, who composed songs prior to and during the wars of the Yugoslav disintegration, it could not be said that everyone could, as is the case in Mason’s work on France, compose their own songs. An analysis of Serbian and Croatian songs whose popularity was restricted to certain areas would be an interesting project. However, songs with such a limited popularity were rarely recorded and only on a few occasions played for larger audiences. Even the more popular singers often played and performed certain songs that never made it onto tracks that were commercially distributed or ever known to a wider public. Therefore, many of the songs that brought the Serbs and Croats to war may be lost forever. Regardless of this limitation, the analysis of more popular singers and bands, who managed to release certain records and to distribute their best hits to a wider public, can at least be used to ascertain the beliefs of many Serbs and Croats prior to and during the war they engaged in against each other. Such an approach cannot guarantee to expose the beliefs of all Serbs or Croats. Certain segments of the population never participated in the nationalist fervor that was manifested at the concerts. However, the popularity of certain nationalist singers among regular Serbs and Croats indicates that a significant fraction of the population agreed with the virulently nationalistic lyrics displayed by the performers.

The most popular wartime singer from the Croatian side is Marko Perković. Born in 1966, Perković lived in his native village of Čavoglave until he finished the eighth grade. His high-school education was completed in the city of Split, where he completed a vocational school as a licensed waiter. After that, Perković returned to his native region to work as a waiter in various restaurants and bars in and around Čavoglave. In early 1991, Perković volunteered for the Croatian National Guard, better known as the Zenge after their acronym, ZNG (Zbor Narodne Garde). His 1991 hit song Čavoglave elevated him to superstar status in Croatia. Singing about the defense of his native village, Čavoglave, against Serbian aggression, Marko Perković earned his nickname Thompson, after his assault rifle, which he sings about firing in the song. Čavoglave became in many ways the official anthem of the Croatian military struggle. As Croatia took over Krajina in August of 1995, Thompson’s popularity declined, only to come back even stronger as average Croats used him as a mouthpiece to voice their objections against the left-wing Ivica Račan government, which many perceived as betraying the gains of the recently won war. Since then, he has recorded many of the songs that remained unrecorded throughout the war period and has enjoyed a popularity unparalleled by any other musical artist in Croatia.

The liberal journalist Boris Dežulović recounted his 1991 introduction to Thompson’s music in a recent article for BiH Dani. Dežulović recalls the first night that Thompson’s agent brought him to perform in Split.[70] Two weeks after Thompson’s debut in a larger venue, Dežulović claims that the young singer monopolized the time on all of Croatia’s wartime radio-stations.[71] Čavoglave was played repeatedly on a daily basis. To Dežulović’s surprise, Thompson soon eclipsed legends of Croatian music, such as Oliver Dragojević and Mišo Kovač. Early in 1992, Dežulović was surprised to see that only about 100 people had shown up to a Mišo Kovač concert he was attending. He then learned that the Kovač concert was so desolate because Thompson was making an appearance at a venue on the Bačvice beach on the other side of town.[72] Thompson’s 2002 album E, Moj Narode[73], featuring many songs he had composed and performed in the past decade, sold more copies than any album in Croatian history. The only album to have topped E, Moj Narode to date is the 2008 Druga Strana,[74] also by Thompson.[75] One of his more recent songs, Vjetre S Dinare,[76]was recently declared the best Croatian song of all time, even though it was composed in 1998.[77]

Even though Thompson regularly performs folk songs and incorporates folk instruments, such as the accordion and the shepherd’s flute, into his songs, the genre of his music is often described as Dinaric Rock. Boris Dežulović has explained the title by noting that Thompson incorporates the rural mood of the Dinaric Alps to the stronger tunes of 1970s English rock and roll.[78] During concerts, Thompson is dressed entirely in black. He begins every concert by stabbing a gigantic sword into a fake boulder. His concerts are frequented by people of different ages and social classes, many of whom bring World War II paraphernalia and chant fascist and ultra-nationalist slogans throughout the concerts’ duration. A highly controversial public figure in Europe, he has been accused of hate speech in his songs and is banned from performing in the Netherlands for that reason. A true testament to his popularity, despite the controversies surrounding Thompson, is that his concerts are consistently sold out. Since the conclusion of the war, Thompson has been the only musical artist who has even attempted to fill every seat in Croatia’s largest two venues, the Poljud football stadium in Split and the Maksimir in Zagreb.[79] In both cases, Thompson’s concerts were filled to capacity. By attracting a full house to stadiums that both the Hajduk Split and Dinamo Zagreb teams fail to fill on a regular basis, despite football’s unparalleled popularity among other sports in Croatia, Thompson has demonstrated his unmatched popularity.

Thompson’s Serbian counterpart, Mirko Pajčin, originates from the village of Gubin, which is located only thirty-one kilometers from Thompson’s native Čavoglave. Also born in 1966, Pajčin lived in Gubin until he was 15. He then moved to Belgrade, where he completed high school and became a qualified bus and tram operator.[80] After that he returned to Gubin, where he occasionally worked driving cargo trucks and singing at the local bars, restaurants and weddings. According to his own short biography, posted on his official website, Baja won a 1989 competition for amateur singers in the town of Livno, near Gubin.[81] His biography also claims that he wrote his first song as he was walking by the house of a Serbian royalist commander from World War II, Momčilo Đuić.[82] Adopting the stage name Baja Mali Knindža, or Baja, “the little man from Knin,” Pajčin’s first hits were devoted to the Serbian struggle for Krajina. Even though Baja has performed with famous Serbian rockers such as Bora Đorđević Čorba, his primary genre is Serbian folk.

While Baja’s popularity has waned since the Serbian defeat in 1995, he enjoyed an unmatched popularity among the Krajina Serbs prior to and during the war years. From 1991 to 1995, Baja released ten records. Tracking Baja’s record sales is extremely difficult as many were published in wartime circumstances, often by record companies that no longer exist. The extensive piracy that continues to be a problem in Serbia also prevents one from proving Baja’s widespread popularity during the wars. Even though other singers and groups existed throughout Krajina, none achieved Baja’s fame. While groups such as Jandrino Jato and Lepi Mića released songs that gained extensive popularity, neither became a household name in the manner that Baja has. The only song that rivalled any of Baja’s pieces among Krajina Serbs during the war was the 1995 Cry, Little Girl, Cry[83] by Boro Drljača, which described the Serbian departure from Krajina. It was later revealed that Baja had written the lyrics to Drljača’s song. Baja never performed in a venue as large as the stadiums that Thompson regularly fills. This can partially be attributed to the lack of any such venue in Krajina, as the population of its capital, Knin, was smaller than the capacity of the Poljud or Maksimir stadiums.

Nevertheless, Baja performed widely at smaller events throughout Krajina. In his online biography, he notes that he never sang at massive political rallies, as he generally distrusted politicians’ intentions and did not want to be affiliated with any particular leader. Claiming that his songs were for the people, not for the politicians, Baja notes that he preferred perfroming non-political events, such as the zbor. Every smaller town and larger village would have an annual zbor on the patron saint’s day of the particular place. These village parties were held on large fields and ranged in size, but the turnout at several more famous zbors, such as the St. Eijah gathering at Dunjak, were known to attract thousands of visitors. Large turnouts were especially true during the war years, as Krajina Serbs could no longer go to nearby Croatian cities such as Šibenik, Zadar and Karlovac for evening socializing and entertainment. It was at such parties that Baja would entertain the largest crowds with his nationalist songs. His performances were not limited to zbors, and he regularly toured Krajina and performed in whatever venues Krajina’s smaller towns and villages had to offer. As a variety of home-made videos circulating on the internet show, these events were always crowded.

A popular Serbian anecdote about Baja, the truth of which may easily be disputed, could be used be a further indicator of  Baja’s wartime popularity[84]. On New Year’s Eve of 1993, one of the higher-ranking members of Željko Ražnatović Arkan’s Serbian Volunteer Guard organization allegedly paid the popular Belgrade-based singer Snežana Babić, better known as Sneki, to entertain Krajina’s soldiers and volunteers in Slunj. After a few songs, word got out that Baja was visiting some relatives in one of the neighboring villages. A few of the soldiers drove to the house and demanded that Baja come entertain them for the evening. Upon his arrival at the barracks where the celebration was held, Sneki was whistled off the stage, despite her prewar popularity and the breast implants she had recently acquired, and Baja entertained the drunken soldiers for the remainder of the evening. While this anecdote, posted on Baja’s webpage, may not be entirely accurate, there is little doubt that by 1993 Baja had eclipsed singers like Sneki, who were once famous throughout Yugoslavia, in popularity among his Krajina Serb audiences.

Even though Baja and Thompson overtook famous singers in popularity, neither sought membership among the elite of Serbia’s and Croatia’s popular singers, often referred to as the estrada. Both Baja and Thompson continue to portray themselves as men of the people. After a short concert tour of a variety of Croatia’s fronts in 1992, Thompson insisted on returning to his military unit to participate in the conflicts. Even though Baja never took up arms, he also remained a man of the people. By now, Baja surely has amassed a fortune that could buy his family a residence in one of Belgrade’s most expensive areas. Yet, Baja continues to live in an impoverished Zemun neighborhood, among other Serbs who had fled Krajina in 1995 and settled there. On his official website, Baja notes that he has persistently rejected contracts from the Belgrade-based Grand production house, which virtually has a monopoly on all popular Serbian musicians. Baja is proud of his decision, despite the money he may be loosing by holding out, as he claims he will never become “Grand’s whore” and forever remain a singer for the narod, or people.[85]

Given that both Thompson and Baja continue to declare themselves as “the people’s singers,” it is fair to assume that they voiced and continue to voice the opinions of a large segment of the populations they claim to represent. Therefore, Baja and Thompson cannot be regarded as singers who sang on behalf of any elites to manipulate and mobilize the population for war. Rather, the two singers should be treated as mechanisms through which nationalist segments of the Serbian and Croatian populations voice their opinions. As such, an analysis of the songs by Baja and Thompson can reveal some details about the nationalisms that destroyed Yugoslavia at the popular level and thereby complement the numerous works devoted to explaining how Serbian and Croatian nationalism were spread from above.


[1] Mark Mazower, The Balkans: A Short History, (New York, NY: The Modern Library, 2002), 3. Mazower’s argument is an extension of the one developed by Maria Todorova in her Imagining the Balkans.

[2] John Keegan, “A Primitive Tribal Conflict only Anthropologists Can Understand,” Daily Telegraph, April 15 1993

[3] George Kennan, “Introduction,” in The Other Balkan Wars (Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1993), 13.

[4] ibid. 9.

[5] Robert Kaplan, Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History, (New York, NY: St Martin’s, 1993), xxiii.

[6] Mazower, The Balkans: A Short History, 108.

[7] Maria Todorova, Imagining the Balkans, (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1997), 186.

[8] Mazower, The Balkans: A Short History, 148.

[9] Misha Glenny, The Fall of Yugoslavia, (New York, NY: Penguin Books, 1992), 19.

[10] Anonymous, Nacrt Memoranduma Srpske Akademije Nauka i Umetnosti u Beogradu, (Canada: Serbian National Defense Edition, 1987)

[11] Christina Morus, “The SANU Memorandum: Intellectual Authority and the Constitution of an Exclusive Serbian “People”,” Communication and Critical Studies 4, no. 2 (2007): 141.

[12] ibid., 142.

[13] ibid., 148.

[14] Eric Weitz, Century of Genocide, (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003), 198.

[15] Diana Johnstone, Fool’s Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO and Western Delusions, (Monthly Review Press, 2002), 218.

[16] ibid., 215.

[17] Pierre Milza, Historie Terminale, (Paris, France: Hatier, 1993), 330.

[18] Christina Morus, “The SANU Memorandum: Intellectual Authority and the Constitution of and Exclusive Serbian “People”,” Communication and Critical Studies 4, no. 2 (2007): 143.

[19] Misha Glenny, The Balkans: Nationalism, War, and the Great Powers, 1804-1999, (New York, NY: Penguin Books, 1999), 112.

[20] Ivan Stambolić, Put u Bespuće, (Belgrade, Serbia: Bigz, 1995), 120. Stambolić had taken a stance against the Memorandum as portions of it were released in 1989. In Put u Bespuce, he recalls his objections to it.

[21] Misha Glenny, The Balkans: Nationalism, War, and the Great Powers, 1804-1999, (New York, NY: Penguin Books, 1999), 626.

[22] Morus, “The SANU Memorandum: Intellectual Authority and the Constitution of and Exclusive Serbian “People”,” Communication and Critical Studies 4, no. 2 (2007): 143..

[23] Judah, The Serbs : History, Myth, and the Destruction of Yugoslavia, 160.

[24] Laura Silber and Alan Little, Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation, (New York, NY: Penguin Books, 1997), 82.

[25] Marlise Simmons, “Another Serb Defendant Stays on his Best Bad Behavior,” New York Times, February 2 2004

[26] Morus, “The SANU Memorandum: Intellectual Authority and the Constitution of and Exclusive Serbian “People”,” Communication and Critical Studies 4, no. 2 (2007): 143.

[27] ibid, 159.

[28] ibid, 144.

[29] ibid, 144.

[30] Anthony D. Smith, Nationalism and Modernism: A critical survey of recent theories of nations and nationalism, 1ed. (New York, NY: Routledge, 1998), 33.

[31] ibid, 34.

[32] ibid, 16.

[33] ibid, 13.

[34] Ernest Gellner, Nations and Nationalism, 2ed. (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2006), 19.

[35] ibid., 21.

[36] Anthony D. Smith, Nationalism and Modernism, (New York, NY: Routledge, 1998), 71.

[37] ibid., 80.

[38] ibid., 49.

[39] ibid., 40.

[40] ibid., 100.

[41] ibid, 80.

[42] ibid, 43.

[43] ibid, 96.

[44] Eric Weitz, Century of Genocide, 201.

[45] E. J. Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780: Programme, Myth, Reality (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1990).

[46] ibid.

[47] ibid.

[48] ibid.

[49] ibid.

[50] Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, 1ed. (New York, NY: Verso, 1991), 6.

[51] ibid., 7.

[52] ibid., 22.

[53] ibid., 25.

[54] ibid., 141.

[55] ibid., 145.

[56] ibid., 142.

[57] Smith, Nationalism and Modernism, 96.

[58] Walker Connor, Ethnonationalism: The Quest For Understanding, (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University press, 1994), 140.

[59] Anthony D. Smith, Nationalism and Modernism: 85.

[60] ibid., 95.

[61] ibid., 96.

[62] Laura Mason, Singing the French Revolution: Popular Culture and Politics, 1787-1789, (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1996), 2.

[63] ibid., 2.

[64] ibid., 3.

[65] ibid., 4.

[66] ibid., 4.

[67] ibid., 5.

[68] ibid., 5.

[69] ibid., 107..

[70] Boris Dežulovic, “Split: Koncert za Juru i Bobana,” Bosanskohercegovacki Dani, September 20 2002, p. 1.

[71] ibid., p. 1.

[72] ibid.

[73] Oh My People. Translatd by Filip Erdeljac

[74] The Second Side. Translated by Filip Erdeljac

[75] “Narodna top lista,” in HDU [database online]. [cited 2009].  Available from http://hdu-toplista.com/index.php?what=izvodjaci&w=details&id=18.

[76] Wind from the Dinara. Translated by Filip Erdeljac

[77] Hrvoje Marjanović, “Hit nad Hitovima: Kako je Thompson postao ultimativni evergrin,” Index.hr, March 8 2009

[78] Dežulovic, Split: Koncert za Juru i Bobana,

[79] ibid.

[80] “Biografija,” in Baja Mali Knindža [database online]. [cited 2009].  Available from http://www.knindza.info/viewpage.php?page_id=18.

[81] ibid.

[82] ibid.

[83] Plači Mala Plači. Translated by Filip Erdeljac

[84] ibid.

[85] ibid.

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One response

25 08 2009
Christina Morus

An excellent analysis and critique, and thank you for your insights on my analysis of the SANU Memorandum. This was an early essay (from my dissertation) and I do agree with your critiques as I think about the region in a much more nuanced way now. Thanks again. -Christina

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