I thought I’d end this blog’s excursion to the Balkans with one of the more hopeful stories to come out of the wars in the nineties.
Discussions of those wars – including my own – tend to refer to these conflicts as though they were all about ethnicity and/or religion. Yet for many people they were about political ideology.
In particular there were a significant group of Serbs who fought in the Bosnian army. At the start of the war as many as 1 in 8 members of the Bosnian army were Serbian. The most famous of these was Jovan Divjak, the General who was deputy commander of Bosnian forces and a key figure in organising the defence of Sarajevo.
In a talk he gave at the Festival of Ideas in Bristol, the journalist Ed Vulliamy described their motivation as ‘republican.’ They rejected the regimes of Milosevic and Karadzic as fascist, and were either liberals or communists who felt a multiethnic Bosnian was the best alternative to a multiethnic Yugoslavia.
Thus even in the worst sectarian conflicts there is the option to rise above it.