Croatian writer Slavenka Drakulić, whose work for most of the past two-and-a-half decades has focused largely on the 1990s conflict in Yugoslavia, in conversation with Ángel Villarino in an interview for Spain’s El Confidencial (via Eurozine) on the rise of nationalism in Yugoslavia and any parallels in today’s crisis in Catalonia:

How was it at the very beginning? How did the situation start to become critical?

The media were crucial in this process of creating the enemy. My colleagues – journalists and writers, intellectuals and academics – were willing participants in the nationalist propaganda; they were either true believers or opportunists. You have to know that, learning from history, you must first identify the enemy. This is what nationalist propaganda is all about. It is easier if there is an historical enemy, if there were earlier conflicts that you can built on – like WWII in the case of Serbs and Croats. With the help of elements of history (‘ancient enemies’) plus myths and half-truths, you can create an explosive emotional mixture. Ideology, it seems, can overcome economic interest and reason. We all underestimate the power of emotions. At the bottom of these emotions is fear, fear that ‘the enemy’ would, in this case, take your territory. If the nationalist propaganda manages to create fear in people, then the main step towards the conflict is taken, the main obstacle overcome.

After the first bloodshed, the conflict becomes real. The smell of blood is the trigger for the real confrontation. But even that is not real war, because at the beginning the victims are few, so they are still individuals: we know their names. My definition of war is that it starts when there are so many victims that we no longer know their names. War starts when victims become anonymous.

Read the rest. The original interview in El Confidencial (08 Oct).


To delve further into Drakulić’s works, check out her 1993 collection of essays, ‘The Balkan Express‘, and her 1999 novel, ‘As If I Am Not There‘.


Tito and Pinochet: A Wholly Unscientific 12-Second Comparison of the Pop Culture Legacies of Two Dictators from the 1970s

Santiago, 18-Mar-2013

The full title of this aside: TITO AND PINOCHET: A WHOLLY UNSCIENTIFIC 12-SECOND COMPARISON OF THE POP CULTURE LEGACIES OF TWO DICTATORS FROM THE 1970s (and 1980s), ONE FROM THE LEFT AND ONE FROM THE RIGHT Two decades after Yugoslavia burst at the seams, the hip, pierced and tattooed crowd in Slovenia and other former… Continue reading Tito and Pinochet: A Wholly Unscientific 12-Second Comparison of the Pop Culture Legacies of Two Dictators from the 1970s

Yugoslav National Army illustrated postal stationery, circa 1978

These are six illustrated envelopes produced by the Yugoslav National Army (JNA) in the mid 1970s. I love this first one, portraying a cute red-capped blond temptress playfully hugging a tree while eying the soldier’s gun. All but one were sent to the same woman in Zagreb – I brushed out her name to save… Continue reading Yugoslav National Army illustrated postal stationery, circa 1978

Trebević Mountain Polka (Sarajevo notebook II).

[vimeo] Catching up on last month’s visit to Sarajevo, here’s a four-minute high speed stroll down the 1984 Olympic bobsled run on Trebević Mountain. Apologies for the bumpiness, but I imagine that an actual ride on a bobsled would be a bit bouncy too. Particularly these days when a machete would come in handy.… Continue reading Trebević Mountain Polka (Sarajevo notebook II).

Tito on Stamps

In my world, May 4 will always be associated with two things. In 1970, four students were killed and nine others wounded when the Ohio National Guard opened fire on demonstrators at Kent State University not too far from where I grew up. And in 1980, Tito, the president of the country in which I… Continue reading Tito on Stamps