Author: Hrvoje Klasić

Yugoslavia from a historical perspective and perspective of research on Yugoslavia

The break-up of Yugoslavia and the wars that were waged on its territory stopped, or at least slowed down the continuation of such research. Under the impact of nationalism as the new dominant ideology, historiography also got a new ideological value. Insisting on topics that were not given (sufficient) attention in socialism was not problematic in itself. What was problematic was the way how they were approached and the way in which and the reason why some topics stopped being of interest. Historical revisionism, denial, selectivity and tendentiousness of approach and method have become the new and prevailing historiographic paradigm.

 

The recent publication of a book entitled ''A Historical Perspective of Yugoslavia'' constitutes the end of only a phase of a research project that has been ongoing over the past years and that gathers (mostly) historians from former Yugoslav countries. Of course, in this specific case, it is a project that was initiated by the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia, but the ''project'' of research, analysis and examination of various topics that have a common denominator – ''Yugoslavianism'' and ''Yugoslavia'', has not started several years ago or after the break-up of the country. On the contrary, the mentioned topics intrigued various profiles of researchers throughout the existence of Yugoslavia. Irrespective of the time or social and political circumstances and motives of such research, it is of great importance today and may in no case be neglected. What should be particularly emphasized is the fact that the so-called ''Yugoslavian experiment'' was of interest also for numerous foreign researchers, irrespectively of their economic and political background.

The break-up of Yugoslavia and the wars that were waged on its territory stopped, or at least slowed down the continuation of such research. Under the impact of nationalism as the new dominant ideology, historiography also got a new ideological value. Insisting on topics that were not devoted (sufficient) attention in socialism was not problematic in itself. What was problematic was the way how they were approached and the way in which and the reason why some topics stopped being of interest. Historical revisionism, denial, selectivity and tendentiousness of approach and method have become the new and prevailing historiographic paradigm.

 

Croatian historians succumbed to the atmosphere in which the recent past was seen through the daily political prism (or the prism of political machinations). In other words, Yugoslavia (whether during the monarchy or the period of socialism) is a country that has always represented a ''dungeon of peoples'' for Croats. Everything that was happening in Yugoslavia was to the detriment of Croats and no experience could be considered a positive one, because the negative ones were much more powerful. However, in spite of the prevailing ''Croatocentric'' narrative that was born at the beginning of 1990s, and in spite of the lack of funds that would support the research of ''Yugoslavian topics'', some Croatian historians, just as their colleagues in other former Yugoslav countries, started refusing to obey. Individual and group meetings, discussions, projects of interest and ''disobedient'' researchers started taking place. National researchers started participating in international projects. The result of this are publications that no society in general nor national historiographies looked benignly upon, as a contribution to a better understanding of the past. In spite of strong pressure and continuing lack of financial support, the very research and teaching about Yugoslavia from a historical perspective has become probably one of the best organised and designed ''projects'' that connects historians, ethnologists, sociologists, political scientists and other interested experts from countries that used to be part of the common state, which disappeared in the meantime.

The project, which resulted in the book ''A Historical Perspective of Yugoslavia'', as well as the website on which papers that were not included in the book were published, constitutes one of the largest projects about this topic in terms of the number of collaborators and their works. The fact that the mentioned book and portal are at the same time an excellent source of information, inspiration, motivation and a starting point for new research and new projects due to the comprehensiveness of the topics, quality of work, interdisciplinary nature and multiperspectivity, is of particular importance.

 

 Hrvoje Klasić, D.Sc.

Department of History, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Zagreb

  

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