Prof. Dr. Mitja Velikonja

University of Ljubljana

Ways of Remembering
Yugoslavia: The Yugoslav
Rear-View Mirror


What you cannot take away from the oppressed is their memory, and the revolt of such people,
people with such memories, is only a scratch beneath the surface.


Howard Zinn, 1999: 413





Case study 3

In the following text I’ll try to do the impossible: review Yugoslavia from the perspective of “memory studies” -currently a very invigorating interdisciplinary branch at the productive intersection of historical anthropology, the sociology of time, cultural studies and transition studies. Already at the outset, one encounters a series of problems. Namely, which Yugoslavia to review: the Yugoslavia from the time of the Karadjordjević dynasty (1918-1941)1, Tito’s (1945-1991) or Milosević’s (1992-2006) Yugoslavia? Should all three be reviewed at once? What kind of memory will be considered: collective or personal? Cultural or political? Or memory based on memoirs – that much-loved but factually unreliable literary form? Will the subject-matter be based on official, that is, institutionalized memory, or unofficial, minority memory: established or subversive? Oral, written, recorded, engraved in monuments and memorials, or memory on the Internet, in the social media? Memory from first-hand or second-hand accounts or those passed-on, retrieved, “inherited”? And should these include the subjects of nostalgia and anti-nostalgia, bitter-sweet, heavy and traumatic memories? Retro and reproductive cultures, which in current cultural forms elicit traces of memory of previous times? Spontaneous amnesia or its opposite - contrived and systematic amnesia? Memories as a means of emancipation?

An answer to each of these questions would necessitate a broad and deep study of every question in its own right. The objective of this text however lies elsewhere: I will focus on the ways of remembering Yugoslavia that I have followed during decades spent studying the various views of its past. The main research question I pose here is what are the specifics of the ways of remembering a common Yugoslav past? Therefore I won’t tap into the memory of that time, as expressed in its artifacts, personalities, events, music, culture and the like. That would be too much, more than too much: thousands of hard-copy and millions of Internet pages have been written about them. Quite the opposite: I will ask how and in what specific ways ex-Yugoslavs, that is post-Yugoslavs, remember their former common country.

Specifics of the Yugoslavias

The geopolitical picture of the Balkans at the end of the 20th century is reminiscent of the one at its beginning: a conglomerate of small, mutually bickering, half-colonized independent states with huge territorial appetites, burek republics (akin in meaning to ‘banana republics’ but with a local pastry dish substituting for banana – explanation by trans.), as I contemptuously call them, politically and economically dependent on the Great Powers, so-called Allies. The Yugoslav intermezzo lasted for almost 90 years in the Balkans. The first Yugoslav state came about through a unification of the Kingdom of Serbia and the Kingdom of Montenegro with the southern parts of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, populated by southern Slavs, on December 1, 1918. Viewed from a somewhat longer-term perspective, it emerged from the ruins of two former powerful empires that had carved-up the Balkans for centuries – the Ottoman and the Austro-Hungarian empires. The unitary Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, renamed Yugoslavia in 1929, was destroyed and dismembered during World War II, only to re-emerge as a socialist federation and with some territorial gains in the west in its aftermath. It, too, brokeup in a series of wars, beginning in 1991, only to continue in its final form in the alliance of Serbia and Montenegro, also under the name of Yugoslavia from 1992 to 2003 when it changed its name to Serbia and Montenegro, which then continued until 2006 when these two republics, in an agreed separation, became independent states.

In order to understand more easily the specific ways of remembering Yugoslavia, I will quote several historical facts that have contributed to this specificity. First of all, all three Yugoslavias emerged as the consequence of wars in the region: World Wars I and II and the wars of the Nineties during its break-up. Therefore, all three had a powerful and dramatic beginning, always with Giraudoux-like “foundational violence” and the “sacrificial myth”, according to which there was only one truth – that of the victor. The three Yugoslavias did not emerge as the result of a considered and protracted process of association, but rather through deep fractures and historical contingencies in which certain pre-existing convergent tendencies and traditions of varied Yugoslav ideas were realized. Second, the internal and external changes were swift and deep: borders, symbols, political and economic systems, social structures, privileged / exploited classes, foreign policy alliances etc. were all subjected to change. In circumstances of perpetual change, the memory of everything previous also constantly changes. In western and northern Europe, the virtually unchanging state and political frameworks last for centuries – frequently with serious upheavals (civil wars, occupations, dethronements, revolutions etc.), but they are nevertheless more enduring than those on the territory of the former Yugoslavias. I can illustrate this with the example of my own family. Although residing virtually in the same place, each of the last five generations was born into a different country and a different political system, while the men bore the military insignia of five different armies.

Third, there is the position, mobility and uniqueness of the Yugoslavias. Because they were always “somewhere in between” (in between East and West, in between one or other political order, in between different geostrategic determinants and ‘independencies’), all three developed their own ideologies of uniqueness and exceptionality. The feeling that we are something special leaves, of course, strong memory traces for succeeding generations as well. Hence Tanja Zimmermann (2010: 181), who studies memory in the Balkans, speaks of the ambiguous image of the second Yugoslavia: there were “two (ideological) ways of reading (Yugoslavia): for the East, it was a socialist idyll, and for the West, a tourist paradise”. Literally, “the new continent,” in other words, “the third way.”

Fourth: all three Yugoslavias were the result of the simultaneous workings of internal and external factors. On the one hand, the very idea and ideology of Yugoslav-hood – cultural or political, integral or organic, unitary or multi-ethnic, centralist or federalist – has a long history with the South Slavic peoples that extends back to the 18th century and which, in the last century, because of the influence of different political factors, went through three state incarnations. Of the intrinsic factors, one cannot overlook those that pertain to the domain of international politics: the first Yugoslavia was part and parcel of the Versailles power structure; the second of that belonging to the Cold War, while the third belonged to a transitional power structure with its new divisions into a European center and its periphery. Furthermore, Yugoslavia was always comprehensively heterogonous: economically, socially, ethnically, culturally, linguistically, religiously, politically and historically. Inside its own borders, there was always the Other: during the period of joint life this Otherness was understood as an inspiring complementarity, while in the period of conflict it was an insurmountable opposite and primordial enmity. The fifth factor is modernization. The era of Yugoslavia overlapped with the era of modernization of the society within its borders: from the largely agrarian and pre-modern before unification to the post-industrial and post-modern at its dissolution. Especially during the second Yugoslavia there was a “radical emancipation” (Suvin, 2014: 314-345) of different groups within its borders – nations, classes, women and minorities – in the words of Ernst Bloch, there was a fulfillment of their “concrete utopias”. Be that as it may, the speed of social change, by definition, influences the process of memory –the faster everything in society changes, the more there is to remember.

Finally, I think it is important to separate the concept of the former Yugoslavia (or ex-Yugoslavia) from the concept of post-Yugoslavia. The first, more prevalent during the nineties in the frenzy of independence, democratization, market economy, human rights, national sovereignty and other transition ideologies and practices, represents angry attempts to sever all ties with the former state. Yugoslavia is (and was) the negative obsession of nationalists, just as socialism is (and was) the negative obsession of neo-liberals. Its name disappeared from the vocabulary and instead, at best, discursive euphemisms like before independence or in the former period were used. The concept of the former Yugoslavia represents a discursive and concrete institutional shift in the new dominant forces of the successor states by which they sought to wrench themselves from the heritage which was for them compromising.2 In other words, in their half-history it was as if Yugoslavia had never been.

The concept of post-Yugoslavia arose rather imperceptibly, and then gained increasing momentum during the more sober 2000s, when it became clear that the majority of unrealistic transitional promises and expectations had been betrayed. It represents a distinct continuation of identification with Yugoslavia coming from both within, from the successor states, but also from without, from international agents. In a positive but also negative sense, its past and legacy still equally influence, events in these states as it does their development, for they are after all still part of the Yugo-sphere, to use the term coined by Balkans expert Tim Judah (2009). It’s a matter of, to paraphrase, a continuation of Yugoslavia by other means. Yugoslavia is returning “through the back door”, naturally, under a different name: any other name except Yugoslavia is welcome. The best are, obviously, “neutral” geographical concepts: hence music programs named MTVAdria3, Western Balkans in diplomatic newspeak, and road maps4, X Factor Adria for talent shows5, the Adriatic Water-Polo League6, the Adriatic League in basketball7 (missing), Former Domestic as a label for music from Former Yugoslavia at music stands, and the list goes on. In that sense, Yugoslavia is very much alive: at a round table dubbed “Do you remember Yugoslavia?” in Belgrade in October 2010, author and essayist Miljenko Jergović (2010: 17) noted that, “what Yugoslavia was built upon, a common space made upof a certain kind of cultural identity, as well as similar historical and pre-historical experiences, has not only remained the same, but is again increasingly operating.”8 At the same event, cult Yugoslav film director Želimir Žilnik slam-dunked the same view with “ to my recollection, the previous cultural communication between Belgrade, Zagreb, Ljubljana, Sarajevo, Skopje and Podgorica was not that different from present-day communication. At the level of communication, things are perhaps even faster today and we are better informed than ever.”. To sum up: post-Yugoslavia is like a fate from which one cannot escape that easily.

Before I examinethe unique qualities of remembering Yugoslavia, it is necessary to give a few additional terminological and theoretical clarifications. According to that classic in the sociology field Maurice Halbwach, “to a large degree memory is a reconstruction of the past arrived at through data borrowed from the present, or through preconceived reconstruction or, furthermore, through reconstructions of earlier periods in which representations of the past have already undergone changes.”9 In the same vein, French sociologist Pierre Nora writes that memory “is always a current phenomenon, a connection between us and the eternal present”, while history on the other hand is a “representation of the past” (1989: 8).10 For the Serbian scholar Todor Kuljić, collective memory “to differing degrees permeates official memory, historiography and the memory of the ordinary individual”; it is “the process of remembering and forgetting by which we classify and organize our experience, our thoughts and our imaginationinto the dimensions of the past, present and future” (2011: 10, 13). For his Dutch colleague, Mieke Bal,the culture of memory is “an activity in the present by which the past is constantly modified and described anew and which continues to shape the future”. At the same time, she divides memory into non-reflective/spontaneous, narrative and traumatic (1999: vii, viii).

Personally I would define memory as the past useful to the present, which appears at different levels (personal, group), in different forms (spontaneous, institutionalized), in different mediums (oral, written, petrified, in national holidays and holiday-making, via symbols etc), and for different purposes (sentimental, subjective-escapist, or instrumental, functional). More than a recording of the past, it is a question of current narration: more than just inertia, but rather the creation of a past which will for certain of its bearers create certain effects in the present. Memory therefore is not a neutral, or just an abstract concept, but rather it is active, performing, and, as a rule, is a concrete cultural idea, social practice or political project. It is not a simple objective copy, but a selection of the past: not a reconstruction of the past but rather its deliberate construction, intended for the current aspirations of specific individuals and groups. Not only a thought or feeling about the past, but also its realization in a specific practice or artifact. Memory is narration, interaction, and communication. It is not only integrative on the inside and exclusive on the outside, but is primarily, phrased in an Althusserian way, the materialization of a specific historical ideology. Or more succinctly, there is no such thing as non/political memory. Memories of the past are part of the “regime of truth” of a certain society which is “already well along its way marching ‘towards truth’ – that is, a society that produces and distributes discourse in the function of truth, passing itself off as such and thus acquiring certain power” (Foucault, 1990: 112). Therefore, every society contains a hierarchy of remembering in relation to the balance of forces within it. Particular memories are not only different, but also socially relevant or “valuable” in different ways.

The division into official, that is institutional, and unofficial, that is spontaneous memory is of special interest and particularly pertinent for this discussion. The first I would call “hard” memory because it has been written down, printed, immortalized, sculpted, monumentalized, supported by decrees, romanticized, renewed in a network of museums, galleries, national collections, archives, school curriculums and textbooks, monuments, state symbols (seals, flags, currency), in the system of national holidays and commemorations, national mass media, the (re)naming of streets, institutions and awards, official historiography11 etc. In a word, it is found in hegemonic discourse and dominant institutions. These are the “supports of collective memory”, to borrow the apt metaphor of Slovenian ethnologist Božidar Ježernik (2013:9). On the other hand, the “soft” memories of groups and individuals remain not canonized, unwritten, hidden, introvert and they have their own mediums and channels of transmission that frequently act in opposition or as an alternative to the first.

Ways of Remembering Yugoslavia

More than the cultural expansiveness of memories of Yugoslavia I am interested in their ideological depth: the systemic, command-like, imposed and sanctioned ideological depth of official memory, as well as dissipated, heterogeneous and diversified individual memories. In my view, there were nine specific ways (of remembering the Yugoslavias), both during their existence and after their dissolution. There are many concrete examples for each of these ways and I will enumerate here only a few of the most typical for each and point to the most relevant literature, which reviews them in depth.

1. The Vocal Discontinuity of Memory

On the territory of Yugoslavia the 20th centurywas markedly, to use Hobsbawm’s phrase, an “age of extremes”. Dramatic political, military and social events contributed to the breaking up of straightforward and longitudinal collective memory. While in stable states with long-term political and social evolution collective memory can also be linear and develop cumulatively, in the case of Yugoslavia this wasn’t so: there is no longue durée of collective memory. Instead of a historical totality, radical cuts and new period classifications had to be made. The previous cultures of national memory in all three Yugoslavias merged into a single culture of trans-national pan-Yugoslav memory only to be “de-Yugoslavized” and broken up again into individual national memories from the end of the 1980s. Since in the hegemonic interpretation of history it appeared that everything had begun in 1918, or in 1941 (1943 or 1945), or in 1991, so the collective memory of the previous period was likewise deliberately silenced and expelled from public discourse and remained to linger mainly at the informal level. For example, the end of the second Yugoslavia brought with it the destruction of many monuments to the WW II so-called ‘National Liberation Struggle’ of Tito’s Partisans (NOB is the acronym used in Slavic languages – trans.): 3,000 of them disappeared on the territory of Croatia alone. There is also significance here in the practice of renaming streets: a cultural scholar from Banjaluka (in the Serbian part of Bosnia – trans.) Srdjan Sušnica (2015) demonstrated empirically and with precision the percentage of changes in the names of places and streets since 1992.12 National holidays: practically no one remembers – or is trying to reinstate – those belonging to the first Yugoslavia; the ones from the second Yugoslavia are remembered only by older generations and still celebrated only by those ‘Yugo-nostalgic’, while the national holidays from the third Yugoslavia never had time to take root.13

2. Joint and Simultaneously Separate Memory

In fairly recent studies on sexuality and youth, the phrase living together apart became accepted as signifying new forms of life relationships, both in terms of partnerships aswell as family, which are maintained from a distance. I will borrow this phrase and modify it into “parallel memory”, as a form of collective memory with significant internal distinctions, something we remember together apart. Modernization introduced pluralism into the sphere of memory, too. Parallel memory means that different memories peacefully coexist at best, are ignored in neutral instances, and conflict in confrontational instances. In ideologically and politically increasingly complex Yugoslav and post-Yugoslav societies there were and are parallel compositions of memory: between individual groups, like nations, but also within each ‘unit’ itself. For example, one-sided memories on issues from WW II are kept alive not only by veteran anti-fascist organizations, but also by their opponents, the different collaborationists: the New Slovenian Alliance, neo-Ustasha movements and various neo-Chetnik movements.14 Croatian anthropologist, Vjeran Pavlaković took the example of present-day commemorations of events from WW II to note that “commemorative culture is still incredibly politicized and divided in both the ethnic and ideological senses” (2012: 166, 167). So on the one hand, we encounter negative memories of socialist Yugoslavia for example, among others, as collected in the exhibit (later edited in book form) from Ljubljana called the Temna stran meseca (The Dark Side of the Moon) from 1998, or the exhibit (later also in book form) from Belgrade, In the Name of the People – Political Repression in Serbia 1944-1953 from 201415 and on the other, we have a whole series of books, which in a critical, and sometimes humorous, fashion review different aspects of life in socialist Yugoslavia.16

Drawing parallels and leveling out memories in the sense that the good is always mixed with the bad is frequently a deliberate strategy by official institutions. For example, this canbe seen in the fact that high-level political officials are given to laying wreaths, frequently within the same day, at the monuments of fallen Partisans as well as collaborationists, which is coupled with an appropriate balanced reporting of these events by the media; in the political statements they make, in different calls for reconciliation and the like. Giving equal weight in memory to the fascist and anti-fascist side renders historical fact relative and such practices are the first serious step towards revisionism.

3. Memory Wars

Like any other narrative form memory, too, is a matter of competition and antagonisms, that is, it poses the question of who remembers correctly. Confrontations of memories are very different: from those intimate and full of piety, to those in public, loud and full of rage. In the Balkan region the culture of memory “is characterized by synchronic coexistence, even rivalry of different national and transnational concepts” (Zimmermann, 2012: 16). In the hegemonic discourse of every Yugoslavia, or their successors, each of the previous Yugoslavias (and even more so the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires before them) was criminalized as the dungeon of nations, above and most of all, obviously, of our nation. I cannot remember a single positive word about the first Yugoslavia uttered by a politician of the second, nor about any of them by current politicians. Such are also the reconstructions of memory in different ideological institutions. School textbooks in the second Yugoslavia had very little to say about the first, just as present-day textbooks say very little about all the former Yugoslavia. The Belgrade historian Dubravka Stojanović writes about the “simmering fire of history textbooks as the source of (new) conflict” and using the example of Serbian history textbooks convincingly demonstrates the neglect and suppression of the Yugoslav dimensions of Serbian history with accompanying and inescapable national self-victimization and historical essentialism, the exclusion of problematic historical individuals and events, the militarization of history, ethnocentrism and xenophobia (2010: 85-158; see also Kuljić, 2011: 156-183).

On the other hand, the counter-memory of (individual) people is being soured by the new discursive uniformity of governing institutions. For George Lipsitz, a scholar of American popular culture memory, this kind of memory “is not a negation of history, but only the discarding of its false priorities and hierarchical divisions” (1997: 223).17 I will illustrate this with some data from public opinion research. According to research done by the Serbian public opinion survey agency Tvoj stav (Your view) from August 2010, 82.95% of Serbian citizens polled claimed that they lived well in the former Yugoslavia (only 17.05% thought the opposite): and 51,14% were for its renewal, while 48.86% were against.18 The Croatian Jutarnji list (Morning Paper)19 of June 25, 2011 reported how residents of the Western Balkans assessed their present living conditions: the conviction that in 2011 they were better off than in 1991 was expressed by 26.5% of the residents of Slovenia, 24.8% of Croatians, by 15.4% of people polled in Serbia, and 12.1% in Bosnia, while the distribution of those who thought they were worse off was: 68.6% of the residents polled in Serbia, 59.1% in Bosnia, 43.6% in Croatia and 38.6% in Slovenia. A survey of the residents of the Western Balkans born in 1971 and 1991 in autumn 2011 showed that, in their view, life would be better in a state that existed today, but was modeled after life in socialist Yugoslavia was held by 81% of those polled in Republika Srpska (Bosnia-Herzegovina), 69% of respondents in Serbia, 65% in Montenegro, 62% in Macedonia, 58% in the Federation of B-H, 30% in Croatia and 25% in Kosovo. The greatest cultural affinity (music, literature, art, entertainment) with other Western Balkan nations is felt in Kosovo (58%), in Macedonia (50%), in Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina and in Albania (between 44 and 39%), and the least is felt in Croatia (28%).20 In January 2015, in a survey conducted by the aforementioned Serbian agency, 64.81% of respondents chose Tito’s self-management socialism as the political system they would like to see in a possible future Yugoslavia.21 It is also interesting to note that according to a survey from February of the same year, more respondents who are citizens of Serbia knew the words of the socialist Yugoslav anthem better than the words of the Serbian anthem (81.3% compared to 68.29%), as well as knowing better the sequence of colors on the flag of socialist Yugoslavia than on the flag of the Republic of Serbia (83.7% compared to 80.49% ).22 The results of a survey, conducted amongst the citizens of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina in spring 2015 who were 45 years of age or older, in other words, those who had some kind of Yugoslav experience, are also indicative: 92% of those from Bosnia and 86% of those from Croatia claimed that life in the former socialist Yugoslavia was better than their present life. Tito was a positive historical figure for 65% of those polled in Bosnia and 40% of respondents from Croatia.23 In sum: the difference from the official memory of the Yugoslav reign of terror is more than striking.

4. The Dialectics of Remembering and Forgetting

Every politics of memory or remembering is also a politics of forgetting. The dynamics of changes in the region of Yugoslavia dictated a quickened dialectic of remembering and amnesia: as soon as something had to be remembered, something also had to be forgotten. This is the pendulum effect. At the time of Yugoslavia, one had to “officially” forget pro-Yugoslav, anti-Yugoslav or un-Yugoslav traditions, just as one had to “officially” forget Yugoslav traditions after the country’s dissolution. Older examples for this are the monuments to fallen soldiers. In the first Yugoslavia, the victors (Serbia and Montenegro) proudly established them, while the vanquished (the so-called Habsburg South Slavs) did not.

Current ruling policy in Croatia depends on amnesia, while in Serbia it takes the form of a contradictory mixture of amnesia and integration. This is the conclusion reached by anthropologist of the contemporary Balkans Stef Jansen (2005: 256); a similar combination of imposed official memory, partial lustration of cultural memory and deliberate amnesia can also be discerned in the other successor states. But compulsory amnesia dialectically swings back like a boomerang. The revenge of oppressed national memory cultures during the time of the Yugoslavias was obvious after their dissolution: both during World War II and during the wars of the Nineties. Suppressed and proscribed traumatic memory return with a vengeance: for this it is enough to recall examples in the memoir-type literature of obsession with Jasenovac (the infamous concentration camp in Croatia – trans.) and Bleiburg (the so-called ‘Bleiburg massacre’ events at the end of WW II – trans.), or with the assassinations of Stjepan Radić (Croatian MP in the parliament of the first Yugoslavia – trans.) and King Alexander I, the fates of Alojzije Stepinac (the Croatian cardinal during WW II – trans.) and Draža Mihajlović (leader of the Chetnik movement during WW II – trans.); with the liberation or occupation of 1918, 1941, 1945, and 1991 etc. In these upheavals of memoirs, former heroes become criminals – and vice versa, former villains become heroes, former achievements become delusions – and vice versa; the former state becomes a tyranny – and vice versa. Slovenian national television is currently broadcasting a series of talks on the suffering of Slovenes at the hands of the Partisans and later, during socialist Yugoslavia, called Witnesses, whose format and discourse is reminiscent of radio talk shows from the seventies titled Do You Remember, Comrades? which did the reverse – celebrated the Partisans and the post-war political system.

5. The Uses of Memory

The instrumentalization of memory is the systematic use of memory to achieve certain precisely defined objectives in the present – objectives that can be political, commercial, pop-cultural and so forth. In short, the past sells. In the case of Yugoslavia, this takes place in different ways. For example, in politics. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, wings have been added to museum collections dedicated to the memory of the Partisan struggle which this struggle connects to that during the Bosnian War from 1992-1995. In Republika Srpska, the Serb entity in Bosnia, Partisan resistance is linked to resistance against the Bosniak-Croatian side during the last war, while in the Federation of B-H the Partisan struggle is tied to resistance against the Serbian side during the last war. The revisionist mantra of veteran organizations in Slovenia is that without the Partisan movement an independent Slovenia would not have been possible. Things are similar in Macedonia - where continuity between the resistance of the 1903 Kruševo Republic has been established with the Partisan resistance 40 years later. Croatian presidents Stjepan Mesić and Ivo Josipović have tried to connect “the multi-ethnic anti-Fascism of the 1940s to the ethno-centric and chauvinist Homeland War of the 1990s as having the same liberating character and as two equally important pillars of Croatian statehood” (Kuljić, 2011: 84). In pop culture, memories of Yugoslavia in the form of Yugo-Rock or Yugo-Pop melodies are present in oldies-goldies bands and certain performers (Zdravko Colić, Neda Ukraden, Novi Fosili (New Fossils), Zabranjeno Pušenje (No Smoking etc.), as well as in Yugo-Nostalgic bands (Rock Partyzans, Zaklonišće prepeva (Singing Shelter etc.). In advertising, the rare surviving Yugoslav trademarks and products, like Životinjsko carstvo (Animal Kingdom -chocolates – trans.), Vegeta (all purpose seasoning or spice – trans.), Gorenje (kitchen appliances – trans.), Cedevita (fizzy vitamin supplement – trans.) or Domačica (Housewife) biscuits, had have great success in selling memories of past times. Kokta (a Yugoslav brand of cola – trans.) is thus still the drink of our and your youth. In all the large supermarket chains like Lidl, Hofer, Interspar and Mercator these products are part of sales drives called Nostalgia Week. In design, memories of socialist-style design is at the core of new retro-cultures and vintage styles. In these products we find the aesthetics of Borosana shoes (originallya brand of women’s working shoes that symbolized working women and gained a special place in the urban lexicon of socialist Yugoslavia – trans.), Toper and Rasice winter wear (Slovenian sportswear made in socialist Yugoslavia – trans.), Tomos (Slovenian motor company – trans.) mopeds, the Yugoslav tiny version of Fiat popularly called Fića, parts of JNA (the Yugoslav military – trans.) uniforms and many other things.

6. One History, Many Memories

One the one hand, historiography, says Slovenian sociologist Rastko Močnik (2008: 46), frequently falls into “retroactive legitimizing”. In this respect it is of interest to compare permanent exhibits in the main historical museums in the post-Yugoslav capitals, what one might call the canonized memory of the successor states, that is, examples of how “historicism paints an ‘eternal’ picture of the past” (Benjamin, 1998: 223). Belgrade student of Yugo-nostalgia Milica Popović (2016),in her comparative study of the historical museums in Belgrade, Zagreb and Ljubljana, convincingly shows that the Museum of Yugoslav History (in Belgrade) continues to cultivate the memory of the former state, both with its permanent exhibit and its occasional exhibitions; the Croatian Historical Museum (in Zagreb) and the Museum of Modern History in Ljubljana, on the other hand, have to a large degree distanced themselves from the Yugoslav past and are, in effect, national museums proper.24 The Sarajevo Historical Museum of Bosnia-Herzegovina does not have a permanent exhibit that covers the Yugoslav decades, but only sections covering the last two wars, in other words, the years 1992-1995 and 1941-1945. According to the fairly well-balanced permanent exhibit of the State Museum of Montenegro in Cetinje, in 1918 Montenegro lost its state identity, in 1945 it completed the process of renewing its state identity in the period between the two world wars, while in 1992, through a referendum, it opted for life in a joint state with Serbia. The most revisionist (and in its very display the most grotesque) is without doubt the newly-opened (in 2011) Museum of the Macedonian Struggle for Sovereignty and Independence, which portrays the Yugoslav period as the most difficult in the history of the Macedonian nation.25 In conclusion - national memory seen through the institution of museums has been, since the 1990s, more or less completely “de-Yugoslavized”.

On the other hand, according to the view of the American scholar of holocaust memory Michael Rothberg (2009: 12), “multidirectional memory assumes that collective memory is partially free of the ballast of exclusive versions of collective identity and accepts that memory both intersects and connects different places across space, time and culture. The post-Yugoslav period is replete with examples of such trans-national memory, memory about the same past that is unorthodox and characterized by a non-exclusive pluralism and which can be seen in different media: in documentary films26, comedy series27, Yugo-nostalgic music28, in the theater29, and on television channels such as Klasik TV based in Zagreb, which broadcasts Yugoslav films and other similar programs, or Jugoton TV with ex-Yugoslav music. Today on the walls of buildings in cities from Vardar (Macedonia) to Triglav (Slovenia- trans.) we can find a plethora of Yugo-philic and Yugo-phobic graffiti and street art (Velikonja, 2016). Even if I turn around the focus of research and microscopically study the memories of individual people, I find a similar multi-directionality of memory and nostalgia, for example, amongst the users of social media and Internet discussion forums, on blogs and web pages. The same applies to memorial books, placed in museums showcasing events from World War II in different parts of the former Yugo.30

7. Nostalgia as Memory Minus Pain

The above is the shortest definition of nostalgia introduced in the mid-seventies by American columnist Herb Caen, to which I would add another: “retrospective utopia”. The narration of nostalgia is always anti-ethical (on one side is the ‘better yesterday’and on the other, the ‘uglier today’). Its diction is melancholy and bitter-sweet and its relationship towards the present is escapist (the intimate yearning for that which is gone), or critical and restitutional. Nostalgia is a romanticized story about an idealized past which as such never existed: about an idealized ‘us’ which we never were and about that past which had a future. Yet one should not overlook the social potential of nostalgia: it is not just a sentimental fairy tale by people who cannot make their peace with the present(the so-called transition losers, to cite the rough characterization of the anti-nostalgics), but possibly also a strong cultural and political force with practical effects in its environment.

Yugo-nostalgia appears regardless of, or precisely because of, the ethno-nationalist and neo-liberal damnatio memoriae in the successor states and is similar to the other red nostalgias that have surfaced since the nineties from the Baltic to the Balkans, and from the Czech Republic to the former Soviet republics. It is a kind of (non)reflective resistance – passive, sentimental, or active and loud – against, above all, systematic demonization or at least the deliberate amnesia of the Yugoslav era of the peoples concerned and also, against new tragedies, injustices and exploitation brought about by democracy, independence and a market economy. Jansen concludes that the main themes of Yugo-nostalgia are a common (pop)cultural space, that is, “home”, better times and normal life (2005: 223-250). It first appeared informally during the traumatic nineties, softly and covertly, at home and in closed groups, only to surface and during the last ten to fifteen years penetrate mainstream discourse, practice and institutions. But the characterization Yugo-nostalgic remains a usable curse word to signify left-wingers in current political conflicts.31

Today I find nostalgia for the Yugoslav past at every turn - in the media, in advertising, in consumer and popular culture, in tourism, in urban and even alternative culture. Yugo-nostalgics in the successor states, but also the diaspora32, are joining societies and clubs with the name Josip Broz Tito (in Bosnia-Herzegovina alone there are over 40); in Macedonia they even have a political party – The Alliance of Left-Wing Tito’s Forces. Again I will choose only a few from the many possible examples. Toponyms of Yugoslav memory, Pierre Nora’s lieux de memoire (places like Dedinje, Dražgoše, Tjentište, Brioni, Kumrovec, Jablanica etc.), as the “supreme embodiments of memorial consciousness which barely survived a historical period because it is no more call out to be remembered” (Ibid. 12) and have in recent years become profitable destinations for nostalgic pilgrimages. Furthermore, across the former Yugoslav republics several resounding and well-visited exhibitions are circulating which showcase everyday life, popular culture, fashion and sports of that time in an exceptionally favorable light. I will only mention that in 2013 an exhibition was first put on display in Belgrade under the noteworthy name Živio život (Living the Life); in Ljubljana (in its largest shopping and entertainment mall BTC City!) as An Exhibition of the Good Life from the ‘50s to the ‘90s, and a year later in Podgorica again under the name Living the Life (yet again in some shopping mall). At the end of 2014, a similar exhibition, first in Belgrade, then in Sarajevo and Ljubljana, was organized on the modernization of everyday life and leisure time in Yugoslavia under the name They Never Had It Better?

The survival of these nostalgic relics demonstrate two things: that Yugoslavia “was not only the sum of its constitutive national cultures, but rather that during the seventy years of its existence it managed to create a supra-national, common cultural layer of all Yugoslavs” (Milutinović 2013: 75). And that ‘Yugoslavhood’ in the sense of a specific cultural syncretism and a social cosmopolitanism of the nations and social groups living on its territory preceded Yugoslavia as a state, that is, as a political community; that it survived in that space in different forms over the years and that it even survived Yugoslavia after its dissolution in 1991 and, again, in 2006.

8. Cathartic Memory

In the politics of memory one always finds more guilt in others and what they did to us, rather than what we did to others. We are always the victims, never they. On the other hand, the memory of historical tragedies in which responsibility lies with members of one’s own group having wronged others can assist in reaching a more thoughtful attitudeto historical misconceptions and errors and also facilitate reconciliation with the other side. The Never Again! of memory can be equally cathartic and liberating towards the inside as it can towards the outside. Kuljić defines negative memory in the following way: “in question is the practice, which comes about only slowly and with much resistance, of creating social memory with the premise that memory can have humanistic and democratic consequences only if it also includes memory about the history of injustice and crime for which we are responsible or are at least accomplices” (2012: 223). This means that primarily one should remember the vanquished – about which, to take a Croatian example, historian Dragan Markovina (2015) writes so well.

Willy Brandt’s ‘Warsaw Genuflection’ in front of the monument to the Jewish victims of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1970 consolidated German negative memory of the barbarity of their Nazism. It is probably too early to expect similar sincere and mature gestures on the territory of the former Yugoslavia. Those that have occurred have frequently been merely symbolic, insufficient, misleading or made by former war-mongers.33 Nevertheless, there are some noteworthy examples: in the State Museum of Montenegro there is a photograph of Dubrovnik in flames from autumn 1991 with the acknowledgement that this act was committed by members of the regular forces of the JNA from Montenegro.34 The act that went furthest in this respect was probably the confession, apology and plea for forgiveness uttered by Alfred Pichler, the Roman-Catholic Bishop from Banjaluka in 1963, for the crimes committed by those who called themselves Catholics against Orthodox Christians simply because they were not Croats or Catholic.

For example, significantly more self-criticism - and the catharsis in collective memory connected with it - can be found in art and the so-called alternative scene than in the dominant institutions (the state, church, political parties and movements). For example, in film: even before the shaping of the most formative myth of the second Yugoslavia, the Partisan myth, and during its existence, one can discern clear diversity not only in genre and aesthetics, but also in ideology.35 Towards its end even more complex Partisan films were made,36 then films that critically treated difficult post-war events,37 or offered thoughtful and critical reflections on the Yugoslav socialist system,38 while the Nineties brought with them an about-face towards the other side.39 Furthermore, in the post-Yugoslav period, many initiatives and organizations appeared that nurtured the memory of, and warned against, the crimes by our side against others: from Helsinki Committees and Amnesty International, to pacifist and humanitarian groups that act in continuity or ad hoc, in different left-wing counter-cultural and counter-political groups. Here are some examples. In Serbia, ever since the time of the breakup of the Federation, the Women in Black group40 has been very active. Through its various activities it has confronted the domestic and wider public with crimes from the last wars, especially with crimes committed by the Serbian side and it continually advocates bringing to justice the perpetrators responsible and dignified commemoration for the victims. To this end, they participate in ahighlyvisible way in commemoration events in Vukovar, Srebrenica, Višegrad and elsewhere.

In Croatia, the Centar za ženske žrtve rata (Center for Female Victims of War) draws attention to military and patriarchal violence against women from the beginning of the nineties, while the pacifist organization Zamir (For Peace) has provided an anti-war platform for NGOs. During the past decade, a group of multi-media artists and theoreticians from different parts of the former Yugoslavia called Spomenik (Monument) have, with their performances, lectures and discussion panels, critically reviewed the recent wars, crimes against civilians and the general normalization of violence in the post-socialist transition in this part of the world. All together these present irritating, “overlooked” memories and therefore it is no surprise that they have been branded by militarist and nationalist circles as Yugo-nostalgics, secret police mafia (udbomafija), traitors, foreign mercenaries etc.

9. Engaged Memory

Official memory that is in the hands of the ruling group homogenizes the past, while unofficial memory pluralizes it; the first totalizes, the second diversifies and particularizes it; the first constructs a unified view towards the past, the second deconstructs it; the first orders and bans, the second resists. Unofficial, “heretical” memory can serve as a basis of resistance to the powers that be, it is – in the words of James C. Scott – the “weapon of the weak” because it resists historical revisionism, opportunism, conformism and amnesia which destroy the “historical continuum” (Benjamin, 1998: 223). Kuljić lucidly defines the critical culture of memory as that which “advocates investigation of the interest base of groups mediating the past (class, political, family and generation factors)” and for which “the key question is not what the remnants of the past tell us, but how these remnants are interpreted” (2012: 23; and more extensively 207-252).

In the post-Yugoslav context it is therefore not surprising that pictures, symbols and slogans from the old times constitute a mandatory part of the repertoire of different anti-regime demonstrations everywhere. Using the example of present-day Sarajevo, Alenka Baretulovič, an anthropologist from Ljubljana, has demonstrated that “memory of the (idealized) past has really served as a method of resistance” (2013: 221). The main protagonist of the Sarajevo protests of 2008 was no other than Valter, the protector of the city from World War II, popularized in the film and television series from the Seventies;41 his revival would protect the city from its final downfall (Ibid: 276, 277). At other, similar gatherings, and not only in Bosnia, demonstrators carried pictures of Tito or waved the flags of the second Yugoslavia or one of its socialist republics.

Memory for the Future

Research into collective memory has not as yet dealt sufficiently with its social foundations, ideological potentials and political consequences. Frequently, they are understood in a fashion that is too objectivist, in the sense of remembering the past – putting it in the words of von Ranke– the way it really was. One must, however, always be aware of the fact that the position of memory in time “is always in the present and not, according to a naïve epistemology, in the past” (Huyssen, 1995: 3). In the words of Stojanović (Ibid: 19), “’the politics of memory’ is therefore also a par excellence history of the present”. Memory speaks of the past precisely as much as the present allows it.

Mnemonic reconstructions, therefore, should be investigated not only from the perspective of the present, meaning who/what/ how and, primarily, why someone remembers, but above all from the aspect of social conflict. Put another way: not all memory is equally socially relevant and influential and cannot be investigated in the same way. Starting from Benjamin’s maxim that “the subject of historical knowledge is the very rebellion of the oppressed class” (Ibid. 221), one should ask not only what and who is remembered, but primarily what effect that memory has on a better present and a better future too (if any at all!) Does memory only reproduce what exists, aligning itself with it or does it also offer alternative and different visions? Here again, we can draw an important parallel with historiography as the “memory of the state”. Just as “critical historiography is productive to the extent to which it confronts us with discontinuities and internal paradoxes, acting as a bulwark against the myths of glorious history and the dogmas of antiquarian history” (Kuljić, 2012: 218, 219), and just as “a history that nurtures the memory of peoples’ rebellions also proposes new definitions of power” (Zinn, 1999: 610), so too is the active and critical memory of an oppressed group one which, instead of simply referring to the past, or even unreflectively recycling it, grabs it and uses it as a means of transformation for the better.

In the post-Yugoslav field, too, there are things to be remembered that have an emancipatingcharacter: the idea and practice of an autochthonous anti-Fascism (that is, a wider, rebellious, anti-imperialist tradition) and an equally autochthonoussocialist system, but, of course, in all their complexity, with the necessary criticism of their fallacies and errors. Memory of thesebrings into question and abolishes the monopoly of official historiography over the past, as well as the overviewof dominant politics over the present, from the position of those who have lost the most in the post-Yugoslav and post-socialist transition. This kind of memory is in contrast withthe “kitschification of memory culture”42 – in other words, the other side of the de-politicization of “Project Yugoslavia” through its commoditization, banalization, trivialization, romanticization, sentimentalism and its incorporation into tourism and consumerism. First, the Yugoslav idea “in the current circumstances represents a purely humanistic and anti-nationalist platform”, that frightens nationalists in all the successor states (Markovina, 2015: 130). Memory of the specific, Yugoslav brand of multi-culture undermines ethno-nationalist forms of provincialism. And second, memory of Yugoslavia affirms its fairly high degree of social justice, solidarity, security and social mobility, which to a great extent runs counter to the contemporary ideas and practices of neo-liberalism (in the circumstances of the post-Yugoslav space it might be more appropriate to talk about Manchester capitalism). In this sense, memory of Yugoslavia – anathematized by the present-day powers that be – is a subversive political activity that produces political consequences: destroys the monolith of official anti-Yugoslav memory, brings political imagination back into the game, that is, thinking about alternatives after the desolation of the new world order, after the self-styled end of history, after the end of ideology, after the end of society and finally after the end of Yugoslavia. I believe Yugoslavia should be remembered only to the degree that it also contained rebellion, modernization, emancipation and (the possibility of) an alternative, in other words, to the degree that it contained an effort to attain a more just future.

To return to the title of this text: the Yugoslav rear-view mirror should be turned forward.









Selected literature


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Bartulović, Alenka, “Nismo vaši!” – Antinacionalizem v povojnem Sarajevu (“We Are Not Yours” – Anti-nationalism in Post-war Sarajevo), Znanstvena založba Filozofske fakultete, Ljubljana, 2013.

Benjamin, Walter, Izbrani spisi (Selected Writings), Studia Humanitatis, Ljubljana, 1998.

Foucault, Michel, Michel Foucault: Politics, Philosophy, Culture: Interviews and Other Writings, 1977–1984, Routledge, London, 1990.

Hadžibulić, Sabina, Manić, Željka, My Life Abroad: The Nostalgia of Serbian Immigrants in the Nordic Countries, Crossing: Journal of Migration & Culture, Vol. 7, No. 1, pp. 97-114.

Halbwachs, Maurice, The Collective Memory, Harper Colophon Books; New York, Cambridge, Hagerstown, Philadelphia, San Francisco, London, Mexico City, Sao Paolo, Sydney, 1980.

Huyssen, Andreas, Twilight Memories – Marking Time in a Culture of Amnesia, Routledge; New York, London, 1995.

Hofman, Ana, Glasba, politika, afekt: novo življenje partizanskih pesmi v Sloveniji (Music, Politics, Emotion: New Life of Partizan Songs in Slovenia), Založba ZRC, Ljubljana, 2015.

Jansen, Stef, Antinacionalizam – Etnografija otpora u Beogradu i Zagrebu (Anti-nationalism – the Ethnography of Resistance in Belgrade and Zagreb), Biblioteka XX vek, Beograd, 2005.

Ježernik, Božidar, Politika praznovanja (Politics of National Holidays): In: Božidar Ježernik, Ingrid Slavec Gradišnik, Mitja Velikonja (Eds.), Politika praznovanja – Prazniki in oblikovanje skupnosti na Slovenskem (Politics of National Holidays – National Holidays and the Shaping of Communities in Slovenian), Znanstvena knjižnica Filozofske fakultete, Ljubljana, 2013, pp. 7-16.

Judah, Tim, Yugoslavia is Dead: Long Live the Yugosphere, LSE - Research on South Eastern Europe, London, 2009.

Kissinger, Henry, A World Restored: Metternich, Castlereagh and the Problems of Peace 1812-1822, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1973.

Kuljić, Todor, Sećanje na titoizam – Izmeðu diktata i otpora (Remembering Titoism – Between Dictate and Resistance), Čigoja štampa, Beograd, 2011.

Kuljić, Todor, Kultura spominjanja – Teoretske razlage uporabe preteklosti (Memory Culture – Theoretical Interpretations of the Uses of History), Znanstvena knjižnica Filozofske fakultete UL, Ljubljana, 2012.

Lipsitz, George, Time Passages – Collective Memory and American Popular Culture, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, London, 1997.

Markovina, Dragan, Povijest poraženih (History of the Vanquished), Naklada Jesenski i Turk, Zagreb, 2015.

Milutinović, Zoran, What Common Yugoslav Culture Was, and How Everybody Benefited from It: In: Radmila Gorup (Ed.), After Yugoslavia – The Cultural Spaces of a Vanished Land, Stanford University Press, Stanford, 2013, pp. 75-87.

Močnik, Rastko, Zgodovinopisje kot identitetna vednost: trije slovenski zgodovinarji o razbitju jugoslovanske federacije: In: Oddogodenje zgodovine - primer Jugoslavije (Historiography and Identity Information: Three Slovenian Historians on the Break-up of the Yugoslav Federation in Unmaking History – the Example of Yugoslavia), theme issue of Borec, Vol. LX, No. 648-651. Ljubljana, 2008, pp. 39-60.

Nora, Pierre, Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Mémoire, Representations, theme issue Memory and Counter-Memory, No. 26, 1989, pp. 7-24.

Pavičić, Jurica, Titoist Cathedrals: The Rise and Fall of Partisan Film: In: Gorana Ognjenović, Jasna Joželić, Titoism, Self-Determination, Nationalism, Cultural Memory (Volume Two, Tito’s Yugoslavia, Stories Untold), Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, 2016, pp. 37-65.

Pavlaković, Vjeran, Contested Pasts, Contested Red-Letter Days – Antifascist Commemorations and Ethnic Identities in Post-Communist Croatia: In: Ljiljana Šarić, Karen Gammelgaard, Kjetil Ra Hauge (Eds.), Transforming National Holidays – Identity Discourse in the West and South Slavic Countries, John Benjamins Publishing Company, Amsterdam/Philadelphia, 2012, pp. 149-169.

Popović, Milica, Exhibiting Yugoslavia, Družboslovne razprave, Vol. XXXII, No. 81. Ljubljana, 2016 pp. 7-24.

Rothberg, Michael, Multidirectional Memory – Remembering the Holocaust in the Age of Decolonization, Stanford University Press, Stanford, 2009.

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1 Ideological discourse as well as the titles of books and films are given in italics.




2 The Croatian Constitution even contains a provision banning the initiation of any proceedings “associating the Republic of Croatia into an alliance with other states in which such an association would result, or could result, in a renewal of the Yugoslav state union, or any Balkan state unions of whatever form.”




3 Since 2005 with coverage of all six former Yugoslav republics.

4 With an important distinction: diplomats take the Western Balkans to mean the states of former Yugoslavia minus Slovenia but plus Albania, while in road maps we find all seven successor states of the former Yugoslavia.

5 Since 2013 all the former republics except Slovenia.

6 Since 2008, at the beginning with the participation of Montenegrin, Croatian and Slovenian clubs.

7 Missing – about the Adriatic League in basketball

8 *




9 Put a different way, “memory is a representation sealed in other representations, a generic representation which has been transposed into the past” (Ibid: 71).

10 Also: memory “is in constant evolution, open to the dialectic of remembering and forgetting, unconscious of its many deformities, subject to manipulation and appropriation” while history is “reconstruction, always problematic and incomplete, that which is no longer” (Ibid).




11 “History is the memory of states” as Henry Kissinger phrased it once (1973: 331).




12 47.06 % of the street names in downtown Banja Luka were ‘Serbianized’, 30% in the suburbs, while in rural areas only 9.68 % of the place names were subjected to change. Before the Bosnian war, in downtown Banja Luka The distribution of ethnic names for streets was the ethnically neutral individuals, 28.1% after Serbian names, 21.2% after Muslim and 13.7 % after Croatian names. After the war, Serbian names were dominant with 69.4%, ethnically neutral names went down to 20.3%, Croatian to 3.2% and Bosnian-Muslim to 1.1%

13 A comparative review of their transformation during the period of transition is to be found in the work edited by Saric, Gamelgard, Ra Hauge (2012).

14 In this regard , it is worth mentioning the documentary film Happy Country (Sretna zemlja, Goran Dević, 2009)which concurrently follows a May pilgrimage of followers of the Ustasha movement to a commemoration in Bleiburg (Austria) and Tito-era-nostalgics to Kumrovec (Tito’s birthplace in Croatia) for a celebration of Tito’s birthday.

15 The first book was compiled and edited by Drago Jančar (Published by Zalozba Nova revija, Ljublana, 1998) and the second written by Srdjan Cvetković (Evro book, Beograd,

16 I will mention only a few: Iris Andrić, Vladimir Arsenijević, Djordje Matić (editors), Lexicon of YU Mythology (Leksikon Yu mitologije, Rende, Belgrade; Postscriptum, Zagreb, 2004); Renate Hansen Kokorus (ed.), Facing the Present: Transition in Post-Yugoslavia – The Artist’s View (Verlag dr. Kovac, Hamburg, 2014); Slavenka Drakulić, How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed (Norton, London, New York, 1992); Dejan Novačić, SFRY – My Country (SFRJ – Moja dežela, Orbis, Ljubljana, 2003); Lazar Džamić, Flower Shop in the House of Flowers – How We Adopted and Lived (the comic book) Alan Ford ( Cvjećarnica u Kući cveća – Kako smo usvojili i živeli Alana Forda, Naklada Jesenski i Turk, Zagreb; Heliks, Smederevo, 2012); Tanja Petrović, Jernej Mlekuz (ed.), Made in YU (Zalozba ZRC, Ljubljana, 2016) and Martin Pogačar, Little Fiat Across Yugoslavia – The Star of the Yugoslav CarIndustry on Roads and in Memory ( Fićko po Jugoslaviji – Zvezda domaćega avtomobilizma med cestama in spomini, Založba ZRC, Ljubljana, 2016).




17 Counter-memories “seek in the past hidden events excluded from the dominant narratives” and “look for a revision of existing narratives offering new perspectives on the past” (Ibid: 203, 214).

dMaf5fZx1hhhY8EMWdtN, retrieved December 25, 2015.

lista---20-godina-nakon-jugoslavije/955249/, retrieved December 25, 2015.

the-tale-of-two-generarions.html, retrieved December 26, 2015.

rVs2THlu1DWhQvOmZVkM, retrieved December 26, 2015.

22, retrieved December 25, 2015.

bih-slozne-u-sfrj-se-zivelo-bolje/, retrieved December 25, 2015.




24 The permanent exhibit in the latter, named Slovenians in the 20th Century, has, in my view, several serious shortcomings. The main billboard describes Slovenia’s entry into Yugoslavia (in 1918) as involuntary: The association into the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, on a platform of centralized government which ran against the dominant desires of the Slovenes, occurred on December 1, 1918. The already mentioned exhibit The Dark Side of the Moon has been partially incorporated into this collection. While this exhibit justly points out and criticizes the violence of the (Yugoslav) socialist system against its opponents, it nevertheless does so in a very crude and biased way (individual showpieces are signed with captions like Bolshevik Racism, or Party Paradise and Party Hell, or Rule of the Secret Political Police, it calls party officials red barons etc.). Slovenian industrial products of that time are dispersed in what is named as the industrial fertilizer, a photograph from the 1980s shows crowds in lines in front of stores, implying that shortages were widespread during the time of Socialist Yugoslavia. The period of independence, democratization and Europeanization is also showcased uncritically, there is strong adherence to the official interpretation of history without mention of newly- made errors and problems [like the rise of xenophobia, disintegration of the welfare state, misappropriation of former common property by tycoons, the new – to use the same word – barons, social and political unrest, the re-emergence of patriarchy, pauperization and exclusion (for example, there is no mention of the phenomenon of erased undesirable citizens or residents, discrimination against the Roma or members of other minorities, barbed wire against refugees in 2016, not to mention the under-representation of women)]. To sum up.the exhibit The Dark Side of the Moon is more an apologetic view of the present than a critical review of the past.

25 Its full name being the Museum of the Macedonian Struggle for Sovereignty and Independence – Museum of the VMRO – Museum of the Communist Regime Victims. In that sense, it is infamously similar to the Budapest House of Terror and the Communist Museum in Prague.

26 Noteworthy are the Serbian documentary and entertainment series SFRY For Beginners (screenplay by Radovan Kupres, from 2011 onwards), as well as documentary films In War and Revolution (Ana Bilankov, 2011) and My Yugoslavia (Miroslav Nikolić, 2004) about an imaginary “fourth Yugoslavia”.

27 A good example is the Croatian TV series Black and White World (Goran Kulenović, from 2015 on).

28 For the Slovenian example see Hofman, 2015 and Velikonja, 2013. I have ascertained that the most frequent memory narratives in this kind of musical production are antifascism, multiculturalism, social justice, Tito, solidarity and socialist easy living.

29 I mention here only the more significant plays: Lexicon of YU Mythology from Pula (Oliver Frljić, 2011), Yugoslavia, My Homeland from Ljubljana(Ivica Buljan, 2015), Born in Yu from Belgrade (Dino Mustafić, 2012) and Perica Jerkovič’s stand-up comedy from Ljubljana Born in Yugo (2009).

30 During my field research on the collective memory about Yugoslavia and of Yugo-nostalgia, I rummaged through some of these in the museums of that era in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia. Of the numerous records I have singled out only the most indicative: This should be preserved and never forgotten; Thank God someone has preserved these old memories so that future generations can see this as I have wonderful memories of SFRY! Good old times!And the life we had should never be forgotten.




31 It isinteresting to note that the concept of Yugo-nostalgia applies only to the second Yugoslavia and not to the first (or in the case of Serbia and Montenegro also not to the third). Kuljićcites the results of public opinion surveys in Serbia in 2010: to the question: “When was this country at its best?” 81% of respondents chose the socialist era, 6% chose the nineties and only 3% the period between the two World Wars i.e. the first Yugoslavia (2011:129).

32 For a study of cases of Yugo-nostalgia in the Diaspora see Hadžibulić, Manić, 2016.




33 In the summer of 2000,Montenegrin president Milo Djukanović apologized to the Croatians for the crimes committed against them; in 2003 Serbia-Montenegro president Svetozar Marović and in 2007 and 2010 Serbian president Boris Tadićapologized for the same crimes. To the Bosniaks apologies for crimes committed by the Serbian side against them were given by Serbian presidents Boris Tadić(2004) and Tomislav Nikolić(2013), while Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić apologized by laying flowers at the memorial complex of Potočari in 2015 (for the crimes in Srebrenica – trans.); and for the wrongful policies of Croatia against Bosnia-Herzegovina during the Nineties also Croatian president Ivo Josipović (2010). For crimes committed against them the Serbs received apologies from Croatian presidents Stipe Mesičin 2003 and Ivo Josipovićin 2010 (specifically for those committed in Paulin Dvor). A series of apologies for crimes committed by the Bosnian army against other nationalities were initiated by Bosnian president Alija Izetbegović(in May 2000) and repeated by member of the BH Presidency Bakir Izetbegović in 2010.

34 In the caption it reads that the attack (on Dubrovnik) was inflamed by serious manipulation in the public media; and that this attack was one of the darkest pages of Montenegrin history. Massacres in Bukovica and Štrpci are also mentioned.

35 Plenty has been written by scholars in the field: generally about Yugoslav Partisan films by Jurica Pavičić (2016) from Split, and, taking the example of 26 Slovenian Partisan films, by Peter Stanković (2005) from Ljubljana.

36 For example, See You In the Next War(Dovidjenja u sledecem ratu, Živojin Pavlović, 1980), or Silent Gunpowder (Gluvi barut, Bata Čengić, 1990).

37 For example, Red Boogie (Crveni bugi), or What A Girl (Šta ti je devojcica, Karpo Godina, 1982), Father Away On Business (Otac na službenom putu, Emir Kusturica, 1985), My Father, A Socialist Serf (Moj otac, socijalistički kulak, Matjaz Klopčič, 1987), or Tito and Me (Tito i ja, Goran Marković, 1992).

38 To mention only the films of Želimir Žilnik and Dušan Makavejev from the Sixties onwards.

39 For example the film Long Dark Night (Duga tamna noć, Anton Vrdoljak, 2004) and especially Fourth Layer (Četverored, Jakov Sedlar, 1999), the second half of which premiered on Croatian national television on the very eve of the 2000 election, with the intent to dissuade voters from voting for the Left.

40 Defining themselves as a women’s pacifist group with a feminist-antimilitaristic orientation.




41 Directed by Hajrudin Krvavec.




42 Something that has, in the context of American popular memory culture, been effectively demonstrated by New York cultural scholar Marita Sturken (2007).










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