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February 11 2014

Prisoners Lists Stir Informbiro Memories in Former Yugoslav Republics

The recent publishing of lists of prisoners of Goli Otok, victims of communist purges in Yugoslavia from 1949 to 1956, has reignited dormant debates and opened some old wounds, across all the former Yugoslav republics.

Goli Otok is a Croatian island that was used as a prison camp during the so-called “Informbiro era” – the post-World War II breakdown between the communist leaderships of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union. For many Yugoslavs, “Tito's historical ‘No!’ to Stalin” was a source of pride, especially because it solidified their country's role as an intermediary between the Western and Eastern Bloc. The purges that were part of the clash officially included persecution of alleged “pro-Soviet communists”. According to the victims and dissidents of the time, this was often just an excuse by the country's power-mongers to get rid of anyone they disliked for any reason and, thus, people of many other political affiliations were sent to the notorious camp.

Prison area of Goli Otok. Photo by Wikipedia (CC BY-SA).

Abandoned prison area of Goli Otok. Photo by Wikipedia (CC BY-SA).

During the last two months of 2013, Croatian portal Novi Plamen (New Flame) published two lists compiled by UDBA (Yugoslav State Security Service) from the State Archive of Croatia – the list of the 413 people [hr] who died in the camps, and the list of all 16,101 prisoners [hr] who had served sentences there. The second link spread widely through social networks and then through news portals in all six former Yugoslav republics.

Scan of the second page of Goli Otok prisoner list, displaying names, birthdates and codes for municipality, ethnicity, type of crime, dates of start and end of emprisonment... Published by Novi Plamen.

Scan of the second page of Goli Otok prisoner list, displaying names, birthdates and codes for municipality, ethnicity, type of crime, dates of start and end of emprisonment… Published by Novi Plamen.

Slovenian right-wing blogger Pavel noted [si] that the publishing of the lists coincided with the recent December 9, 2013, death of Jovo Kapičić [sr], who had allegedly been the man in charge of Goli Otok. In an August 2013 interview, Kapičić, a Serb, claimed [sr] that the Serbs had made up the majority of prisoners at the camp.

Twitter user ‏@flusteredcooler from Montenegro commented on this issue as well and, while people from all of the former Yugoslav republics often claim that their nationals made up the majority of those sentenced to serve time at Goli Otok, he noticed:

Legend says that most of the population of Goli Otok consisted of Montenegrins? The lists show that it was Yugoslavia in a nutshell [representing everybody]

A senior Macedonian blogger, among the oldest members of the local blogosphere, and a World War II anti-fascist resistance veteran, Buv (“Owl”), posted an announcement [mk] by the Association of former Goli Otok prisoners, advising caution in relation to the lists and offering first-hand consultations to all interested parties:

Темата за “голооточаните“.“информбировците“затвореници што ја издржувале казната во логорот Голи Оток е дел од пошироката историска тема за конфликтот меѓу СССР и СФРЈ.Не може да се зборува за казнениците на Голи Оток,без да се разгледуваат во комлесот на историските збиднувања.

Независно од тоа колку биле свесни/идејно свесни/за својот однос кон конкретните настани,учесниците во збиднувањата,што подоцна се нашле на Голи Оток,се учесници во еден политички судир кој има исклучително историско значење,за нив,за нивната земја,за пошироките светски движења.

Ова отклонување го направивме за да обрниме внимание на оние лесно искажани карактеристики што се даваат по повод на објавените списоци за голооточаните/информбировците/ и во други прилики.Без да се има во вид поширокиот контекст на случувањата,може паушално да се кажува се и сешто.Важноста на историската проблематика бара сериозен пристап.

Здружението Голи Оток,меѓу другото,ја има и таа задача да ја објасни,документира,да ја покаже историската вистина за настаните во кои независно од нивната волја се нашле и овие страдалници,што така строго ги казнила историјата.

The topic of the “inhabitants of Goli Otok,” the “Informbiro prisoners” is part of a larger historical topic about the conflict between the [USSR] and the [SFRY]. One cannot talk about the Goli Otok prisoners without taking into account the complexity of historical events.

Regardless of how much they were aware or ideologically involved in these concrete events, the participants who were detained on Goli Otok were engulfed in a political clash with exceptional historical importance, for them personally, for their country and the wider world movement.

We publish this notice to draw attention to the reactions that have been published with great ease after the lists of prisoners were exposed, as well at other occasions. Without taking into consideration the wider context of events, anyone can say anything without arguments. The importance of the historical issues requires a very serious approach.

The Goli Otok Association has the mission to explain, document and disclose the historical truth about the events which unwittingly encompassed these sufferers, who were so severely punished by history.

Informbiro activities left deep trauma in the collective former Yugoslav memory, parts of which were artistically expressed through popular cult movies like When Father Was Away on Business (1985) by then young Bosnian/Serbian director Emir Kusturica, and Happy New Year '49 (1986) by Macedonian director Stole Popov.

January 12 2014

Hockey, Diving for Crosses and Other Christmas-in-January Traditions

For Christians of the Western hemisphere, Christmas comes a little earlier than for their counterparts in Eastern Europe, North Africa and other countries. According to the Gregorian calendar, one of many man-made concepts to measure time and the calendar the globe uses today, Christ was born during the night between December 24 and December 25 just a little over 2,000 years ago. According to the Julian calendar, still used by many religious organizations in the world, those dates correspond to January 6 and January 7.

Among those who celebrate Christmas on those January dates are most Orthodox and Coptic Christians, from Eastern Europe to Egypt and Ethiopia. We called on the wonderfully diverse team of over 700 Global Voices authors to share their favorite local Orthodox and Coptic Christmas traditions and learned that the world is indeed a festive place, long after the Western world has taken down their Christmas stockings and stripped their Christmas trees.

Markos Lemma from Ethiopia explains how a game of hockey is the centerpiece in this North African country's Christmas celebrations:

Christmas falls on December 29 of the Ethiopian calendar (January 7 according to the Gregorian calendar). Ledet (Christmas), it is celebrated seriously by a church service that goes on throughout the night after 43 days fasting known as Tsome Gahad (Advent), with a spectacular procession, which begins at 6 a.m. and lasts until 9 a.m. After the mass service, people go home to break the fast with the meat of chicken or lamb or beef accompanied with injera and the traditional drinks (i.e. tella or tej). Traditionally, young men played a game similar to hockey called genna on this day and now Christmas has also come to be known by that name.

The case in Serbia is far from similar, but followers of the Orthodox faith in Serbia, Montenegro, and Bosnia-Herzegovina celebrate Christmas Eve on January 6, the last day of the same 40-day fast observed in Ethiopia, and then break that fast on Christmas Day, January 7, with a similar family feast abundant with meats of all sorts and special Christmas dishes. Different regions of these countries have somewhat different traditions, but this author chose to share one particular tradition that the vast majority of Orthodox families still uphold in this part of Southeast Europe:

On Christmas Day, January 7 according to the Julian calendar, Orthodox Serb households welcome a young male or male child, called a Položajnik, into the house in the early morning. The young male is usually a younger cousin, grandson or neighbor and he should be the first to enter the house that day. He brings in a wreath or bundle of small well dried oak branch tips, hay and such, called a Badnjak, with him and uses it to light the fire. In urban households, most of which don't have a fireplace, the stove is used to light the Badnjak. As sparks from the dried leaves and branches float around, he chants “As many sparks, that much health; as many sparks, that much wealth; as many sparks, that much love; as many sparks, that much luck…”, in no particular order. Different communities and families have their own versions of this ditty. The položajnik is considered a representation of health, prosperity and all things good. He brings luck, health, and love into the home. He then receives a gift from the family and joins them for Christmas breakfast.

Expat blogger David Bailey, better known as “An Englishman in the Balkans”, posted this video explaining the traditional breaking of the Christmas bread, known as the Česnica, on Christmas day in an Orthodox home in Bosnia. The Česnica, however, takes on different shapes throughout the region and in the Vojvodina region of Serbia, for example, is very sweet, resembling baklava more than bread.

The traditional Christmas greeting in Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Montenegro is “Christ is born!”, to which the proper response is “Truly He is born”. Coincidentally, Lebanon, a country relatively far from Eastern Europe, now uses the same Christmas greeting. Thalia Rahme explains:

In Lebanon … its becoming more and more trendy to say the formula you just mentioned as in reaction to the secularization of Christmas

While usually we used to say that in Easter – Christ is risen, Indeed he is risen – now we also say [it on] Christmas – Christ is Born, Indeed He is born.

Lebanon seems to be a particularly special case when it comes to calendars and Christmas celebrations, with a plethora of faiths and traditions truly all its own. Thalia managed to unravel some of the marvels of Lebanese Christmas for us:

Lebanese Orthodox celebrate Christmas with Catholics on December 24.

Only Armenians Orthodox do have it on January 6 and, since it happens to be Epiphany for us Catholics [marking the baptism of Jesus], it's a kind of double celebration and an official holiday in Lebanon as part of giving each community its rights.

We have a small Coptic and Orthodox community and [an] Ethiopian one who celebrate it on January 7.

On the other hand, Armenian Orthodox choose to celebrate their Easter with us Catholics, but this is not the case for other Orthodox communities [...] but this year Easter for both Catholics and Orthodox is falling on the same date

At the mention of the marking of the Epiphany, many other Eastern Europeans chimed in with their stories of this frequently forgotten, not-so-minor Christian holiday. Global Voices’ veteran author from Bulgaria Rayna St. wrote in to say this:

For the French, January 6 is Epiphany so people eat Galette des Rois (and yes, it's yummy).

For Bulgarians, January 6 is also Epiphany, also called Yordanovden, when everyone named Yordan/ka, Daniel/a, Bogomil/a, Bojidar/a celebrate. The day's name is also Bogoyavlenie (God's appearance) and it is believed to be the day when Jesus Christ was baptized in the Jordan River. When He came out of the waters, the skies opened and there was a voice saying, “You are my beloved Son, all my good will is in You” or something along these lines.

The most exciting moment of this nowadays is the ritual that accompanies this day: the priest throws a cross in the river and young men jump in to fetch it. As you may imagine, it's quite sporty as temperatures in Bulgaria differ from Jordan… :) So, when a guy catches the cross, he is believed to be blessed, fortunate, and to have iron health for the coming year. The priest also goes through houses and, in my region at least, fills in the rooms with tamyan smoke (a specific kind of wax mixture) so it chases away bad spirits. Bogoyavlenie is actually the last one of the Dirty Days and only meatless dishes are served for dinner.

Interestingly enough, while a common Christmas date may not be something all Eastern European Christians share, swimming for crosses in ice cold waters on Epiphany is. This tradition is also the same as Rayna describes in Russia, Serbia, Montenegro and other countries of the region. The dates of when they mark the Epiphany and break the January ice, however, do differ, with those who follow the Julian calendar coming in 13 days “late” again.

But back to Christmas in that region. Busy with following Ukraine's 2013 Euromaidan protests, which continued throughout the Christmas holidays and into 2014, Tetyana Bohdanova set aside a few moments from these worrying events to fill us in on how Christmas is traditionally celebrated by Orthodox followers in this country when they aren't out in the streets holding anti-government rallies by the hundreds of thousands:

In Ukraine most people celebrate Christmas on the 7th of January, according to the Julian calendar. On Christmas Eve, January 6, we gather for a traditional dinner that consists of 12 meatless dishes honoring the 12 Apostles. The dinner may begin only after the first star appears in the sky indicating that Christ has been born.

Another Christmas tradition is Vertep, which originally included a puppet theater representing Nativity scenes. A contemporary version, however, refers to a group of people acting out the story of Christ’s birth. Vertep also commonly includes folk characters and singing of Christmas carols. This year Ukrainian Vertep has been influenced by the political turmoil in the country. Among dressed up actors one may recognize Biblical and folk figures along with contemporary politicians, who are not necessarily represented by the good characters!

Tetyana Lokot, also from Ukraine, echoed what Tetyana Bohdanova had to say about caroling and added video evidence of this community holiday tradition:

One [tradition] is caroling – going around singing carols and bringing people the good news, for which carolers sometimes get candy and small change. It is typical for carolers to dress up in national costumes and go in groups, and the carols’ tunes and texts have been carried through generations. One of the most popular ones, and certainly my favorite, is Schedryk (known in English as Carol of the Bells), an old Ukrainian song. [The video] is a recent version from 2011 by Oleh Skrypka, a Ukrainian musician. The cartoon that goes along with it is strangely hinting at the Euromaidan spirit of 2013 and 2014, but also reminds us that we are all kids at heart :)

While Orthodox Coptic Christians account for the largest Christian community in Egypt, they form an even larger percentage of the Ethiopian community. Befekadu Hailu from Ethiopia reminds us that many of us may not even be in the same year, much less on the same date:

As you may know, our [Ethiopian] calendar is also different so we didn't start a new year with most of you. We started 2006 in September and this is the 2006th birthday of Jesus. We are just celebrating Christmas tomorrow [January 7] – which is a public holiday. The Orthodox Christians will also complete their 40 days of fasting season tomorrow. So, it will also be a day of eating much meat products. People spend it at home and as usual coffee ceremony, holiday food, family gatherings are the features of the holiday.

Thus, we end this quick journey through what may be a belated Christmas to some, where we began – in North Africa, with a traditional Christmas song performed by an Ethiopian choir. May your Christmases be as plentiful, warm, and well-rehearsed as theirs, wherever and whenever you choose to celebrate them. In the meantime, some of us are off to prepare for Orthodox New Year's Eve, coming up on January 13 – and you're all invited!

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December 23 2013

DIY Galaksija Computer, Bedrock of Serbia's IT Industry, Turns 30

Voja Antonić and his colleague Jova Regasek putting together the Galaksija prototype in 1983. Public domain.

Voja Antonić and his colleague Jova Regasek putting together the Galaksija prototype in 1983. Public domain.

The Galaksija (Galaxy) computer, created by inventor and author Voja Antonić in 1983 with detailed instructions for anyone to put together a personal computer with standard parts, is nothing less than legendary in the former Yugoslavia. The DIY home computer may not have matched the quality or high-tech readiness of most brand name computing machines of the time, but it inspired a country and a generation to plunge deeper and farther into the IT industry that was just beginning to develop worldwide.

As legend would have it, in the summer of 1983, a young journalist with a flare for all things tech and scientific, Voja Antonić, was vacationing in Montenegro. At the time, importing computers and such machinery into Yugoslavia was close to impossible for the average citizen due to complicated customs laws and licenses. Such technology didn't come cheap in the 1980s either. A standard PC in 1983 cost about an average Yugoslav worker's monthly salary, which was among the highest in Europe at the time.

Cover of the January 1984 edition of

Cover of the January 1984 edition of “Računari u vašoj kući” magazine. Public domain.

Antonić plunged into some summer reading on the Montenegrin coast that year about a new brand-name computer that had just been released on the global market. As he looked at the schematic, he realized that most of the parts of standard PCs had become readily available at most hardware stores throughout the country. Within months, the young Antonić had put together a schematic for anyone who wanted to build a do-it-yourself computer. He then contacted a few manufacturers of such parts and partnered with them to create DIY packages with all the necessary parts that any ordinary consumer could order for and put together at home.

Initially, the team involved believed they could sell as much as several hundred of the Galaksija kits, a number they thought to be highly optimistic but possible. Antonić knew he would also have to publish the schematic in a place where wider audiences could see it, for those who didn't want to order the ready to build Galaksija kit, but would rather purchase the parts on their own. He teamed up with Dejan Ristanović, who was barely 20 years old at the time and putting together a magazine about the latest in PC technology, “Računari u vašoj kući” (“Computers in Your Home”). Together, Ristanović and Antonić released the full diagram and instructions for the Galaksija personal computer in the first January 1984 edition of the magazine, published in December of 1983. Within a year or so, over 8,000 Galaksija kits were sold in Yugoslavia, while the number of those who purchased parts on their own and used the schematic to build their custom Galaksija were never recorded. That same year, Galaksija computers were introduced into elementary schools throughout the country. The year was 1984.

A tech revolution was incited. Ristanović, Antonić and their team also used radio and television to promote the Galaksija and everything computer-related, teaching average users how to customize both their hardware and tweak code here and there. The video below is one of  Antonić's countless popular television appearances in which he sat down to explain some gaming basics to Galaksija and other PC users:

Thirty years later, Antonić is a world-renowned inventor, speaker and writer, while Ristanović is the editor-in-chief of one of the country's most popular geek magazines, PC Press, and co-founder of one of the first Internet providers in Serbia. Today, Serbia is known among those in the IT industry as a place of great potential and well-rounded developers and innovators, despite the recent decades of political, social and economic troubles. In a recent post, elaborated on how the Galaksija revolutionized the use of personal computers on several levels. Radio DJ Zoran Modli came upon the idea at the time to distribute software for the Galaksija and other similar machines – through the radio ether. As the article explains:

Like the ZX Spectrum and other computers of the time, programs were loaded onto the Galaksija from an audiocassette recorder. This gave Jova Regasek, the editor of Računari, an idea for a bold experiment. He got in touch with Zoran Modli, who hosted the show Ventilator 202 on Radio Belgrade. Modli's show was a mix of local bands and contemporary chart music, but he also had an interest in computers, and Regasek's idea was to broadcast the sound of a computer program that listeners could tape and then load up on their home machines. In effect, this was wireless downloading long before the days of wi-fi.

In the year of Galaksija's 30th anniversary, every school in Serbia is equipped with computers for students, the Internet penetration rate was close to 65 percent in 2012, and visitors are often surprised to find that wifi is readily available almost anywhere in every city and town in the country. Over one-third of the country's adult population uses the Internet daily, and the statistics are just as or more impressive for Montenegro, Croatia, Macedonia and Slovenia, with Bosnia-Herzegovina lagging somewhat. With much to make up for after the turmoil of the last two decades and the global IT industry developing rapidly, the region has yet to catch up with some other high-tech markets. With the Galaxy to mark its past, many are confident that the region has a bright future ahead.

November 01 2013

Former Bosnian Refugee Running for US Congress

Anesa Kajtazovic; official campaign photo.

Anesa Kajtazovic. Official campaign photo.

Anesa Kajtazovic, currently a member of the Iowa House of Representatives, was born in Bihać, Bosnia, then a part of the former Yugoslavia. Anesa and her parents and sisters fled the war-torn Balkan country in 1992 and settled in the US state of Iowa. After a few years in politics, Kajtazovic is now running for a seat in the US Congress [ba], and after kicking of her campaign in the summer of 2013, has started receiving endorsements from labor unions and celebrities alike.

It seems her past experiences as an immigrant child of parents who worked to build a future for their family in a new country is making quite the difference in her relationships with voters. says:

The United Food and Commercial Workers Locals 431 and 1149 decided to support Kajtazovic because “she understands better than anyone the concerns of Iowa's working families,” and “She shares the experience of arriving to Iowa as an immigrant with many of our members.”

Kajtazovic was the youngest woman ever to be elected to Iowa's state legislature and, if elected to Congress, she will be the first Bosnian-born member of Congress. She calls herself proof of the “American Dream”, but Kajtazovic, who runs an active Facebook fan page sharing both professional and some personal moments, seldom forgets that she has friends, family and support both in the US and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

In the past year or two, her professional successes have become a regular fixture on Bosnian news sites, and her homeland seems to be following her career in the US with great interest and celebration.

October 31 2013

Former Croatian President Mesic Says Tudjman and Milosevic Set Out to Divide Bosnia

Former Croatian President Stjepan Mesic, who was in this office as Croatia's second President from 2000 to 2010, recently gave an interview for Serbian weekly NIN, in which he claims to have found maps of a divided Bosnia in the presidential safe of Franjo Tudjman. quotes a portion of that interview:

“Slobodan Milosevic and Franjo Tudjman had been communicating with each other during the war 1991-1995. They wanted to divide Bosnia. Tudjman even thought that the greatest world powers want to divide Bosnia as well“, said Mesic.

October 28 2013

Serbia: Jovanka Broz, Widow of Tito, Dies Isolated and Forgotten

She was a revolutionary, a commended war veteran, a style icon and first lady to the leader of the only socialist country in the world that refused to be a Soviet satellite. Jovanka Broz (nee Budisavljević), widow of Marshall Josip Broz Tito, passed away in Belgrade [en] on October 20, 2013. On Saturday, October 23, Jovanka Broz was honored with a state funeral in Serbia's capital and buried in the mausoleum known as “The House of Flowers” [en] next to her husband, a full 33 years after his death.

President Josip Broz Tito and Mrs. Broz, President Richard Nixon and Mrs. Nixon overlooking arrival ceremony on the South Lawn from the South Balcony of the White House; photo form the  White House Photo Office Collection, public domain.

President Josip Broz Tito and Mrs. Broz, President Richard Nixon and Mrs. Nixon overlooking arrival ceremony on the South Lawn from the South Balcony of the White House; photo form the White House Photo Office Collection, public domain.

Jovanka Broz spent a lifetime being loved, hated, praised and criticized by many. Few and far apart are those who had no opinion of her at all. Born into a family of humble means in Lika (Croatia), she joined the revolutionary partisan forces at the age of 17 and soon became one of Tito's secretaries. Their whirlwind romance began sometime during the Second World War and they were married in 1952, when she was 28 and Tito 60.

Although 30 years her powerful husband's junior, Jovanka was decisive, opinionated and had tremendous influence over her husband at times. Those who met her through diplomatic and political circles claim that she was a highly intelligent woman of elegant poise. There were also those in Yugoslavia and, more recently Serbia, who criticized her spending habits, along with her husband's, who was a well-known hedonist of expensive taste. The video below shows Tito and Jovanka Broz at the height of his power in 1971, during a state visit to US President Richard Nixon.

Jovanka enjoyed a jet-set lifestyle while she was first lady of the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia, but lived the last 30 years of her life as a recluse in Belgrade in poverty, never inheriting any part of her late husband's estate or receiving much from the state. Reports began emerging in 2005 on blogs and later in media about the conditions in which the former first lady was living in – with no heat, a leaking roof, doors that wouldn't lock, in an old house in the once high-end Belgrade neighborhood of Dedinje that was, essentially, falling apart. Since her death, the blog Bašta Balkana quoted [sr] one of these reports from 2005, when they visited Jovanka, describing the poor state of the house she was living in and a conversation with Jovanka's sister, Nada. The reporter asked:

- Živi li vaša sestra ovde potpuno sama i bez grejanja?! Kako je moguće da se nadležni godinama oglušuju da joj stvore elementarne uslove za život?!

- U ovoj ledari, moja sestra živi sama i to godinama traje – odgovara Nada. – Ponekad ostane i bez struje, nekad se prekinu telefonske veze, plafon prokišnjava. Ali nije samo ona ugrožena. Njenu sudbinu dele i njene komšije. I oni su danima bez grejanja.

- Does your sister really live here all alone and without heating?! How is it possible that the [institutions] responsible for this are ignoring to provide basic living conditions for her?!

- In this icebox, my sister lives alone and it has been like this for years – Nada responds. – Sometimes she is left without electricity too, sometimes the telephone lines go out, the ceiling leaks. But she is not the only one at risk. Her neighbors share this fate with her. They are also left without heating for days.

The government then reacted fairly quickly after these reports and some assistance and reparations were provided for Jovanka and her neighbors occasionally over the next few years. Jovanka remained as far from the the public eye as she could, although media interest had been raised. In the months prior to her death, knowing that her health was rapidly declining, the former first lady of Yugoslavia decided to publish her memoirs, as recorder by author Žarko Jokanović. The book, titled “My Life, My Truth”, was released just three weeks before she died [sr] and is being sold at newsstands at the price of 449 dinars (4 euro or 5.50 US dollars).

Blogger David Bailey, a British expat living in the Balkans, quoted what Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dačić said at Jovanka Broz's state funeral on Saturday, wondering whether the PM's words were hollow or heartfelt:

The absence of a religious funeral service was the wish of Jovanka and her family.

Serbia’s Prime Minister Ivica Dacic led the tributes at the funeral ceremony, saying: “Today marks the departure of the last icon of the former Yugoslavia.” He said it was time to admit that the treatment she received after the death of her husband was a “sin”.

On social networks these days, there is no majority opinion on who or what Jovanka Broz was. Some say she was “an icon” [photos], “a heroine”, others call her “a leech” and “a fake”, while a few simply lament the country's disregard for its own history and its neglect of Jovanka Broz in recent decades. There are very few in-betweens and no particular hashtags to follow, but people are visibly talking about her passing which, in many ways, gives closure to an era that ended 30 years ago. Whatever their opinion or political affiliation, many social media users posted “Bella Ciao”, an Italian song often sung by the partisans of Italy and Yugoslavia before and during WWII, made popular by Giovanna Dafinni in the early 60′s and often tied to Jovanka Broz. Tetka, a popular Serbian portal, wrote in a post titled “Bella Ciao – The Song That Saw Jovanka Broz Off”:

A možda nam je ovim taktovima na svom poslednjem ispraćaju poslala poruku o ujedinjenju, ideji koja je sve nas na prostorima bivše zemlje razjedinila do krvavih ratova jer ova pesma u Italiji i jeste postala popularna kao pesma u kojoj je ujedinjena jedna ideja.[...]

Koliko je ova pesma popularna i danas kao himna pobune, dočaraće vam podatak da su ove godine u Turskoj, buneći se zbog planova da se na mestu poslednjih “zelenih pluća grada” u Istanbulu grad tržni centar, mladi koji su protestovali protov ove odluke premijera Erdogana pevali ovu pesmu.[...]

Jovanke Broz srpska javnost se setila tek kada je dospela u bolnicu i to onda kada više nije sama mogla da donosi odluke. Dok je mogla, odbijala je lečenje kao da je jedva čekala da ode sa ovog sveta, iz društva koje ju je stavilo u izlolaciju i zaboravilo je.

Or perhaps in her last farewell she sent us a message about uniting through these beats, an idea that divided all of us on the territory of this former country through bloody wars, because this song became popular in Italy as the song that unites one idea.[...]

A fact from this year from Turkey will demonstrate the popularity of this song as a revolutionary anthem, where young protesters, rising up against the building of a shopping center in the place of the last “green lungs of the city”, sang this song as they protested this decision by Prime Minister Erdogan.[...]

The Serbian public only remembered Jovanka Broz when she ended up in hospital and even this was when she could no longer make her own decisions. While she could, she refused treatment, as if she could hardly wait to leave this world, this society that put her in isolation and forgot her.

October 16 2013

Infant Girl Who Sparked Bosnia's ‘Babylution’ Dies

The day after baby Belmina's death, activists placed a black sheeth with Belmina's picture over a new monument in front of the Parliament building in Sarajevo; image courtesy of #JMBG za sve (

The day after baby Belmina's death, activists placed a black sheeth over a new monument in front of the Parliament building in Sarajevo. Image courtesy of #JMBG za sve (“#JMBG for All”), used with permission.

They are calling her an angel and a heroine. Seven-month-old Belmina Ibrišević, the baby that started the #JMBG protests in Bosnia early in the summer of 2013, passed away in a hospital in Germany on Tuesday, October 15, 2013.

After extensive treatment in Germany, where Belmina was transferred after finally receiving her passport, her parents and doctors made the difficult decision to take her off life support. The treatment Belmina required almost immediately after birth for a serious immune disease was not available in Bosnia, and the child could not be issued a passport for several weeks due to the Bosnian government's failure to pass a new law on identification (JMBG, which stands for Unique Master Citizen Number) numbers after the old law expired in February 2013.

In June, as reported by Global Voices, thousands marched on the Parliament building in Sarajevo, demanding that children born after February 2013, especially those who need to travel abroad for medical treatment, be issued Unique Master Citizen Numbers immediately so they could apply for necessary documents to travel and receive necessary medical attention. The movement was dubbed the “Babylution” in reference to Belmina.

Although it was first reported on July 18 that Bosnia-Herzegovina's Parliament passed a temporary law on Unique Master Citizen Numbers during an emergency session, some parliament members then stopped the full new law from being passed. Al Jazeera Balkans reported [ba] on July 23 that Halid Genjac of the Democratic Action Party (SDA) had “requested protection of vital national interests”, citing procedural irregularities in the process of bringing the proposed new laws up for vote:

Sporni predmeti sada se upućuju Ustavnom sudu BiH, koji će po hitnom postupku ispitati da li ima nepravilnosti u postupku i da li je povređen interes Bošnjaka.[...]

Ukoliko Sud zaključi suprotno, dovoljno je glasanje vladajuće većine u oba doma Parlamenta da zakoni prođu.

Sljedeća sjednica Ustavnog suda zakazana je za 30. septembar i nije jasno da li će ovo pitanje biti stavljeno na dnevni red.

The questionable items are now being sent to the Constitutional Court of Bosnia-Herzegovina, which will inspect whether there were any irregularities in procedure and whether the interest of Bosniaks has been damaged. [...]

Should the Court decide to the contrary, the votes of the ruling majority in both houses of Parliament will be sufficient for the laws to pass.

The next session of the Constitutional Court is scheduled for September 30th but it is not clear whether this matter will be on the docket.

In the meantime, participants of the #JMBG protests were brought in for questioning by police [ba] in late July.

Social networks are overflowing [en][ba] with criticism of the Bosnian government and notes of condolences from the entire region regarding the infant's death. Many, like Twitter user Arnesa from Bosnia, simply lament the death of another child as well as promise to remember Belmina:

Little Belmina that was the reason for the #JMBG protests in Bosnia has passed away. :( Very sad news, May her soul rest in peace.

— Arnesa (@_arnesa_) October 16, 2013

The still active Facebook fan page of the #JMBG protesters [ba] announced earlier this week that the decision to shut down baby Belmina's life support had been made. The page also announced that Belmina's parents would not be able to afford the cost of transferring Belmina's remains back to Sarajevo and asked for donations in the total amount of 2,500 euros (approximately 3,500 US dollars).

Bosnia-Herzegovina's World Cup Qualifying Win Unites Region in Celebration

Fans celebrated the historic win on the streets of Sarajevo throughout the night; image courtesy of Bosnia-Herzegovina national team's

Fans celebrated the historic win on the streets of Sarajevo throughout the night. Image courtesy of Bosnia-Herzegovina national team's “Zmajevi” Facebook fan page, used with permission.

Some 12 hours after Bosnia-Herzegovina secured its direct qualification to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Bosnians are still celebrating this historic moment. Social networks are flooded with comments of joy from Bosnians and support from other nations.

Last night and today, October 16, 2013, no one can tell by looking at social networks and regional news sites that Bosnia still has a very troubled political life, or that the EU is threatening the small Balkan country with sanctions. The only topic on people's minds and timelines is that of Bosnia-Herzegovina's 1-0 win over Lithuania in the World Cup qualifiers. Even the official Twitter account of the OSCE Mission to Bosnia-Herzegovina dropped all other matters last night to announce the team's win:

All across Bosnia-Herzegovina, fans are emotional about their countries historical placement in the largest sporting event in the world. Twitter user @samrich_ from Sarajevo says:

My dad is crying, [I swear] on my life. #BosnaiHercegovina #Brazil #BiH #Bosnia #Football

— Morning star (@samrich_) October 15, 2013

This win came, almost “miraculously” as some on social networks put it, on the Kurban Bayrami religious holiday widely celebrated in Bosnia-Herzegovina, also known throughout the Muslim world as the feast of sacrifice. Some social media users gave the traditional Bayrami holiday greeting used to commemorate the end of Bayram and Hajj “Bayram Sherif Mubarek Olsun” (“May the holy Bayram be blessed”) a World Cup twist, and no one seemed to take offense. On the contrary, tweets like this one from Nikola Bajčetić from Montenegro were greeted with humor and good spirits:

BRAZIL SHERIF MUBAREK OLSUN ! :))) Many congratulations #BiH ! #fudbal

— Nikola Bajcetic (@Nikola_MNE) October 15, 2013

The match seems to have brought the entire troubled region together, as Serbian, Croatian and Montenegrin fans congratulated Bosnia-Herzegovina and celebrated the win with them online. After last night's 2-0 loss to Scotland, Croatia still has a slim chance of qualifying in the playoffs. Serbia, however, lost any chance of making it through to the World Cup several months ago after possibly one of the worst qualifying campaigns in its sporting history. But Serbia beat Macedonia 5-1 on October 15, 2013, thus sinking any dreams Macedonians may have had of reaching Brazil next summer. Fans from all three countries, amid their own losses, joined in celebrating Bosnia-Herzegovina's unique win. Nikola Radović from Montenegro joined in by saying:

While I'm losing my voice at Podgorica stadium for #CrnaGora [#Montenegro], I'm getting word that #BiH is off to Brazil. I'll root for them. Bravo Bosnia!

— Nikola Radovic (@NowitzkiCt) October 15, 2013

Bosnia-Herzegovina's national football team now faces the likes of England, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and other top teams in Brazil next year and has an unlikely chance of getting very far in the competition. However, many say that further results for Bosnia at the World Cup are now irrelevant, as this is the country's first time to qualify as an independent nation, a historic moment worth more than any title. The video below shows what Sarajevo looked like throughout the night as people took to the streets to celebrate:

September 15 2013

Croats in Vukovar Protest Use of Serbian Cyrillic on Government Buildings

In Vukovar, Croatia, Serbs comprise about 35 percent of the city's population, and have thus been granted the right for official use of their native Cyrillic script according to Croatia's constitution. A part of the ethnically Croat population of Vukovar has objected, however, staging protests this week and destroying bilingual signs that had been freshly placed on state buildings. The protests against Cyrillic script in Vukovar started on Monday 9 September 2013 after the placing of name plates in both Latin and Cyrillic scripts on public buildings. A peaceful protest was also held in Zagreb that day.

The Cyrillic script, also known as Azbuka, is an alphabetic writing system based on Early Cyrillic, which was developed during the 10th century AD at the Preslav Literary School. Cyrillic is one of the most used writing systems in the world.

The Serbian Cyrillic alphabet is an adaptation of the original Cyrillic script for the Serbian language, developed in 1818 by Serbian linguist Vuk Karadžić. It is one of the two standard modern alphabets used to write the Serbian and Bosnian languages, the other being Serbian Latin script. Although Latin script is in use as well, Cyrillic is the traditional and official script in Serbia.

Peaceful protest against introduction of bilingualism in Vukovar held in Zagreb:

Peaceful protest against introduction of bilingualism in Vukovar held in Zagreb; photo courtesy of Demotix, used with permission

Vukovar, a city of about 26,000 in eastern Croatia, remains a symbol of the Croatian-Serbian conflicts of the 1990s. For some Croatian citizens, Cyrillic remains a painful reminder of these conflicts. During Friday's protest walk, the disgruntled citizens underscored that they do no want Cyrillic script in their city, “not now, not ever, as that is not just any script, but the script under which crimes were committed against Croats and other non-Serbs during the Croatian War of Independence.”

Meanwhile, netizens on social networks were mostly angry about the fact that some were focusing on the past, which many now consider to be irrelevant matters in times of new economic and social crisis. Bosnian football player and journalist, Goran Arbutina tweeted:

Croats are going wild over Cyrillic while this is how we are doing in #Banjaluka… My street. #cirilica #latinica #sarajevo #vukovar

— Goran Arbutina (@Goc1jedini) September 6, 2013

Bojan Glavašević, Deputy Minister at Ministry of Defenders [Ministry of Veterans] stated:

I am endlessly saddened by what happened today in #Vukovar. Violence is not a way to solve problems in a democracy. #cirilica

— Bojan Glavasevic (@bglavasevic) September 2, 2013

Croatian politician and member of the European Parliament Ruža Tomašić has a different opinion:

Statement for Cro. [Croatian] media in Brussels: "Crillic yes, but not in Vukovaru" via @tportal #Vukovar #cirilica

— Ruža Tomašić (@RuzaTomasic) September 5, 2013

Protesters in Vukovar reaking bilingual boards; photo courtesy of Kurir daily

Vukovar: breaking bilingual board in protest PHOTO: “Kurir” daily

Serbian student and musician Stefan Josimov had a question for the EU regarding this matter:

Is it possible that the #EU still hasn't reacted regarding the breaking of signs in #Vukovar? #Srbija #Hrvatska #cirilica

— Stefan Josimov (@sjosimov) September 4, 2013

But a Twitter user from Bosnia, nicknamed Agent Tajne Sile, might have an answer to the situation, albeit sarcastic:

Luckilly, no one has an issue with numbers. Especially if they are on bank accounts. #cirilica #vukovar #lakunoc

— Agent tajne sile (@AgentTajneSile) September 3, 2013

Croatian President Ivo Josipovic announced that preparations are underway for a possible agreement on the initiative of bilingual inscriptions in Vukovar, as reported by Croatian news agency Hina. Bad news for Zagreb officials it seems – according to statistics, Croatia is fourth in terms of violation of human rights of the 47 countries that are under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Vesna Skare-Ozbolt, former Croatian Minister of Justice, told SETimes.

I believe that bilingualism introduction will contribute to normalising relations between Croatia and Serbia and progress, but also will be a positive example in the EU.

Skare-Ozbolt announced that about 20 municipalities in Croatia have accomplished formal prerequisites for official use of Cyrillic and it should begin in the near future. She added that Croatia and other EU countries have been installing bilingualism in areas where national minorities make up at least one third of the population. She also stated that the roles of local authorities and the state are crucial in the successful implementation of this process:

Croatia, as a new EU member, keeps this standard, although war consequences are still big, which can be seen in Vukovar, where some resistance still exists.

July 09 2013

Bosnian Lawmakers Fail to Meet ‘Babylution’ Protest Demands

Bosnia-Herzegovina's parliament has missed the July 1 deadline set by angry protesters demanding members fix a lapse in the country's law that is preventing newborns from being given an identity number and, by extension, travel papers and healthcare.

For more than a month, citizens have been protesting in front of their national parliament, requesting that urgent amendments be made to legislation related to Unique Master Citizen Numbers, abbreviated JMBG. The protests, which have been dubbed the “Babylution”, took off when a gravely ill three-month-old girl died while waiting to receive this unique identity number so that she could receive treatment and surgery abroad. Outrage against this denial of basic human rights ensued across several Balkan states after the tragic event and crossed ethnic divides in the region.

The protesters had given the legislative body a July 1, 2013 deadline to remedy the lapse in the ID number law, which expired in February. On July 1, as Croatia celebrated its official entry into the European Union, thousands of people gathered in the capital Sarajevo before the parliament building to send their government representatives a clear message – “You are fired!” – and inform the international community of the situation in an open letter.

"Babylution" cover photo being distributed across social networks: "01.07. Dismissal"; image courtesy of Babylution Facebook fan page.

“Babylution” cover photo being distributed across social networks: “01.07. Dismissal”; image courtesy of Babylution Facebook fan page.

Protests were also held across the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina, in Mostar, Tuzla, Zenica, Prijedor, Bugojn and other cities and towns.

Blogger Tom Simpson was among those who joined the “Babylution” online:

In the thrilling and agonizing meantime, protestors [sic] will have to muster all the courage, patience, and creativity they can. For its part, the rest of the world needs to keep putting pressure on Bosnian politicians to do the right thing: secure basic human rights and freedoms for all citizens of BiH. The Bosnian struggle is a deeply human one, and the world should stand with Bosnians and Herzegovinians, as they stand up for themselves, choose love, and dare to hope.

In the meantime, the Bosnian-Herzegovinian parliament held a session [ba], during and after which nothing changed. During the session, the #JMBG protests were labeled as “a hostage crisis” and the issues were devolved into accusations between the political parties. Solutions to issues that might benefit the citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina never came as a point of order.

Lawmakers who voiced any concern over this [ba] were far and few between, among them member of parliament Anto Domazet:

Današnja rasprava o sigurnosnoj situaciji pokazuje da je fokus poslanika na političkom pitanju koje je izazvalo i zastoj u radu i vanrednu situaciju. „Međutim, mi se moramo zapitati šta je velika stvar koja će se desiti u političkom životu BiH? Očigledno je da građani traže politički pluralizam, da o bitnim stvarima ne odlučuju lideri ili stranke već i oni sami. To je nešto na što ćemo se morati navići“, istakao je.
Smatra da poslanici moraju imati u vidu da će živjeti i raditi paralelno s civilnim aktivizmom.

Today's debate about security issues demonstrates that the focus of members of parliament is on the very political matters that provoked the delay in procedure and the crisis situation.

“However, we must ask ourselves what is the great matter that will happen in the political life of Bosnia-Herzegovina? It is evident that the citizens want political pluralism, not to have leaders or parties decide on matters, but that they themselves also [should decide]. This is something we will have to get used to,” [Domazet] emphasized.

On social networks, the anger hasn't died down. Political science student Olivier Gonner (@igonnerclastwrote:

@igonnerclast: Ermin Zatega: “The emperor is naked” – A brilliant metaphor by Hans-Christian Anderson to describe #JMBG-Protests in #Bosnia. #Bebolucija

Edita Gorinjac (@EditaGorinjac), a journalist from Sarajevo, was among those who criticize the Parliament:

@EditaGorinjac: Zastup. u #ParlamentBiH kritiku njihovog rada nazivaju blaćenjem. Kažu to nema nigdje u svijetu. Nisam sigurna o kojem svijetu govore.#jmbg

@EditaGorinjac: Representation. In #ParlamentBiH they are calling criticism of their work mudslinging. They say it is unseen anywhere in the world. I'm not sure which world they're talking about. #jmbg

Another user on Twitter, Mahir Vražalić (@Mahir_Vrazalic), noticed:

@Mahir_Vrazalic: Znaci u Parlamentu o svemu sem #JMBG….

@Mahir_Vrazalic: So in Parliament they're discussing everything except #JMBG….

Edis Jasarevic (@EdisPG), a racing commentator, added sarcastically:

@EdisPG: Molimo da se u parlamentu pušta samo lagana jazz muzika, kako poslanici ne bi osjecali pritisak, i barem 2x dnevno antistres masaze #jmbg

@EdisPG: We ask that only smooth jazz music be played in parliament, so that members of parliament don't feel pressured, and anti-stress massages at least 2x a day #jmbg

June 20 2013

Anti-Government ‘Babylution’ Protests Gain Momentum in Bosnia

People in Bosnia-Herzegovina are crossing the country's deep ethnic divides by the thousands to protest together against the government's failure to remedy a lapse in the law that is preventing newborns from being given an identity number and, by extension, travel papers and healthcare.

The protests, which began on June 5, 2013 and have been dubbed “Babylution”, were sparked by the story of a gravely ill three-month-old girl, Belmina Ibrišević, who at the time could not leave the country to get the stem cell treatment abroad that she needed, even though her health was critical and necessary treatment could not be provided in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Days later, the unrest intensified following the news of one-month-old Berina Hamidović [sr] who died the Institute for Mother and Child [sr] in Belgrade, Serbia of sepsis after the medical treatment she needed was delayed.

The young girl could not leave because of the country's failure to pass a new law on ID numbers after the old law expired in February. Thanks to this legal gap, newborn babies only receive a temporary number which impedes them from receiving travel documents, which would be necessary to seek medical treatment abroad.

Protesters began speaking out against lawmakers’ inaction under the hashtag #JMBG, which stands for the Unique Master Citizen Number. On June 6, demonstrators gathered in Sarajevo and blocked the Parliament building, refusing to allow politicians and foreign guests inside to leave the building and demanding the urgent passing of the Law on Unique Master Citizen Numbers.

Suad Baručija posted a video on Youtube of supporters arriving from Zenica to join the Sarajevo protesters, in which they are heard chanting “We want change!”:

On Twitter, the news quickly spread under the hashtag #jmbg, as those present at the peaceful protest or nearby transmitted the events of the evening live. Director of Communications at International Center for Transitional Justice Refik Hodžić (@ledenik1tweeted a picture of a person leaving the Parliament building through a ground-floor window:

@ledenik1: #BiH parliament staff escaping through windows the building surrounded by protesters instead of joining them. #jmbg

Twitter user Irma Plavčić (@Irma_A_Pclarified the reasons behind the protest:

Od borbe za ljudska prava i #jmbg,preko krsenja istih,medjunarodnog skandala do unistenja prilike za ulaganje kapitala.Sve za 1 dan #BiH

@Irma_A_P: From the battle for human rights and #jmbg, the violation of those, international scandals to the destruction of opportunities for investment capital. All in 1 day #BiH

A video on YouTube posted by Cyber Media Technology titled “We want JMBG!” summarizes the first days of the #JMBG protests:

The following day, protests stopped briefly [ba] in Sarajevo and the Parliament building was no longer blocked by citizens standing guard out front. But those involved in the protests created the website JMBG for everyone! [ba] with this message:

Mi smo građani i građanke ove zemlje – roditelji s djecom, studenti i studentice, domaćice, radnici i radnice, nezaposleni i nezaposlene, penzioneri i penzionerke, bez obzira na pripadnost etničkoj ili religijskoj skupini, ili bilo koji drugi status, te nam je zajednički interes da se poštuju prava svake osobe, a prije svega djece. Obraćamo se svim građankama i građanima, koji/e žele da žive u državi u kojoj političari i političarke rade svoj posao i izvršavaju zakonske obaveze. Državi u kojoj su nacionalni i stranački interesi sekundarni, a u prvom planu je dostojanstven i siguran život građana i građanki.

We are the citizens of this country – parents with children, university students, housewives, workers, the unemployed, pensioners, regardless of ethnic or religious groups, or any other status, so it is in our common interest that the rights of every person be respected, those of children above all. We address all male and female citizens who wish to live in a state in which politicians do their jobs and complete their legal obligations. A state in which national and partisan interests are secondary and the dignified and safe lives of citizens are primary.

The website also details the demands of citizens regarding legislature related to Unique Master Citizen Numbers and the creation of a fund for the treatment of threatened categories of the population.

Even though baby Belmina's parents eventually managed to get her across the border for treatment, the death of one-month-old Berina Hamidović due to this bureaucratic obstruction to her medical treatment, as Bosnian news outlets reported [ba], further fueled protests.

Citizens throughout the region paid their respects to the little girl, while the story shook with tremendous strength and speed Berinda's birth country of Bosnia-Herzegovina and neighboring Serbia where she died. From that moment on, the situation escalated quickly: from minute to minute on social networks, web portals and blogs, bitter citizens organized for protests, united and calling for support anywhere they could get it.

#JMBG is among the first to show the power of the new Facebook hashtag feature, while the JMBG fan page already has close to 23,000 fans on this social network.

The protests in Sarajevo continue, now under the name “Babylution” - a peaceful revolution that managed to bring over 10,000 people into the streets on June 18 with the support of public figures [sr] and musicians from the former Yugoslav republics who have expressed their grief and revolt.

Citizens are invited to attend the peaceful protests every day beginning at noon until demands are met.

Babylution in Bosnia

Protesters in front of Parliament. Photo by Almir Panjeta, courtesy of “JMBG za sve” Facebook fan page.

Zoja BB (@skejtas) on Twitter shared a picture of a gathered crowd:

@skejtas#JMBG protest today was huge. Hope ‘they’ feel the pressure…

Protester Davor Stanković (@Dastkodescribed the evening:

Veče za pamćenje. Bez mrlje i najmanjeg problema. Umoran sam, ali bih uz ove ljude ostao koliko god je potrebno. Borba se nastavlja! #jmbg

@Dastko: A night to remember. Without a stain or any minor problem. I am tired, but I would stay with these people as long as necessary. The fight continues! #jmbg

Editor Nenad Memić (@NenadMemicadded to the description:

@NenadMemic: Around 10,000 people at a protest concert for #JMBG in #Sarajevo tonight! Spread the good vibe! :)

Once an identification number, #JMBG has now become a hashtag, a meme, and a call for revolution in the countries of the former Yugoslavia. Politicians have been given a deadline until June 30 to pass the law and create a solidarity fund for those who need medical treatment. Should Bosnia's Parliament fail to meet this deadline, citizens have vowed, among other actions, to organize the first Facebook hashmob [cr], a novel concept described as a hashtag-driven flashmob.

Until then, the “Babylution” continues.

May 24 2013

In Croatia and Serbia, Mixed Feelings About the EU

As Croatia prepares to enter the European Union officially on July 1 of this year, and Serbia awaits to finally receive a date to begin talks about EU entry, citizens of both countries express mixed feelings about EU integration.

Some young Croatian citizens are looking forward to being able to seek employment in EU countries and to the economic benefits some say the EU promises to bring. Twitter user @tash from Zagreb says [en]:

@EszterLzr haha i know, bad timing for EU and here ppl have mixed feeling ab it..and i just want to be able to go to work somewhere else

Others, like Aleksandar Holiga from Zagreb, look forward to traveling with more freedom to other EU countries [en]:

Flying to London tomorrow. For the last time ever required to fill that form and speak to immigration officer on the non-EU airport booth.

Pro-EU and anti-EU Croatian citizens are having spontaneous street debates in Zagreb on the eve of the 2012 European Union referendum. Photo by Marin Tomaš, copyright © Demotix (14/01/12).

Pro-EU and anti-EU Croatian citizens are having spontaneous street debates in Zagreb on the eve of the 2012 European Union referendum. Photo by Marin Tomaš, copyright © Demotix (14/01/12).

The majority, however, seems to be taking entry into the EU with a grain of salt. Goran Saravanja, a Croatian economist who blogs for Vecernji List daily, begins and ends his thoughts on the matter with simple, objective conclusions in a post titled “Facing Change: Croatia in EU” [hr]:

Prosječna osoba neće primijetiti veliku razliku u svom svakodnevnom okruženju na dan pristupanja Hrvatske EU. No, važne promjene nastupit će ubrzo. [...] Pristupanje EU samo po sebi neće automatski poboljšati kvalitetu domaćih institucija, kao ni razne politike niti njihovu provedbu. Ukoliko želimo da nam rast bude konstanta, nezaposlenost smanjena, a izvoz povećan, mi sami moramo provoditi reforme i (ne samo) ekonomsku politiku na kvalitetan način.

An average person won't notice a large difference in their everyday surroundings on the day of Croatia's entry into the EU. However, important changes will come quickly. [...] Entry into the EU in and of itself won't automatically improve the quality of domestic institutions, nor various political standpoints or their execution. If we want our growth to be constant, our unemployment lowered, and exports to grow, we must implement reforms ourselves and (not only) economic policy in a quality manner.

While Mr. Saravanja lists many of the benefits and opportunities that EU membership will bring Croatia, Zarko Plevnik in an editorial for Glas Slavonije [hr] (Slavonia is a Croatian region) questions how Croatian products will fare in the EU market because most are “unprotected”:

Gledajući i slušajući vijesti iz Hrvatske o tome kako svaki dan pronalazimo neki novi problem vezan uz naš ulazak u Europsku uniju, između ostalog, nameće se pitanje – što smo mi zaštitili od naših proizvoda prije ulaska u EU?

Watching and listening to the news from Croatia about how every day we encounter a new issue related to our entry into the European Union, among other things, the following question arises – what have we protected [trademarked] of our products prior to entry into the EU?

An article on the same site, titled “And This Is the European Union,” shows a picture of Greek farmers giving away fresh vegetables to their “class allies” [hr], or, rather, government employees.

Most social media users from Croatia seem to be skeptical about the benefits of EU membership.

Twitter user @ruzniuzorak says [hr]:

smorena sam ko europska unija

I'm bummed out like the European Union

User @nxyassa from Croatia comments [CRO]:

Glupost nema granice evo naprimjer EUROPSKA UNIJA

Stupidity has no limits [borders] for example the EUROPEAN UNION

User @cromarko from Zagreb quotes an article and adds his own opinion [hr]:

“Najvece priznanje ulaska RH u EU je sastanak s kraljicom”. Priznanje hah, sve sto cu reci je Sjeverna Irska! #freeireland #oneireland

“The greatest acknowledgement of [Croatia's] accession in the EU is a meeting with the Queen.” Acknowledgement hah, all I will say is, Northern Ireland! #freeireland #oneireland

In Serbia, social media users, bloggers and many journalists are just as skeptical. Considering the recent history of Serbia and Croatia, one might wonder at the lack of perhaps expected envy that might come from Serbia towards Croatia, as Croatia enters the EU, while Serbia is still on hold and waiting for talks on membership. Serbs, however, seem to be much more concerned with their own fate.

Twitter user @na_preporciju from Serbia says [sr]:

Evropska unija nam se pokakila na demokratiju i slobodu,
a naši Slepci ne znaju da povuku vodu.

The European Union pooped on our democracy and freedom, while our Blind Men don't know how to flush.

User @m2aja echoes [sr] what many Serbs are saying:

Britanc žele da napuste Evropsku uniju, a Srbija bi da ide…

Britons want to leave the European Union, while Serbs want to enter…

Even users like @luminous_pg from Montenegro, which began EU accession negotiations a year ago, view EU-related matters [sr] sarcastically:

Muče vas bolovi u vratu? Imate problema sa zglobovima? Zaboravite na vaše neprilike, uskoro ulazimo u EVROPSKU UNIJU!

Neck pain bothering you? Have problems with your joints? Forget all your troubles, we're entering the EUROPEAN UNION soon!

User @na_preporciju also comments [sr]:

Kad uđe Hrvatska Evropska unija zaključava vrata – od robijašnice.

When Croatia enters, the European Union will close the door – of the work camp.

Some, like the Beograd Cafe blog, see positives economic opportunities for Serbia in Croatia's entry into the EU [sr], reporting from the recent “CEFTA After Croatia's Entry Into EU” trade conference, where all of the regional countries’ representatives met to discuss the Central European Free Trade Agreement:

Ulazak Hrvatske u EU doneće Srbiji niz prednosti, kao što su dominantan položaj u CEFTA regionu i povećanje suficita u razmeni sa okolnim zemljama, a očekuje se i više investicija…

The entry of Croatia into the EU will bring Serbia several advantages, such as a dominant position in the CEFTA region and a larger sufficit in trade with surrounding countries, while more investments are also expected. [...]

A blog from Bosnia and Herzegovina also writes about the subject [bs] in a post titled “Due to Exiting CEFTA, Croatian Companies to Move Production to Bosnia and Herzegovina?”.

In general, both in Croatia and Serbia, people seem to have an “it is what it is” attitude about the European Union in general. Perhaps the tweet of one user, @Darac42, sums it up best [hr]:

Da da, bit ce taj EU hard landing za hrvate.. niti ne zasluzujemo bolje..

Yes, yes, that EU will be a hard landing for Croats.. and we don't deserve better..

April 21 2013

Bosnia & Herzegovina: “Dark Times, Black Humor”

A Sarajevo-based Boston native writes on Notes from Sarajevo Tumblr blog that “the last few days [since the Boston Marathon bombings] have served as a reminder of Bosnia’s particularly dark brand of humor”:

[...] To be sure, friends and colleagues here have been kind and considerate, asking if everyone I know is OK (they are.) But some also wasted no time joking about the situation. [...] one said, “Who would want to bomb a marathon? Must have been a smoker.” I’m not one to get prickly about a joke I can’t appreciate, and in fact I respect the instinct to use humor to cope with tragedy, but it did strike me how very badly that would go over in the States right now. [...]

March 10 2013

The State of Torture in the World in 2013

On January 23, 2013, an excerpt from the annual report of l'ACAT-France, A World of Torture 2013, makes a fresh assessment of the state of torture in the world [fr]:

“A report called A World of Torture in 2013, assesses torture practices that continue to be alarming, from Pakistan to Italy, by way of South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Australia and Bolivia. From authoritarian regimes to democratic countries, none are exempt from criticism on the topic. In 2013, torture remains as endemic, omnipresent and multi-faceted as ever”.

February 20 2013

New e-Journal Highlights Balkan History and Archaeology

The inaugural issue of Haemus Journal, an academic e-journal devoted to the history and archaeology of the Balkan Peninsula, also covering a wide range of related interdisciplinary topics, was published recently. It follows the principles of Free and Open Access and publishes its content under a Creative Commons license.


Haemus journal Vol.1 (2012)


January 29 2013

“The Un-European Union”

GV Author Filip Stojanovski, on his blog Razvigor, has translated into English a mock story [sr] by, “the Serbian equivalent to The Onion,” about the UK striving to join “the Un-European Union”:

The Council of Ministers of the countries of the Un-European Union stated today in Skopje that a long road lies ahead of United Kingdom in order for it to join this international organisation. […]

The Macedonian translation of the story is here.

December 13 2012

Presenting the Balkan Minorities

Face the Balkans subjects of stories

A screenshot of the Face the Balkans website.

Fifteen young journalists from six different countries have produced a series of personal stories about representatives of the minorities (in a broad sense) from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Serbia, and Macedonia. The stories are available in English, German, and French on the Face the Balkans website.

December 09 2012

Bosnia & Herzegovina: “Lost Time”

Amila Bosnae writes about the years “stolen” by the war in the former Yugoslavia:

You lose a couple of years once, and twenty years later, you still haven’t caught up. […] Time stopped for us in a way, then. I didn’t even grow at all for the better part of those years because there was nothing to grow from. We were isolated from the world, but the world just kept on going without us. Possibly still celebrating the reunification of Germany and a new Europe while we were running for cover. In new Europe. […]

November 13 2012

From Bosnia to Mecca: “A Pilgrimage on Foot”

An Aussie in Bosnia wrote about Senad Hadzic's walk from a town in northern Bosnia all the way to Mecca - here and here [en]; a Facebook page devoted to this “pilgrimage on foot” is here [bs].

September 11 2012

Kosovo: Prizren Comic Book & Cartoon Festival

Poster announcing Vesna Nichevska-Saravinova's participation at 8th Comic Book & Cartoon Fest in Prizren

A poster for the 8th Comic Book & Cartoon Fest in Prizren

Macedonian artist Vesna Nichevska-Saravinova blogged about her participation in the Prizren Comics Festival, organized by the Kosovo Comic Book Artist Association, Xhennet Comics [sq]. Four out of 15 featured artists at the festival were from Macedonia, Eddie Rebel reports [mk], alongside colleagues from Italy, Turkey, Cyprus, France, Kosovo, Bulgaria, and Bosnia.

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