Bosnia: Citizens Of An Empty Nation?


Life in post-Dayton Bosnia is determined by the constitutional idea of two nations living side by side but never coming into contact with one another. It is a model that goes against the grain of Bosnia’s history of ethnic pluralism, RFE/RL’s Gordana Knezevic writes.

“Divisions did not cause the war — they are the result of war. But the reason why divisions remain in society is related to the way how differences are being managed,” says Syracuse University professor Azra Hromadzic. Pointing out that there is no shared public space where people of different ethnic groups can come together, Hromadzic goes back to her case study, the Mostar high school, she adds:

According to Hromadzic (right), the newly “unified” high school does not simply reflect the ethnic divisions in Bosnian society, but rather reproduces them. She was in Mostar to attend the launch of the Bosnian translation of her new book, Citizens Of An Empty Nation, which is focused on the main high school as a symbol of a divided city.

“Divisions are unavoidable — we have a problem only when divisions are overdetermined by a particular form of identity,” says Hromadzic, who teaches anthropology at Syracuse. In her book she analyzes how the narcissism of minor differences has become the dominant feature of post-war Bosnian society, in which ethnicity annihilates all other identities — and in the process denies Bosnian history and tradition…..Two years ago, a student from the Mostar high school appeared on “Perspektiva,” a program produced by RFE/RL and NED (National Endowment for Democracy), and made waves in the region by stating that he had never crossed Mostar’s famous Old Bridge. The boundaries of his world are the boundaries of the Croat part of the city.


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