The Second World War and the national question in the former Yugoslavia

The Center for History, Democracy and Reconciliation from Novi Sad and the Tres Culturas Foundation from Seville organized an international scientific meeting in Seville (Spain) that brought together scientists from Serbia, Spain, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the United States of America.

The Second World War and the National Question in the Former Yugoslavia - A Common Historical Narrative

The international meeting of historians “The Second World War and the National Question in the Former Yugoslavia – Common Historical Narrative” was held in Seville from 01.31.2008. until February 3, 2008.

The organizers of the meeting were: Center for History, Democracy and Reconciliation from Novi Sad and Tres Culturas Foundation from Seville.

On behalf of the hosts of the meeting , Dario Marimón and Germinal Gil opened the meeting with an introductory lecture.

In front of the Center for History, Democracy and Reconciliation, the work of this organization was presented by Darko Gavrilović , the president of the founding board.

This conference aims to explore further debates and issues related to the Second World War period in Yugoslavia and its impact on contemporary politics. The aim is to illuminate the events of the recent past in order to understand the current political processes and the misunderstandings that still exist.

One of the main reasons for the war in the former Yugoslavia during the nineties was the unresolved national question. It led to the tragedy of the Second World War. It was subsequently suppressed during socialist Yugoslavia. Even today, the national question remains a contentious issue in Yugoslav successors, especially in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Research teams

The participants of the meeting were divided into three working groups on the first day of work:

  1. Chetniks – controversies in historiography (participants: Darko Gavrilović, Mile Bjelajac, Predrag Marković, Snjezana Koren),
  2. Synthetic nations and national concepts and ideas during World War II (participants: Ljubiša Despotović, Adnan Jahić, Marko Atila Hoare, Goran Hutinec, Neven Anđelić), and
  3. Memories and memories of World War II in contemporary historiography and history textbooks (participants: Vjeran Pavlaković, Tvrtko Jakovina, Mila Orlić, Ljubodrag Dimić, Ranka Gašić).
Plans for the "Common Historical Narrative" project

The goal of the project and further plans were presented in their presentations by: Elazar Barkan, professor at Columbia University and director of the Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation (IHJR); Darko Gavrilović, professor at the Faculty of Philosophy in Novi Sad and president of the founding board of the Center for History, Democracy and Reconciliation.

Elazar Barkan presented examples of similar projects from other parts of the world that IHJR is working on: reconciliation between Palestinians and Israelis, India and Pakistan, Turkey and Armenia, Poles and Jews. Those projects involve making historical maps of the world for the period after 1948. year, based on the facts that historians determine jointly.

He also mentioned projects that focus on the so-called holy places, common to several religions, which aims to reduce inter-religious tensions.

A common historical narrative is the goal of these projects, as one of the paths to reconciliation.

Darko Gavrilović presented concrete proposals for the processing of topics that should contribute to the achievement of this goal in the territory of the former Yugoslavia: the study of the history of refugees and camp inmates. Also, the demythologizing of history, especially through school and university textbooks.

Conference results

At the meeting, it was concluded that a network of researchers of different profiles from all countries of the region should be formed. Their task would be to respond to non-scientific and ideologically motivated historical essays through documents and scientific works. Such a network would be able to react on a scientific and professional basis in moments of crisis in society and achieve an effect on public opinion.

In order to make the efforts of the gathered historians concrete, decisions were made about future projects: “Resistance and collaboration” (project leaders Mile Bjelajac and Vjeran Pavlaković). “Tito and the National Question” (project leaders Ljubodrag Dimić and Tvrtko Jakovina). “Mapping national identities on the territory of Yugoslavia” (project leaders Ljubiša Despotović and Ranka Gašić).

Since CHDR has already developed three projects: “Refugees in the Balkans in the 20 century”, “Second World War and the National Question” and “Myths and Stereotypes of Nationalism and Communism”, a decision was made to combine the existing projects into one joint project. Thus, the synergy of gathered historians, sociologists and political scientists would be greater.

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