As you read these stories about wars on the territory of the former Yugoslavia, you will learn about the lies and hatred that led to the most horrible atrocities to have happened in Europe since the Second World War. A few years ago, and only several hundreds of kilometres from us, the neighbours turned into mortal enemies. The stories bear something akin to our situation today. At first, there were word threats, bickering and fist fighting. They were followed by increasing attacks on the media and the ever-growing aggressive rhetoric of politicians. Finally, authentic violence broke out. Society was utterly surprised as to how such horrors could have happened, as people said that they used to live so nicely together.
A journey by car from Slovakia takes between five and eight hours to places where the most terrifying atrocities to have happened in Europe since the Second World War occurred. Some of these territories lie on the coast of our “Slovak” sea. The country we are going to explore no longer exists. It is Yugoslavia between the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s of the 20th century.
The call for self-determination increased in the economically more advanced countries of Yugoslavia after the first democratic elections following the fall of socialism in 1991. The politicians intentionally stirred nationalist emotions and supported hatred between nationalities and people of different religions. The Serbs and the Croats started to talk about making their countries bigger by adding territories where their nationals lived.
the President of the Republic of Serbia, 1991 – 1997
Politicians in Yugoslavia used manipulation and deceit to ignite flames in the explosive and unstable cocktail of nationalities, religions, and historical grievances. Both sides of the conflicts worked with them. As a result, hatred overpowered ordinary citizens across Yugoslavia. People organized themselves in paramilitary units and often committed the most horrifying atrocities.
State television stations deepened hatred in people who preferred watching television to reading newspapers. As the situation worsened by the day, almost every family watched television or listened to the radio, as there was no wide-spread access to the Internet in those days.
A short ten-day war, a war that was a harbinger of horrors in the neighbors.
About war in Slovenia
While Slovaks were vacationing in the north of the country, war was raging elsewhere.
About war in Croatia
A country where everyone fought against everyone.
About war in Bosnia and Herzegovina
The wars in former Yugoslavia were a total nonsense. They destroyed the country physically, socially and spiritually, and threw it back by several decades.
I have visited the Balkans many times. Today, people who live in the wanted and unwanted new states that succeeded the disintegrated Yugoslavia wish to lead good lives like people everywhere in the world. However, the war is constantly present in their lives. Many families lost their loved ones during the war. Those who survived suffer from physical and emotional wounds. Memorials in public places praise the local heroes and denigrate the foreign ones.
Some people harbour desire for revenge. Others long for reconciliation and forgiveness and want to have the others say sorry to them. And all have many questions as they think about the future.
Former Yugoslavia is like a textbook that shows us how a catastrophe becomes imminent through events, through the decisions and actions of politicians, through society’s lack of interest in their own country’s situation and over emphasizing one’s own interpretation of history, through feelings that our group has been marginalized, and thanks to an unfounded conviction that nothing bad can happen to us. If we make the effort and with hindsight look at what is happening in our homeland, what are we going to learn about our own country’s situation based on this Yugoslav textbook case?
Chairman of the CEP
Viewing human identity through group stereotypes and biases.
Identifying unwelcome groups of people with visual symbols, like the Jewish star.
Dehumanizing members of the groups. They are no longer viewed as human beings but as cockroaches or rats.
Reaching a breakthrough point – the state centrally organizes preparations to exterminate the groups.
Setting groups of people against each other through propaganda.
Marginalizing members of the unwelcome groups through firing them from work, expelling them from schools, and recording official notes in their documents.
“Cleaning” the state’s territory from the unwelcome groups by murdering them.
The state denying that victims were classified, identified, and murdered is an inseparable part of genocide