Contested Nationalism

Contested Nationalism: Serb Elite Rivalry in Croatia and Bosnia in the 1990s

Nina Caspersen
Series: Ethnopolitics
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 220
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qch65
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  • Book Info
    Contested Nationalism
    Book Description:

    "Only unity saves the Serbs" is the famous call for unity in the Serb nationalist doctrine. But even though this doctrine was ideologically adhered to by most of the Serb leaders in Croatia and Bosnia, disunity characterized Serb politics during the Yugoslav disintegration and war. Nationalism was contested and nationalist claims to homogeneity did not reflect the reality of Serb politics. This book provides a comprehensive analysis of Serb politics and challenges widespread assumptions regarding the Yugoslav conflict and war. It finds that although Slobodan Milosevic played a highly significant role, he was not always able to control the local Serb leaders. Moreover, it adds to the emerging evidence of the lack of importance of popular attitudes; hardline dominance was generally based on the control of economic and coercive resources rather than on elites successfully "playing the ethnic card." It moves beyond an assumption of automatic ethnic outbidding and thus contributes toward a better understanding of intra-ethnic rivalry in other cases such as Israel/Palestine, Northern Ireland, Nagorno-Karabakh and Rwanda.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-791-4
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures and Tables
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    ‘Only unity saves the Serbs’ is the famous call for unity in the Serb nationalist doctrine.¹ But even though this doctrine was ideologically adhered to by most of the Serb leaders in Croatia and Bosnia, disunity characterized Serb politics during the Yugoslav disintegration and war: divisions between leaders, between competing Serb parties and eventually also between leaders in the Serb statelets and in Belgrade. Nationalism was, thus, contested and nationalist claims to homogeneity did not reflect the reality of Serb politics.

    The call for unity is not only found in Serb nationalist discourse, but is an integral part of nationalist...

  7. Chapter One Ethnic Elites and Internal Competition
    (pp. 7-26)

    The importance of elites in the Yugoslav conflict and war is widely acknowledged, and political leaders such as Slobodan Milošević, Franjo Tuđman and Alija Izetbegović were often portrayed in the media as synonymous with the people they vowed to represent. The underlying media assumption of homogeneous, monolithic communities was a convenient myth rather than reality, but the great significance of elites nevertheless remains and it is generally accepted in the academic literature on the Yugoslav disintegration.¹ In the theoretical literature the crucial role of elites in conflict resolution is likewise emphasized and there is also increasing evidence of elite initiated...

  8. Chapter Two Conflict and War in Croatia and Bosnia
    (pp. 27-44)

    Ever since the creation of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes in 1918, Serb elites have played a crucial role in Yugoslav political developments. This is, of course, no coincidence given that the Serbs constituted the largest ethnic group in both the first and the second Yugoslavia.¹ As an independent state prior to 1918, Serbia had, moreover, played a decisive role in the unification of ‘South Slav lands’ and some members of the Serbian elite in the first Yugoslavia had a preference for viewing Serbia as Yugoslavia’s Piedmont, with the accompanying added legitimacy of the Serbian position. The importance...

  9. Chapter Three Prewar Croatia: Ethnification and Radicalization
    (pp. 45-70)

    The introduction of multiparty politics launched a new Serb elite onto the political scene in Croatia, an elite which claimed to represent the homogeneous interests of the Serbs. However, disunity prevailed and became even more dominant as the conflict intensified. In their quest for power, Serb elites, moreover, had to compete with non-ethnic parties and, in this competition, the nature of ‘the political’ was at stake.¹ The Serb Democratic Party (Srpska demokratska stranka, SDS) managed to achieve dominance in the Serb community, despite disappointing election results, and subsequently radicalized its position.² This chapter analyses how the ethnic cleavage became dominant,...

  10. Chapter Four Prewar Bosnia: Cohesive, Radicalizing Nationalists
    (pp. 71-98)

    The Bosnian and the Croatian cases share many similarities in the pre-war period: the dominant Serb party had the same name; their policies were almost identical; and the leader of the SDS in Croatia, Jovan Rašković, helped establish the SDS in Bosnia as well as helping choose its leader, fellow psychiatrist Radovan Karadžić. Their strategy in radicalizing the position of the party, furthermore, followed the same pattern. Initially the position of the party was fairly moderate, if rather vague; the first step in their radicalization was the establishment of an association of SDS-dominated municipalities; then a Serb Assembly was set...

  11. Chapter Five Wartime Croatia: Disunity Did Not Save the Serbs
    (pp. 99-130)

    With the outbreak of war, we find ourselves in a very different context for political competition: not only has the transition to democracy failed and complete ethnification become a reality, but it is also a situation of war in which other resources, especially military ones, are available and effective in the internal rivalry. Given the importance of coercive resources, links with military and paramilitary forces become of crucial significance for the outcome of intra-Serb competition. These forces exercise their influence either through support for competing political leaders or through direct challenges. Based on such background conditions, intraethnic competition is consequently...

  12. Chapter Six Wartime Bosnia: Divided We Stand
    (pp. 131-160)

    In the previous chapter we saw how wartime intra-Serb competition in the Republic of Serb Krajina (RSK) was characterized by greater independence from Belgrade, by the emergence of competition from other ethnic parties, by the dominance of coercive resources and by the consequent great significance of (para)military forces. In prewar Bosnia, intra-Serb competition had been less intense than in Croatia but this gradually changed during the war, although the SDS retained its dominance throughout the period and the leadership remained intact.

    When war broke out in Bosnia, the SDS leadership had already established the Serb Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina (later renamed...

  13. Chapter Seven Warlords, Spoilers and Moderates
    (pp. 161-186)

    Notwithstanding the imperative of unity in the face of severe conflict, as famously called for in the motto ‘only unity saves the Serbs’, disunity prevailed throughout the conflict and war. Rivalry was unrelenting and even the ‘President of all Serbs’, Slobodan Milošević, was unable to always dictate Serb politics in Croatia and Bosnia. The need for guarding the position of the nation was clearly not enough to prevent divisions. Horowitz’s thesis that intra-ethnic competition will be limited by a concern for weakening the position of the group was not, therefore, supported by the two cases. On the contrary, when military...

  14. Chapter Eight Conclusion: Contested Nationalism
    (pp. 187-192)

    Despite trying to make appearances to the contrary, unity was far from characteristic of the Serb leaders in Croatia and Bosnia in the 1990s. Serb politics was marked by great divisions, initially over the ethnic definition of politics and later by divisions between leaders who all gladly accepted the label ‘Serb leader’ and professed to be protecting the interests of the Serb nation. Such claims to a homogeneous national interest were clearly an illusion and divisions and rivalry persisted throughout the prewar and wartime periods and continued into the postwar period. This rivalry was fuelled by differing views of the...

  15. References Books, Chapters in Books, Journal Articles and Unpublished Papers
    (pp. 193-200)
  16. Index
    (pp. 201-208)