Notes on nationalism — Britain, Bosnia, Banjaluka
For most of my adult life, I have been interested in and felt very existential concerning topics as identification, history, and democracy. This has been the case mainly due to my own experiences growing up in Bosnia during and after the war (1992–1995).
It was not easy to grow up surrounded by hate, corruption, and hysteria, to make a long story short. I have both Serbs, Orthodox Christians, and Bosniacs, Muslims in my larger family. I often felt devasted in my childhood when I saw communal/national violence and hatred taking place. If I manage to have kids someday and my kids do not experience war and massacres, they will be the first ones to do so in my family tree since the 19th century.
After the war in Bosnia, my father was helping our English cousin Mick who sadly died last year. Mick met and married one of my father’s relatives from Banjaluka, the second-largest city in Bosnia, after Mick came from Yorkshire to Bosnia to work as a lorry driver for the Red Cross. Banjaluka is famous as the “Bosnian Serbs’ capital” and was a “mixed city” before the war. Banjaluka was among the first cases of what, during the 1990s, came to be famous as ethnic cleansing.
In Banjaluka, where the British military contingent was stationed as part of the NATO’s Stabilization Force (SFOR), Mick used to go there from time to time to deliver some goods and to hang out with soldiers that he knew. At some point when my father and Mike were together in 1997, they came to the base where they also met a soldier who, during his off-duty time, was dressed in blue and white, openly presenting his “Scottish pride”. Apparently, despite working for the British army, this soldier even did not appreciate being called British.
In one way, this absurd story sounded quite shocking for me because, as a boy, I believed that the British and others within the NATO peacekeeping mission came to Bosnia to show to people in Bosnia how to behave in a civilized way and to stop with nationalist identity politics and stupidity. One point of this story is that identity and human nature are often complicated, hysterical and dangerous things in life.
I used to think that Yugoslavia could have functioned as an asymmetric federation similar to the UK, but now due to Brexit, Scotxit, and what is happening in Northern Ireland, has changed my mind completely. Basically, Yugoslavia was not able to continue existing because Serbs, Croats, and others, in general, stopped believing in its story, and my impression is that the UK could also disappear during the 2020s if more and more Englishmen, Scotsmen, and others decide that they do not feel attached to the British story.
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