The capital of the future of the small Balkan countries, thereby lies in their past. Specifically, in the highly desired (and hopefully possible) ability not to relive that past, when the rest of the world seemingly intends to do so.
For a long while I didn’t not know what to say about Ukraine.
I’m a little embarrassed. Sitting in my comfortable chair – with a refrigerator nearby, and electricity in the cables and water in the pipes – I “have opinions” about a tragedy that is happening in a country that will soon have as many refugees as my country has residents. I wrote and backspaced, nothing smart came out.
And so it went, until I read the words of a true sage from the Internet: “If World War III breaks out, I ask all of us in the Balkans to play dead. We’ve contributed enough. ” Well, we have contributed to history. Although we could still contribute, so that’s what I’ll entertain in the following lines. And, please, don’t mind my ‘opinions’.
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Way back on January 31, 1992, the work of the American political philosopher Francis Fukuyama appeared on bookshelves: “The End of History and the Last Man”. This only a few months after the ten-day war in Slovenia, which in a way was the beginning of the bloody disintegration of (post) socialist Yugoslavia. The book explains how the end of the Soviet Union marked the end of ideological evolution and the universalisation of Western democracy. And thus the end of history itself.
Thirty years later, Vladimir Putin announced his own practical view of the end of history, informing Fukuyama’s post-Soviet and post-historical world that a new war might bring it to a physical end: Russia has put its nuclear weapons on standby, further arguing its presence of military forces in Ukraine, in a kind of absence of any logic and reason. The price is paid by ordinary people, participants of the side of history that has not ended.
If he had somehow been able to concentrate on the events in Yugoslavia in 1992, Fukuyama would not have flooded the Western political hemisphere with claims of the final victory of anything. Because History has pointed out with its largest finger that it has its own ways of continuing. The narrative of the future universal happiness of the Working Class has been quickly replaced by fairy tales about the benefits of the Nation occupying living space. Among the peoples and nationalities of the former socialist Yugoslavia – and not equally among all – the division of the Yugoslav state space was understood as an opportunity for national demarcation.
The result of that understanding were the wars of the 1990s in the area, which have ended. Although pessimists do not consider this ending to be final. Regardless of pessimism or optimism, what could be considered final is the knowledge that the issue of national demarcation within former socialist states is not just an ex-Yugoslav, South-Eastern-European or any other local Balkan issue.
There are more Balkans in the world.
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Three decades after Fukuyama’s fantasy of the absolute and final victory of democracy – and just as many after the breakup of Yugoslavia – the time has come to write a new book. But this time not about the end of history, but about its repetition, with some new circumstances. The wars in Yugoslavia were not fought under the watchful eye of social media, nor were bombings and sieges of cities preceded by a global economic crisis, a pandemic, polarisation, and floods of fake news. In any case, in their arrogant stupidity, the great powers have allowed themselves the luxury of – with much more tragic and much more global consequences – becoming, and in far worse conditions, that which they have mentored and directed against for three decades. They became us.
In that sense, one of the possible futures could be that our so-called Region provides consulting services to Russia, USA / NATO / EU, Ukraine (exactly in that order and exactly as stated) – in the field of reconciliation and cooperation. Especially in terms of how to make peace and cooperate while under the supervision and conditioning of those who repeated all your mistakes, and megalomaniacally so, three decades later. The capital of the future of the small Balkan countries, thereby lies in their past. Specifically, in the highly desired (and hopefully possible) ability not to relive that past, when the rest of the world seemingly intends to do so.
“Let’s play dead” said a sage from the Internet.
“History, you can do without the Balkans,” Fukuyama said in his new, unwritten book.