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Thursday, 30 November 2017

Revisiting Yugoslavia in the shadow of the present: Continuities and discontinuities

This day-long Symposium, on 23 November, was not yet another conference about the disintegration of Yugoslavia. States are not just their institutions and institutional boundaries, they are also ideas, cultures, experiences and cultures. While some things did disintegrate, the end of Yugoslavia was not a permanent rupture, as many things also remained in place in the successor states.

The first panel looked at politics and society. Adis Merdzanovic compared liberalism in Yugoslavia with the version of liberalism put forward by the European Union as part of the accession process. Catherine Baker examined the usefulness or not of the concept of nostalgia in delineating a cultural space that spans the former Yugoslav region.

Ivor Sokolic presented a paper on the impact of the civil society on democratisation in the post-Yugoslav space by highlighting its ambiguous and disordered nature. Jasmin Ramović considered the role of worker self-management in peacebuilding in the Balkans.

The second panel covered international affairs. Ljubica Spaskovska spoke about the legacies of Yugoslav non-aligned multilateralism and the selective appropriation of this part of socialist Yugoslavia’s legacies by the successor states. James Ker-Lindsay focussed on EU integration and post-Yugoslav cooperation, competition, and conflict: showing how integration might be interpreted as an attempt to foster regional re-integration. Othon Anastasakis spoke on the influences of the former empires, concretely Russia and Turkey, in the region before and after the disintegration of Yugoslavia. Dejan Jović argued that Yugoslavia’s disintegration was not only the collapse of the federal republic but also of its three central republics, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The third panel was dedicated to economics. Adam Bennett described the “impossible marriage” between microeconomic worker self-management and macroeconomic management. Milica Uvalic told us what happened to worker self-management, and how the successor states’ handling of market economic and democratic reforms led to divergent paths. Peter Sanfey examined the question whether the successor states are on the path to becoming sustainable market economies.

After the conference, there was a keynote address in the ESC, given by Norman Davies on the question which lay behind the symposium: Do countries ever really disappear?

The goal is to produce an edited volume based on the presentations on Yugoslavia and the successor states, and highlighting the central theme of continuities and discontinuities between past and present.

David Madden (Senior Member, St Antony's College, Oxford)

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