Goodbye to Post-Yugoslavism? A Review of Reactions to Mirjana Kasapović’s Essay

The Old Regime and the Polemic
May 26, 2023
Written by: 
Anali HPD

Mirjana Kasapović’s essay, "Goodbye to Post-Yugoslavism!", published by the Annals of the Croatian Political Science Association on May 2nd this year, resonated loudly in the Croatian public space and beyond. In the weeks after the publication of the article there were dozens of reactions to the essay, some positive and some negative. Even though the issue of the normative attitude towards Yugoslavia is already considered by many to be a worn out, tiresome and boring topic, the discussion in this case turned out to be lively and epistemically stimulating. We cannot say that all reactions were of high-quality, but many interesting arguments appeared that should be taken into account when considering and evaluating the theses of the text “Goodbye to Post-Yugoslavism!”. If one of the goals of scientific publishing is to stimulate discussion and reflection, even outside the academic framework, we believe that the Annals have succeeded in this. On this occasion, we present an overview of reactions to the essay. Considering the number of reactions, we will not pretend that the list below is exhaustive, and we have no doubt that there will be more, but we believe that we have managed to highlight the relevant and interesting ones that have been published so far.

After significant portions of Mirjana Kasapović’s text were reproduced on the news portal under the title "Goodbye to post-Yugoslavism: Yugoslavia was the most unsuccessful European country of the 20th century", and several other portals took it over in a similar form, Večernji list on May 11 published Žarko Ivković’s affirmative editorial "It's time to finally say goodbye to Yugoslavia!" and Denis Romac’s article "Post-Yugoslavia is an ideological construct for a non-existent state", which included the reactions of historians Dragan Markovina, Vjeran Pavlaković and Josip Mihaljević, while political scientist Dejan Jović declined to comment. On the same day, an article by Robert Bajruši was published on the portal under the title "Our professor says that post-Yugoslavism is stupid and out of place, she is not the only one: 'Enough mythomania!'", and also published in the printed edition of Jutarnji list a day later. Along with the recapitulation of some points of the essay, the article also included short comments by political scientist Josip Glaurdić and historian Vjeran Pavlaković. Glaurdić stated that he generally agrees with Kasapović’s theses, especially the one that Yugoslavia is one of the most unsuccessful states of the 20th century, claiming that “the glorification of the Yugoslav past must stop once and for all”, but he also pointed out that this does not necessarily mean that the successor states are more successful. Pavlaković, on the other hand, believes that post-Yugoslav studies are a scientific field that explores all the features of Yugoslavia, including the authoritarian one, while he rejects the notion of totalitarianism as a Cold War anachronism. On May 12, published Bajruši’s comment titled "It is nonsense to claim that Yugoslavia was a high-quality country, and the economic situation is also mystified", where he affirms Kasapović's thesis that Yugoslavia was indeed not a good state and concludes that independent Croatia is “fundamentally better than Yugoslavia”.

Jurica Pavičić’s reaction was published on the portal on the same day as Bajruši’s. It was titled "The story of the most popular singer in the former Yugoslavia or what professor Mirjana Kasapović does not understand". Pavičić cites the example of the singer Senida Hajdarpašić, a “platinum Slovenian woman of Montenegrin-Bosniak origin” who “sings on the Serbian ekavica”: Senidah, as her stage name reads, is currently one of the most popular pop stars throughout the entire area of the former Yugoslavia, which Pavičić considers an indicator of the survival of the post-Yugoslav cultural space, especially taking into account the fact that Senida’s fans are mostly teenagers, so their appreciation of Senida cannot be a product of Yugo-nostalgia or academic careerism and colonialism.

Dragan Markovina, who, like Pavičić, was directly mentioned in the essay, replied on the portal Peščanik. Under the title "The bias of anti-post-Yugoslavism", Markovina points out the positive aspects of Yugoslavia that Kasapović failed to mention – the fact that Yugoslavia modernized and economically and culturally developed the territory of Croatia in a relatively short historical period, and the fact that today’s internationally recognized borders of Croatia were formed in Yugoslavia. Like Pavičić, Markovina emphasizes the existence of a common post-Yugoslav cultural space as a fact that cannot be ignored even today.

Lujo Parežanin authored the text "Hey, post-Yugoslavs" for the Novosti portal. Along with some remarks about the incorrect use of sources by Kasapović, Parežanin points out that her thesis of Yugoslav and post-Yugoslav identity as "invented", and thus illegitimate, does not stand up when we consider the insights of Benedict Anderson's study on the nation as an “imagined community”, according to which all national communities are a constructivist product, including those of the successor states of Yugoslavia. In the text "Goodbye to pre-Yugoslavism!", published on the portal Bilten, Marko Kostanić affirms Pavičić’s criticism as “the most lucid” and reprimands Kasapović for imagining “pre-Yugoslavia as an empty historical space”: her thesis on the failure of the Yugoslav project assumes continuity between the first and second Yugoslavia and ignores the historical context that preceded the creation of both Yugoslav states, which Kostanić considers unjustified.

Below is a list of several more or less peculiar reactions. For Jutarnji list, Vlado Vurušić wrote the text "Post-Yugoslavia is a reality, but it is not a danger: To what will they listen to in Belgrade if they don't listen to Mišo and Oliver?!", while to the subgenre of musicological criticism that touched on Kasapović’s text along the way, a text by Aleksandar Dragaš should be added. Inspired by the criticism of post-Yugoslavism, listening to a music record Dragaš found himself at "a possible 'post-Austro-Hungarian' or at the crossroads of 'Middle European' and 'Balkan' space, but also at the imaginary intersection of the Dinarides and the Appalachians". Columnists who are usually placed on the political right mostly welcomed the theses of the text: Zvonimir Hodak was satisfied that "a left-winger suddenly 'saw the light'", as was Hrvoje Hitrec, who considers the intense publicity of the text justified, and notes that "Mrs. Mirjana ... systematically, professionally, dissected not only the failed Yugoslavia, but also the post-Yugoslav specters that crept into various Croatian higher education institutions, associations and cultural life". However, this was not the case for Hrvoje Marijačić, who in an ardent editorial of Hrvatski tjednik from May 18, under the title "Death to Yugoslavism and Post-Yugoslavism", criticized the "retired party professor" who "took 33 years to understand what Yugoslavia was". This reaction is comparable to the ad hominem maneuver from the left that Viktor Ivančić offered, referring to the similar number of years that the author lived in the old regime, in a wittily titled article "Hue and Cry of ‘Science’" [Kuka i nauka] for Novosti.

What is left is the somewhat resolute Mirko Galić, in yet another in a series of articles in Večernji list ("Yugoslavia is no more; after dealing with its own people, it cannot be recycled. Period!"), Boris Rašeta on 24sata ("Instead of the present, we only have a lively debate about the dead past, and that does not lead to good things"), more inclined to a Solomonic equidistance ("For the victims of the regime it was terrible, but for the 'children of communism' it was El Dorado. Who is right? Both") and Željko Porobija, a Protestant theologian who became a proselyte of atheism, who for the portal Index recalled everything "that was not good at all in Yugoslavia".

Annals of the Croatian Political Science Association

Croatian Political Science Association
Faculty of Political Science
Lepušićeva 6, 10 000 Zagreb

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