Zlatko Jovanovic’s project – University of Copenhagen

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Zlatko Jovanovic’s project

Yugoslavian, Bosnian, Muslim, Sarajevan? Competing Forms of Identity in Sarajevo 1949–1984 falls within the project’s chronological unit Authoritarian Modernization 1950–1989. The distinctive feature of Sarajevo in relation to the overall discussion of the project is the city’s multiconfessional character. Institutionalized in the Ottoman Empire through the Millet system, a person’s confessional affiliation was the most important basis for the development of national identities in South-East Europe after 1800.

In Bosnia the national identity of its biggest confessional group, the Muslims, was developed and recognized in the studied period. Because of the mixture of nationalities in Bosnia and the high level of secularization in the big cities of Yugoslavia, however, confession and nation were far from being the only relevant forms of identity in the Bosnian capital. When measured in relation to the share of people calling themselves Yugoslavs at the start of the 1980s, Sarajevo was the most Yugoslav of all the Yugoslav republics. In addition, the city had always distinguished itself for its inhabitants’ strong sense of local belonging and its regional Bosnian, not nationally defined, sense of community.

The study will investigate the relationship between these competing identities – from the supranational to the local. It will draw on identity studies which emphasize the changeability and relationality of identity, and on an understanding of nationality as something constructed and mobilized. In terms of methodology it is envisaged as a microhistorical study using Sarajevo as an empirical platform in the discussion of Bosnia, South-East Europe and Europe’s Ottoman heritage and diverse roads to modernity. Sarajevo’s modern history undoubtedly has the necessary paradigmatic potential to be a part of this discussion, not least because the city’s well-preserved old town from Ottoman times is one of best physical examples of the Ottoman heritage in South-East Europe. The sources for the study will be: (1) documents from the Communist League about nationality and culture policy; (2) the local and federal press; (3) cultural production (such as film, music and literature) concerning the different forms of identity.

The main hypothesis in the study is that the modernization project in Yugoslavia was influenced by the special position of the country in the bipolar world order that dominated the period. After the break with the Soviet Union in 1948, Yugoslavia pursued an independent foreign policy by balancing between East and West. The political elite tolerated the growing cultural influence of the West while simultaneously trying to harmonize this influence with its ideology and its authoritarian form of government. Developments in Sarajevo in the studied period will be viewed through this lens.

The aim of the study is to examine the changes of identity and belonging in the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, in the light of the specifically Yugoslav modernization project. The opening of Sarajevo University in 1949 and the hosting of the Winter Olympics in 1984 mark the chronological framework of the project. Through these 35 years the city underwent rapid modernization, which affected social practice and the inhabitants’ self-understanding, while it simultaneously became established as one of the leading cultural and industrial centres in Yugoslavia.

The results of the project will be issued as a monograph and as chapters in the project’s two-volume work.