Lessons from Sarajevo and the First World War: From Yugoslav to National Memories

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This article investigates the developments of public memory of the First World War as it is written in to the national narratives of Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia on the way to the centennial of the war’s outbreak. The First World War constitutes both a shared and a divided memory in Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia. Though the war was a catastrophe everywhere, to Serbia it also became a triumph on allied side, whereas in Bosnia and Croatia it was mainly a state collapse. Yet, the First World War also provided the immediate conditions for the creation of the first Yugoslav state, and consequently the history of the war was narrated within a Yugoslav context, echoing the triumphant Serbian narrative.
With the fall of socialist Yugoslavia, the memory of the First World War developed quite differently in the three states. Different lessons are being drawn from war history, often with the aim of situating the nation within a European context. In Serbia, First World War narratives remain national and heroic and are framed as a virtuous, pro-democratic and European legacy. In Croatia and Bosnia First World War history is being created anew and, at least in the Bosnian case, with an aspiration to present Bosnia’s war experience within a discourse of European reconciliation. Based on analyses of popular history books, history debates in newspapers and media, and political commentary the paper shows how the First World War as public memory has moved from Yugoslav to national narratives with an increasingly European aspiration.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEast European Politics and Societies
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)34-54
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2016

ID: 160050223