How Yugonostalgic Serbs really are?

Today marks the 105th anniversary of the proclamation of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. The Kingdom changed its name several times and from 1963 until the 1990s civil war, it was called the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Although the country went down in history several decades ago, the yearning for Yugoslavia is still present among quite a few people here.

According to data from the 2022 census in Serbia, 27,000 citizens in Serbia declared themselves as Yugoslavs. Most of them are in the 50 to 64 age group, but some of them were born after Yugoslavia’s disintegration.

According to the data, the number of Serbian citizens who declare themselves in this way has generally decreased since 1991 and the collapse of the former state, but compared to the census held in 2011, it has increased by about 4,000.

“Firstly, we are talking about identity with a long tradition and secondly, Yugoslavia was flexible, inclusive, without too many normative requirements and no nation-minders and ethno-policemen who to preach about how one should be a Yugoslav, as is the case with Serbian identity. Therefore, in addition to being an authentic identity, Yugoslavia is also an expression of escapism for a number of people, a way to create their narrower identity, ethnic, Serbian, experienced in a way that does not match the normative version of that identity,” Srđan Milošević from the Union Law Faculty, says.

This regret for the former country is strongly present in Serbia as shown by the research done under the auspices of the 2016 project “Strategy of symbolic nation building in the countries of Southeastern Europe”, co-authored by Vjeran Pavlaković, historian and associate professor at the Department of Cultural Studies in Rijeka, Croatia.

According to the research, which included 10,500 residents of the region, as many as 71 percent of Serbian citizens regret the breakup of Yugoslavia. However, Yugonostalgia is far more widespread and social media pages that gather admirers of the former state number tens of thousands of followers.

“A large number of people in Serbia regret a life that they perceive as, in important respects, better than the present one,” Pavlaković explains.

According to historian Aleksandar Životić, Yugonostalgia is strong because it reminds people of a rather peaceful, stable and carefree time.

“This was a time when they didn’t worry about safety, health care, education of their children, real estate prices,” Životić explains and adds:”Yugoslavia had a lot of flaws – first of all the political system itself, viewed from the current perspective, the stifled individual rights, unresolved inter-national and inter-republic relations, as well as problems with having an efficient and sustainable economy. These were the biggest problems in Yugoslavia which, for nearly a century of its existence, has not managed to eliminate all peculiarities, integrate nationally, but also in a geographic-, economic and transport sense completely.”

Fundamentally different perceptions of the format of Yugoslav integration, along with an unwillingness to compromise, led to the disintegration of the state, he says and adds that considering the calibre of politicians at the time of Yugoslavia’s disintegration, the bad decisions they made and a combination of other circumstances, the breakup of Yugoslavia was inevitable.

(N1, 01.12.2023)

This post is also available in: Italiano

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