Thursday, October 17, 2013

Oddly Obsessed with Bosnia Herzogovinia

Jane and I near the bridge  (more later on the bridge)

Every since our trip to Croatia and our 1 day visit to Mostar, I find myself oddly obsessed with Bosnia Herzegovina. There are so many parallels and lessons for the US (and the world)  - yet so few people know about it.
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I found the country beautiful, the people warm and the recent history unimaginable.  Yet it all happened.
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Consider this... For years Bosnia Herzegovina was the most Yugoslavian of places.  The other states in Yugoslavia had either been independent, or had a national identity outside of Yugoslavia.  But Bosnia (we'll drop the Herzegovina for a while) did not.  The Bosniacks were enthusiastic members of the state and tried to stay neutral during the Croatian / Serbian wars.
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But ultimately the nationals from both sides appealed to their (religious) countrymen inside Bosnia and brought their external war into an internal civil war.  Croatia Bosnians, following the Catholic Church, and Serbian Bosnians, following the Orthodox Eastern Church, turned viciously on each other and even more viciously on the Muslim Bosniacks.  FYI , this WAS NOT the fault of the churches but of a crazed and nationalistic media who exploited religious differences.  The religions defined the populations but did not instigate or condon the events.
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Seriously, I feel in love with the place
These Bosnian people who had lived in peace under the Magyar Empire (Hungary), the Ottoman Empire, the Austrian / Hungary Empire and Yugoslavia, suddenly turned on each other and particularly the Bosniaks, with a ruthlessness that is unbelievable.
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Over 100,000 people died in the war and 83% of the civilian causalities were Bosniaks (45% of the military causalities were Bosniak).
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Almost 5% of all Bosniaks living in the country were killed.  The numbers are all guesses because there was no census, and there hasn't been on since the war (they are all afraid of upsetting the balance).  But 5% of Americans (a comparable number) would be about 15 million people.
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How does that happen?  How does centuries of trust and marriage and friendship go so terribly wrong overnight?  There are a lot of reasons, but a key one is propaganda.  Both the leading Croat and Serb television "news" stations made accusations and then trumped these wildly false stories.  Both sides were convinced that ethnic slaughter was happening; and so they were incensed at their neighbors, who were suddenly "the other".
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And although I worry about the crap Fox News puts out, they are not even in the same league as the two leading Croat and Serbian stations were.  Fox News pushes minor incidents as major items, but they don't actually say liberals are murdering innocents in the street and raping your wives.
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And visiting Bosnia, you would never think it of these kind, wonderful people.
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I have to go back someday.  I just don't understand.  I find myself curiously drawn there.

So look at the map.  Those green places in the east (left side), the Bosniaks didn't move, they were massacred.

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