Aims and perspectives of this blog

By Johan Galtung, Jan Oberg and Håkan Wiberg
September 2, 2014

Introductory note by Jan Oberg

Exactly 23 years ago, on September 3, 1991,  TFF’s conflict-mitigation drove from Zagreb to the war zone of Osijek in Eastern Slavonia, close to Vukovar. We had negotiated our way through at a local para-military checkpoint outside the town where the less-than-reliable looking soldiers advised us: Sit on your flak jackets, there are mines here. Drive as fast as you can, no belt on and don’t lock your doors, you may need to get out fast.

Later in the desolate centre we met with the “Gandhi of Croatia”, Mayor Kramaric, who like we was unable to believe that it could get much worse than it already was. Thereafter, visiting shelters where refugees had gathered, all ages.

In the clear, cold September night we drove back toward Zagreb, passing St. Peter’s Cathedral in Djakovo where mass was held for those already killed. Intense atmosphere, deeply moving, forever unforgettable.

Drove high-speed in the night on the ‘Autoput’ to Zagreb. Hotel Dubrovnik in the city centre filled with Croatian soldiers and paramilitaries watching propaganda movies and news. Everywhere converted to a war zone, including the mind.

The next morning the main news reported that local Serbs had cut off traffic on the ‘Autoput’ and confiscated the cars and whatever people had in them. About half an hour after we had passed. That was the end, in more than one sense, of the relations between Zagreb and Belgrade. Yugoslavia had broken up. And we’d been lucky. Very very lucky.

It was the first of some 70 peace missions to all parts of former Yugoslavia, 3000+ interviews with all conflict parties and at all levels – courses, seminars, peace plans, press conferences, co-operation with all UN missions in the region, and more.

What could justify yet another publication about former Yugoslavia and its dissolution processes? Probably only that it offers a systematically different angle and differs in a number of respects from most other publications on this subject. This blog does exactly that since it:

• Uses a conflict-analytical and peace policy-approach, based on modern systematic theorising; most other books take a historical, strategic, political science, international relations, anthropological, journalistic, or travel book approach – and combinations of some of them;

• Focuses on the conflicts in a long-term perspective rather than on the violence in a short-term perspective and, thus, does not begin its analysis around 1990 because the underlying conflicts began much earlier than the violence;

• Treats the conflicts in Yugoslavia in a macro-perspective: in the perspective of regional-European and global-US-Cold War conflict formations and does not believe that what happened can be explained by reference to inner-Yugoslav dynamics alone;

• Builds on the view that everything is related to everything else – inside Yugoslavia as well as between it and the international so-called community;

• Disputes the view that this international community has played the role of an impartial, historically innocent, goodwill actor that tried only to help the Yugoslav peoples to make peace; rather, we treat the international community as a number of active participants to the conflicts and wars, i.e. as part of the overall conflict formation;

• Refuses to take the side of any nation or republic. Our analysis may appear pro-Serb to some, particularly those who are predominantly informed by mainstream Western media and discourse, but it isn’t. Rather, it is less apologetically pro-West and less uncritically, less biased, pro-Croatian, pro-Bosniak and pro-Albanian than most; and therefore less black and white;

• Takes a structural perspective and refuse to accept at least two types of reductionisms, namely a) that conflicts can be reduced to what (more or less demonised or embellished) top individuals do, and b) that it is all a matter of only two parties (one all black and one all white) pitted against each other. We know of no conflict anywhere in which there are only two parties and have never seen a conflict actor in which all members were only white or only black;

• Does not deal with blame and apportioning guilt but with understanding issues; it is, if you will, soft on people and hard on structures and underlying paradigms – as well as the stuff the conflicts in this drama are made of;

• Is both analytical and critical but also constructive; it has a historical perspective but maintains an emphasis on what could have been done differently or better and what can still be done. Admittedly such a counter-factual history writing is a risky and disputable project, but we aim to try it at least for pedagogical, heuristic and illustrative purposes. Not trying it means bowing down to the equally, if not more, disputable position that the decisions and course taken throughout the Yugoslav crisis and wars were the only one possible;

• It emphasizes that it is time to say something about the whole process including the end game around Serbia/Kosovo, Montenegro and Macedonia, perhaps Bosnia-Hercegovina too. [Read more…]

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The security versus the peace approach

By Johan Galtung

Written presumably 2006

Yugoslavia caught international attention through acts of violence late June 1990 when Slovenian border guards close to Gorizia shot at their Serbian counterparts.  And Yugoslavia retained its grip on international attention ever since, according to the rule of bad journalism: violence up, attention up; violence down, attention down.  The “Balkans”, that southeastern corner of Europe on which the West, the “international community”, projects its own somber shadow of centuries of ethnic cleansing and other cruelties, meets the bill.  Everybody sufficiently violent, from the smallest fringe to that very “international community”, can get their instant prime time/front page media fame. Years of patient NGO and UN work for peace will certainly not rival them.

For in the beginning was not the word, but two ways of thinking, competing for our attention: the security discourse and the peace discourse.  [Read more…]

After Yugoslavia – What?

By Marta Henricson-Cullberg
Carl Ulrik Schierup
Sören Sommelius
Jan Oberg

TFF Report October 1991 that marked the beginning of this project

Some passengers and crew have been asked to leave, some are leaving on their own. Others are not permitted or cannot leave for a variety of reasons.
There is chaos and shouting on board; the old captain having disappeared many are peddling for his job.
There are those who want to continue with a new captain
and repair the ship as best they can. Some want to set a new course – but how in this situation?
Others say so, but have just changed their uniforms.
Some tear open the weapons-filled cargo and arm themselves before dawn.
In the first class restaurant the guests enjoy the delicious food and wine – unaware, it seems, that storm is rising.
Passengers who used to enjoy the sun on deck seek protection in their cabins.
Mutilated and dead bodies are mysteriously found in the mornings. Not even friends and families aboard trust each other anymore.
The good old ship “Yugoslavia” is going down, slowly but surely.
Those around it are so perplexed that their rescue attempts could well
make the situation worse.
Indeed, something must be done…

We dedicate this report to
the peoples of Yugoslavia –
past, present and future
and to those who,
unnecessarily, we believe,
have already died.

Guide

Dear Reader

This is the report of a TFF conflict-mitigation mission to Croatia, Slovenia and Serbia in September 1991. Based on an analysis of numerous interviews with very different people, we present some answers to the questions: What must be done now? How can the first steps be taken towards building confidence and peace? [Read more…]