Mapping the Yugoslav conflicts

By Johan Galtung

Written around 1992, edited in 2006

This blog favors the conflict/peace more than the threat/security perspective.  And standard conflict analysis demands a comprehensive listing of the key actors, of their goals, and of the clashes among those goals.  A point of departure is a list of standard fault-lines often separating individuals and groups, assuming that the conflict is not only among states and republics because only they have arms.

Conflict analysis – it was a bit more complex than assumed by most

And that is a first and major point to be made: the conflict in and over Yugoslavia went far beyond nations only.  Here are ten conflicts, all within Yugoslavia, certainly not only one:

I.    Nature: military destruction vs the eco-balance of nature, particularly through the use of depleted uranium
II.   Gender: macho attitude-behavior, including large scale rape, probably also as a backlash against socialist gender parity
III.  Generation: passing hatred, revanchism through generations, from the past via the present way into the future, at the national, local and family levels, not processed through reconciliation
IV.   Race: by and large irrelevant, except for some UN troops
V.    Class: we have to distinguish between four kinds:

– political: a revolt against Beograd as the Titoist center of decision-making, also among Serbs as a perpetuation of the Tito-Mihajlovich, partizan-chetnik conflict from the Second world war;
– military: a revolt against the Titoist near monopoly on military violence through the largely Serbian controlled JNA, the Yugoslav National Army;
– economic: the under-class revolt against the technocrats; and the revolt of the less well-to-do against the more well-to-do;
– cultural: a revolt against any perceived cultural dominance, linguistically, religiously, ideologically – within and without.

VI:   Nation: shallow in terms of religion; deeper for language, and in terms of sacred times (dates) and sacred spaces (sites) for the nations.  Also “Yugoslavs” vs. “constituent nations”.

VII:  Country: only Slovenija was uni-national, the other republics were all multi-national with problematic borders

VIII: State/Capital: the socialism/capitalism controversy

IX:   Capital/Civil Society: inter-nation exploitation issues

X:    State/Civil Society: human rights infractions, killed and wounded, peace movements inside/outside Yugoslavia; NGOs.

Almost everyone of these is important.  But “nation” has to be spelt out. [Read more…]

The Yugoslav conflict formation – 14 issues

By Johan Galtung

Written 1996, edited 2006

What did we typically learn from the media and what not during the 1990s? Here is one way of answering that question:


In the right column are a number of narratives, stories waiting to be told.  They are all important in any effort to understand what went on. But the media over-selected the narratives to the left at the expense of the narratives to the right.  The argument is not that what is to the left should not be covered, but that what is to the right should also have been given a clear voice, a ‘glasnost’. Thus, the role as “war correspondent” is classical and honored; peace journalism hardly even exists as a concept in violence-hungry Western media.

As a consequence the image created was that all bad events, with no history, just “nationalism”, happen in Yugoslavia. The idea of “ethnic conflict”, with no context in time or space, serves that purpose well. Outside actors are only spectators, trying their best to help in a noble way. This lack of historical context is what Professor Svetozar Stojanovic refers to as “presentism”. Good media would reflect all three, past, present and future (implications, consequences). [Read more…]