Bosnian Themes


This compilation features books of the Central European University Press, published since its establishment in 1993, that have some relevance to Bosnia-Herzegovina, its history and culture. After the latest release, titles in the backlist are arranged by content: contemporary topics are on top, older themes below. For more substantial information about the content and availability, please click on the covers of the book, or on the links inserted into the citations.

“Toward 1910 Sarajevoer Tagblatt had turned more openly anti-Serbian, and in spite of its proclaimed neutrality favored news coming from Austrian, Croatian, and Jewish circles.”—Multicultural Cities of the Habsburg Empire.
“Srpski Rijeć was the leading Serbian newspaper of Sarajevo, and was virulent, often censored, and violently attacked by all the others, thus enhancing the conviction of the Serbs that they were unjustly persecuted.”
“The Muslims benefited from the liberalization of the press and from the policy of Governor Benjamin Kallay who tried to foster ‘Bosnian’ identity among them to counteract Serbian and Croatian nationalism.”
“The Muslims became the allies of Habsburg rule and worked to present themselves as an ‘ideal’ community from the point of view of the empire. But the project failed because it was not universally supported: conservatives saw in it a betrayal of their religious loyalty, while progressives proved to be unable to impose modernization on the Muslim society that remained largely illiterate and rural.”

“The authors from Bosnia came from urban middle class families. After the outbreak of the war Vesna and Saša managed to flee relatively early; the others spent years in their besieged hometowns before they succeeded to escape.”—More Nights Than Days.
“In the store the cashier, who knew his parents and had always been friendly with him, announced: ‘Tell your mom you Turks won’t need to eat much longer. You are not welcome here anymore.’”
“The children are called names they often don’t even understand at first. In Bosnia secular Bosnians are labelled ‘strangers,’ ‘Turks,’ ‘Muslim fundamentalists,’ ‘Alija’s falangists,’ ‘mujahedin,’ and ‘Arabs’. A derogatory term, ‘balije,’ is used frequently to humiliate them.”
“When he was asked if writing in English made it easier for him to recall his childhood, Ismet responded: ‘Oh, yeah. I couldn’t write anything like this in Bosnian, because I knew the language so well that it actually stifled me. Writing in English opens me up.’”

Books with a Bosnian focus:

“The High Representative has been a conflict-aggravating institution, hence, the international community is part of the problem, not a solution.”—from a book on post-Dayton Bosnia.
“Situated in a wider frame, BiH a part of the story about ‘the problematic character of Europe’ that inherently calls for American help and the NATO framework. Again, America is likely to have to intervene to protect an ‘incapable Europe’ (from the Russian threat).”
“Both Bosnian Croat and Serb elites view the revision of Dayton as still tolerable and not sufficiently dramatic to justify a more determined attempt at the overturn of the system through a blockage of the institutions or of the political processes necessary to the regular functioning of the institutions (e.g., elections).”
“The future of the state is likely to be determined by the impersonal factors of ‘hard power,’ e.g., finance, climate change, the migratory trends, the mortality rate, or the more enduring alterations at the global political level.”

Bosnia the Good stands out in the row of books on the struggle of this shaken country. It has been followed by many other CEU Press titles partly or fully dedicated to Bosnian history and culture, as proven by items in the latest catalogues.

“Let’s get married. She said yes and made her decision on the spot without any previous planning.”
Behind and below the divisions that became so apparent lately there lies transethnic heritage shared by Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats, the three main ethnic groups. Affinity (prijatelji) is such, and elopement (ukrala se, different from bride abduction, otmica). The elopement is a transformative rite of passage where an unmarried girl becomes a married woman. The affinal visitation, which follows, is a confirmatory ceremony where ritualized customs between families establish in-lawships.
These customs, guided by habitus, are unique and important to Bosnia, are explored on the basis of well-structured and effectuated fieldwork. The interdisciplinary framework embraces gender studies, cultural studies, folklore, Balkanology, and political philosophy. The damage on this cultural heritage during the past war from 1992–1995 is also assessed.

“Bosnian Muslim progressive intellectuals imagined Turkey to be a sort of paradise of appropriate gender relations, where ‘female emancipation’ and even ‘feminism’ had finally been realized on earth, sooner and better than in Western Europe.”—Making Muslim Women European.
“Beauty contests were also a way to show to non-Muslims, that the Muslim component of the population was no less modern than the rest of the population, and that they were capable of contributing to the creation of an urban Yugoslav society.”
“According to the official narrative, emancipation was a three-step process: Muslim women’s participation in the War of National Liberation, women obtaining the right to vote, and the banning of the veil by the newly established federated socialist republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1950.”
“Both communist and revivalist groups injected fresh ideas into the debate on the Muslim woman question. The Muslim population adopted new political opinions that expressed radically different ideas of modernity.”

Plenty of readers in English will be reached by The Slave Girl and other stories about women by Ivo Andrić, winner of the 1961 Nobel Prize in literature, stories that take place in Bosnia.

Titles from the backlist, contemporary topics on top, older themes below:

“An important characteristic of media reforms in Bosnia is the continuous resistance of the local political elites to the assistance efforts of international actors.”
Assessing the international media assistance in the Balkans.
“In late 1997, NATO troops took control over the transmitters of the Republika Srpska public television network in order to prevent the spread of war-mongering propaganda.”
“The public service broadcasting system is as dysfunctional as it was ten years ago, burdened by lack of funding, political interference and lack of cooperation between the three broadcasters.”
“The process of introducing new institutions and practices by ‘mimicking,’ and often transplanting, Western European media institutions and policy models into the Bosnian context has proven difficult, at best. What really emerged is similar to an ‘atavistic’ media system that is ‘colonized’ by political parties—a phenomenon common for many post-communist societies, not just Bosnia.”

“The public service broadcasting system was never truly established in its en­visaged form—instead, the three broadcasters act like competitors rather than partners who belong to the same organizational structure.”—Up in the Air?
“Because of the recent war, ‘patriotic journalism’ and hate speech have a tradition in the country; professional journalism in the Anglo-American sense is largely lacking. The implementation of media regula­tion is often flawed. Problems, especially financial ones, are so acute that the very existence of public service broadcasters in Bosnia has been put into question recently.”
“The issue of the lack of Croatian-language coverage in the existing public service broadcasting channels has been consistently raised by dominant ethno-nationalist Croat political parties.”

“We very often find highly favourable descriptions and mentions of bureks in various travelogues from foreign countries. In an article on Bosnia and Herzegovina we read:
You can’t leave Baščaršija [the old town centre of Sarajevo] without trying a burek. Their ‘burekžinice’ [traditional burek shops] are lined up one after the other. The selection is huge.”
An analysis of burek, the dish and the phenomenon.
“The story How a Bosnian Loves tells of three Bosnians in Slovenia:
Soon Fikret and Mirza also came from their birthplace. They rented a flat together and created an island of nostalgia, a true Little Bosnia, in the middle of their urban neighbourhood. After some hard work it was just right. It smelled of freshly ground coffee, cigarette smoke swirled beneath the ceiling, there was fresh burek on the tray, and the Bosnian national anthem emanated from the speakers.“

“Kathryn Bolkovac, a dedicated Nebraska police officer signs a one-year contract to serve as a UN peacekeeper in postwar Bosnia with hopes that the salary will allow her to relocate. In Bosnia, instead of rebuilding a devastated country, she uncovers trafficked women and crimes perpetrated by peacekeeping forces.”
From a book on film and media representations of human trafficking in the Balkans.
“Based on a true story, The Whistleblower (Germany, Canada, US, 2010) relentlessly aims to uncover Western institutional corruption and illegal practices.”
“The film also offers a few scenes that negatively portray social conditions and relationships in Bosnia… While the film presents a Bosnian policeman who is trying to assist Bolkovac, other policemen are indifferent or complicit. Although these scenes are not numerous, they still suggest that Eastern Europe—from Ukraine, where the main protagonists were trafficked, to Bosnia—is a community of victims and criminals.”

“Bosniak historical conscious­ness establishes itself through appropriating the medieval history of the Bosnian kingdom. This is a de­liberate attempt to stop presenting the Ottoman period of the Bosnian past as the formative period of Bosniak cultural singularity.”
Developments in post-communist memory politics in Bosnia are discussed in a comparative collection.
In the Serbian culture of mem­ory “the tragedy of Srebrenica is in Serbia’s shame rather than in Bosniak losses.”
“The term šehid for fallen soldiers was based on the national tradi­tion and not on what was supposed to be instrumental Islamization of society.”
“In Banja Luka, 338 out of 461 street names were related to Serbian cultural heritage and Serbian culture in general, 3 to Bosniak history and heritage, 20 to Croatian culture and history, and 100 to general toponyms, world, and former Yugoslavia.”

"Yugoslavia in the 1970s and 1980s was like the proverbial cat in the cartoon that continues to walk above the precipice—it only falls down when, finally, it looks down and becomes aware that there is no firm ground beneath its legs. Milošević was the first who forced us all to really look down into the precipice."
An essay by Slavoj Zizek on Karadzic in a volume on the literary output of despots.
"Instead of the industrial–military complex, we in post-Yugoslavia had the poetic–military complex, personified in the twin figures of Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladić."
“Dragan Dabić is not merely a mask, a fiction constructed to obfuscate Karadžić’s true identity. Of course Dragan Dabić is a fiction, a fake personat: the fictive person Dabić provides the ideological key to the ‘real’ war criminal Karadžić.”
“It is all too easy to dismiss Karadžić and company as bad poets: other ex-Yugoslav nations had poets and writers recognized as “great” and “authentic” who were also fully engaged in nationalist projects.”
“How can one forget that Karadžić and his companions also perceived themselves as uncorrupted ‘mountain’ people laying the siege on the corrupted valley of Sarajevo.”

“Three nationalist demagogues, Milosević, Izetbegović, and Tudjman, mobilized three distinct ethnic (in reality ethnically mixed) parts of the country, and fought a protracted civil war that horrified Europe.”—from a book on eighteen populists from twelve European countries.
“Izetbegović’s criticism of Atatürk’s secularization was an indirect attack on Bosnian Muslims, who in their vast majority had become secularized in Tito’s Yugoslavia. He fervently called for the creation of a new intelligentsia, which thinks and feels Islam.”
“The Serbs and the Croats sought to divide Bosnia-Herzegovina among themselves during the Yugoslav civil war. For his part, Izetbegović tried to keep the entire province together in a Muslim state.”
“Secular Bosnian Muslims observed that Izetbegović was not interested in becoming part of Bosnia’s history, but a part of the history of Islam—the man who established the Muslim state on European soil.”

"Conservative estimates of the rapes committed during the Bosnian war range from twenty thousand to fifty thousand" - a strong opening sentence to one of the chapters of the volume on representation of women in war in artistic works - in Slavenka Drakulić's novel and Jasmila Žbanić's film.
"A woman's body never really belongs to the woman. It belongs to the others-to the man, the children, the family. And in wartime to soldiers."

The memory of the Winter Olympics in 1984 in Sarajevo brought a strong awareness about the ongoing war in Bosnia among the organizers of the Games in 1994 in Lillehammer, which gave rise to the Nansen Dialogue Network. Among the ten Nansen Dialogue Centers three operate in Bosnia: Banja Luka, Sarajevo, and Mostar. The examination of the twenty years of the initiative recounts how the focus has shifted from seminars and workshops to intervention in the fields of education and politics.
The analysis of the social, political and social developments in Kosovo relates to Bosnia in a variety of ways. “Secretary General Annan found UN–SFOR cooperation in Bosnia a model for future endeavors, praising previous UN–NATO action in Bosnia as a ‘model of credibility,’ relevant to the ‘horror of Kosovo,’” but also “as a consequence of the internationals’ failures in Bosnia-Herzegovina to prevent atrocities and genocide there, the morality and credibility of the US were at stake”.
Furthermore, “the Bosnian Muslims, with their flawlessly clean streets and bazaars and pride in their academic Islamic culture, despised the Albanian Muslims who paid no attention to cleanliness in public places and were not as cultivated from the religious standpoint”.

Investigating tourism in communist Yugoslavia breaks new ground with its subject: A chapter is dedicated to the the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics.

"We were just kids then. We did not know what we were doing. We wanted only to destroy the Archduke, as a symbol of Austrian occupation and Germanization of our Bosnia. It was purely a protest, a strictly local affair. We did not think of war."
A surviving participant of Archduke Franz Ferdinand's assassination told so to the reporter of the New York Times, whose memoirs also recall conversations with Emir Kusturica, the Sarajevo-born film-director: "I never wanted an independent Bosnia. I wanted Yugoslavia. That is my country."And also: "Titoism drove people I loved and shared life with into trying to impose the theory of a Moslem nation!"

“Out of all the off-Broadway troupes, Living Theater toured Yugoslavia as early as 1966, giving performances in Sarajevo, Mostar, Zenica, and Banjaluka.”
A monograph on the Americanization of Yugoslav culture in the sixties.
“The number of rock and roll groups grew exponentially. The group Indexi dominated the Sarajevo scene.”
“Given that film stars were visible on theater screens, in the press, on chocolate candy wrappers and chewing gum, and the walls of bedrooms and given that some of them also visited Yugoslavia, it looked completely normal to take them as role models. Seldom were attempts made to prevent the ‘fascination’ with stars; one example was Sarajevo, where in the middle of the 1950s it was announced that ‘solicitation of photographs from Hollywood’ was forbidden.”
“The most popular local Western hero was Harry Jackson, the ‘cowboy from Bijeljina.’ This was actually Aljuš Musli, the owner of the camera shop named ‘Western’ in that small Bosnian town.”

“Neither of the dominant Bosnian parties are particularly ‘populist,’ as they resemble nothing more than the ruling Balkan parties of the 1920s and 1930s where nationalism served as a universal language of politics, covering social hierarchies and corruption in the name of national unity necessary to fight against the ‘others’ (the West, the Serbs, Croats, Muslims) who are presumably responsible for all evils.”—Globalization, Nationalism, and Imperialism.
“The Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNDS) was supposed to be a pragmatic, liberal, and pro-Western alternative to the SDS, the original Bosnian Serbs’ radical nationalist party, but the SNDS evolved in an anti-liberal direction, following the inevitable logic of electoral adaptation to conditions of raw and simmering nationalist conflict.”
“The government and managers of Bosnia-Herzegovina had concerns about the fact that some of their citizens had joined the wars in Iraq, Syria, and Ukraine. What attitudes would accompany them upon their return to their home state?”

“Lack of essential control over paramilitary groups known as Mlada Bosna resulted in the most well-known fiasco for the Serbian government, which faced invasion in 1914 as punishment for its perceived backing of the Austro-Hungarian Archduke’s assassination.”—Battling over the Balkans.
“The Serbian government received loans from the United States during 1919 that were used for import of fat, flour, and bacon for feeding Dalmatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro, and because of smuggling, also Croatia and Slavonia.”
“The wartime fascist government of the small Ustasha party sought briefly and unsuccessfully to implement the long-held notion that Croatian ethnic reach extended to the Bosnian Muslims.  They advanced the idea that Croatian ethnic origins had more in common with the German Aryans than the South Slavs.”

“The 1993 republication of the Carnegie Commission Report introduced a new generation of journalists and scholars to the document and profoundly affected their perception of the modern-day conflict in Bosnia.”—Philanthropy, Conflict Management, and International Law.
“The juxtaposition of the 1914 mission’s conclusion with the recent events in Bosnia crystallized the stereotype of the Balkans as doomed to violence and indirectly absolved the “perpetrators from individual responsibility and accountability.’”
“To scores of Serbian intellectuals, journalists, and political elites inoculated with the mythic pseudo-historic narrative of Serbian victimization, the 1996 Carnegie Commission Report findings barely differed from Serbophobe tracts published almost a century earlier.”
“Whereas the 1913 commission had sought damning evidence against war in general in the Balkan Wars, the 1995–1996 commission was foremost concerned with conflicts in the Balkan in particular, and Serbia’s specific role as the prime instigator of the bloodshed.”

“Islam in the Balkans can often best be understood in its complex relationship to sources of identity other than religion, especially language, to which it is at times subordinate and at times superordinate.”
By exploring the development of ethnic diversity and national tensions, this edited volume uses the three most diversely populated areas in the Balkans to tackle complex issues. The contributors challenge the readers to engage in a new way of thinking about the region and Balkan studies in general.
“A number of publications in four alphabets (Cyrillic, Arabic, Latin, and Hebrew) were published by the Ottoman printing press in Sarajevo starting in 1866.”
“When the results of the 1971 census were totaled, 1,482,430 individuals (39.6 percent) in Bosnia had selected the new category, Muslimani u smislu narodnosti.”
“The suffering of Turkish Bulgarian women at the end of the 1980s, although painful and humiliating, pales in comparison to the extreme physical violation that Bosnian women were subjected to during the Bosnian War. The estimates of rapes were over 20,000.”
“In the context of culturally divided states, like Bosnia, municipal governance is viewed as a conflict-resolution mechanism through which ethnic conflicts can be addressed out of the harsh politicized light of the national government. The Dayton structure decentralizes the state but leaves the very level of government theorized to be the most practical—the municipal—weak and resource-strapped.”

“Accommodating religious and linguistic differences in a peaceful and constructive manner was shown by Austria-Hungary’s occupation of Bosnia and Sanjak in 1878. Apart from adding German to both regions’ official languages, the occupation authorities retained the use of Osmanlıca (Ottoman Turkish), alongside Slavic written in Arabic letters (‘Bosnian’ or ‘Arebica’) for Muslims, in the Latin alphabet (‘Croatian’) for Catholics and in Cyrillic (‘Serbian’) for Orthodox Christians”—Words in Space and Time.
“Arabic script survived in non-official use among Yugoslavia’s Slavophone Muslims until the partition of this South Slavic kingdom by the Axis coalition in 1941. Now, this tradition of Arabic script-based Alhamijado (Aljamiado) or Arebica–Slavophone publications is reinterpreted as ‘properly’ belonging to the heritage of the post-Serbo-Croatian language of Bosnian.”

“In 1882, the fates of three Croats hailing from Bosnia-Herzegovina, who would place the Usta­sha cause at the center of their lives, crossed in the Jesuit seminary in Travnik.” – A monograph on Ante Pavelic and the Ustasha movement.
Point­ing on a town in the heart of Bosnia on his map, the poglavnik con­cluded: “Here, you see, lies Jajce, the ancient capital of the Croatian Kingdom. Zagreb is too peripheral, and too polluted by Jews and false, opportunistic intellectuals.”
“In Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Catholic community’s spiritual guide was Archbishop Ivan Šarić, at the helm of the metropolitan archdio­cese of Sarajevo since 1922. An advocate of Ustashism and the return to ‘Sacred Croatia,’ Šarić was the greatest exponent of Catholic radical­ism in Yugoslavia.”
“Jovan Kršić, a Bosnian writer and the founder of the most im­portant Yugoslav literary magazine, Pregled, refused to swear al­legiance to the Ustasha regime in his capacity as university professor, and was stabbed to death on the outskirts of Sarajevo.”

The role of Modernism in creating nation states and national culture respectively is discussed in the latest items of the four-volume CEU Press undertaking, quoting and commenting specimens from texts that shaped national identities in eastern Europe. Besides the Program of the Yugoslav Muslim Organization (1919), and the Resolution of the Muslims of Banjaluka (1941), Bosnia is represented by Jukić (1851), Kapetanović Ljubušak (1886), Šantić (1896), and is referred to in a number of Serbian and Croatian documents.

The book on health, hygiene and eugenics in Southeastern Europe contains an important chapter on Bosnia-Herzegovina under Austro-Hungarian rule. An earlier related title of ours on eugenics in east and central Europe tells, among other, how Bosnians were looked upon in the debates and researches in the interwar Yugoslav period.

“About twelve percent of the midwives had been born in Bosnia-Herzegovina. None of them was Muslim. Formally, Serbian citizens did not fulfill the requirements to carry a work permit as a midwife. The Austrian-Hun­garian rulers’ fear of Serbia led to a formally strict policy against everything and everyone ‘Serbian’.”
A volume on the intertwined relationship between public health and nation building.
“The midwife’s bag, which was introduced by the Habsburg administration, provided to midwives for free, and regularly inspected by medical officers. If the bag was clean and the midwife had used disin­fectants, she was approved and could continue her work as a midwife. The bag re­mained state property and its instruments were only being loaned to the midwife.”
“The central and contested figure in this discourse was the ‘Muslim woman,’ in which Islam’s ‘backwardness’ and Bosnia-Her­zegovina’s otherness culminated. A veiled figure, she had withdrawn herself from Habsburg male view and was orientalized as both dirty and desirable.”

* * *

Other CEU Press books abound in references to Bosnian history and culture.

  • Scholars of early Bosnian history are familiar with the Gesta Hungarorum of Anonymus (including Master Roger’s eye-witness record of the Mongol invasion), and the chronicle written by Thomas, 13th century archdeacon of Spalato (Split); now both are available in Latin-English bilingual edition.
  • The three volumes dedicated to east European travel writing contain a large number of references to 19th century travellers’ observations in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
  • Ideoligies and National Identities contains cases from twentieth-century Southeastern Europe.
  • A highly successful biographical reference book contains entries on the following Bosnian personalities: Jelica Belović-Bernadzikowska, Stoja Kašiković, and Staka Skenderova.
  • The life story of a Serbian woman, Natalija (1880-1956), based on her diaries and other memorabilia is filled with references to Bosnia, the birthplace of Natalija’s husband.
  • Voices in the Shadows gives a full presentation and analysis of  Bosnian women’s writing
  • Between Exile and Asylum is “an eastern epistolary” by Mostar-born Predrag Matvejević.
  • The Nonconformists, on culture, politics, and nationalism in a Serbian intellectual circle, 1944–1995.
  • The Demise of Yugoslavia is a political memoir by former Croatian president S. Mesić;
  • Intertwined suits involving Bosnia and Serbia before the Hague International Court of Justice arising from the Balkans conflicts of the 1990s.
  • Several of the chapters about the struggle for democratic values in post-Milosević Serbia contain substantial references to Bosnia.
  • And finally, among the thirty-three writers’ essays about common values of Europe Bosnia is represented by Dževad Karahasan.