The Yugoslav Wars broke out at a time when the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Velvet Revolutions in Czechoslovakia and other countries in Eastern Europe and the collapse of the Eastern Bloc had instilled a sense of hope that Europe would become ‘whole and free’, and that the end of the European wars heralded a millennia of peace and democracy. The crisis and the collapse of the former Yugoslavia ‘re-balkanised’ Southeast Europe and revived old Western stereotypes about the Balkans and ‘Balkanisation’. The author attempts to determine the origin of the ideas and values that influenced Western policy towards this crisis, through a comparative analysis of two reports on the Balkan Wars by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace from 1914 and 1996, respectively. In the author’s opinion, the cause of the Balkan Wars in the 1990s was not ‘old hatreds’ between the Balkan nations, but the remnants of the old communist regimes, which in an effort to retain power had embraced nationalism as their policies, and thus came into conflict with the new values that brought an end to the Cold War. The author concludes that the conflict between conservative (‘Balkan’) and liberal (‘European’) values was the reason for the slogan “the flight from the Balkans”, and the political disputes that evolved into bitter armed conflict in the former Yugoslavia.
- Perceptions Spring-Summer 2019
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