by Ivan LOVRENOVIC
Academician Muhamed Filipovic It has been repeated so many times by now that South-Slavic nationalisms are by character and "origin" cultural and that they find their strongest raison d'etre in negation of others and tendencies to assimilate closely related but different ethnic cultures. Language (national) and literature (national) are always their most important weapons and attributes of identity, while every concept of pluralism and cultural polyphony is viewed as a devil that strings a dangerous net around us and our people trying to destroy us. The spiral of that exclusionist and assimilationist nationalism started a long ago and reached its first clear expression already in Vuk [Karadzic's] rule Serbs - everyone and everywhere (one nation, three religions, one language - Serbian language). Since then, until today, for almost two centuries, all our nationalists essentially follow Vuk's example, regardless of their ethnicity. Differences, naturally, exist, regarding the time of their appearance and their duration on the historical-political scene, in intensity, in their greater or lesser success, means used to achieve their goals, and the amount of evil and suffering sowed on the way towards achieving their goals... However, the idea and ideology of denying the existence of other, or attempting to deny their cultural-identity attributes, remains the same and immutable. In all of that, it is unavoidable that, as in every ideological intervention in reality, they rush into a conflict with that very same reality, with historical and cultural facts. And in the end, we always get an absurd: that conflict does not bring anything good to anyone, but only deepens mutual hatred and the crisis, which by now is accepted by everyone in this region as permanent, actually as the historical mode of existence.
Based on its format and reach of its claims, the Serb cultural nationalism has been and remains without peer. There is nothing on the virtual Stokavian linguistic and literary atlas that it hasn't proclaimed for its own. Croatian language? Literature from mediaeval Dubrovnik, or Franciscan literature in Bosnia, as parts of Croatian literature? Bosnian language? Bosniak-Muslim literature? Montenegrin language and literature? None of that, of course, can be accepted! Or it can, but at most as some sort of local, regional variety of the integral Serb culture. And do we need to remind our readers of the cycles of evil and suffering that, between 1918 and 1992-95 were produced by this concept of national culture every time it managed to find its expression in a state and put instruments of that state in its service!
Our academies! Croat cultural nationalism is a story no less malignant, but of significantly lesser format and with less opportunity for historical domination. Its attitude with respect to the Serb culture is defensive, that of rejection, rather than refusal to accept its existence, and is fueled by the myth of being endangered by the Serb culture. However, on the other hand, its attitude with respect to Bosniak-Muslim culture is analogous to that of the Serb nationalism with respect to Croatian and Bosniak culture: assimilationism and refusal to recognize its separate and unique character. That traditional attitude of Croat cultural nationalism has been thoroughly changed in Tudman's policies with respect to Bosnia-Hercegovina and Bosniaks, but not for the better - it actually got worse. Just like Serb nationalism, every time Croat nationalism had support of a state and had control of state mechanisms (1941-1945 and 1990-1995), the Croat nationalism did not miss its chance to show disfigured face of rejection and intolerance.
Historically speaking, the Bosniak cultural nationalism in many elements developed differently in the modern era. It is significantly marked by the fact that since 1878, after the end of centuries of absolute political and religious domination over members of other ethnic and religious groups during the Ottoman rule in Bosnia - it never again had a chance for domination or exclusive identification with a state (if we exclude the short chaotic period during the most recent war when, in the midst of state and national catastrophe, for a moment there was a dream about exclusively Bosniak state on "the territory that can be controlled in the future"). Consequently, it is not difficult to understand the origin of all sorts of national resentment, frustration and yearning; it is not difficult to understand their origin, but it is also easy to recognize in them clear characteristics of cultural nationalism and exclusion, fatally similar to two previously mentioned, which permanently keeps Bosnia-Hercegovina, in negative synergy with the Serb and Croat nationalism, in the state of political incompleteness and instability.
It is difficult to recall any other specific examples on the Bosniak side which present such a clear and open expression of Bosniak assimilationist, precisely Vuk's type of nationalism, as can be read in Filipovic's rabid yelp quoted in the headline of this article. That expression gains additional importance and weight, although perhaps we should not exaggerate its importance, due to the fact that it was stated in the lecture hall of the Academy of Sciences and Arts of Bosnia-Hercegovina (oh, all those our academies!) and that it was made by the deputy president of that institution and the leader of the project of Encyclopedia of Bosnia-Hercegovina.
The assertion that there are no Croats in Bosnia-Hercegovina (and consequently there is no Croat literature in Bosnia-Hercegovina) is by no means Filipovic's invention. On the contrary, that assertion (expanded to Serbs as well) can be heard almost daily in all sorts of occasions - from taxi drivers, from passer bys on the street, from high school and university students, politicians, clerks... It is an expression of what I at one point described as political mentality of majority nation that is thoroughly saturated by nationalism. But it is, if we can say that, innocent (although its consequences are unavoidably bad), since it has obviously been induced; those people without questioning picked up that "knowledge" from somewhere (!?) and are now only recycling it as a simplistic and welcome explanation of the complicated (and, indeed, hardly bearable) national polymorphism of Bosnia-Hercegovina. However, under the roof of the state Academy of Sciences and Arts, asserted by the academician who is normally described in Bosniak national media as "the greatest living Bosniak intellectual" and "inimitable and imposing Filipovic", the man who proclaims himself as the embodiment of Bosniaks and Bosnia, such assertion has a completely different meaning. Broadcast, in turn, via TV stations and high circulation newspapers targeting a particular ethnic group, such as Dnevni Avaz, this assertion quickly becomes an efficient and unquestionable ideology for mass application, and all interested taxi drivers, passers by, high school and university students, politicians, clerks... obtain a strong confirmation and simple resolution of all of their doubts from the highest, inimitable and imposing authority. Talking about Sarajevo, whose famous multi-ethnic character is by now only to be found in obituaries and funerals, and is swiftly disappearing from birth certificates and school rolls - it is not difficult to imagine the effect of such education, via schools and mass media.
What about Croat literature in Bosnia-Hercegovina, whose inclusion in a recently published anthology bothers academician Filipovic so much, and what about Croats, who according to Filipovic "did not exist in Bosnia before the 19th century"? The Academy includes among its members several experts who could provide to their colleague, as well as wider public (something that would be very necessary but, given our servile and cowardly habits, is not to be expected) a competent and not too complicated explanation.
Debate in Dani I have been writing about Bosnia-Hercegovina, the identity of Croats in Bosnia-Hercegovina and their culture (including literature) for more than thirty years. My work has now grown to include several books of essays and papers, including a book dedicated to Bosnian Croats and their identity (Bosnian Croats - essay about agony of a European-Oriental micro-culture), and I very well understand all the ambivalence of that identity and dead ends of that history, precisely because I was never interested in apologetic and ideological writing about "my nation"; on the contrary, I was interested in digging through problems and critically researching a small and obscure, somewhat bizarre but still living history, as a part of the Bosnian-Hercegovinian, South Slavic and Balkan cultural and historical spectrum. In large and complicated, sometimes tragicomic, more often only sad story about fluctuating identities and their (self)definition, Croats in Bosnia-Hercegovina are not a unique or unusual example of changes in the name they chose to refer to themselves through tumultuous history of this region. Perhaps most similar to them are precisely - Bosniaks-Muslims. Yes, up to the 1850s Croats in Bosnia-Hercegovina mostly refer to themselves as Bosniaks, perhaps with somewhat more jealousy than Bosnian Muslims, which have another, much more powerful element of identity - political identification with the Ottoman Empire. Instead of unworthy and scientifically baseless nonsense that "Croats did not exist in Bosnia", it would make much more scientific sense to wonder, research, or initiate (why not in the Academy, which is at least in its name still all-Bosnian, a "state" institution?) projects looking into why, under what historical circumstances and social and political processes it was impossible to form in Bosnia-Hercegovinian in the 19th century a common Bosnian-Hercegovinian identity; instead the development on the base of pre-modern ethnic and religious groups took the direction of development of three separate national identities. It is not true that cultural rebirth and national libration influences from Serbia and Croatia were the only and primary factors influencing such an outcome, as is usually dismissively said (and also taught in schools). In it impossible and illogical from the spectrum of those causes and reasons to exclude internal Bosnian-Hercegovinian factors - social and economic structure, and the unwillingness of the ruling Muslim political class to effectively and truly accept the civic and social equality of unbelieving serfs.
Therefore, Croats did not show up in Bosnia-Hercegovina out of nowhere in the 19th century as Filipovic's extremely arrogant assertion suggests. They have been living here for centuries, bearing their Bosnian and Croat identity the best they can, referring to it in one hundred and one way - Slovinski, Ilirski, Slavobosnian, Bosnian, Croatian - because that wandering and searching and that periodical lack of self-knowledge is natural and characteristic of all small nations that were not nurtured by history, but nevertheless managed to survive on the historical stage.
And what about literature? Developing since the 16th century as a part, even if of marginal importance, of huge anti-reformation European literature, the Franciscan writing in Bosnia played the crucial role in the history of Bosnian literature, while at the same time being a living and integral part of the older Croatian literature, playing, actually, the key role in the linking and integration of the Croatian language and literature - from Dubrovnik and Dalmatia to Slavonia and present day Vojvodina. When we talk about Croatian literature in Bosnia-Hercegovina, then we talk about something that has existed very much, typologically and historically, and which implies and affirms precisely that parallelism and mutual inclusiveness of Croatian and Bosnian-Hercegovinian literary-historical identity. Only hard-line centralists, fierce opponents of plurality and pluralism can be shocked by that cultural fact.
Filipovic delivered his philippic about Croats in the Academy within the presentation of his new book - Bosnian spirit hovers above Bosnia. In his most recent hagiography Filipovic (also) takes aim at yours truly from two sides. First because of proposing consociational solutions for the state organization of Bosnia-Hercegovina, and secondly because of my work at the Publishing Association.
These topics have already been addressed on the pages of this magazine. Discussion of consociational models of organization and arrangements are one of intellectually and theoretically legitimate ways of contemplating a possible way out from the total political blockade in which Bosnia-Hercegovina has been stuck ever since the signing of the Dayton Agreement. It is also an attempt to openly, without taboos, face the nature and degree of the divisiveness in the Bosnian-Hercegovinian society and seek the most adequate constitutional and political solution that would finally, possibly open the process of healing and consolidation of that society and state. All that, on the other hand, in the form of public presentation of individual views, which, besides their own argumentation cannot oblige, let alone force, anyone to accept them. However, it is very interesting that a part of Sarajevo public (or perhaps - semi-public!) attacks even the very mention of consociational democracy as a solution for Bosnia-Hercegovina as an anti-state and anti-patriotic activity, while the very term consociational democracy has become some sort of an ideological scarecrow. Filipovic has gone the furthest in his abovementioned book, in which he seems to be bothered the most precisely by the public, that is the fact that Dani organized and published the transcript of the discussion about consociational democracy as a way forward for Bosnia-Hercegovina. Filipovic reserves the worst possible condemnations for consociational democracy and all individuals who dare write about it (it seems, I'm not sure why, that among them, yours truly is especially dangerous according to Filipovic). Like a Stalinist commissar, he produces all sorts of crazy constructs and malicious ideological curses: "civilized version of Herceg-Bosnian secession and final end of Bosnia-Hercegovina", "model (...) imposed by Karadzic and Boban", "model which Chetniks and Ustashe wanted to impose"...
KM 12,500 Grant Now what? Should I defend myself from these savagely untrue ideological denunciations? After everything I have been consistently witnessing and advocating all my life through my writing, public actions and the way of life! With due respect, you can stuff it, Mr. Academician! I don't need and have never needed anybody's permission to freely contemplate the past and future of Bosnia-Hercegovina - my country, despite all fanatical intolerance of Muhamed Filipovic and Filipovics, least of all his.
In his ridiculously pretentious stance "Bosnia-Hercegovina c'est moi!" Muhamed Filipovic sees himself as the last defense of the country and the people, and offers as alternative to evil consociational democracy all sorts of pseudo-historical idealized myths and empty phrases. Therefore, what is according to Filipovic the right solution for Bosnia? Here it comes: "Return to the truth of its real historical essence, the truth of its history and its authentic multiculturalism", "the reestablishment of the order of things that for centuries secured normal life and passage through history, without big disturbances and disharmony among its different inhabitants". Even if we were to ignore the lack of realism in this proposal to base the political organization of the country, after everything that had happened here, on mythical return to anything and reestablishment of anything (this can hardly be ignored, but let us proceed for now), we cannot but ask ourselves: what is the "true historical essence" of Bosnia? What is the "truth of its history"? What is its "authentic multiculturalism"? And especially, what is "the order of things that for centuries secured normal life and passage through history, without big disturbances and disharmony among its different inhabitants"? (I especially like those "different inhabitants"! No comment.) And how about asking how and with what means are we to bring about that return? What degree of agreement of "its different inhabitants" would be required? Or is that issue irrelevant as far as Filipovic is concerned? Is it really so difficult to summon at least a crumble of social imagination, moral sensitivity, consideration of historical facts, in order to take into account the existence of other, different views, from which the fairy tale about "normal life" and "order of things" looks very different and far less enticing? Whether Filipovic wanted that or not, whether he was able to see that or not, the capability to accept the existence of multiple points of view, both with respect to history and the more recent issue of political organization, is the lasting test of the survival of Bosnia-Hercegovina as a country and as a society.
What is the appropriate way to conclude this discussion? Let me try this: if consociational democracy is not the most ideal type of democracy (I admit that much, and this has been pointed out in all public debates that bother our academician so much), Filipovic himself and his vision of "normal Bosnia" become the strongest arguments in its favor! By the way, it has become a custom that alarms about "division of Bosnia" are usually raised by those who, due to their tendency to ignore the views of others, clearly demonstrate that they do not know Bosnia and do not want to share it with others.
Finally, the Publishing Foundation. There the academician spins the yarn about some sort of (my) enormous power, "connections with some Croat centers", about "close relations with Napredak and Matica Hrvatska, as well as with Preporod". Those who know anything about me will laugh at this nonsense and these fabrications. The issue is trivial. Four years ago, while I presided over the Governing Board of the Foundation, his publisher participated in a competition with the project of a four volume book by Filipovic. The application failed to include the most important factor used in the decision making process of the Foundation - the actual manuscript. We moved the deadline waiting for Filipovic's manuscript. Filipovic reacted angrily in the press. I can only repeat what I wrote then, as my response: "Therefore, everything with professor Filipovic's criticism would have been in order if it were based on the truth. First, regarding the criteria (Filipovic does admit that he ‘does not know anything about them'), it is totally unfair to insinuate anything underhanded in the behavior of the Foundation since the criteria are known to the public and have been published by the press, even in the very newspaper that has recently published professor's reaction (Dnevni Avaz, author's remark). Secondly, as far as Filipovic's projects are concerned, here are some facts: his publisher applied to the competition with Filipovic's History of spiritual life on the soil of Bosnia-Hercegovina as a work in four volumes. Only about one fourth of that exists in the form of a manuscript. Members of the Governing Board took a very clear and principled stance: such a work, once it is finished, will be taken into consideration with respect it deserves, regardless of who at that point ‘sits' on the Board. And that is all about the Foundation and academician Muhamed Filipovic's projects. As far as I am concerned, I was and remain a sincere fan of the unprecedented and extravagant gift for storytelling and oratory that Filipovic has been blessed with. However, that has nothing to do with responsible work at the Publishing Foundation."
In his book at one point Filipovic laments: "I missed the opportunity to get even the small grant that I deserved because I was not in favor of the notorious Board for Financing Of Publishing Projects." He accuses Gavrilo Grahovac and yours truly for his "missed opportunity". Fortunately, the facts indicate otherwise. In the following years Filipovic's projects were sent to the competition with all the necessary elements, they were evaluated in the usual procedure, and the author was on two occasions paid the grant of altogether KM 12,500 [about $6,250]. I rest my case.