In Bosnia Herzegovina and Croatia, almost 30 years after the breakup of Yugoslavia, there are two countries and two visions: the feeling of a lost homeland in one, and a desire for modernity that results in a nationalism in the other.
In Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, it’s impossible not to come across Tito. The portrait of the Marshal, the former President of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, is everywhere. Seen in hotels or bars, it also decorates most Bosnian salons. Just a few steps from the university, the youngsters are happy to drink a Sarajevo beer at Café Tito. At the entrance, a banner is hung which bears the inscription, “Mi smo Titovi, Tito je naš” (“We belong to Tito and Tito belongs to us”).
In recent years, Bosnia and Herzegovina, like most countries of the former Yugoslavia, bogged down in an economic, political, or even an identity crisis, has been gripped by a wave of “Yugonostalgia” and “Titonostalgia.” Nearly four decades after his death, the Marshal is, for many young people in the Balkans, a model, a reference point, and a symbol of the struggle against nationalism. Many remember the President who reunified Yugoslavia after the war and established a republic comprising Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia.
Some people also miss the time when they had a job, security, education, and where everyone ate their fill. It is the result of a selective memory where the dictator Tito was a demigod, overlooking the fact that his regime was also the era of rule by a single party, the repression of political opponents, and the cult of personality.
Debate rages between the pro- and anti-Tito factions. In Croatia, where the economy is thriving thanks to tourism, the atmosphere is quite different. Tito, often portrayed as an anti-Croatian dictator, is much more controversial than in other Balkan countries, and nationalists there are on a roll.
Last September, the city council of Zagreb did not hesitate to rename a central square in the city that was originally called Marshal Tito. A Right-wing nationalist, Independents for Croatia, drummed up the support that the city’s populist mayor, Milan Bandic, needed to maintain his majority to push the change through. Now known as the “Republic of Croatia Square.”
The conservative Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), which emerged in the wake of the breakup of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, are back in power, and some members of the government have made a name for themselves by making statements about Croatia’s Nazi past. Far from feeling nostalgia, young people want to free themselves from such divisions to avoid making the same mistakes as past generations.