Stephan E. Nikolov
Senior Fellow Researcher at the Bulgarian Academy of Science, Institute of Sociology and Assistant Professor the Neofit Rilski Southwestern University Blagoevgrad(Dept. of Law and History)

Three Prospects to the Balkan Identities


Three very different books by three different authors came to my attention recently. [1] Their authors come from distinct backgrounds – national, tutorial, and professional. One is a Balkan native and two are visiting the area from outside. T. Nedelcheva is a sociologist, and Mary Neuburger is what we call a social anthropologist. The third of the authors, Paul Hockenos, is not a scholar but a journalist, and is interested more in the Balkan (mainly Croat, Serbian, and Kosovar/Albanian) diasporas in North America and Western Europe than in the local populations themselves. Neuberger’s and Hockenos’ books are published in English by the Cornell University Press, while Nedelcheva’s is published in Bulgarian by the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences' Publishing House--clearly aiming at a far narrower audience. Nevertheless, it is namely the Bulgarian book, Identity and Time, which implies a considerably larger perspective – which is probably easy to explain, because the two books in English follow concepts generally well known among Western audiences. These, however, are still to be explored, tested and offered to the Bulgarian reader, both academic and non-academic. In a way, these three books are focusing on different, though related, ethno-geographical areas. Mary Neuburger's interest is in the Muslim Minorities in Bulgaria, while Tanya Nedelcheva tries to verify generally accepted Western concepts of identity and ethnicity with Bulgarian empirical material, including an analysis of the still sensitive topic of the minorities in Bulgaria. Paul Hockenos is concerned with three ethnic groups in former Yugoslavia that were actively involved in the 1990s wars which led to collapse of that multinational state. Despite all these differences, all three books share a lot of common elements. They are linked by the common features--perhaps too often denied or even victimised--of the Balkan peoples and their shared past.

Centuries of political, cultural and confessional foreign domination have left a heavy footprint on contemporary existence in the Balkans, and a plethora of both old and relatively recent contradictions and prejudices has proved very difficult to overcome.

Modern political analysts, mainly Western ones, were too quick to draw new fictitious borders, such as the one between the Western and Eastern Balkans, and even to replace the name Balkans, so overburdened with negative connotations, with South Eastern Europe. However, like other attempts to impose divisions and reunifications from outside – examples of which are abundant in Balkan history – these new formulations are inadequate for clarification of the local issues, and even less adequate for their resolution. Thus, in our opinion, it seems a good idea to look at these three books – among the many devoted to various aspects of Balkan history and the present day situation – as interrelated, each supplying missing pieces from the complicated Balkan puzzle.

One common trait of all three works is that they rest on long years of preliminary effort and collection of data, most which took place in the 1990s. Mary Neuburger has made relatively extended visits to Bulgaria, including to areas in the Rhodopes and other locales that have been of special interest in her research, and she has had the chance to access previously closed archives. At almost the same time Tanya Nedelcheva, a leading ethno-sociologist in Bulgaria (she is the head of the Ethno-sociology department at the Institute of Sociology, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences), has conducted or participated in several empirical surveys, in particular in the Western Rhodopes and the Pirin region. She amplifies data from these surveys with relevant information from other principal agencies in Bulgaria, such as the National Opinion Polls' Center. Based in Berlin, American journalist and political analyst Paul Hockenos has travelled widely on several continents and has interviewed 'scores' of key figures from the already mentioned Balkan émigré diasporas; in addition, he spent two years in Bosnia and Herzegovina working for the OSCE. There is, indeed, a great difference between the three authors – or, between the two Americans and their Bulgarian colleague, which seems at first very trivial: funding. While Neuburger has been able to use grants from the Fulbright Commission, IREX, ACLS, NCEER, etc., and Paul Hockenos had support from the German Marshall Fund and the Journalisten–Kolleg at the Free University, Berlin, Nedelcheva has, in contrast, been more restricted in access to funding, which limited the scope of her own empirical research.

It is quite natural that in their bibliographies the two academics, Neuburger and Nedelcheva, share many of the leading works in the field of ethnicity studies. They include B. Anderson, P. Bourdieu, Zb. Brzezinski, M. Foucault, E. Gellner, A. Smith, but also some Bulgarian authors – Ivan Elenkov, R. Daskalov, R. Gradeva, Sv. Ivanova, A. Krasteva, A. Zhelyazkova, O. Zagorov. Variation in the approaches explains the ubiquity of classical philosophical and sociological works quoted in Nedelcheva's book, while there are more historians, ethnographers, and fiction writers among those listed in Neuburger. As a whole, Neuburger's bibliography is the largest, quoting works in seven different languages – English, Bulgarian, Turkish, Russian, German, Serbo-Croatian, and Macedonian. She includes many of the main Western studies on Bulgaria and of the Balkan region, and also Western resident authors whose background is from the area – Tzv. Todorov, Maria Todorova, B. Jelavich, G. Markov. She also has followed carefully stores of 14 Bulgarian periodicals, including some in Turkish. Not surprisingly, Paul Hockenos' bibliography is the briefest, but nevertheless he is equally scrupulous in verifying his sources, which cover mainly historical and political publications as well as periodicals – mainly in English, but also some in German, Serbian, Croatian, and Albanian. The two US-published books have comprehensive indexes, while the Bulgarian book lacks this important tool.

Tanya Nedelcheva offers by far the most profound academic treatise of the subject. Her goal is to analyse transformations of the Bulgarian national identity and its interdependency with ethnic and cultural identity, transformations that are the results of the structural and functional changes in the nation-state. Here, "transformations of the national identity" is understood as the changing emphasis in the mutual references between the components of the state, politics, and civic relations. She bases her theme deeply in philosophical discourse, finding three main approaches to identity: Hegelian, which is authentic, cognitive, expressing development of the individual through removal of personal partiality and absorption of the predisposed condition of the Absolute Substance, i. e., rooted in the substantial ontology; one individuality grounded as an internal alignment and sustainable invariant, which creates bearing construction of personality, i. e., a reflexive relation; the third described most adequately as a condition, i. e., a dynamically apprehended relativist concept. The first concept is referred as protoindentity, the second, as relational principle, and the third, as autopoiesis or self-origin as contemplated by P. Bourdieu and others. She defines identity as an oscillating, relatively sustainable aggregate of relations, which is both sameness and promoting distinction. It is a conscious self-reference to a life field that is both defined and structured in terms of norms and values – a field that embraces the essential nature of a particular community. The three sets of concepts mentioned above determine a heuristic perspective whereby temporal parameters of national identity's transformation are concretised. Each of the three types of identity – ethnic, national, cultural – is internally structured with a unifying centre. For the ethnic one this centre could be religion or a certain imagined common descent; national identity is located around political core, while for the cultural one the structurally centripetal component is a shared experience of otherness, and is expressed as tolerance as a relatively new kind of culture. Cultural identity appears as an anticipatory, foreboding mode, since conditions – objective and subjective – for its being are absent or incomplete. This means that it is based on the devices of autopoiesis, where components of both ethnic and national identity are preserved and reproduced, but without keeping the initial structural configuration, and notably without the ultimate significance of the political.

Equipped with such a firm theoretical background, the author proceeds to the second chapter, devoted to a fervent and most relevant topic: Identity during the Age of Globalisation. Here she elaborates on several large categories pertinent to the main subject, namely individualisation, ethnicity, nation, national, and state. She points out that the emerging future image of the human civilisation that is shaping political behaviour, economic behaviour, etc. seems to be based mainly on individual activity, free initiative, competitiveness, creativeness, the making of new knowledge. Here the leading tendency will be demolition of the rigid centralised organisational structures and extension of the horizontal ones. Following Ulrich Bek's assumption about the "two modernities,” she concludes that we should expect renovation and improvement of the transcendent "value ecology,” where tolerance, solidarity and justice are rooted. In addition, most world-wide processes will happen not somewhere outside, remotely, but within the core of each one's own lives – e. g., multicultural marriages and families, working places, circles of friends, schools, art, and so on. Ethnicity and nation are consequent stages in the interaction between human affiliations and the surrounding milieu. Historical experience reveals the unfolding of ethnic identity into national identity as a required condition, a first step toward human universality. However, this universalising trend is coincided with a counteracting one, which becomes more and more visible in recent events and phenomena – the increasing of ethnic and minorities' individualisation. The nation-state’s role as the main actor in international relations and law during the last two centuries seems to deplete its historical magnitude, giving rise to ethnic and other minority formations. However, this experience, and, more particularly, the lessons from the collapse of the former Yugoslavia, shows the worst outcomes such a rise could ever introduce. If a state is a geographically defined country, following a simplified definition, and a nation is culturally (historically, linguistically and religiously) defined group with an attachment to some particular area, then it is clear that if more nations have an attachment to the same piece of land then trouble is around the corner. There are currently around 200 nation-states in the world, and about 2,000 nations using the above definitions, while solely 20 “nation-states” are inhabited more or less by only one nation. In other words, there is a potential for 1,980 nations inside 180 states to demand a certain form of sovereignty, which is close to irrationality, but still can bring further serious misfortunes to our fragile world. Here T. Nedelcheva's observation seems quite pessimistic compared with many bright forecasts for the coming decades, but this seems correct and not too exaggerated. Ever increasing tensions between the ethnic and national could easily lead to xenophobic reactions, ethnocentrism, intragroup closure, hermetisation of particular strata and minority communities, which, in its turn, furnishes negative energy for rise of nationalism. Further she examines connections between the nation and the state, investigating briefly the formation of European nation-states, and finds in de-nationalisation a necessary future development, meaning integration in the worldwide market, communications and production. Here, she analyses R. Dahrendorf's objections and scepticism toward the European Union as a possible substitute, at a higher level, of the nation-state-members. Without completely rejecting his arguments, Nedelcheva leans to the presumption that even in the Balkans, where processes in the field lag behind the postmodern developments in Western and Central Europe, we are far from reaching the point of a certain "melting pot" of the separate nationalities. However, the rise of a certain form of federalism is relevant. At this point she extrapolates the highest point of identity's evolution – cultural ethnicity – with possibly the uppermost stage in the social construction – global civil society as an expression of shared human values, ideas and practice. New informational technologies, she notes, make real the Kantian notion of "world citizenship.” The way toward this stage passed through the secularisation, i. e., transition from a state of religious confrontation to one of tolerance, empathy and mutual understanding. J. S. Mill introduced a new model of tolerance, transforming it into main liberal virtue, a necessary premise for the diversity, pluralism, and freedom. Such an instrumental view on tolerance is developed in the present as suggested by the Russian scholar P. Kozlovski in his interpretation about the shape of a new dimension of the postmodern human being – Homo Compensator, one that reflects the openness of the Myselfness and otherness at their toposes of encounter with each other. This puts forward the issue of the minorities with a new and stronger significance, as they are already experiencing the phenomenon of globalisation, which dismantles many of the solutions and reasons based on ethnic, national, and confessional boundaries that were shown earlier. Such a fundamental transition and change of values imminently causes a deep crisis at all levels of societal apprehension and substantiation – from personality with its rich internal mentality to the various social assemblages, including the global society. Instead of consolidation, here comes increasing social atomisation, loss of synchronising and co-ordinating attachments, growth of social anxiety and the perception of powerlessness in front of the entanglements. This situation contributes to the ignition of various previously latent conflicts, confrontations, and antagonisms.

And this is where we land from the high matters straight onto the Balkans, and onto Bulgaria, in particular. The general political and socio-economic situation in Bulgaria in the late 1980s and early 1990s has been accompanied, according to Nedelcheva, by a total climax of identity. With the transition from totalitarianism to democracy, entire major "panels" of national identity suddenly became equivocal, obsolete and thus put under question, and complexes of new schemes for ethnic identifications became activated. This situation finds confirmation in the outcomes of the national representative empirical survey under the titleEthnicities and Power, conducted in 1998. Moreover, it revealed the making of two basic models of identification and tolerance: one incorporated mainly by the ethnic Bulgarians – the dominating ethnicity – and another one by the ethnic Turks, and with them in this issue, the Roma/Gypsies. The good news is that both models do not confront each other – on the contrary, they are overlapping, though in each we see dimensions with different value accentuation.

The majority's model of tolerance has two levels – one, reflecting mainly the general, public attitudes of Bulgarians toward minority communities, is declaring their rights, responsibilities, their place in the socium. Here we find many fears and concerns that prevail in the public space. If we take at random some recent examples, this can be confirmed. One of the pronounced nationalist weeklies, commenting how the main private TV channel in Bulgaria (allegedly owned by R. Murdoch) reported celebrations on the Day of Slavonic (Bulgarian) literature and culture (Sts. Cyril and Methodius day), attacked the channel because of the reporters chosen to cover the event. One of them was an ethnic Turk, the other, the wife of a Bosnian Serb, although the paper recognised, the "pure Bulgarian language" that they used. Another example is from the second-largest Bulgarian city, Plovdiv – once multiethnic, with large populations of Turks, Bulgarians, Greeks, Jews, Armenians, and other communities. Within about a century, it has lost this variety due to emigrations of the Turks to Turkey or to smaller settlements in Bulgaria, Greeks to Greece, Jews to Israel, and so on. A new monument of King Philip II of Macedon, funded by the Thessaloniki municipality, fuelled a serious dispute that even included historians. Some of them even denied that one of the ancient names of the city, Philipopolis, is related to this Macedonian king, something that has been up to now an unquestionable fact from history textbooks and the Bulgarian national encyclopaedia.

However, the other level, called factual, expresses that in principle Bulgarians accept and comply with the fact that Bulgarian society is comprised of a number of ethnic groups, and that "Bulgaria for the Bulgarians" is a slogan of a relatively very small segment of the population. The vast majority of the Bulgarian population pronounces itself to belong to the (sometimes platitudinous) "tradition of tolerance" – here the story of the Bulgarian Jews' redemption from the Nazi holocaust is often repeated. However, when a true, efficient and sensible inclusion of these ethnic groups' representatives in the government is raised, then statements are at least cautious. Quoting data from the above mentioned survey – and similar results can also be found in other ones – slightly more than half (55%) of the ethnic Bulgarians approve such a participation, and 64% maintain that only those who share national Bulgarian customs and traditions could be considered as a part of the "nation.” Despite the fact that there has been some progress in this attitude, still, 1/3 of the respondents among ethnic Bulgarians agree with such rights for minorities as tutoring in their own language at the public schools, and having their own political parties*. While 45% accept that ethnic groups have to have their representatives in the local authorities, it seems here curious that a little more than half – 57% – accept representatives of these groups to be among the members of the parliament. This is probably because, hypothetically, they would never set up a majority at the highest legislative body. Recognising this serious prejudice, Nedelcheva sees a possible way for finding a future consensus in the pattern of reconciliation and relative abolition of ethnic and confessional distinctions in the interpersonal level of the everyday life in the settlements with mixed population. She outlines in particular the quick restoration of the previous socio-psychological mechanism of good-neighbourly relations, empathy, mutual co-operation and help in these ethnically heterogenous communities after the shameful assimilation process of the 1980s. She bases her conclusions also on the data from a series of other results from empirical sociological surveys among young people and rural populations. Her overall conclusion is that the Bulgarian ethnic model is exceptionally stable inasmuch as the consistency of the ethnic norms and attitudes within that model is "obvious with almost laboratory precision" as are their essential contents – coexistence between the citizens of one and the same state in an attitude of mutual empathy and dialogue. Here, however, we still cannot be overwhelmingly optimistic. It is true that Bulgaria, probably unexpectedly for many observers abroad, avoided the controversy that--probably also sudden and unanticipated by the superficial observers--reached the scope of a bloody war in neighbour Yugoslavia after decades of "bratstvo i jedinstvo.” The wounds--after the humiliation, torture, pressure from paramilitary forces with armoured vehicles, helicopters and other means to "voluntarily" change their names, deprivation of medical service, lack of access to their banking accounts, driving licenses, etc., if they were still using their original names, the desecration of cemeteries, and finally, the pushing of hundreds of thousands of people almost overnight to quit their homes, cattle, agricultural plots, and head to the Turkish border – all this appeared to be, surprisingly, quickly healed and forgotten. But nevertheless trauma, usually hidden deep in the soul, remains and withstands, and nobody knows how and when it could erupt. Such subterranean, internalised suspicion toward the Other – whether the Other is the neighbour Dimitur, or George, or Penka, with whom one shares a smile, handshaking, some sorrow or joy – connected with the memory of his or her indifference (though any gesture of support at those violent times could be, indeed, dangerous for them, too), or in some cases, involvement – is persistent. To this can be added the fact that up until now no one – from the highest party leaders who took the decision to launch the campaign to the numerous police or special units' officers who were obeying orders and sometimes were involved in acts of torture, beatings and even murders – has been tried and punished. Furthermore, another powerful factor was added after the political changes in Bulgaria – formerly suppressed faith re-emerged with much force, especially among Moslems, now furnished with newly built mosques and preachers who are sometimes sent from abroad, from Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other Moslem countries and institutions. This contributes to the capsulation of the communities. And if Dimitur can not see in his neighbour, Hassan, a Turkish soldier, on the next societal level these abstract attitudes about the chimerical "threat" of Turkish invasion or the separation of some areas with compact ethnic Turkish populations, fuelled by the nationalist hysteria, is definitely not to be underestimated. A further proof of that is the recent founding by a group of scholars – experts in international law and historians – of a "Committee for Salvation of the Ethnic Bulgarians.” It aims to act in the areas with mixed population, where, as they claim, Bulgarians are a discriminated minority. They substantiate their presumption, on the one hand, with speculations over a long time "war" between Roma/Gypsies and the state electricity-supply company, where, due to political votes "shopping" and clientelist relations, enormous debts have been accumulated*. On the other hand, such assumptions are fuelled by recent expansion of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) to replace, as much as possible, ethnic Bulgarians with ethnic Turks in the structures, bodies, and institutions at all levels under their control. This greedy advancement, which far outstrips Bulgarian Turks' share of the population, as well as the MRF's vote allotment – already causes tension and concern within the ruling coalition. These are all examples of flaws in the otherwise successful (at least when compared with the serious failures in ethnic relations in some neighbouring countries), otherwise largely praised "Bulgarian ethnic model.” It is not necessary to exaggerate the situation, but ignoring such cases is also fraught with serious consequences. More can be added: cases of abuse of force by police when dealing with Roma/Gypsies, and skinhead assaults against Roma/Gypsies, Africans and other "non-Bulgarians,” while occasional, are also part of this neglected reality.

Neuerberger is not as entangled in a detailed description of the theoretical basics of her story, nor in any endeavours to make general conclusions and outlooks. She is very clear in her subject – the Muslim minorities in Bulgaria. And she approaches this subject without even having any interest in such issues as how these minorities appeared on Bulgarian soil – especially concerning the Bulgarian speaking Pomaks. Even among Bulgarian scholars some doubts exist about the complete authenticity of the narratives about of the merciless conversion of the local population to Islam by the notorious Turkish Ottoman janissaries through sword, torture, blood, and cruelty. Moreover, she even fails to mention that the Bulgarian state, reborn at the end of the 19th century, had deep roots in the most of the Balkans and beyond far before the Ottomans came here in 1300s. The author’s historical sight is restricted mainly to the 20th century, and this might be considered as a shortage and prominent omission – keeping in mind her otherwise great attention to details. She takes for granted that such minorities exist in Bulgaria, no matter how they originally appeared, and her attention is devoted almost entirely toward the specific attire of the Muslim population – caps that replaced the Turkish fez and turbans, veils, baggy pantaloons shalvari, and traditional circumcision. She deals with the issue against a larger background: the practice of denying, rejecting, and banning specific Muslim dressing habits and traditions has been typical for European missionaries and colonisers for centuries. Most often this has been represented as efforts to "release" local populations in the Middle East and North Africa (referred usually as "The Orient") from their "backwardness", "ignorance", "barbarity", social oppression. It is more than striking that the language of these self-proclaimed "champions of progress and civilising"--whether French or other European colonisers, whether communist warriors for the "bright future" here in Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, or in Soviet Central Asia--is quite similar, if not the same. In addition to taking the general socio-historical approach, Neuerberger focuses the issue from the perspective of gender, the struggle between "masculine" and "feminine.” This angle is not quite typical for the local authors (though, as she shows, it is quite implicit in their works), but adds some special flavour to the content. She follows Bulgarian policies in the domain quite scrupulously, with all their contradictions, alterations and hesitations. Many of the features here, including certain important ones, are not very well known, even to the Bulgarian public. The author's interest lies especially in the communist period of Bulgaria. Initially, "Soviet supremacy demanded a dramatic reconceptualization of the role of women and especially Muslim women in Bulgarian society… The Soviet de-veiling campaigns from the 1920s and 1940s were held up as a model for postwar Bulgarian dress reform… The new Bulgarian regime readily consumed the rhetoric and rationale that the Soviets had so eloquently devised (pp. 126-7)"*. Nevertheless, until the communists strengthened their power, they delayed any drastic measures – thus implementing Soviet experience. Memories of the 1943 Law on Clothes were still sensitive, and the new authorities wanted as much as possible to circumscribe themselves from the previous practices of Bulgarianization, considered then as "fascist" and "bourgeois-nationalist.” Instead, it was proclaimed that under new regime “no one can take the veil off the Muslim woman.” Neuberger writes: "Apparently, it was vital not to alienate or exclude Muslim women but rather to mobilize them into the state economy regardless of garment choice" (p. 129). With the change of the communist leadership from 1956 on, the emphasis was shifted again toward eradication of the traditional dressing, eradication of traditional internal design of homes, and the elimination of ways of thinking considered "outdated, backward, inconvenient, embarrassing.” Even local communist cadres were sharply criticized for failing to enlighten "their loved ones,” involving them in "political work", keeping them illiterate and wearing veils – all of which, apparently, brought into question the loyalty of the staff. Since this pressure to abandon traditional appearance came earlier and was expressed more strongly toward the Pomaks, considered "victims of the Turkish yoke," the result was the opposite of what was intended. The campaign led to the maintaining of ethnic boundaries that coincided with the confessional, i. e., between Muslims and non-Muslim Bulgarians. In many cases, indicates Neuerberger, these "encroaching modernizing programs only deepened the chasm between Bulgarians and themselves.” In the mid-1980s, these assimilation efforts were directed at Bulgarian Turks, whose identity was denied, and included such insulting and deeply injurious actions as confiscating "anything that resembled a Turkish garment.” People in such attire were prevented from using public transportation, serving in shops, medical facilities and administrative offices, and even from access to their jobs and schools. The author concludes that these contradictions and confrontations will persist in the post-Communist period. This seems to be confirmed not only by the more recent experience in Bulgaria, but also in many other countries, including the legal banning of explicit tokens of ethnic and confessional affiliation that ruffled the French Muslim community.

Very similar is the situation with names – Goethe, quoted by Neuerberger, even compares them to "garments" – and they too, are a sensitive matter as the critical and most visible surface denominator of ethnic affiliation. Here in the Balkans, changing boundaries most often meant the initiation of a forced change of names to match the general pattern of the dominating country’s predominate nation. Thus, during the 20th century, some people had to endure renaming processes several times in their lifetimes. The other author, Paul Hockenos, does not elaborate on this topic in his book, but it seems that he is also aware of what names mean here in the Balkans. Once, when he approached one of his Albanian émigré sources for an interview appointment, the source became suspicious and asked if his surname is of Greek origin.

In her conclusion, after carefully investigating controversial Bulgarian policies toward the Muslim minorities, Neuerberger concludes, that the "relatively functional ethnic politics of post-Communist Bulgaria" have proved that "Bulgarians and Muslims still have common ground in Bulgarian soil". In addition, "by continually adapting and reinventing themselves, [Bulgarian Muslims] have negotiated a place in the body politic throughout the many twists and turns of Bulgarian history".

At first sight, Paul Hockenos' book has for a subject a very different story. Even the location is distinct. His focus is not only another part of the Balkan peninsula, the former Yugoslavia (usually called the "Western Balkans" for the sake of convenience by foreign observers), but the émigré diasporas of the former Yugoslav republics living abroad. Existence of such diasporas – "uncle[s] in America" – is a phenomenon typical of all the Balkan countries due to shifts in political life and economic hardships. However, this largely neglected aspect of the Balkan universe adds an important feature in the study of the developments and occurrences there. It became especially visible during the most recent events: the disintegration of former Yugoslavia, the secession wars, and the painful socio-political processes of change. Many of these expatriates were involved more or less successfully in the processes that started with the ousting of the communist regimes, and some played an important role as investors, politicians, and statesmen. Without examining this aspect, any analysis would be incomplete and inadequate. "These expatriate kin,” writes Hockenos, “though estranged in time and place, their native tongues now heavy with accent, have continued to remain part of the nation.” Due to the circumstances – the most liberal regime of travel abroad was introduced in Socialist Yugoslavia – the number of those who were leaving their country seeking opportunities abroad and later returning back to their homeland was numerous. This category, labelled by the not-so-flattering term "gastarbeiter", "changed the face of postwar Western Europe, and, in turn, transformed socialist Yugoslavia into a country more prosperous and less provincial than its less fortunate Eastern bloc neighbors". Another type were political exiles after WW II – a "mixed bag of clergy and officer corps, ordinary soldiers and implacable fascists, fled as far away as Australia, South Africa, and North and South America, where they vigilantly nursed dreams of a return triumphant.” A third group, fleeing Milosevic’s Serbia, were the "brain drainers" of the 1990s.

Milosevic, Tudjman and the other new leaders also turned their hope toward the respective diasporas. Milosevic was smart enough to "milk" (Hockenos' term) the Serbian diaspora abroad, "purportedly to modernize Serbian industry.” However, in fact, it turned that he was funding Serbia's territorial wars – a cause, which, most probably, those investors would not object to at all. In Kosovo, things happened even more drastically: in 1990, all ethnic Albanians from the parliament in Pristina left the country, followed by the "renegade government.” They operated until 1999 from abroad, ostensibly collecting money primarily for funding schools and hospitals – "the pillars of the ethnic Albanian parallel state.” It soon became apparent, however, that finances and organizational efforts were put in a very different direction, for a guerrilla movement that emerged from the seemingly dull gastarbeiter clubs in Switzerland and Germany. The author has chosen the name of one of such worldwide fund, Homeland Calling, as the title of his book. Hockenos does not conceal his negative presumption –– at times quite derisive – about the sort of political game these diasporas were entangled in, and their role in the sorrowful fate of their countries. His main "heroes" are a Serbian American chemical magnate who became for some time a Prime Minister in his country and even, quite unsuccessfully, applied for the Presidency (Milan Panić); a Croatian Canadian pizza maker, who grew to the position of Minister of Defense and main strategist of the Croatian involvement in the war in Bosnia (Gojko Šušak); and an exiled Albanian urologist, who led the local government, at that time subservient to the Belgrade authorities, to later start the Kosovar mobilization against the Serbs (Bujar Bukoshi). He also could not miss mentioning a retired accounting officer at the reputable Arthur Anderson firm, raised by an Italian immigrant family, who suddenly realised his Albanian roots soon after being elected a Representative to the US Congress. This person, Joe DioGuardi, organized the powerful Albanian lobby in the USA, one that dwarfed all other Balkan lobbies in the USA, including the famed Greek one.

Hockenos language is not confined to strict academic norms. It is colourful and fabulous, as in a thrilling novel. But this does not prevent him for being equally scrupulous, carefully checking the facts and terminology he uses. His main aim, to reveal activities of the diaspora organizations, which he says at times "blatantly undermined the foreign policy objectives of their adopted countries", together with his generally captious and sarcastic attitude, does not stop him from assessing those parts of the immigrant communities that were not involved in belligerent practices. Because of this, we can consider Hockenos' book as a quite informative, fair, and accurate reference book about the diasporas’ interference in their native countries' affairs. He is able to make some far-reaching conclusions and generalized recapitulations that go far beyond his basic reflections on the Western Balkans. Some of these conclusions concern advances in technology--especially in communication and transportation--together with emergence of the worldwide single integrated economy, where the exchange of goods and services, capital flows, and also ideas, information and images proceeds unimpeded by any distances and state borders. Modern globalism, still, cannot raze most of the essential foundations that permit diasporas to play a recalcitrant role in world affairs. The author recognises that "…the centrifugal forces of globalization erode the cornerstones of the classic nation-state: its cherished sovereignty, solid national borders, the requirement of undivided loyalty, and exclusive political participation.” However, this does not mean that "old-fashioned patriotism and nationalist passions lose their appeal" – not at all! Indeed, such forces "remain a vital symptom of our age.” At least partly, this can be explained by globalization's negative effects, which urge many to seek refuge and relief in the embrace of nation. This is true even if we accept the odd invention of our age – the dual, hybrid, trans-national identity. Pertinent especially for younger immigrants, often well educated with easy convertible knowledge, this dual identity permits them to feel themselves equally "at home" both in the parents' hometown, and under the steel and glass buildings of New York, Toronto, and Sydney – where they have found better prospects for career and life. These offspring of the new age, sustained by satellite TV, can without any trouble argue about the Superbowl championship of American football, and the soccer championship in their native country, and, unintentionally, to shift their conversation from mother tongue to English and vice versa when they fly over the ocean. These observations coincide thoroughly with those of a Bulgarian ethnologist, M. Karamichova, who has been investigating Bulgarian émigré communities in the USA since 1990. Hockenos' assumes that under the existing conditions, the diaspora becomes an alter ego of the homeland instead of being its mirror or extension. They are prepared and ready to die for the "Motherland", but not to live there. More over, despite being inclined to an everyday life that consists of numerous and continuous interactions with neighbours, colleagues and salesmen of various ethnicities, they would never agree "with the liberal requirement of sharing the homeland territory with other ethnic peoples.” The reason for such a stubborn and extremist attitude is that "diasporas are ethnically homogenous entities, in a way that no country in the world is. A democratic state is the sum of all its varied citizens; the diaspora is a selection from just one volk.” An especially troubling posture of the diasporas' members is their never diminishing interest and ever growing aspiration to participate in the political, economic, and cultural life of the home countries. This is probably easy explainable. Most often, if even they are one among many of their kind, at home they smoothly become celebrities: reporters ask for interviews, photographers and TV cameras pursue them during their visits and capture their achievements. This certainly flatters, and makes even decent personalities to accrue notable and even excessive self-esteem. Here "their faulty vision – or self-interest – causes them to act contrary to the interests of the people they profess to love so deeply.” Even in an age when dual nationality is becoming more commonplace, most " émigré s do not vote, pay taxes, or hold elected positions in the homeland; they act, but without the responsibilities of citizenship or office". However, their mightiest leverage is their lobbies, more sophisticated and more influential than ever. While some 40 or 50 years ago "leaders of the old-school émigré organizations felt flattered to have their pictures snapped next to a congressman in Washington", present day lobby groups expect not less than a "role as players in the foreign policy making process.” Here is revealed the not so well-known fact that one of the instrumental people within President Clinton’s narrow circle of policy makers was his director of the Presidential ethnic outreach office, Ilir Zherka – one of the Albanian Americans' top advocates. This certainly helps to explain Clinton's peculiar interest in the Balkans and in Kosovo in particular.

There is strong evidence that involvement of diasporas in the process of shaping the host country's policy usually leads toward distorted signals and pushes that may not be in the right direction. Hockenos quotes a World Bank report, which states "post-conflict regions with proportionally larger diasporas have been proven to pose a significantly greater risk of renewed conflict during the five years after war than societies with small diasporas.” Thus, diasporas are considered to be a major additional risk factor in post-conflict societies, which proves the necessity of a move "to collectively criminalize the financing of rebel movements by diaspora organizations.” Numerous examples confirm such a statement. In most protracted conflicts, not only in the Balkans but also all over the world, we find a more or less apparent presence of the overseas diasporas' actors. It is also, however, evident that in implementing such measures strong resistance would have to be overcome.

All this poses the grave question about the outcomes of such an ethnicized foreign policy of the US superpower. The author insists on the necessity "of turning the considerable resources and energies of Southeastern Europe's Diaspora into constructive forces that foster democracy, prosperity, and stability in the Balkans.” And this seems quite reasonable, a largely desired prospect of Southeastern Europeans themselves.

Reviewed here were three very different books, by authors with distinct backgrounds and research agendas and few formally overlapping topics and areas of interest. However, we find that despite the peculiarities and particulars, these three monographs essentially supplement each other, and offer us much valuable new knowledge on issues of extreme importance for the contemporary and future socio-political development in the Balkans and beyond.

Michael Mahoney, Clarity International


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[1] Mary Neuburger. The Orient Within. Muslim Minorities ant the Negotiation of Nationhood in Modern Bulgaria. Ithaca, London: 2004; Paul Hockenos. Homeland Calling. Exile Patriotism and the Balkan Wars. Ithaca, London: 2003; Tanya Nedelcheva. Identity and Time. Sofia, Marin Drinov Academic Publishing House, 2004.

* Here the controversy around the "Turkish" party, the Movement of Rights and Freedoms – currently part of the ruling coalition – as well as the eminent and constitutional clear ban of any political parties on ethnic and confessional basis, seems to be to reflected.

* Attempts to start collecting debts and power cuts to the debtors led to unpremeditated mutinies especially in the ghettos such as Stolipinovo in Plovdiv, where a trolley bus was burned and public property damaged.

* It is not so well known that in their efforts to imitate Soviet pattern, Bulgarian communists tried to replace tongue of the Bulgarian Turks with the Azeri dialect – in which some performances in the Turkish theatre in Shoumen were staged in the 1950s.