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Ask Away, Part 2.

The OMGadorable Ted sunsmogseahorse  asked: "Can you tell us how the breakup of Yugoslavia affected you?"

Yes, this is probably a story that won't interest too many of you, but, hey, I promised to answer all, right? And since it's still March and if you're still curious, you can still ask me anything here or just reply to this post. Nothing is screened, nothing is hidden. And the first batch of answers is still here.


And now onto the last few decades...



Yugoslavia... A country that got its final form and political content after WW2, a country, despite being qualified as an Eastern European country, that never had to undergo any of that notorious iron curtain treatment, because Yugoslavian politicians parted with the Soviet Union soon after WW2. All political and diplomatic efforts, led by Josip Broz Tito, turned towards the West and into the so called Independent movement. I guess I can't tell anything really special about my life in former Yugoslavia. Looking back it seems unusual that people in Slovenia were more focused on let's say Austria or Italy and much less on southern republics. But I guess the fact that Slovenia will sooner or later dare to venture away was already in the air in early 80's when I started to observe the life around me. I remember my father often said: "You will serve in Slovenian, not Yugoslavian army", and that was way before any sort of democratic movement started to form.

Things moved rather quickly. First political parties appeared in late 80's, first democratic elections were in 1990, in December 1991 nearly 90% of voters decided they want to live in an idependent country and in June 1991 Slovenia declared independency. A so called "Ten days war" followed. 62 people died and then Yugoslavian army retrived to their barracks and left Slovenia in October 1991.

Slovenia, being the wealthiest country in former Yugoslavia, took a rather progressive way into Europe. In 2004 we became among the first "new members" of the European Union, also in 2004 we joined Nato, in 2007 we were the first new member to get Euro, in 2008 we were the first new member to take over the presidency to the EU.

And me and the breakup of Yugoslavia? I was 21 when it all happened and my mind was far, far away from anything political back then. To me it seemed like something that was destined to happen, it was just a matter oh when and how. I guess Slovenia was really lucky to be able to escape the claws of former Yugoslavia so soon and without the slaughter that followed in the coming years in Croatia and Bosnia. I guess the fact we were rather ethnically "clean" had a lot to do with it. Other republics were really mixed and centuries old ethnical disputed just bursted when it was time go away.

But I guess Slovenia was really being pulled back as a part of Yugoslavia. The changes these country made in the past two decades are amazing. It seems like the colours have taken over everything. And I do love my country and my city and all and everybody who comes here feels more or less the same. So, blog like this shouldn't come as a major surprise. See, it's not only me. :)

Any regrets? Actually no, maybe just about the fact I haven't seen much of my former "motherland". Ok, apart from some obvious choice like Croatia and a school trip all the way down to north of Bosnia. I never made it further down south than Sarajevo and I arrived in Sarajevo a few years after the worst fights finished. A ruined city so depressing I couldn't push those images out of my mind for weeks after the visit. I hope to go to Montenegro and see some of the most beautiful Adriatic coast and to Belgrade for its amazing energy and nightlife and to Macedonia, to a country so totally different; with language and all, it's hardly imaginable it was once a part of the same country.


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( 36 comments — Leave a comment )
pklexton
Mar. 15th, 2011 08:47 pm (UTC)
Actually it is very interesting to get your perspective on this.

You mention that Yugoslavia "never had to undergo any of that notorious iron curtain treatment." I remember being told Yugoslavia was in a different category but I think I (and probably most Americans) would still have put Yugoslavia behind the iron curtain during the '80s. That could just be the old American party line that anything that looks, smells, sounds or even touches something like Communist or Socialist must be bad. So it's instructive to hear that you didn't actually feel like you were behind the iron curtain. How easy was it to leave to the west during those years? Were people afraid to speak openly about politics?
paterson_si
Mar. 16th, 2011 12:16 am (UTC)
Thanks. :)

Yes, things were always more "relaxed" in Yugoslavia, of course, compared to other Eastern Block countries, but, yes, some signs of opression and such were also present, I cannot and don't want to paint the picture all pink.
West? Well, back in the day, for Slovenian people, shopping in Italy and Austria was normal, shopping in Croatia... not that much. And politics was always more or less openly discussed. That's what also cause the democratic movement in the 80's. Nothing happened to those first opposition politicians. They just fought their way through without any opression of any kind.

Also gay issues... while homosexuality was still illegal in, let's say Serbia, Ljubljana saw the opening of first gay disco deep in the 80's. Gay folks from all Yugoslavia and also Italy and Austria used to come on those so called "Pink Disco" nights. Strangely, those nights are still alive. In the same club. In very heart of the city.
pklexton
Mar. 16th, 2011 12:40 am (UTC)
That is fascinating. Thanks for setting the record straight. I think we were fed a little bit too much of a "black and white" line on things in the cold war when in reality there was much more gray than we were led to believe.
paterson_si
Mar. 16th, 2011 12:51 am (UTC)
Yes, but to be honest, Yugoslavia was always a rather specific case. A kind of black sheep on both sides. A socialist/communist country that refused to live by Soviet rule and a middle European/Balkan country that somehow just didn't fit in "normal" political scheme of the West. But its strategic position and let's face, probably the most beautiful coastline in Europe, helped it to be exttremely popular especially with (Western) Germany and Italy.
inbhirnis
Mar. 16th, 2011 05:17 am (UTC)
Of course, Scotland has the most beautiful coastline in Europe.... ;-)
paterson_si
Mar. 16th, 2011 10:21 am (UTC)
Nah, 's Croatia. :) And you can actually enjoy the warm water. :)
jawnbc
Mar. 15th, 2011 09:18 pm (UTC)
I, of course, am fascinated. But the whole region has been something of an obsession for myself over the last several years. Not only because of the hawt Slavic men. Like you. Or Ig-E. :)

Slovenia and Macedonia serve as good "brackets" to the rest of former Yugoslavia: both have different languages not mutually intelligible with (most dialects of) Bosnian/Serbian/Croatian and are at the top and bottom of the former country.

The YR seemed to want to fight to keep Slovenia, but seemed to acknowledge rather quickly that "no, they're a different people." I bet they missed the money though: Slovenia always pulled more of its weight in the federation than the southern member nations did. But when Macedonia wanted to leave, it seemed the YR couldn't wait for it to go.

Having seen a bit of both places I can see why.... :)
paterson_si
Mar. 16th, 2011 12:19 am (UTC)
Yes, Slovenia was always considered as something different in Yugoslavia. Language aside, it's also our (boring) mittle-european mentality that brings us much closer to Austrians than to the rest of the Balkans. Slovenia was always called as "YU Swiss" in old days. So, yes, the fact money was gone, did hurt, but we really didn't have that much in common anyway.

And you will soon see it all again. Slovenia, I mean! :)
eloquentwthrage
Mar. 15th, 2011 10:12 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the history lesson. :)
paterson_si
Mar. 16th, 2011 12:20 am (UTC)
Most welcome, Professor! :)
eloquentwthrage
Mar. 16th, 2011 01:24 am (UTC)
It's always good to know more about my next future ex-husband. :-P
paterson_si
Mar. 16th, 2011 01:26 am (UTC)
Good point. :)
ranger7ryan
Mar. 15th, 2011 10:21 pm (UTC)
actually I was very interested as well.

How has Croatia/Bosnia/Serbia changed in the last decade? Are things better or is the region still depressed and the aftermath of the war still obvious?
paterson_si
Mar. 16th, 2011 12:35 am (UTC)
Changes in southern former republics were and still are much slower. Croatia is better off than other countries and also the closest to actually entering The European Union at some stage. The aftermath is still obvious, especially in Bosnia and Serbia, with still unfinished stuff amongst all the groups involved. Not to mention ruined parts of those countries, still untouched as if the battles just ended because of ethnical disputes. We really got it good.
tilia_tomentosa
Mar. 15th, 2011 10:51 pm (UTC)
I was looking thorough whatever old articles and videos about the "Street Revolution" of 1997 in Bulgaria the other day because I was thinking of how to explain to some of the Americans I know (and also some of the young Bulgarians) what it was like (remember this entry?)

And that was after the first economic collapse in 1990...

In a way Bulgaria was lucky enough that we didn't have anything like the Yugoslav Wars although we aren't ethnically "pure" and still have some tension between the ethnic groups. But still... we were much less lucky than you.
paterson_si
Mar. 16th, 2011 12:47 am (UTC)
Yes, even if things are not financially okay, all seems to be better than wars. Whan happend in Croatia and Bosnia and later on also in Serbia with US bombing, it was just terrible and from my perspective totally beyond understanding. All that in our closest neighbourhood. So, yes, we were really, really lucky.
djmadadam
Mar. 16th, 2011 12:32 am (UTC)
I feel like, at this current rate, I'll never see any of the parts of the world I want to see :(
paterson_si
Mar. 16th, 2011 12:47 am (UTC)
You will, Adam, you will. :)
coffeeguy777
Mar. 16th, 2011 01:57 am (UTC)
I like the map it's a nice touch. what's the attitude towards gays in Italy??
paterson_si
Mar. 16th, 2011 09:50 pm (UTC)
In Italy? The country is a strange mix of ultra-catholic approach on one hand and then "I don't care what you do" approach on the other. :)
dan4behr
Mar. 16th, 2011 03:41 pm (UTC)
I'm glad this question was asked. Truth is, I've wondered the same thing about your past experiences and thought about asking myself, so I'm glad it's been done for me!


I echo many of pk's early Yugoslavian perceptions mentioned above. My first real cognizant memory of Yugoslavia would've been the Olympics in Sarajevo, and following that, extensive coverage by US media in ensuing years of suffering during the Bosnian War. Americans really weren't aware of the different sectors of old Yugoslavia except as places mentioned in the early 90's on our news. Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina were frequently mentioned back then.

FWIW, you have put Slovenia in the absolute front of the line of places I want to visit. Brian's almost become annoyed everytime I show him pictures and articles. Bled has been mentioned on several travel programs and I made him watch. The tourist information bureau should pay you commission.

Oh, one other thing. 'Old' Yugoslavia did have a place of note in the American motorist's funnybone: everyone had a good chuckle (rightly or wrongly) when the Yugo GV made a brief appearance on our roads. Very brief...

Edited at 2011-03-16 03:42 pm (UTC)
paterson_si
Mar. 16th, 2011 10:00 pm (UTC)
Yes, other parts of Yugoslavia gor extensive media coverage in the 90's, due to all that was going on there. I have to say I am happy we managed to stay in the "shade". Back then. And also now, since the country isn't overly flooded with some bad influence from abroad. :))))

Yes, Slovenia is pretty and I am sure you will enjoy it when you come here.

And Yugo..... well, I've never driven one, so... :)
dan4behr
Mar. 17th, 2011 01:34 am (UTC)
and to think, those GV's that survived are becoming something of a collector's item... or a part of some sort of pop-art.
paterson_si
Mar. 17th, 2011 11:20 am (UTC)
Moving art, even. Well, some of them. :)


EDIT: Darned, I didn't know they are still producing them...

http://www.zastava-automobili.com/sr/proizvodi/koral/galerija/index0.html

Edited at 2011-03-17 11:22 am (UTC)
(Deleted comment)
paterson_si
Mar. 17th, 2011 06:55 pm (UTC)
Yes, take a look at the link I posted as a reply to Dan. :)
thaone
Mar. 16th, 2011 07:52 pm (UTC)
cheers for your story. we were just talking about it in school. it was so close, but for some reason the rest of europe didnt really care as it can be seen today. crazy. i went to zagret on a studytrip 2 years ago. loved it. we were treated like kings. i was so surprised how friendly the people were. stupid me and my prejudices.
paterson_si
Mar. 16th, 2011 10:02 pm (UTC)
Welcome. :) And, yes, some really lovely bits and pieces can be found in former YU. :)
sunsmogseahorse
Mar. 17th, 2011 10:58 am (UTC)
What a thoughtful answer. I thought it likely that living in Slovenia, you wouldn't have experienced the degree of distress that occurred to the south. But even in a...can I call it this?...cobbled-together country like Yugoslavia, it must feel odd when it comes apart, made even odder by the way it came together. It's a curious state, so it interested me.

I'm glad you didn't have too hard a time of it; so many did.

Big, naked hugs.
paterson_si
Mar. 17th, 2011 11:19 am (UTC)
Well, I guess for some, especially for older people who kind of grew up together with Yugoslavia, it might had been slightly more stressful and emotional. For me it wasn't much of a task, especially with those words "one day we'll be independent" always lingering around. So, for me, it was always a question of when not if it's going to happen. And, yes, late teens are early 20's are not really the age for some deep consideration and pondering about the world around. Well, at least it wasn't the case for me. And I guess I managed to carry this attitude to my early 40's. :)

Hugs, Ted!

T
foodpoisoningsf
Mar. 20th, 2011 03:43 am (UTC)
it's hardly imaginable it was once a part of the same country.

Interesting post- considering this week is the 150th anniversary of the Unification of Italy- which Bolzano is preparing to boycott because they don't feel sufficiently Italian. In fairness, they were annexed after WW1.
paterson_si
Mar. 23rd, 2011 11:17 pm (UTC)
Yes, these European countries... they just don't know any better. :)
bear_left
Mar. 20th, 2011 12:10 pm (UTC)
What a great post. It was delightful to talk about this with Mitja & Viki a couple weeks ago, & particularly about the implications for LGBT people in the former Yugoslav republics.

Thanks also for linking to the Lonely Planet article; I ended up clicking through & reading a couple entries on Mostar & Sarajevo, which seem so beautiful & so heartbreaking. I had a student maybe six years ago whose family had fled Mostar to the Atlanta area. I've long tried to imagine what they had to go through, and I'm so glad that Slovenia was spared what so much of the rest of the republics went through.
paterson_si
Mar. 23rd, 2011 11:17 pm (UTC)
So... now it's high time for you to come and to see all that in person. :)
bear_left
Mar. 24th, 2011 04:01 pm (UTC)
Most definitely :)
paterson_si
Mar. 24th, 2011 10:51 pm (UTC)
So.... when? :)
( 36 comments — Leave a comment )