historical context | bibliography | links

Historical Context

The Balkan region has a rich and interesting history of cultures and religions living together, although not always peaceably. In 1398, Turks invaded Serbian territory known as Kosovo. The Turks had invaded before, but during this incursion, 20,000 Serbs were killed. To this day Kosovo is considered sacred ground, and some Serbs, who are primarily of the Serbian Orthodox religion, still harbor intense hatred and distrust of the Muslim Turks because of what happened in Kosovo 600 years ago.

Croatia and Slovenia, with their proximity to Europe, were strongly influenced by European culture, language, and religion (Roman Catholic). During World War II, the Croatians sided with Germany and Italy, and fought brutally against the Serbs in an attempt to become independent. They formed a military group known as the Ustashi. Not to be without their own fighting force, the Serbs established the Chetniks. The Chetniks and Ustashi battled against each other so fiercely that by the end of the war, over one million from the region were dead. Now the Serbs seemingly had scores to settle with both the Muslims and Catholics.

A third group, the Partisans, was led by Josip Broz Tito. He emerged as the undisputed leader of a new Yugoslavia after World War II. Although undoubtedly a communist country, it was also open to limited Western influence. In order to maintain his rule, however, Tito suppressed any displays of nationalism, including religion, education, or local traditions. Rather than allow an open exchange of heritage and culture, ignorance and fear simmered under the surface.

Whether in spite of or because of the repression of nationalism, Sarajevo in particular became an enclave of mixed heritage living. It was chosen to host the 1984 Winter Olympic Games, in part, because of its diversity of cultures. With Catholics to the north, Orthodox Christians to the east, and Muslims still remaining from earlier Turkish invasions, the city of a half million residents boasted that all of these ethnicities and religions thrived in its neighborhoods without conflict.

Once Tito and his style of communism died in 1980, however, the Yugoslavian union began to fall apart. By 1990, Slovenia and Croatia sought independence and were able to leave without significant opposition. The loss of these independent states created an urgent need for Serbia to keep Bosnia-Herzegovina in what was left of Yugoslavia. Serbian leaders used propaganda and rhetoric to incite nationalist fears, reminding Serbs of how Turks and Croats had been their historic enemy. The call now was for a Serbian homeland, governed and inhabited singularly by Serbs, and the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia-Herzegovina began. Bosnian Muslims and remaining Croats responded with an effort to create an independent state of their own.

Sarajevo was under siege for three years until peace accords, drawn up in Dayton, Ohio, carved the country into homogenous enclaves with fragile borders. This civil war claimed the lives of 100,000 people, injured thousands more, and made refugees of over two million residents within their own country.

For more reading, see bibliography and links below.



Below are some of the resources used when doing historical research for this project.*


The Access Issue Packet on Bosnia-Herzegovina
Matthew T. Higham, Michael N. Mercurio, & Steven W. Ghezzi, Editors
Access: An International Affairs Information Service (July 1996)

The Balkan Express: Fragments from the Other Side of War
Slavenka Drakulic´
W.W. Norton and Company (1993)

Balkan Odyssey
David Owen
Harcourt Brace & Co. (1995)

Blood and Vengeance: One Family's Story of the War in Bosnia
Chuck Sudetic
Penguin Books (1998)

Bosnia: A Short History
Noel Malcolm
New York University Press (1994)


Bosnia and Hercegovina: A Tradition Betrayed
Robert J. Donia, John V.A. Fine, Jr.
Columbia University Press (1994)

Conflict in the Former Yugoslavia: An Encyclopedia
John B. Allcock, Marko Milivojevic´, & John Horton, Editors
ABC-CLIO, Inc. (1998)

How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed
Slavenka Drakulic´
HarperPerennial (1993)

My Native Land
Louis Adamic
Harper and Brothers (1943)

Sarajevo: A War Journal
Zlatko Dizdarevic´
Fromm International (1993)


Sarajevo Survival Guide
Maja Razovic and Alexander Wagner, Editors
FAMA (1993)

Serbs and Croats: The Struggle in Yugoslavia
Alex N. Dragnich
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (1992)

War in Yugoslavia: The Breakup of a Nation
Edward R. Ricciuti
Millbrook Press (1993)

Why Bosnia? Writings on the Balkan War
Rabia Ali and Lawrence Lifschultz, Editors
The Pamphleteer's Press (1993)


A Witness to Genocide: The 1993 Pulitzer Prize-Winning Dispatches on the "Ethnic Cleansing" of Bosnia
Roy Gutman
Maxwell Macmillan Intl. (1993)

Zlata's Diary: A Child's Life in Sarajevo
Zlata Filipovic´
Penguin Books (1994)

The Fall of Yugoslavia: The Third Balkan War
Misha Glenny
Penguin Books (1994)



The Last Word, "July 10, 1941, In Jedwabne: Why Did Half of a Polish Town Murder the Other Half? The Answer May Be Terribly Simple"
George F. Will
Newsweek, July 9, 2001



No Man's Land
MGM/United Artists
Noe´ Productions (2001)

Romeo and Juliet in Sarajevo
PBS Frontline
Original Air Date: May 10, 1994; Written and Directed by John Zaritsky, Produced by Virgina Storring

War Babies
by Raymonde Provencher
Documentary Film (Quebec 2002)

Welcome to Sarajevo
Miramax Home Entertainment
Dragon Pictures Production (1998)

*Most of the background research was from 1998-2001. I did not record my sources because, at the time, the research was only for myself. In 2004 when I returned to the same libraries to make a list of my sources, I discovered that many of the books published 1980 or earlier which I relied on for historical context had been removed from circulation. I understand the demands of a library for space and to keep books current and interesting for most of its users. Those older books, however, were gems of insights into the propaganda of Yugoslavia during the 1960s and 1970s and how they downplayed any notions of nationalism. ~Renae Angeroth



The following are links to other web sites that were helpful in creating this project.

    (a non-profit organization devoted to the promotion of new music in Iowa)
    (Iowa artists of different genres offer creative works in response to the terrorist attacks of that day)


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Renae Angeroth
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