For all ex-Yugoslavs, but particularly for the Serbs, the Kosovo Albanians used to be simply “our negroes.” Nowadays, however, they are cast as Serbia’s arch-enemies – a myth ruthlessly exploited by nationalist politicians, even as negotiations take place over the future of the southern Serbian province of Kosovo, which has been under UN administration since 1999. If anyone in Western Europe asks how all this could have happened, I can tell them, for I have watched and listened to this story unfolding in my country.
The country that used to be mine, the former Yugoslavia, was ethnically and culturally extremely diverse. Marshall Josip Broz Tito used to call this diversity our Yugoslavian “melting pot.” In reality, though, it was never that. After Tito’s death the country’s diversity was tragically instrumentalized; it became socially divided, split ethnically and culturally into sub-groups and economically into a hierarchy of better-off and worse-off regions. Post-Tito Yugoslavia thus became a proverbial European vertical.
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