‘Yugo-stalgic’ Balkans long for socialist past

The tomb of former Yugoslav leader Field Marshall Josip Broz Tito. [bibbisphoto/Shutterstock]

The breakup of Yugoslavia brought more harm than good, according to a new survey. ‘Yugo-stalgia’ and dissatisfaction caused by low employment and political instability mean many yearn for the days of socialism.

The Balkan country’s dissolution in the early 1990s harmed Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Macedonia, according to the results of a new Gallup study, which interviewed more than a 1,000 citizens across the region.

When asked if the dissolution of the Socialist Republic benefited or harmed their country, just 4% of Serbians said it was a benefit, while an overwhelming 81% said it was harmful and 8% said they didn’t know.

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It’s a similar situation to the former Soviet republics, who generally responded in another poll that the breakup of the Soviet Union was also harmful.

Serbia’s dissatisfaction is also mirrored in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where just 6% said the end of Yugoslavia was a boon to the country. 77% said it was damaging.

While Serbia’s negativity may be down to a sense of loss at being the centre of a multinational state, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s misgivings could be explained by the country’s poor economic and governmental performance.

Corruption is a time-old problem and its complicated state structure, established by the 1995 Dayton Agreement, means the government struggles to push through reforms. But the EU is still an attractive option for Bosnians: 70% approve of its membership bid.

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EU High Representative Federica Mogherini on Wednesday (24 May) hosted a working dinner with the prime ministers of the Western Balkans 6, all of whom have hopes of joining the bloc.

NATO’s newest member, Montenegro, is less nostalgic, with just 15% remembering it fondly and 65% believing it was harmful.

Nearly a quarter of Macedonians polled (21%) said they didn’t know when asked if the breakup was beneficial or harmful.

Of the former Yugoslav republics still on the path to EU membership, just Kosovo said it was beneficial, with three-quarters saying the breakup was a good thing and only 10% saying it was harmful.

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The EU’s newest member, Croatia, also generally said its succession was a boon, as respondents were split 55% to 23%.

The pollsters concluded that members of ethnic minorities were more likely to see harm in the breakup. For example, Croatians living in Croatia were more likely to see it as having a beneficial impact than Croatians living outside their homeland.

Opinions were also split along age lines. Adults older than 55 were more likely to respond negatively than people aged between 15 and 35.

The perceived benefits of living in Yugoslavia, including free healthcare and education, as well as higher employment, could explain this discrepancy.

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