OPINION Divided in similarity
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by: MIRJANA NAJCEVSKA
In the Balkans live people who share common history, who have many similarities (language, tradition, religion, cuisine, holidays…) and, who face many similar problems (developmental, environmental, climatic, economic…).
This refers to the Balkans as a whole, but also to each of the individual countries that currently exist in the Balkans, which as a rule are multicultural and multiconfessional from the moment of their own formation, and which in principle reflect all these characteristics (to a greater or lesser degree, most of them, or, usually, all together) at the national level.
This situation has led to development of two directions of reaction in these areas.
One direction is related to the need for distinction.
The great, widespread and ever more present similarity in many areas and characteristics, led to the need for emphasizing, and even exaggerating the difference. A difference had to be found in the culture, language, tradition. If there isn’t any, then make it up and construct it. All with the purpose to differentiate ourselves, to present ourselves as unique and exclusive, different.
In the process of emphasizing the differences, increasing the contrast and seeking confirmation of the difference, every opportunity for recognizing the closeness and what is common was trampled and is trampled, and even bridges of communication are being destroyed, of sharing and using the advantages similarity gives.
Instead of using the similarity of the languages as an advantage for establishing easy communication and exchange of information, instead of using the similarity of the cultures and traditions for building common values more easily, instead of having the common experiences and challenges caused by climate changes as a basis for joint solutions, all these similarities are a source of conflict, mutual denial, partiality and mutual outwitting.
The need for emphasizing the differences can easily be manipulated, used by individuals and groups who profit from mutual denial and condescending.
It can be said that most of the conflicts in these areas have existed not because of the difference (that prevented people from understanding each other and communicating), but because of the similarity (thin boundaries of the difference) and the need for it to be denied.
Or, in other words, people in the Balkans and in the individual countries in the Balkans, hate each other because they are too similar.
The second direction is in connection to the idea of unity.
There is also another side of the story. The history of these areas speaks of multiple attempts to find a common denominator between the different peoples living here, to unite and to benefit from the advantages given to them by one or more of the mutual similarities.
The idea had been many times propelled by Greek, Croatian, Serbian, Macedonian, Bulgarian, Romanian, Albanian politicians and visionaries.
It emerges for the first time in the second half of the XVIII century, and continues to develop in the XIX century, up to when one of the broadest projects, the idea for a federation from the Alps to Cyprus, was promoted in the mid XIX century.
The idea for living together in these areas started as an idea for a joint fight against the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires, and was renewed after each of the great world conflicts in which the Balkan peoples, regardless of whether they wanted to or not, had been involved (on one or the other side of the conflict).
These proposals remained at the level of an idea. Due to various reasons (internal or external), they were not made operational (except for the Balkan Federation that was put on paper but did not come to life in practice, and the former SFRY that was formed and existed, but didn’t manage to survive). However, regardless of the fact that most of these ideas did not make it past the stage of planning, the fact remains that there were people who recognized the importance of the common interest and possibility for uniting around the similarities. And that there were such people on the entire area of the Balkans and in different periods of the development of the statehood of individual peoples.
The problem of division along the lines of similarity is still present today. For various reasons. At the national level and level of relations between the Balkan countries.
Unfortunately (and often), the similarity and what is common were presented and are presented, were emphasized and are emphasized, only in the process of a possible assimilation (voluntary or more often, forced), of conquering a territory or imposing some form of domination (cultural, political, military…). In such situations, the common roots, common history, shared values become “important”, only at the level of manipulation, with the purpose of deleting the real differences.
However, despite these and such deformations, there is increasing more talk about the existence of similarities and common interest and common needs and sharing of the present and the future. At the national level and level of the Balkan countries.
What is currently positive is that there is a chance for uniting around a value system that recognizes these similarities. Perhaps, if we give the complex of values built within the framework of the EU a chance (real chance), we will be able to accept the difference as complementary to the similarity. At the national level and level of the Balkan countries.
At that moment, perhaps, we will stop arguing “Whose song is that” and will accept it as “Our song”.
Translation: N. Cvetkovska
This content is part of the Initiative “United in Diversity”, dedicated to the promotion of diversity as an advantage, richness and quality of our society. The Initiative is led by CIVIL, with the support of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.
illustration, specifically for the Initiative “United in Diversity”: Zoran Kardula
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