by Vanita Singh Mukerji
Dayton Peace Agreement (December 1995) brought the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina,
which began in April 1992, to an end. A
sovereign state of Bosnia-Herzegovina maintaining its pre-war boundaries was
created, consisting however of two entities—Republika
Srpska and the Muslim-Croat Federation. The
implementation of a Stabilization Plan for Bosnia-Herzegovina devolved on
numerous international bodies, the civilian aspects of the peace agreement
being overseen by the “High Representative” appointed by the Dayton Peace
Agreement. Empowered to impose legislation on the entities, High Representative
decided on the statelet’s flag, the content
of its school textbooks, and unilaterally fired the Bosnian Serb
president (Nikola Poplasen)
chosen in Western-run “free” elections on
issues raised by the High Representative go deep into the core of the organic
link between society and art, especially literature. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, as
in other parts of the former
education as an imperative “catalyst for the process of healing” a war-scarred,
quasi-divided society, the department of the OHR’s
senior educational advisor Claude Kieffer has been
coordinating round tables of educational issues and the “Textbook Review
Project”, whereby textbooks are searched for inflammatory content or
hatred speech. It might be noted that by 1998, when reconsideration of
textbooks was initiated in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Georg
Eckert Institute had already published the results of its first research
project on them; furthermore, in collaboration with UNESCO it published in 1999
the “UNESCO Guide on Textbook Research and Textbook Revision.”[ii]
The report by Heidelberg Professor Volker Lenhart et
al., commissioned for UNESCO, completed in August 1999, examined the curricula
and the textbooks of the ‘national subjects’ in Bosnia and Hercegovina, with the professed goal of “accelerat[ing] EFP [Education For
Peace] to remove bias from textbooks and curricula and to develop a curriculum
which will enable the children from each community to value all the cultures of
Bosnia and Herzegovina.”[iii] It was being argued that “[l]anguage, history, nature and society, but also geography,
fine arts and music can be used not only to construct a certain identity, but
also to promote racial hatred and intolerance.”[iv]
On the basis of a review of some 250 textbooks carried out by international
experts, in a relatively short period, itself an incredible task, a Committee
of Ministers “agreed on which items or passages in literature, language,
history, geography, art and music textbooks should be deleted or temporarily
marked as ‘containing material whose authenticity has not been verified.’” [v]
Due to the sensitive nature of the issue, the members of a joint committee
reviewing textbooks requested their identities be kept secret.[vi]
The removal of “offensive” material from schoolbooks before the start of the
1999/2000 school year was one of the minimal requirements for
the question arises as to whether, in the urgency to reform textbooks, the international representatives have
overreached their hand? In an Orwellian newmessianicrevisionistspeak,
concepts such as “egregious instances of nationalism and prejudice,”
“inflammatory content, “offensive material” were used as yardsticks of this
vigilant ongoing elimination exercise. The grands
simplificateurs pounced on unacceptable words,
sentences, chapters, and pictures, leaving the school children using the
textbooks to battle disfigured, truncated texts. Creative works of art, even classics of world
literature, were being seen as grist for the censor’s mill. The list of
proscribed texts for Republika Srpska
schoolbooks extended even to the 1961
Nobel Laureate Dr. Ivo Andric,
the works of folk musical heritage that included the elegiac “Tamo Daleko” and “Krece se Ladja Francuska” of World War I
vintage, and Yugoslavia’s national anthem “Hej Sloveni”.[viii]
These Serbian language texts had been published by
The criteria applied in consigning these texts to oblivion are truly mystifying. Can factually well-established events of Balkan history simply be wished away? The Communist ideologues were adept at erasing, rewriting, and even reinventing history. Can the ideal of liberty inadvertently assume negative connotations? Is yearning or love for one’s country a perversity? If so, Rupert Brooke’s sonnet “The Soldier”[x] would be similarly censored by the High Representative’s expert commission for textbook revision. And are not national anthems above denigration? If the answers to all these questions are in the affirmative then the decision on these works could be attributed to some other, non-academic motive.
post-Dayton Bosnia-Herzegovina, the children in all the three ethnic
communities use different textbooks. Bosniak (Bosnian
Muslim) pupils learn from domestic textbooks complete with Islamic symbols on
the front page and printed by the Bosnian government in
“Textbook analysis aims at eliminating factual errors; identifying deliberate omissions and distortions; uncovering stereotypes and “hidden messages,”[xv] writes the deputy director of the Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research. If this yardstick were to be applied to Ivo Andric’s masterpiece, The Bridge on the Drina, objective critical evaluation and unscrupulous political interests would be mutually exclusive. Curiously enough, the well-known and often-quoted extract from Andric’s Bridge on the Drina, which featured in a grammar lesson on the passive voice for seventh-graders,[xvi] does not describe the medieval torture and massacre of Serbs by Muslim Turkish invaders as asserted by the journalist in a report in The Los Angeles Times .[xvii] Nevertheless, the newspaper adds: “Teachers were told to rip out the two-page lesson.”[xviii]
The blackened out extract reflected the
Turkish “blood tribute” (adzami-oglan)
levied on the Slavic Serbian Orthodox population, which resulted in the
splitting-up of families. The heart-rending familial tragedies, described so
vividly and in considerable depth in Chapter 2 of Andric’s Bridge on the Drina,[xix]
were behind the procurance of proselytes for Islam
and the ironic access a subject people were provided to the Ottoman oligarchy.
This singular Bosnian paradox, subsuming both the tragedy of Slavic losses and
the glory of Islamic gains through the utilization of Bosnia’s intellectual and
military potential as a Turkish asset, was notably exemplified in the destiny
of a Serbian boy from the village of Sokolovic.
Abducted and ferried across the
issue of Ivo Andric, who
was reared in the Roman Catholic faith, and his literary opus in Daytonian Bosnia holds both a mirror and a lamp for future
times, not least in the institutionalized forms of bilateral, regional and
European cooperation in the education sector targeted at new generations. With
the start of the civil war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, certain elements of the
Muslim population in the republic destroyed the Nobel laureate’s monument in Visegrad, burned his books, and banned his writings from
their cultural-educational institutions. In contemporary Bosnia, as a result of
international pressure on the Ministry of Education in Republika
Srpska, and without approval of the National
Parliament, passages from Andric’s texts have been
permanently excluded from the school curriculum, and a moratorium imposed on
some of his other writings pending a final decision. [xx] This is all the more ironical, especially
since winning the Nobel Prize for literature in 1961 with The Bridge on the Drina, Ivo Andric has had a near-exclusive role in linking Yugoslav
literature with a broader Western tradition, and been “identified in the West with the image
of the bridge,” an identification that
“also stands for his position as a writer who worked to create a unified identity”[xxi]
for Yugoslav society. As continuing
academic scholarship and the publication of new editions of Andric’s
writings serve to show, Andric is still “of great
interest to those wishing to understand the forces that kept
The School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London, currently offers an interesting course option—“Fiction and History: Ivo Andric and the Case of Bosnia”—towards an M.A. degree in History. The course description merits attention in itself:
. . . a detailed study of the work of the Yugoslav
Nobel-prizewinner, Ivo Andric,
with particular reference to the way it treats the history of
The work of Ivo
Andric is rooted in a detailed portrayal of the
history of his native
zealous obsession of the international community in overseeing an ambitious
project of social engineering in Bosnia-Herzegovina to fit a curiously anti-particularist multi-culturist agenda, viz. to foster the
sense of a common identity and citizenship of Bosnia-Herzegovina, aligned with
the security interests of NATO, is turning into a ludicrous exercise in
thought-control. Such an effort is also conceptually against the pan-European
identity which the European Union is implementing across the entire continent.
Internationally-funded projects in the education sector include those of
private groups such as the Soros Foundation until
recently, and inter-governmental groups as UNICEF, UNESCO, the OHR, The Council
of Europe, and the Education For Peace (EFP) Program For Children and Youth
sponsored by the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. The complicating factor in this is
Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Constitutional Autonomy with regard to education,
viz. educational policies being under the jurisdiction of the
respective entities, conducing ostensibly to reinforcing divisive and segregative tendencies that are reflected in continued
stereotypical and enemy-oriented presentations of history in textbooks. As a
response to the challenges of education in
The long-term aim of the international revisionists is to achieve a balance between regional, national and global approaches in the realm of history, even possibly, as textbook methodologists demonstrate, by introducing new theories in the didactics of history. National bias, however, is known to die slowly. The English and the Scots furnish a striking example: “[i]n April 1605, soon after England and Scotland were joined in personal union, Sir Francis Bacon wrote to the Lord Chancellor recommending that ‘one just and complete history be compiled of both nations.’ His wish has not yet been granted.”[xxiii]
See: Jacques Klein’s address in United Nations Mission in
[ii] See: Report by Ann Low-Beer, “Seminar on History Curricula and Textbooks in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sarajevo 5-8 April,” Stability Pact For South-Eastern Europe, UNESCO, Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research. Available at: http://www.gei.de/english/projekte/southeast/report_ann_low-beer.shtml
The Georg Eckert Institute, established in 1975, is named after
the German historian Georg Eckert from Braunschweig. The Institute inherited a tradition of international textbook revision, such as
the 1951 “Franco-German Agreement on Controversial Issues in European History”
and the 1985 “German-Israeli Textbook Recommendations,” which were arrived at
with the consent of the major parties involved in the controversies. However,
as the case of the 1975 “Recommendations for History and Geography Textbooks in
the Federal Republic of Germany and the People’s Republic of
Volker Lenhart, Anastasia Kesidou,
Stephan Stockmann, “The curricula of the national
See: Christof Bender, “Searching for a Strategy:
Multi-ethnicity, Tolerance and National Stereotypes in the Educational Systems
of Bosnia and
See: Brian Murphy and Elena Becatoros,“To plant seeds
of Balkan peace, reformers look to cleanse schoolbooks of hate,” AP, Turkish
See: “Agreement on removal of objectionable material from Textbooks to be used
See Aleksandra Priestfield, “Rewriting History,” Swans,
[ix] See Appendices 5 & 6 for texts and translations of Croatian censored texts.
See Appendix 7 for the text of “The Soldier” by Rupert Brooke. Brooke
[1887-1915] had been part of a military expedition to the
See OECD document in the Stability Pact
[xii] Quoted from Implementation of the Agreement of 19 July 1999 on Removal of Objectionable Material from Textbooks to be used in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the 1999-2000 school year—[August 1999], South-East Europe Textbook Network, Bosnia & Herzegovina. Available at http://www.ffzg.hr/seetn/states/bih/textbook_revision_process.html
See: Ann Low-Beer in “Politics, school textbooks and cultural identity: the
[xiv] In an update on textbook rewriting and revision implementation, the 21st Report by the High Representative for Implementation of the Peace agreement to the Secretary-General of the United Nations (March 5, 2002), stated :”Following the discovery of a number of textbooks containing anti-Dayton, or otherwise objectionable or improper materials, especially in RS, my Office launched a new phase of the textbook review.”
[xvi] The extract is provided in Appendix 1 to this paper.
See: Paul Watson, “Postwar
[xix] See: Na Drini cuprija, Sabrana Djela Ive Andric, I (Sarajevo:Svjetlost, 1981), pp. 23-25. Also see n. 16.
[xx] See: Pismo Predraga Lazarevica Svedskoj akademiji koja dodjeluje Nobelovu nagradu za knjizevnost. Also see: Lazarevic’s Letter to The Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, Walter Schwimmer available at http://www.balkanpeace.org/cib/bos/bos21.html
[xxi] See Charles Greer’s Book Review “Ivo Andric Revisited: The Bridge Still Stands,” CSEES Newsletter.
[xxiii] Quoted from Norman Davies, Europe: A History (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), p.36.
“Toga novembarskog dana stigla je na levu obalu reke dugacka povorka natovarenih konja i zaustavila se da tu konaci. Janjicarski aga sa oruzanom pratnjom, vracao se za Carigrad, posto je po selima istocne Bosne pokupio odreden broj hriscanske dece za adzami-oglan.
. . . bez teskoca je naden potreban broj zdrave, bistre i naocite muske dece izmedu desete i petnaeste godine, iako su mnogi roditelji sakrivali decu u sumu, ucili ih da se pretvaraju da su maloumni ili da hramlju, odevali ih u dronjke i pustali u necistoci, samo da izmaknu aginom izboru. Neki su i stvarno sakatili rodenu decu, sekuci im po jedan prst na ruci.
. . . Na izvesnom odstojanju od posljednih konja u ovom neobicnom karavanu, isli su, rastrkani i zadihani mnogi roditelji ili rodaci ove dece, koja se odvode zauvek da u tudem svetu budu obrezana, poturcena i da, zaboravivsi svoju veru, svoju kraj i svoje poreklo, provedu zivot u janjicarskim odama ili u nekoj drugoj, visoj sluzbi Carstva. To su bile vecinom zene, ponajvise majke, babe i sestre otetih decaka . . . [Zene] bi se tada razbezale . . . ali bi se malo posle opet sakupljale iza povorke i naprezale da suznim ocima jos jednom ugledaju iznad sepetke glavu deteta koje im odvode. Narocito su uporne i nezadrzljive bile majke. One su jurile, gazeci zustro i ne gledajuci gde staju, razdrljenih grudi, rascupane, zaboravljajuci sve oko sebe, zapevale su i naricale kao za pokojnikom, druge su raspamecene jaukale, urlale kao da im se u porodajnim bolovima cepa materica, obnevidele od placa naletale pravo na suharijske biceve i na svaki udarac bica odgovarale bezumnim pitanjem: ‘Kud ga vodite? Kud mi ga vodite?’ Neke su pokusavale da razgovetno dozovu svoga decaka i da mu daju jos nesto od sebe, koliko moze da stane u dve reci, neku poslednju preporuku ili opomenu na put.
--Rade, sine, nemoj make zaboravit’ . . .
--Ilija! Ilija! Ilija—vikala je druga zena, trazeci ocajno pogledom poznatu, dragu glavu, i ponavljala je to neprestano kao da bi htela da detetu usece u pamet to ime koje ce mu vec kroz koji dan zauvek biti oduzeto.”
“On that November day a long convoy of laden horses
arrived on the left bank of the river and halted there to spend the night. The aga of the janissaries, with armed escort, was returning to
Stambul after collecting from the villages of eastern
. . . the necessary number of healthy, bright and good-looking lads between ten and fifteen years old had been found without difficulty, even though many parents had hidden their children in the forests, taught them how to appear half-witted, clothed them in rags and let them get filthy, to avoid the aga’s choice. Some went so far as to maim their own children, cutting off one of their fingers. . . . A little way behind the last horses in that strange convoy straggled, dishevelled and exhausted, many parents and relatives of those children who were being carried away for ever to a foreign world, where they would be circumcised, become Turkish and, forgetting their faith, their country and their origin, would pass their lives in the ranks of the janissaries or in some other, higher, service of the Empire. They were for the most part women, mothers, grandmothers and sisters of the stolen children.
[The women] would fly in all directions . . . only to gather again a little later behind the convoy and strive with tear-filled eyes to see once again over the panniers the heads of the children who were being taken from them. The mothers were especially persistent and hard to restrain. Some would rush forward not looking where they were going, with bare breasts, and dishevelled hair, forgetting everything about them, wailing and lamenting as at a burial, while others almost out of their minds moaned as if their wombs were being torn by birth-pangs, and blinded with tears ran right on to the horsemen’s whips and replied to every blow with the fruitless question: ‘Where are you taking him? Why are you taking him from me?’ Some tried to speak clearly to their children and to give them some last part of themselves, as much as might be said in a couple of words, some recommendation or advice for the way. . . .
‘Rade, my son, don’t forget your mother. . . .’
Ilija!’ screamed another woman, searching desperately
with her glances for the dear well-known head and repeating this incessantly as
if she wished to carve into the child’s memory that name which would in a day
or two be taken from him forever. [Translated from the Serbo-Croat by Lovett F. Edwards. See: Ivo
Andric, The Bridge on the
Appendix 2: “Tamo Daleko” [ There far away] (narodna pesma/folk song)
Tamo daleko, There far away,
Gde cveta beli krin, Where the white lily blooms,
Tamo su zivot dali, There laid down their lives,
Zajedno otac i sin. Together father and son.
Tamo daleko, There far away,
Gde cveta limun zut, Where the yellow lemon tree Tamo je srpskoj vojsci, blossoms,
Jedini bio put. There the Serb army
Had only one option.
Na Krfu zivjeh ja— There far away,
Ali sam uvek klic’o: On Corfu lived I -
“zivela Srbija!” But always I cheered
*“. . . in the Balkan theater, superior Austrian forces steadily
gained the upper hand. They occupied
“Today, just south of the present Macedonian
frontier with Greece, there remains a simple, unkempt and windswept memorial
overlooking the plain on which are inscribed the words: ‘To the heroic youths
of Great Britain, France, Italy and Serbia, who, faithful to the commands of
their ancestors, fought in these places and died for freedom and world peace
1916-1918.’ . . . . In the early 1990s
Serbian television sometimes showed a documentary that had been made on
Appendix 3: “Krece se ladja francuska”[The French Boat is sailing] (narodna pesma/folk song)
More je plavo, siroko The sea is blue, wide
Siroko, plavo, duboko. Wide, blue, deep.
Nigde mu kraja videti! Its end nowhere in sight
Ne mogu misli podneti. I cannot bear to think.
Ladja se krece francuska, The French boat is sailing,
Transport se krece Srbadi, The transport is carrying Serbs,
Srbadi, braca ranjeni. Serbs, my wounded brothers.
Svaki se vojnik borio, Each soldier fought,
U rovu slavu slavio. In the trench, celebrated his Srecan se Bogu molio, glory,
Da bi se kuci vratio. Happily he prayed to God
That he should return home.
Radosti nema za tren,
Naidje svapski sumaren. Joy is but fleeting,
Sve mole svetog Nikolu, It finds the dismal German.
Njegovu silu na moru. All pray to St Nicolas,
For his strength at sea.
Putujem tuzan, zalostan,
Pomislih: Boze, nisam sam. I journey sad, miserable,
I moja braca putuju, Thinking: God, I am not alone.
Da sa mnom zajedno tuguju For my brothers are journeying
Together with me in grief.
* “From [
Appendix 4:“Hej Sloveni” [O Slavs!]
Lyrics: Samuel Tomasik [1813-1887]. Adopted: 1946
Hej Sloveni, jos ‘te zivi O Slavs! In you still lives,
Duh nasih dedova, The spirit of our forefathers,
Dok za narod srce bije As long as the heart of our
Njihovih sinova. people beats
in their sons.
Zivi, zivi duh slovenski
Zivet ce vekov’ma! It is alive, alive the spirit of Slavs
Zalud preti ponor pakla, It will live for centuries!
Zalud vatra groma. In vain menaces the abyss of hell,
In vain the fire of thunder.
Nek se sada i nad nama
Burom sve raznese! Let now and above us
Stena puca, dub se lama, The tempest blow all away!
Zemlja nek se trese! The rock splits, the oak splinters,
Let the earth tremble!
Mi stojimo postojano
Proklet bio izdajica as the cliffs,
Svoje domovine! Damned be the traitor
Of his homeland!
Appendix 5:“O ljepa, o draga” [ Oh beautiful, oh dear]
From “Himna Slobodi” [ Hymn to Freedom] by Ivan Gundulic [1589-1638]
O ljepa, o draga, Oh beautiful, oh dear,
O slatka slobodo, Oh sweet freedom,
Dar u kom sva blaga, Gift in which all is blessed,
Visnji nam bog je do, Which God has given us.
Uzroce istini The roots of truth
Od nase slave, of our glory,
Uresu jedini The solitary adornment
Od ove Dubrave; of this Dubrava;
Sva srebra, sva zlata, All silver, all gold,
Svi ljudski zivoti all human life
Ne mogu bit plata cannot be paid for
Tvoj cistoj ljepoti! By your beauty!
*Gundulic’s pastoral play Dubrava (1628) ends with a hymn to freedom containing these verses.
Appendix 6: “Ljepa nasa” [ Our beautiful…]
Lyrics: Antun Mihanovic [1796-1861]
Ljepa nasa domovino Beautiful homeland of ours,
Oj junacka zemljo milo, Oh brave and sweet land,
Stare slave dedovino, the ancient glory of our ancestors
Da bi vazda cestna bila! May you always be venerated!
Mila si nam ti jedina, Dear, you are for us unique,
Mila, kuda si nam ravna, Dear, where are your valleys,
Mila, kuda si planina! Dear, where your mountains!
Save hitra, teci Flows the
Dunaj silu gubi, not
losing its force the
Kud li sumis, svetu reci: Wherever you murmur, tell the Da svog’ doma Horvat ljubi, world:
That the Croat loves his country,
Dok mu njive sunce grije,
Dok mu hrastje bura vije, Till the sun warms his fields,
Dok mu mrtve grob sakrije, Till the wild wind whips his oaks,
Dok mu zivo serdce bije! Till his dead grave conceals,
Till his living heart beats!
*The lyrics of the Croatian anthem originally appeared in the newspaper Danica (March 14, 1835); only the first 8 lines and the last 8 lines of the verses were adopted for the official anthem.
The musical score was written in the 1840s by Josip Runjanin, a Croatian Serb, and was based on Donizetti’s “O sole piu ratto” from the opera “Lucia di Lammermoor”; in 1861 the score underwent some minor changes by Lichtenegger.
Appendix 7: “The Soldier” by Rupert Brooke
If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is forever
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam
A body of
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
And hearts at peace, under an English heaven.