The phenomenon of Yugonostalgia continues to elicit attention from the media and academics.
This is a running post; entries listed in reverse chronological order in each section.
Analyses and Reflections of Yugonostalgia
Books, Book Chapters, and Other Publications
Zala Volcic. Serbian Spaces of Identity: Narratives of Belonging by the Last “Yugo” Generation. New York: Hampton Press, 2011.
126-131 “Where politics have failed, capitalism is using consumerism to recreate a slice of the old Yugoslavia and bank the profits.”
Regime change brought about social disorientation, feelings of insecurity, and social disorder, leading to people seeking “some emotional anchorage and mechanisms of coping with their everyday struggle.”
Nostalgia is both a
- “subjectively experienced sentiment” – private; personal memories; reinforces small groups like family and friends
- cultural phenomenon – collective; images, symbols, and signs available to people within the same context; reinforces large groups like nations or generations, e.g. “the last Yugoslav generation”; “public nostalgia dwells in the content of the group’s history, and exploits the group’s cultural symbols, and especially its popular culture.”
- new conditions eliminated the need for the cultural reproduction of previous values
- “disturbed the process of collective remembering”
- nostalgia emerged “as a practice of preserving the collective memory”
Dubravka Ugresic, 2000: Yugonostalgia = “productive revisiting of the collective experience of citizens whose individual lives were embedded in the social life of the collapsed state” [paraphrased]
If nostalgia is escapist, it has political potential as a resource during the transition.
Memory projects proliferate online.
Revival of Yugo-rock, incl. re-relases and comeback tours.
Tito’s image has been coopted for advertising. “The revolutionary promise has been co-opted by a marketing “revolution,” ostensibly to empower consumers through the (commercial) consumption of history. The political dream has been reduced to yet another marketing appeal.”
“Yugonostalgia paradoxically sides with populist discourse that frame the Yugoslav past and culture as essentialized, dangerous, and exotic.”
Even if Yugonostalgia has potential to “celebrate the possibility of a redeemed future built on the ingredients from the utopian ideals of the past,” it risks becoming commodified, marketing hype.
Yugonostalgia = “imperialist nostalgia” of Renato Rosaldo, 1989: ‘imperialist nostalgia uses a pose of innocent yearning both to capture people and imagination and to conceal its complicity with often brutal domination.’ It also looks back at what it helped destroy and mourns its loss. People who feel Yugonostalgia this way mourn something they helped destroy. “It is as if the Yugoslavs had to destroy their country in order to truly appreciate its possibilities by confronting the prospect of living without them.”
Presentations, Lectures, and Other Performances
Dr. Ana Petrov, “Analiza jugoslovenstva u popularnoj kulturi,” Lecture at Fakultet za medija i komunikacije, Singidunum University, Belgrade, Serbia, September 2017
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- Yugonostalgia is one form of Yugoslavism/Yugoslavia’s presence in today’s popular culture, along with simple remembering of Yugoslavia (as a country and system) and online manifestations, without necessarily the reference to the country or system but rather in terms of objects and popular culture like music
- The remembering of Yugoslavia has undergone several stages:
- ignoring, erasure, avoidance, taboo-isation of Yugoslavia / the socialist period for 10-15 years after the dissolution in dominant state discourse, media, academia; all the way to referring to the country as Western Balkans or region or “naši prostori” and time-wise as former times or the past
- Yugoslavia as a subversive discourse, explored in academic and media discourses
- Yugoslavia as a commodity, consumer product
- Characteristics of Yugonostalgia:
- part of the global trend of retro and cultural recycling
- consequence of Yugoslavia’s disappearance
- arose in the problematic period of transition as a response to it, “we aren’t that of the past but have not yet become that of the future”
- speaks more about the present than about the past and how the past was better, i.e. not about promoting the past but dissatisfaction with the present
- not just mourning for the past but also an active criticism of the present
- a legitimate discourse about the past, along with anti-nostalgia, historic amnesia, and revisionism
- a(n affective) communication method in ex-Yugoslavia
- emotion, via emotive/emotional reactions
- ideology, via discourses as cultural production
- product, via objects or as a delivery method for emotion and ideology
- theoretical problem:
- regressive and passive manifestation, esp. among older generations, without political potential
- emancipatory potential (Velikonja, Petrović, Hofman), for creating new communities like protest movements
- retro culture, as a combination of commercialized ideology and emotions with an ambivalent public reactions
- platform for the production of collective memory through individual remembering and commemorative (often bodily) practices, e.g. displays of souvenirs, attendance of concerts, participation in Facebook groups
- Platforms of Yugoslavism
- social media
- products, merchandise, tchotchkis, kitsch
- pop music (videos, concerts)
- Commodification/commercialization of memory and remembering
- “Yugoslavia sells” – Yugoslavia as a product
- Yugoslavia as an ideology of love
Academic Articles, Journals, and Other Media
Tatjana Takševa. “Post-war Yugoslavism and Yugonostalgia as Expressions of Multiethnic Solidarity and Tolerance in Bosnia and Herzegovina.” New Diversities, Vol. 21, No. 1 (2019) [pdf]
“post-conflict Yugoslavism and Yugonostalgia, as articulated by people living on this territory [of Bosnia and Herzegovina] today constitute an active expression of ethnic tolerance, peaceful multiethnic co-existence, and mutual respect. As such, the direct or indirect transmission and articulation of these ideologies among and within different population groups constitute an exceptionally important form of multiethnic postwar solidarity that is of great significance to ongoing peace and reconciliation processes and the continuing development of a meaningful post-war dialogue and a new culture of collective identity.”
“More specifically, in the context of Yugoslavism and Yugonostalgia as ideologies of shared cultural identities and multiethnic solidarity, the memories and narratives of individuals relating to interethnic co-existence and friendships as they exist not only in the nostalgic recollections of the older generations who grew up in socialist Yugoslavia, but in younger generations who were born during and even after the war, reassert themselves in…’mnemonic communities’ that create a ‘dialogic space bringing new visions of solidarity and new possibilities of coexistence’ into being.”
“…when today’s Bosnians recall the socialist past and articulate aspects of Yugoslavism and Yugonostlagia, they lament the loss of not only the recent political entity itself, but of the values of ethnic heterogeneity, solidarity and respectful multifaith co-existence that they recognize as theirs in a longer historical sense and that Yugoslavia enshrined within its federalist state borders and in its constitution through the discourse of ‘brotherhood and unity.'”
“Yugoslavism and Yugonostalgia represent more than simply a good memory of a time past. They constitute an ideological relationship to the present moment that is expressed through reference to values associated with the socialist past as they relate to a potential future. This orientation toward the future pertains precisely to forms of ‘sociality,’ to a mode of living and patterns of interaction that are based on peaceful ethnic co-existence, multicultural curiosity and respect, and a practice of solidarity on the basis of dimensions of civic life that are common to all, regardless of particular ethnic belonging.”
“…forms of Yugoslavism and Yugonostalgia as they are manifested and articulated through my interlocutors’ words, refer not so much to a particular state formation or communism, but to a mode of living and patterns of interaction predicated on peaceful co-existence, cross-ethnic tolerance and respect, and a practice of solidarity in dimensions of daily life that are common to all, regardless of ethnic or religious belonging. As such, these forms represent cultural and ideological consciousness through which Bosnia’s official ethno-nationalist politics is actively critiqued, subverted and exposed as ineffective. (…) As such, the discourse of Yugoslavism, as it emerges from the words of my interlocutors represents a complex conceptual tool with which to critique the present and imagine the possibility of a better civil society.”
“Post-war Yugoslavism as it is manifested in Bosnia and Herzegovina thus represents an oppositional discourse and a category of cultural and political dissent through which official ethno-nationalist politics is actively critiqued, deconstructed and subverted. It is a discourse that, given the country’s recent violent past, stands for a particularly enlightened and progressive orientation toward reconciliation and rebuilding of Bosnian civil society on the principles of mutual respect and solidarity among the different ethnic groups.”
Maja Pupovac. “Unattainable past, unsatisfying present – Yugonostalgia: an omen of a better future?” Nationalities Papers Vol. 45 No. 6 (2017): 1066-1081 [pdf]
“Yugonostalgia…is a popular memory of the Yugoslav socialist past and a longing for the socialist Yugoslavia. As Yugoslavia no longer exists, what nostalgics actually feel is affection for their former state, not allegiance and loyalty. Therefore, the socialist Yugoslavia is the core of the (selective) nostalgic memories. However, it is not Communism, socialism, or the political unit that are objects of nostalgic feelings or restorative desires, but rather a certain mix of characteristics, values, and objects connected to that period, such as military strength, international reputation, economic welfare, prosperity, unity, solidarity, social security, friendship, cultural cooperation, even geographical space, or a particular consumer product. In sum, nostalgia exists for the social side of the regime and the system, at the level of individual biographies and everyday life.”
“…certain aspects and manifestations of yugonostalgia, with its focus on positive and inclusive aspects of the common socialist past, can contribute to the reconciliation process among former Yugoslavs.”
“…yugonostalgia is oriented toward “past fantasies” – unfulfilled dreams, lost opportunities, and elusive ideals of the socialist Yugoslav past; toward all that was probable back then and seems so inaccessible today.”
“Former Yugoslavs long for national, spiritual and ethnic unity, peace, friendship, solidarity, and a world without hatred based on nationality or ethnic and religious differences.”
“Most of my interlocutors, while complaining about the socioeconomic aspect of their life, recalled the “normal life” [normalan život] they once had in Yugoslavia and said it is this “normalcy” they most miss today. To an already depressing recognition that the longed-for past cannot return, yugonostalgics add an equally depressing awareness that the present is full of disappointments, with not much hope for improvement. To these people, yugonostalgia primarily provides shelter from an unsatisfying present…”
“The first positive aspect of yugonostalgia is that through fostering personal memories of the past, yugonostalgics actually promote the preservation of their history, which has been threatened by the dominance of the nationalistic rhetoric in all former Yugoslav republics since the dissolution of the common country….no matter which form of yugonostalgia we have in mind, it always chooses remembering over forgetting. At the same time, keeping memories of Yugoslavia alive can serve as a reminder that post-Yugoslav societies still need a more critical debate concerning their socialist past and socialist heritage.”
“Another positive aspect of yugonostalgia is that it offers a counterbalance to the overcritical narratives of the past for young generations who never lived in the socialist Yugoslav era and who are trying to understand the past and discover their own truths. The active, emancipatory potential of yugonostalgia is probably most visible in yugonostalgics’ engagement in social critiques of their countries’ ruling structures and politics. Yugonostalgic groups not only organize meetings, exhibitions, and seminars to gather in one place many individual “sorrows for yesterday,” but they also actively participate in the criticism of particular political decisions and measures, or, more often, the general political course of their country. They also stand up against exclusive nationalisms and neofascist organizations and groups. Numerous yugonostalgic groups within online social networks show an astonishing level of everyday engagement in the preservation of the memory of Yugoslavia, but are also very active in social criticism.
“Through these associations and groups, yugonostalgia manages to produce one more important outcome: it creates a new form of collective identity, though unintentionally and unconsciously….by searching for desirable value-models of the past, yugonostalgia offers answers to what reality should be like, and what the future should bring.”
“Finally, yugonostalgia serves as an inspiration for cultural and artistic expression, which often treats nostalgic feelings and memories in a satirical and humorous manner; escaping from nostalgia’s melancholy, sadness, even darkness. This, furthermore, contributes to a cultural convergence among former Yugoslavs on a larger scale, having an even more important outcome – the re-establishment of cultural and other dialogues among the former compatriots, which carry the building blocks of the reconciliation process with them.”
Reconciliatory potential of Yugonostalgia is most visible in bottom-up activities:
- visits to places important in Yugoslavia’s history, particularly on anniversaries, e.g. Dan republike / Day of the Republic (29 November), or Dan mladosti / Day of Youth (Tito’s birthday, 25 May)
- cultural cooperation, e.g. Leksikon YU Mitologije, music (concerts, compilations)
- associations, clubs, and other organized activities
- social networks, e.g. Facebook groups
“the future of yugonostalgia is not determined by the lifetime of those who lived in Yugoslavia, nor will it completely vanish along with the last generation born in that country. Due to its usage by youth, yugonostalgia – although drastically weaker – could remain in the region as a reminder and a warning that the people of all generations are not satisfied with the political, economic, or social aspects of their lives. Nostalgia for the socialist Yugoslavia, thus, could persist as long as it takes for the myth of the Golden Age to become reality.”
Ana Petrov. “Yugonostalgia as a Kind of Love: Politics of Emotional Reconciliations through Yugoslav Popular Music.” Humanities Vol. 7 No. 4 (2018).
“listening to Yugoslav popular music has been often seen as a choice charged with political meaning, as a symptom of nostalgia for the lost homeland, and as a statement against the politics of the post-Yugoslav states.”
“it can be pointed out that one can hardly ‘just’ enjoy listening to the music from the Yugoslav era, without being aware of the political implications of that act
“seemingly banal repackaging of the past within the post-Yugoslav music market triggers supposedly genuine emotions.”
“the concepts of nostalgia and love have been interconnected from the beginning of the actual phenomenon of nostalgia. If nostalgia was seen as a condition in which a person can suffer because of the loss of home—the suffering often being characteristic by the desire to return to one’s homeland that was even described as madness of love for the homeland—then Yugonostalgia appears to be a similar kind of contemporary post-socialist condition in which one can be madly in love with their homeland. However, the ‘cure’ that was prescribed for nostalgia—the return home—cannot be used in the case of Yugonostalgia, since Yugoslavia no longer exists. Hence, the desire to return home is instead realized in loving what has left of Yugoslavia: the culture, the music, the people.”
“the conceptual framework of the discourse on love (towards the culture, the country, and the people in general) and its role in re-narrativisation/embodying of the past as a kind of Yugonostalgic narrative can be used to show the ways in which these collectivities have been made. The Yugonostalgic narrative is often characterized by the promulgation of a love discourse and extremely affective reactions; ignorance about the war; and clearly expressed enjoyment in certain products.”
“the discourses on love and Yugonostalgia intersect in the following contexts:
- “The context of the reconciliation of the peoples in the territory of former Yugoslavia. Loving the music from the past could often imply loving the Yugoslav past itself, or the people who used to be your compatriots and are now your enemies. In that context, love is intertwined with the process of reconciliation after the wars.
- “Romancing (the concept of) nostalgia, i.e., neutralizing the process of reconciliation and promoting the concept of romantic love. Another way to deal with the Yugoslav past is to romance Yugonostalgia, which means to put it in the context of romantic love or the universal love between people.
- “The context of neutrality and universality (of the love and connection among people) in the act of listening to music. Certain people in the audience, on different occasions, mentioned the music as a ‘universal’ category, together with the idea of ‘universal’ love that transcends meanings attached to the Yugoslav past.
“Unlike some other manifestations of nostalgia, which one could argue are utopian imaginaries of a loss of something that has never existed, in the case of Yugonostalgia, the object of nostalgia, the country, did exist, no matter how one remembers it. It is most certainly a place that many people now feel as their own personal loss.”
“it seems that the post-Yugoslav market lacks the organization and interconnectedness, so that the musicians have been trying to draw attention to themselves and to make a sense of continuity with the previous Yugoslav market using various strategies, the reference to Yugoslavia being one of them. Thus, one of the currents of Yugonostalgia tends to commercialize the current Yugonostalgic cultures in post-Yugoslav spaces.”
“Yugonostalgia should not be seen only as a transparent pro or contra socialist or pro or contra Yugoslav ideology, connected to the experience of living in Yugoslavia, but rather it is often an ideology that is not easy to locate—the ideology of supposedly neutral love, transnational universal bonds between people, the ideology of nostalgia, understood as a general “yearning for yesterday”, (Davis 1979 ), or the ideology of enjoyment and music-loving, and so on.”
“the farther the post-Yugoslav space goes from the end of Yugoslavia, the more the Yugoslav culture is being used and repacked for further commercial exploitation.”
“Yugonostalgia appears to be a means for current politics of emotions in post-Yugoslav spaces to further promote the idea that the music and musicians seem to be one of the most important legacies of socialist Yugoslavia.”
Primož Krašovec. “(Yugo)nostalgia.” Atlas of Tranformation, 2011 [pdf]
- erasure of memory by new regimes
- dominance of realism
- rewriting of history to elevate the nation state
- destruction of socialist politics and of the memory of socialism
- “(Yugo)nostalgia is a result of a process whereby collective (and thus political) memory becomes reduced to a sum of personal experiences and individual memories. Yugonostalgia is what remains after the process of depoliticization of the collective memory of socialism—it is a form of popular memory that has been washed clean of all traces of political demands for social equality, workers’ participation in the production process, and internationalism as well as for the antifascism, antiimperialism, and antichauvinism that constituted the core of the revolutionary politics of socialism.”
- “Since there is nothing left of the memory of the politics of socialism, the memory of socialism takes on a cultural form as a web of similar, shared experiences from childhood and youth involving rock and roll, fashion, foods, and other such matters. The culture of socialism is looked upon with sympathy; there is a nostalgic yearning for the good old times. Socialist culture is represented, in the cultural imagination of young postsocialist adults, by objects, habits, and forms of sociability harking back to a happy and innocent childhood. In this depoliticized form of popular memory, political history is reduced to personal history…”
- “Old banknotes, red star pins, posters portraying working-class heroes and other such objects can become valuable as nostalgic collectors’ items precisely when and if they no longer signify anything socialist, when and if they are no longer symbols of socialist political ideas and ideals (in other words, when and if the work of historical revisionism is completed).”
- “The process of culturization thus transforms Tito from a political figure to a bizarre, Berlusconiesque character.”
- “sentimental nostalgia…is usually accompanied by a cynical attitude toward socialist politics, which is radically excluded from the happy set of childhood memories.”
Ana Hofman. “Tabu na sećanja: Bolest zvana jugonostalgija.” Nova srpska politička misao: časopis za političku teoriju i društvena istraživanja. 11/5/2007. [pdf of original | English translation]
“Yugoslavia was not only a product of political and social conventions or of official narratives, but part of the everyday experience of people who enjoyed an enviable level of economic stability and social mobility. It is for this reason that the Yugonostalgic discourse has succeeded in mobilizing so many people and becoming a burning issue of public debates in the lands of the former Yugoslavia.”
“The intensity and representation of nostalgia for socialism in public discourse in each of the countries differs in relation to the degree of de-ideologization of the official version of the past or the deconstruction of the monolithic discourse of the past.”
- Bosnia: “Yugonostalgia appears as a reaction to dissatisfaction with everyday life in the atmosphere of constant ethnic tensions.”
- Croatia: “Yugonostalgia is considered a trivial feeling and an ephemeral effect that is most commonly associated with the consumption of genres of popular culture from other former Yugoslav republics (primarily from Serbia).”
- Serbia/Montenegro: “As a result, conflicts arise between different interpretations of the past and create confusion in relation to socialist times. On the one hand, Yugonostalgia was left to “true” Yugoslavs who never wanted to replace their multi-national identity and, on the other hand, referred to people are kind of transgressive “losers” unable to manage new social circumstances.”
“Yugonostalgia affirms its market potential primarily through the commercialization of Yugoslav popular culture. Yugonostalgic websites are full of period music, movies, photos, and books. The commercial effect of Yugonostalgia is also visible in the real world, through the concerts of former Yugoslav stars and symbols of the former state, such as the Bijelo Dugme. Yugonostalgia is also recognized as a very lucrative concept for many businesses in the hospitality industry, e.g. [various bars, cafes, and restaurants named after Tito]. The revitalization of the gathering in Kumrovec and a series of similar commemorative events around the former Yugoslavia, including the House of Flowers in Belgrade, shows the commercial importance as tourism products. There are also concrete attempts to recreate Yugoslavia for tourism purposes, such as Mini Yugoslavia near Subotica or the General Consulate of SFRY in Montenegro.”
“There is also a very interesting phenomenon of “second-hand nostalgia,” more precisely Yugonostalgia among young people who don’t have their own experiences of this period but create a picture of it on the basis of the existing interpretations of the past.”
“This phenomenon is not reserved only for members of certain social groups like former elites who have lost their privileges or marginalized dissidents. This is the feeling shared by many citizens of the countries of the former Yugoslavia: nostalgia for the “best”—Yugoslavian—years of their lives. As an alternative discourse of the past, it helps overcome the conflicts arising from the dominance of nationalist discourses and demonstrates the possibility of dialogue in the region, precisely because it honors the the existence of a political form of common life of different ethnic, cultural, and political traditions.”
Yugonostalgia in Bosnia and Herzegovina
“Back in the SFRY: Yugo-Nostalgia and Dreams of Communism,” Novara Media, 7/23/2017
- “Now, a quarter of a century later, much of the population of former Yugoslavia look back with nostalgia at the communist days of old.”
- “The old talk of those years with a mixture of nostalgia and pride, the young with admiration and longing.”
- “The populations of five of the six republics of former Yugsolavia [sic] wish, to some degree or another, that it had never disappeared at all.”
- “The people of the former Yugoslavia do not long for dictatorship, nor for arrests, repression, and secret police. They do, however, long for a time when jobs were secure and well paid, when workers voted for their bosses, when social rights were respected, and when different peoples, of different faiths, with different histories could live side by side in peace and, to some small degree at least, “brotherhood and unity.””
Yugonostalgia in Serbia
“Belgrade Remembers Tito’s ‘Golden Age’,” Balkan Insight, 5/26/2015 [pdf]
A report from the annual celebration of Tito’s birthday at Korčagin tavern.
- What makes them celebrate this date, an anniversary that is now mostly forgotten by the rest the society, is nostalgia for gentler times, the 65-year-old says. “People come here on this day and talk about the times that brought them together. This is how we preserve our tradition,” Marusić explains.
- “If they are eager to preserve that history, I think it is very nice that we, the younger generation, are part of it as well,” she says.
Yugonostalgia Across Ex-YU Borders
“Yugo-Nostalgia Thrives at Tito Memorials,” Balkan Insight, 6/25/2013 [pdf]
A report from Belgrade (Tito’s grave), Užice (effort to reinstate Tito’s statue), and other locations.
“Yugo-Nostalgia Prevails In Serbia, Bosnia,” Radio Free Europe, May 26, 2017
A report on the Gallup poll about perceptions of Yugoslavia’s breakup.
“‘I think that this [positive] disposition toward Yugoslavia is more a reflection of present-day problems than a result of Yugoslavism as an ideology.'” -Vjeran Pavlaković”
“The gloomy present faced by many Serbians and Bosnians arguably makes them more likely than some of their neighbors to indulge a rosy vision of the past — at least some of which is fantasy. This stereotype is seemingly perpetuated through popular culture and media that harken back to a better time.”
“But it may also reflect a bleaker future and a struggle between competing pasts. While Yugo-nostalgia has grown in Bosnia and other parts of the region in recent years, the goal of joining the European Union is becoming more distant.
“Some former Yugoslav states may be less Yugo-nostalgic than others because they have been more successful in nation-building, suggested Pavlaković.”
“according to Skender Lutfiu, a historian working at the Kosovo Institute of History, the absence of nostalgia among ethnic Albanians has as much to do with their experience in Yugoslavia as it does with the realization of nationhood in the present. Lutfiu said that Kosovo Albanians ‘have no reason’ to remember Tito fondly.”
“Ultimately, both the nostalgia for the former Yugoslavia — whether for a time when Serbia dominated its neighbors or, as many Bosnians remember it, a place of peaceful coexistence of different ethnic groups — and a desire to honor the architects of its demise are founded upon selective — or faulty — historical memory.”