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.”

Post-socialism:

  • 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

TS 14:46

  • 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:
    1. 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
    2. Yugoslavia as a subversive discourse, explored in academic and media discourses
    3. 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
    • praxis:
      • 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

Maja Pupovac. “Unattainable past, unsatisfying present – Yugonostalgia: an omen of a better future?” Nationalities Papers Vol. 45 No. 6: 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:

“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.”

Primož Krašovec. “(Yugo)nostalgia.” Atlas of Tranformation, 2011 [pdf]
  • 1990s:
    • 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.”

Real-Life Yugonostalgia

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 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.

Yugonostalgia in Serbia

“Belgrade Remembers Tito’s ‘Golden Age’,” Balkan Insight5/26/2015 [pdf]

A report from the annual celebration of Tito’s birthday at Korcagin 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,” Marusic 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.