Jakov Bojović: Reconciliation as the key towards a prosperous future – Efforts and possibilities in my home country

Reconciliation is a term that causes much controversy. What does it mean? How much is it a continuous process, to what extent is it abstract, who can affect it and how, what does it require from the both sides of the dispute? There are different concepts and different answers to these questions.

The concept of reconciliation is associated with the idea of normalization. While reconciliation is a term that invites us to reflect on the past and present, normalization invites us to think about the future. Of the past that is a subject of consideration of post-conflict societies, there are different perceptions coming from different sides. One of the goals of the reconciliation process is to bring these concepts closer to one another, that is, to objectify them. In a word, it is necessary to find out the truth about what happened.

The absolute truth is an unattainable ideal, and there should be no doubt about that. However, the fact that something is unattainable does not imply that we should give up on it. There are formal (legal) and informal ways of establishing the truth in post-conflict societies. The formal ways are, for instance, cases and judgments of the International tribunals and results of the ad hoc established Truth Commissions. On the other hand – scientific researches, reconciliation-oriented projects of the non-governmental and other organizations are examples of informal ways.

There are at least four aspects of the reconciliation process.

The first aspect emphasized as important in the process of reconciliation and the establishment of normal relations between neighboring countries – the truth establishing – is an aspect which has advanced the most, in relation to others.

Informal ways of establishing the truth are also in progress. For instance, this year an academic conference was held at the National Library under the title “What next: Dealing with the past in Serbia,” in which experts from different fields presented their research works, associated with the process of discovering the truth and dealing with it.

At this point the second aspect of analysis is invoked, the answer to which we can partially get by analyzing the lack of support to ICTY in societies that have been involved in wars in former Yugoslavia. What seems to be paradigmatic for the whole area is questioning or negating the legitimacy of the tribunal, because of its decisions.

How will the situation continue to take place in the Serbian society depends in part on the third element of analysis – the internal policies. Reforms in education, highlighting the processes of reconciliation on the state-owned television, the parliamentary declarations, raising monuments, naming the streets, financially supporting regional projects devoted to reconciliation – are merely examples of positive domestic policy that leads to normalization.

There are several initiatives in civil society for this situation to change. Professor Predrag Simic from the University of Belgrade, wrote a textbook for the eight year of elementary school which, apparently, has not met the formal requirements for application.


Currently the official policy of the Republic of Serbia lags behind, let’s call it, the liberal – oriented civil society. Unfortunately, civil society has not managed to attract to their side majority of Serbian population, primarily due to: (1) low representation in the media which is dominated by day-politics, a politics that is often (2) conducted in a manner that exacerbates existing negative emotions rather than alleviate them; further on, because of (3) present education system that has its roots in the 1990s and the time of Slobodan Milosevic, et cetera.

In my opinion, the first thing required is a change in educational policy. Model solution through a common textbook, used in Germany and France, is fantastic and very inspiring. Again, initiatives in the civil sector have been launched for adopting this solution – common textbooks are already written. Further on, my proposal is that there should be more exchange programs between professors and students in the region. This way the connection would be made between people, which have been broken for a long time. Unfortunately, currently there is no will among the political elite for such changes.

Construction of Yugoslavia and the romantic belief in the brotherhood and unity belonged to the generation of our grandfathers. Destruction, nationalism, fratricidal wars and pre-political struggles in societies belonged to the generation of our fathers, a generation that still makes the present political elite. My generation holds a great burden and a historical task, to build bridges destroyed and links broken with a hateful force, to establish friendly relations – a lasting peace and a mutual sense of respect and dignity. With the help of European Union, in the name of our generation I believe that we have the strength to do it, in the same way that European nations have done it in the years after the Second World War, when they begun to realize that old idea of ​​Enlightenment era – the united Europe. From historical experience of European nations and from the reconciliation which their unification has brought, we have a lot to learn – and on their support, I am deeply convinced, we can count. The rest is on us.

*This post includes only highlights from Jakov Bojovic’s essay.

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