Sarajevo Now

One day in Sarajevo, I was watching the old men play a large-scale chess game in Liberation Square. While tourists such as myself enjoyed watching the proceedings, I couldn’t help but see something of a parallel to the problems that the countries of the former Yugoslavia still face.
As far as I know, these men weren’t playing these games during the war. They couldn’t. This block is one street up from “Sniper Alley” that ran along the river and was quite exposed to Serbian guns. But now, the war is a thing of the past and the siege is something that people only talk about while there is nearly an entire generation that has been born since the fall of Yugoslavia. So here these men were, playing their game and giving their opinion, trying to influence the move of the one who had the chess piece whether the advice had been asked for or not. And there the player with the piece sat, trying to discern which was the right move to make based upon either the loudest or the biggest consensus of old men.
So here we have the current role of the international community in Bosnia Herzegovina. A group of people that pretty much stood by and let this beautiful country with the lovely city of Sarajevo get shredded. For some reason these people are still handling a great deal of things in the country, although slowly their role is diminishing. For instance, the military base in Tuzla was handed over to country control while I was staying there.
It’s this group that I liken to the guy with the chess piece and the reason that there are three presidents and two entities to the country. It is true that the separate regions of Bosnia Herzegovina and Republika Srpska were one of the few ways that the war could have been ended, but this is just one in a series of mistakes that the Western powers have made in dealing with the country. Of course, sometimes their just trying to cover their asses as seen in the fact that they haven’t taken a census since 1991 because everyone is pretty much well-aware of the obvious fact that no Bosniaks have moved back in to the areas that the Bosnian-Serbs took, showing quite tragically that ethnic cleansing did in fact work.
But, I come back to the guy with the chess piece because he is able to reverse course, try different moves and see what he should have done. This of course incurs more discussion from the other old men until the player just gives up and they start a new game. Is this the ultimate fate of Bosnia Herzegovina once foreign powers have theoretically pulled out in the next two years? Do they just start up a new game? Would it end up using the same rules though, because inevitably, it would have the same players?
I haven’t a clue as to the answers of these questions. The only think that seems unmistakably clear is that a true Bosnian identity needs to develop because right now, all the Croats in Herzegovina think they’re in Croatia. All the Serbs in Republika Srpska think they’re in Serbia. All the Bosniaks who are in Sarajevo think that everything is fine because they are surrounded by other Bosniaks. So, if you don’t have people who ultimately say that they’re a Bosnian even if they have Croatia or Serbian roots, you’re always going to have a country that is yanking in opposite directions with a center that continues to grow and be this undefined morass, much like what is happening in the United States…
Sarajevo Now