Book Launch: Continuity and Change in the Yugoslav Successor States
Mieczyslaw Boduszynski, career Foreign Service Officer, U.S. Department of State
December 15, 2010

Despite the nearly two decades that have passed since Yugoslavia's dissolution, its successor states continue to be grouped together as the "Western Balkans," "Former Yugoslav republics," or "Southeast Europe." However, this categorization belies the wide divergence between them in terms of their democratic progress. Former EES Title VIII scholar and JSTS alumnus, Mieczyslaw Boduszynski, explained the causes of this divergence in his new book "Regime Change in the Yugoslav Successor States: Divergent Paths toward a New Europe." The book illustrates how the current divergence between the states is a continuation of the regional economic inequality within Yugoslavia, but that the EU enlargement process offers all of these states the ability to transcend their history.

The nationalism and violence that destroyed Yugoslavia in the 1990s is often cited as the cause for the problems in the country today. Boduszynski challenged this conventional understanding, asserting that nationalism and violence were a symptom of a larger problem in Yugoslavia: economic disparity. For example, since 1947, Slovenia had GDP equal to at least 162 percent of the entire country, while Kosovo's GDP began at 49 percent of GDP and continued to drop over time. Boduszynski argued that these economic disparities were magnified by the economic crisis in the 1980s, which led to political instability, war and the dissolution of the state.

Boduszynski explained how levels of economic development determined the success each country would have in its path towards democracy. His assessments of democratization go beyond what he called "procedural methods" (which focus mainly on elections and institutions), to include qualitative factors such as legitimacy, social cohesion and the nature of divisions in society. According to his analysis of these countries throughout the 1990s, he characterized Slovenia as a ‘substantive democracy'; Croatia (where democratic institutions masked undemocratic sentiments among the country's elite) as a ‘simulated democracy;' Macedonia as an ‘illegitimate democracy' (since the Albanian population does not have much confidence in the government); and what was then Serbia and Montenegro, ‘populist authoritarianism' under Slobodan Milosevic's reign.

Since the 1990s, the region has changed considerably, in part due to external factors—especially the EU and NATO enlargement processes. Nevertheless, the countries suffer from an image problem in Europe, which continues to view the region as problematic despite its progress. Again, individual treatment of the countries of the region offers more examples of divergence and cause for optimism in the region. Slovenia is already an EU member, and it is hoped that Croatia will join within the next two years. With the exception of Kosovo, citizens of all of these countries now have visa-free travel to EU. Peace and reconciliation efforts are also on the rise, and polls indicate that people generally do not believe that violence will recur in the region. From his reading of polling data, Boduszynski concluded that the region is not "uniquely unique," and that scholars and practitioners should view the debates about multiculturalism and politics in the region as an integral part of the wider debates on those topics in Europe. Due to economic legacies, the timeframe of democratization will be longer for some of the countries of the former Yugoslavia, but they are all solidly on that path.

Christian Ostermann, Director European Studies