Today, millions are celebrating or at least commemorating the birthday of a country that no longer exists. It’s November 29th, Dan Republike.
It is remarkable how many people post pictures on social networks like Facebook today, showing them holding Yugoslav flags, donning hats or uniform parts of the Partizans, the Yugoslav Army JNA or the Pioneers.
They live in all successor states of Yugoslavia and beyond. My friend Dule who was born in Beograd and lives in Vienna is celebrating, too – at least online. So do many members of the Ex-YU Diaspora.
In Vienna, there is even a choir named after the 29th of November. It is dedicated to preserving not only the memory of Yugoslavia but of working class songs from all over the world. And they regularly and actively support protest movements in Vienna. Some of their perfomances can be seen on Youtube.
Today marks the 72nd anniversary of the proclamation of the Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia in the Bosnian town of Jajce.
Tito’s Partizans hadn’t won the war against the Third Reich and their allies, the Croatian Ustaše, yet but the Anti-Fascist Council of National Liberation of Yugoslavia (AVNOJ) decided it was about time to lay the down the framework for the country that was to emerge from the slaughter.
After 1945, Dan Republike was proclaimed a national holiday and celebrated with enthusiasm.
It is a telltale sign that so many people still remember and celebrate that day more than 20 years after the violent breakup of the country.
A Memory Of A Better Future
For some it is mainly the memory of a common cultural heritage Yugoslavia created. For others it is childhood nostalgia. For many, celebrating Dan Republike also is a sign of protest against the hardships they have had to endure for the past 20 or so years.
And mostly it is recalling the promise Yugoslavia held for a long time. The promise of „bratstvo i jedinstvo“ (Brotherhood And Unity), the promise of free travel without visas, the promise of improving standards of living.
Remembering Yugoslavia is remembering a better future.
Even though that future never came into being in the end and the country never worked as smoothly as its leaders would have the people believe.
In that sense, Yugoslavia was a dream that never was.
In spite of all the nostalgia prevalent with so many people, few would actually want Yugoslavia back – for rather practical reasons, as Saša Karalić told me while we were having a couple of drinks at the bar Lokativ after the vernissage of the exhibition „The Common Which No Longer Exists“ curated by my friend Majda Turkić in Vienna.
Saša was a youth when the war broke out in Bosnia. His family fled to the Netherlands where he still has his homebase. He wouldn’t want Yugoslavia back, he told me during our conversation.
When I asked him why not, his answer was as simple as it was logical: „Then I’d have to live together with all the nationalists.“
So, today isn’t just celebrating a country’s birthday. It also is a nostalgic farewell to a dream that maybe never was.