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[Yugoslav Childhood]


by Alenka Puhar, The Journal of Psychohistory 22(2) Fall 1994

1.) The Nature Of Simple Life In The Balkans
2.) Battering As A Way Of Life
3.) Sexual Abuse
4.) Traditional Life: Combination Of Channeled Rage And Love
5.) Two Case Studies
6.) Some Current Data On Child Abuse
7.) The Death Of The Patriarch And The Dissolution Of The Yugoslav Zadruga
8.) Serbia And The Feelings Of Victimization
9.) War Fantasy And Trial Action

Under the title Les Belles Images, a famous French lady whose childhood had been that of "une jeune fille rangee," offered some well-intentioned advice for the sad state of humanity. As a means to over-come alienation she proposed that "people ought to content themselves with a minimum standard of living, as some of the very poor communities still do, in Sardinia and Greece, for instance, where technology has not penetrated nor money corrupted. There people know a harsh happiness, because certain values are preserved, values that are truly human values - - dignity, brotherhood, generosity, which give life a unique flavor. . . when did this decline start? On the day when priority was given to science Instead of wisdom, to utility instead of beauty. With the Renaissance, with rationalism, capitalism, scientism. ... Only a moral revolution, not a social, political, or technical one, can lead man to the truth he has lost."(1)

Far away from Paris, a man born and raised in such a community was appalled by her simplicity and blindness: "I do not know what Madame de Beauvoir's "minimum standard of living" is, but I suspect It is a little more than what she Is idealizing in "some of the very poor communities." Life in Sardinia may look "harshly happy" to Parisian left- and right-wing intellectual cliques, but I know from my own Montenegro, In spite of the "values preserved" there, "values that are truly human," just what life has been like-a life of hunger, hatred, and death."(2)

Milovan DjIlas manifested more than his fair share of devotion to similar values, and he not only made verbal suggestions but was responsible for many violent acts to improve the sad state of humanity and save it from alienation. But, as he grew older, he repented and tried to put on paper "what really happened." Among his many subjects was the story of his people, his family and his own childhood. This is what he remembered:

Everything is at war with everything else: men against men, men against beasts, beasts against beasts. And children against children, always. And parents with children. The guerillas fight the Austrians, and the latter persecute and oppress the people. The spirits strive with humans, and humans with the spirits. The strife is ceaseless, between heaven and earth. And Mother beats us. If she cannot catch us during the day, she beats us when we are asleep. The switch cuts into the flesh, and one sleeps on. And when we awaken, she demands our promise that we will never again do what we did. Or else the beating is continued.

It would be easy to promise that we would not do what we did if only we could feel truly guilty for what we did. But since we do not feel guilty it Is better to lose some sleep and endure the beat-ing to the end.

Certainly strife is one side of life. But there comes a time when only strife is the order of the day, as though there were nothing else in life.(3)

Harsh as this may seem, there was more than constant battering and eternal wan what was even more terrifying was the overwhelming presence of evil forces: "Nevertheless, with us children our greatest fear was not of men, of brigands, or of Austrians. That fear became mixed with another-the fear of nocturnal apparitions, of evil spirits who were everywhere and could appear at any time, "(4) turning life Into hell.


There is a rich choice of testimonies one could use to discredit Simone de Beauvoir's or anyone else's belief that simple life equals harsh happiness and true human values. One of them was written by a miserable young man who wanted to become a hero and chose the most prominent target, Franz Ferdinand, the Archduke of Austria, thus triggering the First World War Gavrilo Princip, who was born In Bosnia (in 1894), remembered his home as a place of constant terror and anxiety: "The wet logs on the open fire gave the only light to the closely packed peasants and their wives, wrapped in thick smoke. If I tried to penetrate the curtain of smoke, the most I could see were the eyes of the human beings, numerous) sad and glaring with some kind of fluid light coming from nowhere. Some kind of reproach, even threat, radiated from them, and many times since then they have awakened me from my dreams. "(5)

Or another example, involving an encounter of an old man and a young woman, running away from home: "Come and sit down! Move closer! Don't be scared! You must have been raised by a stepmother-you seem to be frightened of everything." Her unspoken answer: "It was not a stepmother, but her own mother, but she is frightened nevertheless. There is always some trick hidden underneath everything, however safe it may seem."(6)

What these cases have in common is the type of childhood they assume. As I have shown in my earlier articles(7), the writers were born into a culture of common or joint families, known as zadrugas, as the basic family unit. These communal families, characteristic throughout all of former Yugoslavia, except Slovenia, differ significantly from the conjugal families which we are familiar with In most of Europe; they Involved several biological families living and working together, with men never leaving their native homes and with the eldest man functioning as the leading authority. Predominant features of this type of family life were therefore enormous resistance to change and fear of innovation. With no private property and no emancipation as we know it - the original meaning of emancipare being the freeing from parental authority - that is a child's gain-ing maturity, adult status and Independence through acquiring property, a home of his or her own, the choice of job and life style, all this was quite different from the state of things In Western nations. In the zadruga culture people could be extravagantly generous and kind, sharing everything with a perfect stranger, but, on the other hand, extremely harsh, brutal and aggressive. In short, as portrayed in the works of many foreign travelers, they offered the bewildering contrast of vast loneliness, of cruelty and indifference to human life, but of indifference to possessions, too, with gusts of personal warmth, generosity and outstanding dignity unlike anything one could experience In Western Europe.(8)

In view of the present war (and many previous ones) It seems Im-portant to stress the harshness not "a harsh happiness," but the harsh cruelty, ruthlessness and brutality of this life. It meant a life of constant warfare, was often described as l'heroic" by most of the scholars, and has only recently been far more accurately defined as a life that produced "delegate killers.'(19) Its women were expected to bear In silence extreme oppression, humiliation and violence.

Children born In these families were subjected to harsh treatment even before they were born, as pregnancy was not treated as a partic-ularly sensitive period In women's lives, and they therefore tended to conceal It pretending they were as strong as ever. It meant a very hard, hazardous childbirth, as women often gave birth alone, without assistance, professional or unprofessional, mostly outside their homes. Their babies were ritually and repeatedly cleansed In cold water, again mostly outside, swaddled, subjected to various protective treatments against evil spirits, mostly harmful, and severely punished throughout babyhood and childhood. In short, it was a crowded life of neglect, battering, tenor and the absence of almost all signs of affection. it was also a life of widespread and routine sexual abuse. Psychohistorically speaking, it was a combination of Infanticidal and ambivalent modes of childrearing. if at the turn of the century In most parts of Europe parents insisted on discipline, order, cleanliness, ambition (and achieved these with Increasingly less severe methods), the opposite was true for the simple life in the so-called zadrugas of the Balkans.

But maybe a simple description of a house can serve as the best way of illustrating the nature of this simple life. I have chosen an account provided by a historian who was raised in a zadruga in Bosnia-Herzegovina In the period after the First World War.

"The middle room had a small hearth with an outlet for smoke. The fire was built rarely. Most of the family slept In this room. Sleeping space was reserved for the senior members of the family, married couples, and their small children. The rest of the floor space was not assigned, each person trying to occupy the most desirable spot for the night's rest. To sleep with as many as a dozen persons of different age and sex on the floor in a small, crowded room Is quite an experience. The guest room had a small heating stove, but the fire was made rarely, usually on festive occasions when guests stayed over night. Uncle Rade, the head of the house, his wife, my Aunt Pava, slept in the room, which was the only part of the house that was finished.

The house was poorly furnished. The room had a small wooden table with two benches, two or three stools, and a single Iron bed, the only bed in the house, which Uncle Rade had commandeered for himself. Someone liberated the bed from the military barracks in Bileca after the collapse of Austria-Hungary In 1918. Elsewhere in the house were a few simple stools, two foot-high circular tables (sinija), one or two wooden boxes, and for storage purposes two large elliptical wicker baskets plastered with cow dung. There were no curtains, draperies

or rugs. The bedding was simple and consisted of heavy goat-hair blankets called guber. There were no bedsheets and only a couple of crude pillows in the house. One slept on a guber. covered himself with another guber; and improvised a pillow from his own clothing.

When we were all together, food was generally eaten off the sinija in shifts. The spoons were wooden but there were not enough of them, and at mealtime after each swallow one was obliged to pass the spoon to his neighbor. The house had fewer than half a dozen simple metallic forks, and no table knives at all. We ate from a single large wooden or metallic bowl. This shortage of eating implements and dishes reflects a curious self-effacing attitude. It was certainly no major task to carve additional spoons. Materials were plentiful, and the peasant was skilled in wood-carving. Peasants In Bileca Rudine are talented masons and stonecutters and built beautiful public buildings for wages, but never built comfortable and finished homes for themselves ... Not until the late thirties did the family at long last obtain a sufficient number of wooden and metallic eating implements, a concession to urban influence.

Our zadruga home was disorderly and crowded. The sanitary conditions were appalling. We had no toilets and no washing and bathing facilities. The water In the cistern was polluted, and the dishes were never thoroughly washed. The animals moved in and out of the house, leaving their droppings. Swarms of flies were everywhere. The house was Infested with fleas, bedbugs, and lice."(10)

But this article will mostly concentrate on battering and sexual abuse before moving on to the Issue of the present war in the former Yugoslavia. what I Intend or hope to show is the most striking connection between traumatic childhood and war, or, to put It differently, how some childrearing practices directly produce "heroes," not only delegate killers, but delegate tormentors, avengers and rapists.


Students of traditional family life often overlook some important features of child-rearing practices, considered vital by the historians of childhood, but beating is not one of them. This is more than true of scholarly work on the South Slav type of common family or zadruga. On the whole It makes no attempt to hide the fact that punishment was very often used in child-rearing, mostly In the form of beating. The survey of 300 Yugoslav villages and their domestic lives, carried out SO to 60 years ago by Vera Stein Erlich showed that "in none of the Yugoslav regions Is there a negative attitude toward the use of a stick, and nowhere can one find consistent unity of theory and practice in favor of upbringing without punishment."(11) Some of the answers the author received:

"Girls are struck even up to their twentieth year, and boys up to fifteen, for from that age one has to reckon with the dignity of a youth. In olden days there were soldiers of sixteen, and to strike a soldier would have been the greatest of insults."

"They say: 'We beat small boys most' and: 'A girl feels shame, a boy fear' Children are as a rule beaten up to puberty. It Is rarely anybody brings up a child without punishment. Of certain children people think It born kindly so It must be treated kindly. A child defends itself from its mother, less from its father. Then the mother says: My switch broke. It is rare for a child to attack its parents. Where the switch of parent or teacher strikes, they say that dzehemen (hell) will not catch fire."

"As a rule children are kept severely. There are cases of children not even daring to utter a word In the father's presence,. Regarding punishment, they mostly stick to corporal punishment. The peasants do not like gentle upbringing. They want obedience without a word."

"Swish away, sir, if the bones are mine, the flesh is yours. That is Invariably what I have been told throughout my career as a teacher here. They are critical of my gentle methods, and any failure In school is ascribed to this."

"They beat girls longer, that Is, keep an eye on them, parents beating them them till they are married, when the husbands takes over. Boys are beaten till their fifteenth year. Boys knock their mothers about as soon as they are over IS That Is common, In self-defense. There Is no toleration whatsoever for gentle up-bringing, everything being brought back to the justifying phrase:
The stick came out of Paradise. "(12)

The same was true of the husband-wife relationship, leading Erlich to the conclusion there was "a great deal of cruelty to all the weaker members of the family." Wives were regularly beaten by their husbands and their fathers-in-law, as well as other members of the zadruga, verbally abused-the range of curses and obscenities in the Serbocroat language is quite awesome and severely punished for any signs of dis-obedience, often with serious consequences.

The brutality of the domestic atmosphere can be seen in numerous Serbocroat folk sayings and proverbs, with hatred and fear the dominant words or underlying emotions, for instance: "Trust neither dog, horse or woman," "Boast about the quality of the wheat when it's in your barn and your wife when she's in her grave" or "Fear tends the goats," which was explained by Vuk Karadzic (in 1836) as: "He who fears the master does the work, for there is nothing without fear "(13) One could add an interesting result of a recent survey of Serb fiddles on children and childhood: the most frequent definition for a child is slave. (14)

To make a long and ugly story short: In the traditional life of the zadruga, a man was simply not considered a true man if he refrained from violent behavior and a strict regime was followed to make men of boys. To show affection and gentleness was to be soft-something no man could afford to be. The past tense can easily be replaced for the present perfect tense, as this attitude seems to be as true as ever.

There are different opinions as to how this violent way of life changed over time, with some scholars claiming that things gradually improved and others suggesting that the settled patriarchal way of life was more peaceful and that aggressiveness intensified only during the dissolution and decay of the zadruga style of life. Erlich found out that the degree of violence slowly increased going from northwest to the southeast, being by far the greatest In the families of Serbs and Montenegrins.(15) Anyway, the firm, unchanged basis seems to be strong pressure to avoid expressing feelings, particularly on the part of men, of affection, vulnerability or dependency; coupled with strong pressure to express feelings of force, rage and dominance against commonly understood legitimate targets.

What seems beyond doubt is that on the eve of the Second World War domestic life was extremely harsh and brutal in most of Yugoslavia (with the exception of Slovenia). while In most of Europe children were taught that violence was bad unless it was officially licensed - as in war - this was not so in the Balkans. And the war itself made the situation far worse. The same male Ideal - a real man as a fighter, strong, merciless etc. - is openly cherished in most of contemporary ex-Yugoslavia.(16)


In great contrast to physical violence, where there is an abundance of evidence, students of the region rarely pay any attention to various forms of sexual abuse, such as molestation, violence in the marital relationship, rape within or outside the home, by relations or strangers, Child abuse, sodomy and the like. They either neglect it completely or else they openly claim and praise "the strict morality" of traditional life, which was supposedly corrupted only with the advent of the "modern way of life" and its corrosive influence.(17)

At best, the emerging picture of the marital relationship suggests a life of cold, unemotional bonds, with husbands demanding sex and wives giving in or enduring it. There are also many signs of great brutality, or, to put it differently, signs of sadistic traits on the husband's part and a masochistic attitude on the part of the wife. Men who were expected to beat and mistreat their wives to prove their masculinity were not very much different when sex was concerned. At worst, women were severely abused by other members of the extended family, by outside figures of authority, and tortured in the process. If they somehow found themselves unprotected-pregnant out of wedlock, widowed, already raped, driven out of their families, emotionally disturbed, handicapped or whatever-they were subjected to random violence, often In the form of gang rape.

One of the female teachers contributing to Erlich's survey, described the following case as typical of the Serbian peasants of Bosnia:

Her husband was rough even in his most intimate demands, and for those days rather lascivious. She is of rather a cold temperament, so in intimate matters they did not quite fit each other. For this reason this contact, she says, was revolting and afforded her no great enjoyment. Yet she did not dare avoid a single one of her husband's demands, but humbly suffered them all. Often she would remain awake at night, weeping, while her husband, satisfied, long since snored. This was the general attitude of husband to wife-never to reveal himself anywhere as tender or sensitive, for he would be made mock of.(18)

Some other contributors to the same survey revealed similar traits, that is marriage as a lifelong sequence of forced sex or, simply, rapes. But some went further:

There are numerous cases of the brother-in-law raping the young wife, the father-in-law his daughter-in-law; in short, every man lives with any woman... This village lives a life which is incredible; nobody would imagine it."

In fact it was not only imagined but described as well. Eruch received some reports on places - in Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia - where sexual morals sank catastrophically low, with widespread adultery, prostitution and blackmailed sexual affairs, sometimes, under pressure, with police officers. These keep a log of the number of women they take, and are not choosy, and have reached the record number of 1500, a man of thirty-eight or forty being especially eager to collect affairs during his last years of service. "(20)

Still, what the survey covered was mostly sexual affairs between consenting (or submitting) adults, however violent they were. It was left to writers of fiction to put into words what scholars neglected or tried to deny, giving us the chance to look into the true nature of traditional life.

The story of literature (and art in general) under socialism is a story of major conflicts-socialism or communism being an Ideology which strongly believed in all sorts of repression, including the repression of freedom of emotions, words, thoughts; among the prime targets were feelings of loneliness, anxiety, despair, in fact everything that was labeled pessimism. But Serbocroat literature was very good at rebelling against the authorities. The sixties in particular were a turning-point, with the growing emergence of works trying to translate the silent screams into literature. A powerful stream of pictures of life as bleak as it could be gushed out. Together with a new wave of cinema, aptly called "the black wave," there started an avalanche of literary works - short stories, novels, plays, half-fictional half-journalistic pieces - where the long repressed and denied truth finally came into the open.

Some of them covered the 19th century, some the first half of the 20th, some periods of (one of many) wars, others the post-war, peaceful years, but most of them told horrible stories of bitter hatred and appalling violence. In fact, reading them one cannot escape the impression that the authors were engaged In a virtual competition to shock and out-shock one another. If some older writers only hinted or obeyed standard rules of refined literature,(21) the generation born around 1930 decided to tell It all and to be as blunt and defiant - often vulgar, too - as hell.(22)

Their stories, mostly autobiographical behind the smoke-screen of fiction, revealed a life of extreme physical, verbal and sexual abuse, of systematic and random violence, of incest (13) between all possible pairs of relatives), sexual abuse of boys, girls and animals. They include ordinary rapes, gang rapes, rapes with various instruments and weapons - all of it accompanied with a rich variety of torture, humiliation and mutilation. Some of It happened under the protective cover of home or darkness, some of it in public; in the middle of villages, squares, meadows or crowded cafes, as a public spectacle, with children among the audience.

In short, the traditional life in Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, as portrayed in fiction (and on stage and film), can be described as life of enormous hatred, vindictiveness and cruelty, with sexual expressions of aggression a common component. The traditional Balkan man rapes for power, he is extremely insecure and the best way he can find to make himself feel better and in control is to get drunk and violent, to make others feel even worse, to humiliate, to degrade, to inflict as much pain as possible. This makes him gain some self-respect and at the same time makes him respected in the eyes of other; less daring and violent men. As women are treated with a mixture of reverence and resentment, to conquer them is accompanied with an appropriately mixed response: the conqueror is a criminal and a hero at the same time; he Is hated with awesome respect. Sexual triumphs in var-ious forms produce tremendous guilt and pride at the same time.

Thus, one of the heroes of a typical short story "was adored by the workers. They were proud of him although he, apparently, furrowed through their beds, polluting with the stench of his stable-smelling body the guts of their wives and daughters." He was "our man", "healthy and unspoiled," proving it Continuously by taking "just about every one of them, from cleaning women to little girls."(23)

The most Outspoken of these novels was written by Petar Saric under the title The Master is Coming Tomorrow.(24) It Is a portrait of traditional, patriarchal tyranny and submissiveness, a tale of sexual exploitations as exercises of raw power. The clan (or brotherhood) it portrays was born In Incest between a brother and sister; and a few centuries later the incestuous bond between the head of the clan and his sister is still its dominant secret, although the Master is more or less impotent. The novel proceeds through scenes of jealousy, hatred and aggression toward the final murder of the Master. Its women closely eye the young boys and seduce them as soon as they are "ripe" (i.e. In puberty), giving them up only when the boys get married. A man of fifty who has a subnormal son, wants him to marry a girl of fifteen, but their marriage is to be a formality, as he wants her for himself, to bear him a new, healthy son.

In every generation of this clan there is a boy who suffers "the family Sickness", i.e., severe nightmares and a sort of epilepsy. The description of the latest case: It started when the boy was a tiny baby, with convulsions, screams, crying, Vomiting. It was immediately recognized by everyone. The baby started to turn over; on his stomach, burrowing his face into the straw in the cradle. His mother allowed him to do so, but the grandmother was strongly against it: "Turn him back! He must lie on his back, even if he dies!" In short, "they all wanted to help him and it did not occur to them he might be defending himself from them."

As narrated by the boy when he has reached his early teens, the treatment looks like this:

Father pours water on me, he reaches with his wet hand into my armpits and my crotch, where I sweat the most. At the beginning, he had great trouble, he did not know how to wake me up. How did he ever think of reaching between my legs with his wet hand, how did he find out this helps me best?(25)

As with every other kind of violence, sexual aggression greatly increases during times of war; particularly at the beginning and the end of wars - again, as recorded in some memoirs and contemporary Serbocroat fiction (there are no statistical data available). In times of chaos and Insecurity, with no firm authority, the latent frustrations and hatreds explode into a devastating, massive outburst, orgies of plunder; murders and rapes.(26)

For instance, when the Austrian army started to pull out of Montenegro in 1918, "there It was as though some fury, a great fire, suddenly seized an entire region. All rose up - young and old, women and even children - to pillage the Moslems In the Sanzak. Even men who were not ever easily misled, who had lived In righteousness and meekness all their days, now lost their heads ... There was something else in all this, too, something even deeper and more lasting, a kind of perverted vow, some deep inner pleasure." Women who went with foreigners were targets of the worst brutalities.(27)


An excellent example of how people manage to find a tolerable way through such abusive experiences can be found in the culture of the Serbs, meaning the population of Serbia, Montenegro, parts of Croatia and Bosnia. They have organized their lives around a great national trauma, the battle of Kosovo, which took place in 1389, when the Serbs were defeated by the Turks. What followed was a gradual occupation, lasting for several centuries. What followed as well was an elaborate creative process, devoted to the creation of legend and mythology.

After the defeat and occupation, there gradually emerged a flood of epic poetry, born out of despair and frantic need for an appropriate survival strategy which put the blame on fate and treason. The heroes were transformed into martyrs and the defeat mysteriously, was turned into moral victory, thus helping the Serbs to Survive: "Adversity was only to be a trial through which the Serbs had to pass in order to come to better days. Hence the day of the national disaster became, strange as it may seem, the national festival. To avenge Kosovo became the one as-piration of a subdued nation."(28) Thus, a permanent, legitimate and noble target for violence was produced: to fight the Turks became a national obsession, a perfect outlet for pent-up feelings, aggressiveness, rage. The ability to fight became the greatest possible virtue, the standard for any appreciation of man's morality and performance of his sa-cred duty. This spellbinding mythology, which was half chanted half recited by guslari, coupled with centuries of action, provided a perfect combination of rage and love-rage against the enemies, love for the motherland (particularly Kosovo, the cradle of the Serb nation, the most sacred place). Most of their epic poetry celebrated something like an appetite for sacrificial self-immolation In glorious wars.

The power of this mythology oscillated through different historical periods, being particularly strong in times of great distress. It helped people to endure and offered a structured way of life, turning it Into a series of continuing battles, struggles, confrontations, rebellions, plundering expeditions and challenges. Heroic life means perpetual war; not only an unconscious but also conscious cult of aggression. "Two or three perfectly definite ideas are instilled into every Serb from the moment of his birth," wrote Jovan Cvijic, one of the best authorities, himself a Serb.(29) "He learns to wish for personal freedom and self-government and for the freedom of all the Serbian lands, which, he knows from ballads and traditions, were once part of his own coun-try... It is his duty to free them with his own blood by perpetual acts of heroism and by ceaseless sacrifices ... The whole Dinaric area has certainly produced some exceptionally heroic men, but It Is the Dinaric Serbs who attain the highest degree of heroism.../They/ are warlike and have been engaged in warfare incessantly ever since Kosovo... Some of them are, as just as God, but others can hate with a consuming pas-sion and a violence that reaches a white heat. It is the latter who are the chief bearers of the Dinaric war-cry of holy vengeance. Some of them put their strength to evil uses; but the chief vent for It up to the present has been the Serbian idea of nationality, and many of them have already given their lives for it without the smallest hesitation."

"If one studies these violent types," Cvijic continued, "one finds in every single one an alteration of a very active period with one In which they are completely passive and exhausted. The latter periods may actually wreck an important undertaking if a great deal depends upon the individual concerned. They seem to sleep like Kraljevic Marko, the national hero, and everything must wait until they wake. After a very progressive period comes a break with the result that the historical development of the inhabitants of this area goes in a zig-zag line... A general lack of sense of proportion in both good and bad circumstances seems to be a feature of the lively temperament. Hope and despair are both excessive... When things are going badly, the Dinaric peoples behave in an even more characteristic way than when they go well. At the first mischance they are assailed with an indefinite hesitation of spirit which gradually becomes 'frenzied; opposers and grumblers come forward, and at this point they may say and do anything. This critical stage steadily develops into panic, with the well-known features of panic that are common to all nations. "(30)

There are numerous accounts of this particular heroic similar defense lines, so that whole districts of Bosnia and Herzegovina constituted military units to ward off the Austrians (or Europeans), while most of Montenegro and Serbia spent centuries in constant rebellions against the Ottomans, with military units following the rules of kinship bonds.

This had a profound impact on the life of these regions. First warfare affects women and men, but in a different way. To begin with, warfare is of course the most obvious human activity where women definitely cannot compete with men. Constant fighting gives men a distinct role and power base, it offers abundant opportunity for heroism. On the other hand, wars severely diminish the opportunity for home-making, agriculture and other more or less feminine activities and centered on home, privacy, prosperity. The result is therefore not only that victors tend to kill the men and enslave women (sexual exploitation being an important element); It means as well that men tend to die glorious deaths and women tend to end degraded and enslaved.

When life means constant warfare, women not only do the usual women's work, they do men's work as well and have to show a man's courage. To make love and not to make war Is considered an outrage. To cultivate the land, to engage In craft, trade or money-making Is looked upon with contempt, It is something the Gypsies, the Jews, the Greeks or other degenerate foreigners do. To improve the home, to make life easier and more comfortable seems equally beside the point and even ridiculous:

Heroism and heroic actions are the main thread of their existence and colour their whole life," Cvijic tried to explain. "The moment a child leaves the cradle he begins to run after glory and fame, and their great desire is to belong to a heroic family. Everything in life is secondary to heroic ambition, and the Montenegrins are as greedy of heroism as a miser is of his money. They are so sensitive about their pride and their honour that they are apt to lose their heads over trifling matters. Life without honour is absolutely worthless to them, because honour is the mainspring of humani-ty. ... Everything Is sacrificed to pride and heroism. They not only die light-heartedly, but laugh while they are dying. Women have strangled their children in order that they may not betray the army by their crying and expose it to shameful destruction.(34)

One of the most notable consequences of major peace, which came to the region with the end of the First World War; with the legitimate outlet for rage gone, and the love for the motherland somehow empty and without gratification, was a great surge of domestic and general violence. Thus the end of the First World War proved disastrous in Montenegro, although the people were finally united with the rest of their South Slav brothers:

Men became bad, rotten, unwilling to give one another air to breathe. Bestiality and scandal at home, In the village, quickly crowded out of the mind the national tragedy. These vices were our own, Montenegrin and domestic... Uncle Lazar was particu-larly tireless In committing every evil thing against his family... He seemed hardly able to wait to take out his wrath on someone. He cursed and beat his wife. Rosa's weeping (his daughter) enraged him even more. He took her black braids, caught them in the door; and then began to trample on her... Uncle Mirko was even worse, though mostly against himself. He beat his daughters, long married, and drove them through the village. One of them, who took after his evil nature the most, taunted him at the edge of the village to come to her; lift his whiskers, and kiss her shameful parts, and she bawled It out without mincing words.(35)

It should therefore come as no surprise that women In labour were seldom allowed to give birth under their home roofs in such a culture or that they could be ridiculed and even stoned while they stumbled through the village, searching for a safe delivering place - by boys practicing their first acts of heroism. (36)

I do not wish to suggest, as these quotes might imply, dealing mostly with Serbs and Montenegrins, that there was no violence in the rest of Yugoslavia, either during wars or in domestic life. Still, there does seem to have been far less. One of the best arguments is provided by Serbs and Montenegrins themselves, as they do not see it as a fault but, on the contrary, as a source of pride. During most of Yugoslav history, the recent collapse included, their fighting ability and heroic history has served as the best proof of their virility and superiority, providing them with the Opportunity to show a certain amount of contempt for the Croats and Moslems, not to mention the Slovenes, who could not compete at all in this regard.

The same attitude can be found in many foreigners as well, as they were often quite fascinated by this heroic race of the Balkans. Rebecca West, for instance, was Overwhelmed by it, devoting hundreds of pages to it, passing in barely hidden scorn over "the sensible and unexcitable people of Slovenia" and in open contempt over the rich and orderly villages of the German settlers. And her husband joined in enthusiastically: "Observe that in Bosnia the Slavs choked the Turk with cream, they glutted him with their wholesale conversions... But the Serbs fought the Turks, and then they fought them, and then they fought them."(37)

This fighting spirit or distinct Inclination toward violent behavior has been observed even in families that emigrated and found themselves far from their usual belligerent culture. To give an example: "This family was as unusual a group of people as this town has ever seen," said a woman from Illinois, USA, of her childhood friend of Serbocroat stock, now a film star. "It was unusual mainly for its fighting.... He and his older brother and three younger sisters terrorized the neighborhood. Their mother did not believe In discipline, so she would just retreat to the kitchen and turn up the radio while they fought. They fought about anything, really... Mealtimes invariably developed into screaming matches escalating to food-fights, then Malkovich and his elder brother Danny would start chasing each other round the house, arming themselves with butchers' knives and pokers, anything we could find. Danny, he claims, was the inspiration for every sociopath he's ever played.... So It was a warring family, but It was also a very dose one. There were no repressed angers or Simmering resentments, because everyone was letting It all hang out at all times." (38)

Finally, at least a few words on the Second World War are due. In great contrast to what happened In occupied Western Europe, the war in Eastern Europe was actually several wars in one, It was in every possible sense of the word a total war; as all sorts of civil or internal wars were waged at the same time. It was particularly vicious in Yugoslavia, most of all in its central parts Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro. Among Its many appalling results was a total devastation of childhood, something like a massive plunge into the middle ages. After two decades of great endeavors to improve the living conditions, medical service and education, everything crumbled down in a new explosion of hatred. In searching for the roots of the present conflict in Yugoslavia and finding them in childhood experiences, we are not dealing with childhood as such, but with wartime childhood. Its far-reaching consequences simply cannot be overestimated. Childhood history in Yugoslavia is a horrible, extremely painful subject, but to understand the present fury we need to complicate our knowledge with additional horrors of the Second World War. All the leaders in the present fighting were deeply affected by massive traumatic experiences of wartime life and death. The more or less conventional devastation that the occupying armies brought was compounded by a sort of dark age horror; with eye-gougings, mutilations, butcherings and rapes. If the Germans mostly used firearms and other high-technology means to conquer the stubborn country, its inhabitants often preferred knives, axes and similar traditional weapons.


Momo Kaporwas born In 1937 in Sarajevo, the only son of a fairly well-off parents. The Second World War shattered his childhood. When he was four and a halt a bomb destroyed their house, killing his mother; while the little boy, close to asphyxiation, was pulled from among the ruins and from under his mother's crushed body. He spent the rest of the war with various people, amid the many atrocities that gradually devastated his home town and the whole country. After the war he moved to Belgrade, lived in desolate poverty, but managed to get a good education, finishing at the college of art. Eventually he developed Into an accomplished painter; writer and TV personality, becoming a best selling author; celebrity, charmer; lady's man, In short, one of the most popular personalities In the country, famous for his wit and charm.(39)

Ten years ago, he started to evolve into a Serbian nationalist, which brought him Into some conflict with the authorities. This only intensified his attitude; his love-hate relationship towards his native Sarajevo and its people became more and more pronounced. Finally his childhood terror totally prevailed, turning him into one of the leading Serbian war-mongers, advocating violence to prevent the Moslem gangs from butchering the Serbs, ridiculing any attempts of peaceful solution etc.(40)

Kapor has never said much about the details of his early years, stressing only their horror and loneliness. Ruins, devastation, loss of home, search for love, violence, corpses, will to survive these are the most frequent words he offers when asked about it. He was far more eloquent when describing his post-war years, spent in institutions and summer camps for orphans. These were organized on a quasi-military basis, Soviet style, as established by Makarenko, who was very popular at the time.(41) There, from eight to ten years old, he started to learn how to get on, how to charm his way with smiles and compliance, pleasing everybody-he managed this extremely well-while secretly dreaming of revenge. Here are some passages from his autobiographical novel The Provincial,(42) where a middle-aged, successful man meets his ten-year-old self and commits suicide in despair:

"Now and then he was patted on the head and praised, just when he was silently plotting one of his many vendettas. Nobody can be as vicious as an angry child, deeply convinced of the justification of his hatred. H. was pitiless. There was no understanding In him, out of which a little goodness could have sprung in his desperate and there-fore prematurely hardened heart... One cannot expect mercy from a boy of ten, who has seen houses being demolished and people hanged, a boy who has tried to survive evil as best he could!"

During his many "Interrogations" and punishments, meant to "re-educate him," the boy resorts to two survival strategies. One is a calculated development of boyish charm and friendly manner; the second is the creation of a secret world. He used to "escape into one of his secret passages, thinking of some other matters, but maintaining a pleasant face, calculated only not to annoy the educators. But underneath his apologetic face there was hidden the untamed stubbornness of a young beast, which cannot be pushed Into a cage or tamed and made to retrieve the thrown stick. If forced to, he brought it back smiling, but his provocative smile (which made the staff furious) was announcing that one day, when he had the chance, the stick In his hands would be the weapon of revenge. "(43)

And so the boy, "thrown Into the hell of orphanages, boarding houses, camps and re-education, utterly lonely among people and children", is sustained by his drive for success and revenge. Some day, "he will scatter his tormentors, punish them, doing everything possible to settle accounts for the hell he had to endure." But his own private hell Is not the only subject of his revengeful dreams. His fantasies involve the ancient battle of Kosovo as well: to introduce modern weapons into the battlefield of 1389, to destroy the Turks and to change the course of history-this would bring him fame, making a hero out of "nothing and nobody. (44)

As the adult hero comes to recognize the utter superficiality of his life and success, approaching suicidal despair, he manages to send a message to his own home address: "I do not know how to return from 1947. Please, I urgently need help!" Finally, in a scene reminiscent of Lord of the Flies by William Golding, he is attacked by a gang of boys, his childish self among them, and is driven Into the sea.(45)

During the last years, Momo Kapor has lost most of his urbane polish, turned into one of the leading Belgrade figures of revenge, writ-ing and speaking profusely, using almost exclusively apocalyptic, sadistic and masochistic language to express his inner devastated self. He seems to be finally turning into reality his childhood fantasies of revenge without mercy -- against all the hostile world, but particularly against his native town of Sarajevo.(46)

The second case I wish to present involves a younger man.

Jovan Radulovic was born in 1951, in a very backward village near Knin in Croatia, the mountainous area between the sea and Bosnia, a region famous for Its swagger and aggresslon.(47) In 1980 he published a book of short stories Golubnjaca.(48) The stories, a record of the physical and mental suffering of his childhood, were soon turned Into a play. The production (first staged In Serbia, as Radulovic Is a Serb) caused a tremendous sensation; it is no exaggeration td say it was one of the most important events In the history of post-Tito Yugoslavia and Its vi-olent disintegration. The play was put on stage, then banned, causing violent polemics, utterly damned and praised at the same time, turning an unknown author into an instant celebrity.(49) Seven years later; in summer 1990, the Knin Krajlna staged an armed rebellion against Croatia, proclaiming its autonomous status, i.e. its secession from Croatia, thus triggering the present war In Yugoslavia. Jovan Radulovic was among Its leaders, becoming its secretary of foreign affairs.

The main reason for the uproar was political and Ideological. First of all, its author touched on a forbidden topic. Golubnjaca Is an enormous karst pit, full of corpses; the Croat (fascist) ustashi used it to dump the bodies of Serbs, slaughtered or alive, during the Second World War. in describing the life of a village, whose people refuse to forget it, Radulovic' broke one of the basic laws of Yugoslav brotherhood: the devastation of war was to be constantly remembered, but without mentioning clearly who murdered whom. Secondly, the play was considered far too coarse, not "true to life," not acknowledging progress, again a political offence. But in spite of the widespread debates, the crucial topic was never touched, let alone discussed, namely the horror of child abuse on a horrendous scale.

Golubnjaca portrays village life in 1960/61, with two boys of nine and ten as protagonists, in a succession of brutal scenes. The boys torture animals - sheep, goats, dogs, donkeys, even a newborn lamb - and kill them; the bees are simply smashed, while a very tough donkey (who is sentenced to death because he turns out to be impotent) 'is quite a problem. When a grown man is unable to finish him oft the boys volunteer to do it; they put a stick of explosive into his anus, but as he is still alive after the explosion, though badly wounded, they push some additional explosive down his throat.

In scenes of perpetual violence, with beating, thrashing, stoning, pelting with dung, shouting obscenities, everybody tortures everybody. Men are threatening to kill their wives, grandparents, children, neighbors, and the boys repeatedly threaten to kill the parents and other children, using a gun, explosives, a knife, a hand grenade. The more violent boy keeps announcing he will take his own life, too, Is several times on the verge of either murder or suicide and finally blows him-self out of existence with a hand grenade.

Most of the scenes mix verbal and physical violence with sexual ag-gressiveness, combining lust with pain and involving adults, children and animals. Both boys are sexually exploited and encouraged to sexually abuse the girls of their own age. In one scene the first boy is invited to his (male) teacher's room, undressed, bathed and taken to bed; we are made to understand it was neither the first nor the last such incident. In another scene, the second boy is ordered to drop his pants by his grandfather; who insist on checking how the boy's penis is growing. The boy's response shows this is a routine practice, as he demands to be paid before obliging. His friend arrives, declines to undress and there is much coarse boasting about the size of male organs. The grandfather enquires about the development of their friend, a girl of ten, the look of her private parts, the pubic hair; insisting the girl is mature enough to be taken. The boys knock him down and try to check the old man's crotch. In the next scene, they try to rape the girl.

All these goes on in the shadow of the Second World War (referring mainly to the civil war between the Serbs and the Croats), with people remembering the slaughters, rapes and mutilations, the pit being in the prime position at the center of the action and gradually becoming the focus of their lives.

As I have already said, the debate concentrated on the issues of artistic freedom, on the advisability of evoking the horrors of the civil war among the Serbs and the Croats, and on the possibility of future revenge. This was mainly due to the final scene, the boy's apocalyptic vision in which the pit opens and all its dead inhabitants come out, in a gruesome procession of corpses that include the goat the boy has killed (for being too sexually aggressive in attacking his flock!), plus a young girl, dressed in a folk costume, Serbian of course, who was butchered by the Croats. what nobody dared to touch was the confession of a much - abused man who had the courage to speak out, producing a horrible book and play, although hardly a work of art.
Once again, It was found much easier to make a political scandal and to use an enormous amount of words to condemn a person for his ideological wrongdoing, while remaining silent about the much more painful subject. Nobody paid any attention to the problem of emotionally disturbed children, let alone severely abused ones, to the reality of childhood in at least the backward parts of the country, to the possible wrong doings of parents, grandparents, teachers in general, or to the author's credibility and his particular experiences. Nobody wanted to know anything of child abuse and Its effects. The author himself joined the game of hide and seek, pulling back from the painful subject, choosing to be a martyr for the Serbian cause and a victim of national trauma rather than the victim of his own parents and relatives.

The case of Jovan Radulovic deserves this much coverage, as it shows so well some of the crucial problems of abused children. This battered and sexually exploited boy was obviously Intelligent and among the mistreatments he was spared was the fate of an inarticulate boy, closed up in silence. He was sent to school, had a good educa-tion - he has a university degree in literature - and found the courage to scream out his pain. If most abused children tend to take on their own shoulders the burden of badness, clinging to the image of loving and nurturing parents (caught In poverty, which alleviates their guilt, in his case), he managed to present his case in a rather even - handed way - his public was left to choose who was the more to blame. But when he met with public outcry of a political nature, a perfect solution was offered, not available to the majority of abused children. He was literally pushed again into denying and repressing his private hell, and given the chance to become a public martyr and hero. His guilt (or his parents' guilt) was forgotten, obliterated. His private life and Its horrible nature were he'd aside. Instead, his personal hell was turned to marvelous advantage, his trauma was modified into a national trauma and used to constitute the new life of his people.

All of a sudden, there was no necessity for repression and Isolation, for denial and amnesia. He was offered the chance to enjoy public adoration on a vast scale, his secret need for revenge was given the opportunity to become a loud cry for public revenge. His dirty, guilt-ridden traumas were spelled out and forgotten at the same time, replaced by something far more important and given a decent name at last!

The real enemy was found and spelled out, the Croats, the ustashi, and, let us not forget, there were quite a lot of solid facts behind this amazing metamorphosis of a private hell into a public hell of victimization.(50) Anyway, the emotional life of a large number of Serbs was ready for this type of abused child as a hero. History was once again used to hide the dirty details of child abuse and assault, of rapes, incest, sodomy etc. what has come to be known as soul murder was turned into a soul resurrection for the entire Serb nation.


To balance this fictional account which may seem inadmissible evidence to many readers, some facts on the subject of violence and sexual aggressiveness are necessary. Unfortunately, statistical evidence and scholarly research on a national scale are not available and there are no reliable stud-ies covering larger areas, let alone different ethnic groups. what can be found are several minor studies. I shall briefly show some of the results.

To begin with, in many parts of former Yugoslavia domestic life seems to be violent, meaning that beating children and wives is quite common. Among the six republics that used to constitute Yugoslavia, Slovenla alone recognized rape between spouses as rape - an offense that can be taken to court (not that many wives do it).

Some data on Croatia: An SOS service for battered wives was estab-lished a few years ago and has had a lot of work. Of all the complaints just 6% reported sexual aggression, but the picture is utterly wrong, as the majority of women never thought of admitting it or even calling a forced intercourse a rape. A detailed study for 1988 found out that 93% cases of beating ended in forcible intercourse.

A similar research in Belgrade, Serbia, found out that in 30% of battered cases, reported to the SOS Center, women were terrorized with threats of murder as well (to stab, strangle, butcher them); 49% admitted they were victims of violent behavior every day; 74% of cases included child battering as well. In most cases the source of violence was the husband, but 10% of women were mistreated by their sons, and 6% by their fathers - usually in combination with husbands. The Belgrade study concluded that in at least 25% of cases mistreatment was so bad it constituted extreme danger for women's lives.

Both studies reveal the long reaching effects of traditional life, meaning the life style characteristic of zadrugas. To endure violent behavior is still considered moral obligation on the part of women; they are often maltreated by their husbands, sons and fathers at the same time, and they tend to avoid divorce out of fear of their father's and brother's opinion.(51)

The same pattern of continuity of traditional family life seems to be true of some other aspects of abuse. For instance, between 1978-1988 the Forensic psychiatry center In Zagreb, Croatia, was asked for the evaluation of 170 cases of crimes of "degradation and immorality", among them 30 cases of incest (involving 40 victims). Among these 30 cases 6 involved sons raping their mothers. And two additional cases involved young men of 22 raping their grandmothers, aged 67 and 77; one was murdered as well, while the other committed suicide.(52) This reveals an unusually high degree of hostility towards the older and the eldest generation of female relatives.


The zadruga type of life was the unconscious model for the organization of the Yugoslav federal state; its development as well as its final dissolution reveal most of the positive and negative aspects of this type of common life. It was set up and run according to the value system of collec-tivism, egalitarianism, solidarity-everyone was expected to contribute according to his abilities, each received (approximately) according to its needs. There was, of course, a certain amount of democracy, but it was mostly a fake democracy - the Communist Party was on the top, Tito was Its head, supreme authority and master-for-life. Although on the surface it looked quite appealing, something like a display of "harsh happiness", there was much repression and violence underneath.

when the great patriarch died In 1980, the picture of nice simple life slowly revealed severe flaws. To begin with, the idealized brotherhood and unity, Its dominant slogan, showed some signs of actual sibling rivalry, even hostility. Before the death of the patriarch, taskmaster and judge, such feelings were not acknowledged, and if they occasionally were, the patriarch dealt with them in his resolute, often brutal way. The brothers were never allowed to voice their resentments and problems, let alone to learn to negotiate them. Anyway, the entire institution "discouraged the expression of individual wishes," indeed, the repression of individualism was so severe as to be "incomprehensible to individualists in the West," as Erlich put it to describe the zadruga life.(53) Still, enormous differences persisted, and they increasingly showed when the issue of economic and political reforms became unavoidable. The ideas on how to organize life in the future, how to change it - if at all - followed the differences in childrearing and family backgrounds, Including vast differences in infant mortality,(54) as well as recent experiences of punishment for willful behavior.(55) In fact, the development of post-Tito Yugoslavia provides a dramatic picture of a zadruga at its worst its utter inability to face the demands of modern way of life, as well as its members' feelings of being lost when the old man is gone: He was strict, severe and brutal, but what do we do now? Of course the common house was fairly bad, but it was so cozy and safe, it offered such comfort! what we have now is messy freedom, jealous and hateful brothers, full of envy and greed.

Let me picture some responses to the situation and Its challenges. Slovenia, who never knew the zadruga type of life and was very un-happy with this style of brotherhood, started to behave as a naughty girl, getting closer and closer to the role of family delinquent. She has always seen her position in the psychodynamics of the Yugoslav family in a feminine way: playing a little girl in need of protection, a young maid seeking the haven of marriage, an exploited and battered wife. But during the eighties she started to behave as an increasingly liberated adolescent, openly defying the patriarchal regime with various proposals for democratization.(55) Serbia, on the other hand, relied primarily on the role of the elder brother, whose authority should be recognized by younger brothers, not to mention the sisters. This primacy was to be tacitly understood, but If not, force was considered a legitimate solution. For many years, Croatia played only a minor role In family quarrels, due largely to the painful experiences of 1971, when It was ruthlessly punished for the attempt to modernize the interpersonal relationship within the Yugoslav family, not to mention bad memories of World War II misdeeds.(56) And Bosnia? This was the case of very undeveloped sense of Identity and individuality. To the last days of peace (March 1992), Bosnia strongly believed in the brotherhood, the common table - even if meant constant bickering over too few available spoons - the hostile but safe atmosphere of the crowded common home and patriarchal regime. The first shots were actually fired into a large crowd of protesters in the middle of Sarajevo, with people carry-ing the pictures of long dead Tito, still seen as the nurturing, potent father, shouting slogans on brotherhood, unity, communism, Yugoslavia for ever.

During the past years an enormous amount of books and articles was published on the subject, and I will not repeat their descriptions and explanations on what seems to have happened. Let me rather state that from 1981 onwards a crisis started to develop and in the atmosphere of slowly growing freedom the voices of misery - previously repressed - came to the surface.(57) The key words and feelings were: loss of father & home & love, danger, dying, suffocating, pain, betrayal, hunger, abuse, dismemberment, cradle, help!

In 1983 I started to collect visual material-political cartoons, magazine covers, illustrations - trying to analyze the fantasies going on in Yugoslavia, being at the same time deeply disturbed by them and in a growing rebellious mood. In 1984 I sent a large package to Lloyd deMause and his Institute for Psychohistory, and he passed them on to a psychiatrist, Casper Schmidt so instead of my lay (and partial) opinions I prefer to quote him:

I was shocked and horrified to see so much cruelty, and especially the Intensity of the hatred. In all my years of studying the print media in South Africa (where I am from) I never saw anything of the sort. But then, they have a vast horde of poison containers (the blacks) who can deal with all their bad feelings for them... I was stunned to find such overt references to swaddling: In years of reading the German press I think I have seen one swaddling Image. The predominant tone of the images is of infants who are extremely afraid of being attacked and fighting back In every way they can. The interpretation is that the parents of these children (which can be read as all Yugoslav children) are unaware of what effect they have on their children, because of neurotic scotomata, [blind spot -eh] and consequently hurt them mercilessly while not being conscious of what they are doing; this infuriates the grandiose self of the child, who compromises by passivity and given-up, giving-up behavior, while they undertake to have revenge at some stage (usually the war which waits in the wings)... what all fills means is that the group in Yugoslavia is working through feelings that were worked through In Western Europe during the late Middle Ages, except that at this point they are forced to do so under a unified regime and with a minimum of the pressure outlets (such as crusades and all those jolly rape-and-warfare missions of the Knights) available at that time. Thus the feeling of a pressure cooker that is conveyed in the materials... Thus the images from the media reflect all the violent fantasies underlying true melan-cholia (of the Middle Ages).(58)

To add an argument In favor of the forecasting abilities of this type of psychoanalysis of cartoons as national dreams, I might as well quote the author's conclusion from the same letter:

I was very frightened by these images, and it must be very painful for you to live amongst that. I wish there was something I could do to help you. Maybe an abduction from purgatory, even If only in imagination.

By mid-eighties, stuck Into debts and paralysis of the communist rule, the country was already feeling extreme pressures; the unrecognized disintegration of Yugoslavia began, with two major actors breaking up the common house, pulling in opposite directions: Slovenia and Serbia. For many years they played the leading roles In matrimonial fights, with Slovenia the wife or sister and Serbia the husband or elder brother. By 1985/86 they both displayed clear signs of revitalization movements: great anxiety, rage, search for love, rebirth. But they showed significant differences, too, as revealed by the degree and type of sacrificial violence they felt necessary to achieve the rebirth. These emotions, communicated by verbal and non-verbal means, tell the sto-ries of very different childhoods or psychoclasses.

One of the signs of the disease was the so-called "Slovene syndrome," as the movement towards democratization was labeled: an emergence of various democratic, protest and peace movements, punk and art groups, feminist, lesbian and gay rights groups which provoked enormous anxiety and rage all over the rest of Yugoslavia. They were accompanied by groups of opposition intellectuals whose message was similar, although articulated in academic ways, through learned essays on repression and freedom. And they were gradually accompanied by some party officials, who found increasing courage to voice different opinions. In short, Slovenia got tired of being a victim, stuck In the repressive atmosphere of communism, and delighted in being innovative, provocative, different, in opposition, repeating the slogan of Europe at every possible occasion. Her contempt of everything "oriental," byzantine, eastern, Balkan grew daily. Her self-esteem visibly increased with various acts of courage she displayed, shouting defiantly: "I won't put up with it any more! I am fed up with your dreadful behavior! I won't be intimidated! I am not paying your debts any more!" And finally: "I want a room of my own. The next time you want sex, you had better ask me, or I will scream and kick!"

All this and more caused increasing uproar. it strengthened two lines of attitude in the rest of Yugoslavia. The first: Slovenia is selfish, greedy, separatist; they are actually fascists, Germans, agents of the Fourth Reich. The second: She deserves to be punished, she is asking for it! Let's show her who is the master!

If this pattern of behavior provided a major cause In the disinte-gration of Yugoslavia, it seems less important now. Slovenia was punished in her ten days of war (In June and July 1991) and managed to divorce and escape as a separate nation. If anything, its fate provides an interesting example of great satisfaction groups find in the so - called intelligent use of force, when they embark on the course of rebirth.(59) what happened In Serbia was of much greater Importance and will continue to be for quite some time.


There are many ways of telling the story of Serbia during the past decade. One of them Is the story of severely abused children, whose fantasies for revenge have been steadily growing and voiced, focusing primarily around two early traumas: sibling rivalry (jealousy; fear of violence and death) and sexual abuse. They were spelled out In two major concerns - - the cradle of life (and glory; which Is Kosovo, the seat of their ancient glory; literally home or placenta) and sexual exploitation or rape.

These two major concerns reemerged In 1981, with the first Albanian riots In Kosovo, which were ruthlessly repressed. The Albanians were seen as rivals, competing for the cradle that belonged to Serbia and nobody else, cradle standing for mother's and father's love, their nurturing care, the threatening possibility of infanticide, asphyxiation, loss of home, hearth, life. This fear was soon articulated In additional way: the Albanians posses an extreme potency, they are breeding at an enormous rate, they are copulating all the time, their own women are not enough, they make advances at our women, too, in fact they are raping them, even little girls and nuns.

The first fear gradually spread out and eventually covered the fantasy world provided by cradle to grave verbal image: the cradle is not only Kosovo, the seat of medieval Serbia, it is not only where the Serbs live, it is, moreover, wherever the Serbs had been buried and their bones laid to rest. Every single piece of such territory is actually Serbia, that is, home; it is not the living that constitute the country, it is the graveyards that delineate its borders and make fighting legitimate.

The search for enemies therefore started with Albanians as the target, moving only much later further on: to Slovenes (for siding with the Albanians or showing some sympathy), and quite late to the Croats, still later to the Moslems of Bosnia. The very painful nature of childhood traumas involved in this were quite obvious to a psychohistorically Inclined observer. Slobodan Milosevic actually became the great leader of Serbs In 1987, when he had a remarkable speech, promising a big rally: "Nobody has the right to beat my people! I promise you to take care of it: nobody will be beaten any more!" This forceful message made him an instant hero, a charismatic leader, a cru-sader who promised to fight back-and his people loved and adored him for it. Within few months, Serbia was literally covered with his pictures, thousands of people chanted his name, greeting him as their savior, promising to follow him to the end of the world. The rest of Yugoslavia was either embarrassed-a communist as a charismatic leader at the end of the eighties! -- or perplexed, then more and more frightened.

In fact, I can think of no better case In contemporary Europe to sub-stantiate Jerrold Atias' study on childhood punishment and adult hypnotizability (60) than what happened between the Serbs and Milosevic' in 1987: the Serbs were waiting for him, they created him and they followed him gratefully and more than voluntarily in a hypnotic trance. it was a perfect example of a two-way hypnotic power, the leader enchanting the people, the people enchanting their leader. It was also a perfect example of a popular hero leading his nation through the birth channel.

Three years later, In December 1990, with communist rule gone all over Eastern Europe, the communist party of Serbia finally agreed to elections (the last one to do so In Eastern Europe, excepting Albania); Milosevic' and his party won, Serbia providing the only such case in Eastern Europe. Their election slogan "No uncertainty with us!" tells a lot about the deprivations of Serbian childhood, where any certainty, however painful and abusive it may be, seems the best way of life. While all over Eastern Europe, in varying degrees, people were voting for change, risk, alternative, with ballots or their feet, in more or less vel-vety revolutions, the Serbs behaved in a way typical for battered children: The communist party as the parent was seen as the only provider of love and care; if love comes mixed with anger, harsh treatment, punishment, battering, It is nevertheless love, security, haven.(61) Two years later, in December 1992, the same pattern was repeated, although by then additional evidence of the abusive nature of this love was available.

One of the most interesting features of Serbian group-fantasies evolving into virtual paranoia of extreme self-pity and victimization, can be seen in their rhetoric, for instance in the use of the term genocide. To de-scribe the contemporary (i.e. not the WW2) fate of the Serbs It was first employed In 1985, when a group of intellectuals (members of the Academy of Science and Arts) wrote a memorandum on the current situation in Yugoslavia and the "economic subjugation" of Serbia by Slovenia and Croatia. The experience of Serbs in Kosovo was described as "physical, political, legal, and cultural genocide. "(62) A few months later the same definition was used in several petitions, letters of protest and public speeches all over Serbia. Although there was no evidence of actual killing going on, let alone loss of life on a major scale, the term was repeated over and over, gradually turning into a virtual obsession, justifying any counter-action. By 1988, there was hardly a Serb to be found unacquainted with this Greek-Latin word, and current events were freely mixed with the Second World War, the 19th century rebellions against the Turks, the Middle Ages, the battle of Kosovo in 1389, as well as the horrors that might yet come, In the near future.(63) This gruesome abuse of a very specific term meaning mostly the destruction of half of Jewish population during the Second World War, the extermination planned by Adolf Hitler, the ultimate crime against humanity, became so wide-spread It finally substituted about a dozen words, evolving into one of the most frequent words in the Serbian rhetoric. By mid-1991, when the current war started, it became the third most frequent word used to describe the Serbian fate in Croatia although Serbia was actually attacking Croatia, while still officially claiming It had nothing to do with wan Foreign diplomats were offered extensive studies on the genocide against the Serbs, a permanent exhibition on genocide opened In Belgrade, half a century old mass graves were opened and so on. The phenomenon included some ridiculous elements, provided, for Instance, by generals claiming the federal army was a victim of genocide In Zagreb: its officers were harassed by the neighbors, their life made difficult and unpleasant, in short, they were made to feel unwelcome in their Zagreb flats.

This development of pseudologia phantastica, or borrowing the mask of Jewish victims on a vast scale, was greatly helped by a handful of Jews from Serbia. They put their weight behind the "Serbian cause", drawing a direct parallel between the fate of Jews and Serbs, proclaiming Serbs one of the most victimized people in the history of humanity, standing alone in the face of the entire threatening world: Vatican plots, German plots, American plots, Croatian plots, all united with a single aim - to wipe out the Serbs. To prove it and to fight against it, an association of Jewish-Serb friendship was established in 1988; its leader (who survived Holocaust as a baby and was brought up In a Serb family In Belgrade) has this to say, using the first person plural for the Jews, the second for the Serbs: Your people have passed through Golgothas, too, through hell, your people know how to fight, know how to survive. I am positive this is the last hell you are meant to pass through. Bear it with dignity. I am simply delighted I have the privilege to live amongst you... You are actually one of the very few peoples on this earth that just does not know how to hate. Your enemies are lucky, the God has not provided you with this ability. You cannot hate even those who caused you evil. Jewish people are not used to being loved either. People work with us, they cooperate with us, they trade with us, but I have never been convinced of any genuine affection or love towards us. With the Serbs, the situation is totally different... So fight and save your nation! The European gangster democracy will never break the Serbs!(65)

This highly emotional collective fantasies of Identification with Jews have an interesting trait: they are used exclusively to express enormous fear and pain, as well as suicidal readiness for self-immolation. The mask of Jewish victims comes dose to necrophilla, as In their love for the Jews the Serbs recognize nothing else but Holocaust or a horrible pile of six million corpses, the only difference being that they will die proudly, In battle. But no amount of victims Is too great, as revealed by a recent state-ment: "There are 12 million Serbs, if half of us should get killed, there will still be 6 million of us left."(66) The other half of the stereotype and the possible use or abuse of Jews has been reserved for some enemies of the Serbs: The Slovenes or the north westerners are greedy, thrifty, money-makers and money-grabbers, blood-suckers, exploiters, who know no shame. These accusations played a major role, due again to the differences In tradition, that is the zadruga type of family which functioned without private property and left a heritage of seeing money as an evil, corrupting agent and commerce as a shameful, humiliating activity.

The extremely regressive way that the Serbian revitalization movement took could be seen, too, quite literally, as much of it was publicly produced, in sequences of mass spectacles; they resembled medieval pilgrimages and gatherings, revealing a massive slide into history. If during the Eighties all over Eastern Europe a popular rediscovery of the national past could be detected - this was one of the major forms of defiance against the communist power - and a lot of it was labeled nationalism, the case of Serbia was a particularly severe example of peopie trapped In time. The country was soon drowning In ancient history, with crowds dressed in folkcostumes, waving medieval flags and similar ancient symbols. The other quite visible feature was a rediscovery of religion, with heavily adorned Eastern Orthodox priests becoming prominent public figures.

And if all over Eastern Europe people proclaimed their boundless love for Europe (meaning the West, democracy etc.), behaving like orphans In search for adoptive mother, the Serbs developed a hostile attitude toward the same Europe or West, turning instead toward Russia. The 19th century romantic movement of Slavophiles was revived, stressing the bonds of blood, brotherhood, common soul, spiritual inclinations, purity of simple life, special destiny, religion, as well as a pronounced ability to fight and stand against the rest of the world. This new family romance provoked a great deterioration of the already tenuous relations between the northwest and the southeast: My God, Big Brother again?!

When actual fighting started, the fear proved well grounded: Russians soon became involved, either as soldiers, fighting for the common cause, or as a growing number of visiting public figures and writers, proclaiming the same with words. The most prominent among them Is Eduard Limonov, who often tours the battlefields, firing a few shots here, a few there, or promising the nuclear weapons to his Serb brothers, if the pro-Western Yeltsin finally falls, as he did on March 16, 1993 in Belgrade.(67) To substantiate his claims, one can quote many ar-ticles In Russian press; thus, an article on "Our men in Belgrade" In Novoe Vremya asked: "Why does not Boris Yeltsin, with so many nuclear bombs at his disposal, do something to help our Orthodox brothers" and answering with a battle cry: "To the weapons, Slavs!"(68)


It has been proposed by Casper Schmidt, in his "Trial Actions" article,(69) that groups go through various distinct stages during their preparation for war, floating fantasies, with a trial action being the most prominent. He defined trial action as "a form of floating a fantasy in which the verbal component of the fantasy is repressed," this mock battle being the safest way of Informing the leader what the group really wants. I would like to offer a comment or some additional thoughts and illustrations. Essentially, my argument is that this is true of the way the more advanced psychoclasses behave; children raised with a modest use of physical force, children permitted to quarrel but not to fight, usually show an Inhibition and repression of aggressive impulses; they learn to try and hide them and express them in all sorts of oblique ways, but are reluctant to display their aggression openly, even verbally. They resort to quite fantastic trial actions and mock battles.

On the other hand, children of much lower psychoclass, beaten, battered and actually taught that violent behaviour is a virtue, do not display such inhibitions. On the contrary, they quite easily express them and are extremely direct and picturesque when doing so. As I am convinced that this Is the case of the Serbs and Montenegrins, I will offer a collection of examples.

As early as 1987-that is, four years before the fighting actually started -- enormous crowds started chanting declarations of war. The message was either simple, "We want arms, give us arms!" or "The battle of Kosovo!" or "We want Russians!" (meaning to help us fight.) They were more elaborate, too, either on soccer stadiums, In pubs or rallies as one of popular rhymes reveals:

Tonight is our night,
Tonight so-and-so is set alight,
Let him roast from left to right
The wretched fuck had no luck.

In 1988 and 1989, old chetnik songs came into vogue, one of them announcing: "We'll drink Croatian blood, send us the salad, we'll take care of the meat (flesh), butchering the Croats."

Or: "Hey, ustashi, never mind, there's a deep pit set aside, For you, one metre wide, And deep one kilometer inside. " (70)

A great number of intellectuals and writers joined the game of war declarations. Thus In September 1988 Vuk Draskovic announced on BBC: "If Europe wants her own Lebanon, she'll have it!" Two months later, Milan Komnenic said to "all Albanian criminals" that "we all know we are at war and that this is not the first undeclared war in which we have found ourselves. But this war is the most brutal of all." He promised Serbs will fight and "we'll burn all Europe, if necessary." And the writers as leaders of the movement of rebirth through war were soon joined even by psychiatrists.(71)

in 1989, a public opinion poll was carried out among the high school students in Belgrade, with several respondent saying that "all Slovenes should be killed." A Montenegrin boy became famous by his public statement: "If the 7th session of the Central committee does not solve all our problems, I will search for freedom on the bombing fields like Bosko Buha" (this being a teenager hero from WW2 resistance). (72)

And the story goes on and on, reaching one of the first climaxes in June 1989, the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the battle of Kosovo, where several speakers, Milosevic among them, announced the approaching war-and the crowd roared with pleasure and approval. As it came nearer, the first paramilitary units started to pose with weapons, knives Included. In winter 1989119901 first saw a photograph of a group of heavily armed men, waving a black flag, with a scull and crossbones. As the urge for war increased dramatically, the threats be-came extremely elaborate and obscene, promising not lust war and death, but endless torments, mutilations, rapes, all of It In garish de-tails. The Americans might not be aware of It, but one of the most fa-mous Serbian painters, who loves to be a poet, too, has written an epic poem in seventy verses on their eventual fate: From their sockets your eyes shall ooze, Gorged as they drip by crows let loose. Backward hence-forth shall turn your toes, And with dogs you shall scramble for bones. Black shroud shall envelop your home, From the itch no scratch shall help you. Your sickle shall cut thorns full of snakes, And icy stone your scythe shall rub. Your girdle shall be the horse's cord, And beggar's cane your main support. Down to the ground your guts shall dangle' Fowl shall peck you up to the waist, From the waist up your flesh worms shall gnaw. Dying on end, unable to die, With your own hands digging your grave. Smitten forever by Negro wrath.(73) When the same man uses oil and brush Instead of words, he loves to paint the scenes of war devas-tation, for Instance the death of Vukovar: "Vukovar was liberated from the Croat Nazis. They were helped by Central European scum. They crawled from under the papal tiara, as a dart of a serpent's tongue that protruded from the bloated Kraut and Euro-communal over-stretched anus. The figures of Genseher, Kohl, van den Broeck, de Michelis, Mock, and Waldheim will help me finish my new painting, The Mocking of Christ, in the manner of Bosch. The title will be augmented into The Mocking of Serbian Christ."(74)

Epic or lyric poems with similar contents have lately developed into the latest artistic craze In Serbia, based mainly on the ancient tradition of magic curses. Some of them are even written by teenage girls, for instance on "Europe the bitch", which strings a long line of curses, concluding:

"Your screams, bitch, will be lonely, no one will hear them because we are heading for the sky to punish God!"{75}

In short: the approaching reality was forecast, with atrocities spelled out in forte fortissimo, spread out In print, and no verbal component repressed, long before they happened. Most of it could be detected in cartoons and similar visual material as well, again in advance, as an avalanche of printed media reveal. But there is a notable exception: sexual abuse or, to be specific, rape.

Let me return to the dominant hi-polarity of Yugoslavia in the mid-Eighties, the northwest - southeast split, meaning mostly Slovenia and Serbia as the most outspoken representatives of the great divide. Slovenia, as I have shown, increasingly behaved like a rebellious adolescent: provocative, nasty, let's raise hell type of behavior. That at least was how an Important part of the opposition behaved: sexual freedom was one of the most prominent ways of showing off, of proving freedom and gaining it at the same time. Among many printed proofs of this phenomenon Is Its self-portrait as Pornoslavia: the heroine of a comic strip, a bi-sexual, more lesbian than heterosexual, prepared for a sadomasochistic orgy and determined to enjoy it. In 1988 she was openly saying: "Rape? Go ahead, the pleasure will be mine. But let's not be mistaken: you'll be sorry!"(76)

Such comic strips, some of them running under the title of "hard-fuckers, were an Important component of the so-called "Slovene spring" or "Slovene syndrome," that Is, its growing opposition against communism and the patriarchal regime of Yugoslavia, the deliberate rocking of the boat. The so-called alternative scene in Slovenia was very strong, closely connected to various artistic movements In the West, and finding enormous satisfaction In being as provocative as hell. It spelled out as clearly as possible: "War is rape - let's enjoy it when it comes. "(77)

When It did come, there was a lot of joy In it, and It offered great sat-isfaction. But there was not a single actual rape! /_\164

The fighting lasted for ten days, It was a very modern affair, and the overt sexual abuse played no part In It. When it was over, it was over, Slovenes were more than satisfied with the result, nobody dreamed of prolonging it by going over the border and fighting for Croats or Bosnians, even less to cross over and have some fun in raping. For the more advanced psychoclass, the chapter was over.

On the other hand, in the printed media in the rest of Yugoslavia there are no cartoons or comic strips with open sexual contents, let alone rapes. And there are no pictures of naked or half naked people at all. (Of course, I am not referring to pornographic magazines, which are numerous and show very explicit pictures.) In fact, I cannot provide any cartoons with women at all. They are lust not there. All political cartoons or article illustrations from Croatia to Bosnia and Montenegro show men and men exclusively: adults, boys, babies, but never women or girls. The situation is the same in either peace or war: women are absent.

And yet, as we are by now painfully aware, women are one of the prime targets of the current war, be it Bosnia or Croatia. No reliable figures are available) but there arc firm reasons to believe that thousands of women, of all ages, have been raped so far. Yet none of it can be seen in nonverbal communication.

On the other hand, the trial action, as well as the actual, very real actions, have been full of direct, non-repressed verbal threats of just that: We shall rape, we want to rape! As early as 1986, a man proclaimed In a public gathering In Belgrade: "Let them (the Albanians) rape our women, we shall rape, too!"(78) In 1988, there were already large crowds shouting: "We'll fuck so-and-so!" (names provided) and using various four letter words in public speeches, in connection with specific names, some of them drowning in obscenities. And they more than fulfilled their promises.

What accounts for this intriguing pattern? The reason can probably be found In a fairly early mode of childhood, where children are largely brought up by women, men being high above the job. Women are the sole source of love and care, but at the same time children, particularly boys, are prodded and taught to despise them. The conflicting feelings of love and hate towards women in general, love for the affection received, resentment for the affection not received and hate for the abuse suffered in the process, all seem to accumulate, waiting for an outburst of revenge. Or the reason may be hidden In an enormously high incidence of direct sexual abuse of children, who just cannot bring themselves to touch the subject, unless it is expressed In a socially accepted, unthreatening way of swearing and shouting obscenities.

Let me conclude with an observation on "ethnic cleaning" All such expressions, not to mention the reality they cover, are revolting, but this one is inappropriate, too, in fact as misleading as it can be. it has nothing whatsoever to do with the concept of cleanliness, which implies order, discipline, punctuality. On the contrary, it is sheer tenor on a vast scale, messy, dirty, drunk, random, berserk. And there is no plan behind it, no vision of a structured, orderly, rational eventual life. The wish behind it is very simple: Let's huddle together, brothers, and let's butcher as many of those who do not deserve to be our brothers any more, before they butcher us. Let's inflict our childhood traumas upon others, rather than work it through in our new freedom. And let's enjoy the messy carnage!

As a shocked observed put it: "There is a repulsive Serbocroat proverb about a cretin sexually abusing the deaf-mute. I think about it often."(79)

In fact, if, as deMause has said, wars are flashbacks to abusive childrearing practices, the one in Bosnia offers a perfect example: chaotic, torturous childhoods turned into chaotic, torturous war.

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