One decade ago, Igor Duda, Lada Duraković, Boris Koroman, and Andrea Matošević, historians and faculty members at the Juraj Dobrila University in Pula, established the Centre for Cultural and Historical Research of Socialism (Centar za kulturološka i povijesna istraživanja socijalizma, CKPIS), which has become one of the key centers for organizing projects, conferences, and publications on the history of Socialist Yugoslavia. In a research field that suffers from nationalist and anti-communist biases in a post-Yugoslav space, the interdisciplinary and international approach cultivated at CKPIS has provided a much-needed impetus for new, critical research on Yugoslav state socialism as well as a space for the gathering and collaboration of scholars within and beyond the so-called “region.”
One of CKPIS’s recent publications is the volume Continuities and Innovations: Proceedings from the Fourth International Scientific Conference Socialism on the Bench, Pula, September 26-28, 2019 (Kontinuiteti i inovacije: Zbornik odabranih radova s Četvrtog međunarodnog znanstvenog skupa Socijalizam na klupi, Pula, 26-28. rujna 2019.), edited by Anita Buhin and Tina Filipović, which brings together 10 papers selected from CKPIS’s fourth biannual conference, Socialism on the Bench (Socijalizam na klupi). As its title suggests, the volume traces the trajectories of various processes and phenomena before, during, and after the Yugoslav state socialist period with the goal of offering fresh perspectives on (Yugoslav) socialism. The chapters are organized into groups that focus on social, political, and cultural history and memory studies and encompass a timeframe from the interwar monarchy to the establishment of nation-states following the Yugoslav wars, thereby showcasing the fruitfulness of adopting different temporal and topical approaches when analyzing Yugoslav history. The geographical coverage is unfortunately limited to modern Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia, and Serbia, but, importantly, the authors reflect on this drawback, explaining that it is the result of a lack of scholarly interest in the topic in specific countries as well as limitations on academic networking in a post-Yugoslav space.
Although the strength of conceptualizations and persuasiveness of arguments vary among individual chapters, altogether the volume succeeds in presenting interesting insights on Yugoslav state socialism by variously utilizing (dis)continuities as temporal and conceptual categories. In the social-historical section, Nikola Baković’s chapter on institutionalized forms of Yugoslav youth tourism and Lea Horvat’s contribution on the scientific and educational formation of households and home management courses compellingly show the material and discursive transformations of long-lasting national and social projects from the interwar to the socialist period through their embeddedness in respective political and ideological contexts. Goran Krnić and Marko Zubak open prospective research avenues by providing a detailed literature review on (post-)Yugoslav basketball as a social and cultural-historical phenomenon and marker of national and urban identity.
The chapters dealing with political history approach “the political” in a variety of manners—by narrowly concentrating on Party history and Yugoslav political economy, or by broadly exploring the politics of the Yugoslav written word with a focus on historiography, local media, and publishing houses. Dejan Segić’s lively analysis of Party cadres’ unending struggles with religious traditionalism and chauvinism in a southeast Bosnian county zooms in on the local mechanics of decentralized Yugoslav governing structures, while Dimitrije Brač’s comparison of the concepts of “socialism” and “transitional period” in Soviet and Yugoslav political economy textbooks contributes to forming a broader picture of Marxist political and economic thought in both regimes.
“The local” is also present in Oszkár Roginer’s detailed description of a century of change in Hungarian local minority press distributed in Yugoslavia at the county level. Roginer’s contribution reflects the dynamics at work in the community’s institutional activities and tastes in relation to shifting administrative and political circumstances. The politics of publishing is dealt with differently by Anne Madelain, who, despite the scarcity of sources, makes a convincing argument for continuity between Yugoslav and post-Yugoslav publishing that, thanks to pre-established professional and intellectual networks, enabled publishers to continue working after the Yugoslav collapse. The chapters with a temporal scope beyond the 1990s consider the structure and significance of (dis)continuities between the socialist and post-socialist periods and contribute to the history of transition by showing the complex aftermath of Yugoslavia. By offering insight into representations of the breakdown of Yugoslavian and European state socialism in overviews of Croatian national history published in the 1990s and 2000s, Dora Kosorčić shows how the position of Yugoslavia in contemporary Croatian historiography—marked by overt reprobation, methodological nationalism, and a lack of broader contextualization and embeddedness in international scholarship—both reflects and contributes to the dominant memory politics on these topics.
The volume concludes with a section devoted to the politics of memory, with a focus on Serbia after the 1990s. Jelena Đureinović reveals the complex transformations of official memory politics in Serbia from the late socialist to the post-socialist period by showing how Slobodan Milošević’s paradoxical simultaneous affirmation of Socialist Yugoslavia, its partisan movement, and Serbian nationalism was replaced by the political opposition’s support for anti-communist attitudes and rehabilitation of Draža Mihailović and the chetnik movement. Attitudes towards communism and the nationalization of memory of Yugoslavia and the Second World War are also dealt with by Tamara Petrović Trifunović and Ivana Spasić, whose chapter discusses the results of a survey that they conducted in 2019 of nearly 900 students at the University of Belgrade on their perceptions of Yugoslavia and the partisan movement. Although their research shows that the young students have a positive attitude towards Yugoslavia, this specific instance of Yugonostalgia is, as the authors argue, devoid of aspects of self-management and multiethnicity and is instead colored with Serbian nationalism that befits a post-socialist context.
Touching upon a variety of topics, this volume showcases the potential for utilizing (dis)continuities as conceptual tools when asking questions about Yugoslav state socialism that push beyond the expected temporal frame. In the future, similar volumes could benefit from including case studies from comparatively under-researched or less visible Yugoslav communities as well as from applying comparative and transnational perspectives. Nevertheless, CKPIS’s publication contributes importantly to contemporary scholarship in regional languages and moves beyond the toxic confines of nationalist and anti-communist historiography. An important step in this process is bringing together researchers from different regional and international academic communities, which CKPIS has been successfully doing for the past 10 years and will hopefully continue to do in the future.