Balkan Consulate

Defining the Balkans

The standard reaction of a Slovene (I am one myself) is to say: "yes, this is how it is in the Balkans, but Slovenia is not part of the Balkans; it is part of Mitteleuropa; the Balkans begin in Croatia or in Bosnia; we Slovenes are the last bulwark of European civilisation against the Balkan madness." If you ask, "Where do the Balkans begin?" you will always be told that they begin down there, towards the south-east.

For Serbs, they begin in Kosovo or in Bosnia where Serbia is trying to defend civilised Christian Europe against the encroachments of this "Other". For the Croats, the Balkans begin in Orthodox, despotic and Byzantine Serbia, against which Croatia safeguards Western democratic values. For many Italians and Austrians, they begin in Slovenia, the Western outpost of the Slavic hordes. For many Germans, Austria is tainted with Balkan corruption and inefficiency; for many Northern Germans, Catholic Bavaria is not free of Balkan contamination. Many arrogant Frenchmen associate Germany with Eastern Balkan brutality – it lacks French finesse. Finally, to some British opponents of the European Union, Continental Europe is a new version of the Turkish Empire with Brussels as the new Istanbul – a voracious despotism threatening British freedom and sovereignty.

Hence, the Balkans are always the Other, being located somewhere else, always a little farther south-east, and in this context you also find the paradox that in the southern part of the Balkan peninsula we miraculously evaded the Balkans (since Greece no longer really belongs to them, but instead represents the cradle of Western civilization).

("You May!" Slavoj Žižek writes about the Post Modern Superego, Berlin 1999.)