Building Open Society in the Western Balkans, 1991–2011

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"It is not possible to return to childhood and youth. I cannot resurrect my father or my brother, nor can I go back to a country that does not exist, and not even entirely to that in which I still live. And yet, it all exists, because it is a part of my present identity..."
—Slavenka Drakulić, Sarajevo Notebooks, No. 13, 2006

In June 1991, George Soros founded the Soros Yugoslavia Foundation to undertake reforms in all of the country’s republics. In the following months and years, fighting between various forces in the region increased and the international community expanded its presence to assist civilians and stop war crimes. The Open Society Foundations established foundations in country after country emerging from the violent breakup of Yugoslavia. Twenty years later, as this report shows, there has been progress in strengthening democracy and open society values in the region, but there is still a long way to go.

Building Open Society in the Western Balkans, 1991-2011 documents two decades in the life and times of the region, with an historical overview and foundation activities, and assesses the situation in the crucial areas of humanitarian assistance, citizenship rights, responsibility for war crimes, arts and culture, the international presence, media, and education. The report includes an introduction by George Soros, reminiscences by Open Society scholars Tea Alagić (now a theater director) and Ivan Barbalić (Bosnia and Herzegovina's representative to the UN), excerpts from the magazine Sarajevo Notebooks, and the following essays:

  • "Humanitarian Assistance: Keeping the Balkans Alive," by Aryeh Neier
  • "Never Again: Judgments on a Decade of Bestiality," by Mirko Klarin
  • "Still Waiting: The 'Erased' People of Slovenia," by Neža Kogovšek Šalamon
  • "Sarajevo Notebooks Story: A Need to Talk to Each Other," by Vojka Smiljanić-Djikić
  • "Turning the Power of Art Against Fear and Hatred," by Milena Dragićević-Šešić
  • "Reviving Creativity After the War," by Dunja Blažević
  • "The Aid Dilemma: Lessons (Not) Learned in Bosnia and Herzegovina," by Žarko Papić
  • "News Update: Media Support Still Needed," by Brankica Petković
  • "Education Efforts—and Our Impact—in the Former Yugoslavia," by Terrice Bassler