Despite its significance in European history, the Yugoslavian wars and the subsequent formation of the independent nations is severely overlooked and misinformed in Western culture. Perhaps due to the historic ties with the Soviet states, our understanding of the history is limited. Personally I was never taught about it in school, and I heard even less about it on the news; looking back at the media coverage of the time and considering my somewhat renewed understanding, I’ve started to deduce the possibility that the Western World’s depictions of the Yugoslav crisis were framed in such a way that the violence and international tensions surrounding the conflict were larger than the countries themselves, effectively presenting the people’s struggle as a spectacle for the rest of the world to observe.
This transcending idea of war and violence has, in American culture especially, become a source of distraction and entertainment, with Hollywood directors and game designers casting this faceless, vague, Eastern-European identity as a war-mongering antagonist, the cultural industries gain a new genre to export. Taking for example the 2001 ‘Behind Enemy Lines’ blockbuster, which featured the Yugoslavian crisis as a violent, albeit subdued background in which an all-American protagonist can be the hero.
Beyond that comes the recycling of the East-Block identities in video-games that simulate ‘Modern Warfare’. One of the most poignant titles would be Criterion’s 2006 release ‘Black’. Again, Yugoslavia is constructed as a drab, repetitive playground for the western gamer to indiscriminately commit their own war atrocities without consequence, destroying buildings and murdering countless faceless enemies.
I intend to explore this institutional fascination with Yugoslavian representations further, and will be incorporating similar examples in future posts.