Croatia and its neighborsAs Croatia is experienced in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia, Serbia and Slovenia. The book was published by AGM, Co-Publisher Novelti millenium.
Božo Skoko: Croatia and Its Neighbors – How is Croatia perceived in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia, Slovenia and Serbia, AGM and Novelti Millenium, Zagreb, 2010, 196 pages, paperback
Reviewers: Nenad Brkić PhD, Ivan Šiber PhD, Dejan Verčič PhD
Editor: Grozdana Cvitan
The book "Croatia and Its Neighbors" is concerned with the mutual relations of the countries that were formed after the disintegration of Yugoslavia, and researches in a scholarly manner the image of Croatia in the region.
Is Croatia really the regional leader? How is Croatia perceived by its neighbors and on what basis do they build their perceptions? How have the wars burdened the image of Croatia in Serbia? In what country is Croatia most popular? What are Croatia's most significant "export" values? How is Croatia perceived by citizens whose last visit to our country was in the 1980s, and those who were born during the war? What historical stereotypes about Croatians are still present in public opinion, and which were "launched" by the war? Who do individual nations consider responsible for all of the evil that occurred in the 1990s? Why are the Adriatic Sea and the Croatian coast the largest magnet for all nations from the area of the former Yugoslavia? Who do Macedonians, Serbians, Slovenians, Montenegrins, as wells as Bosnians and Herzegovinians have the most faith in when talking about Croatia, and what do they know about our historical greats and about Croatia's efforts related to full membership in the European Union? How do the media of the region report about Croatia, and how does their picture of Croatia differ from the public opinion of citizens in those countries? These are only some of the questions to which this book, in a systematic and analytical manner, with numerous arguments, provides answers.
The author has conducted two highly complex studies - an extensive field study of public opinion, literally from "Vardar to Triglav", as well as an analysis of media reporting about Croatia in six countries formed after the disintegration of Yugoslavia. This is also the largest such study ever conducted in our part of the world and its most attractive and most important results were published in the book. Bearing witness that the book is coming at the right moment is the fact that ten years have passed since the end of all conflicts in the area of the former country, as well as twenty years since the disintegration of Yugoslavia and the start of the independent roads of the former republics.
This book provides a clear picture of what kind of impact the disintegration of Yugoslavia, Serbian aggression, the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the defensive war in Croatia left on mutual perceptions, that is, with what kind of prejudices and heritage are we stepping into the future. The book is concerned with the countries with which, until recently, we shared the challenges of living together within the framework of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Today, these countries represent significant export markets, tourist-generating areas, as well as significant political and economic partners, with which we will, given geographical conditions, share our future in this part of the world, within the European Union or independently from it.
The image of Croatia in the world is a topic receiving growing attention, however, there are few academic papers that deal with this issue. The image of Croatia in the region, that is, in the countries of the former Yugoslavia is a topic that has not been covered whatsoever to date. Contrary to the lack of academic interest for this issue, the opinion of Croatia's neighbors about the Republic of Croatia is becoming increasingly important on its road toward full membership in the European Union, during which it is attempting to take on the role of leader, as well as spread its political and economic influence in the region.
The book is divided into two sections. Analyzed in the first are the relations between Croatia and its neighboring countries through a social and historical context. The author takes us through the history of Croatia's "joining" Yugoslavia, the advantages and disadvantages of life together, Croatia's road to independence, as well as the war and post-war period. The author particularly analyzes the political and economic cooperation of Croatia with the countries of the region, as well as familiarizes us with the highs and lows of mutual relations. Of particular value is the systematic overview of studies published to date on the image of Croatia and Croatians in countries of the region, as well as a study on the root of "historical" stereotypes Serbians have about Croatians in the texts of Serbian intellectuals throughout history.
The other large section presents the results of the studies, along with their interpretation written in a popular and understandable style. The final chapter deals with the possibilities of the regional branding of Croatia and Croatia's missed opportunities to assert itself as regional leader.
The results presented by this exceptional book reveal the huge potential, as well as obstacles in mutual relations, and point to the possibility of strengthening those relations, and enhancing the management of Croatia's image in the region. Benefit from this study is gained not only by the political actors, but also by other interest groups, especially businesspersons, to which the region represents an attractive market. Citizens on the other hand with this book gain interesting content (read at one sitting) about how "they see us and the reasons why".
Excerpt from review by Ivan Šiber PhD
When talking about the relations among countries, the first topics that usually come to mind are political and economic relations, the conflicts and agreements among the political elite are analyzed, and the benefits and damage to an individual side are examined. In doing so, it is often forgotten that a significant role is played in all of this by the public in these countries, as well as media as mediators among the elite, social reality and public.
The image of a particular country, as a 'soft' variable of international relations deeply rooted in the conscience of people, is something that often settles for centuries throughout history and is transferred from one generation to the next as a part of the social heritage.
The nations in this part of the world, which, not so long ago, shared a common state, went through periods of conflict at times on the same side and at others on opposite sides. Today, when the direct conflicts are behind us, when the traumas from the recent conflicts are being healed, when there is an urgent need for mutual cooperation, when the nations in this part of the world are once again faced with the need for international acceptance, when there is an increase in the trade of goods and services, when borders are being opened for ideas and individuals, it is extremely important for us not only to get acquainted with each other 'once again', but also to try to understand how others perceive us and why they see us the way they do. Božo Skoko's book is specifically directed towards these issues, which have been ignored up till now.
What do others see in us, what do they respect, and what are they afraid of, what are Croatia's comparative advantages and what are its insufficiencies? It is extremely important to find out the answers to these and similar questions if we want to improve cooperation with others, to present ourselves in the best light, to find those contents according to which we are recognizable and to build a positive image based on them.
This book is a successful combination of serious academic work and innovative methodology, written in a readable, in a certain way, journalistic style, which enables the communication of contents to a wider circle of potential readers.
The study in question is not directed exclusively to scientific knowledge, but also includes in itself the possibility of direct application in various areas from economics and tourism, to sports, entertainment and free time. In short, if we want to cooperate with others, we must not only get to know them better, but also understand what they think about us and why. This book by Božo Skoko is a significant contribution to this understanding.
Ivan Šiber PhD
Excerpts from the book
The most common associations linked to Croatia in all countries are related to the Adriatic Sea, the coast and holidays, and at the same time tourist visits still remain the main reason for visiting Croatia for all countries of the former Yugoslavia, with the exception of Serbia.
The image of Croatia in Serbia is still burdened with war events and stereotypes from the past, and it is through this prism that the current political and economic position of Croatia is observed, and the relation of citizens toward Croatia is formed. Such a situation is also more prevalent in Montenegro, as well as partially in Bosnia and Herzegovina. However, in all countries, even in Serbia, Croatia's economic development and the successes of the country's foreign policy have been perceived.
The citizens of neighboring countries "marvel" at Croatia in regards to its natural resources (sea, coast and islands), as well as perceive it as an advanced country in terms of standard and quality of living, economic development and reputation throughout the world. In the entire region it is perceived as the most favorable tourist destination, and in a significant number of categories, it is perceived as the most advanced former Yugoslav republic, after Slovenia. However, not all of Croatia's advantages and values are sufficiently perceived. Namely, apart from tourism, also noticed are natural resources, economic development, architecture, culture, sporting successes, music and entertainment events. However, insufficiently perceived are Croatian products and companies, Croatia's historical greats, gastronomy, democratic standards, safety and efforts related to progress towards full membership in the European Union...
There are differences in the image of Croatia from the perspective of citizens and the media. Namely, citizens perceive much more of Croatia's characteristics and advantages, as well as much more thoroughly examine Croatia, while the media are focused on a narrow circle of topics and perceive Croatia through a limited number of categories. Additionally, in the method of reporting, Croatia is not depicted in the same manner as seen by the citizens of those countries.
The study has confirmed that visits to Croatia and personal experiences of citizens are linked to positive opinions about Croatia. Also, it is obvious that respondents who spent time in Croatia before the war base their picture of Croatia on those feelings and on media reports, while respondents who have experienced Croatia in the past decade can much more complexly and comprehensively consider life in Croatia and draw much more realistic comparisons with their home countries. As a consequence, among the citizens of those countries, we have the appearance of at least three Croatias - Croatia in Yugoslavia, war-time Croatia and European Croatia. The exception is Slovenia, whose citizens have continuously visited Croatia, and more of them spent time here after the war than in the former Yugoslavia.