Božo Skoko

PhD Božo Skoko

Božo Skoko is an full professor at the Faculty of Political Science of the University of Zagreb, where he is head of the Public Relations postgraduate study. His scientific interests are: public relations and communications, international relations, national identity and image, as well as media. He is the co-founder of Millenium promocija, the leading Croatian public relations agency. He is a long-time strategic communications consultant. He is a former journalist and editor with Croatian Television. He is the author of seven books and over seventy scientific papers on public relations, the media and managing the identity and image of Croatia. He is a columnist with the daily newspaper Večernji list.
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Who is responsible for the wars in the areas of the former Yugoslavia?

Results of the comprehensive study

When the subject in question is "searching for the culprit" for the wars in areas of the former Yugoslavia, there is the greatest consensus in Slovenia and Croatia. In the other countries, accountability is distributed over many actors. Nevertheless, the highest level of agreement in all countries exists for Slobodan Milošević as the person most responsible for suffering in the Balkans.

As part of this year's Croatian Political Science Annual Meeting (CPSAM), which was held on November 6 and 7at the Faculty of Political Science of the University of Zagreb, Božo Skoko PhD made public part of the results of a comprehensive field study on a sample of 6087 respondents, which he conducted on the topic of international perception of countries formed in the area of the former Yugoslavia, nearly two decades after the disintegration of Yugoslavia and nearly ten years after the end of conflicts. Among other topics, the author researched public opinion in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia, Macedonia, Slovenia and Serbia on responsibility for wars in our part of the world, after the passing of a certain period of time and numerous war crimes trials.

It is a fact that the consequences of war still represent a burden in the relations among the countries of the former Yugoslavia. Some people have made this a taboo subject, while others have turned it into an insurmountable obstacle in relations toward certain other countries. Has the time come to "remove doubts about the past" or does everyone still have their own version of the truth?

According to the results of the study, the responsibility for the wars in the areas of the former Yugoslavia is somewhat divided, given the views in each country. Nonetheless, some of the main actors impose themselves: politicians of the former Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milošević, the Serbs and the international community. Observed as a whole, the nations of the former Yugoslavia hold accountable all of the politicians of the former Yugoslavia. Positioned second according to responsibility is Slobodan Milošević, followed by the Serbs and the international community. Nevertheless, accountability is distributed differently in each country, with several other actors considered responsible in high percentages.

Serbia and Montenegro, which participated on the same side in the wars, understandably had the same view of accountability, with the difference that Montenegrin respondents emphasized the accountability of Slobodan Milošević (25%), while the Serbs stated the international community (36%). Furthermore, significant accountability was placed on Croatia's president at the time, Franjo Tuđman (21% in both countries), and (somewhat less) to the president of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H), Alija Izetbegović (15% and 16%). It is interesting to note that a surprising 18% of Serbs hold Slobodan Milošević responsible. Additionally, respondents from both countries also justify the war by the circumstances in place at the time (14% in Serbia and 11% in Montenegro). It is interesting that 9% of Montenegrin respondents put the blame on the Serbs as a nation, while 4% of Serbs hold themselves responsible.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, which suffered the most in the wars and which is home to three nations, the bulk of responsibility is placed on the Serbs as a nation (37%) and Slobodan Milošević (34%). After this, nearly an equal number put the blame on the international community (28%) and the politicians at the time in all countries (26%). In fifth place according to responsibility is Croatian President Franjo Tuđman (23%). It is interesting that a surprising 15% of B&H respondents place blame on their first President, Alija Izetbegović. In B&H, the JNA (Yugoslav Army) (11%) appears as 'culprit' to a much larger extent than in other countries.
Slovenians are the clearest about their stances and, according to their answers, differ somewhat from the other nations. However, they are most similar to Croatians. For them, just as in Croatia, there is significant consensus on the subject that those most responsible for the wars in the area of the former Yugoslavia are the Serbs (31%) and Slobodan Milošević (28%). The remaining categories are somewhat negligible compared to those previously mentioned. Namely, only 10% of respondents place blame on all politicians equally.

The situation is similar in Croatia, where an astounding 54% of respondents consider the Serbs responsible, and 28% Slobodan Milošević. Just like the Slovenians, Croatians do not place responsibility on all politicians equally nor do they believe in chance. It is interesting that 11% of Croatian respondents place responsibility on former Croatian President Tuđman.
In Macedonia, blame is laid upon Yugoslav politicians equally (38%), followed by Slobodan Milošević (29%) and Serbs (25%). As opposed to the other nations, Macedonians also include Albanians (13%) as the guilty party.

Only about one tenth of respondents in all countries (with the exception of Serbia, where that figure is somewhat higher – 15%) place the blame on Croatians. On the basis of the positions of respondents in all countries, except Slovenia, the accountability of Croatian President Tuđman is somewhat higher (an average of 17%). In Slovenia, only 7% of respondents are of this opinion.
Slobodan Milošević is the person held most responsible for the wars in the area of the former Yugoslavia, even in his own country (18% of Serb respondents are of this opinion). When the matter in question is collective guilt, B&H respondents in the highest number (37%) blame the Serbs, followed in somewhat smaller measure by Slovenians (31%). A fourth of Macedonians also place responsibility on their neighbors, while Montenegrins for the most part absolve them of blame (with only 9% condemning them).

Therefore, besides in Slovenia and Croatia, where there is substantial consensus on accountability, in other countries of the former Yugoslavia, accountability is distributed over various actors. Opinions on the war are still formed depending on personal interests and views on the recent past, although there is significant agreement in all countries concerning Slobodan Milošević. There is lesser consensus, due to Slovenia's and Croatia's disagreement, concerning his colleagues at the time, and even less concerning the negative role of the international community and the Serbs as a nation.