Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Urban & Rural Culture

I'm trying to learn more about Bosnia, and by extension, the Balkan region, beyond just focusing strictly on human rights, the war, war crime tribunals etc. Although, obviously, those issues are very important and very much a part of the national psyche as well.

In my readings, from various books and online sources, one theme that I've noticed is the antagonism between urbanites and those who live in the rural areas.
One book I read (and it was quite a long time ago, so I don't remember the title) stated that people in the urban areas tended to blame people in the rural areas for the war, and felt that they (the city dwellers) were more sophisticated and tolerant; while the country dwellers were more backwards and nationalistic.
On the flipside, people in the rural areas, many of whom were driven from their homes/livelyhoods during the period of ethnic cleansing; felt the urbanites were cowards, and that they didn't suffer to the extent that the people who lived in the countryside did.


From those of you who have lived/visited the region, how true (just based on your own experience) is that assesment?
What are the primary differences between the urban and rural culture in Bosnia?
Is there a gap between the urban and rural and if so, how wide is that gap?
Did the war do anything to lessen or widen the gap between members of the same ethnic group, who came from different socio-economic backgrounds?
How do the inflex of refugees from traditional/conservative areas in Eastern Bosnia, into more liberal and urban centers of Sarajevo and Tuzla effect the relationship between urban and rural?

(I know these questions sound eerily like the ones you would expect on a school essay, but I'm really interested in social issues, class issues and gender issues. So, any insight would be appreciated.)

5 comments:

Daniel said...

Hi Shaina,

You stated: "One book I read (and it was quite a long time ago, so I don't remember the title) stated that people in the urban areas tended to blame people in the rural areas for the war, and felt that they (the city dwellers) were more sophisticated and tolerant; while the country dwellers were more backwards and nationalistic.
On the flipside, people in the rural areas, many of whom were driven from their homes/livelyhoods during the period of ethnic cleansing; felt the urbanites were cowards, and that they didn't suffer to the extent that the people who lived in the countryside did."

That statement is very true. From what I can read on Bosnian forums and media, for example, people in Sarajevo dislike Bosniaks from Sanjak region of Serbia, which is totally wrong. In fact, as one forum participant pointed out, people who were born in Sarajevo consider themselves "true Sarajevans" and dislike everybody else. And as you can imagine, after war, many refugees from other parts of Bosnia came to live in Sarajevo, not by choice, but by necessity, they had nowhere else to go.

"What are the primary differences between the urban and rural culture in Bosnia?"

Primary differences are that rural culture is much more religious and obviously conservative, and places importance on traditions and ways of life that are inconsistent with more liberal, or even multi-cultural values. In rural areas, mixed marriages were always "no-no", while in urban areas mixed marriages are popular even today, especially in Federation. I mean, if you fall in love with someone it's difficult to say "NO" just because someone is of other ethnic or religious or whatever background.

"Is there a gap between the urban and rural and if so, how wide is that gap?"

There is a big gap between urban and rural areas both in economic opportunities, as well as other access to basic services, such as medical centres etc.

"Did the war do anything to lessen or widen the gap between members of the same ethnic group, who came from different socio-economic backgrounds?"

I think, and I can't go wrong here, that the war only widened the gaps between members of the same ethnic group who came from different socio-economic background. And I will tell you why. At the beginning of the war, many people refused to carry the guns and they sought refugee statuses in western countries. So now, you have Bosniak soldiers for example who defended unity of Bosnia and suffered greatly, and you have many other Bosniaks who refused to participate in defense and instead enjoyed their lives in Germany and other western countries while their countrymen suffered defending Bosnia. So after war, these Bosniaks (or "deserters") came back got immunity from prosecution, but the difference is: those who stayed to defend the country either lost their limbs, died, or survived with deep mental traumas and empty wallets; while those who "deserted" country came back healthy, with wallets full of foreign currency, and usually expensive cars. So, the gap has been widened greatly, and even people from same ethnic group have dislike toward these "immigrant/emmigrant" Bosnians.

"How do the inflex of refugees from traditional/conservative areas in Eastern Bosnia, into more liberal and urban centers of Sarajevo and Tuzla effect the relationship between urban and rural?"

Well, I have heard all kind of stories, for example, there were cases were liberal (non-religious) Bosniaks in Sarajevo verbally attacked Bosniak Muslim women who were wearing traditional conservative Muslim clothing. There were cases where Bosniak politicians in Sarajevo called conservative thinkers "sick" just because they don't believe that gay sex is healthy and natural. Among Bosniaks, there is a deep dislike of things they consider to be backward, for example, youth in Sarajevo and Mostar is quick to accept homosexuality as something normal, just because they see that stuff tolerated in Hollywood movies. They don't understand that even in the United States, most of Americans would disaprove gay marriage.

But just for the record and this is off topic - I strongly support gay marriage and strongly believe that homosexualism is natural and healthy and there is nothing wrong with it.

Shaina said...

Dan;

thanks for your very detailed reply.

btw: I agree with your position on gay marriage etc.

Shaina said...

BTW: have you ever seen, or heard of the film "Go West"

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