Reciprocity or Symmetry? A Comparison of Cultural Interests and Possibilities of Two Minorities
The paper summarises a comparison of the cultural interests and possibilities of the Slovene national minority in Bosnia and Herzegovina and one the largest ethnic minorities in Slovenia, the Bosniaks. The article is a result of empirical research which included a survey of Slovene cultural societies in the countries of the former Yugoslavia, interviews with teachers of Slovene language and culture in these countries, and interviews with the secretary of the Bosniak Association of Slovenia and the president of the Association of Slovenian Societies in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The author combines a qualitative assessment and interpretation of the fieldwork results with a statistical comparison of certain demographic aspects and the degree of self-organisation of the minorities in question.
KEY WORDS: Slovenes in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bosniaks in Slovenia, minority status, cultural activities, collective rights
RECIPROCITY OR SYMMETRY? A COMPARISON OF THE CULTURAL INTERESTS AND POSSIBILITIES OF TWO MINORITIES
Janja ŽITNIK SERAFIN
The article comprises a comparison between the Bosniak minority in Slovenia and the Slovenian minority in Bosnia and Herzegovina, their organizational patterns, cultural production within their ethnic cultural societies and associations, and their access to various financial resources including those necessary for (co)organising lessons or courses on their mother tongues. The comparison is based on extensive fieldwork carried out between 2012 and 2014: a survey carried out among the Slovenian cultural societies in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and a number of interviews, of which two were particularly relevant for this paper: with the Secretary and Projects Leader of the Bosniak Association of Slovenia, Admir Baltić, and with the Chair of the Association of Slovenian Societies in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Darko Mijatović.
As Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina were parts of the same state for such a long time – first in Austria-Hungary, then in the Yugoslav kingdom and finally in socialist Yugoslavia, it is not surprising that there are more similarities than differences between their minorities living in the other country – despite the fact that in both cases we are talking about national, linguistic and religious minorities, which means that they both differ from the majority society at least in terms of three different parameters.
The main parallels between the cultural societies and associations of these two minorities are: 1) the time of the formation of the present cultural societies (1st wave: 1992–95, 2nd wave: in the new millennium); 2) the same number of member societies in both associations (nine in each); 3) the same role and purpose of the associations; 4) the same number of annual projects in both associations; 5) the same organization patterns of the societies; 6) the same forms and ways in which they maintain their cultural traditions and mother tongue.
There are two main differences between the Slovenian minority in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Bosniak minority in Slovenia. In 2003, the Slovenians in Bosnia and Herzegovina obtained the status of a national minority whereas the Bosniaks in Slovenia are still striving for the acknowledgement of such status. On the other hand, Slovenia’s support for the Slovenian minority in Bosnia and Herzegovina has been much more substantial than the support of Bosnia and Herzegovina for the Bosniak minority in Slovenia. I believe Slovenia should acknowledge the minority status of members of the nations of the former Yugoslavia in Slovenia, including the Bosniaks, and Bosnia and Herzegovina should – at least to a very modest degree – comply with the existing bilateral agreement with Slovenia on the reciprocal funding of each minority’s mother tongue classes in the other country. It will probably take a considerable period of time before these goals can be reached; but as first steps in this direction were made many years ago, it is time for some further steps now.
Text is published on SLO pages.