The book, which discusses the formation of the idea of Yugoslavia among Anglosaxon circles, is the most important work on the topic and was penned by Australian Croatian and historian Vesna Drapač.
The book by this Australian Croatian, who earned her doctorate at Oxford, published in 2010, discusses the creation of the idea of Yugoslavia among Anglosaxon circles, said Professor Danijel Džino DSc, noting that an autochthonous discourse on Yugoslavism emerged from the ruins of the Illyrian movement, i.e. the Croatian National Revival, but that the first Yugoslav state did not emerge from this discourse, but was formed rather by external observers.
“Constructing Yugoslavia is a book that destroys the myths on which our social life was largely based and is the most significant book about Yugoslavia to emerge from Australia,” said Mladen Ančić DSc, a professor at the University of Zadar.
The book is also based on the research of travelogues and documents recorded in the 19th century by the first travellers and travel writers from English high society, who visited Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina and, on the basis of these travels, recorded their vision of the local population through the lens of sociological-Darwinism, observed professor Džino.
The idea of Yugoslavism and the creation of Yugoslavia was largely formulated abroad. Yugoslavia is the outcome of opportunistic forces, not the will of the people, the nation or a lobbying effort, and power centres in the British Empire formed the seeds of the formation of the discourse of the idea of Yugoslavia, concluded professor Džino of Australia’s Macquarie University.
University of Zadar professor of history Ančić noted that the book Constructing Yugoslavia was one of the best, if not the best, book on Yugoslavia he has ever read and added that we, when writing from within its former borders, cannot perceive or describe it as well as Drapač has from her transnational position. “It is critical that we regard the history of Yugoslavia in the European context,” said Ančić, adding that this brilliant book has been received in the world by an interesting perception – with silence and ignorance, because it offers an unappetising illustration of how an experiment was conducted in one part of the world.
This book, which “clears the fog of Yugoslav history,” must be translated into Croatian, said diplomat Mladen Ibler DSc, adding that many years of brainwashing continue to have there effect in present-day Croatia.
Historian Ivo Lučić DSc noted that eminent historian Drapač in her valuable, excellent and much-needed book, writing of the history of Yugoslavia, could not and did not limit herself only to domestic protagonists, but also treated the equally or even more significant transnational actors. In the 19th century the idea of Yugoslavia was incorporated into their ideas of the enlightenment and cultivation of “Balkan tribes”, said Lučić, adding that this is continued in current British policy, which has as its objective a reduction of German influence.
The breakup of Yugoslavia was blamed on extremists and nationalists, accused of allegedly undermining the consensus and a prosperous state – but there was no consensus or freedom of choice, as the ensuing wars demonstrated, added Lučić.
“Yugoslavia existed, and many suffered as a result,” noted Lučić, and to the question some ask – of whether it was better in Yugoslavia or today – he observes that the better question to ask would be for whom it might have been better.
The author has dedicated her book to her parents, natives of Zagreb, and said she hopes that the book will mark the beginning of an open study of Yugoslavia.
Review by academician Srećko M. Džaja