Hate Serbia, Albania or Croatia more

■ The ethno-psychoanalyst Paul Parin on the aggressive and destructive basis of murder in Bosnia-Herzegovina

taz:Mr. Parin, for centuries the Serbs, Croats and Muslims of Bosnia-Herzegovina have lived together relatively peacefully. Terror and war during the fascist regime of the Croatian Ustasha Republic from 1941 to 1945 were probably the historical exception. Nevertheless, there is often talk of a historically deeply rooted enmity of the peoples of Bosnia-Herzegovina. It is claimed that the 45 years of peaceful coexistence after World War II were only due to the repression of the communist regime. Is that so?

Paul Parin: Not at all. I know that the Nobel laureate Ivo Andrić, born in 1892 in the central Bosnian town of Travnik, who came from a Catholic, i.e. Croatian, family, then lived in Serbia - and was still a diplomat in the kingdom - uses this image again and again. He describes the intensive coexistence in this mixture of peoples - Bosnians, Croats, Serbs, Jews, Muslim Serbs, Muslim Bosnians - as a "life on the volcano": hate and confusion boil underground. Well, Andrić was a great writer, and unfortunately prophetic about these feelings of hatred; nevertheless I disagree. There have, of course, been great tensions in history. But Andrić wrote about this underlying hatred under the impression of the beginning of the First World War. During the Second World War, towards the end of which I worked there as a doctor, there was no longer any trace of these historical tensions - but of course there was enmity between the fascists and the Liberation Army, in which Serbs and Croats worked together.

Why has the war started now? What is the cause?

Long before hostilities broke out, there were plans for a war of displacement and extermination. Nevertheless, the war is always referred to simply as a civil war in the media. From a formal point of view, the extermination of the Jews in National Socialist Germany can of course also be viewed as a civil war. The Nazis killed German citizens there. It took ten years and a specific enemy image - originally the Kosovar Albanians - until a power clique could set up in Serbia, consisting of party functionaries and army commanders, who developed effective and paranoid propaganda. In 1990 there were no more Slovenian or Croatian newspapers to buy in Belgrade, and all Serbian newspapers were propaganda papers against the inferior and highly dangerous Albanians and Croats - and not in the style of the Volkish Observer, but in the des Striker. The motto that was repeated over and over again, a quote from a Serbian parliamentarian, was: “The Croatians work during the day and they kill Serbs at night.” The atrocities cited, however, date from the time before 1945. You cannot understand this war if you describe it as a civil war , one has to describe it according to the patterns that we know from the history of fascist and national socialist states.

But why was this propaganda effective?

Well, in World War I it took just a fortnight before the English and the Germans were convinced that the other side was capable of all atrocities - and back then there was no television. In Yugoslavia, despite great historical tensions, it took ten years. An anomie - economic decline, the loss of valid rules, the collapse of the old ideology - naturally favors the victory of a dictator, a demagogue or, as they say today, a “populist”. One cannot overestimate the role of television here. First in Serbia, then in Croatia, horror images aroused fear and hatred - and partly with the same. Then once the construction of a tennis court as that of a concentration camp was foisted on the other side. And finally, in the Serbian, very patriarchal mentality, the military and armed conflict have always played a major role. In Bosnia, the experience of peaceful coexistence, civil and multicultural traditions have been sustained for much longer.

There is murder and manslaughter in all wars. How do you explain that it is often the neighbors who kill the neighbors, that students or teachers rape their classmates?

I just have a very uncertain hypothesis. I believe that the former cohesion can create a particular brutality. In groups that belonged closely together, there is also personal anger and disappointment that the earlier friends - according to the propaganda - have become enemies. And then vengeance must be taken, the enemy must be destroyed.

In your ethnopsychoanalytical work you describe onAt the “civil” level, there are strong differences between, for example, African and European societies - or even the Agni and Dogon in West Africa - with regard to the permitted and customary forms of aggression. But where the aggressions become pathological, you write, they become very similar, transcultural, so to speak. But the difference still remains that it is men who practice violence and women who suffer it.

The target of aggression is always the weaker. Not only in the Balkans, but also here in Switzerland, women - like the gypsies - are the weaker, the suffering. But women can hate in the same way.

But then the question arises, why don't women practice this hatred?

Women like Indira Gandhi, Golda Meir, Margaret Thatcher are quite capable of "male politics". There is no doubt that the men who fight themselves also have specific, sexually tinted aggression potentials. And I agree with you that if there were a policy that was based on the psychological disposition of most women, then that would of course be preferable. Two examples from Yugoslavia: the Serbian parliament in Belgrade and the Bosnian one in Sarajevo have been occupied by women; a woman there took the microphone and called for peace, the male pacifists couldn't do that.

Nevertheless: From a certain point on, aggression turns into barbarism, you say - in a culture-unspecific manner. But also gender-unspecific?

This envelope is difficult, I agree with you.

Why do men - including the young Nazis here, not just the machismo men in the Balkans - use their bodies as weapons? What body awareness and feeling must there be in order for the physical integrity to be jeopardized again and again?

As an ethnologist I have observed that puberty and early adolescence are probably much more decisive than early childhood education for the development of this body feeling. As for strength and weakness: Even with a liberal upbringing like in Germany or Switzerland, the children grow into hierarchical structures - and it is always the boys who are granted privileges. If children and adolescents live together in groups where they can develop, on an equal footing and with close emotional ties, aggression is very much reduced and there is no deep hatred.

In Yugoslavia, the gender hierarchy between women and men is much more pronounced than in Switzerland, for example. In the upbringing there, especially in Serbia and Montenegro, the dampening of affects hardly plays a role, aggressions are not diverted, the spontaneous expression of feelings is generally encouraged. The physical expression of aggression is by no means biologically conditioned, but it is a very profound psychosocial education. These young men, who are totally focused on killing, are at war, so a permanent tension. War consists largely of waiting, i.e. passivity in tension with fear. And individually relaxing is always the transition from passivity to activity, physical activity. In war there is also carte blanche for destructive action, for example in these mass rapes. In contrast to other wars, including the Second World War, in Yugoslavia terror itself is already a means of displacement; there is this simultaneity of displacement and annihilation.

What role does the repeatedly cited repression of historical atrocities play in this fury of annihilation?

The mass murders of the Chetniks, the Ustashas, ​​the partisan army at the end of the Second World War were never an issue in Yugoslavia. There have been war crimes trials, but these atrocities have never been dealt with. Even before Tito's death, but even more so afterwards, the press was extraordinarily free: the atrocities of the secret police were described in novels while this secret police was in office ... As far as the mass murders are concerned, one cannot speak of repression - it gives a reminder - but of self-censorship. And this suppressed past certainly made the propaganda much easier.

Do you think that Serbs, Croats and Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina can still live together after this war?

I am a bad prophet. But how many Jews are living in Germany again today, how many have come back! As long as the fascist regimes can hold out, that is of course unthinkable. But I fear that even after the complete eviction and "purge" the war will continue elsewhere: these unemployed troops need the war, and instead of a coup they may slaughter the Kosovar Albanians.

How do you explain the low level of public participation in the war, for example in Germany?

When European and finally world politics denies the fascist character of a war for years and systematically declares it an incomprehensible, atavistic tribal conflict, then it has its effect. Then the atrocities shown seem to confirm this propaganda. The attitude of the EC was from the beginning: Let the stronger win. The embargoes were not implemented consistently, and there was never any talk of any other than military intervention - at the same time it was clear that military intervention would not be used. All usual diplomatic pressures were neglected. There seems to be an interest in a large Serbia, a strong Greece, a class-catholic Croatia, i.e. a Christian barrier against Islam. In my opinion, the greatest war criminal is called Lord Owen. He certainly didn't act that way out of stupidity.

But what motive then?

I dont know ... (laughs) Lord Owen is an Englishman. Maybe he bet his plan would come through. Conducted the conversation

Thomas Schmid and

Elke Schmitter