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Salzburg meeting for the Scholars Initiative and Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation 

On July, 2007, in Salzburg’s historic Schloss Leopoldskron, scholars from region of ex – Yugoslavia and representatives of the Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation (IHJR) met to discuss strategies and goals for the future development of this academic collaboration.

The scholars gathered in Salzburg represented a cross-section of different backgrounds and professions from the various countries of the former Yugoslavia, united with the common goal of promoting dialogue and reconciliation in a region still scarred by the wars of the 1990s.  Participants included Neven Andjelić (Bosnia-Herzegovina), Edina Becirević (Bosnia-Herzegovina), Ljubiša Despotović (Serbia), Ranka Gašić (Serbia), Darko Gavrilović (Bosnia-Herzegovina), Vesna Ivanović (Croatia), Dušan Janjić (Serbia), Leon Malazogu (Kosovo), Marko Oršolić (Bosnia-Herzegovina), Vjeran Pavlaković (Croatia), and Ana Trbovich (Serbia).  Elazar Barkan, professor at Columbia University and IHJR co-director, chaired the meeting in what proved to be an intensive and productive session. The IHJR’s administrative director, Marie-Louise Ryback, co-director Timothy Ryback, and the staff of the Salzburg Seminar assisted in ensuring that the meeting proceeded smoothly.

During the meeting in Salzburg, the various projects of the IHJR around the world was discused. Several of the participants presented the results of a project to write an alternative history textbook for Bosnia-Herzegovina, which could serve as a model for subsequent work in the region on historical reconciliation. Discussion of the content of the textbook, in addition to conversations on other political and historical topics, sparked debates among the gathered scholars, which highlighted both the challenges in constructing a common narrative of the recent past as well as the necessity of facilitating a dialogue in the region.

Finally, fundraising was discussed as an important factor for building upon the work that has already been done. It was decided that both large and smaller group fellowships should be sought, with an emphasis on the regional cooperation that is inherent in the ideals of IHJR. The participants were encouraged to form partnerships with existing NGOs, institutes, and organizations in their respective countries, as well as take advantage of international and European Union funding that is available for collaborative projects in the region.

Two important organizational issues were raised at the meeting that will define the future format of the project.  Firstly, a Steering Committee was appointed to function as the administrative and organizational body composed of scholars from the region itself, while maintaining close ties to the IHJR based in Salzburg. The Steering Committee will be responsible for organizing events in the region and initiating new research projects within the network of scholars that will be part of the consortium envisioned by the participants. Secondly, the proposal to create a Center for History, Democracy, and Reconciliation under the aegis of IHJR was discussed, which is a structure that can coordinate the activities identified at the meeting. Eventually the Center would publish a journal (both electronic and in printed format), maintain a website and blog, and serve as a nexus for scholars, organizations, and NGOs in the region that work on issues related to coming to terms with the past, reconciliation, the promotion of civil society, democratization, and approaches to history stripped of the chauvinism that characterized the 1990s. The final form of the proposed center remained undefined, as did the exact details of how the Steering Committee would function. The immediate work of the participants following the meeting was to establish the organizational structure that would be able to continue the work of the Scholar’s Initiative and the Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation in the Yugoslav successor states.

The meeting in Salzburg revealed the many challenges and difficulties in creating a structure that will work across ethnic and national borders in a region still deeply shaken by Yugoslavia’s violent dissolution at the end of the twentieth century. A lot of work and energy will be necessary to accomplish the ambitious goals discussed in Schloss Leopoldskron, but there is likewise considerable potential to make an impact in the region and begin the necessary dialogue that can facilitate long-term stability and co-existence.


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Facing the Past, Searching for Future – The Twentieth Century Yugoslav History


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