Dear Reader, welcome to the first issue of Contemporary Southeastern Europe! This peer-reviewed journal is published as an open-access academic journal, by the Centre for Southeast European Studies. We are firmly committed to the highest standards of academic publishing, including rigorous, double-blind, peer review and making research available, free of charge, to an interested audience. As subscription costs rise and many libraries have to save resources, we are committed to making high quality research available for researchers without cost.
Museums are institutions dedicated to the collection and preservation of artefacts, but they are also sites of national production that contribute to shaping the nation’s collective memory. Sometimes, history exhibited in museums becomes the centre of cultural wars that are not fought on battlefields, but on information panels and showcases: devices where the national past is contested, rewritten, and exhibited. With the coming to power of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) led by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the institutional representation of Turkish national history was subject to significant changes. Conforming with the national ideology of the AKP, recently built museums focus more on Turkey’s Ottoman and Islamic heritage, and less on similarly important ones such as the Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and the more recent Kemalist traditions.
Presidential elections held in Croatia on 22 December 2019 (first round) were the seventh presidential elections since Croatian independence in 1991. The presidential elections ended on 5 January 2020 in the second round with Zoran Milanović as the winner with a relative majority of 52.66% of the vote. Milanović defeated the conservative incumbent Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, who received 47.34% of the vote. This was a disappointment for her party, the Croatian Democratic Union (Hrvatska demokratska zajednica, HDZ), especially because of the upcoming intra-party and parliamentary elections. Milanović, a member of the main center-left political party in Croatia, the Social Democratic Party of Croatia (Socijaldemokratska partija Hrvatske, or SDP), and who had previously served as Prime Minister of Croatia (2011-2016), become the 5th president of Croatia.
On 27 December 2019 the parliament of Montenegro passed a new Law on Religious Freedom. This law replaces an older law regarding the same topic from 1977. There is a broad consensus that the old law is outdated and needs to be revised. However, the new one is (among other aspects) mainly criticized for its articles 62-64, which refer to the ownership of holy assets.
Some years ago, the Romanian writer Mircea Cartarescu was approached by a German publisher at the Frankfurt book fair, who said he was interested in Eastern European writers. Cartarescu immediately responded that he did not consider himself an Eastern European writer. “Of course,” the publisher con-ceded, “as a Romanian you are from Southeastern Europe.” For Cartarescu this simple spacing had the following direct message: “Stay where you are,” the publisher was telling me in a friendly manner. “Stay in your own ghetto. De-scribe your tiny chunk of (South) Eastern European history. Write about your Securitate, about your Ceausescu, about your People’s House. About your dogs, your homeless children, your Gypsies. Be proud with your dissidence during the communist days. Leave it to us to write about love, death, happiness, ago-ny, and ecstasy.
Two recent books on Kosovo offer some compelling insights and answers as to why international state-builders stumbled in Kosovo: Elton Skendaj’s, Creating Kosovo: International Oversight and the Making of Ethical Institutions and Andrea Lorenzo Capussela’s State-Building in Kosovo: Democracy, Corruption and the EU in the Balkans. Both books are welcome additions to the growing discourse on state-building and touch on some of the more important themes that have recently dominated the literature, including the principle of local ownership, the limitations of technocratic approaches to state-building, and the dilemmas of political corruption and state capture in postwar societies.