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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > Oct-18 > Bosnia on the brink

Bosnia on the brink

A complex peace deal, backed by Europe and America, ended the Bosnian war in 1995. Now it is falling apart and Russianbacked nationalists are on the rise
the Latin Bridge in Sarajevo over the River Miljacka where Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in 1914, sparking the First World War

In Sarajevo recently, I sat with a colleague along the city’s main drag, watching masses of tourists and locals meander their way through the warm evening, most of them festooned with ice cream, shopping bags and pushchairs. The normality of the scene was a celebration of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s post-war recovery. My associate, for his part, was the embodiment of the generation that should have by now seized the reins of Bosnian politics: a successful small businessman across two industries, fluent in English, educated, plugged into the relevant regional and international networks.

And yet we spoke in hushed, ominous tones, exasperated by the endemic corruption of our country’s government, the increasingly aggressive nationalism of the sectarian political elites, the ineffectual opposition, and the gathering storm clouds of the coming general elections, which we both feared could lead to a return to violence.


He confided that like virtually everyone in our generation, born between the late 1970s and late 1980s, he was preparing to leave Bosnia for Western Europe. Even with his sizeable earnings, he could see no way of raising a family in this country. The situation is worse for those unable to leave. Trapped in an emptying country, governed by an unaccountable elite, their discontent is drawing into sharp relief the deterioration of Bosnia’s precarious post-war politics. Once the apex triumph of post-Cold War western diplomacy, the peace that has prevailed here since 1995 has become inexorably tied to the health of the global liberal order. For both Europe and the US, already beset by domestic and international crises, a return towards even low-intensity conflict in the Balkans would be a catastrophe neither they nor the Bosnian people can afford.

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About Prospect Magazine

In Prospect’s October issue: Rafael Behr argues that politics has been poisoned by Twitter—the platform often drives the political news agenda, encourages people to descend deeper and deeper into echo chambers and sees MPs and their families regularly abused. Meanwhile, former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger explains how Oxford picks its students and says that more needs to be done for the colleges to be more inclusive. Also, Jasmin Mujanovic outlines how Bosnia’s elections this month could tip the country back into conflict. Elsewhere in the issue: Alex Dean highlights the alarming decline in the number of students studying a foreign language at GCSE and beyond. Will Self reviews a series of new books about liberalism, arguing that “we need more than just social freedoms and the free market.” Aimee Cliff charts the story of the dying dream that London would be a 24-hour city.