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Broken Bosnia: The Localized Geopolitics of Displacement and Return in Two Bosnian Places

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The Dayton Peace Accords brought the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina to an end but left ethnonationalism undefeated and the country divided. The Accords legitimized the wartime entity Republika Srpska, created by ethnic cleansing, yet offered the possibility of reversing ethnic cleansing with Annex VII, which declared the right of those displaced to return to their prewar homes. Implementing Annex VII across ethnonationalist-dominated localities was a struggle of power, capacity, and law over the control of place in postwar Bosnia. This article examines the localized geopolitics of wartime displacement and postwar returns in two contrasting Bosnian counties, Zvornik in eastern Bosnia, and Jajce in central Bosnia. Based on extensive fieldwork in both places, the article documents how the Bosnian wars radically transformed the demographic character and cultural landscape of both places. The postwar effort to implement Annex VII developed as a struggle over place between entrenched local ethnonationalists, multiple international agencies, and displaced persons. In the years following the war, ethnonationalist forces were largely successful in blocking “minority returns.” In response, the international community had, by 1999, imposed a legal system upon Bosnia's entities that facilitated returns and developed the local capacity to allow returns to (re)take place. Power tilted from localized ethnonationalists to localized internationals, and ethnically cleansed Bosnian places began to see more and more minority returns. Bosnian places, however, will never be as they were before the war. Bosnia remains a broken country.
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Keywords: Bosnia and Herzegovina; Jajce; Zvornik; international community; localized geopolitics; postwar returns; refugees and displaced persons; wartime displacement

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Government and International Affairs, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Publication date: 2005-09-01

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