Yugoslavia disappears, mixed marriages disappear

Marija Marinković, Serbia

The news that 14-year-old Mahir Rakovac from Sarajevo killed himself at the end of 2014. after harassing a student from the Turkish-Bosnian school he attended would not be complete if we did not mention that the unfortunate boy lived in a nationally mixed, Croat-Muslim family. Because of that, the students called him various derogatory names (Vlašče, Karalovro …). This unfortunate event itself is a reason to remind that Sarajevo used to be full of ethnically mixed marriages, but at a time when a large percentage of the three most numerous nations in the former Yugoslavia lived in this city. However, in the third place, in terms of number, were, in fact, nationally undecided Yugoslavs. According to the census, in 1981 there were 189,000 Muslims, 133,000 Serbs, 76,000 Yugoslavs and 37,000 Croats in Sarajevo. Then, according to some estimates, every fifth marriage in the capital was mixed, and today in the entire Federation of BiH, out of the total number of marriages, not every twentieth is among those of different nationalities.

According to data from 2014, 11,982 marriages were concluded in the so-called MH federation, of which only 551 were nationally mixed. To date, the national composition of the population of BiH, not even the Federation, has been announced, but it is assumed that huge changes have taken place in this part of the once “most multiethnic” republic – with the complete domination of Bosniaks. In 2014, 9,553 Bosniak women in the Federation of BiH were married, of which only two percent were with spouses of other nationalities, then 1,734 Croats, of whom seven percent were ethnically mixed, while 50 percent of marriages, out of a total of 125, were married serbian women, the husband was of another nationality.

Prof. Dr. Snježana Mrđen, from the University of Zadar, said that even in the time of the former Yugoslavia, ” In BiH there were fewer marriages between different nationalities than, for example. in Croatia or Montenegro, especially if we compare it with Vojvodina. This is the case in BiH on average annually in the period 1950-1990. there were 11 percent of ethnically mixed marriages, 16 in Croatia, 14 in Montenegro, and 25 percent in Vojvodina. Since 1996, the share of ethnically mixed marriages in BiH has been around seven percent, and in 2014 it was only five percent. Such a modest participation of marriages between different nationalities was not even in 1950. “

Other former republics have also undergone radical changes when it comes to marriages in the former Yugoslavia, in which the share of the dominant nation, after the mass emigration of others during the 1990s, has sharply increased. At the last census in 2011, Croatia had a total population of 90 percent Croats and eight percent of all national minorities, while in the 1981 census there were only 75 percent Croats and 12 percent Serbs and eight percent Yugoslavs. That is why it is not surprising that in 1981, every sixth marriage in Croatia was nationally mixed. Twelve years later, in 1993, 88 percent of all marriages in Croatia were between Croats, and that percentage remained almost the same in 2014, which is significantly more than in 1990, when there were 65 percent of such marriages.

In 1990, every fifth marriage in Croatia was interethnic, and in 2014 – every eleventh. “The reason for that is partly a change in the ethnic structure in Croatia, and partly a change in the behavior of the majority nationality towards an ethnically homogeneous / heterogeneous marriage. Also, the most pronounced changes in the attitude towards ethnically mixed marriage – if we compare the majority nationalities – are visible among Croats in Croatia, where after 1990 less than five percent married outside their group, while before 1990 this percentage was around 10 percent, indicating marked closure within the ethnic group.

Serbia (without Kosovo and Metohija) is now recording the full dominance of Serbian-Serbian marriages. Last year, there were 91 percent of such marriages because the Serbian population in Serbia (excluding Kosovo and Metohija) is the most dominant (84 percent). And that, not only in the central part, but also in Vojvodina, which with 27 percent of nationally mixed marriages in 1981 was at the top of the then republic-provincial list. However, in the 1981 census, only 54 percent of the Serb population lived in Vojvodina, while in 2011 that percentage, mainly due to immigration from other republics, increased to about 67 percent. That increase in the share of Serbs in the total population of Vojvodina also influenced the decrease in ethnic marriages, the number of which has been decreasing since 1990 from 28 to 19 percent in 2014.

Therefore, mixed national marriages follow the fate of overall national movements in the former Yugoslavia: while nations, during the existence of Yugoslavia, lived together, or at least close to each other, there were relatively many joint marriages, and today when new states in these areas are ethnic more or less homogeneous, and marriages are more homogeneous. And it will probably be more and more homogeneous, having in mind the experience of other countries in which the so-called dwarf minorities are drowning and, practically, disappearing in the majority nation. This is a well-known experience of the Serbian population in Hungary and Romania, but also of other nations in other countries where the marriage of a bride – a member of the “dwarf” minority for someone from the majority people, during the next generation, disappeared the characteristics of a mixed national family. This is a common process in all countries because members of a small minority who live in a relatively homogeneous nation-state and have no choice but to drown in a majority nation when it comes to marriage offers. For example. In 1990, out of a total of marriages, Serbs in Croatia married in 69% of cases within their ethnic group, and in 2014, there were 45% of such marriages.

By the way, there are various mini-reports and notes on how ethnically mixed families lived in war-torn areas during the ninth decade of the last century, and I’ll quote one from Republika Srpska: “If the husband is a Serb from RS, they continued to live in RS . If the husband is non-Serb, then due to non-attendance in the RS army, he lost his job, after which he emigrated, usually with the whole family; or only the father left, and the others continued to live in RS and guard the property. After the war, some husbands returned, some didn’t.”

And the example of the unfortunate Mahir Rakovec shows how much nationally mixed marriages can still be burdened with the psychology of war and Balkan exclusivity, in almost mono-ethnic environments.