Multiculturalism and Sarajevo
This chapter sets out the book's purpose, which is to examine how a city shared by Muslims, Catholics, Orthodox Serbs, and Jews experienced the wartime crises. In probing the local dynamics of the war from political, cultural, religious, social, and economic standpoints, this book seeks answers to the following questions: How did local leaders navigate the war in order to assert their own agendas? In what ways did ideas of nation, race, religion, and civic community influence decision making and alliances? And ultimately, what lessons can be drawn from studying Sarajevo? Was multiculturalism a vestige of an imperial past doomed to a cruel death at the hands of the twentieth century? Or was it a different path to modernity, a different European model? In the chapters that follow, it is argued that Sarajevo's leaders responded to the challenges of the war by clinging to two aspects of the city's traditional culture: a system of confessional identities that persisted in the private sphere; and a local solidarity—or civic consciousness—rooted in Sarajevo's Ottoman and Habsburg traditions of political pluralism and cultural diversity. The combination of these two central values created a set of local codes that mandated treating members of the “community” in particular ways.
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