The Fragile Bonds of Community
Throughout 1941 and 1942, Sarajevans were suspended between two dynamics that this chapter explores: competition among Muslim, Catholic, and Orthodox communities over the meaning of “Croatianness” and the strengthening of a civic consciousness through renewed civic, cultural, and political ties. The former threatened to tear the delicate seams of the town's social fabric by pitting members of different communities against one another; the latter aggressively attempted to stitch the town back together amid a grave humanitarian, security, and political crisis. Famine, typhus, refugees, homelessness, and wood shortages dominated the local agenda, provoking debates among local leaders over the meaning of civic responsibility and the boundaries of the community. In particular, the influx of tens of thousands of poor, predominantly Muslim peasant refugees forced local leaders to reflect on how to judge membership in the city's collective. The refugees threatened to corrupt Sarajevo's cosmopolitan character, unbalance traditional confessional dynamics, and impair the local governmen's ability to take care of Sarajevans. In the minds of many, the fate of the nation began to take second place to the survival of the local community—yet the question of who belonged to that community continued to be heavily debated.
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