Hostages of Dayton

Hostages of Dayton

By Aleksandr Golubev

The end of the last week was marked for Bosnia and Herzegovina with unprecedented flash of street violence. All commentators note that the kind of situation has not been suffered through in the country since the end of the war in 1995. During protest actions hundreds of people were injured – police as well as those who came out to reveal their anger in the street. During those several days of confrontation several regional administrations were crushed, and the Presidential palace was set on fire. As one of the activists Darko Brkan smartly noted, Bosnia and Herzegovina “collective mental breakdown”.


Nevertheless contrary to the conflict of the end of the last century, this time the case was not about ethic confrontation – the splash of people’s anger was called by a disastrous economic situation and resulted social crisis. About 40% of country’s people have become unemployed, and those who are employed make not that much. An average wage throughout the country remains at the level of 400 EUR.  However, at the background of mass impoverishment officials and political elite don’t even think to be modest. Great revolt was incited by the list of wages paid to the key managers of the state enterprises, - the amounts reach dozens thousand EUR. Against the background of wide corruption the ruling class has easily lost some trust and pretty predictably has faced fierce crowd under the windows of their offices.


A national matter, to the contrary, has been backstaged during these protests. Protests take place not only in Muslim Sarajevo, but also in Croatian and Serbian regions. Although in the last case the case is only about peaceful demonstrations. Nevertheless the demands of those protesting are the same everywhere – dismissal of self-discredited governments and transfer of the power to those willing to save economy and solve social problems of Bosnia and Herzegovina. For the STROKE movement, which, according to its establishers, has risen to support the workers of the city Tuzla and has given the start to the protests wave and it is extremely important that the representatives of all three ethnicities express their protest together. The activists are convinced that old nationalistic prejudices should be omitted to fight together against the government, which has got used to play on ethnic controversies of the country’s people.


However, these controversies will not be so easy to overcome. As they laid in the ground of Dayton Accords, which stopped the civil war and in practice founded the ground of the modern state establishment of Bosnia and Herzegovina. With the help of massive system of checks each of the ethnicities obtain guaranteed representation in the power bodies, which allowed avoiding dangerous imbalances and assured certain balance of powers. This system assisted domination of ethnocentric parties, which due to these quotas have occupied irreversibly the power posts.


In such terms the fate of political powers, which would have distanced from the issues of interethnic confrontation and would have started solving current matters in economy and public sphere, was destined to fail.  Political elites, using their irremovability, preferred not to get deep into economic reforms and calmly profited also in terms of permanent stagnation. But the principle divide et impera is likely heading to its end. The state system, which was able to assure this fragile peace between different ethnic groups, is absolutely not able to reform itself in economy by getting free from the burden of corruption. And the ration of powers, established by the Dayton Accords, simply outlives itself. The things, which earlier have been dwelled on by high-brow experts and European politicians, are now much more powerfully stated by Bosnian streets.



Translated by EuroDialogueXXI from






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