The last Yugoslav generation

The rethinking of youth politics and cultures in late socialism

The book examines the role of the elite representatives of ‘the last Yugoslav generation’ from the spheres of media, art, culture and politics in rearticulating and redefining Yugoslav socialism and the youth’s link to the state. It argues that the Yugoslav youth elite of the 1980s essentially strove to decouple Yugoslavism and dogmatic socialism as the country faced a multi-level crisis where old and established practices and doctrines began to lose credibility. Hailed as ‘a new political generation’, they sought to reinvent institutional youth activism, to reform and democratise the youth organisation and hence open up new spaces for cultural and political expression. One line of argumentation targeted the ruling elite, exposed its responsibility for the poor implementation of socialist self-management and the necessity to thoroughly revise the socialist model without abandoning its basic principles; and a later trend in which experimentation with liberal concepts and values became dominant. The first type of critique - reform socialism - was almost completely abandoned during the very last years of the decade, as more and more dominant players in the youth sphere started to turn away from socialism and came to appropriate the discourse of human rights, pluralism, free market and European integration. The book maintains that this generation embodied a particular sense of citizenship and framed its generational identity and activism within the confines of what the author refers to as ‘layered Yugoslavism’, where one’s ethno-national and Yugoslav sense of belonging were perceived as complementary, rather than mutually exclusive.

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‘While the official statistics serve to emphasize the nature of crisis, as well as act as indicators of intergenerational changes of opinion in the YSFR, it is the wide range of interviews that make the book a vivid and fascinating portrait of growing up in a state that ceased to exist over a quarter of a century ago. Spaskovska utilises a wide ranging dramatis personae of the generation, each with a different series of anecdotes that provide a tableaux of the blurred lines between the official political youth organisations and the youthful dissidence of alternative Yugoslav culture. A diversity of voices are heard: from radio DJs fined for playing Laibach records, to early Slovene feminist and LGBT activists, to young JNA officers, all holding different views on political and cultural issues of the decade, some even regretting their youthful rebellion in retrospect.'
Benjamin Stephens
Journal of Contemporary Central and Eastern Europe

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