Methods and Systems of Purposeful Reshaping of Ethnic Identities – Serbs in Former Yugoslavia

Tanja Menicanin, SIT Graduate Institute


This paper will explore the means and ways of transforming group identity by a

repressive communist regime of former Yugoslavia under Tito in the period 1945 to

1980. It will focus on the Serbian ethnic group as one of the six groups constituting a

multi-cultural society at the time. The main motivation for the study topic relates to the

personal and professional experiences of living in the former Yugoslavia prior, during

and after the Balkan conflicts in 1990-1995. This is provided for a personal and

professional insight into the consequences of the regime’s strategy to create a supraidentity

of former Yugoslavia that was supposed to replace individual ethnic/national

identities of the ethnic groups living in the country. Recent Balkan wars are the main

result of this failed experiment of purposeful reshaping of ethnic identities by the regime.

Finally some consideration of the appropriate conflict transformation modalities will be


The broader aim of the research presented in this paper is to draw attention to the dangers

of purposeful reshaping of ethnic identity by regimes world wide aiming at superficial

conflict transformation, which when fails, brings about an even greater, violent and

damaging inter-communal clashes.