Anna Sosnowska
Ohrid Summer School - position paper 2


The second week has been less optimistic than the first one. In terms of the question posed as its title, that is "Regional Problems - Real or Artificial?", the lectures, discussions and reflection have left me with the answer: "The problems are absolutely real, with the deep existential tragism seeded in them". Staying in Macedonia has become like the 'before the rain' situation with the clear indications that the rain's gonna start soon. The weather helped the confusing lectures, the confused group discussions, the theater play revealing the19th century romantic nationalism ready for madness that I will always associate with the groovy atmosphere of the Polish mid 80's when I read the core of the Polish romantic-nationalist pieces. All in all, it's been 'before the rain' week.

My position paper this week will try to rationalize this melancholic up to tragic mood. I'll just try to answer the question what makes this 'before the rain' situation, what ‘the rain’ is a metaphor for. I’ll use the concepts that appeared in the lectures mostly by Professors Mocnik and Minchev, clues about the Albanian history and the way it’s presented by Professor Lalay as well as art pieces (the play and the "Before the Rain" movie soundtrack) presented by Vladimir Milchin.

The Balkan situation has been described in the tragic, ‘before the rain’ terms this week. It’s been so consciously by Prof. Mocnik and unconsciously (while trying to be constructive and realistic) by Prof. Minchev. Put in the rational choice theory categories, the metaphors of the prisoners’ dilemma and zero sum game are going to remain for me the main ones depicting the Balkan countries’ mutual perception and attitude.

The message of the first lecture this week was that the Balkan countries perceive each other as separated from each other, given a chance of getting out of the symbolic Balkan prison-like stigmatization and slicking into the European domain only at the expense of putting the other into more severe prison conditions (whether it’s armament or nationalistic discourse). International western discoursive domination doesn’t promote the real cooperation/dialog within the region but plays a role of a prison guard antagonizing the Balkan countries by making clear than only few (if not one) can symbolically (cause not geographically) join prosperous Europe and leave the dirty Balkans. Ideology of the Balkanism could be overcome only if the Balkan countries were able to realize that they are not in the separate cells, that they go into the dialog and cooperation. But how to do this faced with the European prison guard? No solution or not a good one at least. The new kind of tragism is a message of the prisoner’s dilemma. Unlike in the classical, ancient tragic situation, there is an optimal solution – communication, popular disarmament, cooperation. But the prisoners, the Balkan countries can’t reach it closed within the nationalistic, European seeking discourses.

The second lecture by Prof. Mocnik was maybe to overcome the tragism by saying, as I managed to understand, that only certain structures of the social elements produce the disasters (as well as other states of affairs). But I guess, keeping the structural cynical approach, seeking no policy-like solution, Professor Mocnik left me with that there is no way out of the prison due to the structural reasons and thus not in power of any political actor or agent.

The lecture by Prof. Minchev was exactly opposite in its attitude toward policy making. It was a speech full of advises, postulates and optimistic visions. Nevertheless the advises happen to contradict each other sometimes producing again the tragic situations. The most striking pair of postulates presented by Prof. Minchev was the one ‘to stay oneself and get to like oneself’ on the one hand and ‘to imitate the Western institutions’ on the other hand. The distinction made by the professor, the one between culture and civilization didn’t help much to answer the question whether ‘staying oneself without the inferiority complex’, that is enjoying the Balkan cultural code can successfully meet ‘the Western institutions’ supposedly belonging to the civilization level. Because if the Western institutions/civilization is mentally dependent on the Western culture, the Minchev’s advise is useless. The optimistic claim by Minchev that unlike the Balkan people think the regional economy is not a zero sum game, I don’t feel convinced. Being dependent on the foreign investment might actually put the Balkan countries in the situation of the zero sum game.

Professor Lalay’s lecture as well as the Wed discussion brought to the table the Albanian issue. Both left me with the thought that Albanians are an example of the eliteless society, with a fascinating history of being on the periphery of several empires (Roman, Byzantine, Bulgarian, Ottoman, and to a certain extent - the communist one) or at least significant political entities (Serbian kingdom, Italian sphere of influence), having not developed any own ‘high culture’, and thus being easily exposed to the waves of different civilizations. The Albanian issue seems tragic in the classical sense. Adopting recently the hegemonic notion of the nation-state, ethnic-state and using the support of the West for the idea might be, I guess, compared to the long lasting strategy of survival by picking up the ideology of the most powerful.

‘Before the rain’ is thus waiting for the outcome of the game in Europeanisation contra Balkanization that Macedonia as a nation-state must lose if not disappear taking into account the structural presuppositions of international domination and internal power game and the logic of the Albanian nationalism.

I was also provided by the poetic motto suitable to what’s above. It’s one of the songs from the Before the rain soundtrack.

… Nine brick towers

nine iron doors

no one can open them or jump over

Behind the high walls

Nine dark rooms

One heart wrapped up in wires

Is there a hero to walk over

The nine big Empires

to jump over the walls

to cry out bravely

and open those nine doors

It seems suitable to the prisoner’s dilemma situation although unlike the folk song maker we can’t have the hope in ‘single hero’ to change things. It probably to structure that might become a hero.


Wroc³aw, 10.07.2000